Communication First

Posted on Updated on

By now we all know the 5 C’s of World Language teaching…Communication, Culture, Comparisons, Community and Connections.  They are, after all, the foundation to what we do as language teachers.  But how often do we think of these 5 components when creating daily lessons? And how easy is it to just focus on a few and let the others fade into the oblivion?

Communication tends to be the easiest to incorporate into our daily lessons because duh, we teach language and it better be happening in our classrooms! Right? But what we need to be asking ourselves is…”Does my lesson have a real communicative goal?” ”Is communication really happening?” “What does real communication look like?” “Are our students really communicating?”

Does my lesson have a communicative goal?

This is a question we should all ask ourselves when creating a lesson. Often times we fill in the class period with activities that help students practice vocabulary or we drill and kill them until they are bored.  This year our World Language department finally caught on to the ACTFL “I can” statements. It has been a real eye opening experience filled with challenges, mistakes, regrets and a whole lot of learning. Most of what I have learned is just because it says “I can” in front of a task does not mean communication is happening and does not make a task communicative. Let’s look at a few of the statements I started with.

I can recite the ABCs

I can give basic commands

I can count to 10

Let’s think for a moment what these really say about a student and what they can do.  These statements on their own generally equal no communication. When was the last time you were at a Deaf community event and recited your ABCs to someone? That is probably not the casual conversation someone is expecting. Vague outcomes just tell us what a student can regurgitate and not really what they “can do.”

Is communication really happening?

For communication to be taking place we need to put these outcomes into real life situations. Wouldn’t it be better for a student to know how to use the vocabulary and skills for communication in a real life situation? It is important for us as teachers of the language to provide opportunities for this to happen and to make sure there is a clear understand of how to do it from a student’s perspective. Let’s take the above goals and put them into real life situations.

I can tell where I am from (ABCs)

I can tell someone where the paper is located in the classroom (basic commands)

I can give my address (numbers and ABCs)

Students can complete these tasks in a number of settings at various levels of skill.  Students will all produce language differently …some will use phrases or sentences while others can begin to use paragraphs. At each of these proficiency levels there is room for students to grow and improve their communication. Here are some ideas on how take the “I can” statements and use them in real communication situations.

  • “Introduce yourself to a deaf girl you just met at the park…tell your name and where you are from”
  • “Tell your new friend where the bathroom is located at the park…”
  • “Give your new friend your phone number so you can Facetime later…”

The great news about these type of communication activities is that students are not expected to master each task immediately.  Some students will straggle behind and some will pleasantly surprise you with what they can expand on.  Just remember with language, these skills should always be revisited. Don’t forget to incorporate them in future units or expressive tasks.

If communication is your classroom goal…and I hope it is, start to think about your objectives and how to incorporate them into your daily lessons.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve communication in the classroom and how you use your “I can” statements. Comment below.


2 thoughts on “Communication First

    […] my last post I discussed the importance of communication in the  language classroom. Today I want to talk about […]


    Julian said:
    May 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    incredibly about point – your readers would definitely be smart to follow your advice relating to this.

    Many thanks


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s