The Messages Your Gradebook Sends – 1

Everyone can effortlessly achieve proficiency in their second language just as they did in their first. But to fully absorb that truth, teachers must finally begin to look at their work with their students through the lens of how people actually acquire languages. If we do that we will know that the only factor preventing all of our students from achieving is really nothing more than our own mindset and commitment to their success.

Practically all people can effortlessly communicate complex messages in their first language. Our students have already proven that they can acquire language. Only people who live with the most profound physical and mental challenges lack the ability to acquire language proficiency from the right kind of environment. Each and every student can successfully build a mental representation of the language in their minds, and from this representation they can, after a period of time, begin to form utterances to express meaning.

However, they cannot control the rate and pace of that acquisition any more than a two-year-old can control the rate and pace of their own L1 acquisition. Factors that do influence a two-year-old’s acquisition are (1) the richness of the language that they hear around them, (2) the amount of time their caregivers spend interacting with them, and (3) how they feel when they are being spoken to.

Therefore, like parents concerned with optimally developing their toddler’s L1 acquisition, we work to provide our students with an emotionally-supportive learning environment rich in texts and spoken language. From this environment, students can take what they need to build the language inside their minds, at the rate and pace that are natural for them. Each student will have a different timeline. Still, all can succeed. In fact, some of the “slow” students in level classes one often turn out to be the most solid acquirers by level three.



3 thoughts on “The Messages Your Gradebook Sends – 1”

  1. Alisa Sapiro-Rosenberg

    I know I have said this to before to y’all but I want to reiterate that the IEP students do not want to be pulled out of my acquisition-oriented Spanish class. And I have seen even at the earliest levels in grades 1-4 the leveling of the playing field that you describe above.
    Sometimes members of the special ed team come in to observe their IEP students l and almost without exception decide to leave the child in Spanish rather than pull him out to serve the IEP minutes because the kids fare so well with all of the concrete, repetitive, playful, low filter activity. So they take other academic minutes to service the kid.

  2. In my whole CI career (15 years) I only had one IEP kid get pulled. It is a matter of great pride to me, that even before I started with NT work, which in my opinion is far more friendly to IEP kids than TPRS, I was able to include those kids in the fun. It’s about compassion, not academics. It’s about success, not exclusion based on a child’s ability to think at the upper ends of the taxonomy. It’s just a language. They all get to succeed at it.

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