Many know Kate Taluga from NTPRS. She works with preserving Myskoke language in Florida and is part of the Oklahoma group as well, since her People were one of those native groups split between those two states. Her kids are showing growth with the language as expressed below:
Yesterday my kids performed on stage in front of the school and parents, the Brown Bear story. Now I know that it was forced output – though by doing it chorally I hoped those that were ready would speak up (and they did) and those that weren’t would mumble along (and they did). There are only 8 of them. I had done lots of hands-on strategies over the 6 times we met before doing this showcase using materials I found from the link you had provided on the blog (yep, 6 times on Friday afternoon at 4:30 with parents picking up willie-nillie – it’s a bit of a challenge). We weren’t doing the whole book by ourselves. Spanish had a section and Russian had a section. But I did do the whole book in teaching with my class. Here were the outcomes:
I had given each student a CD to listen to at home. I had done the reps, the slowed down auditory, and left room for them to repeat if they desired. I had also put in encouraging comments, a few chants of difficult phrasing, etc. Most of the kids listened at home. The ones who didn’t do their listening, didn’t really speak up. The ones who did were confident and spoke out. No microphones and carried a room of 325. Yes, I was proud…. These kids are predominately kindergarten and first graders. There were three older kids (3rd-8th) in my group. so, it was a cute little show, gave my staff a direction to move in as they planned their classes with their students (cause they weren’t doing much except discipline as they had NO plans).
But here is the kicker –
Later that afternoon in after school, my Master Speaker from Florida came and taught my class. He had no idea what the kids knew. But, he launched into a drawing session and just winged stuff out of his head. The tree is next to the house. We hadn’t done any of those words. They were with him! They were confident enough to suggest a guess, They were excited to interact with this 70 year old man. One boy kept saying “I’ve only been here 3 times but I am getting this.” Another boy said, “I don’t understand.” He never speaks up in class, but he had got the idea finally that it was okay to ask for help. And they were on fire for “their” language.
And my Master? Oh, he was excited too as he played with them. So, I’ve had a real success where the students have had some confidence building. I am looking at our next structures to build off what we know. And soon we will begin recording our own stories I am sure. The reality is once a week for 45 minutes is a slow build (we have had only 13 classes – that isn’t even 2 weeks in your schools). The parents that talked to me last night as they picked up their children (yes they had listened to the CDs – the homework had a parent participation part – that is what makes it HOMEwork), said they didn’t think their child was getting anything out of the class or listening to the CD until they did the homework with their children and the children knew it all. They asked for more CDs because now they want to learn.
This is huge! Not because they want to learn another language. But, that it is Mvskoke in an area where the names all around them of our landscape are in Mvskoke, but no one speaks the language.
So thank you. I’d have kept plugging along in my own way – and I am, but now I have more tools to my box. I don’t worry so much about grammar – let it happen naturally. I see progress.
Thank you Ben! Miracles happen every day. Keep your eyes open and your heart reaching out.
CI and the Research (cont.)
Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could
8 thoughts on “Myskoke Update”
My dear Kate,
You, and the love you give, are a miracle. We are so grateful for you.
Ok, it’s very late here and I’m tired, but I know that earlier tonight I read somewhere (was it here in an old blog entry of Ben’s, or in something on Bryce’s site…) something that someone had written about reading in class, translating the text together, then going back and reading chorally, and how that is a strong form of CI.
We had our school Christmas program last week, and the kids were singing lots of traditional Christmas hymns in English. The music teacher found out that I had been teaching Silent Night in Spanish and thought she wanted some of my classes to sing it for the program, then decided it wouldn’t work this year. But the 5th grade class met before she changed her mind, and I put them through the paces. We had already TPRd a lot of the vocab and had listened to and translated the song together, but that day we really worked at understanding how the words went together, practicing the pronunciation, linking syllables, really singing and learning the song — even turning their backs to the whiteboard to sing without the lyrics in front of them. Just one half hour class of focused practice.
What a leap they made! It made such a difference. One sang for her mom’s Mexican coworker and brought the woman to tears. This week, we acted out the angel visits to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, then read (and colored! — it was the day before Christmas break, so I took what I could get!) a few pages from a Spanish Christmas coloring book, and they understood so much more than the 4th & 6th graders who didn’t actually memorize that one song … (btw, I teach at a private Christian school, so that explains the freedom of content!)
Like you say, Kate, I know it’s forced output, but there’s a comfortable anonymity in doing it chorally, and it increased their comprehension and confidence levels by such an incredible amount! I need to remember this and work more in-depth with songs throughout the spring.
I don’t think output is ever forced when it is in the form of songs. It is a privilege of life for young children to repeat sacred and therefore compelling words in the form of melody. It’s not forced, but a joyous expression of the greater mysteries. I remember songs in French from childhood to this day. Those kids Kate and Candy have worked with lately will live with those words you taught them engraved on their hearts forever. Such is, in my opinion, the nature of sacred music, which is vastly different from the other stuff.
Working with songs is so powerful, yet we all seem to find ways to avoid it. Of course, at the high school level the kids have lost their innocence and so those who teach at the lower levels like you and Kate can do things with songs that most teachers of older kids cannot. Look at the work you have done here. See it for what it is – greatness. Yes, it should all be explored.
We are standing on an overlook of a vast panorama of change, and the valley of the songs, the beautiful verdant prairies below our gaze, are as worthy of our exploration as any other aspect of the work we are doing now on behalf of the kids and the general awakening process that we are all in right now.
and the preparation for the singing was high quality input…and …because songs….especially if it is a familiar one in L1 are highly comprehensible…if not in the L2..they are usually so much a story…or so HEART-CONNECTED …that they reach a level of comprehensibility that goes way beyond the words and the structure of the language…they reach into the international understanding of emotions.
How encouraging that THE PARENTS want more cd’s!!
Kate! It is so exciting and heartening to read your post! ” I love how you interpret HOME work to mean literally “work in the home, which includes the parents.” I love how you had your Master Teacher come in and the kids responded to the energy of connection. I love how you put the kids at ease by giving them a choice to listen/practice or not. I especially love how that one kid actually asked for help!!! And the parent response! Yay!
It is interesting/sad to me that the assumption by the parents is that the kids are not learning anything. I guess that speaks to their experiences in school. I had a similar moment recently when a student spent a week in Costa Rica with her Dad, who is a dentist. They were on a dental outreach trip and she was an assistant. She came back from the week absolutely thrilled because “I understood everything people said to me. And stuff I couldn’t, I knew how to ask and they helped me. A lot of the kids I worked with didn’t believe I was not “Tica” (Costa Rican). Everyone was so happy to talk to me and they couldn’t believe I have only studied Spanish for 4 years.” This was obviously a massive boost of confidence for this girl, who honestly in her past Spanish experiences, is one of those “good on paper, but can’t really communicate” people. She told me that before the trip her Dad was completely dissing her ability, assuming that she would not be able to navigate them around, which she did, starting with customs when they landed, through some conflicts/misunderstandings with the ministry of health, etc to playing with children in the town where they worked.
I have to admit that I was taken aback by what she told me about her Dad, because this family is influential in our school, and Dad is a board member, and so I was like “wtf does he think I am doing with his kid in class??? Whatever.
I would also like to share some musical magic that happened this week. I was, like Kate thinking “I know this is output, but …” I decided to spend the entire week doing holiday songs because I could tell stories would not work. I gave a dictation or translation each day based on the song lyrics. This helped to provide a good chunk of focused silence. And then we listened to songs and sang. Actually I said they didn’t have to sing if they didn’t want to; they could just listen. But everyone got caught up in it. We only did a few songs. Some were translated versions of Rudolf and Jingle Bells and some were traditional ones in the language, like Los Peces en el Rio and La Marimorena in Spanish and D’ou viens-tu bergere? and Un flambeau Jeannette Isabelle in French.
I am talking about high school kids here. Maybe this was just an exceptional year, but they WANTED to stroll around the school caroling on the last day. In the Spanish classes we were fortunate to have guitar players so it sounded really cool. One class has only 6 kids and I never would have expected them to get so excited about singing! It helped that the “performance” piece was not forced. They chose to do it, and it was not a formal performance so there was no pressure. We tried out several songs in class and each group picked the ones they liked best, so they sang these more and got really good at them because they wanted to, which gave them confidence and pride to share them with others. In the small group, the guitar player is a kid with massive anxiety issues who rarely gets a chance to shine in public in an “academic” realm. He is a talented musician, but does not play in any of the school music groups, so nobody knows this about him…until now because he rocked it with our strolling singers! The funny thing is, I am pretty sure the kids feel like they got away with something since we “just sang songs” most of the week. 🙂
…I am talking about high school kids here….
OK that is pretty much mind blowing. This seems to me to be impossible but you did it. It shows that, especially with the no force thing, you did something at the mastery level of teaching there.
The key was in my opinion in the not forcing, just as Kate chose to not force. Let’s list what you did, all of which completely dismantled the affective filter, which is out of control in normal classrooms, even CI classrooms:
1. You let THEM choose which songs they did.
2. There was no formal presentation.
3. You created a setting of empowerment – they made the decisions.
4. All you did was put the songs in front of them. (This speaks to the power of songs, as this probably would not have happened with stories or anything else involving comprehensible input.)
5. You provided “chunks of focused silence”, using dictation and probably could have gotten a lot of PQA type reps of certain target structures had you wanted. (This shows that there is no one way to do CI and that Blaine’s three step story format, as much power in it that there is and as much as I personally think contains magical qualities, is not the only way to skin a CI cat in a classroom.
5. You gave the kids a chance to not participate – that is so huge and rarely mentioned here.
Congratulations to both of you! The thing about the kid who is riddled with performance anxiety seals the deal on the way you approached the week. That kid is me on the violin and I bet a bunch of other members of this group on musical instruments as well, right? If kids can forget that they are being “educated” and be given free reign to control the joy of their experience with language in it’s most potent form, song, then magic can happen. These reports kind of make me want to explore songs more and more. Maybe we have been looking in the wrong place all these years. Could it be? Should we just apply what we know about using CI in our classrooms to songs and maybe use them as a base for stories and readings instead of as an occasional Friday fun day thing? It’s a good question!
Okay I am on that song thing.
Today I spoke with my Master Speaker in Oklahoma via Skype. She told me the two things that I had taught her as a lanugage teacher (she teaches immersion and at the Univ.) were the two songs I adapted to English children’s songs to teach how to say “my name is . . . what is yours” and “see you later.” One is to Mary had a little lamb–and the other to Clementine.
She said what made them work was the flow of the language in rhythm and pitch. she said it blew her away that when she has used them with other learners, how quickly they pick up those phrases. she said it used to take a half a semsester to get them comfortable using the phrases and sounding “real” not stilted. Now it doesn’t take anytime at all. They acquire them.
I keep thinking back to how many people I know still alphabetize by singing the ABC song. If you give people information CODED in rhythm and melody it locks into their brain in a very significant way.
So, thank you all for your encouragement and your help as I move forward on this learning process both as student and teacher.