Cute Ideas – 10

Cute Idea #10: Taste the Word
When doing a one word image, or just about anytime you feel like doing it, you can just stop with the comprehensible input and taste the word. What does this mean?
It means that as language teachers we are here to represent all aspects of what language is, and certainly one overlooked aspect of our work is in pointing out to our students what words really are – sound.
And sound can be beautiful. And most of us attempt to make the sentences we say beautiful, but why not do that with individual words? Why not bring the beauty of each word into our instruction?
For example, if you went through the beginning of the one word image process described in A Natural Approach to Stories, and you’ve accepted the suggestion of an apple, then go through that process but do not hesitate after writing the word apple on the board in both languages to just focus the kids’s attention on the sound of the word “pomme”.
Taste, savor the word as you say it. When you say it, mean it. Listen to the sound yourself. Teach the kids how to listen to the sound. By meaning it when you say it, you send the message that we are not studying words just to know what they mean, but to enjoy them.
If I feel awkward doing this, because it is a fairly awkward thing to do in front of teenagers, I know that I can always bail out at any time by diving right into the cards and do those activities. But I don’t bail out. I just enjoy saying the word:
pomme!
over and over with big pauses in different ways. I want to convey the beauty of the sound of the language. I say it in different ways – angrily, quietly, whispering, surprised, happy. The class looks at me. I act like I am tasting a French pastry. I smile, and I enjoy the pauses between the words.
Some kids get it. Some entire classes get it. You know the magic is happening when you see them, unaware that they are even doing it, mouthing the words themselves at a sub-neural level.
This neural and sub-neural activity is the beginning of speech in our students. When we see it, our hearts soar because what we are doing is working.
Or we could live drab lives where we never try anything too far out there because we are afraid of what we might look like.

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