So, I’m taking French classes again (partly so that I can communicate with a certain attractive someone in Brazil…), and it’s given me a chance to experience student life again. So amazing. My teacher speaks only in French the entire class (3 hours, twice a week). It was a bit daunting at first, but it brought to mind my students who have difficulties in math class. Hearing me talk about math with such ease when they struggle to understand the basic vocabulary must be overwhelming for them. I’m sure some of my students have had days that felt like they were in a classroom where a different language was being spoken.
One of the guys in my class is a bit out of his league. (He thought he could start in a higher level class because he already speaks Spanish fluently.) He completely shuts down at moments in class. He does not want to participate in most of the oral exercises, and I can already see from his attitude he does not plan to take any more classes…How many students have felt this way in my class?
I do have to credit my instructor for her patience and teaching skill. She seems to have done this plenty of times before. She insists on only speaking in French. However, she uses a bunch of simple but effective teacher skills to help increase clarity and decrease anxiety…such as:
- Speaking slowly – over-enunciating each word, one at a time
- Repetition – most important phrases are repeated at least twice, listening exercises are played two or three times before being discussed
- Hand gestures – like a good charades player, she helps us understand phrases without direct translation through her actions
- Exaggerated tone – using a wide range of emotion in her voice for both understanding/translation as well as emphasis
- Writing – not only are phrases repeated several times orally, but they are also usually written on the board
- Patience and a Smile – she never seems to mind repeating or slowing down, always smiling and happy for any student effort/attempts
These are simple things many of us do, but I wanted to point out explicitly what I’ve been noticing. 🙂