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by Erica Fischer on Mar 25, 2014

25 Tips for a More Successful and Fun World Language Class

No matter how many years you’ve been teaching world language, there is always room for learning a new way of making class more fun and effective. At last week’s #langchat, teachers from all over the world shared their best tips and tricks for making language class an experience that students can remember for a lifetime.

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25 Tips for a More Successful and Fun World Language Classroom

1. Set up consistent learning structures and processes. @alenord said, “I think in order to have successful language class, your systems have to be in place. Makes more room for TL use.” Systems like grading, transitions, daily warm-ups and even how to get a bathroom pass go a long way to making the class run smoothly. @tiesamgraf said, “Students like to know what to expect and how things run to be successful.”

2. Get to know your students from Day 1. @dwphotoski said, “Tip: get to know your students from day 1 and let them be the focus of every class.” Not only does getting to know your students personally help you to know how to teach them better, it helps them to know that you care about them individually. That makes for a more positive classroom culture, fewer discipline problems and a more differentiated learning environment. @ProfeCochran said, “The individual should be the focus and the drive of the lessons for lessons to be effective.”

3. Teach them how to learn language. As @alenord said, “It’s important to teach students HOW to learn language. Not like any other class they have! We have to teach them how to attend to language they see or hear. Hard, but important!” This means teaching students the valuable lessons of listening, observing and focusing in a world where their focus is often split between multiple channels of media.

4. Overplan. @SenoraDiamond55 said, “Always over plan! Nothing wrong with having lots of options! @MmeCarbonneau agreed, saying, “Be prepared for anything! Plans will never go as anticipated!”

5. Have a growth mindset. Having a “growth mindset” is about showing students what they are capable of and celebrating successes with them. @alenord said, “Lots of praise and positive feedback! Also, growth mindset. Don’t just tell them how well they did, always give a new goal to meet.” @SrtaJohnsonEBHS said, “My big tip: Have students show you what they CAN do in the language, not what they can’t.”

6. Variety is the spice of language learning. @msfrenchteach said, “It helps to change up the tasks often so as to balance skill-building practice as much as possible.” @SenoraDiamond55 added, “Not only do multiple activities, also vary pacing.” @CoLeeSensei said, “Even if it’s just switching partners – it keeps the energy and repetitions up!”

7. Use authentic resources. @JarrSchroe said, “It’s more about the skills NOT about the DRILLS. Use #authres combined with authentic tasks!” @ProfeKing said, “Authentic resources make language seem accessible, and become sources for comprehensible discourse.” @tiesamgraf said, “Students love working with authentic resources! It motivates them to use real life language they can figure out!”

8. Scaffold lessons. In a truly scaffolded unit, students have been taught all the supporting structures in order for them to be successful with each new lesson. @alenord said, “Scaffolding is essential in the language classroom. It is the support system for their success and confidence builder!”

9. Focus on communication. One of the key elements for a successful language classroom is a movement away from isolated lessons and a focus on communication and interaction. @msfrenchteach said, “Successful days often include group collaboration during which I can move around and discuss in small grps. Similar to a scene in a chemistry lab. If my studetns can communicate with native speakers and be understood, that’s success.” @placido said, “We need to emphasize that the “chit chat” of world language class is actually learning time, not goof off time!”

10. Encourage mistakes. @AmKay11 said, “Students shouldn’t correct every mistake. It will force them to stop trying. Teachers shouldn’t correct everything either! Students have to feel safe enough to make mistakes, try and step outside their comfort zone.” @alenord said, “I like to “celebrate mistakes.” I tell students, “I am so glad you made that mistake! Now I have opportunity to teach!““ @NorahProfesora said, “Self-esteem is an issue in language classes more than any other. Make them feel comfortable. Let them know that errors are OK!”

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11. Include movement. @tiesamgraf said, “Moving is a great tool to add in to planning – great for all and especially kinesthetic learners!” Not only is movement great as a learning tool, but it wakes students up, gets their blood moving and can be a good way to help them “get their wiggles out.” It can also be a fun way to learn new vocabulary. @themomduck said, “We have motions for almost all our vocab. Rarely do I define vocab with the English word. I reward when they are audaces (bold).”

12. Use technology wisely. Although technology is a fun way to change things up, it is vital that it is being done in a way that furthers language instruction and adds to the curriculum effective. @trescolumnae said, “The key is for the tech (or non-tech) to support the language, not to supplant it. Do what’s best for you and your students!” Participants mentioned sites and technology components like Zondle, Quizlet, Kahoot, Peardeck and Infuse Learning as favorites. @NorahProfesora said, “Sometimes we text each other in class. Like, make plans for dinner. It’s realistic that they text that.”

13. Support learning outside of class time. Although homework is the first thing that comes to mind when speaking about learning outside of class, world language teachers have fun, interesting options that many students wouldn’t consider “work.” @ekdahljames said, “I will give them points for speaking German with me even if it’s outside of class time, in the hallway, at Target.” @NorahProfesora said, “I am having students record themselves teaching Spanish to someone at home. Promises to be interesting.”

14. Plan with attainable goals in mind. @Marishawkins said, “Always keep in mind your end goal: What do you want students to do in the language?” @sramush said, “Skills-based activities are most useful. Read, write, listen, speak!” @SraSpanglish said, “Goal-setting and reflection have improved target language usage and risk-taking for my kids lately.” @alenord said, “VERY IMPORTANT for teachers to design “doable” tasks. Their proficiency level plus 1 to be attainable, but push their proficiency.”

15. Start class off with a “hook.” Having a “hook” to the lesson, or some kind of interesting activity that introduces the lesson, is a great way to get students immediately engaged with learning. @tiesamgraf said, “Starting class with a ‘hook’ is awesome – authentic resources work well – a song, commercial or short video works well with theme.” @placido said, “I start class everyday with a song. Focus, fun, fellowship to begin the hour!”

16. Celebrate often. Don’t just celebrate birthdays and holidays, celebrate all the small successes that students have each day. @dwphotoski said, “Celebrate the successes, celebrate the participation, celebrate the language!” As you celebrate the small things, you can infuse your classroom with cultural knowledge as well as a positive atmosphere that rewards students for doing their best.

17. Give feedback for everything. As @tiesamgraf pointed out, “learning stops after the grade.” That is why it is so vital to make the most of every activity through the use of effective feedback. @AmKay11 said, “I make sure I give feedback on everything whether it’s praise for a right answer or indicating when a mistake was made.” @ProfeKing said, “For low levels, proficiency feedback pushes them beyond just “what’s the right answer” and gets them communicating, not just recognizing words.”

18. Make time for reflection. Although teacher feedback is necessary for growth, self-reflection is one of the best ways to allow students to have a personal learning experience. Whether that is a “ticket out the door” reflective sentence or a one-on-one conversation with the teacher about their progress, self-reflection is one of the key tools in the world language teacher’s toolbox. @AmKay11 said, “I think students like to see the progress they make through a portfolio.”

19. Choose high-interest topics. While you don’t have to make your language class all about the personal interests of your students, choosing high-interest subjects goes a long way to keeping them engaged. @SrtaLohse said, “It’s important to use a frame of reference that they understand – video games, movies, music, etc. Capture interest right away.” @AmKay11 said, “Find out what the students are interested in, and use that to help guide your lessons. Intrinsic motivation.”

20. Lighten up. World language studies are about culture, community and communication. What better way to teach those skills that through humor? Tell a few jokes, sing some silly songs, or watch a funny video in the target language. Keep the mood light and fun (and not hurtful or sarcastic), and language class will quickly become your students’ favorite. @AmKay11 said, “I make sure to let my students know that I am still learning too. It is NOT ok to make fun of others.”

21. Be a facilitator, not a dictator. One of the goals of a teacher is to foster the learning process without becoming the center of it. The #langchat participants had some interesting ways of putting this concept into practice. @SenoraDiamond55 said, “My new line has been: Try–I will help you out. Obvious (you know, with being a teacher), but a reminder helps.” Being a facilitator also includes respect for the student as an individual, not treating him or her as a subordinate. @alenord said, “Rather than correct students, I often ask permission to “tweak” something. I won’t correct without permission.”

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22. Be passionate about what you teach. When you’re excited about your language, the students will respect and appreciate the instruction more. @tiesamgraf said, “Show your passion about the language and culture in the classroom!” But, sometimes this is a difficult task. @SrtaLohse suggested, “Enthusiasm and patience in large quantities will help.”

23. Keep learning and be teachable. Whether it is through conferences, student feedback or additional classwork, continuing your own language study is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success. @tiesamgraf said, “Collecting feedback from students really helps me to grow. I often survey students and am sure to share and implement their ideas. No one is perfect!”

24. Take care of yourself. Not just academically, but you need to be taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally as well. @SenoraDiamond55 said, “To have a successful class, take care of yourself. Amazing ideas come to mind with some space!” Take your lunch breaks, enjoy your weekends and get enough sleep. You’ll be amazed at how much better of a teacher you are when you spend some time meeting your own needs instead of always focusing on your students’ needs. @msfrenchteach said, “Educators and administration do need time to rest and rejuvenate. Just as learners need time to do the same.”

25. Find a community. No matter how good of a teacher you are, you need the support of other language teachers so that you can thrive instead of just survive the school year. By connecting with other language teachers in your school, your district or online, you can have a safety net of resources when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. @CoLeeSensei said, “Biggest tip for a successful MFL classroom? The #langchat PLN.”

Other Ideas and Tips for a Better Language Class

  • @dwphotoski said, “Tip: speak in the TL slowly, the slower the better.
  • @tiesamgraf said, “I’ve been using conversation circles and students really enjoy them – they love to use the language in a real life setting!”
  • @spsmith45 said, “Matching to student interests OK, but also a duty to open them up to new challenges and interests.”
  • @jesslahey said, “Instead of buying maps, project from overhead on shower curtains and have students trace with Sharpies.”
  • @dwphotoski said, “Make reading come alive with readers theatre, lots of great fun! Do more than “just read”.”
  • @jesslahey said, “On nice days we have team competitions to compile most words for natural objects on vocab list. They wander with dictionaries.”
  • @MmeCarbonneau said, “Give incentive tickets like mini Eiffel Towers for rewards. Use as chances for “extras” like special activities or odd prizes.”
  • @CoLeeSensei said, “@NorahProfesora My students are using Siri to ask questions – screen shot the answer (if they asked correctly!).”
  • @yeager85 said, “Explicit grammar instruction is okay (I think), but I save it for when students start asking me WHY they are using certain forms.”
  • @ekdahljames said, “It’s hard not to try and correct everything. Sometimes I just pick one thing and go on.”
  • @MmeCarbonneau said, “Leave them wondering what is going to happen tomorrow. Send hints via tweets, IG, etc. Leave them guessing and interested.”

Summary

No matter what your personal teaching style is, focusing on the students and on their growing ability to communicate is the best way to instill a love of language learning. In addition to supporting their growth, you must be willing to continue growing yourself. Through proper planning, self-care and a good Professional Learning Network (PLN) like #langchat, you can continue to learn the skills for making your classroom fun, engaging and beneficial for you and your students.

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Thank You

We’d like to give a big shout out to @msfrenchteach and @CoLeeSensei for keeping this chat interesting and informational. So many great ideas were shared this week, and we couldn’t include every gem in the summary. For a complete transcript of the chat, check out the tweet archive for more great ideas and tips for making your world language classroom even better.

As your Professional Learning Network, we are here to help you learn the things you want to know about being a better language teacher. If you have suggestions for future #langchat topics, don’t be afraid to share them on the wiki. We want to make #langchat a collaborative experience that really meets your personal teaching needs.

Additional Resources

Exploiting youtube and vimeo videos with textivate
Piktochart
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Teaching with El Internado
Letter Grades Deserve an ‘F’
A Pregnant Woman Learns Her Baby Has Down Syndrome. People Who Have It Answer Her One Big Question.
Courageous Conversation: Formative Assessment and Grading
Students Should Be Tested More, Not Less
Communicative Tone – Enriching Student Communication
4 Things To Consider As You Allow Phones in Class
Homework? A Quick Phone-Recorded Conversation Please!
Technology resources for the World Language classroom
Keepvid
TELL Tools

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Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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