For Language Teachers
To all K12, nonprofit, and higher education language teachers, this post is dedicated to you. Do you find yourself struggling to create a differentiated program for your students? In classrooms that are filled to capacity or overcrowded, the prospect of differentiation or designing a curriculum to fit all students needs according to their abilities seems like a childish daydream.
However, it can happen if you play your cards right. Some of you are probably thinking, of course it can work if you have less than 10 students in the classroom and you have them for at least 90 minutes. I hear you loud and clear!!!
That’s why I am going to offer these suggestions; I also have a feeling someone is going to say we’ve tried that already…ok, just hear me out – promise?
*choice boards: You can arrange these boards however you like. You can have each column representing a certain difficulty; each row represents a specific intelligence. For example, say you have a student who is a visual learner and can draw, you can have them create an advertising using vocabulary from the unit from which you are teaching. You can place as many of these that you want, depending on what you have noticed among your students. This requires you getting to know your students individually
*in-class conferences: Do these three times during the year or semester, depending on how your class is set up. If you are a college professor, I would suggest doing this outside of class time.
If you work in a non-profit, I would suggest doing this at registration or during the consultation (depending on how classes are administered). K12 teachers, I recommend doing this the first two weeks of class, right before midterms, and then close to finals.
Keep a journal of the conversation and what you learned about each student and how you feel you can help them break out of their language comfort zones.
*Stations: After giving your basic instruction, it is probably a good idea to set up “stations” in which students can choose how they are going to practice and apply what htey are learning. Some students may require a lot of time, so classroom set up is important. Think about where you are going to keep your station, so that you are close by. Do not take this to mean do not check in occasssionally with your students; move around the room and see what they are doing and what they learning. If possible take the students with the better language capacities to help run these stations. Again, do not take this to mean they are going to serve as the teacher. You are do demonstrate at each station, but they are more like your apprentices.
*Projects: For every unit you teach, design a major project. This will meet your formative and summative assessment. This requires you breaking down the projects and the lessons that are based on the particular unit. The major project can be a creation of a booklet, a video presentation, a website, etc.
Be creative in your curriculum. I have received some notes from language teachers about teaching language in a contemporary classroom. Incorporate technology. If students are allowed to bring their smart phones to school, allow them to use them in class for the class assignments. Be careful and make sure you lay down clear ground rules about using smartphones.
For those of you who teach Etymology, Latin, or Greek, you can can do the above projects, just use your imagination. Think about it this way: Think back to when you were learning languages in school? What put you to sleep? What interested you? What did you wish that you could have done in that class that would have been fun and educational?