Category Archives: Reading

Lomb Kató

One of the greatest DVD’s I ever saw on second language acquisition was the Krashen Seminar. It was produced by Blaine Ray in the late 90’s and on the DVD Krashen, in a very light and informative manner, outlines how we learn languages. If you want a copy of the DVD let me know and I’ll get one to you.

Anyway, on the DVD Krashen mentions a woman from Hungary by the name of Lomb Kató. [In English her name would be Katherine Lomb] She was a woman that learned 16 languages, mostly by self effort. I find myself asking the question, “What can I learn from Lomb Kató?”

Well, here are a few things that I gathered. She mentions that she drove three autos in World Languages: autolexia [reading for myself], autographia [writing for myself], and autologia [speaking with myself]. When thinking about my own language learning , it makes me feel better to know that she mentioned these three tools because I wasn’t sure if I was normal.

I also think about whether I am providing this for my students. Do we have a time where they can read what they want? This is basically FVR. I wish I did it more often and I think it would be good for the students. I am still getting my act together for a grant for some money.

Do we also have a time where the students have a time where they write for themselves? The closest I come to this is freewrites. I wish that they could do more free journaling in L2 and I wonder if my students are at a level where they can express themselves this way. It is a good thing to think about.

While I am not sure that autologia leads to acquisition, I do think that it leads to feeling like you are part of a club of language learners, which is very important. This is especially important for teenagers who are so locked into social approval. This happens in my room when I give a brain break and have them do mini-retells with each other. To be honest, it could happen more. I also think that this is something that can be encouraged to do on their own.

Other comments that she made was that when learning a language, we focus on the essence of the grammar and the important words. How true this is! I don’t know why so many programs use grammar to teach the language. Grammar will not win over the majority and will deprive the learner of the joy of natural language.

She also mentions that we need to cling to the enjoyable side of language study. Am I really providing this for my students? I really think so because we have stories that are all about their life and we are reading things that bring up real life situations. Reading can be a very enjoyable side of language study if we get kids into good stories and books!

These are just a few things that I learned from Lomb Kató. I find myself asking the question, “What good does all the Spanish I am teaching the students do if they never take charge of their own language learning?” I think that we need to help our students to acquire the language, but also to know how to acquire a language so that when they leave they can continue this language acquisition journey.

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Filed under Encouragement for hard days, Reading, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries, teaching grammar

Krashen Lights a Fire on Reading

Every time I read Krashen or watch an excerpt of a seminar he has given, I just get so excited about the posibilities of reading and its impact on language acquisition. I keep asking, “How can we get interesting meaningful reading to our students?” Well, I don’t have all the answers or even the money, but it makes me get excited about intermediate instruction and what can be done. I don’t think that we fully realize what we have here. That if we move forward with a lot of these ideas, students will begin to acquire a language and actually like it! It seems like a dream, but it is within reach. I don’t care that most of the United States or even the world is stuck on other methods that don’t really work. I will do my thing in Holdrege and be happy about it. It certainly does feed my idealistic side and make me excited about what I do! We all need the fire to be lit every now and then to remind us of where we need to go with acquisition.

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Joe on tprs

Here is a document that Joe Neilson made on some basic ideas of tprs.

http://docs.google.com/View?id=dd5rnpcc_180fg5xp3db

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Shorter Reading Approach to Novels

I must confess that I have struggled with how to get the novels in and at times I wonder why the kids think it is so boring. Well, I have asked around about how people do it and tried a bit of what people suggested in class today. It was vastly improved. I think the secret to keeping the novels interesting is two-fold:

1. Only read for 10-15 min.

2. Keep a parallel story or personalize it to the class

Today, I kept it short and personalized and man it was so much more fun. Infact, I could notice a feeling from the students that said, “Okay, we’re done now.” At that point I just said with enthusiasm, “Okay, great work today!” and moved on to something else.

I am hoping that this will help keep the class more enthused about reading and that we will actually finish a novel. I am going to try to do this a couple times a week. I think that they need the feeling of continuing with a book. If you only read once a week it can be hard to finish the novel, plus the students don’t remember the plot as well and eventually loose interest.  The key is to always have the class on a hook, always eager to want more. I hope to get there some day.

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Backward Planning, a missing element that was needed

This year I have been doing a lot more backward planning from the novels and it has really boosted my stories. I have basically been picking out some of the important phrases from the novel and putting it into the story. This has freed me from using a script all the time and has really made the class a lot more focused. I used to [and sometimes still] put so much pressure on myself to think of a story or to come up with something interesting. Now I can sit back and just ask questions.

One thing that Krashen has mentioned is the need to acquire a language because of a need. The brain will acquire language a lot more easily when the L2 comes at a necessary time. Backward planning has really jump stared this for me. As I am going along in the story I have my backward plan template in front of me and I can insert words when a need arises and it is acquired a lot quicker because it makes sense in the story, rather than me trying to get something in that doesn’t fit into the story. The thing is, we have so little time in class that we need to be careful how we spend our time. We must make every part of the period as meaningful as possible. The backward plan helps to do that. It keeps the story moving with interesting details which the students can choose from.

The stories so far have been interesting and keep the pace moving. There is also more to the plot and it helps me to have more of a structure on the fly. Also I can still tell stories in the past with reading in the present because the novels will provide me with the reading that I need, as well as the extended dictation on the days following the story. I am curious to see where it will go this semester, but I have a good feeling about it.

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Filed under Reading, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

Are we exposing our students to what they need?

I have been reading a book by Frank Smith entitled, Reading FAQ. I am going to add it to my books list, but I thought I would give a brief excerpt here. I having been thinking about the idea that we need to totally revolutionize the way we view language acquisition. Traditionally, we have just given students lists of words for them to memorize and this needs to stop. What we need to do is to expose them to different contexts of words that they can understand and slowly they will start to grasp the meaning. They will begin to make sense of the print, which is what reading is.

On page 18, Frank Smith is discussing what happens when we read a word that we haven’t met before. He states:

By a process called “fast mapping,” children automatically attach a possible meaning to any unfamiliar word they encounter in speech or writing, and refine this possible meaning on further encounters. Six encounters is usually enough for a correct meaning the be determined. To determine the pronunciation, someone else must be heard saying the word.

Of course, none of these ways of identifying new words is possible if the words are in isolation, in lists, or any other kind of meaningless context. Expecting children to learn new words by presenting them one at a time makes reading as difficult as possible for them.

After I read this I started thinking about how often this happens in the classroom. I mean, most of a textbook is just lists of words that are not in a context. Are we really making it easy for a student to learn the language when we do this? I would say that we are not and that perhaps we need to think about language acquisition in a new way. Instead of lists we need to present words in different contexts so that the students can have the opportunity to experience words enough times to get a sense of the meaning. Meaning is not always something that can be defined, but a feeling. Most people  know when to use the preterite because of a feeling, not because of the rule.

Have we totally bought into the power of reading and what it can do for language acquisition? Or are we still stuck on the idea that the students need us or a textbook full of lists to learn a language. I think that if we really gave reading a shot, we may be surprised how much language could really be acquired. I know that I am not there yet, but that is where I want to go.

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Keeping it Personalized

I have discovered that it is essential that a language is personalized. As soon as I start talking about something that they are not interested in I begin to loose them. When I add a new detail, it sparks the interest again. I need get better at circling so that I don’t loose the kids while I am circling. I understand, though, that this is a process.

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Filed under Classroom Management, PQA, Reading, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries, teaching grammar