Teaching Greetings – 1

If you are smart, you have not spent too much time so far this year laboriously teaching greetings each day, which gives new meaning to the term “boring”, but rather have sprinkled in the greetings into your stories, or as the kids come in at the start of class, etc.

But they probably don’t know them for instantaneous response. Below is a tried and true way of continuing to teach greetings that you can start using now, if you really want your kids to know the greetings by next fall. (But the only reason I would want to do that is if the kids were going to another, more rigid teacher next year who will judge you (right?…) if your kids “don’t know” every one.

There is a danger in teaching greetings without visual reference. Greetings are hard to learn! There are too many of them. Moreover, the expressions in French: How are you? and What is your name? can sound very much alike, as per:

Comment allez-vous? Comment vas-tu? (how you feel)
Comment vous appelez-vous? Comment t’appelles-tu? (name)

Not only that, there are many different ways to ask how a person is:

Ça va?
Comment ça va?
Vous allez bien?
Comment vous portez-vous?

Now, the brain has to handle each of these arrangements differently, because each sound pattern is different. It is bewildering for kids who have never formerly studied a language before, and if they don’t have enough reps on them, and they won’t because they are boring, it can be frustrating for them as well.

Yet, since we are usually under district pressure to “teach greetings” in the first few weeks of school (the district and the book publishers think that asking how one is or what one’s name is or what time it is or what the weather is are easy tasks), we drown our kids into those complex sound patterns and thus undermine the trust that we are otherwise so carefully trying to build with our students.

Usually what happens is that the teacher walks around the room with a fake smile and fake interest (do they really care how the kid is?) saying the “How are you” question over and over, and very soon the kids’ eyes start to glaze over and with good reason. How would you like to be sitting in a room where someone keeps asking people how they are for five or ten minutes?

Some teachers even sneak in things like “What is your name” (which sounds a lot like “How are you” in French) and then, when the kid innocently answers that they feel good today, the teacher says in English, “Ha ha! I tricked you!? I asked you your name, not how you are!” which begins a tirade of using L1.5 to explain the difference and the kids just scrunch down in their seats in an effort to get away from this over-explainer who asks boring questions.

So we need to till the greetings soil with absolute simplicity, so that our students really get it. We can teach greetings slowly over the course of the entire year, a little bit at a time. Delivering easy to understand and interesting and meaningful comprehensible input from the beginning, clearly enforcing rules, going slowly, talking only about the kids, these things will have the kids leaning forward in their seats trying to understand what is going on. But how can we do this with greetings?



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