In an effort to streamline assessments, I have started an interview process for all of my 2nd year students. I do this as a personalized one-on-one NT CI. It’s kinda a farewell gift. Anyway, I have had the best French 2 class ever and some have agreed to get recorded. This is spontaneous and off the cuff. I have a notebook with me in case the student does not get the words I say. I adjust my speech and I try to stay on a topic for a bit before moving on. I tell them I am looking for them to sustain a 10 minute conversation and I am looking for them to respond in single word answers if possible and if they want to confirm a word or question they may in English. Here’s a link to an interview I recorded. I am not sure how this student did or how far she got. Does it matter? It was all just a fun time doing the Invisibles with a sprinkle of SL and Small Talk and Special Chair.
Here are my notes on Steven’s work:
For those who don’t understand French, Steven asks basic interview questions. Nothing is prepared, just off the cuff non-targeted stuff like he’s been doing since 2016. This is a real treat.
Note the following points:
Beautiful accents and interchange by both Steven and the student. There is nothing forced here. They are just talking.
Certain teachers might find this “too simple” for a second year student at the end of the year. That is poppycock. I have been playing the “we-don’t-force-output” trumpet for many years now. In my own teaching I always noticed that in level 2 in about April the output comes naturally and freely, usually not before.
What Steven did that is brilliant here is to make the interviewee 100% comfortable by asking for one word answers like her birthday, the names of her cats, etc. He also allows in bits of English to work for COMMUNICATION.
I can’t stress enough here that Steven, by asking for simple one word responses and not chunks of words or whole sentences, and by allowing bits of English in, just at the time when they are needed to complete the communication, demonstrates here that he has not forced his students over the year to speak at a higher level than is natural for them.
Whenever that happens, it engages the conscious minds of the students and then at that point the class divides into groups of “can do” kids and “not yet” kids, and then the sacred name of equity and inclusion is tossed off the acquisition train.
Yes, teachers far too often, without even knowing it, shame kids with their “No English!” and “Speak French in Sentences!” rules, which behavior on their part amounts to a kind of hassling or putting down of the kids, causing them to retreat into the shell that we all have seen in SO MANY CLASSES where CI has been used over the past 25 years.
Any new teacher is invited to reflect on this master assessment by Steven as him putting the research into action. There is (a) nothing memorized about this interview, which traditional and most teachers who target lists cannot say, (b) the interview has zero tension. What does that really mean?
It means that the student is merely reflecting Steven’s relaxation back to him. Steven knows that he cannot make his class work by being the master of ceremonies. He knows that such communication environments resemble parties where there is one loud guy always taking over, exhorting all to “learn” more” – the cheerleader type of teacher who always burns out when, predictably under such lion-taming type of teaching, eventually burn out an leave the profession.
If nothing else, notice how Steven is simply not reading from a list of questions that are connected to a list of words somewhere on some dumb-ass common assessment to see if the kids have learned “what they were supposed to have learned” in the on-going insanity of world language education today.
Steven does not ruin the experience for his students. He INVITES them to the dance. They don’t have to dance. Some can’t yet. He knows that. He waits. It’s Chapter 21 in the Petit Prince:
“Il faut être très patient, répondit le renard. Tu t’assoiras d’abord un peu loin de moi, comme ça, dans l’herbe. Je te re- garderai du coin de l’œil et tu ne diras rien. Le langage est source de malentendus. Mais, chaque jour, tu pourras t’asseoir un peu plus près…”.
The student in the interview ACTUALLY WANTS TO TALK TO HER TEACHER, enjoying speaking about her cats, favorite fruits, etc. in the target language. She is in a safe place with her teacher. She is not having to prove that she knows certain words, and in not having to prove, she proves.
Steven’s attitude is not only the superb thing going on here. His pacing is superb. The kids have heard the words in different combinations (no memorization!) over so many classes that they simply understand the message w/o having to focus on the medium for its delivery, which is exactly what Dr. Krashen describes as how people acquire languages.
Listen carefully to the exchange between 5:30 and 5:40. The student answers that she prefers Ranch dressing and doesn’t like catsup. But the point to make is that she is just talking to her teacher. I can’t stress this enough. IT IS WHAT WE WANT and why we prefer teaching using NT and why we – those of us here who do it – are so pleased about how GENUINE the results of our non-targeted instruction are in our classrooms.
At 6:00 to 6:10 Steven is talking about a fish. It is a good passage that exemplifies how all he is doing is trying to communicate. There is no hidden agenda here. No game of “Gotcha! You don’t know that word!” Then he talks about Hawaii. They’re just talking! THAT IS THE STANDARD!
When talking about Hawaii, Steven includes some noise (extra words the student may not fully understand). Steven did that on purpose. That doesn’t matter. The student will go home and during sleep all of that input will be replayed in the growing language system in her unconscious mind while asleep. SOME of what Steven said about his experience in Hawaii to the student WILL BE ABSORBED into the growing language system and SOME of it WILL NOT BE ABSORBED. We don’t get to say what does and what doesn’t STICK, even though many of us still TRY to do that, but we need to join Controlaholics Anonymous because that need to control (read “use targets”) does not in my opinion have any other than a deleterious effect on the process.
At 9:43 the student, in responding to Steven’s question about how many stars she would give to a TV show, she (a) doesn’t need to think about what “etoile” means when she hears him say it – she just knows it bc Steven has obviously used it so many times in class over the past year, and (b) she self- corrects on the use of the “de” structure after the word “beaucoup” and she does so because her phonic awareness told her to, and not because she memorized the “beaucoup always takes de” rule. Check out Krashen’s Monitor hypothesis on that topic.
Steven, IT IS SO REFRESHING TO KNOW THOSE TWO THINGS, THAT THE STUDENT KNEW THE WORD “STAR” AUTOMATICALLY DURING THE CONVERSATION – THIS IS CALLED ACQUISITION – AND DIDN’T LEARN IT FROM SOME TARGETED LIST.
I probably already said this, but this student is actually speaking French with Steven. It is effortless (Krashen), unconscious (Krashen), unforced (Krashen), enjoyable (Krashen) and relaxed (Ordiano). This student was not speaking from a list. That is the power of non-targeted over targeted language instruction. Steven you are to be commended. This is wonderful.
Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could