Language teachers are amazing and unique creatures. Something that makes them so special is the different teaching styles they have. Within all the differences, some things that they have in common is striving to the best for their learners. Here are 5 things that great language teachers do.
1. Carries out a needs analysis.
At the very beginning of the course and sometimes in the middle, great language teachers take time to get to know you as a learner. A needs analysis is basically finding out who you are, what you can do in a language, what you want to be able to do, what you´re interested in and how you learn.
A needs analysis is the most basic thing a great language teacher should do and it’s incredibly important to do this because all of this information will be used to create and tailor a course for a learner. Questionnaires on the 1st lesson, personal interviews or group activities to find out who you are examples of needs analysis.
2. Incorporates topics that are relevant to you
On my very first German class I learned how to say “Emma ist mein Lieblingstaube”, yes “Emma is my favorite pigeon”, in fact, the first week (or what felt like a year) were spent learning about Hans and how much he loved pigeon racing, taking care of pigeons and talking about pigeons. Yes, pigeons.
All I wanted to do was learn how to say who I was and talk a bit about my family to impress my German husband, but no. My teacher thought that our introduction to German should be about pigeons, making me lose interest and feel like I didn’t know why I was in that class.
Thanks to the needs analysis, your teacher gets to know you and should use this knowledge to incorporate topics you’re interested in in the sessions. This doesn’t mean that your entire course should be about chocolate if you love chocolate, but it should have a balance between topics that are relevant for your life, that you’re interested in and that your teacher believes will help you reach your goals. By doing this, you will be motivated to continue learning because you know that you can use the knowledge immediately and because it’s already something you love.
In Authentic Learning Berlin, we take this to the next level by incorporating workshops and hands-on activities that are related to the topics you’re interested in as part of your language program. But that’s only because we are magic.
3. Checks how you are doing
It’s not only important to evaluate your language skills. A great language teacher should also take time to find out how you are doing and the impact the language has on your life. They should check if you are satisfied, proud, frustrated or happy with the time and effort you are putting in.
For example, I like to do an activity called 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 so I can help my learners reflect on their own learning and give me feedback. By taking the time to do this, I show my learners that I care about who they are as people, what they think and the changes they suggest. These are the answers of a participant learning with us.
5 things I learned
4 things I’m proud I did in class
3 activities or games I liked
2 changes I’d make to the Mariana’s class
1 thing I want to tell my teacher.
4. Gives you feedback
Tests and quizzes aren’t mandatory in a language lesson. There are many ways the teacher checks that you are learning. Your teacher gets information about your skills every time you do an assignment, you do a short presentation or task. Your teacher shouldn’t be the only one who knows this. You should know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You should also be given the opportunity to self-evaluate and reflect on your own progress. A great language teacher should take the time to give you feedback and also get feedback from you. Some teachers give you very short feedback at the end of every session, some wait and dedicate more time at the end of a unit or even mid-term. They have their reasons. If you this is isn’t being done, ask for it.
5. Is flexible and takes suggestions
Your language teacher probably has monthly, weekly and daily plans for you. These plans include the language you are going to learn and how. However, they should be flexible enough to change as YOU need it. Say you have a big meeting coming up and you want to prepare for it. A great language teacher should be flexible enough to make those changes in your learning plan.
If you tell your teacher you feel you need to do more reading or want to talk more about cats, these suggestions should be reflected in the lessons you have.
Your learning needs are very very important and should be taken into account.
Keep in mind that not all suggestions will be considered, after all, you are paying for a teacher’s expertise. Your teacher might think that your suggestion isn’t beneficial for your goals, but will explain why these changes won’t support you and why they won’t be made. They should never ever be ignored.
Soooo?? Does your teacher do one of them? All five of them?
All of our teachers at Authentic Learning Berlin do! And they go above and beyond to help you reach your language goals. Check out what we’re up to here.