Tag Archives: foreign language

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom

What comes to mind when you hear “Millennial” or “Gen Z?”  We all know that they get a bad rap.   Generations are different, and just like the Baby Boomers had to figure out how to teach the Gen Xers we need to look carefully at what we need to do to reach Millennials and Gen Zers.  Basically, it comes down to knowing that these generations want to know the value and use of what they are learning.  Let’s take a look at how to approach teaching languages to these generations and understand all they have to offer.

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

A quick review of the names of the generations over the past 70 years:

Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1964

Age in 2018: 54-72

Gen X

Born: 965-1985

Age in 2018: 33-53

Millennials

Born: 1986-1995

Age in 2018: 23-32

Gen Z

Born: 1996- present

Age in 2018: 0-22

I learned a lot about the Millennials and Gen Z from the Millennial Impact Project (2015) & The Business of Good (Haber, 2016).  Haber’s book is about social entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who want to make a social difference with profits from their companies.  Looks like the Millennials and the Gen Z are approaching their employment with this goal.

Here are a few things that Haber writes about these these younger generations in The Business of Good:

“They don’t wait for taxis, they take Uber. They don’t wait for emails, they text. They don’t wait to work up the corporate ladder, they start their own business. It should come as no surprise that they have no interest in waiting to make a difference. It’s as if the generation has been hardwired to believe in the fierce urgency of now.”

OK, now that I’ve made the case for not giving them the bad rap that they get, let’s look at how we go about teaching this generation of elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students.

Let’s start by looking at the the brain and cognition.  Some of this data is adapted from the work of Dr. Bobb Darnell of Achievement Strategies, Inc. (www.achievementstrategies.org)  

Before the arrival of technology, Baby Boomer and Gen Xer brains :

  • were good at single-tasking
  • were able to sustain focus for long periods of time
  • were adept on concentrating for long periods of time

After the arrival of technology, Millennial and Gen Z brains:

  • are good at multi-tasking
  • can effectively navigate multiple input streams

It is through no fault of their own, but rather the reality of how their  brains are being wired for a certain kind of learning, that Millennials and Gen Zs have/are:

  • Shorter Attention Spans
  • Uncomfortable With Boredom
  • That Fierce Urgency of Now
  • Visually Preferred
  • Interactive and Hands-On
  • Love Challenge
  • Curious
  • Success Trough Strategy

So…what we do?  What are some ways to adapt our teaching, instruction, class routines, curriculum and relationships to the reality of the Millennial and Gen Z brain?Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

The PDF download includes tips and suggestions for…

  • dealing with shorter attention spans and being uncomfortable with boredomTeaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)
  • responding to the fierce urgency of now

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • preparing lessons and activities for students who are visually preferred

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • creating opportunities for interactive and hands-on learning experiences

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • adding challenge and elements of curiosity to classroom instruction

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • guiding students toward success through strategies

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) One other thing to consider….Are we, in fact,  listening to our students and providing what they need to be successful and proficiency speakers of the language that we teach?  If they were aware of what their brain needs (or read this post), they would say to us:

  • Challenge me.
  • Let me work with others.
  • Let’s have fun.
  • Be flexible.
  • Encourage me.
  • Make me curious.
  • Give me feedback.
  • Learn from me too.
  • Let me give you my ideas.
  • I need to know the goal.

It is never easy to understand the experience and lens of a generation that is seemingly so different from our own.  Our parents thought that we were going to be the demise of the world because we did things differently.  Many of us are repeating the same behavior with the younger generations that we teach.  Let’s break the cycle and celebrate all that our students have to offer.

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

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Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare)

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare, French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com)Take a look at this SlideShare with tips and suggestion for creating effective communicative activities in the foreign language classroom.

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Effective Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare)

Effective Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare, French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Take a look at this slideshare on providing effective feedback in the foreign language classroom.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom

Feedback is information that teachers provide to students regarding where they are, how they are performing, and what they need to work on to progress in their language proficiency.  We tend to think about feedback as only corrective in nature, but we also provide supportive and encouraging feedback.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

If video if better for you, take a look at the livestream videos that I did on the topic of effective feedback on Periscope and Facebook Live.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Feedback in the foreign language classroom can be looked at in three ways.  These three types of feedback are not given in isolation, but should be used together to provide information for language students who are working toward increased proficiency.

Appreciation

  • This involves encouragement and indication that the efforts on the part of the learner are paying off and helping them progress in language proficiency.  Motivation is an important part of language learning.  We as teachers need to find the progress (big and small) and point this out to our students.  If they see no progress in language learning they are likely to lose motivation.

Coaching

  • Along with the appreciation and building motivation and confidence in our students, we also need to coach them in the process.  Just like an athletic coach who suggests different approaches and shows the path to the objective, we as language teachers should approach our language coaching in the same way.  This is not so much about correcting the language, but more a question of creating learner experiences in which learns can use the language they have and grow in proficiency.  We should guide their path to the goal, but they are responsible for making the goal on their own, just as a soccer player would do.

Evaluation

  • Our evaluation of language learners is feedback on where they are regarding their present proficiency level.  This is not about pointing out what is incorrect or inaccurate, but more a matter of concretely showing students where they are on their language learning journey.  This will also provide information about where to go and what to work on so that students can continue to grow in proficiency.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Teachers are often wondering what to do when they encounter learner language that is inaccurate.  Is this an opportunity for correction?  Is it useful?  Will it stick?  The answers to these questions depend on whether or not the learner has had sufficient input with the inaccurate structure or if it is an attempt at language creation. It is important to distinguish between and error and a mistake in learner language.

  • Mistakes are performance errors, where the learner has acquired the accurate form, but in a particular moment produces inaccurate language.
  • Errors occur in the learner’s interlanguage because a learner has not yet acquired the accurate form, and they are making a guess, often based on their native language and their current knowledge of the target language.

When students create with language and hypothesize a form or word in the moment and make an error we should use this information as an indication that students are “ready” for (i.e.need ) this structure in their language learning journey and we should then begin using the structure more often and providing comprehensible input.  In this situation we as teachers are getting the feedback that we need to adjust our instruction.

As teachers, we should focus language feedback on mistakes because this is what our students should be able to do in the target language.  If a student has had sufficient input and exposure to the structure and there is inaccuracy in the student language we then take on the role of coach.  This means that we create situations in which we guide the student toward the accurate structure.  Here are some suggestions for how to coach students in this situation.

  • Clarification requests : If there is a mistake in the vocabulary or verb form a question about the inaccurate wording brings attention to the error.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • Yesterday?
  • Elicitation: If you hear a mistake in the student language, repeat the sentence and pause at the place where the mistake was made.  This provides the learner with an opportunity to correct his own mistake by concentrating only on that word or structure.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • Yesterday, I….
  • Repetition: When there is a mistake repeat exactly what the learner said. Emphasize the mistake. This will indicate where the mistake is located, and gives the learner an opportunity to focus on that particular part of the output and, upon reflection, produce accurate language.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • I GO to the store yesterday?”

Providing effective feedback is one of the ACTFL Core Practices for effective language learning and instruction.  Use this post and the information to provide feedback to your students that will guide them toward a higher lever of language proficiency.

Be sure to check out the  livestream videos on the topic of effective feedback on Periscope and Facebook Live.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom

There are six ACTFL Core Practices that serve as guide for teachers as they teach toward increased foreign language proficiency in their classrooms. Once of the key core practices is designing communicative activities for students.

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

The wave of communicative language teaching began several years back when the language teaching community (linguists, teachers and students alike) took a hard look at the “best” practices of language teachers and came to the conclusion that these practices were not leading students toward being able to use the target language.  Much of the language teaching that was happening several decades back was focused on what students knew about the target language (i.e. verb conjugations, adjective forms, pronoun placement) and not what they were able to accomplish or do with the language that they were learning.  When it became clear that students were not able to communicate effectively using the target language it was clear that we needed to modify how we teach languages.  This was the birth of the concept of communicative language teaching.  Essentially it is an attempt to guide students toward an increased ability to communicate.

What is a Communicative Activity?

There are three concepts of communicative language teaching that set it apart form more traditional approaches:

  1. The focus is on communicating and doing something with the language as opposed to practicing isolated language features out of context.
  2. It is student-centered as opposed to teacher-centered.  Students create with language rather than having the language explained to them.
  3. The approach is focused on understanding the message being conveyed by students despite inaccuracy in language form as opposed to being focused on correct usage of language structures and only secondarily tending to the message.

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Tips for Designing Communicative Activities

Here are a few tips and ideas to keep in mind as we design communicative activities.  Remember, communicative language teaching, or teaching that will guide students toward confidently communicating in the target language, is focused on the message, not practicing language structures out of context.

  • Activate background knowledge  (pre-speaking activities) on the topic of the activity and/or choose a topic with which students are familiar.  When the focus is on communicating and building confidence we want students to be comfortable with the topic.  If they have the language proficiency, but lack content knowledge they will not communicate as much as they would if they were more familiar with the topic.
  • Use open-ended prompts and questions when designing an activity or task.  Prompts that are more finite will not allow for opportunities to engage with the topic and negotiate meaning.
  • Design prompts that require that pairs or groups of students must rely on and listen to each other.  If the prompt requires sharing an opinion, but not finding a commonality or difference with their speaking partner the task is more presentational in nature.
  • Create questions and prompts that require pairs and groups to collaborate and use the language to arrive at a product, not necessarily something physical that they will produce, but more finding a collaborative solution.
  • Be sure that the tasks students complete are at their proficiency level.  Know what their level is and the text type (lists, chunked phrases, discrete sentences, connected sentences, paragraph).  Design a task that will require creating with language using these text types.  A prompt for intermediate low students that requires speaking in connected sentences will lead to a communication breakdown because the text type for their proficiency level is single, discrete sentences.

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Is the Activity Communicative?

Of the three modes of communication (interpersonal, interpretive, presentational) communicative language teaching lends itself best to interpersonal communication.  This mode is about active, real-time exchange of ideas and messages in a two-way (rather than one-way) exchange.  Often when teachers create activities that appear interpersonal they are actually more presentational.  Here are some questions to keep in mind to make sure that the activity that you are designing is actually interpersonal:

  • Is the activity student-centered, rather than teacher-centered?
  • Is the language spontaneous and unrehearsed, rather than prepared and practiced in advance?
  • Is the focus on conveying and understanding the message, rather than on correct language forms?
  • Is the communication a two-way exchange, rather than one-way, requiring response, reaction and spontaneous follow-up?
  • Do students have opportunities to negotiate meaning if they don’t fully understand, rather than understanding all vocabulary and language structures?
  • Do students have communication strategies that they can employ (language ladders, functional chunks, circumlocution)?

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Examples of Communicative Activities

Here are few examples of activity structures that, regardless of proficiency level or content, take into account the concepts of communicative language teaching outlined above:

  1. OWL (Organic World Language) Conversation Circle
  2. Info-Gap Activities
  3. Jigsaw Activities
  4. Picture Prompts
  5. Task-Based Activities

I created a PDF with one-page description of communicative activities along with a lesson template and an example lesson.  Download it HERE.

The PACE Model: Inductive Foreign Language Grammar Teaching (SlideShare)

The PACE Model: Inductive Foreign Language Grammar Teaching (SlideShare) (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comOne of the ACTFL Core Practices is to teach grammar as a concept in context. The PACE model provides a concrete method of doing this.   It works well as a way to teach foreign language grammar inductively.  Take a look at the SlideShare below for details on how it works.

 

ACTFL Core Practices

Do you ever find yourself in a conversation where you tell someone that you are a foreign language teacher and the response is something like this, “I had 4 years of Spanish in high school, but I can’t speak a word now.”  Clearly this traditional methodology has not been very effective.  What can we do about this to make sure that 20 years from now our students are not saying the same thing?

ACTFL provides us with Core Practices that guide teachers toward teaching language proficiency rather than simply teaching about the target language.  It comes down to providing students with opportunities to do something with the language and not just demonstrate what they know about the language. Take a look at the 6 ACTFL Core Practices below.

ACTFL Core Practices (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com     ACTFL Core Practices (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com ACTFL Core Practices (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com ACTFL Core Practices (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com ACTFL Core Practices (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com ACTFL Core Practices (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com ACTFL Core Practices (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Professional Learning Networks (PLN) for Foreign Language Teachers (SlideShare)

Professional Learning Networks (PLN) for Foreign Language Teachers (SlideShare) (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comProfessional Learning Networks are a great way to get professional development with other foreign language teachers. It is done virtually through social media on the personal time schedule of the individual teacher.   Check out the SlideShare below for details and examples.

Move Students’ Foreign Language Skills from Novice to Intermediate (SlideShare)

Move Students' Foreign Language Skills from Novice to Intermediate (SlideShare) (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comIf you are looking for suggestions and resources to help your students move from novice to intermediate take a look at this SlideShare.

Is “I can” enough to show what students can do with the language?

Is "I can" enough to show what students can do with the language? (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comIs adding “I can” to the front of a prompt enough for a student to show what he or she can do with the language?  Take a look at this SlideShare to see how to make these statements communicative.