Learning a new language isn’t easy! So when it comes to teaching a foreign language, educators need to figure out effective teaching strategies and methods that will help students retain information. Sometimes, letting students be creative will help them learn the nuances of language as well as have fun! Other times, rote learning is more conducive to absorbing vocabulary and grammar rules. It will always depend on the students and how they individually learn best. Here are three practical strategies that I think are effective in teaching new languages to students.
Encourage mindfulness often
There is great power in a calm mind. While young students may not fully understand the concept of mindfulness, it’s a good idea for teachers to slowly instill it in their students. This can be done in a few ways. If you, as a teacher, make an error and your student witnesses it, don’t dwell on it in front of them and instead accept your mistake. When a student struggles with grasping a concept, let them take a break to reset and refresh their minds. Consider starting and ending the class with a short meditation.
By practicing mindfulness, students are able to be more level-headed, less anxious, and more self-aware. Overall, students are then in a better mental state to go outside of their comfort zone and learn a language that isn’t their native tongue. This is especially important when it comes to mistakes. Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of learning a new language is making a mistake in front of a native speaker. If teachers can help students see how mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and have a more positive, forward-looking mindset, then students may be able to learn a new language more easily.
Making concepts and terms as visual as possible
Young students are still learning how to describe and identify things, so making concepts and vocabulary as visual as possible can be very constructive. It helps by materializing the words on page or screen. In addition, having more visuals assist students in creating fluid associations between object and word. It’s a good idea to try to make these visuals personalized and unique. Uncommon, personal details can make a visual more memorable for the student.
Depending on the day’s subject, consider incorporating everyday items as props. Make sure to label each object with the word you’re trying to teach. If you are comfortable with drawing, try drawing some of the class material. It doesn’t need to be good, but your unique art style may help students remember what you’re trying to teach. Finally, body movement is an excellent way to communicate what you’re trying to teach. Act out actions, commands, and expressions to help students identify what they’re learning. Which leads us to the next strategy…
Roleplay, roleplay, roleplay
This is the only repetition you’ll see in this post! Roleplay is a powerful strategy to employ when teaching because it can make a foreign language feel more natural to the student. As many teachers know: if you want your students to become more fluent in a new language, then textbooks aren’t enough. You don’t want students to simply learn the language, you want them to feel comfortable in the new language. And the only way that will happen is if students practice and experience how to communicate with others.
Productive roleplay is dependent on mimicking and acting out scenarios that are familiar to the students. Take the time to talk to your students to get to know their day-to-day lives, then create scenarios that mirror what your students experienced and incorporate relevant class materials. You can also change up these scenarios and have your students engage in a little critical analysis to figure out how to respond and act in these revised scenes. Repeat your different scenarios so that students become more familiar with how to use language in everyday instances.