As a language teacher, it's often difficult, if not impossible, to remember what it was like to begin our language journey; the struggles with understanding language and with finding the words we want to use. I do remember when I went abroad and, despite years of school learning, I struggled to communicate. I remember feeling overwhelmed and lost, but being in a different country, I did not have the choice to quit. I want my students to feel that despite being overwhelmed and lost that they can improve; they don’t have to quit. We have the opportunity to share this concept with our students and to invite them to be into this beginner’s mindset as they start the year.
Create a safe and welcoming environment.
Even when using the target language on day one you can begin to build relationships. Include pictures of you and your family as you talk about summer or show your school pride by wearing school gear on the first day. Welcome students at the door with smiles or take the last few minutes at the end of class in English to check in. (You do get 10%!)
Create activities that are engaging and authentic.
Use authentic resources to draw students in and ignite passion for the language. Help them connect what they're seeing and learning to their own lives with photos or other things related to the topic. Create cultural comparisons with examples from your students’ lives.
Teach how to be a student.
It sounds silly, but learning how to learn a language is actually more essential in the beginning than what vocabulary a student remembers. By giving students the skills they need to learn, we provide the building blocks they need to be successful. As they learn how to be a student, the language piece comes much more easily and they gain confidence in themselves and their work.
Have fun and be yourself!
Enjoy your time with your students. Show your passion for what you do and let parts of you come out in each and every one of your lessons. Make mistakes and learn along with your students. They take their cues from you, so be a good beginner along with them.
As I wrote each of these and reread them, they hit me as obvious. No matter how many years you’ve been teaching or how many first days you’ve had, it is always important to remember what being a beginner is like.
Have a great school year!