02 February 2016

How to Use a Language Assistant - 12 Tips for Teachers

Whether you're a new teacher or an experienced teacher who's never worked with a language assistant, this post will hopefully give you a few tips on how you can use assistants effectively. If you do not have language assistants in your school, most of the tips can be useful if you have bilingual children or native speakers in your class :)

A language assistant is a perfect opportunity for your students to immerse fully in the language and try to communicate with someone in 'real life'. Assistants should not teach the whole class, but you can ask them to take a small group at a time for speaking practice. Of course, make sure you keep a record of who's already had a session to make sure everyone benefits from these sessions equally!

An assistant can make boring old listening materials come alive! Rather than playing audios, rehearse a few scripts with your assistant and act them out in class. Your students will LOVE watching you put on a mini show for them! You can then ask your students lots of questions to check their understanding.

It is funny just how much more interested children are in finding out about a country when they hear it from an assistant!!! Students will always want to know about this new younger person that's just entered their language classroom! Have your students prepare questions in advance so that they are confident during the 'interview' and have lots to ask! Ask them to prepare at least 5 questions so that, if one of their questions gets answered, they can still join in with the activity!

Before your assistant leaves their home country, make sure you give them a list of what to bring with them! This is your chance to get your hands on a beret or a nice print of Paris to display in your classroom! Also think of games such as 'Guess Who?' which can be used in your language class. Assistants can also bring photos of their home town, family members or old school to use in group conversations. Students will be able to learn the names of places in town while finding out about the country's culture.

Assistants will usually be younger so they can look for more up-to-date materials which may appeal more to your students. They can, for example, make your students discover new artists or celebrities you may not have heard of.

Assistants should all be given prior training and most will be able to create fun & engaging resources. Give them clear instructions of what you want and trust them from the start so that they get into good habits! An assistant can, for example, update old resources, find materials online from websites you may not know or create accompanying worksheets for small YouTube clips, etc. The possibilities are endless!

An assistant can offer 1:1 support to those who find languages difficult. They can also help students individually prepare for their speaking exams, practicing their answers and giving feedback on accuracy or pronunciation.

It is not easy to find authentic listening materials, so have your assistant record passages! They will usually know other language assistants and should also be able to record conversations.

Your assistant will come up with new games or might even design cards or other game pieces if they're quite creative! I remember, when I was an assistant myself, spending HOURS creating a board game I drew entirely by hand. I wish I had it today!

You can learn a lot from a language assistant! They can really help you improve your language knowledge and keep your teaching stay relevant and up-to-date. I am originally French, but living abroad for over 15 years now makes me completely out of touch when it comes to the latest reality TV show or the last expression 'à la mode'! 

As well as working with a number of students outside of the classroom, your assistant can sit with a group that will require more support and give them guidance & help when needed. Alternatively, they can work with your most able linguists in your class who will be able to get on with a more challenging activity while you teach the rest of the class.

It can be so hard to fit everything into busy schedules! Assistants should work up to 25 hours a week, which makes their timetable quite flexible. They could run a lunch or after-school club, but remember that the number of students should be fairly limited. 

Your assistant will most likely be able to link your school to a school they know in their own country. Setting up international partnerships can give another dimension to your lessons and the benefits are HUGE! The two schools can exchange emails, run video conferences, or set up exchanges. Letters are still popular as well, particularly with younger children who just love to receive 'real' mail!

I hope these ideas will be useful! If you have used your language assistant effectively in a way I haven't mentioned in this post, please share your wonderful ideas using the comment box below so that we can all learn from each other :)

1 comment:

  1. Bonjour, je ne sais pas trop où laisser ce commentaire, mais je le fais ici. Merci pour le commentaire sur mon blog et merci d'apprécier mon travail.
    Je viens de voir ce bouton pour suivre par email, mais je ne comprends pas comment cela fonctionne. J'aimerais bien qu'on m'explique ahah! J'aimerais également le placer sur mon blog pour que d'autres puissent l'utiliser aussi.
    Merci à l'avance :)


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