Hello and welcome back to Students Speak Up! Hope you’re having a wonderful week with your students and staying healthy.
In almost every school in the United States, it has become a staple (or maybe even a requirement) for students to grow up learning a foreign language. From as early as kindergarten or first grade to the end of high school, students have the opportunity to really make some headway and lean into learning a new language and a new way of communicating with others.
In my experience, it seems like it can be difficult to fully capitalize on this opportunity that students are presented with due to the loss of learning that happens in the summer/in a semester or quarter where a student doesn’t have the foreign language class. This time loss results in copious amounts of review each year, to the point where students could be re-learning numbers/colors/time in high school when they have taken the language since second grade.
Of course, there are some reasons for this, i.e. students who switched to a different language in middle school or high school, but for this blog post today I would like to share some of my favorite methods of learning that my teachers have incorporated for my Spanish classes my whole life. I believe that some of these tactics are really effective at accelerating learning for students and making up for time lost over the summer or over last semester. As a small disclaimer, I would also like to note that I’ve only taken Spanish as a foreign language my whole life, so my suggestions may only be applicable to Spanish or languages similar to it.
My sixth grade Spanish teacher was one of the best that I’ve had. She went above and beyond to teach us how to conjugate verbs, when my next teacher didn’t first teach me that skill until mid-way through seventh grade—I was more than prepared by the time that I revisited it the second time. I was so thankful that I was taught the verbs earlier than was even planned since that way I could have more experience and more time to internalize it since I learned it earlier on.
In sixth grade Spanish we also all worked together to put together a “market”—you could run any type of stand you wanted, and you had to exchange currency for each product and speak only in Spanish. I remember it being so engaging and fun and I learned so much vocabulary naturally through purchasing different goodies from my classmates.
Throughout all my years of Spanish, one of my favorite activities that my teachers did was give us a handout on Mondays of the Spanish song that we would listen to once a class period until Friday that week. The sheet would have blanks for words that we would have to fill in by listening as we listened to the song each day. I was exposed to so much Spanish music this way that I fell in love with, and it helped me improve my listening skills so much since the speech wasn’t slowed down or drawn out for easy listening, but instead was fast paced and more authentic.
In high school, one of my favorite projects was when we were assigned to present about our “passion” in Spanish in front of the class. I was able to learn all the vocabulary to talk about the things that I truly loved, and since we weren’t allowed to just memorize a presentation it helped me get better at speaking extemporaneously and learning to correct errors verbally.
However, the absolute most effective method of learning Spanish for me has been when my teachers have forced us to have many informal conversations in Spanish with our desk mates. Many of my teachers allowed us to choose our seats to make us more likely to talk to our partners, and then they would set aside several minutes to have us speak to our partner in Spanish on a certain topic. I’ve always been very nervous to actually speak a different language out loud since I’m so worried about messing up, but when it was with a friend and it was casual I was free to experiment and mess up without being embarrassed. That was by far the best way that I have ever learned Spanish in a classroom.
I hope that these examples sparked some inspiration in you or gave you some ideas for your own classroom on tips for teaching a foreign language (from a student’s perspective)! Thanks for tuning in to today’s post!