Teaching with concept webs in L2. The rationale of Vygotsky, ZPDs and the Affective Filter
As a believer in constructivism and scaffolding, I also believe firmly in Vygotsky’s ZPD theory (Zone of Proximal Development), which states that students should be pushed to a next level once a skill is acquired.
When we teach second languages it is imperative that we keep our students’ attention sustained and affective, that is, that their focus is not lost. For this there is a huge need of motivation. This is why the activity in which the student engages should be relevant, natural to them, and most of all, entertaining. All affective filters will decrease to the point of allowing learning to take place. This composes the entire taxonomy of acquiring information, or in other words, intelligence.
When building concept webs do not include the word the student already knows in their natural language. This is already occuring automatically in their brain as they make the mental connection of picture to meaning.
In L2 we must infuse everything in the TARGET language and allow the student to make the connection of picture to meaning by themselves. This is the case with both adult and younger learners. In fact, research shows that in younger learners this process occurs more naturally and at a faster rate. This is because younger learners already have a tendency of seeking for print-rich environments combined with pictures.
Beginning of the lesson:
Using a projector, ELMO, Smartboard, or even a web made by hand, set up a center that will be geared uniquely to the teaching of the isolated words. This will not be the primary anchor of the lesson, as we do not teach L2 in isolation. This is what we call the “Parking Lot” or the part in the classroom where students can go anytime to recall the meaning of words.
After introducing the lesson and placing the “Parking Lot”, use realia or magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle to search for some of the foods.