Sometimes it is no easy task to engage all students in a new language, especially those who are struggling with motivation or any number of outside factors. In the April 20 #langchat, world language teachers shared how they handle reluctant language learners, connect with their students, and foster a love for language beyond school requirements.
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Reasons for Emphasizing Language Learning
Engaging reluctant learners in a classroom can prove to be quite the challenge. However, emphasizing reasons for learning can encourage and motivate struggling students. #Langchat teachers shared some of their reasons behind why studying another language is so important.
These reasons go beyond school requirements. @CoLeeSensei shared that “language study develops all those great soft skills employers look for such as problem solving interpersonal [communication].” Spanish teacher @snraluptak said that studying a second language can give students the “ability to connect with others on a new level and travel.” It can also provide an increase in “brain benefits, jobs, college [opportunities].” Also, @magisterb480 emphasizes that languages can allow students to “explore new worlds. Become one with a culture that is thousands of miles away or thousands of years in the past. Live a language.” Second language learning can bring a fresh perspective on “travel, music, peoples, food, and conversation” (@SraWilliams3). “Instead of ‘you can use this in the future’ try to focus on how it’s useful *now* (meet friends, increase empathy, etc)” @doriecp shared, a particularly effective point coming from an elementary Spanish teacher.
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Activities and Resources that Inspire Reluctant Language Learners
#Langchat participants shared some of their most successful activities and resources used to inspire reluctant language learners.
- @MmeBlouwolff finds epals to be successful. “Having a handwritten letter from a real French teen in hand got every single student to pen (well, type…) a reply.”
- @mmeshep said “Resources: music, cartoons, texts based on their interests. Activities: Anything that feels like a game.” Young children and teens alike can get interested in those!
- @srtamartino suggests implementing “games to practice the target language, music, and anything relevant to pop culture or student interests will engage them more than generic tasks.”
- @magisterb480 likes “anything that involves creation. Pictures, posters, stories, etc. [Students] want to be part of the experience.”
- @sharon_grele said, “get them up, moving and talking. Struggling [students] need that.
- @nicola_work said, “personalized, creative use of the language (fun projects like cartoons, videos, poems, collages, etc.” work best in her classroom.
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Redirecting Negative Energy During Class
Often, teachers struggle to redirect negative energy, especially in the middle of class. @ACWLteach suggests that teachers “keep students moving, changing activities. Try something different and move on without giving it too much attention.” According to @mmeshep, “it depends on the kid: minor crankiness can be ignored; [however], blatant disrespect gets a private conversation about what’s going on.”
On the other hand, @SraSpanglish sometimes calls it out. “‘Are you COMPLAINING? Before you even TRY? Come on, man!’ Students sometimes don’t realize before they speak.” @SraStephanie does “the whole in-the-hall conversation. ‘You are not acting like yourself today, what’s up?’ Don’t let it dominate the class.” @welangley adds, “do a brain break. Find out why.” He asks himself, “Am I being incomprehensible; am I being boring?”
Checking in with Students to Ensure Connection
It is important to check in with students throughout the year in order to build and maintain a student and teacher connection.
- @SraStephanie checks in with “pre-class small talk as they walk in the door.”
- @CoLeeSensei said, “I ask them – via post-activity rubrics & 1/2 way through the semester & take the time to write back”
- @MmeBlouwolff shared that “journal entries help her know where there are bombs I need to defuse, show [students] I’m open, and give me the opportunities to address group needs.”
- @GMancuso13 connects with students with “quick comments about sports events I heard/read about, their art hanging in hall, and follow up on something they spoke/wrote about.”
- @doriecp “has breakfast and lunch with them. I also see them outside of class; run club, podcasting… Elementary is full opportunities!”
- @SraStephanie enjoys stations. “One must be with me sitting down and talking with the group, every time!”
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Promoting Language Courses Beyond Requirements
Connecting with students can be one of the best ways to encourage them to further their language studies and take classes beyond what is required. @profe_robbins said, “I find that good relationships with [students] encourage them to continue especially if you teach the next level.” @sonrisadelcampo encourages students to keep studying by “promoting the program through personal conversations with students and parents.” @CatherineKU72 finds that “telling and showing French 1 students what they’ll be able to do by time they’re in AP” helps promote the language classes. “Praise amazing work as AP-bound. Flatters & entices!” Perhaps trying to “foster a love for the language, so they’ll WANT to continue beyond the requirements” is the best way to promote further language study in students (@SrLaBoone).
Let’s show appreciation to our moderators Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for leading the lively discussion on Reaching Struggling Students in the World Language Classroom. Thanks also to all who participated and shared their thoughts and ideas! Check out our #langchat wiki to suggest a topic for the upcoming weeks.