I love to send ‘atta-boy/girl’ postcards to my students when they do something well or are making progress. I have a stash of cards with French sayings, art or pictures on the front.
I use their French class name** they’ve picked and write a bit of the card’s message in French according to their ability. That way when they ‘have to’ translate out loud to a parent, they get to shine all the more.
The card in the picture that I’ve just written will go out in tomorrow’s mail. This 6th grade student has suddenly blossomed. From August to early March he has been fearful, hesitant and lacking confidence. We’ve talked several times, tête-à-tête and there have been some tears.
But over the past 3 weeks, he has made a turn around. He now smiles in class and stays engaged. What made the difference? He finally caught on and began to practice the skill and art of listening to understand. Some students arrive in my class already a pro at listening well in class. But many have to learn to engage and STAY plugged in. Occasionally I speak in English and explain how hard it is to listen intentionally. I give personal examples of drifting when I’m listening to a podcast in the car. It’s no dishonor to catch oneself disconnected; the point is to pull oneself back into what the speaker is saying.
In my car I can rewind a podcast. In class, I train students to raise a hand and ask for an explanation.
Letting more material go past and remaining ‘unenthralled’ is wrong, however.
I love seeing my students finally get a grip with how to learn a language. Second language acquisition is not rocket science. It’s not intellectual. It’s all about comprehension of meaningful language that is repeated ENOUGH times,
- first so the language is passively understood
- finally so the language effortlessly comes out of one’s mouth
My reward as a classroom French teacher is happy, confident French-speakers!
*Vieux Nombril Roux or Old red-headed belly button is the combo-name he picked out. I give my students a fun list of nouns and adjectives to put together for their class name. It beats the typical boring names of Jean-Luc or Martin or Pierre! And the added benefit is their growth in vocabulary!