A few weeks ago I did a two day in-service workshop for a school district in northern Louisiana. I have been doing demos of various CI strategies in Chinese. It is so important to experience language acquisition as our students do! There were a few Chinese immersion teachers walking by our space to one of their separate workshops and I had the opportunity to stop and chat with them for a while (in Chinese). Several of the attendees in my workshop overheard and said “wow! You really are fluent in Chinese aren’t you?!” While I love hearing this, it is SO far from the truth. My mandarin is composed of high frequency words like: want, have, go, live, like, eat, drink, give, look, etc. and bonus words like: thing, place, person, etc. I am far, far, FAR from fluent, but I am an expert with circumlocution.
Circumlocution is the single most valuable skill we can teach our scholars (in my opinion… remember, my blogs are always my opinion). Unfortunately, most colleges and Universities in the US only require 2 years of language in high school in order for students to be admitted to their programs. This means, more often than not, students get the credits they need and don’t continue language. (I do recognize that THIS IS CHANGING!!! We are seeing students all around the nation enrolling in language programs, and sticking around! Here is a blog that Grant Boulanger wrote about CI programs increasing enrollment and achievement.) However, for the kiddos who don’t continue the programs, or who start language in their junior year, we need to be equipping them with the skills they need to be successful communicators with the language they acquire over just two years. I want them to be able to go anywhere and communicate with anyone, and “sound” fluent when really, they may just be confident, brave, circumlocutors (is that a word?!!) We can accomplish a TON in two years!
Last year I wrote about how I take away my “¿cómo se dice?” poster after about 8 weeks of school. I am allowed to say it ALL year for comprehension checks but I really don’t want my students using it. I immediately start teaching circumlocution and I use it and point it out explicitly every day in my classes. I always ask students to use what they know, to communicate about the words that they DON’T know, before I give them the new vocab words they’re asking for. This helps keep my “out of bounds” words down and it continues to build our strong community feel in our classes as students push each other and help one another to circumlocute. They are always my favorite moments in class and definitely the most powerful for the students. They are in full control of their language, they are risk taking, and they are making meaning and communicating with whatever language they have. The pride in the room is tangible.
Colleen Britton of Teacher’s Discovery sat in a few of my sessions at CI in the Mitten this past year and she saw what I did with circumlocution and she asked to partner with me to publish my posters! THEY ARE MADE! It was one of the highlights of my summer!
They are also VERY “la Maestra Loca” which I absolutely adore! Very bright, cheerful and colorful! So, if you’re interested, and your school or department has a little extra “budget” check these out! 🙂 I am really proud of them and LOVE how they look my walls!
My room is all set up for the year! I can’t wait to film it all for you and give you a proper tour of the place! 🙂
Until next time,
La Maestra Loca