One of our priorities as language teachers is to support students in their efforts to communicate proficiently and with confidence. Though this can seem to me very lofty objective, there are practical procedures that we can implement to facilitate students’ progression to higher proficiency levels. These techniques and approaches offer guidance for teachers looking to empower their students on the path to proficiency.
Before we jump into the strategies, let’s take a moment to consider language proficiency. How do you currently assess your students’ proficiency levels? Are you familiar with the ACTFL guidelines and their descriptions of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced proficiency? It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of where your students are and where you want them to go. Take look at this blog post to see what language text types look like at the various proficiency levels. You can also learn all about the proficiency levels in this podcast episode.
Let’s explore some strategies that will support students in leveling up their proficiency..
Novice Proficiency: Building a Strong Foundation
- Comprehensible Input: Novice-level students thrive on comprehensible input. This means providing them with language that they can understand, even if it’s slightly beyond their current proficiency level. Engage them with simple stories, visuals, and gestures that make the language come alive.
- Repetition and Recycling: Repetition is key for Novice learners. Encourage students to practice vocabulary and phrases repeatedly through games, dialogues, and interactive activities.
Intermediate Proficiency: Moving Toward Independence
- Authentic Communication: As students progress to the Intermediate level, shift the focus to authentic communication. Encourage them to express opinions, share experiences, and engage in conversations.
- Expanding Vocabulary: Intermediate learners benefit from expanding their vocabulary. Introduce them to synonyms, idiomatic expressions, and culturally relevant words and phrases.
Practical Strategies to Empower Students in Increasing Proficiency
Integrated Skills: Encourage students to read texts, watch videos, and engage in discussions that require them to use all aspects of language – listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Cultural Context: Connect language proficiency to cultural context. Help students understand how language is used in real-life situations within different cultures.
Feedback and Assessment: Provide timely and constructive feedback. Give students specific comments on their language use, highlighting areas for improvement.
Self-Assessment: Have students reflect on their language progress and set goals for improvement.
Peer Collaboration: Arrange activities that require students to work together, provide feedback to each other, and learn from their peers.
Celebrate Progress: Celebrate progress, no matter how small. Recognize students’ achievements and growth in proficiency. Whether it’s an improved pronunciation or successfully navigating a conversation, acknowledging their efforts boosts confidence.
Putting It All Together
Supporting students’ proficiency growth is a dynamic journey. It involves understanding their current proficiency levels, scaffolding their learning, and fostering a supportive and engaging classroom environment. As language teachers, we have the privilege of guiding our students along this exciting path, equipping them with the skills and confidence to become proficient communicators.