The Search for Meaning as the Goal of the World Language Class

Viktor Frankl’s logotheraphy asserts that the striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans (http://www.viktorfrankl.org/e/logotherapy.html). A Times Article reports a study in which 50% of the workers lacked meaning in their work. Of those who found meaning they were three times more likely to stay in that job, had 1.7 times more job satisfaction, and 1.4 times more engaged than others (http://www.fastcompany.com/3032126/how-to-find-meaning-during-your-pursuit-of-happiness-at-work). Likewise, Van Patten (1996) asserts that learners process input for meaning before form; they process the “what” before the “how said” (http://www.tesl-ej.org/ej35/r5.pdf). ACTFL in its 2015 World Readiness Standards for Modern Languages for Interpersonal Communication states “Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions” (http://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/World-ReadinessStandardsforLearningLanguages.pdf)

How do we help our students focus on meaning in the world language classroom? Do our students share personal information? Can they tell about their relationship with others? Can they react when other students or the teacher share personal information? Can our students express their feelings and opinions about a situation? Can they supply reasons for their opinions? Can they express their future aspirations?

This search for meaning runs contrary to the students reading about some fictional Bob and Jane characters in their textbook or in an oral story. Students search for meaning in their own lives. Students want to find meaning about who they are, how they fit into their lives, and what they want to do. The more we help them talk about their their own lives, families, preferences, and situations, the more they can establish their own meaning in life.

Since logotheraphy emphasizes the drive for personal meaning, how do world language teachers provide situations to help their students find meaning?

There are many pair language activities at http://bit.ly/mlcomcult for beginning to advanced students to express their opinons and preferences. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.

Final Modern Language Exams – What real speaking goal?

After I gave a  recent presentation, a teacher talked to me about her June final which the department chair made up.  This teacher stressed that she believes in communication and she wants to prepare her students to communicate with people from the target language.

However, the department final  has a speaking component in which students wrote out a conversation, memorized the conversation, and said the memorized lines. She remembers that last year during the final speaking her students made comments to their partners such as “I can’t remember what we wrote,”  “Say your lines,” and “What comes next?”  All those comments reinforced that the final was not a speaking final but a recital or saying of memorized lines. It had nothing to do with the give and take of a real life conversation.

She remembers that no student displayed any emotion  while speaking except for stress and frustration during the conversation even though they said happy lines (I really like to …) and sad lines (I am sorry). They mechanically delivered their memorized conversation.

She said that the speaking final was so different than the real life conversations her students had in her beginning level class. Often when her students talked about a situation, the students would laugh or smile (That’s my favorite show, too); they would ask more in-depth questions as they heard an answer that interested them (Why do you like the show?)

One of many possibilities is to move to final like a  modified OPI in which someone asks students some general questions and some probing questions.  Another possibility is for two students to spontaneously talk about a previously unknown topic or situation.

What does your speaking final show about your real goals for your students speaking in a world language?

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult has many activities that allow students to interact in the language.

At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

Highly Effective World Language Communication Activities

Each student speaks in pairs so that everyone in the class can increase their amount of speaking.

Each student responds without looking at their notes, the handout, the textbook, the classwebsite, or the PowerPoint. They speak spontaneously.

Each student answers real situational or topical questions, not questions designed to illict a specific grammar point.

Each student answers many questions for the same topic so they go in-depth with a topic.

Each student answers many different questions. Often in class, students only get called on a few times.

Each student who answers a question or makes a response can receive formative feedback from the partner who can see a sample answer.

Each student has low emotional stress since the student is asked a question by another student and not the teacher. At the same time, often partners compete against each other to see who can answer the most questions or say the most sentences.

Each student can use the scaffolding of the asked question, the visual, etc. to help become successful in responding.

Modern Language Communication and Culture contains over 40+ communication activities that are ready to use for the classroom. To help you to find an appropriate activity, the activities have been subdivided into Modern Language (visual stories for all languages), Spanish, Can-Do, Groupings, Topics, Culture and Grammar.

Modern Language Communication and Culture Activities

Modern Language Communication and Culture Activities

Which of your activities are highly effective world language communication activities?

Three Levels of World Language Culture

Level 1: Students learn about another culture and the people from another culture by listening to the teacher, watching videos about another culture, seeing pictures, reading information,searching the web,  etc. At this level, the culture is one sided, the students learn about the other culture

Level 2: Students communicate with people from another culture. They can phone, videochat, converse with a native speaker in the class, email/text each other, send pictures, etc. Typically these conversations are about similarities and differences between the two cultures – a school day, places, foods, family, etc. A USA student may interview a person from Peru who works in the USA about food in Peru. A native speaker may teach something to the class and students ask questions about it.

Level 3: Students from both cultures work together on a collaborative project that goes beyond either classroom. For example, they may work together on ways to improve recycling in their communities, raise money for a Kiva project, be part of a rebuilding project, creating books for each other’s school, etc.

Tuttle3LevelsofCulture

What level are your students at in terms of world language culture?

At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, an ebook 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and many current culture activities).  At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, many culture activities for interactive culture:

Modern Language Culture Activities Pack 4 Different Activities
Modern Language Culture Cities Visual Analysis
Modern Language Culture Ethnographic Observation
Modern Language Culture Mini-Presentation
Modern Language Culture Native Speaker In-Depth Interview

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities  for beginning students (including 5 Can-Do ones). At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, an ebook. Modern Language Proficiencies-Can-Do with many activities.  At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

Comprehensible Input’s Impact on World Language Learners

If world language teachers do 70% of the class in the target language, then the students hear the language and the students use the language for 70% of the time. If  those teachers use  comprehensible input through gestures, visuals, etc, then the teachers can increase the class to 90% or 100%  of comprehensible input (ACTFL says teachers should talk 90% in the target language). What impact does changing from 70% to 90% have?

In a comprehensible input based classroom where 90% of the classroom is in the target language, each day students hear  and use 20% more language than in a classroom with 70% language, Each week in less than four total classroom days of 90% input, the students have exceeded the amount of language heard and used  in a 70% classroom. By the end of the week, they will have heard 1.4 days more of the  target language.  Within less than a month of 4 weeks, the 90% comprehensible input teachers will have picked up 1.4 x 4 days or 5.6 days extra.  10 months at 5.6 days = 56 additional days of hearing their world  language.These teachers have actually increased the students learning time without increasing the school year.

Do you increase or decrease your students’ opportunity to hear and use the target language?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities  for beginning students (including 5 Can-Do ones); and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).  At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture). At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

Increase World Language Comprehensible Input through Gestures

World language teachers want to immerse their students in the target language. One technique to keep the class in the target language is through gestures that indicate the meaning of a word or sentence. As the teacher introduces a new word, he/she does a gesture to help the students understand the meaning of the world. A good gesture makes the meaning clear to the students and helps students to remember the word  since the gesture visualizes the meaning.  For example, one sign for “separated” as in
“My father and mother are separated” is both hands in fists with the knuckles touching, lift up the thumbs and quickly spread the hands apart ; students understand “separated” instantly.  Likewise, as a teacher tells a story and comes upon a new word, the teacher gestures the meaning of the world.  Additionally, as students talk in the language, they may not remember a world and the teacher can do the gesture to help them remember the word.  Gestures can help clarify grammar such as when the teacher does a flip of the hair to indicate a feminine ending after the student uses an incorrect masculine ending.  Gestures help the class stay in the target language.

The teacher has several options for gestures:
1) Create his/ her own gestures to convey the meaning of words or sentences.
2) Use the gestures from a program such as the  Accelerated Integatived Method (AIM)
3) Use TPR gestures
4) Use ASL (American Sign Language) signs such as from the Signing Savvy webiste.
5) Use sign gestures from the target language country by searching for “sign dictionary online” +country such as this one for Spanish teachers  from Ecuador 

How do you use gestures to help your students have more comprehensible input in the  class?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities  for beginning students (including 5 Can-Do ones); and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).  At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture). At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

Real Life Conversations in World Language, Not Textbook Topic Conversations

World language textbooks do not have real life conversation in any meaningful order. For example, in a college textbook the food unit and the question “How much does it cost?” are in the last chapter covered in the semester. Students wait for over four months to learn the foods and how to say “How much does it cost?”  However, if a person actually went to a world language country that person would have to use food vocabulary and the question “How much does it cost?”  on the first day!  A textbook topic such as “the classroom” is not critical to a real life conversation and yet is is often a very early chapter in many tesxtbooks.  Many textbooks use  topics that do not produce real life common language conversation; these textbooks prevent students from being able to have a realistic conversation with someone outside the classroom.

Do your students learn critical vocabulary for real-life conversations or do they learn vocabulary for classroom based conversations?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).  At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.