This guy understands

Let’s kiss.

No, not like that.

Let’s K.I.S.S. Let’s Keep it Slow and Simple in our language classes.

As the school year progresses I have found myself speaking in English more and more and in Spanish less and less. My adrenaline is wearing off; it’s harder to keep the kids’ attention; there are so many things about the world that I want to convey to my students, and sometimes I let this take precedence over my primary goal of helping them acquire Spanish.

Today, after a 40 -minute class in which I spoke far too much English, I made a renewal of purpose and intent – I must stay focused on my goal of helping my students acquire Spanish by actually talking to them IN Spanish. It is essential that I stay in the target language; otherwise, no language acquisition will occur.

As I pondered how to follow through with my intentions, I had a revelation – just K.I.S.S. – Keep it Slow and Simple! I need to make what I want to say simple. If I can’t find a way to put it in comprehensible terms in the target language, then I need to find something else to say, or disregard it all together. If I simplify my language and speak more slowly, my students will be able to understand much more, and I will find less need to revert to English to make myself understood.

My next class, I did just that. I used simpler vocabulary. I went slower, used repetition, and lots of actions. It worked! I was able to convey the same message to class number two in Spanish as I did to class number one, yet without relying heavily on English. It took some thought and effort on my part, but I know it reaped rewards on the part of my students. My students’ engagement level was much higher. With eager looks of anticipation, their eyes asked, “What is she going to say next?”, and “Will I be able to understand it?!” I wish I could have a re-do with class number one, to makeup for all of that oh so important comprehensible input that they missed because I didn’t Keep it Slow and Simple.

Blaine Ray likes to express this same idea when he says that teachers often say “Too much, too fast, too soon.” Though we may think that we are speaking slowly in the target language, it’s likely not slow enough. Speaking of input processing, Bill Van Patten recently said on his podcast, Tea With BVP, “It takes learners a lot of effort to process even the most simple of sentences.” As facilitators of language acquisition, it is our job to make the language comprehensible to our students, because without comprehensible input, language acquisition is not possible.

As I pondered my K.I.S.S. revelation, I recalled Carol Gaab’s 3 Ps to Pacing: point and speak, pause, repeat. These steps are essential to make our input comprehensible, and also give our students time to process the input. Taking the time to point, pause and repeat while speaking in the target language to our students will help us K.I.S.S. – Keep It Slow and Simple. The more we Keep It Slow and Simple, the more comprehensible our input. The more comprehensible our input, the more language acquisition will occur. So come on teachers, let’s K.I.S.S.!

Emily Ibrahim teaches K-5 Spanish at Rock Creek Christian Academy in Louisville, KY. She has recently discovered the wonders of TPRS and both she and her little students are having a blast. 

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