Saturday, November 24, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.