General Competency Four. The teacher candidate understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies to encourage students’ development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills.
Principle 4. Language teachers understand and use a variety of instructional strategies to help learners develop language proficiency, build cultural understanding, and foster critical thinking.
1. Patience. Learning a language is like falling seven times and getting up eight. Each student is moving along a continuum of learning and most likely no two students are at exactly the same point on that continuum. The teacher needs to be prepared to produce activities that can meet the students where they are in their differing points in the progression of learning, and she also needs to be willing to repeat the information in various forms in order to catch the students who may have not been ready during previous attempts.
2. Excitement. This picture demonstrates the kind of thing that gets me excited . . . our friends’ three year old son decides to write “a letter” to his folks asking if he can watch tv when his dad’s ballgame is over. This is his first time “writing.”
Do you imagine his parents corrected his spelling? No. They gave him hugs and kisses and all due accolades!
Not all “Language Learning Events” are this obvious and spectacular, but excitement is due all the same.
3. Preparedness. The key to spontaneity is to be prepared. If the teacher walks into the room with a well-planned lesson plan, odds are good that she will be able to respond to whatever situation that arises.
4. Repetition. Research suggests that the more automatic the learner’s access to language stored in long term memory, the more fluent the language use, since the learner is able to direct more attention to the meaning of the message and production. (Segalowitz 2003) By repetition though, I do not mean simple stimulus/response, over-and-over type repetition. It is necessary to activate a context for the information, enabling the student to create a durable pathway to long-term memory. Manipulating the information in many different ways helps to solidify these pathways. For example, in Dr. Moeller’s counting lesson plan, we first HEARD the words AS we were making motions. Students were asked to repeat and interact and actively produce the language. (1) She then showed the words to a nursery rhyme on the overhead and students were able to connect the visual of how the word was said, to the sounds that they were hearing. (2) Next, she presented an activity where the students were to manipulate cards, each printed with a number in a different color, and make arrangements according to her commands. The students were allowed to do this in groups, thereby enabling a collaboration of knowledge. (3) Then she called out various Math problems and the students were asked to call out responses–to actually mentally manipulate the numbers and perform operations using them. (4) Next, the class was divided into pairs to work on dot-to-dot puzzles, where each student had the other student’s answer key, and took turns giving directions. (5) Then a quiz where the students each individually were asked to match the number with the number word. (6) And finally, Dr. Moeller led a review of the initial TPR activity. (7) Overall, the students were given SEVEN opportunities to manipulate the numbers 1-12 in German in the course of approximately fifteen minutes. Due to the variety of the exercises, not only did the time pass quickly, but three months later, I am still able to count to 12 in German having that lesson being my only exposure to the information.
5. Take action. One of my favorite quotes I found on a fire safety poster made by a 2nd grader. “If you know what to do, do it right away.”