My husband and I have also been working with a German teacher who comes once a week (typically) to our home to work with us for about an hour and a half. I have to say that this learning situation has been tough. My husband and I are completely different kinds of learners. My husband is very verbal. He can listen and then talk about something and be an expert. I, on the other hand am very visual. If I hear a word, especially a word in German, I cannot repeat it unless I have seen it and written it myself. Surely it is hard to teach 2 people when they don't learn the same way, right? Well, how about teaching 25 when they have several different styles of learning and learning strengths! A teacher needs to be able to meet the needs of different learners in the same room/group. I feel like our teacher is doing an okay job, but going back to my point, I really like the Rosetta Stone because of of the high level of visual input that I am getting. It works better for me than the discussion of language and words that comes with our at home class.
Another experience that has got me thinking about visual learning is a knife class that we took yesterday which was conducted in German. At first I thought we would not learn anything if we couldn't understand what the instructor was saying, but the techniques for cutting vegetables and other foods were all carefully demonstrated, so we learned a lot. No, we didn't get every single word he said, so surely we missed some good information, but we came away with a lot more because we got to see what he was teaching.
When I apply this to teaching students who are learning English as a second (or at my current school possibly a third or fourth) language, I realize the extreme significance of visual learning. I have always tried to learn a lot about appropriate teaching strategies for my students who are acquiring English and I have always known that visuals are important. It wasn't, however until I started having experiences in a language in which I know only a handful of words, that I realized the true importance of visual learning.
I feel like I can now put myself in the shoes of a student who is not getting anything from the words coming from the teacher's mouth. It doesn't matter how slowly and clearly you speak if the student is not familiar with the words you are saying right? Using visuals to compliment the lesson/idea/theme/instruction is a great way to enhance understanding for all students, but especially for students who are not getting as much from the auditory part of the lesson. I can see why it is so important to have words written in addition to being spoken and why images or even sketches to accompany words are helpful to increase understanding and comprehension. Just because students don't speak English as well as other grade level peers, does not mean that they lack knowledge as well. Visual learning can be a great way to bridge their native language content knowledge with new information that they are learning in English.
I think all of this is coming to mind as a result of being really excited at the thought of getting back into the classroom in a different role next year. Right now, I work with what the teacher has prepared because I am supporting his or her classroom. Sometimes, I will make support materials or modify materials the students are working with, but I don't get the opportunity to teach the lesson in the first place. I think the staff at my school is extremely competent and they do a fantastic job. I am not saying they don't teach in an appropriate way. I am just saying I am jealous it's not me. Yeah, this is the green-eyed-monster talking. I am starting to have this longing to get back in the classroom and have my own class. I have mentioned it before and I am mentioning it again because it's on my mind. There are so many things I am itching to try out as a result of my experience at an international school and I just can't wait to put some ideas and thoughts into action!
I often see fantastic ideas from other teacher bloggers and most often, I take note, but think that I can't try it until I have my own class again. Next year, I will be "borrowing" ideas from a lot of fantastic educators that I have "met" as a result of blogging. I'm excited for that chance!