Friday, March 6, 2015

The Art of Point and Pause

In a couple of my blog posts, I have referenced a CI strategy called Point and Pause, so allow me an excursus in this post to explain what it is. Point and Pause is part of establishing meaning, and it is done exactly how it sounds: you point to the word and meaning which you have written on the board, and you pause to allow processing time.

Writing the word on the board with the English meaning and then Pointing and Pausing allows the following:
  • it allows time for all students to process the word
  • a reference for students whenever I use that word again in the lesson
  • it levels the playing field for all, as comprehension of the word is now immediate for all, not just the 4%rs and fast processors
The irony is that Point and Pause is not as easy as it sounds, and it is a skill which I am still trying to master. My biggest problem is that whenever I point and pause, I actually forget to pause. I point and then rush to go back to the story which I am telling. By not pausing I am denying adequate processing time. I now have to remind myself constantly to count to 5 whenever I pause. Five seconds may seem like a long time, but some students need that processing time. 

A few months ago, I was co-facilitating a CI inservice for teachers in my district. I was giving an example of circling in Latin since the majority of the teachers did not know the language. I was demonstrating Point and Pause, but since I was among language teachers, I figured that I did not have to slow down too much. One of the French teachers in attendance raised her hand and said, "I need you to slow down. I am the barometer student in the room. I am a slow processor. I am that student who needs LOTS of repetitions and LOTS of processing time." Even language teachers need adequate time to process! 

From my own experience at NTPRS last summer, when learning Japanese via CI from Betsy Paskvan, she had our target vocabulary written on the board, and she implemented Point and Pause. I immensely appreciated that she did this, because it helped slow things down a bit so that I could process everything. 

Some may argue that establishing meaning/Point and Pause is counterproductive to language learning, as students need to construct their own meaning in the target language.
We need to remember though that our goal is that all students acquire the language. Not every student will be able to construct their own meaning correctly or at the same time - the 4%er probably can do this, but what about the other 96%? Establishing meaning/pointing and pausing lowers stress and confusion, thus lowering the affective filter and thereby allowing students to learn. 

If you ever get the chance to see a teacher demonstrate Point and Pause as part of their lesson and if they do a good job with it, let him/her know. That teacher will definitely appreciate it!

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