The current thread here about using interview type activities to get more output from students vs. the traditional less output centered classes that we have when we use stories has been addressed by Nathaniel in a tour de force comment this morning that pretty much solves the problem for me, enabling me to focus less now on the interview activities and return to stories. My students will much appreciate what Nathaniel said on Monday, as they have been clamoring for more stories lately since I stopped doing them in November in search of more output that, as Nathaniel explains, may not have entirely been the best idea (or at least that is how I personally read his comment which I will add to the Primers):
The issues with student to student interaction are the limited level of output they are able to create and the quality of input they are able to provide for each other. These are two sides of the coin: Tom’s input is Sally’s output and vice versa.
One concern is: at what point does the student-provided input become non-L2, in the sense that it is no longer of any use in creating the mental representation in the other student’s mind? Another concern is: at what point does the student’s lack of capacity force him out of L2 use and into either silence or L1?
The solution may be to focus such S-S interaction on what is already under control in the students’ “repertoire” of output. My thought is that it is like easy reading. We look for easy reading because students can do a lot of it and the more compelling CI they get the more mental representation building occurs.
My premise is that the students WILL say whatever they CAN say quickly and easily in the language. The only reason they resort to English is that they do not have the capacity to express what they want to express in L2. As Laurie would say, “If they could say it (in L2), they would say it. They don’t say it because they can’t say it.
(I admit that those students who are untrained in L2 one-word answer responses, and those whose teachers have had low expectations, and those who have what seems to be an anti L2 pride will say even say “yes” and “no” and “thanks” in L1.)
So your admin wants to see kids talking. But s/he will not be impressed to see them breaking down in L2 communication. So the logical solution would be to foster S-S interaction in easy language. But what do we do that we are not already doing? What are the compelling communicative moments that students will have? If the premise is true that they will naturally input and output with each other when they have something meaningful to express/ interpret, then what can we add to what we are doing? Will putting them in twos add something? Or is it something that will happen given sufficient time, input and interaction?
Will the admin be satisfied with the quantity and quality of the speed writes, the interaction with the class, while patiently awaiting the time for the flower to unfold?
But if there must be a showing of the pony, it might best be served by directing the attention to what the kids can do, what they can readily use and understand, rather than on what they can’t do well.