If you are anything like me, you wake up to a list– a list of all the things you have to do. In addition to creating lesson plans, sub plans, absent student plans, completing CEUs and organizing your classroom, you have to call to make a few appointments, get to the grocery store, clean the house, do the laundry, grade 150 quizzes, and make time for family. It’s no wonder we perpetually feel stressed and rushed!
There’s no doubt that we carry that stress and urge to rush right into the classroom.
In the face of our chaotic schedules and workloads, we definitely need to make a conscious effort to slow down! The reality is we need to slow down regardless!
The only way learners can internalize information and/or language is to be allowed enough time to process and make meaning of the “data” presented. Allowing sufficient processing time is particularly challenging, because learners come to the classroom with a wide range of processing speeds! Processing speed is the pace at which a learner takes in information, makes sense of it, and begins to respond. Fast processors can do all of those things much more quickly than a “slower” processor and as a result, often interrupt the processing of the majority of other learners.
To illustrate the negative impact that fast processors have on the majority of their classmates, consider the bell curve. If the ‘X’ axis represents the number of seconds it takes learners to process data, and the ‘Y’ axis represents the number of students in class (x10), one can infer from the illustration that there are generally just a handful of really FAST processors and just a handful of slow processors. In a language classroom, fast processors generally take in linguistic data, process for meaning, build mental representation and arrive at an appropriate ‘response’ not only faster than slow processors, but faster than the MAJORITY of the students in the class!
If each learner needs his/her own processing time to successfully acquire/internalize language, what happens when they are not provided the time they need? …Obviously, they don’t / won’t acquire. This might explain why the attrition rate is so high in language programs across the country. This might explain why such a small percentage of students go on to upper levels of language study and why so few students take AP language classes.
Fast processors are generally viewed as the “smart students,” which is actually a flawed perception. Processing speeds have nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with how fast an individual can take in and subsequently use information. Slow processing might be attributed to a learning disability, but even more likely it could be attributed to the depth and attention that is given to the information. A ‘slow’ processor may not be slow at all. A ‘slow’ processor might actually be a reflective, thoughtful processor who learns best by mulling over information and considering various implications of all the data.
The fact of the matter is that ALL students–regardless of their processing speed– deserve the opportunity to learn, regardless of the subject matter! In terms of learning a language, aside from very few individuals who are unable to acquire language and/or communicate due to cerebral issues, all healthy humans have acquired language successfully. Some acquire and speak early in life, and others appear to acquire more slowly. Albert Einstein, one of the most intelligent humans to have inhabited the planet, did not start speaking until he was four years old! In spite of what most considered a “speech delay,” Einstein (later in life) was able to interpret and express some of the most profound ideas known to man.
Slowing down the rate of instruction and the rate of speech is critical in the language classroom! Slowing down is the key to staying comprehensible, being universally engaging, and providing equitable opportunities for ALL learners to acquire language.
For specific ideas on how you can slow down in the language classroom, follow our Instagram @fluencymatters. October’s Tuesday Tips are dedicated to SLOWING DOWN!