We have a store in Denver called R.E.I. which sells all kinds of camping stuff, mountaineering equipment, etc. I was near the section that sells hiking shoes when a lady came in and asked the salesperson for a pair of high heels.
The salesperson said they didn’t have any. The customer pitched a fit. The weird part about it was that there were some high heels way in the back of the storeroom that the salesperson knew about, because the store had once been a shoe store, a long time before, in decades past. So the store actually had some high heels back in the back. Unbelievably, the salesperson was able to find a pair of shoes that the customer liked.
What can we take from this weird ass little story? What does this admittedly fabricated image tell us about our choice of instructional methods in our classrooms?
I know what I take from it. If an administrator or parent or, God forbid, my fellow teaching colleagues think that people wear high heels into the mountains (i.e. teach grammar translation) and I have a pair of high heels to give them from the old days of how I used to teach, I’ll do that. I’ll give them the high heels.
For five minutes a day. In little pieces. As a break from the hard work of CI. Knowing that it will accomplish virtually nothing in terms of language acquisition, but that it will keep my colleagues from pitching a fit.
Moreover, I will always limit such instruction to how basic sentences are constructed in the target language. That’s it. This includes what an infinitive is, how it gets conjugated, how sentences are formed in the affirmative, negative, etc., in various tenses, and how prepositions interact with articles after the main sentence structure.
So my grammar instruction is limited to making sure that my first year students know by the end of the year how to translate a simple sentence like “She gives the book to John” or “We danced to the store”.
What about object pronouns? Nope. They get taught during pop-ups during the CI. Basic sentence structure only. How to conjugate a verb out of its infinitive form. Not possessive pronouns, adjectives, any of that. A few hours per year of basic subject verb stuff. The first 12 pages of the Amsco book. No more.
It’s almost like a grammar brain break from the hard work of doing auditory CI. CI purists who get it see such instruction as unnecessary, but I disagree because I work in a school and I know that schools are places where research doesn’t necessarily apply.
To me, after much thought, if it placates the lady who wants the high heels, then it’s worth it. We throw the bone to the dog. But for only for five minutes a day. In little pieces. As a break from the hard work of CI. Maybe three hours of instruction total over the course of the year. Just enough to get people to shut up.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and