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Five Ways to Engage Your Students in the World Language Classroom

Did you know that more than 150 Participate Learning ambassador teachers here in the U.S. teach world languages? As native speakers, our ambassadors facilitate authentic learning experiences for their students to help them gain proficiency in another language. Students learn the most when they are highly engaged, motivated, and challenged. Read on for five ways to engage your world language students in the classroom.

Reward Student Proficiency

Spotlighting student proficiency and helping them maintain it over time is key to being successful as a world language educator. Many students thrive on recognition and feedback, so consider using a gamified stamp sheet or checklist of learning objectives to mark their progress throughout the semester. You could also put your own spin on positive behavior systems and rewards by setting up a classroom store. There, students can exchange completed stamp sheets or class “dollars” for a one-on-one lunch with their favorite world language teacher or even small souvenirs from your home country. Surprise students with new rewards or incentives from time to time to keep them interested in showing off the progress they are making.

Use culture as a medium for learning

Establishing a culture corner in your classroom with flags and regalia is just the beginning! International world language teachers bring a unique perspective to their students and can offer their own culture and diverse experiences for students to learn from. Students should develop cultural competence as they learn the language, and this can be done by actively integrating authentic cultural items and practices into your lessons. As often as you can, connect students to real native speakers using virtual exchange activities. Not only do these interactions motivate students to continue learning, but they also allow students to practice producing phrases and sentences in the target language.

Create a language-rich environment

Immerse your students in a classroom that challenges them and opens their minds to the language they are learning. Set early expectations that English will not be spoken in the classroom, and stick to it. Creating an engaging, language-rich environment will require continuous work and adjustment, and will go beyond word walls and anchor charts. While the physical classroom environment should be instructional and informative, you also will want to incorporate student work to encourage and motivate them as they learn. When you create a learning environment that is positive and supportive, students will feel safe to take risks during their learning.

Embrace different learning styles and motivations

Consider the diverse learning styles of your students and the reasons they are in your classroom. While some students actively seek out a foreign language to learn, others are simply filling basic requirements for graduation. You will need to find interesting ways to engage all your students in language learning opportunities that intrigue them. One technique that works for both in-classroom and remote learning is a choice board, in which you plan separate activities and students choose among them for credit. This approach is an inclusive way to provide student choice in how they interact with the lesson material, while also accommodating different learning styles.

Try new technology

Especially considering that students may need to continue learning in a remote or hybrid classroom, it’s vital to integrate technology in your lesson materials to engage with students. FlipGrid allows you to pose a question to your students, who can then respond in the target language through a video recording. To increase excitement, consider starting a time-bound 7-day or 30-day challenge with your students that requires them to log in to a language-learning app like Duolingo to practice their language skills, with rewards for students who successfully complete the challenge. Creating review activities through tools like Padlet, Kahoot, and Quizlet, to name a few, allows students to complete the review individually or in pairs to learn more collaboratively.

What techniques do you use to engage students in the world language classroom? Share your success story with us by using the hashtag #unitingourworld or tag us on Twitter @ParticipateLrng.