Frau Riedy Investigates: Target Language Use in the Classroom – Part 1

I love everything mystery: novels, movies, podcasts, documentaries… I can’t get enough.  I love the journey to get to the bottom of a puzzle, examining all the evidence, and (hopefully) coming to a final conclusion.  With that in mind I’m starting a series here – Frau Riedy Investigates.  In this series I envision I will investigate all sorts of topics, both ed-tech focused, and also general pedagogy focused.  I’ll start with something that I want to know more about, and see what I can investigate and discover both in research and in practical application.  I want this to be a collaborative investigation – so please join in! I want to hear your questions, opinions, and suggestions.  So grab your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat and your magnifying glass, and join me.

In this investigation series, I’m going back to basics. As I’ve mentioned before, I am primarily a language teacher, and as you might imagine it is very important to use the language you are teaching in the classroom, aka the Target Language.  ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) recommends using 90% Target Language during instruction.  I have known that is the goal since I started the journey to becoming a language teacher almost ten years ago.  I also know that is very challenging and I’m not sure if it’s always realistic.  In the middle school/high school world there are announcements, assemblies, standardized testing, and classroom management situations. There are kids who are in class to become fluent in the language and there are kids who are in class to meet their graduation requirement.  I’ll be honest when I say I know I don’t always get to 90% TL. However, I know that I want to use the TL more in my instruction. This investigation will look into two questions: 1. How much TL use in the classroom is right for me and for my students and 2. How do I use the TL effectively to engage all of my students, and in a way where they understand me?  

This investigation first started with a twitter survey, shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.53.19 AM

As you can see, the majority of participants agreed with ACTFL’s 90% goal, but there are certainly other opinions out there.  I should have asked people who responded ‘other’ to follow up, if that was you please let me know what you mean by ‘other’! One participant also directly messaged me saying that they know 90% is the goal, but they agree with me that it isn’t always realistic.  This shows me I’m not alone in my search for the right balance.

The next step in my investigation is to search for information. I am currently taking a research methods class for my masters and I greatly appreciate that my instructors wanted us to choose a research topic we are interested in for our final project.  Obviously, I chose to examine TL and native language use in the classroom.  As I gather information I’ll share it here. A great inspiration point for me has been @MmeFarab on twitter and her blog post, 90% TL, Just Do It!.  I came across her blog post on pinterest and I’m so glad I took a pinterest break from homework and saw it. Traditional research is important, but so is reaching out to those who are out there teaching languages daily and I’m excited to see what other resources and connections are out there on the world wide web.  If you have opinions or ideas on native language/TL use in the classroom, please reach out to me – you can find me on twitter @riedycl or via email at claudiariedy@gmail.com.
I’ll report back soon, until next time!

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