PDL combined

I decided to put all my PDL information in one place, since I couldn’t even find it all myself. This post is very long and full of information; it circles back on itself and has too many sources for anything but a workshop. My apologies!

Here’s the first writeup, after the 2013 ACTFL conference, when I tried some things with kids. There’s a comment with follow-up.

Here’s another post that includes info on PDL and has a comment (but it starts with info on Michael Miller).

A post about PDL with beginners, and a step-by-step addition in the comments.

Here are the answers that Eugene Schaefer, the PDL presenter at ACTFL 2013 sent to my questions about PDL activities and how to follow up with writing. He explained that for a role play, we need polarity, or there isn’t any story. That seems obvious now that I think about it, but wasn’t clear to me at first.

The second email is just recent, with more on my specific questions on what to do with writing, and gives permission to post these answers.

***The way of dealing with writing is another twist on the way that Ashley Hastings does re-writes with students. I like it!


Dear Michele,
Thanks for giving me more time for an answer.  This has given me the chance to work on an answer while riding in trains to and from Berlin and wrapping it all up now at home.
You touched on a number of questions, so I hope you don’t mind if I jump from one to the other in free association.
I read with great interest the description in your blog of your very successful implementation of “The Chairs” in your classroom.   Maybe I’m starting at the end, but you were wondering how writing exercises could be integrated into  that and other PDL activities.
The answer is not black and white.  Any writing activity integrated into a role play would have to grow out of the role play itself.  As role-playing in PDL is unpredictable, so too is any writing task.  Spontaneous creativity is needed on the part of the teacher.  In the case of couples therapy / marriage counseling, there are a number of possibilities.  Either as support group work or individually, the therapist can write up a report, the counseled can write each other (or the therapist) letters clarifying their standpoints, offering reconciliation, stating demands, or they can each write letters to a divorce lawyer.  If written replies fit in with the task, then the activity can easily be extended as homework for as long as interest can be maintained.    The letters can also lead to further encounters, depending.
Another possibility would be to have the students write up a neutral – or biased! – report for a local newspaper, be it a daily yellow rag, a respectable local paper, or even a professional journal.
The couples therapy situation clearly has one element fundamental to PDL role playing –  polarity.  This doesn’t mean a simple yes-no argument, though such can be used as a warm-up activity.  There needs to be something to be discussed and resolved involving negotiating, compromising, problem solving, reaching mutual agreement, achieving mutually beneficial results while having diverging goals.  While achieving agreement is not mandatory, reaching a consensus of some sort should be encouraged.
It was interesting to hear that the two who took the seats as the couple were, if I understood correctly, a couple in real life as well.  I’m usually leery of situations where fact and fiction might become difficult to differentiate, endangering the “play” in role play, but you seem to have had the situation well under control.  There are of course always elements of oneself in any fictive role one plays, but one is freer to “play” with a role if it is not identical with the player.
The three-people-on-a-bus situation can pose problems, as there is not automatically any sort of conflict to be resolved or problem to be dealt with.  However, your students mastered that problem well with the unhappy Russian grandmother and a potentially romantic encounter with complications.  A possible written exercise here could be writing a letter full of advice for the grandmother – how to deal with her family here, how to better adapt to life in Alaska – , a letter to the son suggesting changes in his treatment of his mother, the grandmother giving advise to the young people, a cautious or not-so-cautious letter of interest between them, a written rebuke of undue advances, etc.   Of course, you would be the best judge of what could fit your class’s needs.
Recirculating situations and language is exactly what needs to be done.  I’m always on the lookout for an element I can alter.  There’s no simple recipe for doing this, just a good sense of dramatic tension and classroom management.
Rephrasing, reformulating, offering alternative ways of expressing something – this too is fundamental to PDL.  To students weaned on PDL as beginners, being “doubled” and “mirrored” by the teacher will be second nature.  It’s a great way for the teacher to intervene when lack of language gets in the way of events.  The teacher speaks as the student being doubled or mirrored, allowing him or her to repeat after each short chunk.  The language being offered is occurring spontaneously, though of course the teacher has put some thought into what is needed – vocabulary, grammar, content.   This short barrage of language should be repeated two or three times, depending.
This sort of intervention can be done as a sort of intermission from the role play, a break or cut in the action before resuming where the cut was made or a bit before that.  It can also be done while the players are in their support group strategy sessions.
From what I read of your use of The Chairs, you are well in alignment with the ideas behind PDL.
I am not sure I understood your comments on the value of learning by talking.  Perhaps you could fill me in briefly on the place of talk time in TPR classes.  I have to admit I am not well acquainted with TPR, but was impressed by the ability of your TPR classes to adapt to PDL.  While PDL was originally conceived as an all-encompassing method, classroom reality has let it find its place as a supplemental method as well.
As to the structure of PDL:  PDL for intermediate and advanced follows no strict sequence of activities.  What Bernard’s book should illuminate is the specific selection of warm-up  and energizing activities leading up to different types of role plays.  At the advanced level, he advocates using myths and fairy tales as well as literary excerpts as lead-ins to creating freely associated role plays.  That in turn can be good in creating interest in the original texts being taught in a more traditional mode.
PDL 1 does follow a clear sequence.  The seven basic steps start with individual doubling  and end with the teacher assisting the learners with simple dialogues.  Again, variations of doubling and mirroring play a key role.   As the teacher is always present, learners receive the support they need as they need it.
PDL 1 is traditionally done either on two weekends or on five or six consecutive days. Aside from the core activities of doubling and mirroring, there are numerous warm-up and interlude activities tailored to the core.  Poems are also orally introduced, with the learners repeating the words and the accompanying movements of the teacher.
PDL 1 can be repeated as often as the learner needs before moving on to PDL 2.  Two or three times may be enough for some, especially if another language in the same family of languages has already been mastered.  As PDL is most strongly represented in the teaching of Romance languages, we have seen this in the teaching of Italian, French and Spanish.  However, experience has shown that those with no previous experience with a Romance language may need to repeat PDL 1 up to six or seven times.  I would assume the same of Slavic languages.  My own experience in teaching English as a foreign language in Germany is more atypical, as it is rare to encounter adult learners of English who are absolute beginners.  I can usually send any PDL 1 students straight on to a PDL 2 level class after only one week of PDL 1.  PDL is designed for classes of mixed abilities, so it can prove beneficial to have “true” beginners together with “false” beginners.
So, enough for now.  If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
For a bit about the ideas behind PDL, I refer to Bernard Dufeu’s “Hypotheses” as translated at the following link :
By the way, there is only one PDL teacher of Russian that I know of, Natascha Margulis in Fribourg, Switzerland, http://www.issl.unibe.ch/content/ueber_uns/ma_natascha_margulis/index_ger.html .  Her students are, I believe, mostly intermediate and advanced.  If you ever film and post on youtube The Chairs or some other PDL role play in Russian, she would be more qualified to comment than I.
5/14:

Just to answer your two questions posed in your email of 28 December(!):
For corrections on student papers, I usually don’t write on the papers themselves if I can avoid it.  If it is hand-written, I type into the computer, making corrections as I go along, but rarely highlighting them.  When I hand back both the original and the corrected copies, I give them the task of finding the corrections and having them ask me why the corrections were made if they are not clear.  As some mistakes are usually common to many in a particular class, I often do discuss those common problems right away.
If the students have used a computer, I correct using a highlight-the-changes-in-color function in Word and again request students to ask why I changed things.   What I hand back is a copy of their original text on one side of the page and the corrected version on the other.
I do admit to having small classes, so I don’t know how practical this is for larger classes.
Also, please feel free to quote any and all answers I have given you.
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