Getting students comfortable with #tl90plus

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In my last post, I mentioned that I had used my first story of the year to explain why I wouldn’t be speaking any English in the classroom. I have updated the stories section with that story, so you can read it for yourself and check it out. I used a lot of pantomime and I had to draw several portions of it on the board (especially the part when the rock comes from Saturn and hits me in the head). If you decide to use the story yourself, you can use the drawings at your own discretion, I just found that it worked for me.

Teach them German the First Day

(It’s a little bit late for the first day, but this can be done at any time that you feel like you want to restart your 90% plus TL use in the classroom.)

My first day slideshow has all the regular first day information – procedures, about me, rules and consequences, a slide about TPRS, and a slide stating that I will be using 90% Spanish during our lessons. This last slide is usually the one that gets the kids all freaked out. They hear that and they think, “Oh no, I’ll never do well in here because I don’t speak Spanish! I’m going to fail!”

This year, I found a video of Stephen Krashen that I found on Youtube has helped me to build up the students’ confidence to understand the TL. (I only showed the first minute and thirty seconds; after that, he talks about the cigarettes in his pockets and I decided to not even bother with that portion of the video so that I could avoid the questions and comments that it would inevitably bring up).

Before showing the video, I ask the students, “Who in here speaks German?” A few always raise their hands because they know the numbers or Guten Tag or other similar phrases, but almost no one uses German every day and/or has any proficiency in it. I show them the video. In the video, Dr. Krashen teaches a lesson in German in a conversational tone and speed. I don’t speak German, so the whole thing is pretty incomprehensible to me. I ask the kids if they understood anything and they usually say “no,” or “ there were some words that sounded kinda English, but not really.”

Dr. Krashen goes on to teach some vocabulary in the second lesson using a more comprehensible tone, speed, and with visual aids – he teaches some of the body parts (hand, ears, eyes, face) and he points them out as he says them. He doesn’t speak any English, but after he presents each one, I pause the movie and ask the students what they think he said. They all get it right, every time – That’s the power of comprehensible input. Even though he uses no English, he uses little tricks  that we can all learn from (showing us what he’s talking about, repeating again with the same actions) to make his language easy to understand. It looks so easy. The fastest language processors in the class will usually be able to try to pronounce some of the words and maybe even say them to me later, but they all can understand, regardless of whether they can speak the new words.

The main thing about this video that made it great for me is that it Dr. Krashen gives his lesson in German, not in Spanish. My students have had Spanish instruction their whole time in school and very few have ever been exposed to another language in an academic setting. German is almost completely foreign to them and they can understand it almost perfectly with one viewing of the video.

After I end the video (at 1:30), I tell them, “My Spanish will be like the German in lesson number 2. I will do my best to make myself understood and you guys have to meet me half-way to be able to understand.” This usually puts the students at ease. Their confidence is high because they have just understood a language that the vast majority of them have never even heard before outside of a movie. My goal now is to keep that high level of confidence and TL momentum throughout the rest of the year.

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