Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Tuesday's tips for teaching in the target language

I just stumbled on this really good language teaching blog:

http://senorhoward.com/blog/

Mr Howard is an American who teaches elementary Spanish, blogs and presents. His posts focus on the presentation and practice of target language. What I really like is that he enthusiastically gets into the nitty-gritty of lesson planning, demonstrating how you can have a practical "comprehensible input" approach, whilst keeping a close eye on grammar. Unsurprisingly he strongly believes the focus should primarily be on meaning, not form and that it's through meaning that form will get internalised.

In a sense, what he advocates is what many, many good language teachers already do: clearly structured, carefully graded, target language teaching, involving all students in communicative discourse. It looks a lot like what some call an "oral situational" approach, common in Europe and, quite possibly, in North America too, though I often detect that traditional "skill-building" grammar approaches are more predominant over the pond and that the ACTFL feels it has to make a stronger case for target language teaching.

Mr Howard's lesson examples are from Spanish, but are easily adaptable to other languages.

He writes:

"I’ve learned that you have to make it a goal that every student understands pretty much every thing your saying…even though you are saying it in a language they’ve never heard of before.

... in my classroom, I talk to my students like I talked to my 1 year old when she was learning English from us at home. I use less words. …and create scenarios where the students pretty much know exactly what I’m about to say…but instead of saying it in a language they know…I say it in a language that I want them to learn."

It's the detailed descriptions of lessons using this approach which make the blog unusual. It may seem surprising, but I come across relatively few blogs of this type. There should be more of them. It would be great if teacher training departments offered more practical lesson plans, not just for "off the shelf" use, but allowing for teachers to creatively adapt to the needs of their particular classes.

Do have a look.




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