5 Ways to Give Language Learners Confidence

In no particular order, here are some recommended practices for boosting your students’ confidence:

  1. Place them in the role of language tutors. We may be inclined to think of student tutors as assistants who are hand-picked for being strong academically and being at the highest level within a language program. I’d argue that even a solid intermediate student could help others at the same level or at a lower one. In fact, it’s that intermediate level that seems to stretch endlessly on, so students at this level could really benefit from an experience that reveals how much they’ve already mastered. Students can tutor others as part of a classroom activity in which you ask one to assist the other in completing a task. Students can also tutor others outside of class at your request. Student tutors can be a good solution for all parties involved, especially since your own time is limited.
  2. Have them set realistic goals. I’ve written about learning goals in the past. They certainly aren’t just for the start of a semester. You can set daily goals as a class. Make sure everyone knows what the lesson topic is and what they’ll be expected to do.  Set a minimum standard that is attainable for everyone. When goals are met, congratulate the students.
  3. Have them share their written work. A great way to showcase student compositions is through a student newspaper or literary magazine. But if that’s not an option, let them share their work in the classroom. Remember how Mom used to put your artwork and spelling tests up on the fridge? Well, the equivalent of the kitchen fridge is your classroom wall. Some compositions are appropriate for a wall display, and by posting them you encourage your students to take pride in their writing. Did they recently compose a poem or essay for an upcoming holiday? Create an appropriate wall banner and below it post their work for others to enjoy. Of course, you’ll need to ask students’ permission to do this because some may not feel comfortable with such a public display. An alternative is to have them read corrected and revised compositions to a friend or family member who has also studied English.
  4. Let them know you’ve made mistakes as a language learner. Whether you yourself have studied English as a second language or spent time learning another language, you very likely remember the difficulties you had as a student. Funny anecdotes about your own confusion as a language learner can inspire students and remind them that making mistakes is part of the learning process. I love the story my American colleague told me about how she wanted to ask her Russian friend to break a large bill, but mistakenly invited him to hug her because the Russian verbs for exchange and embrace are quite similar.
  5. Revive and reform the infamous pop quiz. I never liked pop quizzes as a student, and I’ve avoided them as a teacher, but after some consideration, I see a benefit from giving them. The quizzes don’t have to count towards a final grade. They can serve as a review. You are making sure that information was retained, and students can gain satisfaction from performing well on the spot. The quizzes can be very short. They can be taken on paper, or they can be done orally. For quizzes on paper, students can work individually and a “passing grade” can earn them fun rewards like stickers or fortune cookies. If done orally, the quiz can be taken as a class. When a student falters, allow another to assist. You have 15 students.  You posed 15 questions. Did they get at least 11 right? Congratulate them.

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