Friday, March 8, 2013

"English" class and language classes

Last summer I spent a few days with a childhood friend, Becca Lynch, who's now a Spanish teacher in Maine. I told her I'd been thinking a lot about how to teach reading, I'd been worrying that kids weren't reading enough, etc.--and she said, Oh, that sounds a lot like what I've been thinking about recently with my own Spanish teaching.

Becca told me that over the past few years she had modified her teaching approach to try to focus mainly on making sure her kids heard or read as much comprehensible Spanish as possible. Instead of explicitly teaching a grammar rule, or a verb tense, or whatever, she tried to create experiences in her classroom that would allow for these aspects of the language to be heard in a meaningful and understandable context. This "comprehension-based instruction" had radically improved her teaching practice, and she was enthusiastic about the conferences, books and blogs that had helped her figure out how to do it.

Becca often used the phrase "comprehensible input", a phrase I recognized, and we soon figured out that one of the gurus of her style of language teaching, Stephen Krashen, was also one of the proponents of independent reading in English class. I knew that Krashen had done most of his work on learning foreign languages, and I had read a lot of Krashen's articles (and his book, "The Power of Reading") about reading, but I didn't know anything about how these ideas were actually put into practice in, say, a high school Spanish class. My friend sent me a couple of links the week after we saw each other, but I was pressed for time and didn't really look at them.

Last week, Becca sent along another link, this time to a blog by a Spanish teacher. When I looked at it, I thought, wow--I have to talk to the World Languages people at Leafstrewn! And it renewed my desire to make my classroom full of meaningful reading and writing--comprehensible input.

I guess my questions are: what do World Language classrooms look like at Leafstrewn? (I need to come visit some!) Are my WL colleagues focused on this "Comprehensible Input" idea, or does it seem like old hat or like a new gimmick? How does teaching reading comprehension in English class relate to teaching comprehension of Spanish in Spanish class? What about "TPRS" (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling")--is anybody doing that? What about the "embedded reading" idea (, in which students start with an easy version of a text, and then read gradually more complex versions--do any Leafstrewn WL teachers use that? Could "embedded reading" be done in an English class? And so on.

I haven't gotten any answers yet, but I need to start asking some colleagues.

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