This was my first year being able to attend iFLT. It has been a dream of mine since I started teaching through Comprehensible Input because I knew very well that I did not know what I was doing. I will be honest that, like many, I was a language instructor who only knew how to teach through grammar and memorizing vocabulary. However, after about four or five years of teaching that way, when it came time to turn in her textbook at the end of the year, I heard a student say to one of her peers, “I am so glad to get rid of that book.” When I heard her say that I knew I needed to rethink what I was doing, but I didn’t know where to start.
I was first exposed to CI / language acquisition in my master’s program, and I was so confident in the concept that I decided to move forward with CI-based teaching, with no intention of looking back. Nevertheless, I have to admit that there were moments when I almost turned back. Teaching for acquisition is a challenge, and I’m sure many of you who have transitioned to acquisition-driven instruction (ADI) can understand those feelings. Reducing language teaching to vocabulary memorization and grammar rules is much less taxing than trying to teach for acquisition. Teaching grammar does not require one to speak the language very well –whether you are a teacher or a student. The iFLT conference, along with other training opportunities, have reinforced that CI-based instruction is the best practice for helping our students to truly acquire the target language and develop proficiency.
One of the areas I have always struggled with is how to create an environment of Higher Order Thinking (HOT). I really never knew that was or how to make it happen since it was never really modeled that well for me as a student. I think it is fair to say that we are all guilty of asking a question and waiting for the answer, hoping for our lower student and settling with the top student who catches on quickly. We all hate the sound of silence. Let’s face it, silence makes us think our question was incomprehensible or our students have simply checked out. An answer from someone means we can move on. I realized through learning more about HOT that I am one of those students who might have the answer but who needs a little more time to process it and get up the courage to offer an answer. As a student and now a teacher, I find it extremely frustrating when fast processors blurt out answers before I (and other students) have time to ponder.
Thanks to Carol Gaab and her wisdom and experience, I learned some great ideas for how to incorporate deeper thinking for all the students and how to encourage everyone to participate. One of the examples she provided was sequencing logic. We provide students with three sentences that could go in any order; with a partner, they discuss which order they think is best and report their decision back to the large group. A similar activity involves the same three sentences but now the students are supposed to add a sentence between them to create a paragraph. Another example is predicting the topic by providing the students with a word cloud and asking them to predict the topic of the story. It is also an opportunity to incorporate a song because we usually think of stories as stories and forget that stories can appear in different genres.