Why not total immersion? Teachers: dip your toes in the Pool
Let’s face it!
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has created a list to show the approximate time you need to learn a specific language as an English speaker. Polish is one of the hardest languages to learn. Optimistic advice for English readers should be: If you’re thinking about taking up Polish, you’d better have 1,100 hours to spare!
The research is indisputable, yet we all have learned Polish unconsciously, being totally immersed in the language, we didn’t know anything about predicates, adverbs or complex sentences. We learned all language skills empirically – doing, talking, singing and listening to the language. If that worked with Polish, it must work with English, too. So support your students with English environment and then they will learn subconsciously.
Do you speak English?
When asked, children most often say that teachers use both Polish and English during classes. It’s the wrong way to go. All psychological approaches are consentaneous here: brain learns naturally faster when surrounded by the language. Here is a piece of advice: instead of switching to Polish, try to show, use your body language. It’s way efficient, even if you must repeat it a few times. Start slowly, present simple instructions as many times as needed. My own experience shows that students may feel a bit uncomfortable at the beginning but, later on, they get used to it. You can also engage them in copying you – it definitely will work for kinesthetic learners. Having problems showing? – draw it! If you can’t, prepare flashcards in advance and remember – the more humoristic and ridiculous they are, the better. Flash cards are a really handy resource to have and can be useful at every stage of the class. They are a great way to present and recycle vocabulary and, when students become familiar with the activities used in class, they can make their own sets of mini flash cards that can be taken home for them to play with. So speak English during classes and be sure that you do your best because listening skills are crucial in 6th grade paper. Do you see English?
Look around, take a seat at the desk in your classroom, and change your place a few times to see how your students perceive their learning place. What do you see? Is it interesting for young learners? Is it up to date (your students’ date)? Does it support their visual skills? Bear in mind that Visual-Spatial Intelligence is one of the most common types, so the English classroom should support students’ intelligence. Take care of posters and walls, change decoration following English-speaking countries festivities’ calendar. Find one spare board to place your weekly target or reminder on it. Visual students are eager to use “mind maps”, they like visual support (videos, pictures, photos, charts, posters) and enjoy designing and decorating. You may want to pick up a group of “class artists” and engage them in decorating your place!
Do you hear English?
An insightful colleague once told me that many students’ books lack popular songs, interesting listening tasks and well- written stories. She was more right than she thought. Grades from 4th to 6th are hardly ever privileged to listen to songs they like, unless the teacher is creative. I deeply encourage you to introduce songs and rhymes in your lessons at least twice a month. Exam paperdemands from young learners to face 17 listening tasks which count to about 35% of all points. That’s a lot! Have you ever rhymed? Not yet? Give it a try! Students love it because it’s spontaneous, active and simply funny. Moreover, they have the opportunity to master the fast pace of language and absorb some accent. Social network services offer a great number of rhymes -“It’s fluency MC!” is one of the best.
Do you know your flow?
Learning becomes easier when you learn about your passion. This obvious truth seems to be commonly forgotten. All topics included in the curriculum are life- relevant and, with little effort, you can make your students fly above the sky! Literally, they will come to you and you will see them sharing their passions with you. Prepare class survey including detailed questions about hobbies, talents, learning styles and favourite things. In fact, you are likely to learn most, and enjoy most, if you are engaged as an active participant, not a passive recipient. So if you want your students to feel confident about the test, offer them more than drill exercises; offer them your open mind and heart – leverage their interests and passions.
Mind-maps are very handy when teaching about hobbies and positive adjectives. Designing your own lesson plans, devoting some time and willingness makes great teachers and great teachers make great students. Be great!