Scaffolding by Gavatron, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Gavatron 

 
Welcome back to #langchat, everyone! We hope that you could join us for yet another lively Thursday night chat. This time the conversation focused on comprehensible input. In case you couldn’t participate or missed some of the rapid-fire comments and links circulating, not to fear! We’ve included a summary of the Thursday’s discussion below.

As always, thank you to everyone who participated! We extend a special thanks to our moderators: Don (@dr_dmd), Kristy (@placido), Diego (@DiegoOjeda66), and Kris (@KrisClimer), the newest member of the team!

Defining Comprehensible Input

Don (@dr_dmd) started off the conversation by asking members of the #langchat community how they define comprehensible input: “What IS comprehensible Input??? SERIOUSLY What IS IT??” He provided some background information to get the discussion going:

@KrisClimer also shared a video-recorded lesson on comprehensible input from Krashen, aka “the sage himself”: http://t.co/Em8rsRPrvX.

Participants shared their understanding of comprehensible input. @placido wrote, “CI is language which is comprehensible to the learner and slightly above their ability to produce.” @NicoleNaditz commented, “CI is in the target language and contextualized. It’s relevant to real communication and includes frequent checks 4 understanding.” @madamebaker added, “CI is lang, whether spoken or written along with visuals and gestures that allow students to interpret L2 without reverting to L1.” @HolaSrHoward underscored the importance of comprehensibility: “CI is what you do to avoid students concluding ‘I don’t know what the [teacher] is saying’.” Participants point to the need for input that is just beyond learners’ current level, and which is made comprehensible through contextualization and non-linguistic cues.

Making Input Comprehensible

Participants discussed different strategies that can be adopted to make input comprehensible, emphasizing the incorporation of non-linguistic resources and the importance of repetition and circumlocution. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Don’t forget about non-linguistic resources. @KrisClimer wrote, “Sometimes we focus too much on words, though. [images], facial expressions, gestures, modeling answers can lead to …” @alisonkis also suggested “[Powerpoints], clip arts, mind maps.”
  • Repeat and Rephrase. @alisonkis acknowledged the importance of (re)paraphrasing and repeating utterances.
    @LauraJaneBarber emphasized “modeling circumlocution when they don’t know a new word you use.”
  • Be (melo)dramatic! @SenoritaBasom said, “I use a lot of visuals & often act out things. Funny how my melodramatic acting can make the input more comprehensible!”

@NicoleNaditz summarized the need for a ‘bank of tools’ to provide students with CI: “We all need a bank of tools and strategies to meet student needs. No one strategy can ever be an entire bank of strategies.” Teachers can draw on a variety of resources (e.g. gestures, facial expressions, images, skits, etc.) in order to make input comprehensible for different students.

How to Make Things Interesting

@km_york touched on the frustration that instructors may face when trying to produce comprehensible input that engages students in the target language: “I used to work so hard to establish meaning w/o using L1.” Only the top most interested hung on.” As a new teacher, @MmeFarab echoed this difficulty: “As a first year teacher, I struggle with CI. Best strategies to make students interested?”

Our participants offered a wealth of suggestions and emphasized the importance of making the input interesting for students. Below are some of their suggestions, which include the discussion of events featuring cognates, the use of storytelling visuals, and the incorporation of student interests and prior knowledge in lessons:

  • @fravan said, “I used current events as a warm up, a lot of cognates. http://t.co/E0ZANE9jxp
  • @jmattmiller said, “I like to use CI with students’ personal interests, storytelling w/students as stars. Fiction w/students.”
  • @madamebaker shared: “a fresh idea to spice up the #ci” [celebrity masks and narratives] http://t.co/04jMyp7LKH
  • @placido said, “Use the learner’s prior knowledge, interests, context, images, gestures to MAKE it #ci.”

Additional Resources

In case you accidently lost or closed some of the many links and window tabs you had open during the conversation, we have included additional resources shared by participants.

  • “The Comprehensible Classroom,” http://martinabex.com/: lesson plans, activities and strategies for world language classrooms (shared by @ dr_dmd)
  • A video example of comprehensible input being modeled in a French Class, http://t.co/A2wQbF9a04 (shared by @dr_dmd)
  • “25 ways to find or create CI: http://t.co/0D8ar2STmG” (shared by @axamcarnes)
  • A summary from a previous #langchat on how to do CI with #PBL, http://t.co/AsMlYQtTxe (shared by @dr_dmd)

Conclusion

There is no one formula for comprehensible input, and the variety of strategies that language instructors develop may be more or less effective when interacting with particular students. Participants stress the importance of making the content relevant for students so that they become more invested in trying to understand. While delivering comprehensible input can require a lot of energy and flexibility on the part of the instructor, @KrisClimer offered inspiring words, which were retweeted by several participants: “Love each student. Meet them right above where they are. CI + trust + patience = proficiency progress.”

Thank you

Thank you again to Don (@dr_dmd), Kristy (@placido), Diego (@DiegoOjeda66), and Kris (@KrisClimer) for moderating such an animated discussion. Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share with the #langchat community, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Feedback by giulia.forsythe, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  giulia.forsythe 

 
Thank you to everyone who contributed to our discussion on April 17! The conversation centered on how (and in what language) to provide students with feedback to support deeper learning. This topic generated a lively discussion, and we would like to extend a special thanks to our moderators: @SECottrell and @CoLeeSensei. In case you could not join the conversation on Twitter, have a look at the summary below.

Feedback… in the Target Language (TL) or First Language (L1)?

Participants expressed very different views regarding whether the target language should be used to provide students with feedback. They took a variety of factors into consideration in order to make this decision:

  • Students’ Level in the TL: @CoLeeSensei considers students’ level in the TL: “If its general to my [Year] 4’s it can be in either – if it’s specific to 1 Student – often in English.” @ProfeHardwick agreed: “I think it would depend on the level or the students proficiency to determine which language to give the feedback in.”
  • Comprehensibility: @SECottrell highlighted one view: “to always give feedback in English, on the premise that it’s important for students to understand it all.” @NicoleNaditz advocated for giving feedback in the TL “if there is no chance of misunderstanding.” @mme_sanders gages whether or not she thinks a particular student will understand her feedback: “For me it depends on the student, if I know they will understand then definitely en français!”
  • Need for maximum exposure to the TL: @SECottrell said, “One [view] is to give feedback in TL because after all they’re supposed to be learning TL.”
  • Time limitations: @sr_delaney brought up time as a consideration: “Lots of students and not always lots of time. English is usually language of choice for me.”
  • Nature of the feedback: @ProfeCochran takes the type of feedback into consideration: “If it is formative, on the spot: [Spanish (TL)] (corrective fdbck, obvi). Otherwise, I lean toward English [L1].” @SenoraDiamond55 uses English to provide feedback on linguistic nuances: “For finer points, I tend toward English. Maybe not ideal, but I think for the little things it is perhaps a better fit. Perhaps.”
  • Focusing on standards: Some instructors look to the standards. @MmeCarbonneau wrote, “Feed back is always in English for me (MS students 11-14) based on standards, I can statements, expectations and evidence.” @SECottrell added, “if we’re functioning completely on standards, it has to be English, b/c standards say they can’t understand it.”

10 Tips for Providing Feedback that Fosters Growth

1. Make it timely! @MmeCarbonneau commented that fast feedback is difficult but necessary: “Feedback needs to be timely…I struggle to get things back to them in a timely fashion. Too many students and not enough time.” She is also exploring technological tools that allow instructors to assess student learning (e.g. through class polls), provide feedback, and immediately adapt their instruction: “Been looking into quick assessment type tools like Pear Deck, Infused Learning, Google forms that give me on the spot LIVE…”

2. Encourage self-reflection. @NicoleNaditz wrote, “build in some self- or auto-correcting activities. Tough to design well & must be blended with others.” @senoraCMT suggested one possible activity: “Allow self feedback by having them write on every other line. At end of the writing time, give time to beef up, self correct.” @profepj3 has students listen to themselves: “This week I had students reflect on what their proficiency level was, then record themselves, listen, then rate themselves.” @muchachitaMJ asks students to reflect on what they have done well and what they wish to improve: “I always give time to reflect after feedback…what’s 1 thing you’re proud of? 1 thing you learned or will improve next time?”

3. Allow for peer feedback. @jennifer_spain commented, “you can teach them to give feedback to each other as well = valuable voices in the process,” adding that “Students accept feedback from each other more readily than they take it from teachers sometimes.” @tiesamgraf agreed that “Peer feedback is powerful too[l] – especially if it is another class -did more of this this year.” @muchachitaMJ puts students into feedback groups: “I pull students in groups of 4-5 for specific fdbk (1 group – help with order issues, others need variety of vocab, etc).”

4. Find a coding system that works for you. @CoLeeSensei shared her system: “Yr 3&4 get feedback on writing in ‘colour’ Green – Grammar issue Blue-vocab – they seek me when they don’t know what’s wrong.” She added, “I’ve gone to the “highlight” add-on in Docs – at end it can ‘aggregate’ the highlights for student.” @NicoleNaditz has developed a code, too: “Code tells type of error. They then correct all or specific codes depending on lesson goals.” @MmeCarbonneau uses Google Docs to annotate student work: “Love Google Docs and annotation apps that let me give feedback quickly,” and @CoLeeSensei pointed out the possibility for recorded oral feedback: “You can now do voice comments in Google Docs – might be worth a try!”

5. Consider creating student portfolios. Portfolios allow instructors to store student writing samples with feedback and track student progress. @SECottrell wrote, “implementing LinguaFolio at a school is on my bucket list.” @MmeCarbonneau suggested Flipgrid as another option: “Have you seen Flipgrid? Great way to see progression in oral work!” @jennifer_spain is currently using Edmodo: “Still playing with portfolio formats – tried Google, moved to Edmodo…”

6. Be aware of student goals and concerns. @jennifer_spain wrote, “I’ve invited kids to write lists on the board of what they want feedback on before presenting – great ideas.” @madamebaker added, “Students can set their own goals too, based on can do statements, proficiency standards.” @SECottrell surveys students to get their feedback and understand their goals and concerns: “I suggested this as a resolution this year – survey your students http://t.co/7v1ObL1YF4.”

7. Incorporate positive feedback. @madamebaker emphasized the importance of commenting on what students can do well: “How about giving students POSITIVE feedback for what they CAN do…” @NicoleNaditz agreed: “yes! I’ve had [great] success w/ “you are quite good at X and now you’re ready to try Y on future work.” @km_york commented, “I like to do one strength, and one suggestion for improvement for next time,” and @SenoraWienhold proposed the sandwich method: “Compliment sandwich. 2 positives surrounding a negative.”

8. Encourage students to take risks. @alenord wrote that “if they think the A they earned means they have arrived, they will stop challenging [themselves].” @CoLeeSensei responded that “Sometimes they have to tell me where they are taking their risks – thinking about their learning.”

9. Keep providing feedback. @senorita_jess has students make changes after receiving feedback and resubmit their work for a grade: “rough copy, [feedback], return, edit/redo, turn in again, grade.” @CoLeeSensei replied, “Love this idea – build, refine, build again.”

10. Make sure students actually read the feedback! @SECottrell wrote, “it’s important, for one thing, to make sure students are actually reading the feedback!” @cadamsf1 echoed this comment and pointed out that not giving students a score inclines them to read teacher feedback: “This is sooo true! I have found if I don’t put a # [students] will at least read feedback hunting for the grade.”

Conclusion

There are many ways to foster deeper learning through feedback. It is important to develop techniques that work well for you and your students. The #langchat discussion generated a number of suggestions, and we invite you to continue to share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this post!

Thank You

Thank you so much to @SECottrell and @CoLeeSensei for moderating this rich discussion. Due to space limitations, many great comments had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share with the #langchat community, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Welcome back to #langchat!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for a lively discussion on Thursday, April 10! The conversation focused on how thematic units and action-oriented tasks can best incorporate culture. There was a large turnout, and participants shared a wealth of useful suggestions! A special thanks to our moderators: @msfrenchteach and @CoLeeSensei.

In case you missed the discussion, have a look at the summary below. We invite you to continue the conversation at the bottom of this post in the comments section!

Mercado Central de Valencia by Antonio Tajuelo, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Antonio Tajuelo 

 
Participants agreed that culture should be integrated into language instruction. @msfrenchteach wrote that: “Culture should be seamlessly woven in to the fabric of our units,” and @senoraCMT placed views culture as the ‘main dish’ of her instruction: “I like to incorporate the culture before I plan the unit. Culture=main dish, other stuff=sides!” Participants reflected on ways to help students experience culture both in and out of the classroom, suggested useful resources, and touched upon certain difficulties faced when attempting to integrate culture.

Bringing Culture into the Classroom

Instructors emphasized the importance of exposing students to ‘authentic’ cultural resources. Film was presented as an ideal resource due to its incorporation of history, language, and visuals from the target culture (@senoraCMT). Many instructors commented that they also integrate music into their daily classroom routine (e.g. starting each class with a song). Participants highlighted the importance of bringing authentic products from the target culture into the classroom, and they sometimes invite students to taste the culture. For example, @sgojsic mentioned plans for a French cheese sampling party in class. Authentic texts were also presented as a window into both language and culture, and the value of personal narratives (shared by either students or instructors) of study abroad experiences were also encouraged. Finally, @profesorM shared an authentic image bank with participants: http://t.co/So5sD86bm7.

Culture Through Contact

Participants discussed the importance of getting students out of the classroom to experience culture in an authentic setting. @ksmcfet wrote: “Get them to get out and experience it on their own. I require it for a small part of grade. They have learned so much.” @sgojsic has students volunteer at a cultural event, and @SraSpanglish takes her students on a field trip to a local mercado where they can purchase ingredients together and interact with merchants in Spanish. Instructors encourage students to experience the target culture both at home and through study abroad. Pen pals were also suggested as a way of experiencing another culture through written exchanges with speakers living in the target culture, and class Skype sessions with students in the target culture were also mentioned.

Accessing and Storing Cultural Resources Online

Participants repeatedly stressed that the Internet is an essential tool for accessing culture. Commercials (on YouTube or Pinterest) were mentioned multiple times, and participants seemed to find the site particularly valuable due to its large collection of short, digestible texts (@SraSpanglish) and the possibility to thematically organize resources. Diigo was also recommended as a useful site for collecting, tagging, and storing resources that are relevant for particular thematic units. A number of instructors also advocated for the incorporation of social media in the classroom. Twitter was suggested, as it allows the class to follow and engage with current events in the target culture, and @senorita_jess like the idea of a class social media account.

Difficulties

Participants touched upon a few difficulties that instructors must face when trying to incorporate culture into lessons. @BeckyTetzner described the frustration of not having much freedom to create thematic units: “I LOVE the idea of creating more of my own thematic units, but I’m in a dept. w/out-of-book [teachers] &; it’s a struggle.” @ksmcfet asked how to get students to value personal anecdotes: “how do you get kids to appreciate culture? I have life experiences I love to share but they don’t care!” Additionally, @sgojsic commented on the amount of time required to find appropriate resources: “the struggle with culture is finding the resources-often takes time to search appropriate websites, articles etc.” In light of @sgojsic’s comment, we have included a list of some of the many resources shared by participants.

Resources

  • @cocamanar: ispot.tv is a great resource for Spanish commercials. Searchable.
  • @dacosta_sra: The Mexican Movie Canela. We used minute 31:41 for interpretive task as Main Character invited neighbors to dinner.
  • @Marishawkins: I love having a webquest with an authentic task like buy a train ticket from the RENFE site
  • @madamebaker: Check this site out for authentic images: http://t.co/NmkwLsLJMQ
  • @profesorM: Online shopping http://t.co/1jd7Baz3ib (food), elcorteingles.es ropa + furn
  • @mmebrady: my students LOVE the oasis commercials!!
  • @CristinaZimmer4: Easiest 2create units by teaching cultural content, then gram, 2support communication relating to it: https://t.co/AFDXZRrCL
  • @Senor_Pete: YouTube is a hotspot for authentic materials. Commercials, news stories, video blogs, etc
  • @muchachitaMJ: just search “anuncio + company name” – Coca cola has the best commercials in Spanish
  • @SenoritaWirries: Link to culture point activities I do with my kids. http://t.co/gTgugm4rO5
  • @lovemysummer: Nat Geo had awesome cross-cult. reality series several yrs ago. Search for episodes of Worlds Apart. Detroit & Peru is a fave 4 sp
  • @profesorM: Movie: La Misma Luna (inmigación)
  • @karacjacobs: Lots of commercials in Spanish here too http://t.co/jzlZJ9y7rV
  • @SenoritaWirries: Good movie to compare and discuss culture The perfect game! My fav. Baseball (my 2nd love)
  • @BeckyTetzner: NPR has had a “borderlands” series recently-useful culture for Span tchrs?! http://t.co/vzkZ8b8sp3

Summary

There are many ways to incorporate culture into language learning, both in and out of the classroom. The Internet contains a vast and growing array of resources that allow instructors to access images, texts, and videos for thematic units. Social media represents an emerging cultural resource, and instructors appear eager to integrate new media into instruction. Finding authentic materials online can be time-consuming, but the #langchat community is a good place to start.

Thank You

Thank you so much to @msfrenchteach and @CoLeeSensei for moderating a lively discussion about how to incorporate culture into language learning. Due to space limitations, many great comments had to be omitted from this summary. To view a complete transcript of the conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share with the #langchat community, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Grammar is a necessary part of language instruction, and yet it remains one of the most hotly debated topics among language teachers. How much explicit grammar is necessary to include? What grammar structures are vital to first-year students in order to allow them to communicate? On Thursday night, the #langchat participants discussed these questions, in addition to sharing ideas for how to present grammar in a way to foster communication and holistic learning of the target language.

Grammar vs. Communication: The Best of Both WorldsAn Emphasis on Communication

Throughout the chat, language teachers seemed to agree on this core principle: Grammar is about communication.

Although past language teaching philosophies have included ideas like isolated grammar exercises, conjugation charts and grammar drills, new proficiency-based language goals are quickly displacing them. In fact, new Common Core State Standards even reflect the inadequacy of these grammar teaching styles. @SECottrell said, “Who can benefit most from explicit grammar structure? Common core says, kids who are already proficient speakers.” This means that grammar taught in isolation is really only benefitting students who already know the language.

Since most students in second language classrooms aren’t currently fluent, there is a need for communication-based grammar instruction that imitates the natural flow of first language acquisition. @dr_dmd said, “Let’s remember that no one ever came out of the womb to learn grammar as the best way to acquire a second language! Humans learn language innately! Then we decided to structure our thinking about language by grammar-ifying it.”

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What’s Wrong With Teaching Grammar by Itself?

Even though world language teachers have been doing this for years, there are some key reasons why there has been a clear shift in thinking about grammar instruction. Isolated grammar instruction is not very helpful for communication, as it doesn’t require students to actually share information, just memorize structures. @KrisClimer said, “Grammar instruction leads many students to a false sense of “knowing” when they don’t really “know”.” @CristinaZimmer4 added, “My aha moment as to why direct grammar instruction fails? A great student could conjugate tener, but didn’t what know tienes meant in a question.”

Other hindrances to the efficacy of grammar instruction (out of context) can be:

1. Students don’t have sufficient scaffolding to learn structures. Not only are many novice language learners unprepared to learn grammar in a second language, but they also don’t have the background knowledge of grammar in their own language, either. @MmeCarbonneau said, “My students don’t often know the grammar of their native language.”

2. Excessive grammar can deter students. The inability to actually communicate can lead to frustration, especially when students don’t really understand the value of learning grammatical structures. @cadamsf1 said, “I have seen so many students turned off by grammar. They drop the language because they are not communicating. I know as a student of language I was not interested in grammar and rules… I just wanted to know how to talk.”

3. Halts natural communication process in the target language. Several teachers mentioned that providing explicit grammar instruction often halts the communication learning that is happening in the classroom, forcing teachers to move back into English and away from the target language. @SECottrell said, “@dacosta_sra I find this a lot when talking to teachers – if they can’t get high levels of TL it’s bc they’re explaining too much #langchat”

@dr_dmd then shared this proverb about isolated grammar instruction: “The desired outcome is that students can communicate, not that they can conjugate!”

Grammar as a Valuable Tool

Still, even though grammar is not effective out of context, there are very valuable things that grammar provides students. Many #langchat teachers mentioned their love of grammatical structures, both as concepts and as tools for teaching. @csummerfelt said, “Grammar has its place as a just-in-time tool and as a support as needed, but not as the focus for language acquisition.” @SECottrell agreed, saying, “Grammar absolutely has a place in the L2 classroom – As a tool to clarify meaning within meaningful tasks headed toward meaningful assessments, and to help intermediate students refine accuracy as they push toward advanced.”

Other teachers agreed that grammar instruction has a huge impact on other areas of language acquisition and communication, including written and oral communication, but only if they’re ready to understand it. @dr_dmd said, “When we understand that grammar helps students write more accurately, BUT ONLY when they already have enough of the second language in their heads, then they can start to reflect on the ways the second language works. So we can see that grammar CAN help, but we go awry when we try to teach L2 ONLY through grammar! There is the rub!”

– Like Calico Spanish on Facebook –

What Does a Balanced Approach to Grammar Instruction Look Like?

So, grammar instruction shouldn’t be done in isolation unless students are fluent. Yet, it is a vital part of learning and understanding how the second language functions, even for novices. These two ideas make it difficult for some teachers to find a good balance between communication-based lessons and grammar-lessons. Many #langchat teachers expressed their belief that it doesn’t need to be one or the other.

Several teachers shared what they believed to be key characteristics of classrooms maintaining a good balance between grammar-focused and communication-focused lessons.

1. Teaching in Context.

The best world language classrooms use communication activities to highlight grammatical structures and share those with the class organically. @tmsaue1 said, “Being focused on proficiency does not mean DON’T teach grammar. It means teach it when appropriate.” @sgojsic said, “We can’t teach grammar as isolated formulas – Students need context in order to process it cognitively.”

2. Minimizing Grammatical Explanations.

Since many language learners are unfamiliar with grammatical structures in their native language, using grammatical terminology and concepts out of context can have a chilling effect on language learning. @KrisClimer gave a great example: “No native speaker of English would accidentally say, “You love I”. We didn’t have to have that grammar explained.”

But, there IS a place for grammar explanations, just in the right time and manner. @KrisClimer said, “Explaining can be done in the second language, like the discussion of grammar that happened in their native language to refine usage.”

3. Individualizing Instruction.

@SECottrell shared one of the most valuable points of the night: The importance of finding and meeting the individual needs of students and teachers. She said, “I disagree with making these generalizations. So much depends on teacher, class size, individual motivation.” In order to really focus on communication and still include grammar instruction, there will need to be a balance of tools and teaching methods. Explicit grammar instruction can work; for the right student. As world language teachers, it is important to know your students and give them a buffet of learning options that will allow them to learn in the best way possible.

4. Rewarding Communication Attempts.

This doesn’t just mean giving positive feedback about correct usage of grammar in communication activities, it means giving students credit for even attempting. In this way, you can foster a sense of safety in your classroom that allows students to do it wrong and not feel penalized. @jen_aston said that it’s important to make sure your classroom is, “…one where [students] feel comfortable taking risks and speaking in L2.” @KrisClimer said, “I repeat, I LOVE grammar, but students learn to understand and produce language by exposure and practice.”

5. Modeling With Authentic Text and Comprehensible Input.

As with all other areas of teaching, modeling is a vital component in the world language classroom. Nowhere is modeling more important in language education than in teaching grammar. @srajojava said, “It’s all about modeling—with authentic texts whenever possible. Teaching students how to use available designs and redesign.”

The key to modeling is to make sure that you are modeling through comprehensible input. Exactly what does that mean? @KrisClimer defined it as, “Input that is just at or slightly above what they have mastered.”” Through the use of comprehensible input, students will naturally pick up on the skills that you are showing them. @dr_dmd said, “We keep modeling real life, real language in oral and written forms – give them TONS of comp input, close reading, writing in response.”

– Follow Calico Spanish on Twitter

Is it Possible to Change from Isolated Grammar Instruction to Holistic Communication Teaching?

Even though most #langchat participants could say how a communication-based grammar lesson is different than a out-of-context grammar lesson, it’s not an easy transition to make. Many teachers have been using textbook drills, worksheets and explicit grammar instruction for years. @ksmcfet said, “I am in my 6th year and have only taught through textbook and grammar. Students don’t retain anything. There’s no communication.” @SraRoar also shared, saying, “Switching to more comprehensible input after 15 years of grammar. I use stories and music but feel like doing same activities every day. How do I add variety?”

Fortunately, the #langchat community had several helpful ideas for teachers who are interested in incorporating more communication-based grammar instruction into their classrooms.

Educate Parents and Administration. @suarez712002 said, “Students quickly understand the communicative approach, but other colleagues and stakeholders need to be educated.”
@dr_dmd said, “We must advocate – few administrators or parents know what we do, because they do not speak an second language themselves.”

Take it Slow. @dr_dmd said, “Don’t start over, change a bit at a time! Always reforming, growing, renewing, changing! Remember that it is always ok to be where you are, It is not ok to stay there! Always revise or you’ll stagnate in teaching…”

Have Fun With Communication. @dr_dmd said, “Keep growing and changing. HAVE FUN with your students. Don’t worry about administration. When the students can speak a second language, the proof will be obvious.

Be a Part of a Helpful Language Teaching Community. @dr_dmd said, “How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time and in community! – Zulu proverb. Never go it alone, and always seek to grow!”

Other Ideas for Balancing Grammar and Communication

  • @silvius_toda said, “I use a lot of oral Latin with my students, and I use lots of comprehensible input – when needed, I’ll take a 30-second grammar timeout in English for a quick explanation.”
  • @SrtaNRodriguez said, “Have students consider what makes a strong sentence – add questions around original sentence – details are key.”
  • @LevansFHS said, “Students can do daily charlas about themselves. Students practice presentational speaking and we learn about each other.”
  • @MmeShipton said, “Try inquiry groups using Edmodo as collaborative platform. I’m starting to for grammar, so we have class time left for student interaction.”
  • @sgojsic said, “Get them up and moving using different strategies: speed dating, hands up partner up, think pair share.”
  • @dr_dmd said, “It matters little which comprehensible input method YOU prefer, as long as the second language is real life, in real authentic cultural contexts.”
  • @seanfloyd said, “I love collaborative activities that get students communicating. Love using tech tools. Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Haiku Deck, Google Docs.”
  • @silvius_toda said, “Create understandable stories involving students in your classes with wacky plots and outcomes – let your students know you see them.”
  • @MmeShipton said, “I always try to address grammar after students have practiced concept orally quite a bit. Often they find language patterns through exploration.”
  • @csummerfelt said, “Duolingo makes a fun grammar support tool in the class. Students can learn grammar at own pace while communication is the focus in class.”
  • @MmeShipton said, “Has anyone tried flipping their classrooms? I’ve been trying to focus on grammar at home so that class time is for communication.”
  • @jen_aston said, “#langchat Replace grammar lessons with meaningful, authentic oral communication tasks where students interact helps develop proficiency.”
  • @profepj3 said, “I’m doing “workouts” with my students this week—10 min stretches of writing on a topic, then 2 minutes of speaking.”
  • @lesliedavison said, “LOTS and LOTS of reading has helped my students.”
  • @MmeShipton said, “I’ve been dabbling with Zondle and Socrative for grammar gamification. Students play at home, then apply concepts in class.

Summary

Although the way the language community thinks about grammar instruction has changed over the past century, it is still a vital part of the language learning process. In a communication-focused classroom, it is possible to model and teach grammar without having to take it out of context. And, even the most traditional teacher can make this transition. With patience, dedication and a supportive PLN, it is possible to make any classroom a place where communication and grammar go hand in hand.

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Thank You

Thanks to @dr_dmd for moderating this chat. We were so pleased to see all the new faces and share ideas, both on-topic and off-the-cuff! In fact, a lot of great conversations didn’t make it into the summary. You can check out the tweet archive for a complete version of the chat with tons of great resources!

Do you have a suggestion for a future #langchat? If there is something that is on your mind, or there’s a problem that you want to discuss, it is likely that you’re not alone! Share your questions and comments on the #langchat wiki, and we’ll try to feature it in a future chat. The question you have might be exactly what someone else needs in order to learn how to create a happier and more confident world language classroom.

Additional Resources

Take the leap to standards-based assessment
Explaining BICS and CALP
Summit High School Spanish position
STAMP Results ‐‐ National Averages 2008‐2009
Do You Know Me? The Voice of a Disgruntled Student in a Boring Class
Fighting fear of change…
Update: What I teach in each of my classes
Five ways to have rockin’ sub days
TELL Project
World-readiness standards for learning languages
A meaningful approach to grammar

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