Here’s the first piece of feedback from my demo at the graduate level methods class I talked about here.
Grant,Thank you so much for taking the time to come into our classroom yesterday to discuss different ways to keep the classroom engaging for the students. I learned so many things that I had no idea existed. The language classes I have been in have been extremely different from the one you presented yesterday. I also loved how you included us in on the learning. I think it makes the ideas stick more in our brains since we are the ones who have to go through the motions. One of my favorite techniques that you presented yesterday was the notion of “asking a story”. This is something I will definitely be using in my future classroom. It makes me wonder how many other students in my high school would have taken a language class if it had as many engaging techniques that you presented. I have learned Norwegian through some ideas like the ones you presented yesterday. Mostly we played games and sang songs. But when I learned French it was mostly repeating verbatim what was in the book for the teacher on cassette tapes for him to grade us. I am excited to use these techniques to help student realize just how exciting it is to learn a new language and how many doors it can open for their future. Thank you again so so much! It truly enriched my learning experience.Mps. Maizi was also excited to know she was talked about in the class. =)
I like how “M” is thinking here. She’s noticing, in a truncated demo, many of the characteristics that make what we do valuable. I’ve bolded, above, some of the phrases that stand out for me. She has put her finger on at least three of the ingredients of the puzzle:
- Linking meaning via kinesthetic participation (gestures) helps raise engagement and retention of meaning.
- When we interact with students about students, “motivation” becomes less important because interest level rises and content is relevant to the learner.
- If language class were interesting, comprehensible and relevant for more students more of the time, we would see enrollment in those programs grow. In fact, we do.
“M” also lets me know in her postscript that the time I took in our demo to talk to the class about her pet Maizi has made a real impact on her. That short sentence tells me that “M” appreciated me using her own pet, and her relationship with it, as the topic of conversation. And why wouldn’t she? She’s proud of her pet Maizi just like our students are proud of their pets. When we customize the language we’re teaching by using it in reference to people, places and things of importance to our students, interest skyrockets. It’s not coincidental that retention does too.
I also notice the difference she discusses between her Norwegian learning experience and her French one. It’s clear to any language teacher living and working in the upper Midwest where and how she learned Norwegian. The environment at the Concordia Language Villages succeeds for a number of reasons. But, perhaps the most important is that they succeed in delivering huge numbers of high-interest, mostly comprehensible messages to their villagers in the time they’re there. They’re constantly involved in meaningful communication, which means they’re hitting the sweet spot with much more frequency than a traditional classroom environment with a grammar-driven scope and sequence.
What else do you see? What am I missing?