Communicative classroom got you frustrated?  Maybe you're stacking...

Communicative classroom got you frustrated? Maybe you're stacking...

October 01, 2022

Stacking = piling one thing on top of another.  Look at that pile of mail on your kitchen counter.  You know how it goes...All those "vote for me!" fliers go in the recycling, but the important stuff stays.  Then the next day, more important stuff on top, and more important stuff on top.  The old stays at the bottom and the new at the top.

However, that "old important stuff" often becomes irrelevant as time goes by, right?  

Same goes in our classrooms.  The number one reason why teachers that we work with get frustrated is that they are stacking. 

They want a communicative, acquisition focused classroom, but they can't let go of memorization, explicit teaching, focusing on grammar and vocabulary lists.

If this feels like you -- or forward to someone you know that it's like;) -- Here are some thoughts that can help you move past that...even for just one unit as an experiment.  Because, let's face it, one unit is a short snippet of time, but it will give you so much understanding of where you and your students are at.

1) Look at your backwards design or your end assessment.  If you're using an IPA from one of your units or opting for one of the many interpretive, interpersonal or presentational assessments as your final unit assessment, look at what students need to know and do.  Everything that you do should lead up to that.  Do students need to do a fill in the blank practice every day to write an email to discuss their thoughts on water waste?  Probably not.

2) Examine your interpretive tasks. Why spend time studying vocabulary, assigning flashcards, checking that they did them, writing emails to parents who's student didn't, and wasting our students' time outside of class when the interpretive tasks do the job for you?  In the celebrations unit, flip through the interpretive many times do you see se remonta and escaparate?  They'll acquire if it's provided in the tasks. 

3) Play games. Games like Heads Up and Taboo are communicatively focused: the purpose is to explain the word, using circumlocution. However, your students will also be reviewing the essential vocabulary at the same time.  In the case of grammar, that's the reason we have 10+ input based games in each unit...a quick true false Quizziz or Wordwall warm up really engrains the theme AND the grammar without filling in a single you get two-for-one: actual phrases that are used for communication*:

(Se comen frutas = dieta sana // se come la comida chatarra = dieta no sana) 

...while providing tons of grammatical input.

4) For just one unit, focus only on the content and the tasks. I'd be willing to bet that your students will gain more confidence, communicative ability and will acquire more if they are not bogged down with rules and memorization.  Rules and memorization mean that they monitor their language, so can actually hinder communicative progress.  If we show that we value their communication rather than their perfection, we will get so much more.

In a nutshell, stacking, or better yet, NOT stacking requires that we really examine what we want from our students, and that we ask ourselves WHY we are doing everything that we are doing.  What is it's real-world, communicative purpose?  Is there a good reason to spend precious class time on an activity, song, or task?  "I want them to learn it" is like the teacher equivalent of "because I'm the mom and I say so", and also the tasks that your students can see through the most.  So, if we ask ourselves why and can point to the reason, you'll never find students wondering "why do we need to learn this?"

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