Thursday, July 13, 2017

Using Photos of Yourself and Family to Convey Meaning in a 90% Target Language Classroom

I'M A BIG PROPONENT OF TEACHING FROM 'I' OUTWARD in foreign language classes, meaning beginning with autobiographical information and working outward from there. When I think about novice speakers and what situations they might find themselves in in relation to native speakers, most likely they will be introducing and/or answering questions about themselves, so vocabulary and structures that help them interact is key. To that end, learning the first person singular becomes quite important, and serves a secondary purpose as well- building community in your class. There are loads of activities you can do that involve students talking about themselves, such as graphing and polling the class about how many brothers/sisters they have (or pets!), what their favorite color/fruit/animal/number/etc is, sharing likes/ dislikes/ preferences with food, and so on. All of these are very accessible activities for novices, and helps them stay in the target language rather than tasks which see students devolving into using English because the task really isn't at the right language level for them. But I digress....

Strategies for teaching 90% in the target language

OF COURSE, IF WE WANT OUR STUDENTS TO SPEAK IN THE FIRST PERSON SINGULAR, and we also teach 90% in the target language, I believe we need to model the construction. Yes, you can also translate, or go through an explanation of the 'why', but most specifically with little kids (and with all ages, in my opinion), modeling concrete sentences works very well for these types of simple autobiographical constructions. I find that one of the best ways to help me convey meaning when modeling sentences using 'yo' is to point to photos of myself WITH my family, my pets, my house, etc. My students quickly intuit that I am talking about myself, because I am in the picture! The construction(s) we are focusing on then becomes all the more comprehensible and I can ask them questions whose answers use that construction, without needing to translate.

Señora: Soy yo. Yo tengo un perro. Es mi perro, Yosha.
Señora: Mason, soy yo, Señora. Yo tengo un perro. ¿Cuántos perros tienes tú?
Mason: dos
Señora: Ah, bueno, yo tengo un perro. Tú tienes dos perros, ¿cierto?
Mason: Sí.
Señora: Ah, repite 'Yo tengo dos perros.'
Mason: Yo tengo dos perros.
Señora: ¡Qué súper! Y Lila, ¿cuántos perros tienes tú? Yo tengo un perro, y Mason tiene dos perros. ¿Y tú, Lila? ¿Cuántos perros tienes tú?

and so on, coming back to kids who have already answered, sometimes asking them the question again to elicit the answer a second time (I like to keep them on their toes! :) ) and gradually adding in more questions, always modeling and pointing to the photo as I go. This example activity can be done completely in the target language with the aid of just one photo! (and my adorable Yosha :) )

So, get your camera out, co-opt your family into a photo shoot and corral the pets! Have fun! :)

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

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