Helping Students NOT Feel Dumb/Stupid/Embarrassed & Tips On Teaching Grammar

(*See suggestions/scripts below for using this idea to practice a variety of L2 grammar structures with older and/or more proficient L2 speakers.)


Today I gave each student a bunny…teaching a foreign language

…and I asked them to put it in the right color cup.

foreign language teaching colorsThe problem was that many of the students didn’t know all of their L2 colors yet. …and some of them felt embarrassed if they didn’t know what color cup to choose.

(Side note: I hate it when students feel embarrassed. Shame is such a powerful, action-altering, confidence-smashing emotion and I try to do everything possible to avoid situations in which my students feel shame. (Click here for a post my wife wrote on shame and its effect.) However, sometimes it’s hard to avoid. If a student gets a question wrong or makes a mistake, even though I AM not upset at him, he might feel very upset with himself or very embarrassed in front of his peers. Even if I give the biggest/warmest of smiles when I say, “Robert, you’re wrong,” …wrong is still wrong. And wrong can be embarrassing. And no student likes getting clues because they are too STUPID to know the correct answer immediately.)

So I tried something new today.

I put some classroom objects (L2 vocabulary from the previous unit) next to the colored cups.

foreign language teaching colorsIf the student looked unsure when I said the L2 color, I would quickly say the L2 word for the corresponding classroom object.

My strategy worked well. I didn’t notice very many students feeling embarrassed and I actually sensed that some of them felt empowered. It also helped me introduce new vocabulary AND review old vocabulary at the same time.


(*Suggestions for how this activity can be modified to challenge students with more advanced L2 skills.)

Past tense L2 grammar structures –

Say things like, “Robert, here’s your bunny. Isabel put her bunny in the orange cup. Aiden put his bunny in the green cup. Rachel and Maria put their bunnies in the black cup. You…you put your bunny in the yellow cup.”

Grammar structures for L2 commands –

Say things like, “Robert, here’s your bunny. DON’T PUT the bunny in the orange cup. DON’T PUT the bunny in the green cup. PUT the bunny in the yellow cup.”

Subjunctive grammar structures –

Say things like, “Robert, here’s your bunny. I don’t want you to put the bunny in the orange cup. I wanted Isabel to put the bunny in the orange cup. I wanted Aiden to put the bunny in the orange cup. But not you. I don’t want you to put it in the orange cup. I want you to put the bunny in the green cup.

Future tense L2 grammar structures – 

Before it’s time for students to put their bunnies in the cups, Write/display a list of who will put their bunnies in which cups. Write things like, “Okay class. Here are the bunnies. Robert will put his bunny in the yellow cup. Isabella will put her bunny in the green cup. Rachel and Maria will put their bunnies in the black cup.” Encourage interpersonal mode interactions by asking questions like, “Roneem, look at the list. Who will put their bunny in the green cup?”


 

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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