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.