Pimsleur: How Much Input?

Preparation for a road trip down to New Orleans only meant one thing: 5 Pimsleur language learning courses checked out from our local library! To be clear, Pimsleur courses are not effective in the long run, but there’s input nonetheless. Still, how much input is there…really?

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“Getting Students to Speak” & Min/Max Partner Retells

How do we get students to speak the target language?

Provide input.

At least, that’s what no one disputes, though not every teacher does enough of it. The biggest misconception regarding how to get students speaking is based on the assumption that the goal—speaking the target language—must be part of the process. This makes sense, but we don’t have much evidence to suggest this is true, despite how intuitive it seems. In fact, if you want get all Second Language Acquisition (SLA) technical, in 1995 Merrill Swain—herself—called her own Output (i.e. speaking/writing) Hypothesis “somewhat speculative” (p. 125).

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What CI Isn’t

CI is not optional.

For language acquisition, CI is necessary, and no one disputes it. For full inclusion of all students, no one can deny that tapping into what every human is hard-wired for (i.e. language acquisition) is the more universal practice and responsible choice as educators.

CI is not a method or strategy.

The messages students listen to or read are received as Input. When students understand those messages, they receive Comprehensible Input. Continue reading

NTPRS 2017: 10 Workshops On Assessment & Grading!

Assessment & Grading is, by far, the most frequent topic I’m asked about, and this year’s National TPRS Conference features 10 of those workshops on Thursday and Friday! Based on the descriptions, there’s a mix of proficiency people, skill people, tech-tool people, speaking people, rubric people, and more! I’ll be presenting one of those workshops, and have noticed that my thinking is a little different. I do recommend getting to as many of the 10 as you can, so in case you miss out on mine, here’s a brief look at what I’m about…

I have a very simple approach to assessment because the answer is always RLMTL (i.e. Reading and Listening to More Target Language). That is, there is NO assessment I could give that WOULD NOT result in me providing more input. Therefore, my assessments are input-based, and very brief. In fact, what many consider assessments—for me—are actually just simple quizzes used to report scores (see below).

I prefer to assess students authentically.

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A Definition of “Output” from BVP

“Output is when students, or language learners actually use language to create a message of their own, from scratch.”

Yep, that would rule-out Sentence Frames (e.g. My favorite food is _____), and any other scaffolding when it comes time to creating a message. The result is “traditional language practice” which has not been shown to lead to acquisition. A single genuine utterance (e.g. “pizza”) as part of a communicative event (e.g. “Charles, what’s your favorite food?”) is more beneficial in the long run.

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Input & Interaction: Tea with BVP 10.20.16

Listen to highlights from the latest show for more on these Second Language Acquisition (SLA) takeaways.

There are two main camps, and one outlier when it comes to the role of Input and Interaction in SLA. Both assume Input is necessary. However, there are those who believe…

1) Interaction is absolutely necessary in addition to Input.
2) Interaction is beneficial, but not necessary.
3) Interaction isn’t beneficial at all (very few believe this).

A good place to start is defining Interaction, which Bill gave us as “NOT forced speech, but 2+ people demonstrating that they are involved in meaning making (e.g. speaking, facial/eye expression, nodding, other gesturing, etc.)”

A caller brought up the point that Interaction between the teacher and students is under scrutiny by those looking for students to do more of the communicating. After all, it certainly “looks” like lecturing, but Bill’s Principle #2 of a definition for communication (i.e. interpretation, negotiation, and expression of meaning in a given context) supports the process of a teacher expressing ideas to students who interpret those ideas is, most certainly, communication! Bill’s best advice is to “talk with, not talk at” your students. He further warns “if you say 2+ sentences without involving students, you’re doing something wrong.” I see this play out well when teachers circle tactfully. The teachers asks many questions and repeats student answers in order to increase exposure to input, but the students are involved and interacting. I see this play out not-so-well when teachers frequently restart a story from the beginning, or continuously retell the events without new ideas or questions with new information. So, 2+ sentences, then checking in with students is a GOOD strategy.

So, where does Bill stand on the role of Interaction? When learners signal that input is NOT comprehensible, their interaction leads to more comprehensible input, but clarification and negotiation are not needed all the time. Like Stephen Krashen and authors of Angelika’s quote,  Bill agrees that the role of Interaction does not CAUSE acquisition, but it can be beneficial, placing him in camp #2.



Alphabet (Don’t Teach It!) Alternative

Months ago, I witnessed a classically ineffective language learning lesson. The good news is that the person in charge wasn’t actually a language teacher, and didn’t have pedagogical training at all. The person was a local substitute who gave the kids something to do, which has its own merits. The truth, however, is that many language teachers spend the first few classes teaching the alphabet. Don’t.

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