Frame This Conversation

One of the misconceptions about language acquisition that survives even among experienced CI teachers is the notion that, at some point, students need to buckle down and memorize in order to acquire. The teacher provides input through comprehensible conversations but, so the story goes, “the language does not fully ‘stick’ until the learner has had a vocabulary list or flash cards to get the words deep into their brains“.

If you find that your students mostly have a tentative grasp of the language, recognizing and responding in the moment but rarely being able to produce out of context, then this is the newsletter for you!

There is actually an easier way to get the input to stick quicker.

I take a lot of language classes so that I remain in touch with how it feels to learn a new language; although I am focusing mostly on Japanese these days, Chinese, German, French and Portuguese classes also appear on my current rotation. In all of these classes the most important thing that has cemented the language in my head is the teachers that regular use frames during class conversation.

There is no reason to make a new frame for each lesson; the best frames simply contain the highest frequency words and are re-used regularly. When used regularly a frame tends to have two positive impacts on teaching:

  • The teacher points and pauses more which is good even when students are already familiar with the words because it builds in extra processing time for slow learners.
  • The frame encourages teachers to park on a portion of the conversation and ask more questions, make more observations, and build more language around a context that is already established. This leads to a richer language experience.

This second piece is so important! After making an observation about something you see in a picture during Picture Talk, look at your other high-frequency verbs and make further observations. Speculate. Point to a question word and link it to another verb. Use the frame to provide a richer yet highly comprehensible language experience.

While you can create frames specifically to elicit the use of transition words or some other concept, I think there is a power to having the same basic frame in even advanced classes. The frame expands our conversations.

I have created frames for you to download and plop into your PowerPoint presentations in FrenchGerman and Spanish. If you use them as a Zoom background you might have to enlarge the border slightly to get them to fit right on the screen.

Subscribers who use my Movie Talk database will see that I am creating a PowerPoint so that you can Picture Talk each video before Movie Talk. These PowerPoints already have images from the video embedded, so you can preview the Movie Talk with your students while using the frames to provide depth to the discussion. These come in French, German, Spanish as well as a non-language frame version for teachers of other languages.

If you are making your own frame for your language, you will want to list the verb not in the dictionary form but rather in the form that was first introduced and most commonly used in class conversation.

Finally, always finish class with a Write & Discuss.

Concluding with a written summary is like letting gelatin set in the fridge.

Always end with Write & Discuss!