CAN8 Lesson Plans

This week, the CAN8 team has – at long last – put down some concrete ideas for lesson plan layouts in the CAN8 program. Each lesson would take about a week to complete, and would have the following three types of exercises:

Dialogues (two exercises per lesson):

  • First, the learner listens to the dialogue without text and answers some simple, multiple-choice comprehension questions about it.
  • Then, the learner listens to the dialogue again with text and answers some more in-depth questions.
  • One of the dialogue partners will always be someone in the role of the language learner – that way, learners using the program will be able to identify with the speakers and hopefully understand that it isn’t the end of the world if they aren’t perfect speakers just yet.

Vocabulary (two exercises per lesson):

  • These exercises will go over some vocabulary mentioned in the previous dialogue using pictures.
  • The pictures will be in a “repeat after me” format, so learners can get some practice with pronunciation.
  • At the end there will be a short vocabulary quiz, where a word is played back and the learner has to match a picture to the spoken word.

Grammar (two exercises per lesson):

  • The focus here will be on pointing out patterns to the learners and having learners make up their own rules for these patterns, not on teaching rules.
  • The exercise will end with a “dialogue” that the learner will participate in. The dialogue will be with a recording of another person, playing the part of another language learner, who will ask for feedback about some of their sentences. For example, the other learner could end a sentence with something along the lines of: “That didn’t sound quite right. What would you say instead?” The learner would then have an opportunity to either say “No, that sounded alright!” or “Yes, that did sound funny. I would say…”

Our current goal is to have a proto-lesson up and running by the time we visit Listuguj later this month. The proto-lesson would be a sort of proposed first lesson. So far, topics include:

  • One dialogue between a learner and their grandparent, discussing what they did that day/what their plans are for the day
  • One classroom-type dialogue between a teacher and a few learners, teaching basic learning vocabulary (phrases like, “Could you please repeat that?” or “How do you say…?”) and how to introduce yourself
  • A grammar section on word (or just verb) structure: what is an initial? What is a medial? What is a final? We may not use this exact vocabulary, but the differences would be pointed out
  • A grammar section on first and second person verb endings

These are our ideas so far. Let us know what you think! Should we add anything else? Does anything need improving? We’d love your input.

– Erin, Elise, & Jacob (Team CAN8)

7 thoughts on “CAN8 Lesson Plans

  1. This looks positively wonderful! I think this is a great outline for the lesson structures! Here are some preliminary comments:

    – Dialogues and Grammar

    Key to a really effective language program is a progression where lexicogrammatical and pragmatic-communicative competence are deeply interwoven at all times. Ideally they should rarely be separate and nearly always carefully designed to overlap as much as possible.

    This can be achieved by developing realistic and non-boring situations that reasonably naturally highlight the target patterns/contrasts. Comedic disagreement is a great way to teach quantification (including negation, which is a kind of quantification). And also desiderativity and other mood/modality components, for that matter: model speakers argue hilariously about what they want and like and think should be…. Similarly, humorous interactions of describing the appearance and behavior of people and things is not just for learning adjectivals: it’s also for learning relative clause formation. And gossip (and forgetfulness, reminiscence) is great for sentential complementation.

    In sum, we might want to make the Dialogues and Grammar exercises as closely allied as possible; with even the Grammar component still very natural-use-grounded, and not the sort of “working through the paradigms” abstraction that grammar exercises often are.

    – Vocabulary

    I’m of the opinion that as a general rule, vocabulary is best learned embedded in carrier phrases. This is even more so in heavily inflected, gender-matching languages like Mi’gmaq. Both fundamental morphosyntactic lexical features like animacy, and fundamental morphophonological lexical features like terminal vs. combinatorial forms of stems (i.e. stem-vowels, etc.), are difficult to learn and retain if we teach lexicon via a citation-form-based approach. Since citation forms generally happen to be stripped of any overt evidence of animacy, and show only the terminal (zero-inflected) form of the stem, rather than the combinatorial form that is actually the one most commonly encountered in real usage.

    Also, given that obviation is something English-based speakers will never think to attend to on their own (unlike, say, plurality), carrier-phrase-based framing of vocabulary will help keep that front and center even before learners necessarily grasp it.

  2. Hi all,
    This is sounding good! Of the three, I’m a little less clear on what the “Grammar” section looks like, since based on my understanding of the program, the CAN8 user can’t have a real dialogue with the computer, right? I’m wondering how the user will get feedback. Would another possible way be to start giving them patterns and then after they’ve seen/heard a few, ask them to to complete a sentence, maybe with multiple choices? (e.g. pick the right verb inflection)

    • Is there an option for the user’s voice to be recorded and sent to the teacher or anything? I’m not quite sure how the software works in this respect.

        • Yes, this is how CAN-8 becomes gradeable material for a lot of teachers. Every recording the student makes is noted on the teacher’s account, and they can listen to whichever ones they please. We were thinking for this part specifically that we might have an answer, too. We’ll leave the student time to record their own answer, then offer a correction of the correction, so to speak. It might run like this (using English for speed, sorry):
          Recorded: It were nice weather today! Hm, that doesn’t sound right, what would you say? [long pause]
          Student: They were nice weather today?
          Recorded: Oh, it’s “it was nice weather today!”

          This way the student has the chance to check themselves without the teacher needing to intervene on every recording. What do you think?

          • The built-in correction thing soundsllike a cool idea, but I’m a little bit worriedabout giving learners exposure to incorrect forms from native speakers. I think if I were a learner this might confuse me into accidentally learningthe wrong forms.

            How about something like Recording: “what’sthe weather outside?”
            Learner: “it’s sunny” Recording: “you might have said ‘it’s sunny’ or ‘it’s raining’.”

  3. It looks good so far! I’m wondering about opportunities to practise the things that the user is learning though. As far as I can tell, there’s basically listen/answer questions for the dialogue, repeat the words, and then be half of a dialogue? I’m thinking it might be useful to have an intermediate step between repeating words and responding to a dialogue in real time, maybe something where users complete sentences or make their own sentences using the words and/or structures they just learned?

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