Being an expert in the language you teach doesn’t guarantee that you are meeting your students’ needs. If you’re reading this, we’re happy that you’re motivated to understand what would help you bring zeal, engagement and language fluency in students.
Here are a few classroom tips every language educator can use to engage students effectively and equip them with language skills.
Connect with students
Imagine how students feel sitting in a classroom with a stranger teacher who speaks a language they can hardly understand. Well, that’s how students initially think in their language classrooms. When the teacher starts the lesson without an icebreaker, it can be daunting for students. Understand that it’s difficult for students to learn from people they aren’t familiar with, especially kids. To make the learning journey smooth, you must connect with your students first and then get going with your lessons. You can start by introducing yourself and introducing basic salutations to kids in the new language they will learn. Learn the “whys” behind their language classes to understand their journey better.
Build the learning environment
Expression is essential while learning a new language. Students need to feel safe and secure to express themselves comfortably. You must build the right environment where students feel comfortable enough to express themselves and their concerns without inhibitions. Creating that environment would result in positive learning outcomes, and students will be willing to try new things and activities. Language learning goes beyond academics; it’s about learning a new culture, region, and its influence ever since its inception. A positive and comfortable learning environment is necessary to ensure that students are willing to learn a language wholeheartedly. You can start with having certain teaching strategies, like rewarding good work and effort, allowing students the required time to finish their work, taking feedback, and being patient.
Routines and structure are vital in education, and language education is non-negotiable. Writing daily and practising language regularly is essential for students to ace their language skills. Help students in planning and structuring their regular course of study. Sit-down activities in the classroom would help students become familiar with the lesson plan and have a better grip on the language. Set clear objectives and ensure every activity has a clear goal for students. Students must understand the purpose and end goal of all activities they are engaged in to better understand the lesson contents. A great strategy is to use examples thoroughly to bridge the gap between communicating objectives and students’ comprehension.
Enunciate words and speak slow to make it clear
Slow down and check your speaking speed to ensure that students grasp the sounds and spoken aspects of the language as they should. Make sure students hear every word you say and learn its sound. Language learners aim to speak the new language fluently, which requires crystal clear basics. It can be hard to understand the basics if you talk too fast, so check on that pace and increase when students feel prepared. Students must learn how you pronounce the words and hear all the nuances of a word to retain it better.
Make non-verbal communication a part of the class
Actions speak louder than words, and this saying is also true for a language class. It’s easier for students to recall a word when they learn it from the action. So, get going with your acting skills and make your language classroom fun and engaging with some word actions. Students can easily remember grammatical rules through actions. For instance, using the body as a prop to teach prepositions can do wonders. You can demonstrate prepositions by acting them out. So, when you teach “in”, act out the action of putting something in your mouth and repeat the pattern till students remember it. A bonus tip is to play Charades with your students every now and then and make learning all more fun and engaging.
Check frequently for understanding
Students won’t admit it, but they often pretend to understand things even when they don’t, especially in language classes. Most language learners get shy about admitting to the whole class they didn’t understand something. One way to ensure they know everything is by pausing after you say something or providing prompts for their responses to check their understanding. Ask more questions or explain the context a little more before you move on to the next to ensure they took it in.
Language teaching can be unpredictable. And that’s why you’d need multiple teaching strategies. Try varied strategies and find the ones that work with your students. Be flexible with your teaching approach and ensure students learn from your unique teaching ways. You may work on a lesson plan extensively that may not meet students’ learning parameters. In such cases, be prepared to switch to other options as lesson activities can and will fall flat many times. Prepare multiple ways to teach a lesson so that you never run out of options when students have that blank stare on their faces.
Make lessons engaging
Small practices in your lesson plans can make big impacts. Making lessons engaging can help students learn languages effectively. Make sure your lessons are interactive for your students and have ample activities corresponding to the concepts you’re teaching. Include various multimedia and use them in your teaching strategy to reach the different learning styles of every student. Think of using different approaches like singing, videos, action, dialogue, play and more to teach the same concept multiple times and in different ways. This would help you address every student.
Introduce new vocabulary before you use it in lessons
A very important reminder for all language educators is to introduce new vocabulary before using it in the classroom. Think of repeatedly using a word in the classroom that students don’t understand. This will alter their understanding of the language. Make it a practice to conduct a vocab session once a week where you introduce students to 5 new words and how they can use them. Students can contribute to the activity by exploring new words while learning the language. This would help students build their word bank and grip on the language. Learning vocabulary is necessary; when done first, it allows students to focus on the overall objective of the lesson.
These tips are equally effective in virtual and offline classrooms, and we recommend you incorporate these to add engagement to your class.