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Sunday 17th of September 2006 10:01:26 AM
Language teachers: The description of this forum includes teacher issues, so... I decided to post this here.
I am trying to generate Spanish language material for people to learn. As I am not a teacher, I don't have neither the experience nor the knowledge of how to prepare a lesson, what to include, etc.
I've been looking for some things about this, and I found this in Wikibooks:
Several of you are doing some lessons as well. I thought it could be a good idea to share the problems you are finding in doing so and how you are solving them, so others (as me) can spot the troublesome areas before actually going into them.
Does anyone want to join in the discusion?

Sunday 17th of September 2006 10:06:12 AM
I'll have to read the article and get back to you. But - I think this is a good topic. Although I'm still learning Russian myself, I also try to prepare new learning games and exercises for the other students in the forum. Like you - I'm not a teacher, so at times I find it difficult.

Hopefully we can generate some good discussion here on concepts for creating language lessons here on PB.

I can tell you off the top of my head, one problem seems to be "balancing" the lessons according to skill level. I've had a few newer students in the past mention that at times they are a little afraid to post in some lessons/threads because they feel it's beyond their skill. I'd love to hear other peoples' suggestions on how to approach that problem.

Great topic Javier! :)

Sunday 17th of September 2006 11:44:26 PM
This perhaps is a bit off topic, but I though I could mention some of my thoughts around the subject of how a language course should be, as I've used quite a few.

This is just my opinions though, and I find they are different from many languages learner's.

First of all I think the wikibook you referred to is a great guide, Javier. However I do not agree with everything in it. I want to add/repeat some things:

1. All rules have exeptions. When teaching a rule, stick to the rule. Exeptions can come later, unless there is just one or two exeptions or a very important one.
I once read a book on a language, and it basicly said 'this is the rule, but forget about it, there is so many exeptions anyway, it's hardly even a rule'. Now, that's not good teaching. As it turned out, in this case it was BS anyways, but reading it made me feel like I could never learn that language. When you get a rule however, you feel like you know a lot at once.

2. Don't use difficult words to explain grammar and pronounciation ... that will make a person give up because they can't understand the language to learn the language!

3. There can never be too many examples.

4. ASK THE STUDENTS. Ask them: Do you see some rule here? Why do you think it's like this? Let them, for god sake, USE their brains. Don't feed them, make them hunt. But of course give them the answer and explenations when they've given it a thought. :) I actually prefer not reading grammar rules at first ... I rather read books and try to spot the patterns myself. Then I read the rules.

5. AUDIO. There can never ever be too much of that. There is nothing too small or unimportant to record.

6. I find it useful to memorize sentences ... the longer the better. Although I agree with the wikibook in that it's very useful to get a word by word-translation and/or the grammar to go with it, it's not the best way to really learn! If you learn the sentence, then you will recognize the words in sentences later on, and the grammar and the meaning of the words will reveal itself to you before your eyes ... and that, my friends, is learning a language. Because it's NOT about translating, it's about learning a culture ... not a culture of a country or nation, but of a language. However, you can't learn it without some form of references, so what I do is to read texts in the target language parallell with a text in my language. Comparing sentence by sentence trying to understand the structure and the expressions used in the foreign text, you will quickly get into the very centre of the language. AFTER doing this by themself I think the students would gain a lot from getting a native's explanation on new words, grammar, etc. Hunt it, then eat it ... and then use the energy you've gained, wich leads me to:

7. talk with the students like you've never talked before. ;) Let them repeat from the text they have worked with (provided that they really have worked with a text), altered or not, the most important is that they get to use what they've seen, untill they are comfortable with it. Let them ask question and try to change what they have learned to say slightly different things, through exercises and conversation.

8. Teach them useful expressions and idioms. This will feel good for the students, and it's important that they're not stuck with just translating word by word from english/their mother tounge. Learning grammar hardly helps here.

9. Teach them about the daily use of the language all along the course, from the start to the very end.

10. And of course teach them the most useful sentences early in the course and provide them with an overview over the grammar rules for references, these wlll help them both during the course and after the course.

NOTE: This is just how I most easily learn a language and would like to see a course.

I'll come back with more if you like ...

sorry about typos, spelling mistakes and overall bad language

Sunday 24th of September 2006 10:21:27 AM

I agree with your points wholeheartedly! That is how I would want to be taught and that's what I believe is good starting point: to teach in a way that you would want to be taught.

Javier, great article and learning tool, I read/skimmed through all of it and it was very helpful too.

I have a few things to add:
I think in starting and teaching how you would want to be taught, you also then should maintain an openness to the students' learning styles. It is not primarily your experience in teaching, it is a two way street. The student learns what you are teaching, but they also teach you how to teach them better. It is a keen teacher that pays attention to that.

A second point is to do a lot of review. Incorporate it into practice, bring up words that the students' know so that they can see their usage and gain confidence in their comprehension skills.

Also, respect the verbal pause. Especially when learning a new language, it is hard to start thinking in it right away, therefore it takes some time to come up with an answer, having translated it from another language and another construction. Many teachers are afraid of silence. It IS scary, uncomfortable, too long.... However, I believe that it can never be too long. Give the students' a chance to come up with an answer. This is a concept that I also struggle with very much... how to make the verbal pause LONGER. It is so wonderful to see a person make progress, and speak YOUR language, that all you want to do is speak faster with them, share more. But the key is to step back, slow down.

In writing a document for a lesson, always confer with a colleague. It may look amazing and correct, but another person's eyes are much sharper than our own. For this reason, I always tell my students to look for mistakes, to correct me. No one is 100% perfect, and when students see the mistakes the teacher makes, that means they are really learning the stuff you are teaching them.

Friday 29th of September 2006 10:53:13 PM
Well, probably I’m going to repeat the same previous ideas (again off topic), but I just want to tell something about my experience, which is still very little. It's amazing making that statement, since it's my main occupation, but a teacher is always learning through his/her life, so I guess that I still have a lot to learn: different students lead to different methods and approaches. – that’s what it takes to a life long learning as a teacher.
Another aspect of my inexperience has to do with the teaching via internet, which is quite different from a teaching face-to-face. So, I still have some doubts about the best way of doing it. I’m always so concerned with grammar issues, since Portuguese grammar is difficult, that I might end up giving a dull lesson with only grammar. One aspect that I think is great, in this case, is that we are not dependent on the school curriculum which gives us (teacher and student) some freedom of choosing the subject, and follow only the necessary student’s needs.
I tend to be a bit “annoying” with my net students, since I’m a complete defender of mistake correction and also a think for yourself approach. As teachers we’re just helping them to create the right path, and let them find the answers for their doubts.
Believe it or not, but I’m learning a lot with Phrasebase and I really think that it’s helping me win some more experience to something that I really want to do – to teach Portuguese as a foreign language. :)

Sunday 08th of October 2006 02:08:03 AM
Well, I guess that different teaching methods apply to different teachers and students, so I guess we have to flexible in our teaching methods towards our students :)

Saturday 13th of January 2007 02:00:54 PM
Teaching Spanish: I’m new to Phrasebase, so I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for. I’m a former Spanish teacher looking to learn a new language, but this is what I have to offer:

Current foreign language methodology in the US is geared toward Communicative Competence, which means the goal is for the student to be able to communicate effectively (especially orally), rather than master perfect grammar and structure. Having learned my languages under a now archaic methodology called “drill and practice” (sometimes known as listen and repeat), communicative competence seemed very superficial to me at first. I was concerned about the fact that students were not expected to produce perfection in their language learning. However, I now realize the value of this strategy – students in the beginning to intermediate language levels do not need the precision of a UN translator, they simply need to be able to communicate effectively with native speakers. They will enjoy it more and learn faster when they see rapid progress because they are using the language continually, rather than be discouraged by plodding through explanations about how the language works.

I do not mean to imply that grammar and structure are not important in language teaching. Thse need to be interspersed with the communicative component, but very minimally in the first few years. Students learn best by internalizing grammatical patterns they hear and read than by memorizing rules (some of us seem to enjoy those rules, but the far majority of students do not.)

All this being said, best teaching practice in our state follows a pretty clear methodology:
• give background to the concept you intend to introduce (ex: show photos of fruits, or a video about a trip to the supermarket – you can be creative as your time, imagination, funds and teaching environment allow),
• introduce the concepts by presenting the vocabulary visually and orally (point to each fruit and repeat the name of the fruit in the target language (allow students to repeat also – do NOT translate, the context of the photos provides that information to the student),
• present photos with the names of the fruits written on them, and the students should write them down (I like to write the names on the photos while pronouncing the names)
• request that the students recognize the concepts by yes or no (ask “Is this the apple? Is this the banana? Make sure sometimes you point to the wrong fruits so that answes can be yes as well as no),
• ask the students to recognize the concepts by comparing (ask “Is this the apple or the banana?” Do NOT ask them to say what the fruit is yet),
• NOW request that the students recall the concepts when you point to them (ask “What is this?”).
• Once you have modeled all of this, the student needs the opportunity to do all of these steps with a partner, or even back to you. (Ex: Ask me “Is this the Apple?” Is this the banana?” Ask me “What is this?”)
• From this point, you can introduce some verbs (as you move along, you will be able to use ones you already introduced), such as “This is the… This is a… I want…. I like…. Do you want…? do you like…? Where is the ….? How many ….. are there? Again, you would ask these questions to the student, and then the student should ask them to a partner, and also back to the teacher.

Eventually, the student is spending a whole lot of time creating sentences from patterns you have taught. Every time you introduce new concepts, you are builing upon the structure you have established, and you are using the same strategies over and over so that the student can rapidly become very communicative.

For beginners, I used this strategy for every unit I taught. At each step, after the students had mastered the vocabulary and were able to use it to communicate, I would provide some type of a project in which they would use the concepts just taught. They might make a menu, draft a conversation with a partner, draw a meal on a plate and label the foods. Of course these were not adult students, but you can get an idea of how to make the learning fun. I also used home made flash cards with icons and not words, where the students would quiz each other, games such as chutes and ladders, bingo, battleship (works great for learning verbs), and lots and lots of very quick short exercises where they asked their partners questions. (These can actually be textbook style questions and answers YOU write up for the student to answer verbally or in writing. Ex: Do you like apples? Ans: Yes, I like apples, or No, I don’t like apples.) Short simple exercises in succession give the student an opportunity to practice while keeping their interest high. The students should just finish an exercise when you begin another one, so that they don’t have time to revert to thinking and speaking in their native language.

We avoid using the students’ primary language by using lots of photos and realia (props), because when a student is translating, they are not thinking in the language. When they have visual aids, the only language being used is the one they are learning. For example, most of my vocabulary quizzes at the elementary levels were little photos or drawings of the items, not written words. The students would then write the word in the target language next to the icon.

I forgot to mention that prior to this I had already established quite a list of teaching vocabulary, such as
What is..
How many..
Do you like..
Come here…
Give … to….
Show me the…
Take out a piece of paper…
Ask me….
Ask you partner…

I have never taught lessons via the Internet, so this may not be as helpful as I would like, but I hope it might get some creative ideas going. It certainly is not to replace the other very insightful ideas presented by others here.

Friday 19th of January 2007 09:41:59 PM
Welcome to PhraseBase Mimii!

I think your post is exactly the sort of information that's helpful. Whil every person probably has methods that work best, I like many of the techniques you've outlined.

I agree with you on the point of grammar/structure. While grammar is obviously important, I do think that some courses stress it a bit to much, which can overwhelm a student. It seems like learning simple phrases (which may in themselves serve as examples of how to use specific grammar rules) is a much more "rewarding" way to learn a language - it's something that can be applied immediately.

Hope to hear more from you, here and in the other forums :)

Thursday 12th of April 2007 07:16:00 AM
Teaching Languages: Hi everybody,

just registered on PhraseBase and the firs thing I looked for was this forum. I am an Italian teacher and just looking for someone with who change experiences.

I really liked Mimii's ideas. I use more or less the same techniques and confirm: it works!

Tilda :)

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