Just thought I would comment on a kid and another anecdote supporting reading.
One of my third-year students is also my first-period aide. I have him getting me ready for the IB students’ new curriculum areas. Up ’till now, my IB kids have just been part of whatever we’re doing, but now we have specific topic areas to cover: social issues, communication, health, culture, and so on…really, all the areas that we do touch on when we discuss the news, but we never get really deep.
I gave this student a list of general areas and asked him to research specific topics of his own choice, looking for sources in English first (because he’s only third-year), and then looking for sources in Russian on the web. He has to find the same topics in both languages, ideally with some conflicting information or at least contrasting information.
Well, he’s been finding the conflicting information, and all of a sudden, his vocabulary and reading ability has just gone off the deep end. (This has been three or four hours a week since January.)
Here are the important notes: he is motivated. He doesn’t get graded on what he reads or understands. He has no homework, other than what he imposes on himself when he gets interested enough to keep searching or when he talks to his other teachers about topics. He is looking up topics of interest to him under the general headings. All he has to do is get himself some background knowledge and then read enough to figure out whether the sources agree. And he’s reading really fast now, able to skim, and when I request responses in his usual class, the Russian is pouring out of him, correct cases and all. He has surprised both of us with his new superstar abilities.
I begin to think that I could turn advanced kids over to a system like this. I just need to think through why it works or whether it needs any more structure than exists as it is.
So weird and wonderful. What is language acquisition? What makes it speed up? To what can I account for it?