A few months ago, a local university contacted me to ‘visit’ the university methods classroom via an edited video. The video would help students connect theory learned in their methods class to best practices in the field. I loved the idea of showcasing real-life methods and started filming my French 1 class. I also decided to do some further editing by myself and to send a short clip to my colleague @TeriWiechart , Ohio Foreign Language Association (OFLA) president, and a comprehensible input expert.
In this video, I use a modified Total Physical Response and an Input-Output-Interaction cycle to teach my Novice learners about foods they like or don’t like. They already know how to say “I like/I don’t like to eat” but they don’t know any food yet. Teri’s feed-back is very humbling, I have so much to learn still! But until you let someone critique you, you will never grow. So if you care to watch the video, I think you will find it fairly entertaining. And then, read Teri’s feed-back, which I have summarized below.
Suggestion 1: Expand more deeply each idea and try not to ask the same question several times in a row. For example, the student who doesn’t like chocolate. Move in closer to him and ask more questions: “Really? You don’t like chocolate? You don’t like Hershey Kisses? You prefer candy?” Think about the sorts of questions you can ask that reviews vocabulary from other lessons.
Suggestion 2: All the while use complete and complex sentences, even if in normal conversation you wouldn’t. This way they hear over and over all the richness of the language. When it’s an either or question: “is it a banana or is it a fish?” Also with the answers, restate complete sentences, both the negative and the positive. “Yes, it is a banana” or “It is not a banana”.
Suggestion 3: Expand with each item into descriptors. “Do you like vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream?”
I think her suggestions can be summarized into one major feed-back: students need MORE and RICHER INPUT, don’t limit yourself to only the target vocabulary, expand even further. I was definitely too shy in doing this in the video. My natural instinct is to be laser focused on the target vocabulary.
Since her feed-back, I have tried to engage into deeper/richer input: sometimes I have completely confused my students with overload of information and “incomprehensible” input. Sometimes we have had the best time with it: like when we did descriptions and I started asking all kinds of silly questions about people they knew “Is the principal serious?” “Am I old?” “Is this actor popular?”, etc.. Students had a great time answering and I was pleased with how they quickly started using “are you…?”.
Finding the right Comprehensible Input balance is truly difficult, but the journey is really worth it and fun.