On Immersion Teaching Goals
By Marty Chen
After teaching for several
years now and talking with many experienced teachers and administrators, I have
developed a list of goals that I believe can help teachers to a better start in
the immersion classroom. There are more goals than this list contains, however I think
we should keep it simple to start with. Being overwhelmed is not a healthy and productive state.
it as an all-you-can-eat buffet: the purpose is to satisfy your hunger and fill
your stomach. Everything might look yummy and tempting at first glance, but we
should only put what we can eat on our plate. We should have a variety of food
that can nourish our bodies. We arrange
our choices nicely on our plates so we can observe, eat, and enjoy every bite.
We can then go back for more after we finish the first plate. On the second trip, we might try something
new, or we might stick with what we like as long as it works for us.
Chinese often say:水能载舟亦能覆舟: the tide can bear the boats but can also swallow them. Too many rules, principles,
or goals might be as bad as none at all.
But consider these important ones:
Belief is what you tell yourself.
You believe you can or cannot achieve something. If your belief is positive then you will swim
above the water; if your belief is negative then you might drown. As a teacher, you need to believe that you
can teach and that students can learn. When a teacher shows doubt,
students can sense it. Believe in yourself and stay confident. One important
belief is to believe in teaching 100% in the target language.
Stay 100 % in
the target language in the classroom.
This is the only way to do it. Students will try to figure out the
message. English is their safety net. The students won’t take risks during
learning if they can fall back on English. Let them survive in the target
language. Help them foster survival
skills, and stick with teaching 100% in the target language.
Be a role model.
What happens when students see and hear you speaking English? If you do,
make sure it’s not in the classroom.
During my fist year, students thought I didn’t speak English. I later
realized it was not entirely necessary, as long as I only spoke Chinese in the
classroom. I believe in demonstrating positive behaviors. If I only speak one
language, what reason do I have to ask my students to become bilingual? I want
the students to know that I speak their language well and can teach and live in
a foreign country. I wish to inspire them rather than fooling them.
Time is limited, so do things efficiently. Make subjects connect with
each other. Recycle the language throughout the day. Show students that the vocabulary they are
learning is not lifeless. Use vocabulary in meaningful sentences, and use
vocabulary in real situations. Act it
out, make it fun, make the words part of their lives. Generate interest in vocabulary so they use
the words in different subjects and different situations.
Students only can hear the target language from you and in your
classroom. Provide as much context as
you can. Weather changes? Talk about it every day. Clothing items are
different, mention and point them out everyday.
Think out loud and invite students to do the same. Describe things in
detail and invite students to say it. Describe events in sequences and invite
students to say it too. Offer warm and comforting words when they are hurt or
sad. Offer funny comments and laugh with
them. Students have strong memories of
emotion. Let students know you care and
let them hear your caring voice all the time.
Don’t assume. Use gestures, pictures, realias, TPR, multimedia and props
to teach the message. Check their understanding and listen for responses in the
target language. When I show you an eggplant picture and I say “murasaki”, what
did I just teach? Purple or eggplant in Japanese? When I have many different purple objects
and I say “murasaki”, can you make the connection that I am teaching the color
Have the end goals in mind. Think about the purpose of each lesson
first. Don’t teach because it’s cute or it’s fun for you. Think about what you
want your students to hear, say, read, and write. Think about how can you evaluate the learning
Don’t assume! Talk to your partner teacher. Talk to other teachers. Talk to your principal. Talk to your staff. And talk to the parents.
Does this seem like a lot
to keep in mind? Integrate these goals, just like you teach. Together, all of these goals can be combined into
a single act: effective teaching.
Remember your main
· Teach contents to your
· Students’ language
production in target language
· Inspire your students to
Teaching is rewarding.
Enjoy every moment!