Language classes are a bit of a conundrum. The latest research into how languages are acquired states that we have to speak to students in the target language for our students to acquire it. It’s like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place: We have to use the language to teach the language. This leads some teachers and students to think, “But how will students understand it if they don’t already speak it?”
So what is a language teacher to do?
Luckily, there is a huge network of teachers and researchers on social media who have lots of ideas on how to do it! There is a method for every type of person and teacher. I am a boisterous, outgoing teacher. I don’t like quiet classrooms. TPRS is for me. I love the interaction and I love the fact that I can tell students a story in the TL with minimal translation (just the high-frequency words and a few target terms per story). And the best part is that I don’t have to say them aloud, so the students never hear me translating, they just see it up on the board as I am talking (in other words, they still have to process what I’m saying through their ears and brains before they can figure out what it is I’m saying.
But TPRS is not the only method. It won’t work for some teachers. And that’s ok. There are so many other comprehensible input methods for teachers to try (Content Based Instruction, Immersion instruction, AIM, etc). And the best thing about these, is that they all have great parts. I am a firm believer in taking apart methods and using what works best. I am not a purist in any sense nor in any particular method. Methods are methods, not mandates…Excuse me while I step off my soap box…
So, What’s a Good Amount of L2 for the Classroom?
ACTFL says 90% TL use in classroom interactions is the goal to strive for. I know what you’re thinking, “But 90% is hard!” Yes, it is very hard, but it’s not impossible. And when you are able to do it, you can get some pretty amazing results.
So, How Do I Do It?
Well, for that, you will need to watch videocast #7 of the Musicuentos Black Box Video Podcast.
L1 has so many opportunities to sneak into our classroom interaction, but if we set up exactly what we want students to do when we start, we can get a whole year of high-percentage TL use. They key to it all, in my opinion, is procedures. Once we have our methods picked out, then the content becomes the easy part. It’s keeping the class under control during the content presentations that’s difficult. Establishing procedures early in the year is the way to go: If the kids are prepared and know what they are expected to do, they will do it.
If you don’t take away anything else from the video, I hope that you take away this:
90% is our goal. We won’t always reach it and that’s ok. We will be able to get there with practice and determination. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a teacher, it’s that today’s frustrations/failures/shortcomings almost never flow into tomorrow unless you let them. If you come in with the right mindset, the kids will follow. Every day is a new chance to have the best day ever. So don’t come in discouraged about yesterday, think about how much better today will be.
If you come in discouraged and feeling like you can’t be successful, then you won’t be.