March 11, 2020 | #EarlyLang

Target Language Use in the #EarlyLang Setting
from March 11, 2020

On March 11, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed creating a TL-rich environment and offered strategies to facilitate language acquisition. They also discussed maintaining TL use and classroom management and how to maintain their own TL proficiency.

Q1: How do we effectively create a TL-rich environment in #earlylang class?

#earlylang learners need to be immersed in the TL, but in a supportive and safe environment where making mistakes is part of learning. Other strategies include clear learning targets in kid-friendly language, with supports such as visuals and predictable language. Scaffolding is also important, provide answer options when asking questions, comprehensible input,.and predictable language patterns can all facilitate language acquisition.

Q2: What strategies do you use to facilitate and support the learners’ comprehension of the target language?

Participants agreed on several essential strategies: use of visuals, repetition, adjust speed and complexity of speech.  Visuals and gestures help the student to see what the teacher is talking about and so make it easier to comprehend and use the TL. Repetition in a fun way, through interesting text or topics, helps students acquire a structure without working too hard. Adjusting speech is useful when introducing structures or more difficult vocabulary, once students have heard it a few times, increase speed and complexity until speaking at a normal pace.


Q3: What expectations and strategies do you have for #earlylang learners using the TL in individual, group, or whole-class activities?

One suggestion is to encourage the use of the TL as students feel comfortable, but don’t “punish” English usage, simply redirect to the TL. To help students in their use of the TL, provide language chunks and phrases they can employ as they navigate new structures. Another teacher mentioned wait time, giving students time to think before they answer and keeping other students from calling out the answer. Kindness is also important, students should encourage each other and not make fun of errors or mispronunciation. Finally, encourage students to listen for understanding and ask questions when they do not understand so the teacher can clarify meaning.

Q4: How do you navigate class management and target language use?

Most teachers agreed that it is important to establish routines and procedures at the beginning of the year. Taking the first few weeks to work on these expectations and teaching the required vocabulary eliminates most classroom management problems and communicates the classroom culture. Simple directions, visuals, and key phrases help keep students on task and behaving appropriately. For more challenging groups, it might be necessary to use English to reinforce rules and expectations.

Q5: How can #earlylang teachers maintain and improve their own TL proficiency so they stay comfortable using high levels of comprehensible TL in class?

@TWSteacher, “I’m going to sit this one out because I’m a native speaker but I when I taught ESL what helped besides studying English for 5 years in college was- traveling here as an Au Pair and looking for multiple ways to immerse myself in the language even until this day.”

@glendadehoyos, “Although my native language is Spanish, I’ve realized that learning a language is a never-ending process. There’s always a new word, a new phrase, a different way to say or express something. Having the curiosity, open mind & heart to keep learning is the way to go.”

@SECottrell, “I have to say again, see if there’s a Meetup anywhere near you. The Louisville Spanish & English conversation group is a spectrum of native speakers to newish learners and it’s a great way to meet new people, hear new perspectives.”

@MaCristinaRV, “To maintain and improve our own TL proficiency, we can read, watch films, listen to podcasts, create music playlists, engage in conversations, practice with language learning platforms, change our phones and social media apps -all to the target language.”

@Sra_Barrett, “ This is such a great question. We need to practice what we preach. Thus, we need to continue growing our own language skills even if it feels uncomfortable. We must seek opportunities to continue learning.”

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, M Cristina Rdz-Villa (@MaCristinaRV), and our co-moderator, Sara-E Cottrell (@SECottrell) for helping to guide the conversation.

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