This further explains some of the content of my webinar tomorrow:
If you are going to be successful in the fall with your online language instruction, you’re going to have to get your kids focused on the message and not on the language when you use the ZOOM platform.
Despite your frustrations this spring using Zoom to teach a language, and no one has been immune to that chaos, I am of the opinion that if you just align your instruction with the research and the Communication standard, you will succeed in the fall using the ZOOM platform .
ZOOM lends itself to online language teaching!
So today I am going to use the Card Talk activity (a.k.a. Circling with Balls) to show you how to reach kids online and how to grab and keep their attention.
Card Talk and One Word Images are both almost 20 years old, and so are fairly rudimentary, but I don’t have time to demo both, so we’ll just use the ultra-simple Circling with Balls. If you have The Big CI Book and want to check out One Word Images, you can find that oldie-but -goodie as Strategy #3 of 27 strategies on page 76.
I’ll give you one lego of the set. But it’s an important lego, because it contains the DNA for everything else you will use for online success using Zoom.
Use Your Hands and Feet. Stay in Your Body When You Teach
What I want you to focus on above all as I demo this activity, is how I use my hands and feet. I center my instruction in my hands and feet and not in my brain (which is the land of “What Do I Do Next?” and the fear that comes with it.
Centering your instruction in your hands and feet and keeping good eye contact with your students are very factors in making Circling with Balls/Card Talk work.
Then we can process after the demo in a Q and A format, which should last about 15 minutes. Questions?
I was going to name the title of this webinar today “Teaching to the Standard and in Alignment with the Research Using the ZOOM platform.”
However, I didn’t, because few language teachers actually do that. We need to all become big girls and girls and admit it. Most of us mix our CI instruction with either the traditional textbook or with traditional TPRS/CI instruction. But the standard and the research don’t mix at all with those two things.
The result of this unfortunate mixing is that most “CI teachers” don’t teach to the Communication standard and to its major support document, the Three Modes of Communication, and so they don’t teach in alignment with the research. Let’s change that.
Before COVID, language teachers got away with not teaching to the standards and in alignment with the research because they were in a classroom, as per:
1. They could give tests in a classroom. That makes most of the students show up, but in the form of a captive audience who automatically resist such physical confinement.
3. Teachers could speak English while they taught in their physical classroom. It seemed acceptable. But a deep dive into the research that the use of English is completely unacceptable in a WL classroom.
4. When the term CI became all the vogue, they could just tell people they were doing CI. Who knew? The result was that, over time, the promising and exciting things that Blaine Ray and Susan Gross were doing 20 years ago got watered down into an ineffective blob that didn’t work. That is where we are now.
5. They could favor the few students in the classroom who were good readers and good memorizers, those few who were fast processors. The terrible result was that the rest languished, were called lazy, inattentive, etc. But if a child doesn’t understand, it is never their fault.
So the watered-down and distorted form of CI instruction that I am describing here works in a classroom, but it doesn’t work in online instruction.
COVID “outed” this ineffective and watered-down version of Krashen’s research. When COVID hit, and teachers were forced to hit the ZOOM airwaves, with all its challenges, kids just tuned out en masse. Why?
It’s not the fault of the platform – it’s the fact that language teachers this spring have not been teaching in accordance with the Communication standard and with its major supporting document, the Three Modes of Communication. They weren’t teaching in alignment with the research.
This and later online trainings will provide language teachers with a step-by-step process of how to make online language instruction work for them and their students.
Luckily, it’s almost June and the current Zoom disaster – no one’s fault – will end and we can be ready to teach online in the fall by working hard now over the summer months together to ensure that we are ready.
All we have to do is align our online instruction with the Communication standard and the research, and Zoom provides that capacity even better than the physical classroom, given my four points above.
Success is ours if we merely understand and apply the true bedrock concept of comprehensible input – that the only way to be successful when teaching languages online – or in a physical classroom – is to get your students focused on the message.
The research makes it quite clear that when the thinking mind, the conscious mind, is involved, the language can’t be acquired. Now think about whether you were doing that or not before COVID hit.
In recent months, have your students been focused on the message being presented in the TL on the ZOOM platform, or were they doing worksheets and using their conscious minds as they think their way through class?
Thinking is boring in language classes. But focusing on the message can be lots of fun! So that’s the main thing you have to look into as you begin to arm yourself with all sorts of good strategies for the fall, and be ready for either or both instructional formats.
Right now, are you focused on the message or on the form of the English language used to deliver it? I will keep asking this question.
Do you still find it important to explain the verbs, the subject-verb agreement, being used in these sentences? Do you still find it important to give a test to see if certain of the words from some list have been “acquired”?
Is assessment more important to you than speaking to your students in the language? Do you still think that you can provide an equitable language experience for all your students using those boring little novels, which divide classes down socio-economic and racial lines in cruel ways?
If you are going to be successful in the fall with your online instruction, you’re going to have to learn how to get your kids focused on the message, and forget the rest.
When your students, bathing in the only medium that is needed for acquisition, the unconscious mind, are focused on the message being delivered by you in the target language, they acquire the language. When they are forced to do worksheets and other activities that engage their conscious faculty, you waste valuable time that could be used for engaging their interest in your messages in the TL.
I hope you can see now that the problem of online language instruction is entirely a problem of whether you are (a) engaging the conscious minds of the students in your online or physical classroom, or (b) whether you are engaging their unconscious mind.
So it’s not that big a problem, is it? If we understand the problem we can create a solution for it!
Your students’ focusing on the message gets the job done for you, but doing worksheets or other “CI activities” that DO NOT ENGAGE THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND OF THE LEARNER SO THAT THEY ARE NOT FOCUSED ON THE MESSAGE,, either in an online or live setting, does NOT get the job done.
So, if you are expecting your online students to do worksheets, take tests, speak in the target language, or write in it (ANY FORM OF OUTPUT IN THE FIRST YEAR), then 50 years of research is there to inform you that you should stop doing that. Instruction that requires output in the form of speech or writing has a completely deleterious effect on children in beginning classes.
Don’t break your students with forced output. We break animals, not humans. Take a deep dive into the what the Communication standard and the research are REALLY about, and then you will understand that if you are going to reach your students using an online platform like Zoom, you are going to have to drop the worksheets, the written and spoken output, and all those fake CI activities that you can purchase by the millions online but never seem to work as promised.
Of course, you need to grade them! But why not assess your online students in a way that stays in alignment with the standard and the research? IT’S MUCH EASIER TO GRADE STUDENTS WHEN YOU ALIGN WITH THE STANDARD AND THE RESEARCH.
[Note: I mentioned the words “standard” and “research” around 50 times in the above text. I must be on to something. I must be pointing you in a safe direction in your online instruction.]