The 2020-2021 school year was unlike any other we have seen in history. Thanks to the abundance of technology that we are all plugged into, schools across the country were able to make adjustments so students did not have to miss a beat.
Virtual classrooms became the norm during this past school year and many students excelled in this setting. Independent study provided many students an opportunity to learn, distraction and anxiety-free. Many other students, however, felt the strain of trying to learn from home. Whether it was a technology issue, space issue, or simply the fact that they were not constantly being “watched” and spoken to directly and in-person by their teacher, students struggled to keep up.
One subject students had to fight harder to maintain and retain knowledge in while learning in a virtual environment was World/Foreign Language. World Language can be a difficult subject for students to learn even in-person, so throwing in the mix of a 2-D learning environment where they may not be able to completely focus on the content being taught, can cause difficulties as they move through the course material.
One suggested curriculum enhancement World Language educators have devised is to reduce the amount of lecture time and increase the amount of peer collaboration through games and interdisciplinary connections.
Fun While Learning
Building out a curriculum that includes playing games is not only a fun way to introduce students to new material and linguistic learning, but it helps them put the language into the context of real life. Learning a foreign language through playing games allows students to relax and enjoy the fun and creativity of the game without added pressure.
It can be easy for World Language teachers to include games in both in-person and virtual formats. Teachers can begin the class with a lecture, discussing the new vocabulary and expressions for that day’s lesson, and then split students into teams to play a rousing game using online tools such as Quizlet Live, Gimkit, or Pear Deck.
Working together allows students to feel more comfortable discussing all possible answers to the question and become more competitive to win against the other teams. Some students will be more motivated and more comfortable with the lesson than others, and they can all learn from each other while enjoying a fun activity.
Project-Based Learning using Interdisciplinary Connections
Another wonderful options to engage students in World Language is through using the language being taught within other subjects students are learning or have learned. For example, as a World Language teacher, you can collaborate with the History and Social Studiets teachers to devise a plan to bring the focuses of their curriculum into your classroom. Reinforcing other subjects through the foreign language also helps students better understand the language being taught.
This tool is especially effective with students that may not feel comfortable in their abilities to learn or speak the foreign language. Bringing the instruction back to a topic that interests them, or perhaps a topic they just learned about in another subject, can increase their ability to comprehend and their motivation to engage.
Whether teaching World Language during an in-person or virtual format, the most important thing to remember is that students will succeed if they feel encouraged and motivated. Learning and speaking a new language can be difficult for many students and providing positive reinforcement can only amplify their willingness to engage.
Finding ways to recognize small victories and encourage out-of-classroom learning will make students feel valued and want to succeed. Motivate and inspire students with personal stories, continued recognition, and by playing fun and engaging games.