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Spotlight May 2013

posted May 9, 2013, 11:20 AM by Susan Conley

“Huevos verdes con jamón” or “Les oeufs verts au jambon”

If you understand Spanish or French, you know what these phrases mean. (If not, we 
encourage you to look them up.) When you understand the phrases, you may wonder 
what they have to do with the GMS Modern Language Department.....Read on...    

 “Huevos verdes con jamón”, “Les oeufs verts au jambon” or, as most of us know it,  “Green Eggs and Ham” was written using only 50 high frequency words after Dr. Seuss took a bet from his publisher that he couldn’t do it.  This book, and many like it, are hailed as excellent ways to teach simple vocabulary by repeating words and context while keeping the reader’s attention.  These books don’t require the reader to memorize individual words, they engage the reader to repeat and understand the words in context.  This idea of learning language by repeating high frequency words in context through fun and interactive ways is embraced in Greely Middle School’s Modern Language classes.

You may already be aware that the GMS language classes look quite different from what you probably remember as a student.  Today students experience less memorization, less drilling, and MUCH MORE comprehensible use of the target languages.  This is all a result of the latest expert research in language acquisition which shows that true communicative abilities emerge from first being exposed to a lot of listening and reading experiences that are repetitive, interesting, varied, and most importantly, comprehensible.  This instructional method is called Comprehensible Input or CI.  It includes, but is not limited to Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS), embedded reading, and guided reading.  This methodology differs mostly from “traditional” language instruction in that it does not focus on grammar and vocabulary, but rather on content, high frequency words, and authentic, contextualized expression.  Students may take a few days to grow a story in class, starting with high frequency words, and then they make it into an authentic piece in true French or Spanish form. 

Nationally, students who are taught with Comprehensible Input (CI) are more likely to continue to higher levels in language, and are significantly more proficient at any given level than students taught with the traditional method.  Teaching using CI is an art form.  Anyone watching the Modern Language classes may think they are watching a theater production rather than a language class.  It is deep and wide in its scope and subtleties.  The students are so involved in creating stories, they don’t often realize just how much they are retaining the language in its authentic style.  CI learning is difficult and exhilarating.  It connects the teachers with the students in a unique and important way while incorporating literacy, culture and language.