You could probably guess what the most popular New Year’s resolutions are; you’ve probably made them yourself. Get in shape, eat better, save money, quit smoking, volunteer. You could probably also guess many of the popular resolutions for teachers: be more organized, have a positive attitude, involve students more, set goals. What about you? Are you making a resolution or two for your classroom in the new year? I have some suggestions. Here are five New Year’s resolutions any world language teachers could make to improve learning for all involved.
- Speak more target language in the classroom.
If you make any resolution this year, make this one. In my opinion, the biggest problem in U.S. world language classrooms is the lack of comprehensible target language spoken by the teacher. Check out my previous post on increasing (your own) target language use for tips on how to do this, as well as my conference presentation on increasing target language use.
- Get students speaking more target language in the classroom.
Once your students are achieving any measurable level of proficiency, get them practicing it. Do role plays, skits, games, dialogues, anything you can think of to get them using and reusing the language they’ve acquired to really cement these skills in their long-term memory. For decades we’ve been producing students who can (briefly) read and write but even the thought of speaking makes them sweat. Read my post on nine ways you can get your students talking more.
- Target students’ particular needs.
If you’re in a traditional teaching setting, you’ve had these students for at least four months now. What patterns are you noticing? This is one of my top resolutions for the new year. According to my curriculum (which I wrote), I’m supposed to move on to occasional review of narrating the past while we focus in the spring on talking about goals and dreams. But for my fall final exam, which involved telling a story in the past, 2 out of 8 of my Spanish 3 students completely failed it. As a whole, my students are still struggling with anything resembling accuracy in their narration. Also, while they’re doing great at improving sentence connections and transitions, their vocabulary is still mired in Spanish 1. They’ll tell you anything you need to know about their casa or comida but the week before we got out for Christmas, none of them could identify the word gritar for me. We really need to work on pushing vocabulary. So I’m challenging myself to adjust my curriculum in any way I need to to accomplish the first goals we had before moving on to new ones.
- Try something new.
Sometimes I take it for granted that hey, it’s the 21st century, we all know what tools are at our disposal and what we should be doing. But then I meet a teacher who calls a projector a “Powerpoint machine” and another who asks me how he can reply to an email in Outlook. I observe a teacher who recaps a chapter students have read while three are sleeping and four are talking about their lunch or another who sits texting someone while students are “working” in the computer lab. Ask yourself where student engagement and learning is lagging in your classroom and commit to try one new thing that might address it. Could you require a technology tool for a project you’re thinking about? Find one video per week that will engage students and help reinforce your current goals?
- Share what you’ve learned.
Even if you’re the only world language teacher at your school, there’s a way for you to share all the things you’re learning in your teaching journey. What could you do to share more of your valuable experience with those of us struggling with the same things? You could
– join your state world language teaching association
– start a blog about your classroom experiences
– attend a state, regional, or national language teaching conference
– go beyond just joining your state association or attending a conference – propose a session yourself!
– join Twitter and participate in a twitter forum like #Langchat
I can think of so many more I should make – give students better feedback and give it on time. Make every minute of class count. Develop better relationships with students. Move around the classroom more. Make sure students have language they need before pushing them to use it. The key is to find something realistic and accomplish something. Remember, if we let ourselves get overwhelmed by the number of things we could change, we’ll just give up and nothing will change.
Happy New Year!