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Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

June 10, 2016
by LTSblog
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Faculty post Anna Mikhaylova – Heritage language learners

Heritage language learners in language classrooms – Anna Mikhaylova

A widely cited broad definition of heritage speakers in the US by Valdés (2001) includes individuals raised in homes where a language other than English is spoken, who are to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language and, who also have a personal interest or involvement in an ancestral language. Polinsky and Kagan (2007) offer a narrow definition of heritage language as the language which was sequentially first, but may not have been completely acquired due to the speaker’s shift to another language as their dominant means of communication. The latter distinction suggests that, like foreign language learners, heritage speakers may differ in their proficiency levels. Kagan and Dillon (2004) outline the following “matrix” for programs targeting heritage language learners: proper placement; time on task; programmatic rigor; specific instructional materials; an uninterrupted, comprehensive curriculum; instructors trained in heritage language acquisition; a multi-year sequence; consideration of the home/community native speaker environment; and a metalinguistic framework that raises awareness of the importance of grammatical accuracy and register (p.100).

The National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA has many useful resources for both teachers and linguists interested in working with heritage language learners. One of the center’s big projects, led by Maria Carreira and Olga Kagan was a national survey of 1732 heritage speakers of 22 different heritage languages across the United States. As a result, the following general profile of an adult heritage language (HL) learner studying the heritage language at the university level was published in 2011. Such a learner (1) acquired English in early childhood, after acquiring the HL; (2) has limited exposure to the HL outside the home; (3) has relatively strong aural and oral skills but limited literacy skills; (4) has positive HL attitudes and experiences; and (5) studies the HL mainly to connect with communities of speakers in the United States and to gain insights into his or her roots.

While some universities do have classes devoted specifically to heritage language learners or even whole programs, like the Spanish Heritage Language Program here at the University of Oregon, more often heritage language learners find themselves in the same classroom with foreign language learners of the same language. Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 8.33.04 AM

One of the differences (an assumed advantage) observed for heritage language speakers of various languages over foreign language learners is that the former are exposed to the target language naturalistically from birth in family/community contexts while the latter usually post-puberty and in instructed contexts. From this often assumed definitional difference stem other common observations about heritage speakers being usually stronger in oral skills than in literacy-based reading and writing, having a stronger cultural connection, a larger vocabulary and greater focus on meaning than on form in language use, while second language speakers are believed to have stronger reading and writing skills and metalinguistic knowledge and greater attention to form with noticeably weaker oral fluency. While, unfortunately to date there are not too many empirical studies that test effectiveness of instruction, but those that do find that instruction is useful for both types of learners.

Based on these observations, a number of scholars (Beaudrie, Ducar, and Potowski (2014) among others) have called for different or at least differentiated instructional and research methodology approaches targeting the two types of learners. For example, Kagan and Dillon (2009) suggest that macro-based (top-down) and discourse based teaching is more suitable for HL learners in instruction of grammar and vocabulary than the bottom-up grammar/vocabulary to function teaching often used in L2 contexts. Carreira & Kagan (2011) argue for a community-based curriculum, which incorporates materials and types of activities that help learners connect to their experiences in the U.S.

References:
Beaudrie, S., Ducar, C. & Potowski, K. 2014. Heritage Language Teaching: Research and Practice. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education.
Carreira, Maria. 2011. Formative assessment in HL teaching: Purposes, procedures, and practices. The Heritage Language Journal, 8(1).
Carreira, M. & Kagan, O. (2011) The Results of the National Heritage Language Survey: Implications for teaching, curriculum design, and professional development. Foreign Language Annals, Volume 44, No 1. pp. 40-64.
Kagan, 0., & Dillon, K. (2004). Heritage speakers’ potential for high-level language proficiency. In H. Byrnes & H. Maxim (Eds.), Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to college programs (pp. 99-112). Boston: Heinle/Thomson.
Kagan, O., & Dillon, K. (2009). The professional development of teachers of heritage language learners: A matrix. Bridging contexts, making connections, 155-175.
Polinsky, Maria, and Olga Kagan. 2007. Heritage Languages: In the ‘Wild’ and in the Classroom. Language and Linguistics Compass 1/5: 368–395
Valdes, G. (2001). Heritage language students: Profiles and possibilities. In Peyton, J.K., Ranard, D.A., and McGinnis, S. (eds.), Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource. McHenry, IL The Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems. pp. 37-78

May 24, 2016
by LTSblog
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Faculty Post Keli Yerian – Gestures in the Classroom

imagesThe spontaneous gestures people use while speaking have attracted more and more attention from watchful researchers across disciplines in the past decades. What can gestures reveal about the cognitive processes of speakers? How might they aid speakers to communicate and interact with others? Can gestures help us teach and learn?

As we teachers know, it’s always a good idea for us to watch ourselves on video (though it’s not always easy!). One benefit is to see how our gestures may be helping or hindering our teaching. Gestures can facilitate teaching in many ways, such as by illustrating an action or a metaphor, clarifying directions for tasks, or pointing out something in the room. Some gestures can be consciously planned, but many can be simply allowed to emerge naturally. Language learners will be grateful for these visual clues if they are engaging and informative – film yourself and see what you think!

As a fun exercise, see if you can guess what Javid is saying during these short GIFs from a recent, unrehearsed microteaching session he co-taught with classmate Juli here at UO a few weeks ago. Match the lines of transcript with the GIFs (they are not in the right order now). Click on each GIF to see it in action. Answers are given at the bottom of the post.

  • “Oftentimes it’s difficult for us to remember…”
  • “So these words are all signal words…”
  • “Please stand up”
  • “I approached the door…”
  • “In pairs, go to the boards here”
  • “That was in the past”

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Answers:

  1. “I approached the door…”
  2. “Please stand up”
  3. “That was in the past”
  4. “Oftentimes it’s difficult for us to remember…”
  5. “In pairs, go to the boards here”
  6. “So these words are all signal words…”

For more on this fascinating topic, read this review article on gesture in language teaching and learning by Jane Orton (2007): http://bit.ly/1s8U4qT

 

May 11, 2016
by megt
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Faculty Post: Laura Holland

Author’s Note: I have used films in my classes since I began teaching English Language in the 1980s. I use and have developed materials for both film clips and whole movies with great success. This teaching tip focuses on using film clips to spark discussion, study grammar, prepare debates, and practice pronunciation, stress and intonation and more.

Film clip + storytelling + chanting = engaged listening/speaking practice

Laura G. Holland

lgh@uoregon.edu

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 Teachers have at their disposal now a myriad of authentic materials from which to develop interesting and engaging integrated activities for their students. The briefest film clip can be developed into hours of meaningful classroom lessons that allow students to share their personal stories and hear those of their peers, all the while developing higher order thinking skills. Transcripts from the film clips can be used to focus on grammar, vocabulary, and all areas of pronunciation and stress in addition to content. They can also be used to develop extended chants that weave together focused fun-drill practice and employ techniques described by Charles Curran and Jennybelle Rardin and more recently Scott Thornbury as “Backwards Build-Up” and “Back Chaining” respectively, in addition to other traditional and non-traditional drilling practices that highlight message shift through varying intonation.

Whether you are responsible for your entire curriculum or simply want to supplement the curriculum you are required to teach, try some of the following ways to engage and motivate your students both in and out of class

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« Show a film clip »

Choose a film clip appropriate for your level and age of students. Keep it short, 5 minutes or less. Use the theme as a “springboard” for discussion. You can use discussion cards, questions posed on a PowerPoint slide, bag strip questions, questions posed orally or written on the board, whatever is most appropriate to your Student Leaning Outcomes (SLOs). Get students telling their stories and talking about their own life experiences. They can discuss situations about people they know or have heard of, anything to spark their engagement. Spend less time on comprehension questions and go directly to higher order thinking questions and tasks, incorporating activities that assume comprehension but create more meaningful communication right from the start.

« Discussions and Story-Telling »

Topics that my students enjoy discussing and sharing their opinions about: Food, Sports, Dance, Music, Movies and TV, Superstitions and Luck, Scars (every scar has a story), Tattoos and Plastic Surgery, Outdoor activities, Friendship, Family, Controversial Topics, Travel, Holidays, Pastimes, and so on. Discussions can be standing or seated, in pairs or small groups. You can use any of the methods noted above for posing the discussion questions (DQs).

« Debates and Discussions »

Choose a topic from the film, your textbook, the news or other medium. Have Ss sit in groups, fluency circles, standing or seated face-to-face or other. Assign roles so that Ss argue points of view (POVs) that may not be their own, working in pairs to create the most valid arguments.

 « Chanting »

Create your own chants using sentences from the film/video clips, sentences from the textbook, and so on. Add in extended practice and variations highlighting them in bold to show they are not from the original “text.” Give your students practice with the differing messages that changes in intonation create, as well as the ability to “feel” how stress works in English.

« Transcripts »

Use transcripts from the films (create them yourself for better quality and number each line for easier reference), and do grammar transformations, for example: take all the present tense verbs and put them in past tense, making all necessary time marker changes; change all negative lines into positive and vice versa, all statements into questions and vice versa, note synonyms and antonyms, find more formal/informal ways to express line “12,” and so on. Have students practice pronunciation and intonation using “Creative Computer” as described by Rardin et. al. Ask Ss to paraphrase, summarize, give a title to the scene, choose a different ending, etc. Ask students to look at line “7” (for example), and discuss with a partner why the speaker used that verb form to express her ideas or to state his opinion. This helps students understand the meaning of the grammatical forms and why native speakers chose specific ones to express their ideas.

Moonstruck movie poster

Citations

Curran, Charles, A. (1976). Counseling-learning in Second Language Teaching. U.S. Apple River Press.

Rardin, Jennybelle P.; Tranel, Daniel D.; Tirone, Patricia L.; Green Bernard D. (1988). Education in a New Dimension: The Counseling-Learning Approach to Community Language Learning, U.S. Counseling-Learning Publications.

Thornbury, Scott. (1997). About Language. New York. Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, Scott. (2005). How to teach speaking. Harlow, England: Longman.

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