Saturday, November 24, 2012

Richard-Amato, Ch 15: Devising a Plan

Richard-Amato, Ch 15: Devising a Plan, p. 360 - 385

     Richard-Amato suggests that teachers should co-construct curriculum with their students. One way to do this is to do a "needs/interests assessment" at the beginning of the unit. The author also suggests that the best lessons are lessons that arise spontaneously out of student need. However, some elements of repetition can also be beneficial for students. For example, "recycling tasks, planning certain sequences of activities in predictable ways, ritual beginnings, endings, and transitions" makes the classroom more predictable and safe.

     There are three types of content-based instruction: theme based, sheltered, and adjunct. Theme-based means that the language teacher teaches students language through content area subjects. This presents a challenge when language teachers do not feel confident in the content area. (I can't see my high school Spanish teachers teaching me chemistry in Spanish.) Sheltered classrooms are content area classrooms that are specifically tailored for language learners. Adjunct classrooms are classes in which the second language teacher works closely with the classroom teacher to "provide assistance needed to comprehend lectures, take notes effectively, write papers, make sense of text and so on" (374).

     This chapter also mentioned the Kagan cooperative learning structures. These are: peer tutoring, jigsaw, cooperative projects, cooperative/ individual projects, and cooperative interaction (383-384). The one that stuck out to me was "cooperative interaction"because students are working together but there is not group grade. This seems like the best of both worlds because students are motivated by working with their peers but they are not graded based on their peers' effort.

Richard-Amato, Ch 13: Ways to Promote Literacy Development

Richard-Amato, Ch 13: Ways to Promote Literacy Development, p. 302 - 337
    One of the ways that the author encourages literacy development is through the "language experience approach" (303). This is a process in which the student narrates an experience to the teacher, the teacher writes down what the student says, and then the teacher rereads it to the student. This can also be done as a whole group in which the class writes a story together and the teacher writes it down.
     I am wondering how this is different and more valuable than students writing down their own recounts individually. One way that the text suggests elaborating on this activity is to have the teacher cut up the story into sentences or phrases and have the students reconstruct the story. Once again, I am wondering what the educational value of reconstructing a text that the student has written is. How could a teacher possibly have time to sit down with students individually and record their stories? According to Richard-Amato, the language experience approach is empowering for students individually and collectively.

Richard-Amato, Ch 12: Games

Richard-Amato, Ch 12: Games, p. 293 - 301

    I felt that this chapter could have given a few more ideas for fun games to play in the classroom. I listened to a podcast recently about the "gameification" of our society. Everything has been turned into a type of game. For example, by getting a frequent buyer card where you get hole punches for each time you spend money at a store, you are engaging in a type of game. There are lots of creative ways to turn classroom activities into games; they do not always have to be board games.

    I like the idea of playing word games in the classroom. One of the examples given is giving the students a word and having them make as many words out of it as they can. I did this with my students in a vocabulary class this summer and it was fun. I like the idea of doing a bean bag toss in which there are lots of words on the ground and whichever word the bean bag lands on the student has to give an antonym or synonym. The "Guess What I Am" game seems just like charades (299). I would add "Catch Phrase" to the list of games, because students have to use oral language to get other students to guess what is on their card. They keep each card their team guesses, the team with the most cards at the end wins.

Richard-Amato, Chapter 9: Interactive Practices

Richard-Amato, Chapter 9: Interactive Practices, p. 225 - 259

    According to the natural approach of language development, students go through three stages: 1) comprehension 2) early speech production and 3) speech emergence. This is important when a teacher is planning her classroom activities because she needs to be aware that beginning language learners go through a necessary silent period in which they do not speak the target language. The duration of this silent period depends on the individual learner. It can last from a couple hours to "several weeks" (231).

     During the comprehension stage the students need to be asked "yes" or "no" questions or questions they can respond to with a nod, a gesture, or their first language (232). Teachers can also support these learners by putting key terms on the board, using lots of manipulatives or visuals, using exaggerated body language, and getting students "physically involved with the target language" through TPR (236).

    During the early speech production stage students can respond with more than just "yes" or "no." During the third stage students can start participating in more advanced activities such as "role playing and drama, affective activities, and problem solving or debates" (241). It is also important to teach content to students in the target language in order for them to "reach higher levels of academic functioning" (251).

    After teaching my content lesson it was interesting to re-read some of the general strategies that are offered on pages 251-255. I am not sure that I enunciated clearly enough or reinforced concepts "in many different contexts over time" (252). I used lots of visuals and some hands-on activities. I did not have to ascertain whether or not I was being understood by my students because they all speak fluent English. This will be an important component if I am teaching ESL. I hope to encourage code switching in my classroom, especially if there are multiple children who speak the same language.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Richard-Amato, Part II, Chapter 8: Physical Involvement in the Language Learning Process, p. 209-225

Richard-Amato, Part II, Chapter 8: Physical Involvement in the Language Learning Process, p. 209-225

     Total physical response is a strategy in which the students act out the language with their bodies. It mirrors natural language acquisition because babies follow caretakers commands before they are able to respond using words. One of the new activities that I read about in this chapter was called "Information Gaps." In this activity, Student A is given a set of directions that he or she has to relay to Student B. I can see how this would be effective and fun for students. However, Total Physical Response has its limitations. For example, it is difficult to teach abstract words such as "honor" and "justice" using this system (220). Total Physical Response Storytelling is another form of TPR in which the teacher tells a story and acts it out and later the students take on the storytelling and acting roles.
   I am concerned that TPR activities are too limited to physical things that can be done in the classroom. One example of an activity that the text gives is making a recipe. However, I do not agree that is it feasible for a teacher to have all of her classes actually make burritos in order to learn those verbs.

Richard-Amato, Ch 5: Developing Skills: Implicit and Explicit Teaching

Richard-Amato, Ch 5: Developing Skills: Implicit and Explicit Teaching Strategies, p. 114- 150

      This chapter highlights some important strategies for teaching listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The three basic processes going on during listening are: decoding, comprehension, and interpretation. Decoding is what allows listeners to "process and recognize parts of words, whole words, phrases and partial meanings" (121). In order for a new learner to be able to decode well the input should be slowed down. I have found this to be especially important when talking with new English speakers. I meet on a weekly basis with an Architecture professor from Spain. He is always asking me to slow down my speech.
       The other two, comprehension and interpretation, require a synthesis of what is being said and cultural knowledge. Richard-Amato recommends teaching prelistening, during listening, and postlistening strategies. Some prelistening strategies are to have students use graphic organizers or take notes. An important aspect of listening is to let the speaker know when they do not understand the meaning of key vocabulary. An effective postlistening strategy is to have students meet in small groups to discuss the key points of what they heard.
      The most important aspects of speaking practice are allowing many opportunities for unstructured interaction. One pronunciation strategy is to have students learn to contrast sounds in the target language with sounds in their native language (128).
    Some common strategies for teaching reading are to encourage students to make predictions, to connect the text to prior knowledge, to ask students to make inferences about the text, and to connect the text to the student's life (138).
    In terms of writing, it is best to point out only a few errors in students' writing at a time. Another important aspect of writing is providing mentor texts, or "models of quality written work" (145).

        I hope to use many of these strategies in my classroom. One aspect I found interesting was the section on vocabulary development. In order for vocabulary to be learned the learner needs to know the word's form, meaning, and how it is used. Learners also need to be exposed to a vocabulary word multiple times and over a period of time before they can use it (133). One way the author encourages vocabulary development is through students' creation of word banks. I tried creating my own personal dictionary in Spanish when I was learning the language, but it only helped me marginally. I had to be exposed to the words before I really understood them.

Richard-Amato, Chapter 4: Participatory Language Teaching

Richard-Amato, Chapter 4: Emergent Participatory Language Teaching, p. 92 - 113

       The traditional type of classroom learning is transmissive and not transformative. Transmissive classroom learning is in play when an IRF structure is used. "IRF" stands for "initiation, response, feedback." The teacher is the active player and the students are passive. According to Paulo Freire, this type of education is meant to "indoctrinate, control, dehumanize students" and preserve the status quo (95). By contrast, transformative discourse is meant to encourage the reflection and action of students by giving them some control over their learning. For this process the work, the teacher has to listen to the topics that interest students and then find a way to "highlight those issues and tap into what is meaningful" (99).
      One way to encourage transformative teaching is through the use of dialogical writing. Dialogue journals are a way for students to express real concerns while also improving their writing ability and confidence. The teacher's job is not to correct grammatical errors but to listen and respond. Students can also keep reaction journals in which they are presented with a story, picture, poem, or some type of stimulus and they react by writing in their journals.
      This type of teaching seems to depend on the motivation of the students. Although I can see myself implementing dialogue journals and I plan to incorporate students' interests into my teaching, I disagree that an entire semester's worth of curriculum can be based off of student interest. Especially since students tend to have very focused, narrow interests. Isn't it important for teachers to expose students to stories, ideas, and stimuli outside of their comfort zone? That way students can develop new interests.

Richard-Amato, Chapter 3: Toward a Sociocultural/ Cognitive Model

Richard-Amato, Chapter 3: Toward a Sociocultural/ Cognitive Model, p. 66- 91

      Vygotsky believed that human beings construct individual understanding based on their social experiences. Learners work together to "co-construct" knowledge based on shared experience and understanding (87). Piaget was also a constructivist but he also believed in concrete stages of learning based on biology. 
      Rod Ellis stressed the importance of unscripted interaction, which he called unplanned discourse (Richard-Amato 76). Unplanned discourse can be defined as the spontaneous interaction between learners in the L2. Ellis believed that: “the rate of acquisition depends on the quantity and quality of interaction in which the learner is involved” (Richard-Amato 76). The more interaction that learners have in their L2 the more likely they are to acquire an implicit system and the more automatic their language output will become.  
       This chapter also discusses the Monitor Model. Krashen proposed that the "affective filter" consists of a student’s “inhibitions, motivation, personality, and so on” (Richard-Amato 73). When a student is learning a language, the affective filter needs to be lowered. This means that the student needs to feel comfortable, accepted, and have low anxiety when they are learning a language. 
 John-Steiner and Seliger also did studies about the importance of social interaction. Seliger found that the more input the students were exposed to the more likely they were to interact "intensively" in the target language (84). 
     I hope to make my classroom a place where students are comfortable interacting with each other in the target language. It is interesting to contrast these views of language acquisition with my personal experience, which was primarily focused on grammar instruction.

Richard-Amato, Chapter 2: The Process of Learning a Second Language, p. 39- 65

Krashen argued that input, output, and interaction were the most important elements determining the language acquisition process. Hypothesis testing is how learners try out new structures in a language to see if they work. If they don't work then they will modify them. The three ways that learners negotiate meaning are through: confirmation checks, clarification requests, and comprehension checks (44).

Sometimes language learners hit a plateau in their learning where certain structures become fossilized. This is called "premature stabilization" (47). This chapter also talks about Error Treatment. It is important to recognize that there are two goals of developing language proficiency: accuracy and fluency. There is evidence that "direct error correction does not lead to greater accuracy in the target language" (50). This is important in my teaching because I need to be able to correct students implicitly by using "recasts" rather than telling them their mistakes outright. Another way to correct a student is by using a "prompt" (52). This is when the teacher asks the student implicitly to use the correct lexical terms.

The authors cite Fotos and Ellis as supporting some explicit grammar instruction. Explicit grammar instruction helps students acquire the target language by making the structures more salient and therefore "easier to internalize" (55). However, he also cites the Winitz study that showed that implicit grammar instruction was more effective. As a result, I am still confused on this point.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Curtain and Dahlberg, Ch 10: p. 280-307

Curtain and Dahlberg, Ch 10: "Connecting Content with Language and Culture," p. 280-307

     This chapter was about delivering content instruction in the the target language. Content instruction in the L2 gives students a large amount of comprehensible input and requires meaningful communication. The language being used has real, authentic communicative intent. That means that the teacher is trying to convey a message that the students need to be able to understand by negotiating its meaning. It also helps the classroom teacher at the elementary school level feel like the language instructor is working towards the same instructional goals. The downside of teaching content is that the content objectives need to be fairly concrete and straightforward.
     Page 291 illustrates the types of activities that are more or less cognitively demanding and more or less contextually embedded. For example, simple games, TPR demonstrations, conversations, and listing vocabulary items are all activities that are contextually embedded as well as cognitively undemanding. On the other hand, explanations of abstract concepts, math word problems, and subject content explanations have reduced context and are more cognitively demanding.
    Some math activities that can be more easily taught in the L2 are: measurement, estimating measurement, reading and constructing graphs, telling time, and simple arithmetic. Geography and map reading are good areas of social studies content to focus on (284).

     I am thinking about doing a lesson on Christopher Columbus. I am struggling right now to think about a good way to assess student understanding. I want my lesson to have a narrative structure; however, I would also like the lesson to be in Spanish. Am I more interested in assessing their comprehension of the Spanish vocabulary or their content knowledge?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Curtain and Dahlberg: Ch. 6, p. 149-183

Curtain and Dahlberg:  Ch. 6, p. 149-183

Curriculum and instruction should be designed thematically. Once the theme is chosen, the lessons should be given a narrative structure or story-form. Story-form means that lessons should have a definite beginning, middle, and end. Prediction is a key skill in this type of instruction. A unit should also be working towards a genuine product. This chapter also stresses the importance of backward design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005). Backwards design begins by identifying the desired results, then determining acceptable evidence, then planning learning experiences. Themes should be chosen based on the interests of the students, cultural integration, relationship to goals, and importance and relevance to children's lives. 

Curtain and Dahlberg: Ch 4, p. 97-130

Curtain and Dahlberg: Ch. 4, p. 97-130

Meaningful interaction is key to student success. The traditional classroom has a teacher to student flow if information. However, partner and small group interactions are key for students to acquire a language (98). Group work is also an important avenue for developing social skills and the social uses of language. Roles can be assigned within groups such as "encourager, manager, recorder, and reporter" (100). It would be fun and encourage agency to have these role assignments translated into the target language so that the reporter is actually "un periodista." 
Cooperative learning activities will complicate the classroom and add to the noise, but if they are well-managed they are well worth it. I can see how it would be difficult to manage this variety of partner activities. If the partners were all doing what they were told then that is one thing, but it might be tricky to make sure all of the partners were staying on task. I'm wondering if some of these partner activities, such as the "What is my Backpack?" are truly authentic. 

Curtain and Dahlberg, p. 50-56

Curtain and Dahlberg, Ch 3: p. 50-56

      Early language students understand language primarily by recognizing vocabulary. Therefore, it is a teacher's job to help students develop "a useful, working vocabulary" (51). I definitely relate to this. Even as an upper-level Spanish major I still find myself comprehending texts through vocabulary that I recognize. It's tough when I only recognize a small percentage of the words.
     The vocabulary that students learn should be made as personal as possible, elaborated on, and repeated in multiple contexts. One vocabulary building activity the authors mentioned that I liked was building a "word chain in which the first letter of each word is the same as the last letter of the word before it" (52).
     Students learn vocabulary in "functional chunks," which are high frequency phrases or prefabricated language such as "How are you doing?" Language ladders are one way to learn functional chunks. They are phrases that express a similar idea in different ways. For example, you might have a ladder for "excuses I didn't do my homework." Passwords are another way to teach functional chunks. Once you get a feel for the phrases that are most necessary in the classroom you can post that information on the walls and have students use the language in conversation.
     I remember using passwords in my Spanish 2 classroom. In order to get at drink of water or request that the teacher translate an English word into Spanish we would need to use the passwords. I recently observed a kindergarten Spanish class and there was a noticeable lack of passwords. I think using these simple, repetitive phrases would have been helpful in constructing students' grammatical knowledge.

Curtain and Dahlberg: Ch. 5, p.132-147

Curtain and Dahlberg: Ch 5, p. 132-147

It was previously thought that students being exposed to print in their second language would hinder language acquisition. However, that has been proved false. Students should being reading and writing in their L2 as soon as possible. If this is their second language then they already have some of the skills necessary to read in their L2: "sounding out the world, directionality of text, predicting outcomes" (134). 
One way to incorporate reading and writing into second language instruction is by having students keep a personal word bank of words that interest them. This can also be done as a whole class. Another strategy is to have environmental print in the classroom. For example, the class rules could be posted in Spanish. The Language Experience Approach to reading has children construct a story together then read it aloud. This makes reading easier because it matches "oral language patterns and draws on personal experience" (138). 
I like the idea of the Language Experience Approach because it gives writing and reading a more meaningful, personal dimension. Rather than focusing on an author's text in the L2, the children becomes the authors. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shrum and Glisan, "Story-based Approach to Grammar"

Shrum and Glisan, "Using a Story-Based Approach to Teach Grammar"

Learners need to be put into situations where they need to use grammar structures in order for them to acquire these structures. The implicit approach to teaching grammar makes the teacher a facilitator and the students active participants. Words and phrases only have meaning when they are connected to a whole context. The "story-based" approach places grammatical principles in a larger context thereby emphasizing meaning over form. The story approach also incorporates Krashen's idea of comprehensible input because it provides meaningful input. 
The storytelling presentation can be done using a folktale, legend, TPR demonstration, listening segment, authentic document, or "a demonstration of a real-life, authentic task, such as playing a sport or doing a science experiment" (154). It should be an authentic, natural story and not stilted. The presentation should incorporate audience interaction. The teacher and students co-construct grammatical explanations. 
I wonder how feasible it is to use this type of lesson to teach every grammatical concept. Should all grammar principles be embedded within stories? Are there other types of activities that can lead students to an understanding of how to use the subjunctive mood, for example.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

VanPatten Epilogue: Implications for Teaching

VanPatten, Epilogue: Implications for Teaching (p. 102-114)

The first major implication for teaching that VanPatten suggests is "the more input the better" (102). VanPatten suggests that the Natural Approach be used in the classroom because it mostly closely correlates with the natural stages of language acquisition. Some of the natural approach techniques include: TPR, vocabulary presentations, and using pictures to aid meaning-making. VanPatten also suggests that students should have an active role in creating meaning by being engaged in frequent interactions in the L2. The teacher should foster activities that have communicative intent. Communication should focus on meaning rather than form (102). Output should also be communicative. Structured output, where learners focus on practicing using one grammatical form, can be used as long as it still expresses genuine meaning. 
Teachers can provide grammar instruction through recasts, clarification requests, and text enhancement. Lastly, teachers should be careful not to expect their students to produce more than they are capable of before they are ready. For example, beginning learners should not be expected to speak in complete sentences right away. In fact, "initial stages of learning should be comprehension-oriented" (VanPatten 112). 
I hope that I can align my instruction with what I have learned about second language acquisition. I have learned that there is a natural order or hierarchy to language acquisition. All communication should be meaning-based. Therefore, repetition and imitation are not useful in the long-term because while the learner can access these prefabricated phrases and patterns quickly, they do not encourage the learner to form production strategies. Grammar should be taught implicitly through indirect corrections such as recasts. It seems strange to me that more classrooms do not use the Natural Approach to language acquisition since it is so clearly backed by theory and research. 

VanPatten Chapter 5: Frequently Asked Questions

VanPatten, Chapter 5: Frequently Asked Questions, pg. 77-99
This chapter considered some interesting frequently asked questions including: What about first language use in the classroom? Don't imitation and repetition play a role in acquisition? Do learners develop bad habits if they aren't corrected? Doesn't giving learners rules help?
My gut instinct when I read the first question about L1 use in the classroom was that first language use is unacceptable in the second language classroom. However, VanPatten points out that learners' development of an implicit system does not depend on their ability to produce output. Output is necessary to develop skill in speaking and writing. However, beginning learners may need to use the L1 because "they have not built up the output processing abilities... or because they are trying to get a fix on a task or seek clarification from their classmates" (VanPatten 80). Once learners gain more familiarity with the tasks they are expected to do and develop the production strategies they need in the L2 to produce output their L1 use is likely to drop off. 
Imitation and repetition are mistakenly thought to play an important role in language acquisition. It is true that repetition can increase a learner's speed at performing a task but they won't be able to create new, original sentences. Learners should not be corrected overtly because that won't produce a lasting change in the implicit system. Rather, learners should be corrected indirectly. This can happen if the teacher recasts or rephrases what the learner says. This is definitely going to influence my language instruction. Rather than telling students directly what they are saying incorrectly, I will rephrase what they are saying back to them using correct language and syntax.
Finally, rules help learners "produce output... because they sensitive learners to input" (VanPatten 87). However, learning rules is still explicit learning and therefore does not lead directly to acquisition. Another reason rules are helpful is because they enable the learner to produce certain types of speech while the learner is still acquiring the language via the natural mechanisms. I still don't quite understand how this fits in. How can rules be taught explicitly without interfering with the natural acquisition process?

VanPatten Chapter 4: Output

VanPatten, Chapter 4: Output p. 61 - 76

This chapter addresses the questions: What is output? How do learners make output? What is the role of output in the learner's linguistic system?
Output is defined by VanPatten as "language that a learner produces to express some kind of meaning" (62). That means that parrots are not producing genuine output, because they do not know what they are communicating. Learners must have "communicative intent" when speaking. 
The two processes involved in learners making output are access and production strategies. Access is "activating the lexical items and grammatical forms necessary to express particular meanings" (63). Production strategies are a hierarchy of strategies that speakers use to communicate. The hierarchy ascends from the most basic language production tools to more difficult procedures. For example, the lowest procedure in the hierarchy is lemma, or being able to access words. The next is category procedure, which refers to the ability to add inflections to words such as the "ed" ending for the past tense.
The role of output in the learner's creation of an implicit system is a facilitative, helper role. Learners who need to be able to produce output are more likely to pay attention to the syntax and structure of the input (69). Output can be the catalyst that encourages learners to become better at processing input. This was the part of the chapter that I connected to most. I have found myself trying really hard to pay attention to Spanish speakers' syntax in order to pick up more types of phrasing so that I can add them to my production strategies. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Storyetlling in Curtain and Dahlberg, Ch 3, p. 57-73

Curtain and Dahlberg. Languages and Children. Ch 3, p. 57-73.

    The Natural Approach to language development emphasizes that there are predictable stages of language production that can be expected of the language learner. The first stage is pre-production. TPR demonstrations are done and student are not expected to speak. The second stage is Early Speech Production, where students can respond to yes or no questions, either-or, single or two-word answers, and open-ended sentences. The third stage of the Natural Approach emphasizes activities, games, and problem-solving activities.

     Within the second stage there is an order of questioning that teachers should use that proceeds from the easiest level that requires no oral response to the most difficult level of open-ended questioning (57).
1) Who has the cheese? Student point to the cheese.
2) Does Helena have the cheese?
3) Does Helena have the cheese or the bread?
4) What does Helena have?
5) What did Duane do this time? Or... Tell us about the cheese.
       The text mentions that some teachers have this order posted in their classroom. I definitely want to keep the order of questioning in mind during my instruction. It is easy to want to make students "repeat after me" at first when you should really not be forcing them to respond orally before they are ready.

      The Gouin Series is similar to Total Physical Response. It differs in that there are six to eight "short statements describing a logical sequence of actions that take place in a specific context, such as getting up in the morning, cooking a meal, or making a phone call" (67).  During the Gouin series the teacher repeats the series of actions and pantomimes them. Then the students pantomime while the teacher repeats the series of actions orally. Lastly each student volunteers to pantomime "solo" while the teacher repeats it. I would like to try out the Gouin Series to see how effective it is and how it feels to teach using this more structured approach as opposed to circling questions during TPR.

Implicit Instruction Improves Scores on Grammaticality Judgment Test

Winitz, Harris. "Grammaticality Judgment as a Funciton of Explicit and Implicit Instruction in Spanish." 

The goal of this study was to determine whether implicit instruction or explicit grammar instruction resulted in higher scores on a grammaticality judgment test. The experiment was administered in college Spanish classes. One group of students was taught using implicit instruction: Total Physical Response activities, short reading passages, two Spanish books, and audio-casette listening assignments. Some of the TPR activities included: "pointing to objects, finding items in teh room, and acting out scripts" (36). Their assessments included picture identification and drawing or sequencing that corresponded to what the teacher had said in Spanish (37). This group was also exposed to more comprehensible input in the target language. The control group was taught using explicit instruction including: pronunciation practice, grammatical rules, and vocabulary learned through translation. 
The grammaticality judgment test lists sentences in Spanish that are either allowable or not. For example, "La manzana de hombre gordo está en la mesa" is not allowed in Spanish. According to Krashen's theories, quantity and quality of comprehensible input is the key factor influencing language acquisition. This experiment confirmed his theory. Students in the implicit instruction group scored much higher on the grammaticality judgment test that students in the explicit group.

The article talks a lot about the Monitor Hypothesis. I'm still a little confused about this idea. I believe that the main point is that students monitor the output they are producing based on the grammatical rules they have learned. If they are taught implicitly then they are less likely to censor themselves and more likely to produce output, whether correct or incorrect. Learning grammar explicitly causes students to be more self-conscious about what they are saying and therefore less likely to say it. Am I on target?

Teaching Semantic Sets of Vocab Words Interferes with Learning

Erten and Tekin, "Effects on vocabulary acquisition of presenting new words in semantic sets versus semantically unrelated sets." (2007). 

People have vocabulary organized in their minds in patterns or semantic sets. Semantic sets are word groups where the words have closely related meanings or share common elements. Students tend to "recall words on the basis of the semantic field in which they are conceptually mapped" (408). As a result, many language textbooks organize words into semantic sets. There is evidence, however, that this can interfere with students' learning of vocabulary. 
For this study sixty fourth graders were taught eighty new vocabulary words. The fourth graders learned four sets of words: two groups of semantically unrelated vocabulary words and two groups of related words. The study indicates that students recalled semantically unrelated words more accurately and more quickly than semantically related words. This is because teaching vocabulary words that are too closely connected at the same time can "cause interference due to cross-association and may even hinder vocabulary learning" (407).
I connected to this article personally, because in high school my AP Spanish teacher taught us vocabulary using semantic sets. For example, she had us learn 30 vocabulary words for different types of fruits and vegetables in one week. To this day I cannot tell you how to say "olive" or "melon" in Spanish. Now I know that's because learning words that were too closely connected caused interference. 
The text suggests that teachers organize instruction around a theme as opposed to semantic relationships. For example, "Sweater, changing room, try on, wool, striped" would be a better group of words to teach than "scarf, tie, coat, pants, and skirt" (409). I will definitely take this into consideration when I am teaching. 

Authentic Video Increases Language Output, Listening Comp, and Confidence

Weyers, Joseph. "The Effect of Authentic Video on Communicative Competence." 1999. 
This article was about an experiment done testing whether or not having students watch "authentic videos" increased their oral comprehension, communicative competence, and language output. The students were second semester college Spanish students. The rationale for the experiment was that students' language comprehension is dependent on the "quantity and quality of comprehensible input" (340). Telenovelas can be considered quality input because they are more authentic, meaningful, and affectively engaging to students than cookie-cutter educational programs. 
The experimental group improved in listening comprehension as a result of the intervention. The intervention also increased their language output and confidence speaking the language. It did not have a statistically significant effect on the style or quality of the output they produced.

I connected to this article immediately because when I took AP Spanish in high school our teacher had us watch telenovelas of our choosing at home every week. I think it would have been even more beneficial if she approached it the way these experimenters did and pre-taught some of the vocabulary in the telenovela ahead of time or provided an advanced organizer with an outline of the events and characters in the show. 
I also find it interesting that watching the telenovelas improved students' speaking confidence. It makes sense in terms of connectionist theory that watching, listening, and talking about the authentic video would improve language acquisition since they are receiving the input through multiple modalities. It also lowers the affective filter since telenovelas have simple, accessible story lines. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 2: Creating an Environment for Communication, p. 31- 47

      New information is stored in the brain that is meaningful and emotional. The four types of communicative competence are: grammatical competence, discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, and strategic competence. An example of communication that is not "communicative" or does not carry meaning is asking a student "Are you a boy or a girl?" when you already know the answer. That is why speaking drills are ineffective; they do not carry valuable meaning or have "communicative purpose" (33).
      Some of the activities that can be used to facilitate meaningful communication include: games, songs, rhymes, and finger plays, hands-on experiences with props, stories, dialogues, role play, partner and small-group work and content-related instruction. 
      These ideas relate to what we talked about in class yesterday (10/22). We did an activity sharing with our groups. Most of the activities that were shared were some type of role play activity. Role play activities are great because they take place within a context (i.e. shopping, making crepes, bargaining in a market). My activity was a human scavenger hunt. The students look at pictures of various things (a football, piano, a family of four) and use the pictures to ask questions about their classmates' lives and interests. Since they are requesting new information from one another this activity has "communicative purpose."
     This chapter also emphasized the importance of using the target language for "regular classroom tasks, such as giving directions, organizing activities, and managing behaviors."This is significant because it sends the message to students that language is useful and works in authentic contexts. 

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 1: Characteristics of Young Learners

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 1: Characteristics of Young Learners  (p. 1-30)

     The reason that children learn languages better than adults is because they are acquiring it. However, it takes more than just plopping someone in an L2 environment for them to learn a language. The input has to be comprehensible, or on a level at or slightly above what they can understand (Krashen).  An example of this is caretaker speech or teacherese. Adults speak more slowly, use less complex sentences, gestures, meaning checks, and concrete referents when talking to babies and toddlers.
SLA theory proposes that language which learners are exposed to should be "as natural as possible... that the past tense should not be postponed" (4). I agree with this theory; however, I wonder how a teacher could keep the speech natural while also not exceeding the "i+1." 
       Second language acquisition is much more complex than behaviorists suggest. Behaviorists believe that people are motivated by external reward and behavior is increased as a result. Cognitive psychologists believe that "internal motivation drives the learning process" (8). The learner is an active participant in their learning and, as a result, their response, emotions, and personality matter. The brain will store information that is meaningful, attached to a context, and novel. Therefore, drilling grammar out of context is not good practice and will most likely not be stored long term since it is not meaningful input. The affective filter needs to be lowered in order for learning to take place (10). Learning also is more readily constructed through social interaction such as "games, role-plays, partner and small group activities" (8). 
       Children ages 4 through 10 years old interpret the world "in terms of absolutes" (16). Fantasy and emotion are important aspects of learning. An instructional practice that stems from that is that instruction should have a story-like quality with a strong beginning, middle, and end. Instruction should also "have strong emotional and moral appeal" (16). Children ages 8 or 9 through 15 years old are more interested in their internal world, realistic detail, and heroic characters. This chapter offers lots of fantastic, detailed information about what types of learning activities to do with children of different ages. I would like it if we could discuss this idea in class in more depth. How do instructors plan instruction differently for different age groups?

Curtain and Dahlberg, Introduction

Curtain and Dahlberg, Introduction xix-xxiii

      The author has a particularly helpful page of key concepts for success on page xxi. I like that this book opens with a list of the way that children learn languages best because it is a good reference and guide. Constructivist theory is important to Curtain and Dahlberg; human beings are actively constructing an understanding of language. There is also an emphasis on "communicative contexts that carry significance for the student" (xxi). That means that students need to have a motivation to use the language and be using it in an authentic context in order to learn it. Some of the contexts that he includes are: "storytelling, music, games, rituals, drama, and celebrations." 
      After reading over this list is has made me really excited about the possibility of teaching a foreign language. I remember reading on the Kagan website about how dopamine, the chemical that regulates memory and learning, also is connected to pleasure. To oversimplify it, the more dopamine in the brain the more likely the student is to learn the material. Therefore, fun games and activities are not only beneficial but they are essential for student learning to take place. It requires a lot and work and preparation on the teacher's part but it is so much more rewarding to see students actively engaged in using the language and generating output than simply lecturing at them about grammar. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kagan's Free Articles Online

Kagan's Free Articles

Willis, J. Cooperative Learning is a Brain Turn-On. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine,Fall/Winter 2009.

     I found a fascinating article on the Kagan website called "Cooperative Learning is a Brain Turn-On." We have been learning a lot in EDIS 5480 about why social interaction is invaluable to language acquisition. This article addressed why that is the case. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in memory storage and executive functions. It is also linked to pleasure and rewards. People are more likely to learn and remember when what they are doing is linked to a positive, rewarding sensation of dopamine release. Social interactions are rewarding, motivating, and pleasurable and cause dopamine to be released. Therefore, more dopamine is available to help the brain store memories. Ta da!
    Another reason that social interaction increases language acquisition is because using productive speech and doing constructive activities embeds the information in multiple parts of the brain including the auditory and visual memory areas. It is more beneficial for students to be constructing meaning by actively discussing and talking about it: "students experienced a greater level of understanding of concepts and ideas when they talked, explained, and argued about them with their group, instead of just passively listening to a lecture or reading a text."

     I love this brain stuff! I want to go back and re-read this article. I found it fascinating and it totally relates to connectionism and what we have been talking about in class.

Cooperative Organization of Strategies for Oral Interaction

Naughton, Diane. "Cooperative Strategy Training and Oral Interaction: Enhancing Small Group Communication in the Language Classroom."

According to SLA theory, social interaction is necessary for language to be transferred from input to output. Small group oral interaction is highly encouraged in language classrooms to facilitate the meaning-making process. However, small group interactions in a classroom are not always as beneficial as theory indicates. For example, some students are less motivated to negotiate meaning and choose instead to substitute a word in their L1.
This article was highlighting a study that taught formally English language learners several strategies for negotiating meaning during small group interaction and measured how much their language production ability improved as a result. They taught strategies from the Cooperative Organization of Strategies for Oral Interaction (COSOI) program. The strategies include: 1) using follow-up questions, 2) requesting and giving clarification, 3) repair "in which learners attempt to recast their own or another's non-target-like utterance in a target-like way," and 4) requesting and giving help (Naughton 172). The study concluded that there is value to formally teaching oral interaction strategies. n particular, strategy 4 was used more frequently by the experimental group. This is probably because "learners need to be encouraged to interact in this way because they are not necessarily oriented toward this type of behavior" (Naughton 177). 
It makes sense to me that learners need to be taught these behaviors. Although a language classroom is a great opportunity for social interaction, interacting in a different language presents several challenges that will likely raise the affective filter and make students less likely to challenge themselves and their partner to negotiate meaning effectively. Encouraging students to use these strategies would probably make those behaviors acceptable in the classroom and thereby facilitate more effective interactions in the L2. 

Using Literature to Teach Language and Culture

Moeller, Aleidine J. "Literature: A Rich Resource for Teaching Language and Culture in Context." 

This article discusses the need for foreign language students to interact with literature in their L2 while they are acquiring a language. Textbooks can often feel dry and inauthentic, whereas literature provides a valuable source of comprehensible input and an authentic, meaningful text that connects back to the culture of the L2. The author supports an approach to literature that focuses on the reader's response and personal experience. Some of the considerations when choosing a text are: linguistic level, length, vocabulary, age of students, reader motivation, "whether the text expands cognitive, aesthetic, and emotional development," and "whether the text promotes cultural understanding" (Moeller 35). 
The author provides a variety of types of activities that can be done with a work of literature. One example she gives of a pre-reading strategy is to introduce a picture depicting the story and ask the students to create a story about what they see in the picture. This seemed like a really innovative, fun, affectively engaging way to introduce a story. It gets students interacting using the L2, which is the goal, and gives them more motivation to find out what happens in the story. 
Another activity that I thought seemed valuable was the "$20,000 pyramid" activity, which is kind of like playing the game "Taboo" in your L2 with vocabulary words. One student has to describe six vocabulary words in a column. This game seems especially ideal for building proficiency and encouraging output while lowering the affective filter.
I believe that incorporating authentic, classic literature into the language learning experience is critical. Too often language learners are reading dry, contrived texts out of a textbook that don't offer a real meaningful, valuable, quality reading experience. I hope to incorporate some of these activities into my classroom. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dialogue Journals In Learners' L1

Ewald, Jennifer. "Second Language Students Reflect on Their Own Dialogue Journals"

     Dialogue journals benefit students by allowing them to express concerns or questions about the class to the teacher in an informal way. This study was conducted with 129 Spanish language students at the Spanish 101 level. The difference between this study and many other studies is that the dialogue journals were completed in the learners' L1. The effectiveness of the journals was measured according to whether or not the dialogue journals in L1 had the benefits of: "promoting good dialogue, constructing meaning, and reducing banking model effect" (Ewald 55).

     The dialogue journals promoted good dialogue by giving timid students an opportunity to express themselves in writing. It gave the students a forum to say things to the teacher they wouldn't feel comfortable saying in class. The journals also helped the students construct meaning by giving them an opportunity to reflect on what they were learning. Additionally, the journals reduced the "banking model" by giving the students voice. Teachers who use dialogue journals communicate the idea that students are not passive recipients of information but rather active participants in their learning. The journals also proved to the students that the teacher cared about how they felt about learning.  

    I never thought about the possibility of having students write dialogue journals in their L1. This article definitely illuminated the benefit. If anything it is valuable for the students to realize that their thoughts and feelings are valued by the teacher no matter how well they speak or write the language. It seems like dialogue journals in learners' L1 are a great way to lower the affective filter Krashen talks about. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Richard-Amato Chapter 1 "From Grammar-Based to Communicative Approaches: A Historical Perspective"

Richard-Amato; Chapter 1: "From Grammar-Based to Communicative Approaches: A Historical Perspective" p. 22-38

            Some of the different grammar-based approaches are: audiolingualism, direct method or Berlitz method, and the cognitive-code approach. These approaches generally do not place enough emphasis on socio-cultural factors. When I was young I tried using Berlitz tape to learn German. I simultaneously listened to a dialogue on a tape recording in German and read the written script. Then the tape would prompt me to repeat what was said. I found this method restrictive and mostly unsucccesful.
Chomsky’s asserted that children are not blank slates but bring important experiences and prior knowledge to language learning. He posited that each child has a “language acquisition device” that enables them to learn language. It is like a computer with built-in programs for SLA that include: “meaning, syntax, relationships among various types of words and their functions.” He suggested that a universal grammar exists that is shared among languages. The theory of connectionism argues that the brain has patterns of neural networks that “control and constrain the types of information that the brain can internalize” (R-A 29). I am still somewhat confused about the contributions and accuracy of connectionism.

Making it Happen by Richard-Amato, Introduction

Patricia A. Richard-Amato. Making it Happen: From Interactive to Participatory Language Teaching: Evolving Theory and Practice. Introduction pp. 1-17

            A new idea expressed in this reading that I had not thought of before is that teaching English is a political act. It is debatable whether the teacher empowers the student or whether power is negotiated between the teacher and the student. The end goal of language learning is “political empowerment in a global society from being able to establish one’s identity” (3). This author stresses the importance of “sociocultural factors” influencing language learning. The source culture for English language learning is typically American or British culture. One of the important points stressed is that teachers, like children, are not blank slates. Therefore, during teacher education programs teacher should be actively involved in integrating their understanding of the “disciplinary knowledge base.” The author suggests that pre-service teachers start a professional development journal. I love that idea. I think this blog serves that purpose.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

VanPatten Chapter 3: The Developing System

VP Chapter 3: The Developing System

            The common purpose of learning language is communication. Communication consists of comprehension, speech production, learning, and social interaction. There are networks of forms and lexical items in the brain that map out the relationships between words. For example, semantic relationships have to do with the meaning of words (i.e. interesting and boring). Lexical relationships are formed between words with the same root (i.e. interesting and interested). 
            Some of the rules that govern sentence structure are very difficult to articulate. These form the abstract syntactic system. This system informs the learner of which sentence constructions are possible and which are not. Other important aspects of language development are pragmatic and sociolinguistic competence. A learner with pragmatic competence can infer meaning or a speaker’s intent.
            The linguistic system is a developing system. Since learning a new language is a dynamic process the learner’s understanding of the language undergoes two main types of changes: accommodation and restructuring. Accommodation refers to incorporating new lexical terms and grammatical structures. Restructuring is forming different sentence structures and types of possible sentences. Finally, the role of explicit knowledge is to facilitate the development of an implicit linguistic system. Explicit knowledge does not “turn into” an unconscious system. 
            I am still somewhat confused by the abstract syntactic sytem. Most of what I have gotten out of the text so far is that the acquisition of language is primarily rooted in an unconscious system with rules that we can’t articulate. As teachers we need to expose learners to input in the students’ second language that will help them begin to form a more sophisticated implicit linguistic system. Is there any value in learning the complex grammatical rules that govern language usage? Or is it mere exposure to these rules in practice (input) that teaches language learners how to use them successfully?

VanPatten Chapter 2: Input

VP Ch 2: Input

            In order for second language acquisition to take place the learner needs to be exposed to language input. Input is the language that is read or heard by the learner. The two types of input are conversational, where the learner is involved, and non-conversational input such as listening to the radio or watching TV. Immersion learners are more likely to gain mastery over a language because they receive more input. The more language input someone is exposed to the more likely the person is to develop an implicit linguistic system. Parsing refers to a learner projecting or predicting the sentence as they hear it or filling in the gaps in the language. L2 learners tend to assume the first noun in the sentence is the subject. Lexical semantics are what is required of a subject to perform an action and can be used by language learners to interpret sentences.   
            Second language learners need input but too much input can be overwhelming. One way they lessen the input burden is by negotiating meaning, or confirming what that they understood what they heard. Another way to ease the burden on the learner is by simplifying input or modifying input. For example, when adults talk to babies they simplify their statements. VanPatten lists several ways of modifying input: “using shorter sentences, adding pauses, using more common vocabulary, repeating something” (VanPatten 39). Modifying input and adjusting input to match the learners’ level increases their chances of noticing important aspects of language.
            I have always heard that the most important thing for language development is being exposed to the spoken language. My AP Spanish teacher encouraged us to watch Spanish television and listen to the radio outside of class. Now I made the connection that that was because she wanted to increase the amount of input thereby increasing our likelihood of attending to important aspects of the language and forming an implicit linguistic system. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

VanPatten Chapter 1

From Input to Output: A Teacher's Guide to Second Language Acquisition
by Bill VanPatten

Chapter 1 summary and response:

The first chapter of VanPatten is about the "givens" of second language acquisition. VanPatten emphasizes that in order to learn a new language one must acquire an implicit linguistic system. An implicit linguistic system is a set of rules about the language that you possess unconsciously. It helps the speaker of that language differentiate between what can and can't be said in a language. On the flip side, second language learners also learn explicit knowledge or explicit rules. This is how I was taught my second language, Spanish. The teacher taught us explicit knowledge about how to conjugate verbs, use the subjunctive tense, and decide which past tense to use.

VanPatten's five main points of second language acquisition (SLA) are: "1. It involves the creation of an implicit (unconscious) linguistic system) 2. SLA is complex and consists of different processes 3. SLA is dynamic but slow 4. Most L2 learners fall short of native-like competence 5. skill acquisition is different from the creation of an implicit system" (VP 10). The idea that SLA is complex seems like a no-brainer. But there are many components to it that I had never thought about. The learner has to develop the lexicon, phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, discourse competence and many other aspects of language simultaneously.

One of the main things that I gathered from this chapter is the importance of the learner acquiring an implicit system. The learner becomes skilled when he or she can use the system productively for rapid speech. I was surprised to learn in this chapter that language learning takes place the same way no matter what the context. I have always heard that a second language context is preferable to a foreign language context.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Re-purposing this blog

I started this blog to discuss my teaching internship placement for EDIS 5440: Applied Teaching with Technology. However, since that placement finished up last fall but I still have the blog I would like to continue using it for a new purpose.

I am going to start using this blog to respond to readings for EDIS 5480: Second Language Acquisition and Modern Language Teaching Methods K-12 taught by Professor Ruth Ferree.

I am majoring in Elementary Education but I am also a Spanish major. I hope to one day teach English as a Second Language in a Spanish-speaking country. I am passionate about Spanish language and culture, and I am fascinated by how children learn and acquire language skills.