Teachers as learners

Teachers as learners

One of the benefits of acquiring a language naturally, that is by constant repetition of comprehensible language, is that phrasing and language chunks start to FEEL right.  TPRS (teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling) is the best methodology I have found for teaching a foreign language.

I don’t teach much explicit grammar.  Instead we use the language in meaningful contexts and the students start to develop a feel for it.

Yesterday, I was correcting student stories in French 8. I came upon a sentence that one boy had written and instinctively I reworked it to sound more French.  I didn’t ‘know the rule’ which explained the unusual pattern.  I just instinctively ‘felt’ it should be thus.  So I typed the new version into a search window to verify and voilà!, my gut feeling was borne out. What a surge of joy!

Why do I explain this?  Because just like my students, I’m continually learning French.  I read and study my Bible in French each morning and daily I listen to French news and other podcasts. During our Drop Everything And Read period, I keep a French novel running.  Another source of new learning for me are the questions my students ask, “Madame…how do you say XYZ in French?”  Last week I learned how to say ‘hermit crab’ thanks to Isabella in French 7.  (un bernard-l’hermite)

I want my students to KNOW that their teacher is also in process with her acquisition of French, just like they are.  I picture me as a planet with orbiting words/chunks of French language at varying distances from me, the center.  The distance of these orbiting bits find their position this way, with their distance described as follows.

Stating with language farthest from me:

  • I recognize that I’ve looked up this word before, but I don’t remember what it means
  • I have a feeling about what it means, and when I check I’m correct
  • I know what it means, but it’s not part of my active vocabulary
  • I think I’m correct as I attempt to use a new phrase/word
  • It’s mine and I’m confident in how to use it

As I continue to soak in the French language, my language is in flux and the categories are changing.  The last category keeps growing, to my delight and satisfaction.

I explained this phenomena to my 7th-graders yesterday so they would also know that their prof de français is learning just like they are.  I also shared with them that all their teachers are required this year to reflect on their teaching and learning, just like they are! I think this kind of insight into their teachers is good for them.

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