Language in Bloom

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Language Coach Responsibility #3: Train you to teach yourself

Think like a teacher to learn like a pro

The ultimate goal of language coaching is to get you to be an autonomous language learner. That means that you determine your own goals, the tools you’ll use, the methods you’ll use them, your system for keeping on track, and your own self-assessments of your progress.

Notice the one common factor in all of the above is YOU. You are the one with the goal of learning a language, and you and you alone will be held accountable for reaching or not reaching your goal.

The biggest mistake I see language learners make is thinking that any language teacher, or any course, will give them the secrets to the target language and by attending a certain number of classes, they’ll be able to speak.

It’s time to change your mindset. Think of language teachers and courses as RESOURCES that you need to learn how to use effectively. And to use them effectively, it’s time to start learning how to think like a teacher.

To start, take a few minutes to remember your absolute favorite teachers from elementary, middle or high school, and higher education. What made them effective at teaching? What was the subject? How did they organize class time? How was your learning measured? If you’ve attended classes as an adult, consider the same questions, and focus on how effective your learning was, and how you could tell. Keep a running list of what you think makes an effective learning experience, and work to apply those characteristics to your own personal plan.

Now, consider the following:

1. Your goal is to speak a new language. At what level?  What does it mean for you to satisfactorily meet that goal? This is your learning objective.
2. Give yourself a deadline. Here you have a lot of flexibility, much more so than a teacher in a brick-and-mortar school. You’re not bound by school district regulations on class length, semesters, or attendance. But you do need to give yourself an end date by which you should have achieved your objective. Then work backwards from that end date and see how much time you need to dedicate per day, per week, or per month, to realistically achieve that goal.
3. Determine the scope and sequence of your learning plan. This is essentially a list of the specific content your individual learning plan should have, like vocabulary categories, grammar, communicative goals.
4. Decide how you will learn the above ideas (i.e. what tools/resources/activities will you use?) Consider your own learning style when you decide on your resources, as well as the skills you need to achieve competency in a foreign language (speaking, listening, writing, reading). Also ensure that you include some interactivity in your plan, since speaking a language is all about interaction with other speakers!
5. Determine how you will measure your progress. What kinds of assessments will you do? Standardized online tests? Official exams? Create your own self-assessments?
6. Develop your schedule (or syllabus) to organize and structure how you will reach your learning objectives and when.
7. Have steps in place to make adjustments to your learning plan as necessary

When you actively consider what effective learning looks like, and start developing the skills to adjust your learning plan accordingly, you’ll be in a much better place to make real progress in speaking a language.

Scope and sequence examples: 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (language textbook)  
Houston Independent School District

Written by

Tammy Bjelland
Language lover, teacher & coach.

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