“Teach for June” isn’t a slogan to get through the school year. It’s a new attitude towards foreign-language teaching.
Instead of the current paradigm of covering chapters and then moving on to new material, Teach for June turns that paradigm on its ear. Teach for June‘s assessment goal is not after each chapter or series of chapters, but a continuing and progressive evaluation of our students’ abilities with an end-goal of mastery by June. We could even look beyond that and set an ultimate goal of proficiency in the June of the final year of our programs.
What does that mean? It means that we use whole, natural language in the classroom at all times. It means that we don’t teach long lists of thematic vocabulary at a time. It means we use all tenses, direct and indirect objects, and reflexive objects from day one level one as appropriate. We do all of this with the goal in mind that they will have mastered level one material by June and will have been exposed to the entire language in a natural way from the beginning. This will best prepare them for what is to come in later levels. No more is the culture shock of moving to the past tense in level two or the subjunctive in level three. The students will be familiar with all of it from the beginning but only assessed on material that is appropriate for their particular level.
We all know how textbooks expect all level-one students to know and understand the use of gender and agreement in the Latin-based languages after chapter one or two, that the past tense will be presented at the end of level one and concentrated on in level two, and that, for those languages that have it, the subjunctive will be introduced and focused on in level three. The textbook publishers have the expectation that our students will have mastered these topics and others by the time the chapter is finished. This flawed way of thinking is why many people in America today are not bilingual and believe that they can’t learn a foreign language.
Current language-acquisition theories maintain that language cannot be acquired as a series of forced steps, but develop over a period of time in an order that cannot be dictated. And the only way a person can acquire a language is to be exposed to extensive and varied comprehensible input.
This is where TPRS® (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling), invented by Blaine Ray, comes in. TPRS® focuses on giving students not only extensive and varied comprehensible input, but couples this with personalization that engages the students like never before. Long gone are the times of the “drill ‘em and kill ‘em,” or memorization of tons of isolated vocabulary and dialogs. TPRS® strives to expose our students to the language in a natural, but personalized way that brings the language to life for each student. And with much repetition, the students acquire the vocabulary and structures necessary to communicate in their chosen language. This is where I feel that textbooks fail.
TPRS® paired with my proficiency-based-grading techniques, marry together language acquisition and a meaningful way to represent that acquisition through standards in terms everyone can understand.
Language acquisition, comprehensible input, proficiency, standards, and meaningful assessment are the cornerstones of teachforjune.com.