Verb Slam Activity (VSA) – 9

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7 thoughts on “Verb Slam Activity (VSA) – 9”

  1. I really like this idea and have always felt verbs to be the most critical thing for us to teach. If the students can get the action, they can probably at least guess some of the rest. I assume in level 1 we would use mostly present tense when doing our 15 minute verb spiel, as this would be their first exposure to the verb so we would want to go slowly and do plenty of circling.Do you see this as being advantageous in the beginning of the year in other levels and possibly using past, future, subjunctive etc. or would this be better left to naturally develop through PQA, stories, movie talk, etc.? Or would you use whatever tense was necessary during this 15 minute “verb slam” in level 1? Just wondering what your thought are on this?

    1. Like button on this article! Ours is a whole language approach, focusing on meaning.

      This is an excellent reminder to stop trying to “teach,” which is aimed at the conscious. So beware to us who harbor hidden desires to get kids to output the tenses correctly. Let’s separate ourselves from what a grammar-translation program would expect. Pinning the end on the verb is such a late acquired thing, after they’ve absorbed so much feel for the language. Unfortunately, I have heard how teachers are required to test students on grammatical accuracy from the very beginning of the school year and all throughout the year.

      Here’s me being insecure: I have to wonder though, are we equally as guilty as the communicative approach in confusing the ends with the means. Unconscious knowledge and hearing the words in a sentence as a stream of meaning is the end result. Beginners, with limited cognitive resources, process the words the brain perceives to hold meaning, and thus maybe do focus on individual words. When people get better at listening comprehension, is it because of their “practice”? i.e. repeatedly using the monitor for the same grammatical aspects could make monitoring of these aspects more efficient, even to the point that they do not need monitoring. I guess that’s where we refer to those studies failing to alter the natural order (I’ve never read the original research, only seen these studies cited).

      I’m aware of a lot of the arguments for why SLA is an unconscious process, e.g. we come to know way more than we were taught, the reading research, unalterable natural order, etc. If the SLA process is the same as the first, then certainly no conscious study is necessary. I want to see more brain research to show how people experience a foreign language depending on how they were taught (explicit or implicit). In general, we haven’t given TCI a chance. We need K-12 TCI programs with trained and experienced TCI teachers.

      I hope others will weigh in on Polly’s question. My thinking is that the verb stems that are most frequent should be given most focus. We’d like to not shelter grammar, but with beginners, that may not be possible. I wonder if we should establish meaning in more than one tense, those which we want to target (e.g. present, preterit, imperfect), and then do the PQA.

      I have a question: Do you recommend, when doing this PQA on verbs, or any PQA for that matter, that we establish meaning for the other verb inflections (e.g. first person) and do some point & pause to get students to respond accurately? During PQA do we care that our students are responding accurately with the verb?

      I wanted to share a Krashen article that is sure to light a fire!
      http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/why_support.pdf

      1. Eric these are only my own answers to the two questions you ask:

        …do you recommend, when doing this PQA on verbs, or any PQA for that matter, that we establish meaning for the other verb inflections (e.g. first person) and do some point & pause to get students to respond accurately?

        No. It’s not going to stick.

        …during PQA do we care that our students are responding accurately with the verb?…

        I don’t. I know they are not neurologically ready so I just ignore or say it correctly but then move quickly on (I sneak it into their deeper minds this way). I certainly don’t draw their conscious attention to it any more than I would with a two year old.

  2. What a good question Polly and I will add it to the last article as a detail. Thank you. By the way, can I use the term Verb Slam Activity (VSA)? It’s the best to describe this strategy. We may have a new acronym!

    We will all have different takes on what tense to use when in this way of teaching. It can be very confusing. To me, it seems that we should use the tense that is most natural to the discussion. I learned that from Susie. When we deliberately target a tense, the discussion becomes unnatural in that on some level the kids can see us struggling to force the discussion into a grammar point. It’s just awkward and I don’t like awkward.

    If the verb is completely new to them, and each verb should be in the Verb Slam Activity, we would use the present tense to start off. By the time the discussion moves into the PQA phase (3 minutes into the activity) we would switch to the past. I would. There is an entire article on that, the first link given below this response.

    If it’s an upper level class, and the kids are quick to grasp the present tense in the first 3 minutes of signing and gesturing, you could do a few minutes with the past, and then you could use “if” clause structures to get fancy.

    “If” clauses cover a lot of ground. If the picture has a guy climbing a mountain, after introducing “climbs, is climbing” we can ask stuff like:

    …if he climbs higher, will he fall?…
    …if he climbed higher, would he fall?…
    …if he had climbed higher than (student in class) Pedro (if you established previously in PSA that Pedro climbed that same mountain), would he have fallen?…

    Uh oh, my four percenter is showing. I love me some good “si” clauses.

    Trying to force the PQA into more exotic tenses, however, is foolish, in my opinion, because we just don’t have the time for them. I know, I know, the AP teachers won’t like this. But it is time for us to accept our limitations in this work, and four or five years is not enough time to prepare a child for those major exams, unless they are a four percenter, and I don’t teach just four percenters, I teach kids.

    That got kind of wordy. Mes apologies. The basic premise is that we introduce the verb in the present and then go into the past, since those are the big time tenses that are “teachable” in classrooms. (Some tenses are hard to teach in classroom, like the future.)

    Let me know if this answer made sense and also if you click on the first of the two links below they may help to answer your question as well, Polly. And tell me if I can use SVA. It’s really good.

    Related:

    https://benslavic.com/blog/on-use-of-tenses-in-stories-and-readings/
    https://benslavic.com/blog/12048/

  3. Ben,

    Of course you can use VSA! It was what popped in to my head to describe what you are explaining here. And thanks so much for your response as it totally makes sense to me. I found that in my first semester of trying TPRS my Spanish 1 kids did a really good job communicating in the present tense. We would tell stories in the past but I would write them in the present. I think reading the tenses really helped to solidify their acquisition of some of the content. The students almost always wrote in the present tense and this was fine with me.

    With my Spanish 2s, however, I told and wrote the stories in the past as this was the first time they’d ever been exposed to past tense. Remember I just started teaching with TPRS this last semester and under the traditional approach, our students never even saw the past until the end of their first semester in Spanish 2. Most of my 2s had a pretty good grasp on the present but once I started writing in the past, I noticed some of the kids starting to use it in their writing as well. Of course most were confusing the tenses, but I didn’t care as this just seems natural to me. What I am getting at is that for many of the students it seemed that the tenses they more often used were the ones they were seeing in the writing. I thought I read somewhere that stories are told in the past, but written in the present, but has anyone switched to writing stories in the past in Spanish 2 to see if this helps with acquisition?

    I am not someone that wants to get caught up in the nitty gritty as I don’t care about the grammar at all. I just want the kids to be able to communicate and feel success so that they will continue on their learning journey. I want them to want to be in my classroom where all they have to do is be mentally present and give me their eyes, ears and mouths each day! I want it to be a place where they don’t have to worry about what homework they will have or when the test is going to be, but rather just a place they can somewhat kick back, focus and just learn! That seems like a complicated concept in this day and age!

    I cannot reiterate how much better teaching is now that I have switched to this method. Thanks a million times over for mentoring me in this process. I don’t comment a lot, but please know that I do read almost every post you make 🙂

    Hope your summer is going well!

  4. …I want it to be a place where they don’t have to worry about what homework they will have or when the test is going to be, but rather just a place they can somewhat kick back, focus and just learn!…

    This is what I have wanted too and this is so well put, Polly. Thank you for your kind words. Honestly, your message is in the feel of what you write. It’s about just wanting to exhibit some kindness and generosity and good will to our kids so that they can be happy and learn. It is a strong core philosophy and we have it.

    You know the basic pattern that some of us think that doing PQA should be done in whatever tense is natural, stories in the past, the reading that comes from the stories in the present. Works for me but not everybody and that is fine. I like how you aren’t tied into one special tense for level 2. It’s flexible for what we think is best and what works best for us.

    There is no system and everything we say here is part of a big mix of ideas and we take from these pages what we want and leave the rest. There is, therefore, no failing at this way of teaching. We’re all just trying to have fun in a very tough profession, so that we can reach kids, which is all that this is about.

  5. Marcelyn Smith

    Just recently joined the PLC and have been binge reading for a few days now. In June, I felt little hope for being excited about a new year. My practice had become muddied and I felt I was serving too many masters. I needed to reconnect and recalibrate. This afternoon, I read all nine articles on VSA. I’m excited! Thanks to all who posted for recharging my battery!

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