Archive for February, 2011

What are we really counting?

A poster on a prominent foreign language teachers’ list recently commented, in the context of a second poster’s question about research comparing methodologies: …while it is difficult to do true scientific research where we isolate one variable, we can assess our students’ proficiency based on the ACTFL proficiency scale using instruments such as the OPIc, STAMP, or […]

Unit questions mean there have to be units…

On another List, the cry recently went up from a teacher tasked with writing stuff for a new IB program: I’m having trouble with unit questions (guiding question, essential outcome, enduring understanding). We’re supposed to come up with the big questions,but my kids can’t answer the big questions in French, and I’ve worked so hard trying to […]

What about “memory aids” for ser and estar?

On a language teachers’ List, the comment recently appeared, in the context of a discussion on how to teach ser vs. estar in Spanish using TPRS: I hope there’s nothing “wrong” in providing a guideline for those students who are analytical – or who become analytical in a testing situation, when some students start to […]

Why isn’t pairwork Comprehensible Input?

On a prominent foreign language teachers’ List, the question was raised: Why are conversations with partners not CI? If one student asks “What is your favorite class and why?” and the other student answers intelligibly, then why is this less optimal CI than storytelling? Well, of course it is. Sort of.  But McDonald’s is food, […]

The dreaded “family unit”

A prominent List has recently featured a discussion on the pitfalls of navigating the morass of family relationships in the Family Unit, given students who come from all sorts of broken or dysfunctional homes. With the Cleavers and the Bradys no longer sending their perfectly-socialized kids to public schools (it seems) this is a legitimate […]

Question: How should I begin to learn to write Chinese characters?

First of all, this entire post assumes that the learner is sensibly learning Chinese first — that is, learning some of the language, and not worrying about literacy in characters until he has a base in the vocabulary and syntax of the language. Anything else is connect-the-dots in terms of writing characters; it’s just too […]

Question: Why are my students mispronouncing those easy cognate words?

Have the students acquire the new word without the written form, or simultaneously with the presentation of the written form, but with the written form being a backup to many, many exposures to the correct spoken form. Result: no pronunciation problem because of sounding-out errors or over-generalization from the native language, because the Spanish word […]

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