Yes. You heard correctly. I don't think the 90% is a possibility if we don't know how to use the 10% to support it. I really don't. Since we are in the countdown to the new school year (could it be true?), now is really good time to ponder how to use that 10% to the advantage this coming school year.
Working Your Way Up
I know what all the experts in our field say about using 90% target language, I know why and I agree, but I also know that the reality that all teachers new to target language teaching face. Before actually doing it we all have questions like these:
- Am I proficient enough for this much language?
- Will my students resist my teaching in the TL?
- What do I do if they do?
- How do I teach what I need to teach in the TL?
- How do I avoid speaking over their heads?
- How do I know they are getting the point of the lesson?
- How do I know they are learning?
All that being said, the best advice I ever received was to work my way up to 90%. Teaching in the TL is also a sort of art form that even the best world language teachers are constantly working to perfect. It isn't just speaking the target language at students. It is also not just about the teacher speaking the target language. It is a very orchestrated environment that can often contain many working parts. It takes lots of practice and a deep instructional tool box. Lesson plans for target language teaching are less about the "activities" and more about timing, purpose, scaffolding, and well thought out instructions, and all of this is needed to help students AND the teacher use the TL 90% of the time. TL lessons are also less about completing and covering things and more about the mental processes going on in the brain. This is why that 10% is so important, and must be taken very seriously.
So, what about the 10%?
First, it is really wise to calculate what the 10% really is. Know what 10% of your instructional time is for you and for your students. My rule of thumb is that I get 10% and so do they, especially in novice and early intermediate level classes (levels 1-2). That being said, here are some ideas for what teachers and students could use the 10% for:
10% for Teachers
10% for Students
The reason why the 10% is so important is that it sets the stage for and supports the use of TL for instruction. It helps teachers and students manage being in that type of environment. For the 10% to be powerful, it should be purposeful. That means it should be as much a part of our planning as anything else in the lesson. We can take control of the 10% or students will, and if they do it is likely 10% will turn into 15% or 20% or more. Being intentional with that time is all about building and sustaining momentum in the target language. We have to create the expectation that TL will be used in the classroom, and then make sure that environment is sustained in order to really see students make remarkable progress from one proficiency level to the next. Proficiency based, target language teaching and the planning it requires is so much more deliberate than anything I ever did in the past. I don't remember ever having to know so much, or needing so many tools and strategies to use before. That is because before there was no real goal.
Happy Coaching, Friends!
Hope you are enjoying your summer!