World language teachers are age group chameleons, often teaching pre-k immersion all the way up to eighth grade exploratory classes. How do we properly craft our lessons and curriculum to effectively reach each age group? In this post, we’ll learn the second language acquisition research and classroom management strategies that will most equip you to teach the varying ages of elementary world language, from pre-k to late elementary language learners.
World language teachers move between age groups all the freakin’ time! I’m certified to teach K-12. Many other world language teachers have this same flexibility. So many programs go from k-8 learners. That’s a huge range! This post is especially for elementary world language teachers who teach a wide range and want to make their curriculum as effective as possible for each age group.
OUR INTENTION: how to better craft curriculum and lessons for specific age groups, based on the research about their beautiful brains, down to the year. Maximize your lessons, assessments, and curriculums so that you can make one lesson work for multiple ages if needed, or tell if lessons/ curriculums you find will work for you.
Also, to make better choices when selecting topics and themes for your lessons and curriculum. You’ll find out today that not all topics will be as effective, depending on your age group.
I want to empower you to make the best choices for your learners by knowing exactly how their beautiful brains work and how they want to learn.
Teaching World Language In High School
Contrary to the other posts in this series on learner profiles based on age group, we’re moving to my experience in the classroom and seeing the common mistakes that elementary and middle school world language teachers make when they switch to high school.
1. The Importance of Mutual Respect & Fairness
Respect is earned through mutual positive relationships. Nothing happens until this is established. Period.
With middle and elementary, they’ll respect you because you’re the teacher most of the time. This is not the case for high schoolers. Prioritize relationships early and often. Do whatever you need to do to get to know your students, TL be darned.
You won’t get anything done unless you know and love them. That also doesn’t mean that they have to LIKE you. It means that you have to SHOW them, early and often, that YOU like THEM, care about them and their individual differences (especially not school related) and you care about fairness and treating everyone the same, no matter their achievement level in your class. Bottom line, hold order and treat them like people. (adults, they’re basically almost adults)
2. The Power of Student Choice
Choice is everything with high schoolers. Giving them choice (within structures) to choose their own groups, choose their own activities, and choose their own way to complete a task in the TL works wonders.
3. Acknowledge their Learning Pace
Acknowledging, respecting, and differentiating to their learning pace, especially in questioning techniques, works wonders. In middle school, you need to be more careful about this.
However, in high school, especially 11-12, THEY KNOW how fast they learn. And it has nothing to do with how smart they are. They WANT you to move at their own pace, not hide where they are at from others.
Fast movers will appreciate you letting them excel. Slow movers will appreciate you giving them to space to be themselves without judgement or forcing them to move faster.
For example, if you give someone a full-sentence question to a fast paced learner and say great job, and then give a yes/no question to a slower-paced learner and say great job when they answer accurately, BOTH are happy.
They don’t feel singled out like we might fear in the middle school ages where they’re carving out their identity. High schoolers don’t want to be treated the same. They’ve experienced enough schooling to know who they are and how they learn. They want to be seen.
4. Let Pop Culture Influence Your Lesson Planning
Don’t pretend to be an expert on modern culture, let your students guide it! Let students give you ideas for what to do next and participate in lessons, projects, and topic ideas. They LOVE it. Don’t let them set the pace or scope though. Lolz.
5. Choose student groups at first
– Choose their groups at first, as students will usually choose to work with students who look and act like them. Do a healthy mix of self-selection and teacher-chosen homogenous and heterogenous grouping. I then find it very helpful for classroom culture to let students choose their own groups, or work alone if they like to.
6. Build Highly Personalized Curriculums with Time to Talk
Give ample time for non-curriculum discussions. You’re not off-topic, you’re building relationship capital. Asking about marching band competitions, dating snafus, family fights, and all of that is a great segway into awesome stories and relationship building.
7. Respect the shy students
Respect the shy students. Don’t try and turn them into extroverts. Let them work by themselves, work often with other introverted students, and let them speak at their own pace. Don’t pull the parental fire alarm unless they won’t speak to you in a one-on-one setting. This destroys trust.
8. Treat High School Students Like Adults (Almost)
Respect the stage of life they’re at. 11 and 12th graders want to investigate the real-life rituals, hobbies, blogs, dating habits, places to eat, skating culture, etc of other places. They’re curious to see if the internet lied to them about plastic sushi or not.
Talk to them like adults, but remember they’re still part kid. They want to talk about adult topics. They’re ready for social justice, deep conversations, and difficult truths. They’re in that activist phase of early adulthood where the world is simultaneously full of injustice (think about how many times you hear it’s not fair!) and a desire to change it. It’s an optimal time to talk about it.
9. Represent People Their Age in the Curriculum
Show them real changemakers and cultural influencers THAT ARE ACTUALLY THEIR AGE. Please stop talking about 50 year olds. They don’t care. They hear about them in every other class.
Our class more than any other class is REAL-TIME. Dynamic. Day-to-day. Leave the history to history class and English.
Multidisciplinary approaches SLAY, especially for students who think that language isn’t for them. Scientific projects or working with math, statistics, probability, etc does beautiful things. I can clearly go on forever.
Age advantages of high schoolers/older learners in SLA:
greater knowledge of L1
Introducing Second Language Acquisition Saville-Troike p. 82