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Tips for target language teaching

Here is a list of tips for using the target language (L2) we included in The Language Teacher Toolkit. Our popular 360 page handbook which includes model lesson plans for French, German and Spanish is available here. We would even dare to suggest that every languages department would benefit from having a copy. One school in England, Oundle School, bought a copy for each of their teachers. How nice of them!

The book is liberally sprinkled with practical tips like those below, along with references to research, advice on pedagogy and discussion of issues in language teaching.

v  Have some sort of sign or signal indicating when only L2 is allowed, e.g. a flag.
v  Apologise to the class for using L1 to set the right tone and show you are one of them.
v  Give rewards to students who never use L1.
v  Make maximum use of gesture, realia and pictures.
v  Set challenges, e.g. "I am going to talk to you for 3 minutes about my weekend in (L2). Write down notes in L1 and I'll see how much you picked up" (then check understanding in L2: “tell me in in (L2) anything I did”).
v  If a student asks you something in L1, give a quizzical look and say you don't understand.
v  Use cognates where possible if you feel the class needs it.
v  Slow down your speech, but not too much.
v  Use plenty of aural gap fill: "I'm going to start a sentence, you finish it" or "I'm going to end a sentence, how would you start it?"
v  Do not be overly concerned with accuracy, except when the task demands it. Decide if the aim of your lesson is to focus on accuracy or general proficiency.
v  Use phonics-style activities to generate a sense of fun by making strange sounds.
v  Use mini-whiteboards to keep all pupils active during L2 work.
v  Use students as interpreters after you have spoken in L2; you could have a chosen student each lesson – ‘interpreter for the day’.
v  You could give points for ‘spontaneous’ L2 talk from pupils.
v  Use L2 talk as students walk in, e.g. counting to 20 (books out by 20), reciting the alphabet, chanting/singing days and months.
v  Try to make focus of computer/tablet work on input (e.g. video listening, interactive grammar and comprehension) rather than devoting too much time to producing ‘digital artefacts’ where non-linguistic concerns can often overwhelm any language learning benefits.
v  Consider testing vocabulary in L2 if possible; this works for some areas where definitions and gesture can be used e.g. kitchen vocabulary, furniture and clothing. Make sure you warn students they are going to be tested this way, or they will think it is unfair. Matching tasks in L2 may work well.
v  When a student makes a mistake, sympathetically ‘recast’ their response in a correct form to provide further input.
v  Use L2 with colleagues in front of the class, perhaps talking about the class itself. Visitors such as the head teacher or principal will often be happy to ‘play the game’.

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