Processing, or the processing stage, is the step that comes after the input. This is the point in the unit or lesson of instruction in which the students are doing a couple of really important things with the language they are learning. They are taking the input we have provided and making sense of it, becoming comfortable using it as well as personalizing it. This is the stage that is most often missing from world language programs and classes. In fact, it was the missing component in my instruction for years.
What Processing Is:
What Processing Is NOT:
The input just before this processing activity is the furniture in the rooms of the house and our learning target is, "I can connect the rooms of a house to their furnishing and functions." So, now I need my students to begin to employ the new vocabulary and associate it with the rooms of the house. This is a bit like when a toddler plays with shape puzzles. They may recognize the shapes, but the puzzles require they apply that knowledge by putting the right shape into its correct spot in the puzzle.
In this step of my lesson I have asked my students to imagine they are the makeover team and they have to take inventory of the family's house, what they have in the rooms and assess the problems in the house. This document is only for processing. That means that there is no grade assigned to it. Its only purpose is to give us an instructional context for using the language. Without it, what purpose do my students have for talking about furniture?
The task I have given my students is to watch the makeover team tour the home and discuss problems with the family. As they watch, they have to list the room they see in column 1 of the document. In column 2 they have to list the items they see in the room or what the family has and in column 3 they have to assess the needs in that room and list them there. This is not an activity I leave them to do on their own. I am guiding them all along the way. I stop and start the video to find the best view of the room, I point out object in the room and ask What is this? What is that? How many do they have? So, my students are making associations between the room and the furnishings. I also explain using comprehensible Spanish what the makeover team and the family are saying to each other about the problems in the house. Then I ask my students things like What problems are there in the living room? And I let them explain to me as best they can. We often generate fabulous vocabulary during these talks. Once the problem has been verbalized I ask What does the family need in the room? Then, my students tell me. For example, in the episode we are watching, one of the children in the family has severe epilepsy and is in a wheelchair. The living room has steps in it, so it is difficult to move him in and out of the room. When I asked my students what the problem is, they respond in broken Spanish explaining the stairs hard for wheelchair. YES! Then when I ask what do they need? a student or two come up with el rampo which of course is not correct, but rampa is!
Again, the paper is not anything that is meant to be turned in. It is only the scaffolding needed to keep the students in the TL and focused on applying the vocabulary and structures we are learning. This processing activity forces my students to make connections between old and new content and circumlocute to get their point across.
I have learned that with processing activities proficiency grows, but assignments don't always ensure proficiency. Without processing the input has no where to go, so any class or program that doesn't include processing in its instructional design is not giving control of the language over to the students.