Today was our fourth story test. The class had a speedwrite assignment: in five minutes, describe this picture in as many words as possible. Note: we are unsheltered (i.e. we use all necessary grammar and do not restrict ourselves to any one verb tense, mood, etc). Also we are a split class: beginners, 2s and three native speakers.
This picture works well: we just did the “Cambio de Pelo” story and the kids know words for hair, eyes, colours, dog, cat, guitar.
So here are what the beginners did.
First, Marya. Note spelling mistake– “guitare”– this kid had French last year and it shows. Also note tense & person confusion. I have started doing ¿qué hiciste anoche? PQA at the start of every class and the beginners are mixing these up. My theory is that if it’s not also in structured writing (i.e. story form) they mix it up more.
Manvir has some problems with verbs. She is missing hay and es which may have to do with not enough present-tense PQA and/or reading. Also adjective agreement errors. The thing is entirely comprehensible, but the errors at times make you go huh?
Minali’s was interesting. It hit me that the beginners have problems with the definite article! I had assumed, my God, this goes without saying…but…most of our kids being L1 Punjabi or Hindi (which do not have articles) perhaps I can’t assume that English crossover grammar will kick in. Again here hay and es and está are missing. Also note jugar guitar a classic French/English cognate mistake, one that comes from the conscious mind.
Manisha’s is basically perfect but she did not write in 3rd person.
Roshini’s is also perfect basically and very high wordcount. But she did not write in present– I am wondering if these guys actually can consciously think about verb tenses. Also note classic on-the-way error: Saturn gustaba instead of A Saturn le gustaba. She hasn’t added the a and le because these are of low importance: the beginner language brain is focusing on gustaba, which has all the essential info. Interesting also how she used plural adjective form azules for pelo.
Wordcounts are lower than last time. This is (I think) because when we do story-related PQA, all of the answers are in first person, so it’s easy to describe yourself. We simply do a whole lot less talk in 3rd person present.
What did I learn?
- Do MUCH more present tense PQA (or ask actors about each other)
- do pop-ups for everything including articles!
- put more present-tense commentary in written versions of unsheltered stories, OR do way more Picturetalk (look and discuss) in present tense.
- the kids don’t make mistakes unless I don’t provide enough input