Dylan Viñales on our forthcoming workbook for Spanish, French, German and Italian learners, based on E.P.I.

In this very witty and informative blog post, Dylan talks about our forthcoming Spanish workbook, the first in a series of books for independent and classroom learning, based on our EPI principles. The booklet is currently being translated into French, German and Italian.

https://mrvinalesmfl.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/from-building-sentences-to-sentence-building-my-journey-to-mars/?fbclid=IwAR0FVgA9xn_ZMKM29-38ZJeBft-FUN-q6Im1B6RHjZbJQkTJPG46_z9FJss

“My experience with lesson “Contification” – guest post by Julia Hegarthy

This is the first in a series of posts written by language educators from around the world who have been experimenting with my approach. In this post a passionate language educator, Julia Hegarthy, head of languages in an independent school in New South Wales, relates how she went about applying EPI to her context. Here is her bio:

I work in an independent school in Sydney. We are a small Language Faculty running French in Yr 7, Chinese in Yr 8 and small elective classes in both Languages in 9 and 10. We have not yet had a Continuers class through to HSC level but we have been running the French Beginner HSC courses since 2015 and our numbers in this course are growing stronger every year.

In Australia there is no adequate textbook for the fast-paced and demanding 2-year HSC Beginners course, and so, after seeing Gianfranco Conti in action at a Language convention in Sydney in 2017, I decided to implement aspects of Extensive Processing Instruction. It made sense to me that to get students to hold a 5-minute conversation about their personal world in the space of not even two full years of instruction, the teacher ought to model structures related to their personal world intensively until their brain can automatically retrieve these structures….

The importance of rote learning had always been clear to me, however, I had been lacking the pedagogical tools (or creativity!) to make this appealing to the students. Seeing how the 300 strong conference room was responding to stating their Emotional Temperature in Malaysian through False Echo and “Mini translations” immediately struck me as an ingenious way to drill without causing my students ‘death by Powerpoint or worksheet coma’. I remembered I had a stack of Mini Whiteboards and WB markers in a dusty corner of our store cupboard somewhere and they haven’t left my teacher bag since. Another staple is a box of dice, so we can play any sort of ‘no snake no ladder’ translation game at our leisure.

Today, I still consider myself at the beginning of our journey to ‘contify’ our programs (I tend to agree with Gianfranco it is a LONG process.  It’s also worth mentioning that because we are still bound by the parameters of the current HSC format, I haven’t been able to throw out teaching the old way of responding to comprehension questions altogether – yet!). However, I am making a conscious attempt to use the MARS/EARS sequence with all my classes for all units and this year, I have thrown out textbooks for French altogether.

Actually, I should say I am using the MARS sequence with all classes, and EARS is mostly ‘extension’ material. I find this method is brilliant for differentiation; because it allows lesser able/confident students to operate with their scaffold for longer, whilst eager learners ‘wean’ themselves off much quicker, therefore cycling through the sequence at a faster speed, thriving on activities such as Fast and Furious and Pyramid Translations  that would be way beyond some of my students’ level of competence. The fascinating thing is to see them actually DO the activities and ENJOY doing them.

Independent pair or group work is no longer a pain and (for the most part) I truly don’t have to worry about groups being off task and can use my teaching time cruising around from group to group, giving feedback in real time. I think a lot of this is also due to the fact that the games and activities very much appeal to students’ competitive nature. I give ‘Dojo’ points in younger years for a certain number of quickest and most correct WB ‘hands up’ for example.

I have been buying and downloading lots of Gianfranco’s resources on TES and am adapting his worksheets and Sentence Builders to suit the exact need of my unit and class. This IS more time consuming initially, but once they are created and filed in an orderly and logical fashion, it is easy enough to pull together any lesson on any topic within a very short time frame. The other big bonus was (still is of course) that most of the structures from the worksheet and Sentence Builders also feature across the Language Gym’s activities, meaning that students have another option to ‘make them stick’ via this online modus.

I also explicitly tell my students about the approach – we look at the curve of forgetting together and on my online lesson plans I include a mention of which ‘stage’ we are at in a given lesson, which I find helps them to understand the relevance of what I am doing.

Here is an example of what I did before Coronavirus sent me into self-isolation with my Yr 12 class on Relationships

Modelling/Awareness Raising:

Hand out Sentence Builder with structures

Mini WB activities – Choral repetitions, Faulty Error, Spot the error, delayed repetition, delayed copying

Education Perfect list with the exact sentences from the SB as follow up in Reading / Listening mode (no translating into French at this stage)

Receptive Processing

Mini WB activities (lots of French – English translations)

RAM/LAM worksheets

Lots of reading out aloud – (they love reading aloud in class ‘until they make a mistake’ in which case another student interrupts, corrects and has earned the right to read on)

1 Pen 1 Dice

Find your match

Sentence Stealer

Quelquechose Game (you may know it as ALGO game)

Language Gym Workout (Vocab Section)

Textivate activities

Education Perfect list with the exact sentences from the SB as follow up in Reading / Listening mode (no translating into French at this stage)

Structured Production

Mini WB activities (now include translations into French)

Dictations (running, delayed, mad)

Education Perfect list with the exact sentences from the SB across all modes incl translation into French

ImmerseMe activities

No snakes no ladders translation game

Find someone who

Oral Ping Pong

Expansion

Education Perfect lists (my students also create and maintain their own individual lists which they are allowed to use at this stage)

Education Perfect Grammar units on the grammar point in question (in this case direct and indirect object pronouns)

ImmerseMe activities

Piranha Grammar

Role plays

4,3,2 Technique

Pyramid Translations

Highly scaffolded writing tasks

This was about 6 one hour lessons and at the end I made them hand in a free writing: You want to nominate your best friend for participation in the TV show “Le meilleur ami du monde”. Write the letter to the production company in which you describe your friend and why they should win the title. (150 words – use all structures and features covered to date)

As I said, I am still in a ‘hybrid’ stage, where I do sometimes revert to using texts/audio from a textbook instead of just my own creations; however, overall, I find that implementing the Conti method into my teaching has increased student motivation and my own zest for stepping into the classroom.

 

A bit about Julia

Julia Hegarty, Head of Department for Languages at Oxford Falls Grammar School is living proof that commanding another language is a concrete and demonstrable life skill that can take you places around the world. Born in Germany, Julia moved to the UK for her  university studies and graduated with a First Class BA Hons degree in French, Italian and Business Studies, having spent one year of the degree studying and doing work placements in France. Julia went on to work in a London based financial communications agency, travelling around the world in the course of equity capital offerings for German and French clients before meeting her husband and deciding to re-train as a teacher after settling in Australia 10 years ago. Julia a dynamic, creative and engaging language teacher, with a passion for foreign languages.