From Tasks and Communicating in Language Classrooms by James F. Lee: hilarious
Lee lists criteria for successful L2 acquisition in the classroom. See how many of your students meet even one of these criteria.
1. Students (SS) must be receptive to L2.
2. SS must have investment in learning, a need and desire to process L2.
3. SS must have a need and desire to communicate.
4. SS need opportunity to control topic of conversation and to self-initiate in the classroom.
5. Teachers and SS must make an effort to be understood, therefore to negotiate meaning.
6. SS must be challenged to operate beyond the level of competence.
7. SS need opportunities to perform illocutionary and communicative functions in L2.
8. Teacher must give opportunities to participate in planned and unplanned discourse similar to that outside the classroom.
9. Teachers must provide models of discourse containing features the SS are trying to learn.
10. SSs’ output should not be forced, SS should be free to self-select when they participate.
OK. Stop laughing.
I first read #3 as “students must have a neck” and thought, “Oh, goody, mine do.” No needs, no desires, #6 has a chance b/c many students do not operate beyond Hola, so it’s not too hard to meet that criterion. Self-initiate could be read as self-mutilate and that would net a few.
To be fair, Lee prefaces Conditions for Classroom 2nd Language Acquisition with the word “optimal”. He cites two earlier authors as the source of these criteria: Ellis and Van Lier. But on the face of it and considering the typical American high school student, these are laughable. A couple of students might meet criteria 1, 2, and 3. Sadly, the demands of the grammar queen in English class and the 400 problems a night math teacher, will damp the fire of acquisition unless…………
And here is where a teaching model comes in. You can teach in a way that PRODUCES these attitudes in your classroom, but you can’t ask for these up front. Most students are geared toward rote learning, not language creation, toward making As, not taking risks, toward discovering the minimum required for an A, not participating in unplanned discourse. Provision of discourse models on the teacher’s part will be met with math books hauled out and frantic attempts to finish last night’s homework made. Negotiating meaning requires a commitment and involvement most of our kids are very leery of.
That’s why, in the final analysis, my judgment is that only tprs fulfills the requirements for building a class and the relationships required to engage students in a way that will generate the class atmosphere these criteria envision.
I have to add a line I read in another article on classroom teaching: it said both teachers and students must be prepared to exercise cautious, nay even unto skepticism regarding grammar rules. Hah! My students went from caution through skepticism to outright rejection in the first day of class.