As I prepare for an upcoming workshop presentation, I thought I’d share a few notes here regarding the incredible opportunity we have as language teachers. This is probably not a new idea for anyone reading this page, but it may be a welcome reminder at the start of a new week. Here goes . . .
A simple yet very important rule for teaching languages.
DO NOT EVER allow your world language class to be “just another class”. Something insignificant that occurs between Algebra and lunch. A place where students sit through the same monotonous cycle (lecture, textbook, chart, worksheet, homework, study, test) as they see five times every day in other classes. Believe it or not, it happens. I know because it used to happen in my classroom, and I was content with it. Now, it drives me mad.
Be different. Create an environment where students know they will be engaged for 45 minutes. They have no choice.
Many will love our classes. A few (usually those who are very closed to other cultures) may hate them, but it should be impossible for anyone to be indifferent. As they look at their daily planner, Spanish/French/Chinese/German/Japanese should stand out and make them wonder, “What will we do in there today?” As language teachers, we are lucky. We get to . . .
- tell jokes
- sing songs
- make up wacky stories about people falling in love with ducks
- discuss students’ interests, goals, families, fears, problems, opinions
- build lessons around the students
- tweet videos of Spanish versions to Miley Cyrus songs and pictures of Barack Obama without a shirt and playing the trumpet
- wear wigs
- play games
- encourage talking on the phone and texting in class
- perform magic tricks
- make Super Bowl predictions
- make animal noises
- pretend like a $3.49 light from Home Depot actually has magical powers to punish those who speak English
- run in the hallway
- laugh every period of every day
- talk to a mind-reading genie
- do very bad impressions
- play with puppets and dolls
- read poems
- make cartoons online
- look every student in the eyes every day
- see evident and obvious growth
- give unannounced assessments and be constantly impressed by the results
And the beautiful part is that all these activities are not only permissible within our content standards, but they actually increase our students’ chances of success. Language is alive. There is no excuse for a dead class.