China was an incredible experience. It was my first trip to Asia and our kids’ first trip abroad. Our host families were extraordinarily warm and generous, and I was excited to see Chinese culture first hand. But as a self-proclaimed professional language-learner, I have to admit that the biggest thrill was the chance to use the Chinese skills I’d been working on for the past two months or so. And as a language teacher, I firmly believe some of our best professional development comes from the act of continually learning unfamiliar language and culture. There’s no better way to understand students’ minds than to put ourselves in their shoes.Read More »
I came home from ACTFL with a mile-long list of thoughts and ideas, but one stood out among all the rest: How do we transform presentational writing into a meaningful process for students at all levels?Read More »
My new teaching position has introduced me to a lot of new challenges in finding harmony between CI-based methodology and a textbook-based pacing guide. Our French 2 textbook is especially heavy on irregular verbs, and although my students are working their hardest — engaging actively in CI practice during class and completing a wide variety of practices at home — we’re still struggling to the meet the goal of mastering all these verbs forms. As usual, the textbook considers a set of verbs like dormir, partir and sortir to be one “rule” because all the verbs have similar irregularities. The reality is that acquiring all the present- and past-tense forms of these three verbs solidly enough for confident production is far beyond the scope of one week’s learning, and that doesn’t even take into account the twenty or more additional lexical items to be covered in the week. It’s also far more than can be sensibly addressed totally through CI activities.
Enter Conjuguno. I developed this activity to give students some kind of purpose for using all these verb forms that’s hopefully enjoyable enough to at least trigger a few good neurochemicals and boost their retention.Read More »
For me, an extended reading is a crowning achievement in a TPRS unit. It’s a chance to bring together all the different words and structures students have learned, and it’s amazing how much reapplication you can get out of one extended reading. Best of all, it’s content that students have already mastered, so they get the reward of reading an extended passage with ease. Read More »
We had a great first week at this year’s Summer Language Institute in Latin! Spreading out the curriculum over two weeks has made the material even more fun and natural for students, and we’ve had so much more time to play processing games and build proficiency with productive language skills. I knew the students were making great progress, but I was still impressed with their ability to retell stories, carry on conversations and communicate information through spoken Latin.
One of the first things I liked about TPR was the potential for immersion. And for the first few years, using TPR to build an immersive classroom worked well for me. But that was when students only took my class because they wanted to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were spending a lot of time at home clarifying meaning on their own.
Things are different now. Every student takes a foreign language, but not all of them are self-motivated to do anything at home. For some, if it doesn’t happen in class, it simply doesn’t happen. Add in the fact that these same students have a low tolerance for ambiguity — they want exact, straightforward meaning — and issue start to develop.
What I’ve learned to accept is the idea that a non-immersive class can be even better than an immersive one. I want my students to get all the input they can get, but it only matters if it’s comprehensible. A lot of my students made great turnarounds as soon as I stopped worrying about the French-to-English ratio and started focusing on 100% comprehension.
I really like the way grammar is handled in TPR. Pop-up grammar (PUG) questions are timely, relevant, contextual and flexible. They’re a great way to help students conceptualize grammar, and with a little creativity, they set a strong foundation for independent accuracy in usage.Read More »
Taxi is a great processing game that reviews vocabulary and high-frequency phrases and, most importantly, gets every student up and moving.
In this activity, half the students pretend to be taxi drivers while the rest are passengers. The passengers use simple or complex phrases to get the taxi drivers to take them to places around the classroom.Read More »
I noticed some of my students playing a game of sorts the other day. They tear up strips of paper, and each person writes down the name of a person, an action, and a place or other detail, each on a separate slip. They put all the strips in a hat, pull out one strip of each category, and then they have to draw whatever scenario they can come up with based on the words they pulled out. The students were having lots of fun with their game, so I decided to steal the idea for a little extra practice over the Beginner’s French Reader stories we’ve been reading.Read More »