Consider the following three stories, which originally were presented to students in a foreign language class learning Spanish:
Juan's class wants to have a party. Juan offers to go to the store. He drives his Ferrari to the local Safeway. He is in a great hurry. Juan grabs some chips and soda and throws them into the cart. Then he rushes to the deli section and tosses some mild red chili salsa into the cart. He runs to the checkout counter and pays $20 for the snacks and drives back to school. The students look at the food and say, "Yum!" Juan opens the mild red chili salsa. The students dip in their chips and put them in their mouths. "AYYYYYY!!!" they shout. The salsa is mislabeled! It is really EXTRA, EXTRA HOT! The teacher calls the fire department! The firefighters spray water all over the students. The principal gets mad at the teacher and the class goes home.
Katerina is very, very tired. She decides to go to bed. She brushes her teeth, washes her face, and puts on her pajamas. She checks the doors, picks up the cat, and turns off all the lights. She hops into bed, caresses the cat, and closes her eyes for the night. Suddenly, she sits bolt upright in her bed! There is a very loud sound coming from the house next door! She realizes that it is the sound of snoring! She jumps out of bed, throws open the window, and shouts at the man to stop snoring! The man stops for a while. Soon the sound of snoring is too loud for Katerina to bear! She calls the police, and they arrest Katerina's neighbor and haul him off to jail. Finally Katerina goes to sleep peacefully and doesn't wake up until noon the next day.
Valerie is in Paris. She will be there for three days and nights. She is so excited because it is her first trip to the City of Lights. She plans to visit many places, but what she really wants to do is see the lights of the city from the top of the Eiffel Tower. The first night Valerie tries to get a taxi to the tower, but none is available. The second night she takes the subway to the tower, but the elevator workers there are on strike and she cannot go up. The third night Valerie is very worried. She really wants to see the city all lit up! Once again she arrives at the tower. The line is terribly long! She feels someone tapping on her shoulder. She whirls around and sees a man in a bright red cape! It's Superman! He points to her and points to the top of the tower. Suddenly, Valerie feels herself flying through the cool air. She lands on top of the tower! She looks down and sees the lights of Paris glittering below her. Valerie is very, very happy.
What's going on with these "sense-sational" stories? They're just the usual fare in a foreign language classroom that employs all the senses, engages the mind, activates humor, and involves students physically and emotionally as they learn vocabulary and grammar structures in an exciting context. This new approach to foreign language acquisition draws on many of the Habits of Mind, and it is nothing like the traditional way many of us studied foreign languages when we were in high school.
The Grammatical Approach