What Are Our Goals?

Many teachers say that they feel a “lack of structure” in a communicative language teaching context.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all be ok. I wish we had never heard of textbooks that take the language and spread it out like a cadaver on a table to be dissected and discussed. I wish I could make everyone feel comfortable with the FLOW. I don’t know how to do it.

But it is a question of perspective.  It is a question of what are our goals?

Are your kids really “drowning in vocabulary” or could you shift your perspective to “marinating in rich language”? I get so angry at the bill of goods the snake-oil textbook companies have sold us, that language is to “cover” and not “uncover”.  We provide rich, understandable, interesting experiences in the language, and then we step back and think, “What did they get?”  “What stuck?”  “What did they learn?”  The problem in questions of that nature is that every learner in the room will have “gotten” different elements of the language.  If we provided language data that they understood, and that accomplished a real communicative purpose, then we have done our jobs.  We just need to shift our thinking about our goals and objectives.  We need to lighten up on the idea that our daily goals are to “cover” or convey certain pieces of the language.

What if our daily objective were to learn about each other, or create something together, and understand the main ideas of paragraph-length speech (Intermediate performance)? Not “learn colors” or “learn the past tenses?”

Our national standards, and most of our state and local standards, too, do not specify certain words, language, or grammar to cover.  I blame the textbook companies for perpetuating the belief that our students should “be at a certain place at a certain time” which leads to impatience in our classrooms, wanting students to master the unpredictable and uncontrollable process of language acquisition piece by piece.

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