September 8 2020

Language tips

Twelve Tiny Teaching Tips

Eight-year-old me taught ‘Mag ik de suiker, alstublieft?’ at the first Dutch lesson to my American classmates. Manners were apparently quite important to me.

Fourteen-year-old me helped my Dutch classmates by first politely correcting their English textbook: ‘This should say hood of the car, not bonnet.’ Oei. Mistakes were made!

Twenty-year-old me still could not grasp how to teach German articles. Instead, I loudly sang German songs with the American high school kids I was working with. Sing it if you can’t say it.

Now? I grin at the many lessons I have since learned. I teach, therefore I must share:

  1. Travel with oranges. They’re great ice breakers in new environments.

  2. Start with the simplest form.
    Usually it’s easier to make something more complicated than to start with something complicated and have to take out what doesn’t work.
    Have you ever made your favourite soup for someone who then said, ‘Thanks, but I don’t like sauteed onions and garlic,’? That’s what I mean.

  3. Stand above your students when you want them to listen to you. Drop down to their level when you need to listen to them.

  4. Deliberately lose when you participate in games with your students. If it’s an elimination-style game, always lose first

  5. Find a song to get that grammar point across.

  6. There’s often an entertaining correlation between how you approach cooking and how you approach teaching and learning.

  7. Speaking faster does not necessarily make one sound like a better speaker. 

  8. Making lemonade in class can be a whole entire fascinating lesson at any age.

  9. Language learning is not a race. But the words ‘I’ll time you,’ can work curious wonders in getting kids to do a ton of other things.

  10. Learn a language or a skill completely new to you. It’s easy to forget how your students feel, so be a student again.

  11. Shaving foam and calm music give a different twist to spelling and vocabulary exercises. 

  12. Blow bubbles. You can’t be frustrated and blow bubbles at the same time. It’s more fun to blow bubbles.

Tanja Yoder
Instructor, Dutch and English @Una Paloma Blanca Language School