So here is my plan for the harder days in winter:
When class starts, before we go to SSR (see category for how that works), I just stand in front of the class and look at them and wait for them to settle down. Let’s say that this is a third year class which has been reading a lot of subjunctives in Le Voyage Perdu for SSR. So, the first words out of my mouth to start the class are:
You have to be on time!
I want you to listen!
or something that requires the subjunctive.
Then I just stare at them. And they stare at me. And this can go on for half a minute. We stare at each other. Then they get it. One of the kids says, “Oh! You want us to write that down in French!” And I say in English, “Yes.” That’s all I say.
Pencils and paper come out and they start to translate. They ask me questions. It’s all in English. My mental health is being preserved because I didn’t feel like pushing CI down their throats that day. All I have to do is teach like I did a long time ago.
Well, I wouldn’t actually call it teaching. BUT the kids love doing this because they think that they are learning because they are doing something and they have a pencil in their hands and they are getting to do what they always do in school – busywork.
So they sit there and happily try to translate, limiting their thinking to the left hemisphere of their brains, where nothing or next to nothing can even happen to lead to real acquisition. The kids who resist the CI are happy now – they are in the safe zone of their brains, the school zone, but they are not in the language zone. The left brain analytical algebraic linear concrete sequential kids especially love doing this. The ones who have been made to think that they are stupid in schools (this includes a lot of right brain dominant kids) just sit there feeling stupid.
Who cares? My mental health is more important than those kids learning French. I walk around and help. I’m not up there trying to do PQA with a bunch of brats. The moment I say the sentence, of course, the competition begins. NOW it feels like school to my students. This is how schools function – by building up competition between the kids. They start competing to see who can get me to come over and announce that they are the first ones to “get it right.”
So the kids keep raising their hand and I just walk around and say, “No, that’s not right” and maybe point to a word that is misspelled and they are so happy to compete and the hands fly up and boy are we having fun now! If an administrator walks by they see those hands flying up in the air and they think that learning is occurring.
There are posters on the wall for this. It’s another reason I don’t have to go around answering questions from individual kids as they do their translation work. Remember, the purpose of this activity is for me not to have to work. If they ask a question I just point to the wall.
Here is a sample of posters I have up in my room that explains how little words function in French:
This poster set is available in German and Spanish as well and if the Latinists and others want some on the posters page (TPRS Resources page here) send them to me and I will put them up there.
There is another poster I will mention later – connecting words that I don’t have in this computer. That is a very important poster because DPS kids have to write a story on the exit tests each spring and they can’t really get above Novice Low Mid without that poster, which allows them to express ideas in a sequence or with emotion.
Of course a crucial point to make here is that spelling absolutely doesn’t ever count. We repeatedly drill into the kids that they succeed at their exit writing test when they show us that they can communicate an idea in the target language using a variety of verbs and that’s it. Here is a link to that poster – it goes up on the wall in my level 1 classes in January each year:
Another thing: obviously don’t let them use translation programs in their phones. Those are good ways to make students stupid, dishonest and dependent on electronic devices.