On Language Learning and Student Achievement…

The first 18 seconds of this trailer show an English lesson as part of the training aspiring baseball players take in Dominican Republic.  The teacher reinforces vocabulary, pertaining to a particular theme (baseball in this case) in the target language (English).  Nothing wrong with that, right? Especially since most of the language learning at the beginner levels consist of memorization.  Therefore students must repeat, and repeat and continue repeating until they get it.  But, did you notice the look on their faces? Do you think they were really processing the information? I wonder what are the chances that there will be a real life situation in which they’ll use the same exact phrases, and if they’ll actually remember.  In looking at this clip I really understood what it means to teach and assess for proficiency, AND how far we’ve come as world language professionals.

The graph below provides a visual of the guidelines we must follow according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). It combines the 5c’s and the three modes of communication.  The idea is to make language learning meaningful and to provide students with tools that can help them in the real world by developing SKILLS necessary to communicate not just WORDS. And it’s in the development of those skills that world language teachers are most valuable for.

 I find that it is often overlooked how world language teachers support literacy. Parents and administrators might not realize that through the world language classes students learn reading comprehension strategies.  For example, students in my classes might not recognize a word as a cognate (words in both English and the target language that look-alike and mean the same) because they don’t know it in English, yet they learn it through a Spanish reading.  Not only are they acquiring Spanish vocabulary but they are enriching their English as well! In addition to other strategies like tapping into their background knowledge, making connections with other subject areas (history, sports, etc..) and reading “between the lines” to find the main idea.

Culture is also a huge aspect of language learning but it is not limited to the language classroom.  Last year my students were thrilled when they saw a reading passage that made reference to Spanish art in a state exam, because they were familiar with the topic as we had covered it in class.

 When it comes to using the target language in conversations and/or presentations students are working on public speaking skills.  It can be nerve-wracking to address a group of people in your native language let alone a foreign language.  Through speaking activities students can develop more confidence when taking part in presentations or debates in classes such as Social Studies or English.

And these are just a few ways in which world language classes help prepare students for the 21st century.  The days when language learning consisted merely of grammar drills and choral repetition are gone.  Language learning today is not just fun but meaningful, and one of the best allies in improving student achievement.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: On Language Learning and Student Achievement… | shelenabrown
  2. meaghangoodwin
    Sep 21, 2015 @ 18:44:13

    Reblogged this on Meaghan Goodwin and commented:
    Very interesting…


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