November 28, 2018 | #EarlyLang

Developing Independence in Early Language Learners
from November 28, 2018

On November 28, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed how and when to encourage independence, practices that develop independence globally and in the #earlylang classroom, and partnerships with stakeholders to help foster true independence.

Q1: Why and when is independence important in the #earlylang classroom?

What independence looks like can vary with the age of the student. For the really young learner, independence can mean taking care of materials and navigating social situations, while older learners show independence by using technology appropriately and completing assignments independently. For alls students, independence is important as it empowers them, provides skills they will use beyond the classroom, and encourages lifelong learning so that they will be able to meet the challenges of the world. Also, as @NathanLutz commented, “who else will take care of us when we get old?”

Q2: In your experience, what are realistic expectations for independence and learning in the #earlylang classroom?

Again, the age of the student is important, along with learning style and individual differences. Very young students do not get a lot of independence; as they get older, they recieve more opportunities to be independent, along with a great deal of modeling and scaffolding. As students get older, they are eventually able to run activities on their own due to the practice they have had. One participant mentioned that she noticed a shift around 3rd grade in which students are more ready to take on academic challenges independently, allowing for activities designed to promote even more autonomy. Finally, @windycitysenora shared a guide of age appropriate academic activities here

Q3: What kinds of goals around autonomy and independence (globally) do you set for the children?    

@MundodePepita “As I mentioned (prematurely lol) my primary expectations for littles is in taking care of our classroom & community. For ex, everyone cleans up their materials, I don’t go around picking up after kids. #earlylang.”

@NathanLutz “#EarlyLang: I want my Ss to leave my class with some sense of accomplishment, knowing and feeling in their hearts that they are capable and competent learners. It’s hard to measure or identify the exact moment it occurs, but we observe it in spurts.”

@mme_profe “ I want my students to learn to identify the resources at their disposal when they are working outside of class: their books, their notes, similar activities we have done in class. I want them to make connections between what we have practiced and the application.”

@MaestraAUbreyCT “a big thing I am working on this year with my middle school students is allowing them independence, but making sure they are making the best use of their time in class.”

@windycitysenora “This is one of my favorite Maria Montessori quotes: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” I keep coming back to it, when I feel like I’m doing too much for the children.”

Q4: What practices foster autonomy and independence, both globally and for language learning specifically?

Participants agreed that modeling and practice are essential to help students gain independence. Students need a predictable routine along with knowledge of how to use resources so they can seek out answer for themselves and advocate for themselves. Teachers need to consider proficiency levels of students, lower level students need scaffolding to be able to access the tools and strategies that can make them successful. Participants also agreed that trust is essential. Trust empowers students to achieve their goals and gives them confidence in their abilities.

Q5: How do you partner with other stakeholders (parents, teachers, admins) in fostering realistic independence in language learning?

The theme that arose from the responses is transparency. Teachers should educate all the stakeholders on best practices–how and why teachers do what they do. It is also necessary to communicate class expectations and happenings. One final suggestion was to give suggestions to parents on how to help at home and to not be afraid if their child seems to struggle as that can also be part of the learning process.

Reflaction (reflection + action) How will you encourage your #earlylang learners’ autonomy and independence after today’s chat?

Several participants responded. Plans include strengthening relationships so students know that teacher requests mean that the teacher cares and has confidence in their abilities, looking for opportunities to promote independence, and reading through the link shared by @windycitysenora.

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, Julie (@MundodePepita) and our co-moderator, Valerie Shull,(@windycitysenora) for helping to guide the conversation. Thanks also to EMC School (@EMCSCHOOL) for sponsoring tonight’s chat.

Want to vote for our upcoming #Earlylang topics?

This week’s chat is

sponsored by:

EMC School

To learn more about sponsorship

with NNELL, please go to

To learn more about the

#EarlyLang chat, please go to the

#EarlyLang Chat Main Page