Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Shifting Your Mindset to Reach 90% in the Target Language

HAVE YOU MADE IT A GOAL TO USE MORE TARGET LANGUAGE IN CLASS? LOOKING TO HIT THAT 90% RECOMMENDATION FROM ACTFL? One of the biggest things I learned when I made the move to bump my TL usage in class was that I had to SHIFT MY MINDSET; I was operating under a set of assumptions that were getting in my way, and as I speak with other foreign language teachers, I often hear those same assumptions expressed. Here are some things that I needed to shift in order to be successful in delivering a 90% classroom- maybe they will strike a chord with you, too:

Teaching 90% in the Target Language- Shifting Your Mindset

FIRSTLY, I HAD TO RECOGNIZE THAT IT CAN ACTUALLY BE DONE! Or rather, that all aspects of class CAN be done in the TL. Although I had been teaching a lot of my class in the target language already, I realized that there were still areas where I thought it just couldn't be done in the TL. For my part, the biggest area was certain aspects of culture, specifically those 'facts' around holidays, celebrations, traditions, famous people, etc. Other areas I commonly hear teachers mention are class expectations and routines, classroom management and relationships with kids. Barring complicated topics like grading and homework expectations at middle and high school level, most, if not all of these, can be done in the TL and/or with minimal English. The trick is in firstly making the commitment to do so-then figuring out HOW to do so. (be sure to check out my Pinterest board for ideas and links to more of my blog posts on this! Click here)

ANOTHER SHIFT HAS COME IN HOW I PLAN MY CLASSES... 90% in the TL still allows for some English to be spoken. However, since it is very limited, I have found that I have to be very INTENTIONAL in what I am going to say in English, not just what activities (and how I will do them) in Spanish. This intentionality around English has been very different from my previous planning, where I didn't even necessarily take that into account. Now, I identify beforehand WHAT I will be saying in English, whether it is framing a conversation, translating a key word(s), stating the lesson/theme goal, highlighting a key concept, etc. I have this decided prior to starting the lesson, which also helps me to stay in Spanish. And, given in my 30 minutes classes I have about 3 minutes for English (or less) being intentional really makes a difference in how I proportion the class language usage.

A BIG SHIFT HAS COME IN TERMS OF DITCHING WHAT DOESN'T WORK IN A 90% CLASSROOM. This can be a hard one for a lot of teachers; beloved lessons that we've done for years may need to be thrown out the window because they do not work, perhaps because the instructions for the activity are too complicated to do in the TL for the proficiency level of the students, or the activity itself really isn't at the right proficiency level, or the content we want to impart is too complicated to do in the TL... there are a lot of factors as to why an activity may need to be dumped. I re-evaluated (and continue to do so) my activities, and threw out a whole bunch, or modified them to be more in line with a 90% classroom. This did mean saying good bye to some projects I have loved over the years, this has meant I don't share some "deeper" information about some cultural topics, this has meant I've reworked themes to have more input in the TL, and that has been a lot of work. However, my goal is highlighted in the quote above in the photo- I want to provide enough input to increase the proficiency level of my students, and if an activity that I am doing doesn't meet that goal, I am willing to get rid of it or change it to make it further that goal. That is the guiding principle for myself-does this move my kids forward in SPANISH?

I will say that an elementary foreign language teacher has several luxuries that high school teachers, in particular, do not have...most notably, the luxury of seeing a long time span for kids to interact with the language. My kiddos start in Kindergarten and have the opportunity to study Spanish all the way to graduation. That's a very different timeline than a student who starts in 9th grade and takes 2 years to satisfy a credit requirement. I recognize that sometimes it is easy to say 'you can do this in the TL, you just have slow down and take more time to do things.' but for a high school teacher, time feels urgent and textbooks and curricula demand you 'move on quickly'. However, even for those teachers, making it a goal to increase the amount of TL used in class, whatever the percentage ultimately, is only going to benefit your students in the long run. The long term perspective, meaning a student's whole life, enables us all to look at that goal as the worthy one in the end.

 I really hope my reflection has sparked some ideas for how you can move towards more TL use in your classroom! Please let me know your thoughts and reflections in the comments- I LOVE to hear what you are doing in your room!

1 comment

  1. Excelente reflexión! Me hiciste pensar en cosas que nunca lo había hecho antes, como tener que deshacerme de algunas lecciones por que no funcionan para el nivel de mis alumnos.
    Me he dado cuenta que la primera mitad del año, me mantengo en TL por 90% y la segunda mitad del año siento que baja al 70%.
    Tu blog me hizo pensar y creo que es por el contenido de mis unidades.
    Gracias otra vez!