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What's the best foreign language class you've ever seen?

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Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: I get so little foreign language experience, I must be in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2003 8:00 pm    Post subject: What's the best foreign language class you've ever seen? Reply with quote

I have two questions:
Number one:
What's the best foreign language class you've ever seen?
Number two:
What can you learn from the example?

The best foreign language class I've ever seen was my own first-year French class in high school. It centered around conversation and never involved grammar until the last couple of months.

We had all our classes together, so there was a great deal of esprit de corps. We spoke French to each other throughout the day. We borrowed pencils and erasers, we made fun of the teachers, and we teased and insulted each other in French.

Ever since I came to Korea, I have wanted to create such an environment for my own students. But I've been here for three years and the students are still saying, "Teacher, hwajangshil."

Perhaps the greatest factor is that my high school peers and I saw each other all day whereas my hagwan students don't. The best I can do, then, is to manipulate the students' home environment.

I shall try giving weekly handout sheets containing a few questions or sentences which the students are to practice, along with a note to the parents asking them to involve these questions or sentences in English conversation at home.

I know someone who has tried something like this and it worked.
Any comments?
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Joined: 03 Feb 2003
Location: Najaf

PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2003 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a great website for questions. Maybe you can use some of the question lists.
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Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2003 7:04 pm    Post subject: good foreign language classes Reply with quote

I think the size of the class is definitely a factor. And the amount of time the class meets. For foreign language classes I prefer the 1 hour a day schedule (rather than 2 hours, 3 times a week, i.e. block scheduling).

I was fortunate enough to work in a school that had really small class sizes (biggest was 19 students, smallest was 5) and a great foreign language program. The students started the FL (Spanish in this case) in grade 6. From this grade on, almost the entire class was taught in Spanish (very important to me..and I've seen it can be done!). By the time I had the kids for HS Spanish III, IV AP and V, they were speaking and writing at an incredible level in Spanish.

I think the reason this school's language program was so effective involved many factors. One was that they did a good job of matching up the right teachers with the right levels. The 6th and 7th grade teachers were the kind that were very clear in their explanations and had very structured classes. They spoke slowly (and corrrectly!) in the target language, but not so that you would feel stupid. The higher level teachers offered the kids more freedom and challenged them more with creative assignments where they could inject a little more of their own personalities.

This school and its teachers also encouraged students to work a lot outside of the class. I think this is key. The kids had guided homework when they were younger. As they got older, they had assignments like watching Spanish TV, reading newspapers. Many even had community service projects which utilized their language skills. The majority of students took a real responsibility with their language learning--and with those that didn't there was a huge difference.

These teachers also did a good job of focusing on all of the aspects of learning a language: reading, writing, speaking, listening. I think speaking and listening were empasized the most at the lower levels (but reading and writing were not ignored). As time went on, these different skills got about equal time.

Starting the kids at an earlier level is a big thing too. For one, they are often less resistant than older learners to using L2 entirely or almost entirely in class. Also, learning a language in a classroom isn't ever going to be a perfectly natural situation. However, I think the earlier a kid starts, the more 'natural' the learning process can be. I am thinking specifically of the order a kid will learn and use new vocabulary. Also, word games and games in general to practice language tend to be more popular with kids than older learners. Older learners often want to know 'why?' language is the way it is and study grammar, syntax, etc. before they have a good grasp of the language--they can be very analytical. If kids start learning a language young, they absorb things more easily and tend not to translate between language 1 and L2--or compare things between the two as much. (It can be a real pain when older students expect the rules of language 1 to directly translate into language 2---or just feel that there are 'direct translations' in general. I know because I used to be one of those people!)

These are just some thoughts I have. There are a lot of things that make a foreign language classroom a successful classroom. Some I can think of off the top of my head are: Student motivation, parent involvement, interest of subject matter to students, how applicable assignments and the language itself are to the student's life, teacher personality, teacher preparedness, etc.
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