In an ever more interconnected world, the ability to communicate in a second language and an openess to the perspectives of other cultures are increasingly important for today’s students. In my classroom, my goal is to help students to feel comfortable interacting and communicating effectively in their second language, as well as to foster respect for and tolerance of other cultures.
I believe that there are several elements key to providing excellent classroom instruction. The first is an ability to teach particular content effectively. For me, the most important aspect of teaching a foreign language is providing students with quality input and many opportunities for practice. In my classroom, therefore, I seek to maximize the opportunities that the students have to actively use their new language skills. I use French as much as possible, and I require my students to try to express themselves in French as often as they can. Particularly in the lower levels there are many routine elements in my classes, which allow students to hear and use the same language repeatedly to build their familiarity and confidence. I also use a large number of cooperative learning activities to shift the focus from the teacher and allow for a higher degree of student participation.
The second element is a positive classroom environment in which students feel valued and respected. To achieve this, I have a clear expectation of respectful behavior and work hard to make connections with my students and foster a supportive classroom community. I place a high value on cooperation and mutual respect in the classroom, and I try to empower students to control their own behavior rather than requiring them to submit to external control.
The third element is a commitment to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential. It is important to recognize the differences between individual learning styles and background knowledge, and allow enough flexibility for students to take in and process information in a variety of ways. In order to cater to the needs of a varied student population, I use informal pre- and ongoing assessments to gauge each student’s mastery of content. I teach and reteach content using a variety of methods to cater to different learning styles, and I try to design activities with multiple access points that allow students to address the same content with increasing complexity.
Finally, I believe that in our rapidly changing world the integration of appropriate technology in the classroom is extremely important. Over the past decade, new technologies have allowed foreign language educators amazing opportunities to access authentic content in the second language. Using these real resources is extremely motivating for students and allows them an up-to-date, authentic glimpse into the culture they are studying. In the past few years, I have made it a priority to learn about new technologies that are appropriate for use in the language classroom, in order that I may offer my students the best tools possible to facilitate their language learning.
Learning about other languages and cultures, traveling and meeting new people has always been an exciting and rewarding process for me, and I love to have the opportunity to convey some of this excitement to my students. It is my hope that my students leave their French class with a widened perspective and a greater appreciation for the diversity of viewpoints and experiences that exist both beyond and within their own community as well as the ability to communicate in their second language.