Why Don’t American Jews Speak Hebrew?

Lori Sagarin, my friend, muse and the Educational Director at my temple,  was among the first to encourage me to pursue my vision for transforming Modern Hebrew instruction.  Recently Lori sent me a fascinating article (by James Loeffler) from Tablet Magazine entitled,  “Should American Jews Speak Hebrew?”

While I encourage everyone to read the article closely and ponder his/her own connection to Ivrit – as an Israeli, or member of the Diaspora, or as an interested second language acquirer or ‘other,’ I do have, (surprise, surprise!) some issues with Loeffler’s assumptions.

I believe the author conveniently ignores or glosses over our earnest, ongoing but failed attempts to realize American Jewry’s Hebrew language aspiration, albeit fueled by all the same yearning Loeffler describes.
Many of those Birthright kids at Ben Gurion airport did go to Hebrew school or Jewish day school – invested their Hebrew seat time – their parents nodding and writing annual checks, respectful of our crucial link to Israel & Judaism via Ivrit.
I completely disagree that the American diaspora willingly or intentionally shuns or avoids acquiring Hebrew in favor of monolingualism.  Ivrit was and is a priority for many affiliated Jews; though in my Hebrew Project experience, a sense of absolute futility about attaining any practical Hebrew proficiency has set in….
I think about my 90-yr old friend, Sarkeh in Ben Shemen.  Before she came to Israel from Poland as a WWII refugee, she grew up in a trilingual household – Polish, Yiddish and Modern Hebrew.  I just discussed this with her last summer!  She was privy to a comprehensible partially-Hebrew environment as a child.  She came to Israel with real skills!!  Contrast her experience with my own parents, who used a lot of Yiddish with us growing up.  They had hardly any conversational Hebrew to share, so they couldn’t; but like Sarkeh’s parents, they would have if they could!!
Under the right conditions, Hebrew begets Hebrew.  Jews who want to acquire Hebrew, like anyone who wants to acquire another tongue, need only get what language acquisition requires:  a flood of compelling, comprehensible, contextualized input over the long haul.  Just like in any World Language classroom, from Armenian to Zulu, understanding messages is the driver of acquisition (SLA in a nutshell), so we know what we must do.
That Modern Hebrew proficiency never took root in the US diaspora is less a function of will or desire, and more a result of misguided instruction and a near absence of the basic ingredients that drive acquisition:  ongoing Hebrew communication –  meaning-focused quality messaging that is understood by the listener/reader in the target language.
Longing (a.k.a. ‘motivation’) won’t get us there; nor hollow grammar drills & vocab lists, nor peppering our English with Hebrew lifecycle words and phrases.
But as talkers, readers & thinkers, we have what we need to turn this ship around, and I’m here to help.
That’s my research-supported take.  As always, I welcome your comments!

 

 

HaYidion Article in Summer, 2019 Issue

The umbrella organization for North American Jewish Day Schools, PRIZMAH, invited me to submit an article for their most recent educational journal.  The volume’s theme, ‘Deepening Talent,’ focuses on “cultivating growth and vitality for all its [school] stakeholders, from students to board members.”  My article, “Reimagining Modern Hebrew Instruction,” appears in the ‘Study and Reflection’ section, and mentions many of the precepts contained in my articles on this blog, with a focus on transforming Hebrew teacher and learner attitudes and outcomes.

Here’s the link to the journal:  https://www.prizmah.org/hayidion-digital/#/shelf/view/default

And here’s a direct link to my article on page 54: 

https://www.prizmah.org/hayidion-digital/#/reader/24790/744521

As always, I invite readers to reflect, question, challenge and engage.

Please leave a comment and/or contact me through the blog!

 

Comprehensible Hebrew: Big Ideas

When I’m invited to present or consult with elementary, middle, high school or supplementary (temple-based) administrators and parents who are unfamiliar with the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), I often provide a “Big Ideas” hand-out for later reference and reflection.  I offer it here on the blog, and invite your questions, wonderings and feedback.

Comprehensible Hebrew  –  BIG IDEAS

*Primacy:  Humans acquire language one way:  By understanding messages, a.k.a. Comprehensible Input (CI).

*Communication:  Modern Hebrew is a tool for communication.  A focus on phonology, morphology, grammar or syntax constitutes linguistics – and does not serve our communicative goals.

*Input vs. Output:  Listening and reading, the receptive/input skills, precede writing and speaking, the productive/output skills.  Therefore, we must build a foundation via input, then set appropriate and reasonable expectations for output.

*Compelling Interest:  When the incoming messages are compelling, listening and engagement skyrocket.

*Personalization:  By tailoring the messages through co-created images, scenes & stories, we optimize the input and attention to it.

*Literacy:  Reading compounds language acquisition.  Once the sound and meaning of the language are in their heads, reading feels natural & effortless.

*Program Content:  Modern Ivrit for interpersonal communication is different from liturgy, religious study & sacred text, though there is overlap.  BICS/CALP continuum – Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills & Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency.

*Instructional Time:  A 90-minute/week Hebrew offering means that after 4 years, students have logged +- 200 hours.  Compare that to nearly 12,000 hours of native English input that kindergarteners come to school with (VanPatten).  Bottom line: Most of our students are Hebrew language ‘toddlers;’  every precious class minute counts; optimizing quality is paramount.

*Outcomes:  Set realistic, developmentally appropriate goals, and align our teaching with them, across the offering.

*Instructional Quality:  By rededicating ourselves to quality instruction with well-trained, Hebrew-proficient faculty, we can deliver compelling Hebrew at the discourse level.  By monitoring and refining our offering, we ensure for our students an enjoyable & effective Ivrit experience.

*CI Hebrew Resources:  Currently there are precious few research-aligned Hebrew trade materials.  Many CI teachers adapt or create original materials based on their teaching environment, student proficiency level & interests.

*Professional Development:  We can support our Modern Hebrew instructors by: Providing high-quality training that aligns with SLA; engaging in mentoring & coaching; observing & reflecting on other experienced CI teachers’ practice.

*Community:  Stakeholders will embrace the re-envisioned Modern Hebrew offering when they hear positive student buzz, and see the camaraderie it fosters.  CI strategies are appropriate for students of all ages, including adults!

*Reflection:  I invite you to read and comment on my Comprehensible Hebrew community blog.  This free resource is dedicated to teachers improving Modern Hebrew instruction, and, in turn, enhancing student attitudes, learning experiences & outcomes.  

*Take a Peek:  I invite you to view this blog post for a captioned video of DAY 1 Hebrew instruction at my temple-based supplementary school program.

*Inspire:  Your school has a unique opportunity to pioneer a research aligned, re-envisioned Modern Hebrew offering.  Your bold leadership in this area will influence Modern Hebrew instruction, attitudes & outcomes both locally and globally.  

Revamp:  Now that SLA is ‘out of the bag,’ we must:  1. Take a hard look at current Ivrit classroom practice and school offerings; 2. Abandon those methods that don’t align with SLA;  3. Deliver compelling & comprehensible Ivrit, the driver of acquisition!

*Transform:  Ivrit class ought to be inviting, positive and joyful for our students and faculty, affording continued growth in proficiency, while sparking interest and encouraging pursuit

Finally, it’s been an honor and pleasure to open this exciting dialogue with you.  Please contact me with questions & comments.

Cracking the Written Code…One Name at a Time

Recently, as I was observing some of the teachers whom I’ve begun to train in CI strategies, I was struck by how our issues in Hebrew school environments are generally the same as those of any World Language instructors, with the exception of a few pesky details:

•Hebrew reads from right to left and doesn’t employ the Romanized alphabet (like Spanish or French, for example), making it less ‘transparent’ and harder to decode for the English-dominant learner;

•Hebrew texts – textbooks for learners, religious texts, children’s books, newspapers, etc.- are printed in square-edged block, yet most Hebrew teachers (and speakers) hand-write using flowy-er cursive;

•Many traditional teachers and Hebrew instructional texts include vowel pointing, called ‘nikkud,’ but proficient Hebrew speakers do not use nikkud in their writing, nor need it for reading.

These clunky realities regarding written Hebrew have conspired to preserve outmoded ‘isolate & copy’ exercises that even my parents (and theirs?) suffered through at least a generation ago…. in favor of more engaging and meaningful learning experiences for our students.

Raise your hand if you had a (light blue?) lined mach’beret in which you dutifully copied the isolated Hebrew ‘letter/s of the day’ over and over, this time with a kamatz, this time with a segol….

Or maybe you learned to decode with a primer.  On the third or fourth line of the page, the target letter was combined with another to form a sound chunk, or phoneme.  Perhaps half-way down the page the gimmel in question was clumped with two or three other Hebrew letters, to form a nonsense word, or even a real one, whose meaning, unknown and without context, sounded equally befuddling!

This is how we did it, baby.  Squiggles and dots on the page, without a schema for sound, and utterly devoid of meaning.

But Second Language Acquisition reminds us that the durable linguistic foundation is built on compelling and meaning-bearing auditory input.  We need a sense of what is being expressed, and we need to develop, through exposure, an ear for how it sounds, in order to extract a message.  Input precedes output, as sure as listening comprehension precedes reading.

So, back to the practical classroom question:

How can we help crack the written Hebrew code early on, clearing obstacles so our students can access the power of reading?

We need a way to get our students reading in the target language ASAP without overwhelming them, to bolster and broaden their input, reinforcing and extending the language they’ve been taking in aurally.

I say we begin to resolve this conundrum with the most personalized and intriguing bite-sized input available from Day One:  The students’ Hebrew names.

Some students have been together before, and know each others’ Hebrew names.  I’m not suggesting a simple round of, ‘Ari’eh, meet Rami;’  ‘Liora, meet Ester.’  I’m recommending exploiting the Hebrew class roll as compelling yet narrow language, to flood the students with comprehensible auditory and written input.  This readily available resource, I believe, can provide the contextualized exposure, repetition, and interest to break the code, flex the decoding muscle, and build confidence, all with a friendly & light-hearted community-building vibe.

Our task is to capitalize on our students’ names, which echo through generations of family history, to help our students recognize the letters, sounds and contours of these new Hebrew words.  How can we harness the power of a name – likely one of the first words our students ever read or wrote in their native language, to jumpstart Hebrew literacy?

It’s simple.  More PERSONALIZED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS  (PQA) – purposefully combined with literacy.

Here’s the scenario.  The teacher has, in advance, a class list of the students’ Hebrew first names.

S/he copies it, in cursive Hebrew (NO VOWELS), onto poster-size chart paper, making sure the font is large/bold, consistent and legible from the back row of seats.  There’s plenty of space between names (2 columns is fine); consider alternating colors for enhanced legibility.

The teacher posts the entire class list (possibly several sheets) onto the central teaching board.

The Aleph Bet Chart is also posted and visible.

The teacher initially engages in predictable circling, including Pause-Point & S-L-O-W (PPS).

All questioning occurs in the target language, using the interrogative word posters from the adjacent Word Wall, as necessary (with PPS).  Ideally, the students are somewhat familiar with their names and already have seen their name cards or name tags.

[To read more about Hebrew names and name tags, click here.]

Phase 1:  Identifying Students By Name would work to kick off the year’s first day/s lesson/s.

T:  Where is Yosi [pointing to first name on chart]?

T:  Are you [pointing to student]  Yosi?                S:  No.

T:  You’re not Yosi…Hmmm.  [Approaches a different student, points]  Are you Yosi?                S:  No.

T:  Oh, you’re not Yosi [pointing to student A],  and you’re not Yosi [pointing to student B]. Hmm…Where is Yosi?

[returns to chart; points to the word, “Yosi”].

Students raises hand.  Teacher approaches student.

T:  (Surprised)  Are you [pointing to student] Yosi?  [Pointing to name on chart]                    S: Yes.

T:  Ahh, class, he’s Yosi!  [Points’ to student, then name on chart]  He….is….Yosi!

Teacher applauds, encouraging others to applause for figuring it out.  Teacher continues with another student, pointing first to the chart, modeling the decoding, and trying to find/match the name of the student in question using similar banter.  As each student is identified, s/he celebrates, then groups them next to each other, affording movement and a ‘shuffling the deck’ challenge.

Note:  Students may answer teacher questions in English; the focus, at this early stage, is on demonstrating comprehension, not on Hebrew output.

Since it’s already October and we know our students’ names, we’d skip Phase 1 and move straight to…

Phase 2:  Simple Name-Focused Personalized Questions & Answers 

With the Hebrew class names chart front-and-center, decide upon a compelling survey question or two.  In my last series of posts we focused on favorite ice cream flavor, which lent itself, in the heat of the waning summer, to some pleasantly compelling & comprehensible banter.  Then we followed with sample literacy extensions, creating a simple data table to record the class info, and used it to review, count, compare, contrast and draw conclusions, all while staying narrow and in-bounds.  Such T-charts and bar graphs also employ student names and cognate ice cream flavors, and therefore serve as appropriately contextualized, and heavily scaffolded Hebrew literacy experiences!  Students are invited to decode and comprehend (i.e., READ!) the limited Hebrew text, recognizing letters and generalizing their sounds in context.  Written input is predictable, building success and confidence!

Say this time we mine another universally popular topic of convo, pets.  Who has a dog?  Who has a cat?  We can set up the topic, building a bridge of interest, and scaffolding meaning by first showing and comprehensibly ‘talking through’ a brief slideshow of, say, 5 funny cartoon animals:  a dog, cat, kangaroo, flamingo & llama (the latter three are direct Hebrew cognates).   If possible, also print these pictures, and have them posted to refer to in class.

For students who don’t currently own a pet, you’ve already, by including the three cognate animals above, introduced the possibility of owning a fantasy pet.  Tell them to pick one they like, and stick with it.  Draw from a broader list of  Hebrew cognate animals, (scroll down!) the more outrageous, the better.  List a few fantasy choices in Hebrew on the board, and add the real pets to this short list as they are claimed by students.

Notice that among these three animal cognates alone, קנגורו, פלמנגו, למה the students will have in-context exposure to nine distinct Hebrew letters/sounds!  Add dog & cat – כלב, חתול – and that’s more than half the Alef Bet.

CAVEAT:  You may choose to Hebrew label these cognate fantasy animals, though since you will be saying their identical-to-English names while pointing to the picture, it’s not necessary, and too much text could overwhelm the absolute novice.

Remember: We want reading to feel automatic and effortless.

In this version of PQA, the phrasing of the personalized question often begins with, “Who?” because we want the students to successfully answer our questions with their classmates’ Hebrew name.  We are asking them to repeatedly associate the sound of their classmate’s name with its written chart counterpart.

As the information is initially collected, the teacher, as usual, is working the crowd.  S/He is circulating, ‘teaching to the eyes’ (Susie Gross), ascertaining, confirming, misunderstanding, negating, affirming, comparing (with self and other student/s), grouping, counting and summarizing.   As every name arises, she is Pause-Point-S-L-O-Wly drawing attention to the student’s name from the central name poster/s.

Say we asked, “Who has a kangaroo?” and learned that, in fact, Sagit does.

T:  Nofar (PPS), Sagit (PPS) has a kangaroo (PPS).   Do you (points to Nofar (PPS)) have a kangaroo?  (PPS)

S:  No.

T:  Oh, Nofar (PPS), you don’t have a kangaroo…Nofar, do you have a dog? (PPS)

S:  Yes.

T:  Nofar (PPS), you have a dog! (PPS)  Class, Nofar (PPS) has a dog! (PPS)

Note that the teacher is free to pepper Yes/No and Either/Or questions, which work well when the answers are animals (‘dog’ & ‘cat’ would need to be listed/translated on the board) or kangaroo, etc.  Here, s/he is Pause-Point-S-L-O-Wly indicating the animal type from the posted Hebrew words/pet pictures.  Our mission is to converse comprehensibly at the discourse level (back and forth in meaning-filled chunks) while attaching the written code to the sounds our students are hearing.

Sound & Meaning… Then Add Reading.

T:  [Confused] Class, Sagit (PPS) has a kangaroo (PPS), or Sagit has a dog (PPS)?

Ss:  Dog (PPS).

T:  Ah, Sagit (PPS) has a dog?

Ss:  Yes (PPS).

[Teacher points to previously modeled Yes/No Hebrew poster.]

T:  Who has a flamingo (PPS)?

S:  Ze’ev (PPS).

T:  Ahhh, so Sagit (PPS) has a kangaroo (PPS); Nofar (PPS) has a dog (PPS); and Ze’ev (PPS) has a flamingo (PPS)?

Ss:  Yes! (PPS)

Phase 3:  Follow-up:  Creating a Literacy-Rich Visual Anchor

We can interview all the students in the class in one go (though it’s a lot to process for the absolute novice reader – so monitor for attention/fatigue), then project or post a simple three- column (Hebrew) chart:  Student’s Name; Student’s Hebrew Name; Student’s Pet.  In our parallel T/CI universe, everyone has a pet, even if it’s a gorilla:}   The teacher can then re-ask the information with new purpose, this time filling in the missing info.

It may feel repetitive to you, but if you approach the info as fascinating, and the chart as a task worthy of the class’ time, then the novelty of the chart will feel fresh, and the students will follow your lead, this time guided by reading input.

Students are noticing letter formation as the teacher fills in the information, so exploit the opportunity for the students to watch you write, emphasizing sound/letter correspondence aloud.  Not the name of the letter, but the sound it makes within the word.  After you finish writing the word (student name or pet); review the info yet again:  (In Hebrew), ‘Ze’ev (PPS) has a flamingo.’ (PPS)

Perhaps in the teacher’s mind, one purpose of this CONVERSATION is writing and repeatedly reading students’ names & pets in order to, as we said above, lay in some foundational Hebrew literacy skills.  However, in the course of the conversation we are also contextually exercising the heck out of the high frequency verb, “has/have” and its (completely different) negation, not to mention the essential Hebrew pronouns (I, you, he/she; we; they, etc.)  A series of simple, yet high-interest sentences, all with a similar format, “Student X  has/doesn’t have a Y pet,” provides many permutations of playful, in-bounds, beginners’ discourse-level Hebrew!

B-I-N-G-O!

If you have more class time, or another day, try distributing the dry erase board materials (also discussed in the blog post linked below) and ask the following kinds of sure success questions:   Who has a flamingo?  Does Ze’ev have a cat?  Have Ss flash their boards with written answers – for a quick comprehension check and peek into their developing letter/word formation.  (The students copy the words from the class posters & lists.)

And as a double extra credit one time only super bonus:}, model (on the board) a full sentence, such as, “I have a gorilla.”  Have the students copy the ‘I have’ part, and allow them to choose and copy whichever fantasy animal suits their fancy, completing the written sentence on their boards.

Then, simply circulate and observe your students’ emerging Hebrew literacy…. This is a baseline for later comparison.  Throughout the year you will notice fewer letter reversals, more automaticity, and growing confidence in writing for meaning… one name at a time.

That was pretty painless, no?

For more on this topic, please read my earlier blog post, Demystifying Hebrew Literacy.

Starting The Year #3: Scripted Circling & PQA

As teachers new to Comprehensible Input strategies get their feet wet in the classroom, it’s often helpful to imagine a beginners conversation and script the language use, insuring that the novice-level students don’t get overwhelmed by too many new sounds and words coming in.  As teachers gain experience implementing the strategies, they may be able to deliver Hebrew language more improvisationally.  But to start, it’s nice to have a road map!  Feel free to print and highlight the questions (listed in Hebrew without English how-to commentary at bottom of blog  post!), and use them as a loose script, until your own Circling & PQA become more automatic and effortless!

Let’s say that in the interest of laying in the highest frequency Hebrew verbs in order to build a practical foundation in Hebrew, you decide to interview and survey your students about their preferred ice cream flavor, focusing primarily on the verb, אוהב/ אוהבת.

This slide is from my Intro To T/CI presentation on the blog, here.

A series of affirmations, negations, compare & contrast, counting and summarizing questions may ensue, as follows:

T= Teacher; S = Student; Ss = students; C= (whole) Class

NB:  All of the parts of the initial statement will be clarified through gesturing, Pause-Point-Slow, sketching, establishing meaning, and ongoing comprehension checks, as discussed and modeled in parts #1 & #2 of this Starting The Year blog post series.

כיתה,  אני אוהבת גלידת ׳מוס טרקס.׳

Teacher comes close to next student to interview and addresses him/her by name, looking at her and ‘teaching to the eyes’:

T:  זיוה, את אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס?’

Zivah gestures a thumbs down.

T to Zivah:  

?אהההה, את לא אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס?’  

?כיתה, אני אוהבת גלידת ׳מוס טרקס.׳  זיוה לא אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס, נכון זיוה

The word, ?נכון is a rejoinder.  If not already posted because it hasn’t emerged yet, then establish its meaning by writing it on the board, underlining it, and writing it’s English translation below, Correct?  -in a contrasting color.  Pause-Point-Slow every time you use it, until students demonstrate acquisition by recognizing/using it independently.  This may take several sessions.

.זיוה:  נכון

Teacher acknowledges Zivah’s comprehension with a high five or fist-bump (‘יש!’) and moves to the next student, or summarizes/contrasts the 2 opinions:

T:  .’אני אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס.’  זיוה לא אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס

Depending on grade/age and decoding ability, you may decide to leave these as 2 separate (if choppy & short) sentences, for now. Once the incoming message is more effortlessly and automatically understood, you may wish to introduce the conjunction, ‘but’ in context, so simply establish its meaning and restate:

‘.כיתה, אני אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס’ אבל זיוה לא אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס

T:  ?זיוה, איזה גלידה את אוהבת

Teacher asks with great interest, continuing to gesture, Pause-Point-Slow, and support the conversational language with non-verbal cues.  If the student can’t produce a flavor, offer a few cognate flavor choices, as in:

T:  ?זיוה, את אוהבת גלידת בננה, או את אוהבת גלידת וניל

Teacher may do a comprehension check here:  “What do you think גלידת בננה is?”  “What do you think גלידת וניל means?” Acknowledge student comprehension with warmth, smiles, a fist bump (יש!).  Though they hopefully don’t feel it, our students’ brains are working hard to understand!

T:  !כיתה!  זיוה אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה  

At that moment you hear a ‘buzz’ in the classroom as other students concur with or differ from Zivah’s choice.  You follow the energy and go right to someone you heard who likes or doesn’t like  .גלידת שוקולד מנטה  

T:  !רגע, רגע, רגע

You gesture the Israeli !רגע with one hand, and establish meaning, orally and/or on the board.  You walk over to Tammy.

T:  ?טמי, את אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה

Tammy shakes her head ‘yes,’ or says, “yes,” or maybe even, “כן.”

You report back to the class, taking care to gesture, pause, and chunk the phrases:

T:   .כיתה, זיוה אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה, אבל אני לא אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה

 וטמי אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה

C:  .הוווווו

T:  ?  (Point to self)  ?ואני כיתה?  אני אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה    

?’או אני אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס

C:  Moose Tracks.

T:   (Expectant pause) ?…נכון, כיתה, נכון.  אני אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טרקס,’ זיוה אוהבת

C:  Mint Chocolate!

T:  כן, זה נכון!  זיוה אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה,  וטמי גם אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה

C:  !כן

T:  What do you think גם means?  

T:  נכון, גם means ‘also.’

גם זיוה אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה, וגם טמי אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה!

C:  הוווווו!

T:  ?דניס, גם את אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה

 D:  .לא

T: ‘?דניס, את אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טראקס

D:   לא

T:  ?כיתה!   דניס לא אוהבת גלידת ‘מוס טראקס’ וגם לא אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה! הםםםםםםם, דניס את אוהבת גלידת בננה? 

At this point (or before!) you may wish to take out a cheat sheet of cognate or borrowed word ice cream flavors from the Israeli ice cream shop menu linked in the previous blog post:

http://www.glidabeersheva.com/%D7%98%D7%A2%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%9D/

D:  Salted Carmel.

T: ?או- לה- לה, דניס אוהבת גלידת קרמל!  נכון, דניס? את אוהבת גלידת קרמל

D:  כן.

T:  !כיתה, דניס אוהבת גלידת קרמל   

At any natural point the teacher can add an additional rejoinder when she learns new, (EXCITING!) information, as in:

T:  ! מקסים!  כיתה, דניס אוהבת גלידת קרמל!  דניס, זה מקסים

Teacher establishes meaning, writing the Hebrew rejoinder word, underlines it, and in a contrasting color, writes the English word ‘Awesome!’  below it, pausing and pointing every time it comes up in conversation.

Other rejoinders that may work nicely here – but not all at once – use, then post for future use:

   !יופי!         פנטסטי!      סבבה!         מצויין

The class carries on as the teacher works her way from student to student, in an unpredictable pattern.  While it’s preferable to make sure everyone is interviewed during a single class period, she takes her time, questioning-negating-affirming-comparing:

Comparing students’ preference with each other;

Comparing a student’s preference with her own;

Counting how many prefer a particular flavor (if that happens);

Peppering the banter with rejoinders;

Insuring that she ‘hits her targets’ by including the verb chunk every time -either לא/ אוהב/ת  or, if you are starting to branch off the conversation to talk about which flavors have/contain chocolate, then the addition of the verb form יש.  (No, it’s not really a verb but it functions as a verb in terms of meaning, and is super hi-frequency!)

T:  ?כיתה, יש לגלידת קרמל שוקולד

C: No.  (Don’t worry that their response isn’t in Hebrew!  We are ascertaining whether they understand the question.)

T:  .נכון. אין לגלידת קרמל שוקולד. קרמל זה לא שוקולד, ושוקולד זה לא קרמל

Comprehension check.  Possibly write the sentence on the board, depending on decoding skill, and comb through it, establishing meaning as you go.

יש and אין  are on one of your hi-frequency posters and subsequently find their place on your Word Wall.

By the end of the class you should be able to surmise everyone’s preferred flavor, and they, each others.’  Depending on the number of Ss, this whole process may take upwards of 20 minutes.  We are trying to draw out an engaging conversation, and keep it interesting; we are NOT trying to hurry through in order to extract or list the information.  It’s the compelling topic, the repetitions in context, the variations within a narrow set of language, punctuated by rejoinders, fist bumps, smiles and celebration that make this surveying activity so effective in building foundational language.

Next class might begin by inserting the collected favorite flavor info into a graphic organizer, in this case perhaps a bar graph with flavors as column titles, and student names sorted into each column.  This visual anchor allows us to reconfirm as we build the graph, review, count, sort, compare, and, on the literacy side, decode low stress/hi success names of students and flavors. 

For more on using visual anchors read my previous post, Starting the Year #2:  Extending CI While Staying In Bounds.

For a copy of the Hebrew only ice cream survey Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) and Circling script in this article, but without the English ‘How-to’ commentary, click here.

Starting the Year #2: Extending CI While Staying In Bounds

For Part 1 of this post on student surveys and PQA, click here.

How can we get lots of repetition on hi-frequency language, so that the students develop a practical Hebrew foundation?  Here are some ideas for after you take an oral survey of student interest, such as ‘Which ice cream do you love?’  (See an extensive Hebrew menu of  ice cream flavors here.)

Layer on a Visual Anchor:

When we casually ask the same question to each class member and orally collect personalized survey information, massaging it into a compelling conversation, we can later insert this new-found information into a graphic organizer.  This allows us to focus on a visual anchor as we review the community’s preferences, and since we’re doing it with a new visual, it feels fresh and novel.

Simple visual aids may include:  

  • A labeled T-chart
  • a bar graph
  • a tally chart
  • a simple list

We can easily draw this on the white board at the front of the room.  We can get fancy, adding colorful artwork, borders, graphics, etc.

Then, we review and discuss (same or next class) based on that class-specific visual.  No extra work for teacher – we build the graphic in real time or after the initial conversation.  We may need to think through what we’ll want the info graphic to look like, and prepare, print or draw a template.

We may also choose to create a paper template, so that each student can track the data as it’s collected – but wait to do this until after the students demonstrate a secure foundation in basic Hebrew – several hours/months into the school year.

By the end of this session of circling, interviewing and asking details using repetitive language, comparing and contrasting preferences, restating and re-telling in slightly different phrasing (“They love; they do not love”), and presenting the data visually in a graphic organizer, you’ll be ready to add some new questions to the mix.

How many students love Tutti-Frutti?  

How many girls love ice cream that has chocolate?

NB:  Make sure the ?כמה interrogative poster from my Hebrew Corpus Word Wall is posted for Pause-Point-Slow.

Another easy visual way to anchor a survey discussion is via a slideshow – in this case various internet images of different ice cream flavors.  (Requires projector and screen).  Simply narrate your way through the slides, asking questions and making comments as you flip through.

Experiment with different formats, beginning with those that seem easiest for you to execute, allowing you and the class to remain comprehensible and interesting.

Literacy Extensions:

*To practice writing their names while creating a simple bar graph, have each student write/copy his/her Hebrew name  (from a prepared slide or chart) on a sticky note and ‘vote’ in the appropriate survey column. (In this case the column titles will be preferred flavors of ice cream.)

*Create a brief reading on the board in real time by writing sentences from the discussion and model reading them aloud.  Ask students to join in if they want, otherwise visually track the words as you read.

*Write up a ‘class story’ – a series of patterned statements based on the conversation –  and a sentence about each student -and read it to the class.  

Kids of many ages (not just the youngest!) love to illustrate their class story page – experiment with giving a few minutes/crayons to do this – the resulting ‘book’ is a lot more inviting to read.

Writing/Dictation:

*Point to written class list of students’ names – this is good to have on chart paper for all to see and decode throughout the year. 

Do target language dictations on dry erase boards, (lowers anxiety), one sentence at a time.  We want sound and meaning already in their heads when they come to a writing/reading task.  Let’s say we want to dictate these 3 sentences:


1.  Alisa loves Moose Tracks ice cream.      .עליזה אוהבת גלידת מוס טרקס

2.  Talia has an allergy to chocolate.            .לטליה יש אלרגיה לשוקולד

3.  Gavriel loves Mint Chip.              .גבריאל אוהב גלידת שוקולד מנטה  

The purpose of dictation, for our setting:

  • Associating sound and meaning to the letters/ written word
  • Hebrew cursive letter formation (muscle memory)
  • Building student confidence

Follow the dictation protocol below, keeping dictated sentences short and simple to guarantee student success.  

Before starting, briefly discuss behavioral expectations regarding dry erase board/materials use.

For example:

We respect these materials, insuring that they can be used again and again by:

  • not tapping, scratching, doodling, throwing, etc.
  • demonstrating we understand my instructions

Back to the task: 

Students write the one sentence they hear on lined side of dry erase board.  

Hebrew alphabet poster -block and manuscript letters -at front of room.

Teacher repeats the sentence aloud as requested.

Teacher circulates and notices non-standard inventive spelling/letter formation.  It’s OK!  Spelling emerges over time from reading.  It probably won’t be accurate to start.  Resist your impulse to correct student work!

After students have attempted to write it, teacher models/writes correct sentence in large cursive print on the board.  Students are noticing how you form your letters, so write big, slowly and clearly here.  We give them a minute to compare their version with yours, noticing differences, then students copy the correct version below their initial attempt.  Afterwards they may erase, or if they want and there’s room, go on to another dictated comprehensible sentence.  

Briefly point out ‘final letters’ in Hebrew, or other surface features.  

Students look at the 2 versions, then erase or continue same protocol for next sentence.

See my related blog post:  http://cmovan.edublogs.org/2016/09/22/demystifying-hebrew-literacy-part-1/

Practice Hebrew classroom survival phrases by having students follow your commands:

  • pick up/put down boards/markers
  • uncap/close markers
  • write/ erase

By laying in these instructions, you insure that you can conduct subsequent dictation activities entirely in Hebrew.  All repeated class routines, such as materials distribution and collection, are worthy of laying in in the target language, since they will come up over and over again.  Materials management is a great way to provide concrete language and allow students to demonstrate their understanding with a performance task.

Read about Classroom Hebrew survival phrases here:

http://cmovan.edublogs.org/2017/03/21/survival-for-the-comprehensible-hebrew-classroom/

and find my Classroom Survival Expressions when you scroll down on the Hebrew Corpus.

Teach, write, establish meaning and point to the Hebrew words, “Please repeat/Again” so that students can self-advocate whenever necessary.

I recommend not sacrificing more than 5-7 minutes at the end of CI class time for dictation.  It serves as a brain break & alternative literacy activity, and to help develop recognition of the letters and their formation, but focus on your primary goal of driving acquisition by providing a flood of compelling, comprehensible input. 

Everything I learned about Dictation, before trying it and tweaking it in my own elementary classroom, I learned from master CI French instructor, Ben Slavic.  See his Dicteé protocol, here.

Summary Of T/CI-Aligned Practices:

All this personalized surveying at the beginning of the school year and throughout, serves several crucial purposes in the Comprehensible Input framework:

  1. Provides lots of connected, compelling, tailored Comprehensible Input at the discourse level
  2. Provides massed exposure through repetition of hi-frequency practical language
  3. Slowly builds students’ stamina for processing conversational /discourse-level Ivrit
  4. Builds a community that is warm & playful, where each individual feels known and therefore safe
  5. Establishes class norms and behaviors, by pointing them out/modeling norms if/when there are infractions
  6. Sends a strong message that in this class, we communicate primarily in Hebrew – that you understand – to build our Hebrew skills

Caveat On Survey Questions:

We want interesting info without being too personal or potentially sensitive (asking abt parents if there is divorce; asking about a pet when someone’s dog just died, etc.)

SOME SAFE TOPICS FOR INTEREST SURVEYS:

(Advise older students that only vetted and appropriate topics will be included in this class)

-Favorite ice cream flavor ‘Which ice cream do you love?’, fruit, etc.

-Favorite childhood picture book

-Do you have a pet/ pet name – non pet owners can pick a dream pet (including fantasy pets – here we offer cognates like dragon, flamingo, gorilla, etc.)

-TV – possibilities are endless but must be appropriate – train your Ss to suggest only ideas appropriate for a the setting – no violence, romance, swearing, etc.

-Least/favorite – restaurant; chores; vegetables 

-(Least)/favorite book/movie; or character (or any art form)

-(Least)/favorite place to hang out (specific) other than school

-(Least)/favorite music type/song/artist

-Dream vacation – where (specific)?

-Is your room neat or messy?  ?החדר שלך מסודר או יש בלאגן

-Secret talent

-Secret fear (all secrets can be invented – this is Hebrew class – where anything is possible!)

Again, we the teacher are very interested in our students’ answers, we are teaching to the eyes, spinning the conversation out of the (sometimes fantasy) ‘facts’ we are collecting – comparing and contrasting – extending the language and getting lots of repetition; recording the info visually and/or in writing – via info graphic and/or a class story.

Here is another survey questionairre you may be able to use – click on “See Inside” above the graphic.

https://teachables.scholastic.com/teachables/books/Student-Interest-Survey-9780439303026_028.html

Whew.  A lot to think about at first.  How much language?  When to establish meaning by writing on the board?  How often to circle, and which parts?  (Go for the verb-containing chunk!)  You will try it, and it will get easier.  Like the language itself, you’ll begin to acquire some practices with automaticity, freeing up your brain space for other concerns.  Your skills will grow!!  The main thing is to get started, give it a try, and watch your students bask and thrive in a warm pool of compelling, comprehensible input!

*Terry Waltz, PhD.  See Hebrew ‘Super 7’ verbs here – scroll down to page 15.

Starting The Year #1: Build A Solid Foundation With PQA

Where to begin?

Starting the year in a proficiency-oriented Hebrew classroom, where we aim to soak our students in compelling and comprehensible messages, can seem like a daunting task, particularly for teachers new to the strategies, and students who haven’t really heard a lot of connected Hebrew-for-communication before.  With any luck, this series of posts will serve as ‘Golden Rails’ to follow, on this first exciting leg of your Teaching with Comprehensible Input (T/CI) journey.

Personalization & Circling Through Surveying

First, select a compelling topic of interest

Criteria:  

  1. Is it developmentally appropriate & compelling for the age group, and topically appropriate for the setting?  
  2. Is it simple, concrete, and can you support it with visuals – gestures, dramatization, sketches, images, props, etc.?

Say I decided to comprehensibly circle the survey question,  “Which ice cream do you love?”  ?איזה גלידה את אוהבת

I might:  

  • Point to the interrogative poster, ?איזה pausing after I say the word
  • Pretend to hold and lick my (imaginary) ice cream cone
  • Draw a sketch of an ice cream cone and an arrow pointing to the scoop – soon after I say the word and gesture its meaning
  • Write the word  גלידה  with the English translation words, ‘ice cream’ clearly below it, in a contrasting color
  • Slowly pause and point, indicating the ‘Super 7’* hi-frequency verb, אוהב/אוהבת  
  • Gesture the ‘love/s’ verb by forming a heart shape with my hands near my heart
  • Check for comprehension, by repeating the Hebrew question, then asking a student, “What am I asking?”

Let’s assume that during the course of my conversation, surveying student after student, I get lots of repetition of similar sentences that contain ‘love’ and it’s negation, ‘doesn’t/don’t love.’

Say I learned from this initial survey question that:

•Tova loves Mint Chocolate Chip

•Gavriel loves Rocky Road

•Alisa loves Moose Tracks, etc.

I can include my own opinion on ice cream, thereby inserting the אני pronoun and voice, as in,

אני לא אוהבת גלידת שוקולד מנטה’

As I ask each of my students’ preferred flavor, I compare and contrast loves and dislikes as I move about the room.

‘Tova, you love Mint Chocolate, but you don’t love Rocky Road?  Class, who loves Rocky Road?   I really love Moose Tracks…and you, Gavriel, do you love Mint…?’  

If I wanted, I could offer cognate flavor choices in advance, writing them on the board and pausing/pointing each time.  

Otherwise, I write down the flavors in Hebrew or English (names of ice cream are not the goal of the lesson, but do offer opportunities for success in decoding.)  

RESOURCE:  Familiarize yourself with many borrowed name flavors written in Hebrew with this Hebrew ice cream menu

These are only a few of the many flavors on the menu!

If your class already has solid letter/sound recognition of the Hebrew alphabet, then you may choose, if possible, to project this ice cream menu and decode it together as a class at the end of the oral surveying phase, (skip over the non-cognate flavors – they won’t have meaning) or print it out.  Alternatively, copy only the direct cognate flavors onto chart paper, making your own more limited but comprehensible menu.

Back to my students and their flavors:

I notice that all three of the above students love ice cream with chocolate in it.  “Ahhh, Tova likes Mint Chip, Gavriel likes Rocky Road and Alisa likes Moose Tracks…they all have chocolate!” – I write the word for ‘has’ in both languages to establish meaning.  I gesture ‘has’  by cupping my open hands side by side as if I’m scooping up water.  I insure comprehension by telling the students that this is my gesture for יש /have/has.

I encourage the students to use the gestures, too, every time they hear the word.

Then I ask the class and/or individual student for confirmation:  

“Class, does Mint Chip ice cream have chocolate?”

“Avi, does Rocky Road ice cream have chocolate?” 

“Ya’akov, does Moose Tracks ice cream have chocolate?”

“Class, does Banana ice cream have chocolate?”  

I can ask about as many flavors that were mentioned in class as I want – following the demonstrated group interest and energy in the room.

Now, I have used two important hi-frequency verbs in context, ‘love/s’ and ‘have/has’ with their negations, ‘doesn’t love,’ and ‘doesn’t have.’  I am gesturing, pausing/pointing and spot-checking for comprehension as I extend a conversation based on the information I’ve collected.  I’m noticing trends in ice cream preference, comparing & contrasting, grouping, counting, and confirming, all within this narrow set of language in use.  

I am staying ‘in bounds.’

I make sure to ask a full question each time;  that way the verb-containing chunks (love/s; has/have) are always repeated.  I gesture the heart shape for ‘loves’ and my hand cupping  ‘have/has’ gesture, whenever the words arise. 

‘Tova loves Mint Chip, yes, Tova?  You love…? Class, she loves Mint Chip but she doesn’t love…Banana?  Tova, do you love Banana?

Class she does love Mint Chip….’

I check for comprehension regularly.  What does ‘יש’ mean?“  “What does this (heart gesture) mean?” 

“What does, גבריאל לא אוהב גלידת בננה  mean?”  

Then I move on to a different student, Ester, and ask her what kind of ice cream Tova likes; ask someone else to confirm Alisa’s favorite ice cream, etc. In this way I am constantly recycling the language, checking to make sure the information was understood, and extending the conversation to include more participants.  All the while we are communicating and learning about each other as we build our light-hearted community.

I continue comparing and contrasting students and their favorite ice cream until I’ve surveyed everyone in class.  I may introduce the connecting words, ‘but,’ and ‘also/too’ as in, ‘I like Moose Tracks ice cream, but Ya’akov loves lemon ice cream.’  Or, ‘Ya’akov loves lemon ice cream and Smadar loves it, too.’

Rule of thumb:  If it feels automatic and effortless for the students to understand, then you are in the Sweet Spot.  Resist the temptation to pile on more new language.  Wait ’til next time.  And these new words will have to undergo the full treatment:

-Using them in context

-Writing them on the board with translation, to establish meaning

Pause-point-slow
-Use a gesture / image / prop

-Comprehension check

Some students like fruity flavors.  I ask Talia if she (also) likes Moose Tracks.  I establish meaning of the word ‘also,’ pausing and pointing to it on the board with each subsequent use, and doing comprehension checks intermittently.  She exclaims (in English – no worries) that she’s ‘allergic to chocolate.’  !היא אלרגית לשוקולד

Hurray! a direct cognate.  I walk over and tell Tova, Gavriel and Alisa the news – each separately, that Talia doesn’t like their specific ice cream – because she’s allergic (If you choose to use it, establish meaning of ‘because’ on the board in both languages).

How long the oral survey/classroom banter carries on depends on your growing skill in maintaining interest and understanding.  We try to reach all the kids in the class in one session, so pace yourself accordingly!

In the next Starting the Year post, learn how to be repetitive without seeming repetitious as you circle your way through PQA….Or is it repetitious without seeming repetitive?  

Story Extensions: 2. Student Dramatization

This article is the third in a series about creating comprehensible stories.  For the first two posts start here.

By delivering compelling comprehensible input to our students, we allow them to understand messages in the target language so effortlessly that they ignore the ‘delivery truck,’ or language of instruction.  (Thanks to Ben Slavic for the metaphor!)  They are so focused on the meaning of the story, the picture, the artifact, the conversation, or the drama, that it’s delivery language recedes to the background.

In this post, I describe how my ongoing story about Guácala, the sushi-loving T-Rex, takes on deeper meaning, and allows for more contextualized and compelling repetition of the message, through student dramatization.

Recall how I had the puppet visit two local eateries before ending up at the ubiquitous Costco, where he found the object of his gastronomical affections.

A novel twist that allows my young charges to see the dramatic action while I narrate it in real time involves student actors, who move about the drama- conducive classroom for the ‘audience’ to enjoy.  In such a space, I’ve jettisoned all desks and tables (haven’t had any for 5 years) to carve out acting zones.  (On the rare occasion where writing/drawing surfaces are required, we use clipboards at our seats.)

Before my first graders arrived, I posted an 8.5″ x 11″ poster of each of my three locales – the two local restaurants, and Costco – whose iconic photos I found on Google Images – in three distinct areas of my classroom.

Next I asked, as I peered into the group, “Where is Guácala the dinosaur?  We need a dinosaur actor!”  I enlisted help while flourishing an irresistible Dollar $tore dino hat.  To involve a few more kids, I ‘hired’ one to ‘work’ at Costco, plus the two other restaurants; four actors in total.

I trained my actors on the spot, insisting that they do exactly and only as I say.  (I often brandish my sparkly sunglasses and golden Emmy during this actor training time.)

First, Guácala stood near the Little Ricky’s (LR) restaurant poster, with a kid in a waiter’s apron next to him.  As I recounted the story, I moved dino’s hand to rub his tummy when he was hungry; modeled when and how to stomp in frustration when the waiter said ‘no’ to the question, “Does LR have sushi?” and where to run fast (or walk slowly), when it was time to try another location.  The kids were captivated and time stood still!  We were in a state of FLOW* – where language disappeared, and all that mattered was the hungry dinosaur’s quest for sushi.

Next our audience shifted its gaze to the opposite wall, where our hero ascertained from a chef at Marco Roma pizzeria that sushi wasn’t available there either – with a scene like the one at LR.  Finally, the children turned again toward Costco – which, like a shining castle on a hill, sold sushi by the commercial roll-top refrigerator case-full.

The episode ends with a dramatic “EL FIN” (i.e., ‘The End’) followed by hearty applause for the actors, and enthusiastic appeals to “Do it again!” with a different batch of volunteer actors.

Note that the student actors need not talk or recite lines while ‘onstage-‘ my narrating while they act stimulates the listeners’ language acquisition, as the words and actions match up in their unconscious minds.

What was my language teacher role in this playful escapade?  To insure that my young students effortlessly understood the story language (i.e., all the teaching leading up to the dramatization); to manage the classroom by laying in and lovingly holding my students responsible for appropriate behavior.  Oh, and printing/posting posters of 3 locations.

What a delightful way to spend the afternoon!  As the school week draws to a close, my first graders will spend the last class segment acting and re-enacting the Dino Loves Sushi skit again and again!

Like sushi itself – try it, you’ll love it and you’ll want more!

Story Extensions: 1. Visual Reinforcement

In my recent Basic Quest Story blogpost, I recounted my first comprehensible input (Spanish) story from a few years ago, about a sushi-loving T-Rex named “Guácala,” (which means, “Yuk” in Spanish).  I have dedicated over 90 minutes of (1st grade) instruction to the drama SO FAR, and the kids show no signs of story fatigue.  To be fair, our 3x week 30 minute lessons also include a greeting and leave-taking segment, a circle-time name tag-passing snippet, and at least two brain bursts or breaks, in which the kids get up and move according to my Spanish instructions.

To review, first we nailed the simple story orally over the course of a few class periods and came up with these layered on details, with the help of my very special puppet:

There is a dinosaur.  His name is Guácala.
Guácala, the dinosaur is hungry.
Guácala doesn’t like:  Pizza, yogurt, steak, bananas, or broccoli.  ¡Guácale!  [Yuk!]
Guácala likes sushi.  Only sushi.

The children heard tons of variations of what the T-Rex likes and doesn’t like, fed the dinosaur, pet him, watched him reject food, exclaimed, “¡Guácala!” with and for him, until they were clear on his dislikes and preference.

Next, I ushered the 1st graders to the chair zone of my classroom, where I have a SmartBoard/screen.  There, I showed and narrated a picture story slideshow (which you can access here), ascertaining more personalized details.

Having worked in the community for a long time, I am quite familiar with popular eating and shopping destinations.  I incorporated these into the slideshow to model the inclusion of details with group appeal.

On the cover slide, I have a clipart image of Guácala with some sushi, and some ‘thumbs up’ icons, as an opportunity to review the gesture for ‘likes.’

Subsequent slides pair new images with prior oral language.  This time, the dinosaur says, “I’m hungry,” and “I love sushi.”

To add episodic repetition and an opportunity for movement in this Basic Quest Story,  the dino goes to three different locations to attempt to solve his problem and find sushi.  First, he goes to the most popular local family eatery, Little Ricky’s.  This restaurant adventure affords the opportunity to try some (cognate) foods Little Ricky’s  (LR) has on their menu.  Here I ask real questions, whose answers only my 1st grade experts know, like:  Do you like LR?  Does LR have:  Pizza, steak, tortillas, etc.?  Does the dino like pizza, steak, tortillas?  Does LR have sushi?  Does Guácala like LR?  Is Guácala happy?

(NOTE:   If I so chose, I could have incorporated other forms of travel to LR – i.e. Guácala walks/swims/runs/marches/rides a bus/submarine/motorcycle to Little Ricky’s….more on padding the basic story in a later post?)

Next, I had Guácala go to the local pizzeria, Marco Roma, in search of sushi.  Many pre- and emergent readers recognized the restaurant logo from my slide and were therefore able to successfully identify it!

Same treatment as for Little Ricky’s – but an entree list including pizza, salad, spaghetti and ravioli.  All cognates.

Finally, Guácala goes (drives his minivan?) to Costco (where all roads lead.) The kids love the very mention of Costco, and glaze over with memories of bite-size samples.

Then comes the $64,000.00 question:

Does Costco have sushi?

It turns out, they do!  And lots and lots of it!  Guácala is very, very happy!  He and his dino friend (Barney) eat and eat and eat…and in the last slide, two dinosaurs are wading and sipping in a shallow lake, because after gorging on sushi, they’re thirsty.

More on more dino shenanigans to come!

Anatomy of a Basic Quest Story a la CI

I hope this blogpost finds you well and off to a great start in your comprehensible Hebrew classrooms.  Here’s to a year filled with health, love, joy, meaning and Hebrew language acquisition!

If you are new to teaching with comprehensible input (T/CI), the strategies outlined and referred to in many of my other blog posts represent a real shift in teacher-student interactions and classroom practices, and may take a while to sink in.  Go easy on yourself, knowing that whatever procedures you employ that align with Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research and interesting, understandable messages, provided by a ‘language parent’ and for language learner/s, are probably better than anything you served up with a textbook, verb chart or thematic vocabulary list!

Many a Comprehensible Input teacher has concluded, “A bad day teaching with CI is still better [more fun and effective] than the Old Way!”

When I first migrated to T/CI strategies, I used a puppet to ask a basic Quest Story* in my 1st grade Spanish class. [I was so excited by the kids’ reaction that I repeated it up through grade 4 – and they all LOVED it!]   I chose the puppet carefully – he’s a gold-skinned red-mouthed T-Rex with pointy teeth – years ago my brother gave him to one of my own sons as a birthday present.  I considered good ole’ Rex a sentimental amulet who would protect me from flopping –  and he did not disappoint.  I decided to ask the simplest and most concrete story for my little ones, so I planned my props beforehand.

With my pretend mini-grocery cart loaded with plastic cognate foods beside me, I introduced the dinosaur to my group. (Dinosaur, as it happens, is a cognate in both Spanish and Hebrew, as are the foods I’m using in this example.)  Here’s an English translation of the story I built, entirely in the Target Language (TL – in this case Spanish):

ME:  Class!  What is it?  Is it a flamingo?  [No.]  No, class!   It’s not a flamingo!  That’s crazy!  It’s obviously not a flamingo! [negate/confirm]

Hmmm, class is it a toucan?  [No!]

I begin to walk around the circle, allowing the students a closer look.  Some pet the dinosaur.  They are entering my magical story-world… I roar playfully at some of the kids… peck others on the cheek with the dino’s snout.

ME:  Class, it’s not a flamingo and it’s not a toucan.  It’s a gorilla!

‘NO!!’ they shout.  ‘It’s a dinosaur!’

ME:  Ahh, it’s a dinosaur?  [Yes!!]  Ahh.  It IS a dinosaur.  [confirm] Hmmm…

I have the puppet whisper in my ear, shushing the class to hear better.  You can hear a pin drop!

ME:  Class!  The dinosaur has a problem!  (I place my open hands on either side of my chin.  They know/I’ve trained them to answer this gesture with the rejoinder, “Oh, no!  Oh, no!” See rejoinders on the Hebrew Corpus.)

ME:  Yes, class.  The dinosaur is hungry!

I rub my own stomach – then I rub the puppet’s – then I ask a comprehension check question:  I ask, ‘What is “Tiene hambre?”‘  “He’s hungry!” they answer chorally.  I ask the dino, directly, ‘Are you hungry?’  He whispers in my ear and I confirm back to the group:  “Yes, class!  The dinosaur is hungry!”  (Mental checklist:  So far I’ve used ‘It’s a…’ as well as ‘is hungry’ and their negations.)  

Note:  All this classroom banter, aside from the comprehension check/answer is in the Target Language (TL).

ME:  Class, am I hungry, or is the dinosaur hungry?   [The dinosaur!]  Oh, I’m not hungry!  The dino is hungry!

Next I have the dino taste a selection of foods.

Here comes the last new targeted chunk for the time being.  I take out a piece of plastic steak from the grocery cart.  The kids shift and anticipate the puppet devouring the meat!

ME:  Class, does the dinosaur like steak? (I gesture with a thumbs up, and do a comprehension check).  [YES!!]

I place the ‘meat’ in the dinosaur’s bright mouth.  He ‘chews’ on it for a couple of seconds…and then spits it onto the floor with great fanfare, exclaiming, “¡Guácala!”    “Yuk!!”    “!!איכס”

The kids find this ill-mannered and unpredictable creature…funny!  They begin to chuckle and whisper!

KIDS:   She has other stuff to feed it in her cart!

ME:  Class, does the dinosaur like the steak?   [No].  No, he doesn’t like steak!  (The word ‘carnivore’ is a cognate in Spanish AND Hebrew, so I throw it in for kicks…)  Is the dinosaur a carnivore?

I ask the puppet directly, ‘Do you like steak?’  He spits it out again and this time some of the kids are saying, “¡Guácala!” for him.  Now that’s a high-interest rapidly acquired word!

ME:  Hmmm, class, does the dinosaur like…(pasta/spaghetti/yogurt/melon/chocolate/banana/hamburger)?

You can take your pick of the cognate foods – there’s a list here on my Hebrew Corpus.

I have him try each new food in turn, allowing my hungry friend to chew, munch or bite before dramatically spitting it out on the floor, with an emphatic, “¡Guácala!”   (“Yuk!!”    “!!איכס”)  The kids find it hysterical!

I lay the rejected foods, one by one, in a neat line before me, for later revisiting.

(I highly recommend you follow the energy in the room – if the students are patient and willing to continue feeding different foods to dino, then keep it going!  These are opportunities to keep continuous contextualized and compelling chunks of language pouring into their ears and brains, with plenty of repetition!  Set aside your own reaction to the repetition, and respond to their interest….)

As the end of class nears, I insure closure.  Either I decide before-hand, or in the moment determine the fussy T-Rex’s favored meal.  Best case scenario – as in the dino story- the idea comes from a student suggestion.

So far I have used most of my 30 minutes to provide compelling & comprehensible input at my students’ level, and they are eating out of my hand!!  Everyone who wants a chance to touch or feed the hungry dino gets one, and I wrap language around each interaction, making sure to use my students’ names.  Everyone likes to hear his/her name!

I hear a kid suggest a funny idea…so I rummage around for my set of rubber sushi at the bottom of my grocery cart.

ME:  Class, does the dinosaur like…sushi???

There are whispers all around.  “I love/hate sushi!”  “Sushi is my favorite/is disgusting!”

Rex tears into a California Roll and chomps thoughtfully.  Anticipation hangs in the air…

ME/REX:  “Mmmmm, !Sí!  Me gusta el sushi!”  [Yes!  I like sushi!]

He roars to the group!  I give volunteers the opportunity to feed him sushi.  He gobbles noisily.  I narrate (in Spanish) each interaction in the TL.

ME/REX:  Dino likes sushi!  Mmm, thank you, José!   It’s my favorite, thanks, Marina!

He eats and eats and eats and eats…because he is very, very, very, very hungry, and he really, really, really, really likes sushi!

As the group files out of class, a student gleefully offers, “¡Señora Shapiro!  We should name the dinosaur, ‘¡Guácala!’ because he says it so much!”

Meet Guácala, the main character of my first ever T/CI story.  Here he is, contemplating the steak:

In my next post, I’ll talk about ways to extend this simple Quest Story and keep the excitement going, even for older students!

 

*From thewritersworkshop.net:  “…The goal for the Quest [Story is to] encourage a sense of seeking, questioning and curiosity, propelling readers forward into the narrative. It gives a structure and suspense to a piece that might otherwise be flat and static.”