January 31, 2019

Parents are the best.

Except when they're the worst.  

If you are just making a shift in your class / school / district to a proficiency based classroom, then you know that there are significant differences than how your students' parents learned language when they were in school.  Although I have never had a parent complain about 90-100% Target Language use, even in the lower levels, we've heard countless stories from other teachers.  Here are a few ways to explain what's happening so they are on board and so they support you!

EXPLAIN THE NATIONAL STANDARDS - In our syllabus and at Back to School Night, we briefly explain Second Language Acquisition and how that theory is reflected in the National Standards. In short, the more a person hears language, the more they will acquire.  Therefore, with the understanding that some/many/most parents do not speak the TL at home, you and your students need to maximize your time together. 

TALK TO THEM IN NUMBERS - We also love to quote SLA guru Bill VanPatten's conservative estimate that, in order to reach the fluency of a six year old, one has to hear around 15,000 hours of language. That number seems to make it very real.

TELL THEM ABOUT OUTPUT PROFICIENCY SO THEY KNOW YOU UNDERSTAND - In a grammar translation classroom, output is expected right away, so parents probably assume that not only YOU are speaking the TL 90%+ of the time, but that you expect your students to as well.  Since input happens before output can, be sure to explain that they might be answering you in English, but soon enough, it will click.

DEMONSTRATE WHAT GOES ON - This is critical when you first make the shift to proficiency.  Start your back to school night with a presentation about you, about the class, or about something related to your school.  I love to present my family to them, a recent trip that I may have taken, what our general week is like, or a short wrap-up of what their kids have done in class so far. In your presentation, use just a few words, great visuals, and maybe even the miming and dancing around that we have to do to make language comprehensible. If you have time, create a quick Kahoot or even just ask yes-no / either-or questions to review, and they will see how understandable language can be!

GIVE THEM SOME TALKING POINTS - Let them know that sometimes students can be frustrated when they don't understand. Speaking of parents, I always tell them about traveling with my mom in Paris.  She's one of those who thinks if she talks louder, people will understand her.  That week is full of most embarrassing moments.  Tell them to remind their students to watch you while you're speaking, to let you know when they don't understand, and to tell them that they have to hear it so that they can learn it. When they are part of your team, your life will be infinitely easier.

 Now, your turn...I've got to know.  Have you had any complaints about speaking the Target Language in your Target Language class?? 


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