Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How to Transform a Hebrew "Class" into an "Experience" (Strategic Principle #3)

On the anniversary of our launch one year ago, we are pleased to share a few of the successful innovations that make our classes 'strategic.' This is the third of 3 valuable tips for making Hebrew classes relevant, engaging and memorable.



3) APPLICATION: Learned skills are directly applied to interactive situations.

This applies to all facets of language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students gain knowledge and skill in order to reach a higher goal. 

What does this mean in practice?  
Here is a run-down of how each aspect of language is influenced by direct application to real life situations--the experiential approach. 

Speaking: Students use the target language to elicit a response--ask a question, receive an item, etc.   Instructors guide and assist, but ultimately, the student repeats the sentence in its entirety and is rewarded by receipt of the desired item.  

Listening: Instructions for participating in the activity are given in target language.  Students develop strategies for understanding in order to take part in the activity.   Vocabulary is introduced in context and students learn to differentiate sounds of familiar words and hear how they are used in a sentence.

Writing: Students take notes (in Hebrew characters) to keep an accessible record of what they have learned in their own handwriting, using their own systems.  Writing is purposeful, with a goal of student record keeping.  As an added bonus, writing is one indicator of language ability and can help instructors assess student progress.  

Reading: Reading skills allow students to refer to vocabulary lists and other notes when communicating ideas.  This model encourages students to pay attention to what they read; every interaction with text is infused with meaning.  Students read purposefully, with comprehension, and put their newly gained knowledge and vocabulary to use in other contexts.  

What these innovations really mean is that students learn language skills not as an end to themselves but as a means to achieving a goal.  

We need to encourage students to decode text... so that they can use what they read, not simply 'get through it.'   We need to expand our writing goals for students beyond "fill in the blank" exercises and our objective in spoken language should be more than memorization and repetition of vocabulary.  

By showing students how they can rely on each of these skills in practical application, we help motivate them to continue working toward a recognizable and achievable goal of language acquisition. 

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