Learning in the context of Indigenous language as second language needs to be conceptualized as engaging all of the senses and greater than simply a ‘hands on’ (kinasthetic approach) or observations of adults performing adult tasks (visual). Experiential learning must include the Indigenous language (oral) as it is spoken in context, or in its natural environment allowing children to experience its natural patterns and complexity.
Total Physical Response (TPR) is a method developed in the 1970s by James Asher to help people learn languages by connecting the verbal, which is abstract, with physical movement. Total Physical Response is enhanced with visual cues, this means, not only saying the word orally but enacting through movement or tactile illustrations.
For example, students might respond to commands that are sung by simply physically moving to commands such as sit down, stand up and then they might create a tactile illustration of sitting and standing by demonstrating it with their hands. The association of sound and visual enhance memory and they tend to be enjoyable for children who love to be active. A detailed description of the method can be acquired at the Total Physical Response website while application to Indigenous languages can be accessed at Chief Atahm School’s website in British Columbia.
The TPR method can be integrated into games such as Simon Says…”touch your toes” etc or by adapting the spelling bee competition into team movement bees, where the teacher says a word and the students enact. Both teachers and students can adapt games and create Indigenous language versions.
Wordless Picture Books photographs of events or video taping of experiences provide visual cues to encourage the use of Indigenous languages. The creation of wordless picture books to document an experience or share a process beyond the classroom, in an Indigenous language is a helpful practice.
Children’s Wordless Picture Book Set
Books and videos intended for Early Years Learners illustrating common experiences may inspire students to create their own books or videos.
Ojibwe & Cree
Four books available on the website of Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre (MICEC) help early years students talk about the weather, family, animals and their habitats. One book is available for older students in Cree or Ojibwe which takes readers on an adventure in a city.
Creating a song, or using a song to document the experience is another helpful way of demonstrating language use:
- Cree Literacy Network has a plethora of Children’s Songs
- As does the Gift of Language and Culture website.
- APTN also aired a television series for early years children in Cree
This website was developed by the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) with funding from the Government of Alberta. It provides practical resources for teachers of Indigenous languages as well as links to teacher training programs and contemporary research on Indigenous language teaching and acquisition.
CASLT National Office
101-2197 Riverside Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 7X3