I am not a research scholar, and so this may be way off, but it is what I have experienced as a teacher in the classroom. There is this term, “tracking acquisition”, that has come into my mind.
Can we actually visually perceive acquisition in our students? I think so.
While teaching them, I try to observe the following: hands (for processing meaning when we gesture), eyes (for actual comprehension and involvement in the story), a forward lean in their posture (to show interest and comprehension) and, the main thing I look for – if they are processing big chunks of words. This last indicator is the big one, and I feel it really can be tracked by the instructor visually as a kind of on the spot assessment.
What does it mean to visually track if the kids in my class are processing chunks of words? What does it mean to track for acquisition?
It does not mean seeing if the kids are merely following the story line. When the kids are merely following a story line, they are absorbing visual clues from the action of the story, and then combining those clues with identification of isolated words to put together in their minds a general idea of what is going on in the story.
Nothing wrong with that! But maybe we can make things a bit better, a bit closer to real acquisition, by focusing on what is happening by seeing if the kids are can grasp large chunks of words, not just single words, but some big chunks that might contain up to ten or more words. When you see the kids doing this, it is an amazing feeling. The kids are getting an idea in their minds from large chunks of words in the target language, and they are only in their first year of study! Don’t worry – they can do it!
When you are doing this kind of teaching, you know it.