From Theory into Practice

I started my professional life as a coursebook writer. Twenty years ago the goal was clear to teach our students to speak, read and write in a foreign language and also to understand the culture and be able to survive or to study/work in the country. The resources that we had were photos, magazines, videos (cartoons, movies, news, and advertisements). The WL course requires developing the primary skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and additional or maybe even more crucial nowadays – sociocultural competence that may influence the effectiveness of intercultural communication in a multilingual and multicultural world. The development of technology and the World Web is expending the boundaries of individuals. 

While I was reading the recommended resources, I reinforce my thinking about the importance of the shift in education, and I feel this shift as a teacher who is teaching every day. The two terms “constructivism” and “connectivism” attracted my attention.

I believe both of these terms mean to learn while doing, solving, practising. 

Constructivism can be seen as a major theory of learning, and in a broader sense as a philosophy of education, used as a general title to classify several theories.

According to this theory, we are as educators should find the interests of our students and create learning engagements that will be relevant to each student. A very challenging task! I know that the majority of my elementary students would like to play games and do sports. Will I develop the ES WL program base on this? Probably no, but I will take it into consideration while I am planning the learning engagements.  

Another challenge for me, as a Russian language teacher is a LANGUAGE. In order to make the learning environment active, the students should have the basic language in order to communicate, to participate actively in the process to ask a question, to discuss and solve the problem.

Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences (Driscoll, 2000, p. 376);  

I believe it was always a case in learning foreign languages at least in the last decade. Our WL students think of a learning goal and steps to achieve it at the beginning of the year. During their learning journey, the students reflect on their achievements. Learning a foreign language develops the ability to recognize patterns and connections, and synthesize them in order to define how it works or simply to understand people who speak this language and carry on the culture. 

So, our goal as WL teachers is to prepare our students for life-long learning, develop an understanding that during intercultural communication the partner could have different values, lifestyle, verbal and non-verbal ways to express feelings and thoughts. That is why I try to create an authentic environment for students to understand the main values of the country they are living in now. For example, Victory Day in Russia. Many countries have a holiday that has the same name, but the value is different. We invited the veterans to listen to their stories, to ask questions and to see the photos. Another popular holiday in Russia is Maslenitsa (Butter Week). During this celebration, we organize different stations that our students can participate in various activities (practicing the language, baking the pancakes, playing traditional Russian games). 

Connectivism is proposed as a theory more adequate to the digital age, when action is needed without personal learning, using information outside of our primary knowledge.

This approach of teaching has its advantages. I am using new apps in order to reach students’ vocabulary or improve their skills. For example, Kahoot games – the motivation to win is high, and all my six years old students read as fast as they can in order to win. It is so simple, but it does work. The first question my students ask is “Are we going to play Kahoot game today?” I am using the bank of Kahoot games to increase the vocabulary, to improve reading and writing skills, to give sociocultural knowledge. 

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