Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Language Learning and Free Practice

I would like to think that I've improved in my Korean language ability, and maybe I have, but honestly, I feel like I'm at a bit of a plateau.

I started a new Korean class (level 4!) recently and eagerly picked up my new textbook. I really like how this class ties the vocabulary to the grammar points. Sometimes there is an overwhelming number of new vocabulary words, but at least it gives me a goal (whereas some of my other books introduce very few new words and I feel like the examples are repetitive, despite the new grammar structures). And yet, in compared to the previous book in this series, I was struct by the number of "free practice" exercises. What do I mean by free practice? When the instructions give you a picture or prompt and then tell you to talk about it with a buddy.

In level 3, there were more scaffolds in place that helped guide the conversation. I didn't realize how much I relied on those scaffolds until they were gone. Now, I stare blankly at the prompt. It's a lot more difficult and I'm of two minds.
Scaffolded Speaking Exercises (Level 3) 
Level 4 Speaking Exercises
A part of me knows that if I take the time, I could do it. I could create sentences--perhaps broken sentences--and answer the question or describe the situation. I recognize the value of these exercises as they push me to practice more skills. I know that as I take the time to create these complex sentences, it will become easier and I will be able to better receive and generate language.

But, right now, it's hard.

Level 4 Writing Exercise
It takes a lot more brain power than the scaffolded exercises and it's more frustrating. Where I once felt like I knew what I was doing, I now feel more tongue-tied and stupid. I stare at the page and I can't think of where to start. Where are all the vocabulary words I know? How do they all fit together again? The exercises that ask me to generate a longer block of text? I'll come back to those later. Eventually. Maybe. Probably not...

Thinking back to my classroom and my English Language Learners, I think I understand more what my students go through when we ask them to generate writing. Following a prompt in another language can be challenging. And I would have thought free writing is easier, but it is overwhelming and it can be hard to decide where to start. Especially when you are used to following prompts. I construct basic sentences over and over in my head but am never sure how to build off of them or connect my ideas together. And what I want to say is beyond my level of vocabulary and grammar. Ugh.

With practice, yes it will be easier, but how do I convince my students when right now it just makes some of them feel incompetent and stressed out? Many of them are resistant to anything that requires them to use their brain (shocker), but now I wonder, too, if it's because we've used too many prompts in the past and thus they choose not to try, hoping more prompts will come later... Right now, the effort that they need doesn't seem to outweigh the ultimate reward of becoming more proficient.

So then... how do I inspire that desire? And how do I ensure that I'm not over using my scaffolds like a crutch instead of  support?


The jury's still out.
Love and Hugs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep it up Rae, I know you can do it! Congrats on making it to level 4 :)