Language teachers are a mixed breed for sure, and knowing what kind (or hodgepodge) of instructor you have is key to unlocking the mystery of language learning and super awesome grades.
Test, Test and More Tests
The testing teacher is one that relies on quizzes and exams to understand what it is you know and don’t know. They are not too difficult to spot. Testing has become for some instructors a bit of a mandate – they are forced into it due to state or even federal guidelines. As a result many teachers find themselves teaching in such a way that their students will earn high marks on standardized assessments. Sometimes they might even be let go if their students to not make the grade. And so it only stands to reason these teachers assess often and are really really happy when you perform well.
How to perform well is a more tricky question. Studying helps. But you need to study in such a way that really prepares you for the assessment. If it’s a multiple choice test, flashcards can help a lot – multiple choice is all about the recognition. If you will be asked to perform orally, then you will need to practice your responses out loud prior to the assessment – preferably with someone who could correct you. But if you can’t find anyone, just being able to respond quickly and confidently will earn you favor. Be confident and quick even when you don’t quite understand what the question was. Your instructor won’t likely remember that you didn’t answer the right question, but will remember how effortlessly you spoke on whatever question you did answer.
Repeat after me. Say it again! Now repeat after the online recording. Next I’ll fire the same question at the class and only change one or two words in the question. And repeat.
Repetition is great for learning. I repeat, repetition is great for learning. The problem with it from the students’ perspective is it can be rather dull and sometimes confusing. Dull if you already know the drill and confusing if you neglected to prepare and all you can say in response is “Wǒ bù dǒng.” So surely the key is to prepare just enough so that the exercise is challenging. That’s a little tricky at the beginning of a course, so better to over-prepare and focus your challenge on perfect pronunciation. If you do have a bad day and find yourself unprepared, try repeating the question and change one word. Whatever word you can and still make a sentence. You will perhaps get the drill wrong, but you produced language and participated in class. You didn’t hold up anyone else’s learning or the instructor’s instructional momentum. That’s worth points!
Hey everyone! Look at me, I’m center stage. Everything I tell you is comprised of golden nuggets of knowledge. Pay attention to me and stop facebooking during my class.
The lecturer as language instructor is rare, but they are certainly out there. Sometimes instructors bust out this personality to drone on about linguistics and grammar. No, it’s not a drone, more of a soothing hum. The best way to impress such an instructor is to stay captivated. What the lecturer craves is an audience. If you are unfortunate and find yourself in a boring lecture, or just tired, try injecting some questions or ask for examples that would illustrate the point (be sure to raise your hand if that is expected). That will keep you more engaged and sends a clear message to the expert that you are a captivated learner.
All the worlds a stage, including my classroom. And my students are the actors.
The director teacher can be difficult to predict and can therefore be difficult to prepare for. Creativity with the language seems to be at the heart of these instructors. Whenever possible, include props with your language production. If you are practicing buying and selling, break out some cash. Or better yet, ask (in Chinese or other L2) a classmate to borrow five kuai. It will be funny and totally in character.
Your character should only ever speak Chinese. The moment you enter the classroom you are performing and if you break character that will cost you some points. If you can’t think of how to say what you want to say, try saying that (Wǒ bùzhīdào yīnggāi zěnme shuō). As long as you don’t over use this technique it can provide time for someone else to fill in the gaps.
What kind of teacher do you have? Any tips on how to succeed?