Ok, I got your attention. Honestly the whole reason that I have to write this post is because I fell asleep as the clouds moved in on my lovely Easter Sunday and I dreamed that another teacher approached me about using 90% TL in the classroom. Her problem was not using it herself, her problem was with her students. She said “They just make too many errors. I can’t have that. It bothers me.” Of course in my dream I didn’t answer her, I turned and began to plan and plant a garden in containers on my deck because I was concerned about weed growth… But MAN what a great question this dream teacher brought up! What do we do about the errors??
My answer? Nothing.
Did you just die? I bet you did. Your mouth is open and you are considering walking away right now… but wait! I’d do nothing. I would just keep giving more great 90% input before I ever expected any output.
But what about error correction? My research in the classroom says that error correction does more harm (makes them scared to say anything, stifles creativity) than good! In fact, when I did nothing but correct their mistakes, they barely even looked at my hours and hours of feedback… They just wanted to see what they got! Some of the things I was counting off on their papers are late acquired and I (as a teacher) was still (or still am) making mistakes and correcting myself after I saw it on paper… How could I expect a Spanish 2 to be perfect? Or a 4 for that matter? They’ve asked me to proof their English papers before… That’s 16-18 years of English and still not perfect! 🙂
But what about pronunciation? Still doing nothing. They will hear a lot of rich language in my classroom and the vast majority will leave with excellent pronunciation. Those who don’t, I find, are students who would have failed in quarter 2 of Spanish I of a more traditional classroom but have stuck with me for 4 years of the joyful ride we call TCI! Why would I penalize them for leaving high school with Novice High level language under their belts? I’m planting seeds! I want those seeds to germinate in my room and flourish in their lives afterward!
But what about (insert advanced grammar stuff here)? Don’t sweat the small stuff! You can teach so many chunks of those grammar things that the seeds are ready for college level fertilization! Use your high school time to build strong skills in present/pasts/and future over and over again. The more pathways they have to get there, the better their language production will be and the more likely they’ll be to leave your class an upper intermediate language speaker.
Fight the stigma of being a monolingual nation! Make language learning about proficiency not perfection! You’ll attract more kids (because most kids aren’t perfect), you’ll have more time on your hands (because your feedback will be so much easier without hours of error correction), and you’ll have so much more fun seeing them CREATE with those seeds you have planted!
By the way, I didn’t answer that teacher because I had to plant a container garden of giant watermelons on my deck… Apparently I was going to also grow them up trellises to keep the watermelons round? What did I eat for lunch?