Self-Confidence Makes Learning Fun
As babies and toddlers, learning a language is a natural thing. We listen, watch, learn, and eventually try speaking for ourselves. We make many mistakes. As a toddler, mistakes are adorable. Our parents, siblings, and grandparents can't get enough of our attempts at language. However, as we get older, mistakes are no longer cute and can become somewhat embarrassing, causing us to fear trying new things. This fear can make learning a new language particularly difficult as we get older. As teachers of foreign languages, it is important to help our students feel comfortable trying new things and even making mistakes. If our students can feel confident, even when they are wrong, they won't be afraid to try.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Rebecca W. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Students entering a foreign language class for the first time may feel nervous and afraid. They may not know what to expect or how to act. A smile is universal in all languages. Students will feel much more comfortable if they enter a classroom with a smiling teacher. While smiling, introduce yourself and show the students how to respond. If the student is not comfortable responding right away, that's okay. Give it time. Continue smiling and tell them that you are pleased to meet them and are excited to have them in class. Even if the student doesn't understand your words, they will see you smile and feel welcome.
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Praise is essential. Students of all ages enjoy praise. When a student answers a question, whether it is right or wrong, praise them. They were willing to give it a try and step out of their comfort zone. A student who feels that their efforts are appreciated will continue to try and will eventually succeed.
Encouraging students with phrases like, "You can do it!", "Way to go!", and "Try this with me" will give them the courage to try. Even students who are afraid to guess answers on their own will usually repeat phrases after the teacher. Praise them when they try so they know you appreciate their effort. I like to show praise by clapping my hands, giving high-fives, knuckle bumps, or shouting "way to go!" while pumping my fist in the air. It's okay to be a little silly and to step out of your comfort zone to help the student feel comfortable.
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Finally, one of the most effective ways of building the confidence I have found is to allow students to correct their own mistakes and then celebrate with them. For example, if a student says, "My favorite color blue", it is easy to say "Sooooo close. My favorite color…" and wait for them to correct the sentence. The majority of the time, the student will know how to fix the sentence. It not, I like to start to sound out the missing word. "My favorite color I…" Then the student will jump in with the rest of the sentence. This is the perfect time to celebrate with a, "Yes!!!" and a jump in the air with a high-five or a fist pump. Students love to "get it right" and correcting their own mistakes is far more rewarding and memorable than being corrected.
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Self-confidence is one of the most important aspects of successful learning. By using a friendly smile, encouraging words, high-fives, and a little bit of silliness, as teachers of foreign languages, we can make learning a success. It's important to remember that it is okay to step out of our comfort zone to help students find theirs.
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