Demonstrations: Providing Compelling Input

I’ve known that Krashen et al. suggested long ago that using Total Physical Response (TPR) to teach basic dance steps, martial arts, magic tricks, etc. results in compelling input. I’ve seen presenters talk about the idea of doing so, but haven’t really seen it much in classrooms. Now, I’ve performed one of Eric Herman’s magic tricks, but I didn’t really think I knew how to do anything that I could instruct students to do.

However, Tuesday was one of those perfect times to try something new during a weird day because the rest of the week was midterms. Since I got into archery this year, I decided to bring in my bow to demonstrate basic assembly, shot cycle, and target point values. Yes, I cleared this with security as well as admin, and no, I didn’t bring any arrows.

The experience was fantastic.

Students were captivated for a solid 45 minutes, and there’s no surprise why. Humans are naturally curious learners. It’s just that the school system has destroyed the joy of learning. If we can pause that “school feeling” for a moment, we bring back the joy. After my demo using common vocab, I projected a list of archery-specific phrases, and we co-created a quick text on archery. From there, I put together a more comprehensive packet. However, I wasn’t teaching words. I was teaching about archery. That’s the content.

In pedagogical terms, this is content-based instruction (CBI). Students asked a lot of questions about the bow. Why? It’s cool. In comparison, though, they didn’t ask as much about Roman apartment buildings last month. Why? That’s kind of boring, no matter how well we connect the content to their lives. Of course, exploring Roman content works the same way as exploring archery. It’s just that it takes someone with particular interests to get as excited about Romans. However, I’m not convinced that this should be either/or. I’ll both continue to explore Roman content (in Latin), as well as teach about other content (in Latin).

I’m now looking for other things to demo. Drumming might be one. After performing that card trick, I suppose I could teach it. In all of this, I’m reminded of how beneficial it is to include students in the demo process (e.g. distribute toy bows, drum sticks, decks of cards, etc.).

So, What could you teach your students?

The 1-Class CALP & Comprehensible Content-Based Instruction (CCBI)

At iFLT 2019, Martina Bex presented on content-based instruction (CBI), only with an important caveat you’d expect from the conference: a focus on comprehension, hence CCBI. I was delighted to see how similar her three steps were to the framework I’ve been developing with John Bracey, David Maust, and John Piazza, which we presented at ACL’s Centennial Institute. Martina uses slightly different terms taken from Bloom’s Taxonomy to describe the same process we’re using (hers on the left, ours on the right):

Knowledge = Connect
Comprehension = Explore
Analysis/Synthesize = Create

Martina’s presentation showed how simple the process can be, making the concept of teaching Roman content in Latin more approachable. How? The format she shared was for a single class. Of course, the idea is not to teach random new content every day, but instead to have each day’s content within a larger unit, but still, this “bite-sized” approach feels more manageable for anyone looking to teach content in the target language. So how does that differ from the unit template the John’s and I shared at ACL?

Continue reading