Teaching language draws on all our skills. We apply our creativity and abilities to what we know about learning language and then add a large dose of performance art. These 10 personal skills make the task easier and are worth developing. They help you connect with kids, keep their attention and create comprehensible input.
You can draw on these personal skills to make your classes more dynamic and give you a greater range of strategies for creating effective lessons. Count on them enriching your life outside the classroom as well. So, if you have time during the summer months, learn something new or polish up a skill you already have. These personal skills take a little practice but the payoff in the classroom is worth it!
Personal Skills To Develop For The Classroom
You may not have a beautiful singing voice. You may not like to sing. However, if you are teaching children Spanish, you will sing. Get comfortable with singing and playing rhythm games in Spanish. Learn children’s songs and clapping games. If you can learn to play the guitar or ukulele and sing along, even better. Being confident of your abilities will make your classes more effective, so practice. Of course, singing and performing are personal skills that you will be glad to have out of the classroom too.
Drawing is often the easiest way to communicate the meaning of a word while staying in the target language. It is one of the most important personal skills you can add to your teaching. You do not have to create art, but being able to convey information with simple pictures is a huge help.
There are a variety of resources for language teachers who want to learn to sketch for their classes. Look for drawing videos for teachers like this one on drawing animals. There are also books like One Thousand Pictures for Teachers to Copy and One Thousand Plus Pictures for Teachers to Copy. These books give models for simple drawing and suggestions for using drawings in teaching. If you interested in learning more sophisticated drawing techniques, consider Basic Drawing Made Amazingly Easy.
Storytelling is an effective way to create extensive comprehensible input. You can create and tell stories with any vocabulary and at any level. It takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, it is a wonderful learning tool. See an example of a simple story, a video and tips for telling stories to kids learning Spanish. Storytelling is one of the personal skills that will make your class better, and that you will also tap into with family and friends.
Reading aloud is an essential part of teaching language. Doing it well requires intention and practice. Take time to learn how to read aloud effectively. Find videos of Spanish story time on YouTube. Some of the read alouds are well done, and many are not. Watch a few and consider the pacing, expression and techniques used to engage kids. Read this article with strategies for reading aloud to language learners. Finally, cement your skills by reading aloud to children.
Puppets and language learning are a natural combination. You can establish from the beginning that a puppet only understands and speaks Spanish. You can have a conversation with a puppet or use them to tell a story. There are many excellent articles about using puppets to teach language. Teaching English to Children with Puppets is a good place to start; the ideas apply to any language. Polish your puppet skills to add extra fun and language to your class.
We depend on images to serve as a visual reference for language. You can find fabulous photos online available with a Creative Commons license.
To make the most of photographs, learn to use a photo editing program. You do not have to purchase software. There are excellent online programs like Picmonkey.
With a photo editing program you will be able to add text to photos like this reading with a photo of a dragon or this one of two cats. You can make photo collage activities like this one with a color search and find activity or this one where kids search for a photo from a description.
There are endless possibilities for editing images to create language activities. This is also one of the personal skills you will be glad to have in the future.
Telling a Joke
Telling a joke is similar to storytelling. Jokes are little stories and use many of the same presentation skills. However, jokes do not usually have props and depend a little more on timing. Read tips for telling jokes to Spanish learners here. You can find the collections of jokes on Spanish Playground here.
Listening is one of the important teaching skills you can develop. Our students depend on us to connect with them, even when we have little time and dozens of things to do. We have to listen to our students to know them and to be aware of their language progress. When we listen, we validate their efforts to communicate, which is essential to learning language.
Many suggestions for developing listening skills assume you are listening to adults, and yet they apply to the classroom too. This list of ways to improve listening makes perfect sense for listening to students. This article specifically addresses listening skills for teachers.
I confess that I am still learning to juggle. If you are young and coordinated and don’t know how to juggle, start learning now! It is an instant attention-getter and be added to a class at any time. You can involve students by having them count or sing and by tossing balls to them. And if you drop the balls? You will drop the balls! Dropping the balls is a concrete reminder that all skills, like language, take practice. We all make mistakes and keep trying.
A few simple magic tricks are an excellent compliment to your teaching skills. Kids love magic tricks and they can be accompanied by a stream of language. See a video and explanation of a simple magic trick for language teachers here. There are many more on YouTube. You don’t need to learn a lot of tricks, but it is definitely one of the personal skills you will put to use with family and friends.
Personal skills like drawing, storytelling and juggling may seem only indirectly related to teaching language. They may also seem like to much trouble to learn. Consider though, that you will teach for many years to come. Your materials will change and you may teach different ages and levels, but these personal skills will serve you well regardless of what the future holds.