What does it take to learn a language? Can we say with confidence that our language students are coming to us with the requisite skills to efficiently access learning in language?
Perhaps, the very first concepts we should be teaching in our language courses, is the how of learning. The success of all our subsequent lessons will be improved if students have fundamental knowledge of learning habits, study skills and motivation techniques. The poor continuation rates in languages suggest amongst other things, that students are not finding it an easy choice.
I have come to the conclusion, that explicit teaching of skills to access learning in language is the essential first step in the language journey. To this end, I have developed two short introductory courses for secondary students called Base Camp level 1 and level 2.
The first course is pitched at Year 7/8 students who may be beginning a language course for the first time. It covers five key concepts to develop student skills in learning and motivation. These include concepts such as implementation intentions, habit stacking and the two-minute rule.
The second course is pitched at Year 9/10 and 11/12 students who may have continued into elective courses. This sequence looks more closely at specific learning strategies to support independent learners. It suggests ways to revise and extend one’s knowledge in the macroskills using accessible resources from the students’ world. This includes various strategies to harness teenager obsession with social media for positive learning gains in language.
Both of these resources outline how to harness research into the psychology of motivation to help students find time and motivation for their language learning. Methods such as habit stacking, implementation intentions and avoiding the Valley of disappointment provide an infrastructure for successful learning to occur. Teachers often use the Base Camp resources at the end of Term 4 or the start of Term 1 to prepare their students in the skills needed for the course. During this lesson, teachers can guide their students through the skills in Base Camp to have them ready in a course orientation format. This seems to be particularly useful if you are teaching the Beginners course for Year 11 and 12.
Although there are two levels, I would suggest that students, who have not worked with the level 1 materials, would benefit from working through those, before attempting the level 2 materials. The Base Camp level 1 and 2 resource is sold as a set for $50 and can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more about the ideology behind these resources in the following blog posts: post 1; post 2.
I consider this resource a prerequisite bridging course for all language students. Don’t start the school year without it!