OWATS: CI not Guaranteed

Familiarize yourself with Bob Patrick’s One Word At a Time Stories (OWATS), here.

Sure, this activity can be used to deliver understandable messages when asking questions to each group and/or providing Pop-Up Grammar explanations. Realize, though, that the more groups you have, the less CI you can deliver; time is divided between groups students instead of all at once in a whole-class format. Aside from the main purpose of providing some limited CI, OWATS is also suitable when you need a break from delivering CI. I was in that kind of state of mind today, and didn’t ask groups many questions. Still, the students had a blast creating stories together.

I didn’t plan ahead of time for today’s OWATS, but quickly realized upon entering the building that after the long weekend (including a surreal night at Hôtel de Glace), I didn’t have the energy to sustain a full day in Spanish (n.b. we start Latin in February, then French in April for this 7th grade Exploratory Language course). Teachers new to CI, and Latin teachers new to speaking Latin will likely find themselves in a similar boat. OWATS is a good option. I always have phrases we’ve used typed up, cut out, and ready to go, and continue to add more to the pile as we go…

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Student Responses to 2015-16 Day 1 Survey Question: What Makes You Nervous? What Challenges Do You Foresee?

It’s a good habit to really listen to your students. In fact, if all language teachers did so, there would be more Teaching with CI.

At the start of the year, I hand out Expectations, and assign a few questions to be answered with an adult at home. Let’s face it, CI classes aren’t like other classes, and it’s good practice to make sure everyone understands how that academic environment is different, and what makes a CI class flow. The following response samples are somewhat depressing, but reflect the current state of taking a second language in high school. I offer them as anecdotal evidence that forced language production/output is damaging, as well as assurance that this “CI thing” will reach more students, especially if we embrace the research.

So, what makes kids nervous, and what challenges do they foresee? Some responses:

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Read, don’t Translate: Speed Reading

Reading without consciously translating into one’s native language is assumed to be a part of language acquisition, yet is taken for granted and difficult to assess. Through a Speed Reading program, students are encouraged to read chunks of words rather than individual word-for-word-translation. This aligns with how we focus on teaching the most frequent structures rather than isolated word lists. In addition, students find this reading program compelling due to the personal competitive nature.

Take a minute to read the Speed Reading Process (my adaptation of Blaine Ray’s adaptation of Paul Nation’s program).

If you like the idea, all that’s needed to begin is a set of reading passages (perhaps parallel class stories), accompanying document with 10 comprehension questions, and a table showing reading speed per passage. You will need the following files:

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