Maximizing Student Learning with Limited Contact Time
On May 3rd, language teachers from grades Pk-8 (and beyond) met on Twitter for the first ever #EarlyLang chat. During this chat, participants discussed how to maximize student learning given the limited contact time found in many early language programs. With participants’ contact time ranging from once a week classes for 30 minutes, all the way to full immersion programs, it seems that everyone is on the same page in that the more teachers see their students, the more language input they can provide which will lead to greater language acquisition.
Why is contact time important?
While participants’ own contact time with students ranged from once a week classes for 30 minutes, all the way to full immersion programs, it seemed that most were on the same page in that the more time teachers have to meet with their students, the more language input they can provide which should lead to greater language acquisition. A few participants also noted that not only is the amount of time a week important, but also the frequency of class meetings has impact. @srtacoulehan says “short, frequent bursts of language are key and also developmentally appropriate.”
Participants also mentioned relationship-building, establishing routines, and student motivation as reasons #earlylang teachers should advocate for as much contact time as possible.
What amazes me is how much of an impact we can have even with less than ideal scheduling! #squeezeeverydropoutofclass ~@MundodePepita
Activities to Increase Student Language Performance
Given the contact time they have, participants shared which activities they have found successful in increasing student language performance. Songs, stories, Movie Talk, and content-based activities (i.e., teaching math or science concepts in the target language) were all mentioned as engaging activities. @doriecp also suggested “using activities students are already familiar with from their general ed. Classroom [so that there’s] no need to explain complicated directions” and @srtacoulehan agreed, “If you need to explain in English, it’s too complicated! Keep it simple and use the language!”
In addition to activities, participants stressed the importance of providing as much target language exposure as possible. According to @MundodePepita “beyond all else, 90-100% [of class time] in Target Language, using every moment to provide input & experiences with the language.” @kellycondon agreed, saying “we have to remember this might be the only exposure to the target language they get all day!”
Procedures and Organizational Tips to Maximize Contact Time
Establishing consistent routines was mentioned as the top way to maximize our time with students. As @lunden_amanda put it, “having an efficient system for students to come in the room, get out supplies, and turn in work helps get to the instruction faster.” @MundodePepita also suggested “choosing a daily helper, keeping all materials organized by grade level, having assigned seating” and @glendadehoyos added “investing time at the beginning of the year establishing transition routines with simple words & signs helps maximize time.” A few teachers recommended keeping on top of the mundane tasks such as @nathanlutz’s advice to “have sharpened pencils at each student’s desk, waiting for them when they come in” adding, “pencil sharpening is a bête noire.: @tmsaue1 said routines can even extend to the time before and after class and shared that he’s “seen some master #earlylang teachers use a song to pack up their stuff and transition out of room. Kids still sing (when the) teacher is gone”.
Several participants mentioned using visuals to help explain the directions of a task and @MundodePepita shared a photo of what that could look like in the early language classroom:
While routines can be important, @srtacoulehan said she “actually tried to loosen up the structure a bit to allow time for ‘chatting’ in Spanish. More organic and natural.” and @kellycondon asked for feedback because she’s “considering giving [her] students 5 minutes a class to talk about whatever to whomever, as long as it’s in Spanish.”
Classroom Management Techniques
A well-run classroom is essential to maximizing contact time with students. @SpanishTogether said “having that conversation at the beginning of the school year with signs of your rules helps a lot!” and added “Just point [to the signs] if they need reminders!” Participants also suggested teaching vocabulary in the target language needed to follow directions early in the year so they can be reinforced on a daily basis. @suarez712002 mentioned using Class Dojo and several participants also gave examples of their own “call and response” or clapping/stomping techniques they use as attention getters. @SpanishTogether shared a link to Spanish Playground’s blog post on attention getters in Spanish.
Extending Learning Experiences Beyond Scheduled Class Time
Exposing students to the target language beyond scheduled class time is a great way to give the students the input they need to acquire language. Throughout the chat, there was a mixed review of a traditional “calendar” routine. While some teachers felt beginning the class with a review of the date/day of the week was an important way to establish a consistent classroom routine, others felt it is time we let that activity go. A few other participants saw the calendar as an opportunity to partner with the classroom teacher in order to extend target language use outside of scheduled class time! These #earlylang teachers suggested teaching the classroom teacher how to do their usual calendar morning routine in the target language.
Participants shared so many other creative ways they give students opportunities to extend their learning outside of class time:
- @sra_lade allows students to borrow books from her class library.
- @KrotzerK encourages students to read their classwork at home to their family (or even their dog!)
- @MundodePepita uses the hallways to post questions, quotes, prompts, activities they can respond to during the day.
- @lunden_amanda posts QR codes on take home sheets that link to songs/videos/etc allow students to show parents what they learned and interact with the material at home
- @doriecp Partners with the art or classroom teacher so students can complete crafting activities outside of class time. She also partners with the classroom teacher in academic subjects too (ex. we discuss our food preferences in Spanish class and then they graph them during math class.)
- @SraTewes shares student work with their families using the Seesaw app.
- @MbiraAbby uses social media and tells students and parents to follow her school account(s) for fun and information. She even posts on Instagram about my cats in the target language!
- Many teachers say they add links to resources used in class to their own teacher websites so students can access them at home.
Thank you to all who participated in the very first #EarlyLang chat!. Thank you to our lead moderator, Dorie (@doriecp) for leading the chat and to our co-moderator Nathan, (@nathanlutz) for helping guide the conversation. Would you like to vote on our next topic or suggest a topic for future discussion? Visit our voting page!