I’ve been worrying lately about whether I still know how to do MT with rank beginners. This morning, most of an English class was absent, and I offered the four remaining kids a Russian lesson.
The class in question is filled with “reluctant readers,” so one would think they’d be at a disadvantage in acquiring language. Recently, the only rank beginners I’ve taught have been world language teachers, people who are pretty strong learners.
I used a contemporary Russian video about a hero with a flying car–Russia’s answer to Spiderman. I couldn’t depend on high-frequency vocabulary or cognates of any sort, and when I slipped and asked circling questions that required an answer in Russian, the kids answered in English.
But that’s the thing: they answered! And by the end of the practice, a couple were answering in Russian. I couldn’t believe that I could spend half an hour speaking Russian with complete beginners. They were focused and interested, and they liked it. I was able to get a couple of extra phrases in: “Maybe,” and “I don’t know,” for them to eventually use as rejoinders.
I’m not going to do that with my English kids again, obviously, since it’s not what they’re supposed to be learning with me, but I’m sold on MT all over again.
I figured out a way to do little assessments: while the kids are watching the next segment, I’m writing questions for them. Then, when we’ve talked our way through that segment, I have a true/false or single-word answer quiz for them. That gives me a chance for extra repetitions and keeps them accountable. It’s unfortunately necessary in high school for some kids.