Core Practice #1: Use the Target Language as the Vehicle and Content of Instruction
Target language instruction should always occur in meaningful contexts. For example: comparing and contrasting a cultural perspective after reading or hearing about a product, or discussing leisure time preferences to compare with target cultures, or making, accepting, and rejecting an invitation.Start the year with an explanation of why staying in the target language is so important and follow up with motivational talks throughout the year. Praise students when they make the effort. Teach students about the proficiency levels and how to move up the proficiency scale as motivation to stay in the target language. ACTFL_ What_s my Proficiency level _ final
There needs to be an absence of immediate translation to English. Otherwise students just wait for the English. Incentives like points, perks, privileges are helpful as well as consequences for speaking English. Try a reward system in which students can earn points for maintaining the target language. I use Free Seat Friday. I strictly enforce my seating chart Monday through Thursday, but if we have a good week using the target language, they get to sit where they want on Fridays. It always amazes me how much they love this litte reward that costs me nothing. When your students speak to you or ask you something in English, give a quizzical look and say you don’t understand.
Provide comprehensible input. Here is a checklist to use in planning, Denoto’s comprehensible input tool, startalk-checklist-1
- Create Comprehensible Language- The teacher should paraphrase, slow the rate of speech, and define new words using examples instead of translation. (e.g. transportation – plane, cars, taxis, subway, train)
- Create Contexts for Comprehension- Use gestures, visuals, objects, drawings, photos, realia, artwork, menus, bus tickets, plastic food, clothing. Make sure students know the topic and the objective of the lesson in advance. Post the daily objectives and refer to them often during the lesson, and evaluate progress toward objective at the end of each class.
- Create Comprehensible interactions with students-Involve the students (e.g., signaling, responding, completing a sentence after meaning has been established, ask questions).
Plan lessons so as to eliminate idle time, which can lead students to chat in English. Change seating often so students have a chance to pair up with different classmates. Use activities such as inside–outside circles that allow students to practice common expressions and structures in rapid sequence. This also gives the teacher a chance to listen for places where communication is breaking down.
Involve students in story telling with techniques like signaling where students hold up a picture, a phrase, make a noise, or do a gesture. Have students complete the teacher’s sentences, and respond to questions. Start with yes/no questions then move to either/or questions, multiple choice, and then the who, what, when, where, and how questions.
Provide phrases to help students negotiate meaning. Can you say more? I think you are saying…right? So you meant…? Post high-frequency phrases around the classroom so students can refer to them if they get stuck.
Teach circumlocution and play circumlocution games. Use common game formats like Catch Phrase, Taboo, $25,000 Pyramid, or Password. Or mix them all together like “30 segundos” from the Creative Language Classroom.
There are free “Taboo” games in French, and Spanish on teacherspayteachers.com. There are free lists of useful phrases for students in French and posters in Spanish and free examples in Spanish. There is also an app called Head’s up from Ellen Degenerous in English and Spanish.
You can buy the game or make your own with headbands and index cards using words in the target language.
There is a place to use L1. The first language is helpful when giving assessment directions, during the C or co-construct of the of Pace model, some interpretive tasks, or emergencies. Check out my first post on core practice number one, using routines to stay in the target language. How do you encourage students to stay in the target language?