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#iFLT18: Going for 90% Target Language

Linda Li shared the ACTFL statement about 90% target language (TL) use. Together we analyzed it and noticed that it states that students AND teachers are supposed to be using TL almost exclusively, beyond the classroom and in all levels! TL use is one of the ACTFL core practices.

Next we looked at quotes from SLA experts such as Stephen Krashen and Bill VanPatten. They state that speaking is the result of input. Therefore TL input has to be comprehensible. Linda shard that her husband lived in China for a few years but barely speaks Chinese because what he hears is not comprehensible to him.

Some ways to make sure we are using level-appropriate comprehensible input is to use high frequency structures first, especially with beginning language classes. This will make it easier for students to create with language later.

Linda reminded us that the teacher is the source of input. Therefore she is not a language teacher but a language parent because she may be her students’ only source of L2 input.

We reviewed some ways to provide input for students such as TPR, Picture Talk, Movie Talk, gestures (extremely useful because they are a visual and 85% of learners depend heavily on visual support), and props with visuals and actors.

Linda reminded us to go slowly. We need to recycle and use repetition and circling in order to get enough repeated exposure to structures. To go slower, we can pause, go to the board and point to the structure in order to give students additional processing time.

Next we reviewed some comprehension check techniques. They were:

  1. Questioning techniques
  2. Use either/or or yes/no questions
  3. Show by acting out, gestures and use a lot of non-verbal responses to check comprehension.

How can we inspire students to want to speak the target language? Linda says we can increase our interactions in our classes. Language acquisition happens as a result of interactions with input.

Encouraging interactions between students is useful, particularly in higher levels because students can cooperatively interact with language that is comprehensible to them. Some examples she gave were Inside-Outside Circles, Quiz Quiz Trade, Speed Debating, Spot the Difference, Four Corners and Gallery Walks.

I loved when Linda talked about making classroom walls speak the TL! She views her word walls as an additional teacher in the room. Linda recommended decorating your walls with the following:

  1. Survival language
  2. High Frequency Words
  3. Rejoinders
  4. Functional chunks/Structures
  5. Language ladders! This refers to making language a little bit longer with words like: a little bit, very much, a lot.

Some other useful tips to stay in the TL are to use gestures and modeling, particularly for giving instructions. Sheltering vocabulary is another way to say in the TL. You can do so by using proper nouns, using cognates, using negation and synonyms for upper levels.

A major takeaway from Linda’s session was when she said, “we are teaching for proficiency, not for a curriculum or test. How can we get students to a proficient level? Create opportunities for spontaneous responses!” She shared that simply incorporating the TL with personalization in her daily routine such as attendance or calendar talk is a great way to create spontaneous conversation.

Another great takeaway was the idea of making a rule with your class to establish a signal to indicate that they need to speak in English. She gave the example of turning off the lights to signal English language use. A participant said that during a Movie Talk, that could be ambiguous (since the lights are out) so another participant suggested to put red tape in a box on the floor. When the teacher is in the box it signals that students can use English.

Linda closed by saying that 10% English makes your other 90% more effective. We must use it, not abuse it. Thanks, Linda, for an insightful session!

Arianne Dowd has been a Spanish Teacher at South Brunswick High School for the past 18 years. She is committed to lifelong learning. She holds dual BAs in Spanish and Psychology with a minor in International Studies from Montclair State University. She has two Master’s degrees, an MA in Spanish Literature from Montclair State University and a MAT in Italian from Rutgers University. She is passionate about delivering Comprehensible Input in order to engage and interact with all learners. Arianne enjoys collaborating with colleagues through social media to create compelling and comprehensible units comprised of cultural knowledge. She has begun documenting these activities on her blog.

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