How much do you talk about ways of learning in class? Don’t you think that it’s important for students to understand how they can best use their study time?
As part of our classes I think it is essential for teachers to explain study skills and how our students can take advantage of every moment they use a language in order to learn it as quickly and as well as possible. To learn a language a person must have patience, but more importantly they need the know how of how languages work. We know that book learning and memorizing grammar structures is an awful way of learning, but do all of our students understand this? There are some fantastic talks about how we learn languages (see our last post) and I think the general ideas can be taken from these language experts and used in the classroom.
What I like to do is give a ‘study tip’ each class (I put it on the board in a different colour pen next to the objective). This can be something as simple as ‘think in english’ or ‘find a study buddy’. This should be incorporated into classroom activities to reinforce it and explained. Through this students normally get interested in the way we learn and try some of them out.
It is important that students see their own progress to feel motivated, a simple piece of advice that I like to use is ‘focus on what you know and what you CAN do’. when speaking it is really important for students to focus on the vocabulary and structures that they are familiar with to avoid going blank or thinking, ‘How do you say ________ in English?’. Thinking in English even from an early stage helps with this. Students can often fall into bad habits and start translating everything from the very beginning and this can be a tough habit to break.
As the teacher it is important to lead by example and demonstrate that you know about or have experienced the language learning process. As a Spanish speaker who began learning at 22 I can relate hundreds of personal experiences to my student’s struggles and I believe this is a great way to motivate them. Teaching is more than just course material, we need to guide, help and motivate our students to ensure a successful learning experience. When I started out learning spanish I didn’t really understand how language acquisition worked and therefore wasted a lot of time. Many students feel this way and they need to understand how to make the most of their time. Explain to language learners that they need to learn new vocabulary or grammar structures with context. Without context they are useless because they will not form part of the student’s ‘language database’ or ‘ langauge web’ if you prefer. When actually using language it is very difficult to recall learnt information without being able to relate it to a context.