Last night I participated in the first #wltlap chat on Twitter: it was fun and inspiring. There are so many passionate educators out there! The one million dollar question for me was “How do I implement TLAP first 3 days of  school and stay in the target language, especially for Novice learners?”. This post is an attempt to answer this question.

The eternal dilemma of teaching World Languages is finding the right balance between speaking the language and building rapport with your students. When you teach level 1, it is difficult to get to know your students (and for them to get to know you) without using any English. I am still wrestling with this question but at this point, I am leaning towards using comprehensible input not only to teach but also to build relationships with my students.

So… for the first day of school, Dave Burgess has his students create something with Play Doh that represents themselves. Burgess uses the creation time to walk around and speak one-on-one with students. Then, rather than have everyone present (and be put on the spot on their first day), he holds the creation and asks a few questions.

How do we translate this first day into a World Language environment?

1. Lower the stress level associated with hearing a teacher speak a language students don’t understand.

I show them a 35 sec video I prepared on http://www.xtranormal.com: the video tells them it will be like a game trying to figure out what I am saying and to pay attention to my visuals and body language.

2. Model. You ask them to create something with Play Doh, have something ready to show them and talk about (in target  language!)

I love dancing so I will have my little Play Doh ballerina ready to go!

3. Use a lot of comprehensible input: practice cognates, visuals, and gestures in advance so that you are deliberate about what kind of input you communicate with your students.

Turns out, there are a quite a few cognates ready to help me with my first day: ma passion; la danse; j’adore!; contente; enfant, etc. Also, a bunch of gestures can come to the rescue: point at the Play Doh, create something with Play Doh, point at the calendar to show how often I dance, actually dancing!, thumb up and down to check level of understanding, etc. And finally a few props could come handy like a timer to check on the 10 minutes.

Will the students come out of my class pumped? I am pretty sure they will: they got to play with Play Doh, share something personal about themselves, and their ego got a huge boost because they already understand French on Day One!

I am excited to try TLAP first day of school in my French 1 classes while continuing to speak French to my students!

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