I have been give n a wonderful gift this year in two of my Spanish I classes. There are two Chinese exchange students. Both are bright and charming young ladies. And both know absolutely no Spanish. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Oh, sorry! I can’t use that term because they don’t know it. That’s the point. They know NO Spanish. At all. None. What they know, they are getting in class. From me. I am going to have to slow down.
I don’t know whether I should feel grateful or embarrassed that I presented on The Art and Genius of SLOW at NTPRS with with Linda Li last year and with Alike Last this year (Here are the notes from the 2012 workshop with Alike: https://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/TECHNIQUES-TO-HELP-US-SLOW-DOWN1.pdf ).
I thought I knew how to teach slowly. I thought I was pretty good at sticking with a structure and also keeping it interesting until everybody got it. I was wrong. I am extremely grateful to have worked with Alike and Linda and to have discussed how to teach slowly with the experienced TPRS teachers in our sessions, but I have a a lot to learn here.
Without realizing it, I had been relying on the massive amount of background Spanish that students in Colorado already know. The amazing quantity of cognates that they almost all instantly recognize. The cultural differences that they have already absorbed before setting foot in my classroom. My Chinese students have none of those advantages.
Every day is a revelation. The other students in the class had no idea that they already knew so much Spanish. Neither of the Chinese girls knew the word “uno” (What?). They didn’t know “gracias” (That got a goodhearted laugh from the other kids). They didn’t know “taco” (That brought about stunned silence, and then, “Huh? How do you not know what a taco is?”). So I am having to slow WAAAAYYYYY down from my normal pace. Amazingly slow. Checking for understanding constantly. Measuring the words I use before I use them. Looking into the eyes of these super barometer students to make sure they always get it.
I am slowing down. If the slow theory is correct, all of my students should be acquiring at a deeper level because comprehension will be up. I am guessing that I have been zooming past the level of many of my students in the past, assuming that they knew a lot already. I am betting that all students will benefit from the Great Slow Down and that they will acquire language better and deeper this year because of the gift of two absolute Spanish novices in our midst.
I’ll keep you posted.