Language learning and the classroom are truly the perfect pair. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, and Monday mornings and Silent Ball. It just makes sense. Young learners are the reigning champs of language learning, with brains fully-equipped to absorb and retain new concepts. It can be tough to find space to encourage language learning in the demanding schedules of the daily classroom, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. In the name of increasing the presence of language learning in the classroom, superstar teachers around the globe are implementing these genius guiding philosophies. Known to instill a lifelong love of language learning and sudden onset bilingualism in unsuspecting students, these ideas should be handled with extreme caution.
Engage the imagination.
In the venn diagram of life, kids and language learning share one essential trait: imagination. Students regale in it, and language learning supplies it. When your students embark on a language-learning adventure, they’re transported to a new world. Use this to your advantage and create lesson plans that engage the imagination and encourage hands-on interaction with language and culture. Turn your classroom into a world fair or a marketplace, encourage your emerging poets to write verse in a new language, or transform the cafeteria into a French bistro -- with your students serving as the chefs, servers, and entertainment.
Embrace mini lessons.
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and language learning is no exception. When teachers couple a positive attitude with bite-size lessons that are intuitively blended into the classroom routines, the language-learning love flows. Mini lessons can take many forms, and the most successful ideas begin with your students and their unique interests. Got a classroom full of athletes? Each week, devote time to learning sports vocabulary in a new language, and include your school’s gym teachers so they can label sports equipment, incorporate new vocabulary, and even initiate games around the new words.
When it comes to mini lessons, routine and repetition are key. Create a weekly schedule of recurring activities that introduce new content and reinforce what students have already learned. Routinely incorporating brief, engaging mini lessons promotes active learning, increases engagement, and ensures that your classroom is as fun as it is educational.
In fact, why even call them mistakes? As linguists, we’d be more than happy to give this misleading word a makeover. Some teaching ideologies unknowingly train students to fear mistakes and treat them as a failure. In fact, mistakes should be viewed as learning opportunities that a student creates by engaging in positive risk taking. After all, you can only make a mistake when you’re making an effort — and that effort is worth celebrating. When it comes to language learning, students should be rewarded for their effort. Focus on the facts, and name specific skills and concepts in which the student has demonstrated proficiency (or even mastery)! Ditch the tired go-to phrase “Good job!” and praise the effort.
When it comes to language learning, each classroom is mastering the art in unique ways. We want to hear from the amazing teachers who rock language learning in their classrooms every day. Let us know what works for your students in the comments below!