Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Staying in the Target Language

ACTFL recommends that students receive instruction in the target language at least 90% of the time. This means everyone from my baby kinders to my almost in middle school 5th graders should only hear me speaking English for 2 and a half minutes or less per 25 minute class period. I'm not going to lie - it's difficult. And I don't always make it. Especially at the beginning of the year. But as we get into the swing of things and students learn the routines of class I transition more and more into Spanish. By Halloween I'm usually accomplishing 90% in 90% of my classes (and working on it in the last 10%.)

So how do you get to 90% in your classes?

  • Make a plan! - In your lesson plans decide beforehand when and where you will use English. Directions for a new activity you've not done before? Great time to plan to use English. Activity you've done multiple times? Better to stay in the target language.  Want to explain a grammar point so you're sure students will understand? Use English. (Although really I've explained plurals and verb conjugations to my fifth graders in Spanish so just because it's grammar doesn't necessarily mean you have to use English.) Plan when you'll use it before class and you're less likely to slip into English on a whim.
  •  English/Spanish flag - I have a sign on my cart that has English on one side and Spanish on the other. Last year I didn't use it much because I was too lazy to walk over and change the sign, which meant I should've stayed in Spanish but...it didn't work. This year I've been assigning a student to change the sign for me. They take it very seriously and remind me when I'm in the wrong language and even fight over whose turn it is to change the sign. So far it's been working much better.
  •  Time yourself - Every time a student flips that flag to English I turn my timer on. When I see I'm getting close to the 2:30 mark I try to switch back to Spanish. Holding yourself accountable helps make it a habit.
  • Speak Spanish - post instructions in English - I stay in Spanish while I have a student read the directions in English. Or I explain in Spanish, then check for comprehension, I ask students who understood to explain to those who didn't.  
  •  Model what you want them to do - I  will also act out instructions. When I wanted my kinders to draw a picture of themselves I first drew one of me with their help in the TL. If they answered in English, I repeated the word back in Spanish and then drew it. When we played Color, Colorcito I acted out the rules with good ways to behave and bad ways to behave asking them to give me a sí or a no to each action. They know that ¿Corremos? ¡No! ¿Andamos? ¡Sí!
  •  Routines, routines, routines! - The first month of school I spoke more English than Spanish but that was because we were practicing my rules and routines. Now that my students are comfortable with my routines I'm able to stay in Spanish way more often. And students are less stressed about all the Spanish because they know the routine. Some people advocate 90% from day one but I find that I have greater success with my classroom management if students completely understand my expectations - which means English at the beginning. I say do what works best for you.
  •  Frequent comprehension checks - You don't want your students drifting off to la-la land because they don't understand you. I make sure to make my Spanish comprehensible with pictures, gestures and circling back to things they already know. And then I check to make sure they understand. They know when I put up my thumbs and say ¿Me entienden? I'm asking them if they understand. They show me with a thumbs up, to the side, or down. They take it very seriously too. Sometimes when I'm just babbling to myself in Spanish I will look up and 2 or 3 kids will have their thumbs down.
  • Forgive yourself! So you don't always make it at 90%, neither do I. I went to a workshop given by Helena Curtain, author of the book Languages and Children, and the thing that stuck with me was her telling us to forgive ourselves. Tomorrow is another day - another chance to try again.

What are your strategies for staying in the TL? Do you make it 90%?

No comments:

Post a Comment