How can learners given less than 90 minutes per week for language class develop real proficiency?
They can’t, according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Unless, that is, they have additional time outside of class to receive comprehensible input and interact in the language. But how will they get this extra time? In this short blog series, we’ve offered a few tips on how you can maximize your district or school time limits for better student outcomes.
First, we suggested you leverage the learners’ computer time. Second, we recommended you team up with the library using resources like audiobooks including our own original Storybooks with their accompanying audio. In this last post in the series, let’s talk about how you…
Send it home!
The answer is simple: if they don’t get enough time with you, they have to get enough time with you plus someone else, and why not partner with the folks at home? Every teacher can be more successful by partnering with the learner’s family, and world language is no exception.
Here are some ways I’ve connected my students with the language outside of class.
Find a partner.
When I reflected on my own language journey, I remembered that having real people to talk to was my primary motivation to keep going, even when it got hard. My proficiency path has names: Edith. Margarita. Gerardo. Realizing this made me wonder: was I helping my learners find this world of people to talk to? I wasn’t. So I made an amigo a required school supply. Some kids end up following through and some don’t, but all of my students know that finding a real person to speak real Spanish to is important.
Some learners will know someone in their circle of family or friends that they can practice conversation with, and for others, you can tell parents about tools like The Mixxer (a questionable title to be sure, but I’ve had great success with it) or post a message to a quarter of a million language teachers on the Edmodo world languages community- someone probably has some young learners willing to partner with yours! Mine are starting their communication this week with a group of 12-year-olds on the island of Mallorca.
Go to a community event.
What community events could your learners get involved in? We have a great local festival called WorldFest that shows off the best of world cultures in our area, including a lot of food, fun, music, and language from the Spanish-speaking cultures. Also, our state language organization puts on a statewide language showcase competition that welcomes upper elementary students.
Then, there’s the internet. There is so much variety available in ways kids can interact with Spanish online in safe and fun ways. But how to show them where to go, and how will you know what they did? Try assigning TicTacTó, a 3×3 grid of activities you can simply send home every week. Ask children to complete three activities in a row to complete TicTacTó and return it to you. They’ll love taking some ownership over their learning, and you’ll have a quick way to see and assess whether your students are spending some time on Spanish outside of class! We’ve made a TicTacTó board for you here, in a Google Doc you can print as-is or easily copy and fill in with your own activities.
This type of activity isn’t only good for extending time during the school year – send it home during summer vacation and other extended breaks and encourage parents to help kids keep the learning going year-round!
Don’t keep those activities to yourself, though! Share in the comments below: what activities can kids do at home that keeps them successfully interacting with the target language? (Check out more of my ideas in my homework choice document for early learners.)
Ever heard someone say, “I took two years in high school and I can say hola and taco“?
That story doesn’t have to be your learners’ story.
Their stories can be Calico Spanish Stories Online.