This year I returned to teaching the ‘new’ Grade 9 course. They are young, keen and full of energy. Many I get have never really been in a modern language classroom taught by a language specialist. As a teacher I love these ‘newbies’ and work hard to support them in class as they explore Japanese. But as an elective teacher I also realize that my job is dependent on turning out successful students who want to stay in my program- and doing so means that I must teach them how to be successful. What are a couple of my techniques to help ensure success for ‘new’ learners?
The “Power” to Take Risks – As MFL teachers we are good at providing opportunities in class for students to use, and get feedback, on these skills. And yet it is common for us to lament students who don’t risk or won’t interact unless they know it is correct. One way to give students more power to succeed in oral assessment is by practicing what happens if they make an error or don’t understand. During oral interaction I often ask my students to not understand something, or make an error, on purpose. We discuss as a group what to do when this happens. Was your question not understood? Then repeat, add gestures and if that doesn’t work try giving your own answer to the question. Did they answer a question that you didn’t ask? Don’t tell them ‘wrong answer’! Respond to what they said, even add your own comments, then try your original question again. When you have them practice the errors on purpose you give them the ‘power’ to be willing to risk.
“Powerful” Study– Although I allow a lot of choice in the language elements students acquire – there is for me a ‘base’ level that I expect them to know and use. This is key in the ability to read for comprehension and communicate in written form. One strategy we use comes from my own experience and the difficulty I had in being able to focus during study. Called “Power7’s” it asks students to set a timer for 7 minutes – and during that time to focus only on the task at hand – either ensuring they know what words/text mean or writing out the words that they are to know. At the end of 7 minutes they can go do something else. They are to repeat the process 4-5 more times in the evening (or until they know it). Early on in the course I take time prior to the first tests to give time to practice this technique in the classroom. The 7 minutes of quiet personal work done there means my students know what to do at home. My students use this technique regularly and many now use it in other courses that require vocabulary or concept knowledge. There is great “power” in giving your students tools for success.
We often assume that students are already equipped with the tools they need to be successful in our MFL classes. But I like to take time to review and teach my students ‘how’ to be successful – and put that power in their hands… How do you create success in your room?