So, how does this relate to the teaching of languages in schools today – and to my German classes?
I am trying to make every lesson as communicative as possible. I am trying to give my students the real life language learning experience that I had and that every person in the world has when learning their own mother language as a little child.
We play games (and even older students still love playing games). We talk a lot and discussions are common - even in Year 6, who have just started learning German. Every lesson starts with a “picture of the day” - something that students can relate to emotionally. We describe the picture together and slowly increase our vocabulary every day, even if it is not strictly related to our current topic. We also have a “this or that” discussion in most lessons. Students suggests ideas in advance, which I than use to create the theme of the daily discussions. “What do you like better: Football or Basketball?” or “What do you prefer eating: Hamburger or Pizza?” The idea is to give students the confidence to talk about any random topic, through providing some vocabulary that might be useful to express their opinions or reasons.
In general, our lessons are mainly based on listening and speaking skills. As their German improves, students increasingly gain confidence and the necessary language to lead more and more of the talking themselves. A lot of interaction in our class is also based on talking about what is important in that moment, in the same way conversation between native speakers moves naturally: A bee came into the classroom? Let’s talk about it! How are you feeling? Are you scared? Should we try to catch it and put it outside? Why are bees important?
If we start teaching what is of importance to the students, what interests them, what connects with them, students will learn a language more naturally, without memorisation of word lists or grammar rules and most importantly, without forgetting everything they learned after that final exam.
Hopefully, when asked in the future, our students will be answering that question with: “I studied German for so many years… und ich liebe es heute noch deutsch zu sprechen!.
Mrs. Jane Tulke
Head of Modern Foreign Languages