WAYK Podcast, Episode 37: “Overwhelming Grandma”

The SYL 2010 attendees

1 hour, 7 minutes, 5 seconds.

[direct download]

1. Technique “Tea with Grandma”

  • Where do you start when you sit down with Grandma?

2. Technique “Start at the Beginning”
3. Technique “What is that?”
4. Technique “Hunting Party”

  • Willem explains to the rest of the language hunters, not sitting with Grandma having tea, that they have a job to do too; that if they accept they not everyone can sit down with Grandma at the same time, they can then prepare themselves to receive the language hunters coming in to play and share new language structure, taking “3-D Holographic Notes”.
  • Willem discussed with the table of language hunters what it would take to prepare for the arrival of language hunters coming from Tea with Grandma with new language.
  • Willem encouraged them to fold new nouns into a “want/have/give/take” level conversation, not just “what is that?” to new nouns.
  • Everybody found a way to be totally engaged by “Tea with Grandma” – not a single person was at the Meadow.

5. Technique “Obviously!”

  • Next time, Evan will dress in a wig and dress, to both create a laugh, and immersively role-play Grandma.
  • We will do anything to help endangered languages. Apparently.

6. Technique “Hunting Party”

  • Language hunters weren’t quite coordinated, so that hunters leaving to sit down with Grandma didn’t yet acquire the language the “just arriving” language hunters had to share with the table, duplicating some efforts.
  • Evan, as Grandma, noticed the tea was cold.
  • Tiffany, a language hunter, went to make more hot water.
  • Marty, just arriving from the language hunter’s circle, took the water Tiffany had begun to heat, before it was ready, bringing cold water for tea to the table.

7. Technique “Killing Faeries”

  • Language hunters wanted to translate the ASL into English when they brought Grandma’s language back to the hunter’s table. Killing faeries!

8. Technique “Dictionary Addiction”
9. Technique “Total Physical Response”
10. Technique “Start at the Beginning”

  • Evan discusses how “start at the beginning” and “tea with grandma” intersect. “Where to begin” is always the most difficult question.

11. Technique “Hunting Party”

  • The language hunters only had one table to take “3-D Holographic Notes” at; they really needed at least two, with 7 +/-2 players per table.

12. Technique “Tea with Grandma”

  • Willem describes the Tea with Grandma role-play as an almost religious experience, capable of totally rewiring, experientially, how you experience teaching and learning, in a very short time.
  • Evan, doing his best to play Grandma, began to feel overwhelmed. The two language hunters having tea with him weren’t working together, so he felt like he was watching a tennis match, bouncing back between them.
  • The table was getting messy and cluttered as language hunters switched out one after the other.
  • Evan played a nice Grandma who limited a bit of the potentially wide-ranging conversation (he didn’t ask “why” questions).
  • Even pretended not to understand David’s (one of the language hunters) finger spelling, as he thought it would be cheating.
  • Willem and Evan think “Tea with Grandma” needed a break and debrief midway, before continuing, to address some of the easily fixable issues with how the language hunters were overwhelming Grandma.
  • At the end of the role-play, Willem and Evan double-checked what new language the language hunters successfully hunted, looking at their hunting plan.

13. Technique “Please Return WAYK Players”
14. Technique “Tea with Grandma”

  • Marty, one of the language hunters, asked what do you do when Grandma spouts off a bunch of language that sorry, charlies you? Evan’s response: copycat it, and enjoy it. No need to understand it. Redirect the conversation back to your level, and have a recorder going to catch the language that goes over your head.
  • Again, video is far better than audio recording.

15. Technique “Skype”

  • Skype is great, but it is always a second best for the congruent in-person language and body language that Grandma will share. Use Skype as a back-up or last resort.

16. Technique “Speed Dating”

  • The final group activity, aside from the final debrief, that we ran.

17. Technique “Hunt any language, especially if you don’t want to learn it…”

  • We randomize the languages in the speed dating scenario so that hunters will become used to hunting languages that they have no personal investment in, just to practice the craft of language hunting.
  • The speed-dating set-up is several tables with two chairs each, and a warm-up table for players waiting for their turn to rotate through the tables with fluent fools.

18. Technique “We’ll All Get There Together”

  • Michael, a workshop attendee, arrived in the last hours of the workshop, and the other attendees independently brought him up to speed.

19. Technique “Warm-up Circle”

  • Ramona, a teacher of Cree, naturally started leading the warm-up table in a game of WAYK Cree, developing the “what is that?” curriculum.
  • Susanna, another attendee with no experience of Cree whatsoever (except right there at the table), took over for Ramona after about 20 minutes, and began running a game of Cree, because Ramona needed to go to the paired speed-dating tables.

20. Technique “Speed Dating”

  • Just like “Tea with Grandma”, players need a mid-way check-in to address some of the common challenges that crop up in speed dating.
  • Evan and Willem also plan to model common flub-ups in their “goal conversation” role-play, when introducing the speed dating activity. They currently model a too-perfect language hunt, almost showing off; this doesn’t help the new language hunters at all, but might actually intimidate them.
  • Common flub-ups–
  • Forgetting how to say “what is that?” in target language, and not feeling that they can ask for it again.
  • Bringing out too many objects (both red and black pen) too early.
  • Not signing right away, along with spoken language.
  • The set-up of paired tables violated “10 feet”; next time Evan will get more creative on how to adhere to this technique even in a small space.

21. Technique “Everyone Teach the Newbie”

  • We brought a newbie visitor, after lunch on the last day, from zero to want/have/give/take in 20 minutes.

22. Technique “Modeling”/”You go first”

  • Evan discusses with Willem how, rather than talking with Harron (a new language hunter)  how she might get to Superior speech hunting a fluent elder, he actually planned it out with her and gave her the solid next steps with deadlines and back-ups.
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2 thoughts on “WAYK Podcast, Episode 37: “Overwhelming Grandma”

  1. I wonder if the ideal “Hunting Party” size isn’t even

    Each person that comes back from grandma has a brain full of language to share, and the more people they are teaching, the more burden on them when they’re already full.

    Just teaching 1 person would be a decelerator. Your student gets an imperfect copy of what you offered her. Meanwhile, some of your memories from grandma fade. Now it’s hard to fix your student.

    Teaching 2 people lets them fix each other, and tandem-hunt you.

    Beyond that, perhaps the burden of teaching more overwhelms the value.

    Later, the different groups can get together and pass their new language back and forth to get it spread broadly. Each bit of language has 3 people to carry it until then, and offer it to the group.

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