The Blog

Embedded listening

Are you subscribed to the CASLS weekly newsletter? If not, go here and sign up now, then come back.  Every Monday you’ll get quick resources and bite-size, research-packed learning delivered to your inbox.

One such week a listening activity caught my eye.  The activity was adapted from an activity on Lanternworld (ESL) and with it, CASLS was encouraging us to go beyond the common cloze activity in which “students are not often encouraged to engage in a metacognitive approach to task completion.”  As I looked at the way they adapted the cloze activity (asking students to predict what goes in the blank, talking about predictions with a peer), I was reminded of the strategy for teaching with comprehensible input of embedded reading, in which students are given sheltered texts that get gradually more complex as students work with them.

Then it hit me – what if we took the principles of embedded reading and created embedded listening?  I’m sure you’ve done aspects of this type of scaffolding with yours students before, but in case it hadn’t occurred to you, as it hadn’t occurred to me, let me help you with a couple of resources.

First, here’s an explanation of the process I’m calling “embedded listening.”

Embedded_listening_frame_pdf__1_page_

 

Process

  1. First, to begin scaffolding the authentic audio, shorten the scrip to short, key phrases specifically aligned with what you are targeting by using the audio source.  Drop the key word and present the cloze as only these key phrases.
  2. Next, students make predictions: what word do they think will fill the blank effectively?  You could switch it up and ask them to be funny with it (but in a way that makes sense).
  3. After making their solo predictions, students pair up and come to an agreement on what they think the word might be.
  4. Now it’s time for a pure proficiency exercise: adding detail.  I loved hearing a presenter (wish I could remember who it was!) talk about how she would ask students to count on their hands how many details they could add: “I like to eat (one finger- action) lots of hamburgers (two – added object) at a restaurant near my house (three – where) with my friends (four – with whom) because they’re the best hamburgers (five – why).  Look at all that detail and complexity that pushes students beyond the simple phrases we so often hear!
  5. Here, students hear the script for the first time – but just the simple phrases, and from you.  You say the phrases once, they write what they hear.
  6. Now give them the whole script.  Feel free to drop more words than what you gave them the first time around, according to what you think their ability and frustration level will be.  Choose whether you will play the audio only twice or three times, or if you’ll let them listen as many times as they want.
  7. At the end, ask for higher order thinking, regardless of the level.  Can they compare something to their own culture? Express an opinion? Relate their own experience?

EL_Ultimo_Partido_pdf__sampleIntermediate embedded listening: past narration, sports context

I’ll be putting these embedded listening resources out from time to time here on the blog in the resources section as well as on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  This first set of activities is based on a commercial using a lot of past narration in a sports context and is for intermediate students, targeting past narration (preterite / imperfect contrast). Five pages with a key and six activities, including ideas for extension.  Designed to last at least one 50-minute class period, longer if you choose one or more of the extension activities.

Embedded Listening Activity: “Nocilla: El último partido” : $1.50


Tags: , , .

May 27, 2015 0 Comments

Rubrics: How important is task completion?

Forgive me while I brainstorm in public a moment.

rubric screen shotAlmost four years ago I created this rubric, based on the ACTFL guidelines and the Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools’ world language rubric.  I loved it.  It’s one of my most requested resources.  I used it for years.  But as I wrap up my first year out of the classroom and prepare to embark on a new journey (teaching my own Spanish classes for homeschooled students and adult learners), I’ve been reflecting on the good and bad of my rubric and how to redesign it for my newest journey.

It’s not all the same

One of the things I like most about the rubric is also one of the things I like least: it separates a major focus from a minor focus.  That resonates with me.  Not all language use factors are created equal.  Pronunciation in the sense of sounding like a native isn’t a goal or even possible for most learners.  Pronunciation for comprehensibility - that is important.  As language nerds teachers we love to nitpick about the verb endings and adjective agreement, but the fact is that the vast majority of the time, those mistakes do not impede communication.  For my fourth-year students striving for Intermediate High, eliminating those patterns is a goal, but for my first-year novices, it’s just not.  They just want to talk.

So what is it I don’t like?  I always wondered why task completion was listed as a minor focus, almost in such a way that it would not affect the overall grade at all.  I think I started wondering this as I used the rubric more and more to grade AP assessments, and finally exclusively teaching AP.  In that class, task completion was a major focus for sure.  Students couldn’t be very successful on a task if they responded in a way that did not address what they were asked to do.  And as I intend to make my interpretive tasks look more and more like incorporating authentic resources into production tasks (e.g. tell whether or not you agree with the opinion in this meme), regardless of level, yeah, it matters to me.  If you produce a whole bunch of pretty language on the AP but don’t cite a single one of the three sources they asked you to, you’re sunk.  My rubric didn’t give me a good place to say that.

But I liked my rubric.  Other people liked my rubric.  Surely there wasn’t anything wrong with it.  But I knew there was.  And then Melanie reminded me there was.

Is task completion part of life?

As I evaluate what to do with task completion on my rubric, I’m not sure I know what it’s going to look like.  I can tell you it won’t be labeled “minor focus.”  I can tell you what questions I’m asking myself.

  • When someone asks me to do something that requires language, how important is it that I actually answer the question?
  • If I ask a student a question, and they use great language to address something entirely different, how can I give credit for the language effort without letting them get away with avoiding the task?
  • How much will task completion be a part of the life I’m supposed to be preparing my students for?
  • How does the importance of task completion compare to the importance of the language used to complete it?

Rumblings of change

I do know that there are several things I want to keep and things I want to change about my rubric.

What I love:

  • I must have my large feedback box to write anything I can think of to help the student reach his goal.
  • I will still have everything I want on one rubric so I use the same one for every task I assess.
  • Students will still know exactly where they are in regard to the expectation: approaching, meeting, or exceeding.
  • The descriptions will still be full of proficiency-based terminology focused on successful communication.

What I’ll probably change:

  • I don’t like the word “Unsatisfactory.”  Looking for a new way to say, “You’ve gotta try this again before we move on.”
  • Task completion needs a different spot not labeled “minor focus.”  I will probably remove the term “minor focus” altogether.  What other way can I indicate that not all language aspects are created equal?
  • I don’t expect to teach students hitting Advanced Low language and most other teachers don’t either. So I’m kicking that one off to give me more space.
  • I want to make the “language control” descriptions communicate more to the student (those last two on the right confusing, anyone?).
  • I’d like to figure out how to make the rubric more interpersonal-friendly, since this is the mode most of my students actually want most.

As always, turning to the PLN

Isn’t our online community of language teachers fantastic?  I can tell you to whom I’ll be turning for input on my new rubric:

Maybe I’ll even have my new rubric developed in time to share with the teachers at the Camp Musicuentos workshops.  I’ve always worked better with deadlines!

Tags: , , .

May 14, 2015 6 Comments

Add this to your Novice AND Intermediate HW choice options NOW

 

Every once in a while I come across an authentic resource so amazing I have to give it its own blog post to tell you USE THIS RESOURCE.

And then there’s this one, which makes me shout #addthis and #bookmarkthis and THEN it leads me straight into an example of something I was just asking myself about, design-based connected learning.

There is a podcast called Cuentoaventuras that I play for my kids and we love it.  The host, Gastón, tells stories about characters like El lobo feróz and la bruja buena.  He’s such a great storyteller.

Novice

Okay, so it’s an authentic resources with stories, but what makes it such a great resource for novices, perhaps the best authentic audio resource for novices I have ever heard?

At the beginning of every single podcast, Gastón (and his guests like el lobo feróz or his niece or nephew) does… wait for it…

a mail call.

There was a program I listened to when I was a kid that did something similar, starting every broadcast with the host reading mail they’d received from kids, particularly if it was their birthday.  The mail often included a joke.  I’ll never forget when I sent in my letter and they read my note and my joke on the air.  If you’ve heard something like this, you know what these notes include.  On Cuentoaventuras, they’re from kids, and they include:

  • an introduction with name, age, and where the child is from
  • often an introduction to family members
  • often a mention of when the child’s birthday is
  • greetings
  • what characters the child likes and/or what their favorite story is

There are at least three or four of these at the beginning of every podcast.  And it’s not just Gastón reading the letters.  He also takes voice mail greetings in the child’s own voice.  I’m telling you, this stuff is gold.  When have you seen so much language we put in the novice category, all in one place, in a completely authentic context?!

If you add this to your novice-level homework choice options, it’s super easy to ask for a TL comprehension check: Ask the student to give you the name, age, and origin of (three?) greetings read/played along with two other details mentioned (such as siblings or a favorite story).

Intermediate

Of course, intermediate listeners will also benefit from listening to the children’s greetings, especially the jokes (ask for at least one and an explanation of the punch line!), but also they’ll get some engaging input with a lot of manipulating past tenses by listening to at least part of the story.  The stories are about 20 minutes each, and since this is one of only two homework assignments I gave per week, I’d probably ask them to listen to the whole thing and give me a summary.  In particular they’d benefit from one of his cuentos improvisados, where he asks his guest for details almost exactly the way a TPRS story-asker will!

Design-based learning?

If you read my last post you know how interested I’ve been in what a design-based curriculum looks like.  I know what it doesn’t look like – it doesn’t look like making a labeled diorama of a TL culture city (little language, no real-world problem).  But finding this podcast walked me right into what I feel like is a perfect example.  Go to Gastón’s blog for a minute and read what happened to his nephew and then come back.

Do you see what I mean?

Real-world problem: A young boy has been badly hurt and needs encouragement.

Design-based solution: What project can I design to tell this boy in Spanish who I am, where I’m from, what I like to do, and that I hope he gets better soon?  A video, digital poster?  Old-school get-well card?

Ah, now that is a community connection by design.

I’ll end this the way Gastón does: Colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado.

 

Tags: , , , , , , .

May 11, 2015 2 Comments

What a design-based WL program looks like

cassettes

cassettes

If you know me you know I love a good research book, particularly one that tells us in lay language what it’s going to take to help kids succeed in a world we can’t even imagine, one that’s vastly different from the one we grew up in.  The other day, Zoe asked me,

Mami, what’s a cassette?

Ah, the pain in my soul.  And I thought people who liked records were old.

The most eye-opening book I’ve read recently on this topic is Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators.  (If you haven’t read it, click and read my review.  Then come back.  You’ll thank me.)

Of course, as usually happens, since I read the book I’ve also come across articles (like this one on Edutopia) that are finally converting me to the inquiry-based approaches collectively referred to as project-based learning (or problem-based learning, or inquiry-based learning, or problem-based inquiry – you get the idea).  The research is compelling: the 21st century will reward innovators, and innovators come from a background of “deep understanding derived from collaborative methods.”

One of the ways the book and article really got me thinking was to emphasize that this type of learning is best approached and referred to as design-based learning.  So of course, I’ve been mulling over the big question ever since:

What does a design-based world language program look like?

According to the article, design-based learning asks students to “create products that require understanding and application of knowledge.”  That’s really the only answer I have for you.  Other than that, I can simply offer you the questions I’m asking myself, that I think would help me develop a design-based world language program.  In no particular order, they are, from the student’s perspective:

  • What is a problem related to this topic?
  • What is a cultural product related to this topic?
  • How do the relevant products, practices, and perspectives compare to my culture?
  • What can I do to help solve a problem?
  • Can I use what I’m learning to provide a service to the TL community?
  • Can I design something while using the TL and that involves enough TL use to help me develop real communication skills?

And so, it seems to me, those of us interested in design-based learning in the world language classroom want to inspire our students to ask one overarching question:

DESIGN based pic

How’s that for a curriculum development project for the summer?  A group of like-minded teachers would love to help you work through this and other curriculum planning issues at this summers’ two Camp Musicuentos sites, Louisville, Kentucky and Warwick, Rhode Island.  There’s still some very limited space left.

This is a tough question, especially for teachers in novice classrooms.  If you want to know how this could really work, as I do, let me put you in touch with some friends of mine.  Get a discussion going with Don Doehla or Laura Sexton, or ask the global mindset folks over at VIF International what they’re doing about it.

What are you doing to create innovators?

Tags: , , , .

May 5, 2015 1 Comment

Help! Make the Black Box research resources a reality

I haven’t been this excited in a long time.

I recently blogged about how much I still believe that teachers need and want the research coming out of quality linguistics programs around the world.  You answered my poll, you let me know what you think, and some of you volunteered to bring this project to life with me!

It’s going to happen.  You’ll have freely available, easy-to-understand resources that get you the information you need about recent research in how people learn language.  You’ll get it fast and you’ll be able to see immediately how to implement it.  And you’ll get it regularly.

And we need your help.

Ready to help? Visit our GoFundMe project now!

The Musicuentos Black Box is a collection of video podcasts and other media resources designed to address the great disconnect in world language teaching: the lack of effective communication between researchers investigating how people learn language and the teachers working to help those people develop communicative language skills.

These resources are developed by a team of five world language educators.

Meet us

bio full body outside

Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell

Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell is an independent world languages consultant, the blogger behind Musicuentos.com, and the founder of the Musicuentos Black Box Podcast.  She has an M.A. in Linguistics with an emphasis on Second Language Acquisition from the University of South Carolina.  Her research interests include individual differences like motivation and aptitude, comprehensible input methodology, and interaction/output theories.  Her dream SLA conversation would happen over DQ blizzards with Catherine Doughty, Rod Ellis, and Susan Gass.

 

JSB 1 close 325x325 roundedJustin Slocum Bailey

Justin Slocum Bailey, operator of IndwellingLanguage.com, trains learners and teachers worldwide to maximize their joy and success. Himself a gung ho learner and teacher of both modern and classical languages, Justin has also conducted research on Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism at the University of Michigan. These days, his inquiries focus on learner habits, mental representation and processing, and content selection. After hours, Justin enjoys practicing JuJutsu, playing basement soccer with his kids, and watching mysteries with his wife.

 

Karen TKaren Tharrington

Karen Tharrington is a Foreign Language methods instructor for education majors and a Spanish Lecturer at North Carolina State University  She has an M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from NCSU, where she conducted research on Dynamic Assessment, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Digital Learning and Teaching.  Her research interests include leveraging technology for second language acquisition, both online and in the classroom, teaching for cultural competency, and foreign language teacher preparation and support.  She is a believer that great teaching and sound pedagogy go hand-in-hand.  Her dream job would be as a photographer for National Geographic Traveler.

 

AF cropAlbert Fernández

Albert Fernández is a K-8 Spanish teacher in Central Florida and the person behind the FLES CI blog senorfernie.wordpress.com. He has an M.A.T. in Foreign Language Education from the University of South Florida. His research interests include student motivation and success, proficiency-based assessment, second language acquisition, curriculum development, and bilingualism/biliteracy. Outside of foreign language teaching and research, his interests include reading Spanish novels, playing music, and cooking.

 

Trish Arnold

Trish Arnold has been in love with languages since she can remember. She holds Master’s degrees in Information Systems and Spanish and recently earned a certificate in Instructional Technology Integration for World Language Teachers. She has taught Spanish at universities around the Washington, DC area and loves to hear back from students when they’ve used their skills outside the classroom. Currently she works full time at The George Washington University, supporting faculty in their efforts to teach partially- and fully-online. In the meantime, she also is diving into linguistics, which she finds absolutely fascinating. The best part of Trish’s day is getting home to her lovely little family. She also enjoys rainy days curled up with her cats, watching BBC programs or reading a good book.

Why raise money?

With the Musicuentos Black Box resources, we want to meet the need educators face for learning about quality research without spending money they can’t afford on expensive journal articles they can sometimes barely comprehend.  Even trade organization periodicals that sometimes distill this research for us cost money or involve memberships that cost money.  The Black Box resources will never cost a teacher anything.

But they will cost us something, and so we’re asking, if you’re able to help out the project in any amount, to contribute via our GoFundMe project page.  Funds raised in this way will pay for two things:

1) a one year’s subscription to DeepDyve, where we can access otherwise very expensive research articles to summarize and illustrate for you.
2) a one-year 5-user license with VideoScribe.co, the software we will use to make the video podcast.

Any excess funds will be kept for future year’s subscriptions.  None of the five language educators collaborating to bring you the Musicuentos Black Box will receive funds for personal use.

We believe the vast professional learning network of world language teachers on the internet can fund this project fast.  What could your $5 or $10 (or more!) do to put comprehensible research in the hands of teachers worldwide?

Ready to help? Visit our GoFundMe project now!

And then watch and wait.  The first Musicuentos Black Box resources are scheduled to appear on June 1, and should be released at a frequency of about every two weeks after that.

We can’t wait! Can you help?

Muscuentos Black Box Podcast   Indwelling Language Logo with text lighter orange 576

The Musicuentos Black Box podcast is project sponsored by Musicuentos.com and Indwelling Language.

Tags: , , .

April 30, 2015 3 Comments

“Three Before Me” poster in German and French

3 before meAs promised, here are the “Three Before Me” posters for German and French.

Big props to some good friends who helped me out with these translations, Wendy Farabaugh, Don Doehla, and Thomas Sauer.

Download the free posters via Teachers Pay Teachers:

  • German

    Bevor du anfängst mit der Fragerei,
    probier doch erstmal diese drei:
    1) dich selbst
    2) deine Ressourcen
    3) deine Freunde 

  • French

    Si tu m’en demandes,
    je te dirai qu’avant,
    il vaudra mieux 
    que tu te serves
    de trois autres options:
    1) ton propre effort
    2) tes propres ressources
    3) tes propres camarades

Let’s go encourage our students to be lifelong, problem-solving learners!

Tags: , , , .

April 23, 2015 0 Comments

Three before me

What could you get out of #langchat? You never know!  No matter how many years you’ve been teaching, everyone’s bound to come away with some treasurable, profitable nuggets from #langchat.

I’m not even sure which recent #langchat this came from.  It could have been when we were discussing grit, how we could help learners persevere when things get tough.  Anyway, it caught my eye right away.  So I had to make a poster.  And you can bet this’ll be on my wall in my next classroom.

I think we were talking about how to wean kids off of thinking we’d always just provide them with the answers they need/want.  Then Stephanie Carbonneau (@mmecarbonneau) tweeted:

“Three Before ME” is a BIG rule in my class. 1. Show I tried 2. Consult resources 3. ask 3 others

BRILLIANT! Teachers love pithy lines we can say to remind students of our routines and environment rules, and learners do too, even if they won’t admit it, because they thrive on clarity.  And this one does something I always want to be trying to do: foster independent (lifelong?) learning.

So I wrote a poem of it in Spanish:

Si me lo pides,
te digo que antes,
mejor lo intentes
los otros tres:
1) tu propio esfuerzo
2) tus recursos
3) tus compañeros
 
Which loosely means
If you ask me for it,
I tell you that before,
you’d better try
the other three:
1) your own effort
2) your resources
3) your companions
3 before me

Should you want to put this to work in your classroom, here’s the poster.  I’m working on also getting it in French and German.

Let’s tell them what Daniel Tiger sings to my kids: “Solve the problem yourself, and you’ll feel prou-ou-ou-oud!”

Tags: , , , .

April 21, 2015 2 Comments

Why interpersonal isn’t interpretive

Plaza Treinta y Tres Orientales, Montevideo

Recently on #langchat we were discussing interpretive and interpersonal tasks and someone asked whether interpersonal also functioned as interpretive, since the listener is interpreting auditory information.  I thought it was Lisa Shepard, a lesson to me to note my sources right away, but I can’t find the conversation.  So while I can’t credit my interlocutor, I can still tell you what we talked about and hope the distinction helps you in some way.

Let me spell out the two differences, and then what I think they mean for our class practice in general.

Two differences between interpersonal and interpretive

As we talked through our thoughts on this topic, we identified two reasons we think interpretive listening isn’t the same as interpersonal listening.

  • In interpersonal communication, the speaker is sympathetic, at least often and maybe usually so.  Sympathetic is a term assessors use to mean that the partner in conversation wants to and is willing to work to achieve communication.
    An authentic audio resource is a static thing; it cannot inherently try to help you understand it.
  • A learner listening to an audio resource cannot negotiate meaning.  This is related to the first point because negotiation of meaning is one way a sympathetic conversation partner helps learners achieve communication.  Negotiation of meaning is a term linguists use to talk about the strategies we use to try to be understood and try to understand, from something as simple as asking “Can you repeat that?” to using circumlocution.
    An authentic audio source cannot clarify itself for you.  It cannot respond to requests for repetition or slowing down, and it cannot stop to explain words simply because you do not have them in your vocabulary.

What this means for teachers

I can think of several implications of this distinction for teachers.

  • Realistic, different expectations for interpretive vs. interpersonal
    I’ve seen immersion programs have incredibly high expectations for interpretive listening skills, much higher than their output expectations.  I think this may be a mistake, unless the teachers are habitually using authentic audio sources, because their teacher is not an authentic audio source; she is a sympathetic partner who is committed to helping them achieve communication and comprehension.  The interpretive listening skills aren’t referring to the ability to understand sympathetic partners in communication.
  • Commitment to use authentic audio
    I’ve written about this a lot.  You can do this even with novices!  Check out why it’s a myth that novices can’t understand authentic material and some sample activities like using El perdón and Voy a vivir and Shrek.  Also, please, please read my letter from an AP teacher to teachers of novices.
  • Teaching students negotiation of meaning skills
    Like how to use circumlocution to both get their meaning across and figure out what their partner is saying.

I love conversations like this and how they make me think through my practices – let’s keep learning by talking together!

Tags: , .

April 17, 2015 2 Comments

How can a transition empower your class?

volunteer-422598_1280A few weeks ago the topic for #langchat was about timing and transitioning activities in a class (summary here).  Then, shortly after, I was teaching a novice-high class of sixth-graders as part of an interview to perhaps go back to teaching next year (MAYBE).  (Lesson plan coming soon.)  Anyway, it made me think more about this issue of transitions.

Quickly, I’ll outline what I think are the characteristics of a class or lesson plan that lends itself to easy, smooth transitions:

  • Frequently changing activities (I once blogged that they should change every twenty minutes, but now I advocate every 10 or so.)
  • Activities that naturally scaffold and build on each other (e.g. front-loading vocab…summarizing resource…using resource…working with resource)
  • Class routines that help students expect what’s coming and transition naturally

As I worked on my lesson plan, I thought about how to move from explaining a game (Buque de guerra) to actually playing it.  Just let them loose? But how will I know they’re ready?

Well, why not ask them, in a way that gives me instant and informative feedback on how ready every student is, while lowering the risk for more timid students?

Here’s the transition: Before launching into an activity, or after a story even, ask students to raise their hands and use their fingers to show on a scale of one to five how ready they feel to tackle the activity (or understood what just happened).  It’s fast, it’s low-risk (students can hold their hands as low as they want, as long as I can see), it gives me much more information than simply ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and it tells students that we’re done with one thing (instructions) and moving to another (activity), which is the essence of an effective transition.  Oh, and it keeps us all in the target language.  If this is a habitual transition in your class, all you’d need to say after the first few times is “hands, one to five, ready?” or something to that effect, in the target language.

I tried it with these sixth-graders.  I explained the game, and asked for the scale.  I got all fives except one, a boy showing four fingers.  So we launched into the game, and it worked well.  I know I’m not the first to use such a technique to gauge comprehension, but this is the first time it occurred to me to use it in gauge readiness for an activity.  It worked!

What are your most effective transitions?

Tags: , .

April 15, 2015 0 Comments

How can I help you put research to practice?

I’ve had a burr in my saddle for a little over a year, probably longer, a problem that pricks me and try as I might to find a solution, I just can’t put my finger on it.

On the one hand, we’ve got a robust body of research coming from both applied and theoretical linguistics programs, teachers and professors and scientists, all asking questions about how people learn language, some asking questions about how people learn or acquire a second language, about how teachers can be more effective in language classrooms.

On the other hand, we’ve got teachers who need to know the answers to these questions. One problem is many researchers don’t know what teachers are actually doing, or what they need, or what realistic expectations are for what the research might look like in their classrooms.  A bigger problem is that the teachers don’t know about all this research.  For most of us, it’s not because we don’t care.  Most teachers I know care very much and would love to know more about how their practices can be better founded on solid research.  But two primary obstacles loom in front of them:

  1. There’s no time.
    You have an extra hour or two a week to dissect an academic article, right?
  2. The best, peer-reviewed articles aren’t accessible for teachers in the trenches.
    You’ve got money to pay for expensive peer-reviewed journal subscriptions, right?  How about an extra $55 lying around to download a single PDF article?
    You feel like you had enough training in Second Language Acquisition theory to navigate academic research articles, right?  Where the researchers are throwing around names and acronyms like you actually know what Chomsky said and what the critical period hypothesis is? (How did they know about my seventh period sophomores?! That’s my critical period!)

Muscuentos Black Box PodcastLast year I determined this would be one of my missions: to overcome these obstacles as much as I could and get real research into our language classrooms.  My first attempt was the Black Box Podcast.  But it didn’t work.  It was extremely time consuming.  I estimate I put 10-15 hours of work into each 18-minute episode.  I enjoyed it immensely.  It was like writing a 10-page article summary / essay where I got to pick whatever topic I wanted and could write in first person with all the jokes and informal comments I wanted.  And it was fun.  But frankly, I have to be careful what work I choose to do outside the time I commit to my family, and I don’t have that kind of time for work I don’t get paid for.

It also wasn’t accessible enough.  To get it on a device for you to listen to, you had to be proactive enough to download it and put it on the device yourself.  Then you had to find a spare 18 minutes where you could devote real attention to listening to and understanding it.  I’d tried to make it easier and I hadn’t succeeded.  Not enough anyway.  A few dedicated teachers got something out of it, but we could say the same about the teachers who take the time to look this stuff up on the internet, or read every page of The Language Educator, which often makes important research more accessible for teachers.

So what do I do?  I’m still convinced that teachers know that they need to evaluate materials and strategies against what research says about how kids learn.  We know a lot of us are stumbling around in the dark there, because like I said before, we don’t have the time, money, and/or background to make that happen.  I’m still convinced one of our major failings as a profession is that the people investigating the questions aren’t communicating with the people who need the answers most.  What can we do about it?

I’ve been exploring how I can make the Black Box one of the answers to that question, and I need your help.  What would be the most effective way for me to help you put research to practice?

I’ve discussed this question with some great colleagues and I appreciate their feedback.  So now I have a poll for you.  Here are the ideas:

  • “Serial” changed the market of the podcast.  Keep the podcast idea, but release it via iTunes so it’s super easy for anyone with an iOS device to listen to for free.
  • Instead of a podcast, do a short, visualized video of how the research applies and put it on YouTube.
  • Instead of a podcast or a video, put the takeaways from the article in a visual format on a PDF poster.  Then you can download it and put it up in your classroom where you’ll see it and hopefully internalize the principles.
  • Some other brilliant solution I’m not thinking of.

Another way this could be vastly improved is if one of you would help me.  Do you have a strong background in SLA theory and a passion for research and what it means for the classroom?  Does your dream lunch date involve pitting DeKeyser, Krashen, Long, Ellis, & VanPatten against each other and seeing if someone throws a sandwich?  Could we alternate putting out the Black Box together?  I’ll take care of the article access through DeepDyve, and you do the rest.

Please, take the poll, and if you have another idea or suggestion, add it, or comment below.

Missed the Black Box Podcast altogether?

If you’re interested in listening to or reading the scripts of the podcasts that I did last year, you’ll find them here.

Tags: , .

April 9, 2015 4 Comments