4 Tips to Help Students Problem Solve in the TL

Here I want to expand a little bit more on one of the tips discussed in the blog post about ways in which teachers can help students reach elementary proficiency in a year. Being able to problem solve in the TL is a pivotal skill for students to learn. But what are some strategies that you can use to help students develop this ability? Below are 4 tips to help your students learn how to problem solve in the TL.

1. Give students a questionnaire at the start of the school year:

Creating an engaging questionnaire for your students in the beginning of the year will enable you to learn the problem solving areas in which individual students struggle. The questionnaire should be in the native language and give students a variety of scenarios to try and solve. The questions on the questionnaire should get students to evaluate a problem, brainstorm possible solutions, and identify what knowledge or tools are necessary to accomplish a task. For example teachers can ask questions like: “How would you explain to someone how to tie their shoes?”, and “If you had to teach an exchange student about a unique American holiday, how would you teach it and why?”. Here is a Critical Thinking Sample Lesson and here is a Critical Thinking Exercise.

2. Create fun and appropriately leveled problem solving exercises in TL:

Before undertaking this activity make sure your students have enough vocabulary in their back pockets. The more words they know that describe a specific person, place, thing or idea, the better your students will be able to successfully complete this exercise. The possibilities are limitless for what you can come up with for this exercise. Ideally after a few practice runs, youcan begin to grade students. The scenarios should get more difficult as the semester or year goes by. If you need to get your creative juices flowing here is an SampleExerciseinTL and Example TL Scenarios.communication

3. Learn not to engage in over correction:

The one thing that can really demotivate students is when a bad examteacher engages in too
much correction. So instead of lots of correction during the exercise, it may be beneficial to give an overall assessment at the end of the skit. Giving students feedback like th
e picture at the right is unhelpful. Also it’s probably a good idea not to make corrections in red for certain grade levels. However, if you want to give individualized assessments for each group member feel free to do so. You will have to find the right balance for your classroom environment.

4. Encourage persistence:

Practice makes perfect! For some students this exercise may be extremely challenging. One way to encourage persistence is to celebrate class milestones with prizes or treats. If your students thrive best when given incentives, take advantage of them to get students to persist in their foreign
language journey.

5 Steps to Help Students Become Conversationally Fluent in the First Year

Whether fluency means being able to read in the target language (TL) without the use of a dictionary or being able to watch a foreign movie without any subtitles, each student’s definition of fluency and fluency goals can differ. Contrary to popular belief a student can become conversationally fluent in a foreign language that they are learning in school. The following are 5 practical steps a student can pursue to become a more efficient and effective communicator in their TL.

Step 1:

Master the Essentials. Simply put, the essentials students’ need to learn are some vocabulary and basic grammar.  There are plenty of resources available to help students master vocabulary - on and offline. Of course, we encourage students to use ClassTracks to efficiently and effectively study vocabulary. For some languages learning the vocabulary in 2 or 3  sequential textbooks can lead to basic conversational fluency. For example, Japanese learners who learn the vocabulary in the textbooks Genki I and Genki II will know around 70% of the spoken Japanese language. Learning the basic grammar will allow a student to use their vocabulary in the proper sentence structure.

Step 2:

Master Conversation Fillers. Every language has sentence fillers such as um, er, so, and like. If a student can master the TL’s fillers it will enable the learner to sound more natural. Also if a student learns conversational fillers it will allow them time to think of words or phrases if they have a mental block.

Step 3:

CommunicationFind a Native Speaker to Communicate with. This is the most important aspect of learning another language. You actually have to speak it. With the internet there’s no excuse why an individual can’t find a language partner or teacher. Teachers can help their students find native speakers and make sure the contact is standards-aligned through sites like penpalschools.com, which provides a platform to connect with students across the world along with standards-aligned curriculum to support the interactions.

Step 4:

Learn to Problem Solve and Find Synonyms. Problem solving in the TL is absolutely vital for a student to learn. What do I mean by problem solve in the TL? Problem solving in the TL means finding ways to work around mental blocks when you forget words or phrases. If you’re talking to a native speaker about your day and can’t remember the word for library, you can refer to it as “the place that lends books out for free”. Finding synonyms is the same concept. If you forget the word short, work around it by saying something isn’t tall.

Step 5:

Forgive Mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but students learning a foreign language shouldn’t be discouraged by them. Students need to forgive mistakes because they are a natural part of the learning process. If a student can laugh off their mistakes and keep going they are more likely to stick with a foreign language for the long haul.

If a student can master these five steps, then effective communication in TL is achievable in a year.