China was an incredible experience. It was my first trip to Asia and our kids’ first trip abroad. Our host families were extraordinarily warm and generous, and I was excited to see Chinese culture first hand. But as a self-proclaimed professional language-learner, I have to admit that the biggest thrill was the chance to use the Chinese skills I’d been working on for the past two months or so. And as a language teacher, I firmly believe some of our best professional development comes from the act of continually learning unfamiliar language and culture. There’s no better way to understand students’ minds than to put ourselves in their shoes.Read More »
I always wanted to learn Chinese. It’s such an interesting language, and the characters are so beautiful. When I was a teenager, I’d go to the new Chinese restaurant in town and ask the owner to teach me Chinese words and characters. He always obliged. I picked up all sorts of books. I studied and studied. And unlike any other language I had ever attempted to learn, I could never remember a single bit of it. I could never keep the characters straight. I could never get the tones right. I could never retain enough in my memory to produce a single meaningful phrase. Worst of all, I never really had anyone to use the language with. Eventually I let go of that dream.Read More »
I feel like I’ve spent all summer talking about methodology, instructional planning and curriculum development! That’s not a bad thing, though. I’ve been working Google to the bone, exploring all the ways other teachers and schools handle these broad issues. Oddly, in the midst of it all, I came across a LinkedIn article that really got me thinking. I’d cite the article here, but the title is a little less family friendly than I’d prefer. (And let’s be honest, that’s what caught my attention.) It had nothing to do with language pedagogy and everything to do with return on investment. What kept me reading?Read More »
One of my favorite things to do in class is use target language in realistic contexts. I think it’s important for students to find out what it’s really like to be a second-language user, both as a tourist and for the workplace, and I also enjoy the personal touch that students will add to this kind of work. Our French program gives students several opportunities to apply these skills — from roleplaying situations in a store or restaurant with realistic props and money to creating presentations and documents for clients. Read More »
It’s almost time for the Summer Language Institute, so I thought I’d do a little throwback to my first TPR- and TPRS-based Latin class. I was very lucky to have such a motivated and creative group of students, but I also have to give credit to the TPR and TPRS themselves. Can you imagine, a whole group of high school students voluntarily studying Latin, not for the credit but just for fun, and mainly because they knew what the methodology would be like? What a great testament to brain-based teaching! The students made the class outstanding, and the methodology empowered them to do so.
A lot of Eric Jensen’s work revolves around four pathways toward building long-term memory: recall, action, relevance and emotion (RARE). Students will learn a lot from a lesson that includes those four factors, but I’ve found that they learn even more when they understand why the factors matter.Read More »
I remember my first trip to Paris. As I stepped off the plane and passed through security, one of the officers suddenly said to me, “Sit down quickly and put this book on your head! A mean boy has stolen a cat from a young blonde girl, and we need to ask you some questions.”
Obviously, that never happens. Why, then, do we spend so much time doing goofy actions and telling bizarre stories in class? Why can’t I just tell my students that a chair is une chaise and move on?Read More »