Armed for a world of incomprehensible input: Circumlocution training
Good morning from a sunny, beautiful spring day in Minneapolis, the location of the 2015 Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
My presentation here is called “Arming Students for a World of Incomprehensible Input.” It’s based on an episode of the Black Box Podcast from last year (listen here, read the script here), and in it I discuss the why and how to teach students circumlocution, which is what you do when you don’t know a word for something: “It’s a website where people write stuff about parenting or what they do every day or recipes and stuff” (blog).
Here’s the Slideshare:
The presentation includes walking participants through a lesson plan for teaching circumlocution. You can download that lesson plan here.
For further reading, see my other post on circumlocution from a while back; it’s about banning the dictionary.
Some participants in the session had great ideas I want to add here: Nicole suggested using the “what’s the difference” pictures from the Sunday comics; the objects that change are usually such low-frequency words that students have to circumlocute to identify them. Another great suggestion was to target the Spanish verb sirve, which had not occurred to me but makes SO much sense, and if you speak Spanish you understand why. One more I’ll be trying with my kindergartener: the iOS app Heads Up appears to be an engaging circumlocution game. Thanks for all the great takeaways!
Here’s an added idea for more cultural competency: use a blank map and using the grid of regional variations included in the lesson plan, have students label the countries and then investigate a few words: write the variations of 2 or 3 words on the map according to where they are used.
Enjoy teaching your students circumlocution, and then watching them make incomprehensible input valuable by negotiating meaning to make in comprehensible- on their own!