Ever thought about what it would be like to be Teacher of the Year?
It’s not about the accolades from fellow teachers and the admin, and it’s not about the small trophy that they give you.
It’s about something else entirely—it’s about your students, who think you’re just the coolest.
It’s the appreciation they’re showing you by placing you in the same category as Justin Bieber (or whoever is still cool nowadays).
It’s like they recognize your labors in and out of the classroom, and that’s the most rewarding thing of all.
So, how do the best of the best do it?
Well, let’s have look-see.
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Fun: It’s in the Cool Teacher’s DNA
Cool teachers really are a walking paradox. They don’t profess to teach you anything. It seems like they’re just playing around, having a great time waiting for that bell to ring.
But when you actually sit in their language classes and participate in the activities, you walk out muttering foreign phrases that’ll stay with you for the rest of your life.
Cool teachers make learning fun. (If you remember only one sentence in this piece, then let it be this one.)
Sure, you already know that. Not because I just told you, but because once upon a time in your young life as a student, you met a teacher who totally didn’t act like one—that teacher got your blood running and your mind working without you knowing it.
His classes were buzzing with learning activities—what other teachers call “noise.” But the whole class knew, on some level, that something special was happening in his classroom.
I want you to think about those teachers who seem to have a following, whose students are tagging along behind them all the way to the teacher’s lounge. How do those guys do it?
Well, it pays to have a naturally engaging personality. When you just love being with people, interacting with students isn’t a day job—you’ll do it even if nobody pays you. But what if you’re not the outgoing, lady-with-the-funny-story kind of gal? What if you’re brilliant but you don’t really possess the Robin Williams kind of gift?
Just relax. You already have everything that you’ll ever need to turn your language classes into hubs of fun learning. And I’m not talking about anything ethereal or some personality trait that you need to summon from inside of you. I’m talking about the actual teaching materials that you’ll need to give your language classes hours upon hours of fun activities—activities that are fat with quality content.
“Activities?” you ask.
Yes. In the final analysis, the coolest teachers are those that have coolest activities. They tell the most amazing stories, facilitate super fun games and present undeniably interesting lessons.
And guess what. (Wait, are you ready for this?) Every last one of these activities can be downloaded online. Boom!
This is the best time in history to be a teacher, because we’re totally awashed with resources.
How the Coolest Language Teachers Use Their MFL Resources
Of course, it’s not just about having resources—it’s about knowing how to use those resources. We’re going to break down the process into 2 major steps.
1. Avail of the ready-made resources that are available online.
Everything you’ll ever need to be “Teacher of the Year,” or just to be a darn cool one, has already come into existence. In fact, it’s all just sitting and waiting for you online, on the sites that I’ll soon be talking about. You don’t have to wrack your brain thinking of edutainment activities to enthrall your class.
The language teachers who’ve come before you, or those teachers similarly situated, have long been thinking of activities, approaches and angles to boost up the level of engagement in their classes. You’re not the first educator who felt the need to create worksheets, lesson plans and games that both entertain and educate. Proof of that are the thousands of already available materials that are exactly that.
It’s a good thing that many teachers are naturally brilliant and generous. These guys have created tons of fun material and decided to share it with others. A great majority of the lessons and activities that are available online are free to access, meaning you don’t have to spend a single dime for the creativity and the hours that went into making the lessons. (The only thing you might have to do is sign up for certain websites.)
But that doesn’t mean you won’t be doing some creative thinking of your own.
Step 2: Make it Your Own!
The lessons, worksheets and activities that you’ll find online have some sort of “imprint”. They reflect the context of the original class for which they were intended and manifest the motivation of its creator. So excellent and creative these works may be, they will rarely be perfect for your case every time.
What you need to do is to make these lessons your own—as if they were fashioned in the depths of your beating heart. Well, truth is, many of the lessons will require only very minor tweaking, but there will be some that need your creativity to further juice them up.
Let’s say you’ve already downloaded a lesson online. How do you go about making it seem as if it were your own creation? Here are some practical ways of doing just that:
- Don’t take everything hook, line and sinker. Change the details. Use the names of your students as characters in stories, for example.
- Seen something cool in the news or a viral video? Use it to introduce or contextualize your lesson so the activities don’t come out forced. For example: “Hey class, did you see that awesome juggling audition in “America’s Got Talent”? Well, today we’ll talk about hobbies…in German!”
- Change the rules. The rules that came with the games may not be perfectly suited for your class. Change them as you see fit. For example, if the rules said groups of 5 and you only have 6 in the class, you may have to let them play in pairs or 3’s.
- Mix & Match. Get elements from this activity and that activity and mix them into a powerful concoction that covers all the bases that you want. If your lesson is about numbers, you might need to get elements from several different sources in order to have a winning combination. You might get a numbers game from this resource, an interactive story from this resource and a printed flashcard from another.
- Give the instructions in your own words. This one’s probably most important. When you facilitate the activities, don’t keep on referring to your printed copy. Motivate your students in your own way. Give the reason for the activity in a way that’s immediately relatable to the class.
Doing these things requires work, but they’ll prevent your students from feeling like you’ve just pulled a piece of paper from a file, or are hiding that you’re nursing a hangover and are totally unprepared for a lesson.
Next, we go into the 7 resource websites that need to be added to your list of bookmarks.
7 MFL Resource Websites That’ll Make You Teacher of the Year
Teach It (Languages) is every language teacher’s dream. The site is positively exploding with creative activities from topical games to engaging worksheets that capture the hearts and minds of your students. PDF, Word and Powerpoint files can be downloaded and printed to your heart’s content. (They add fresh content weekly!)
If you’re a German, Spanish or French language teacher, then this should be your first stop. Sign in and gain access to hundreds of classroom activities that have been created by teachers like you and edited by native speakers of the language. The site offers the vast majority of its lessons for free. You only need to register and you’ll have at your fingertips tried and tested lessons that’ll enthrall students 10-18 years of age (and even beyond).
But if you want to take it a step farther, become a subscriber and gain the ability to tweak and adapt the lessons to your minutest specifications.
With Teach It’s trustworthy resources, you’ll really be able to teach it.
The site’s description says it all: an open marketplace where educators buy, sell & share original teaching resources.
And in spite of the website’s name, you’ll be happy to know that there are tons of free resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. You only have to sign up to have a go at downloading them. It’s an interesting thing to note that teachers aren’t only brilliant, they’re also extra generous. They try to help out everyone who’s in the same boat.
Click “All Categories” on the left-hand side of your screen to use the pull-down menu. Choose “Free Downloads” and you can pick among a dozen languages (including American Sign Language) from the “World Language” section.
The materials in this site are highly artistic and creative. In short, very interesting with lots of colors. Your students will definitely be thinking of you come time to elect the Teacher of the Year. And you’ll have a teacher from the other side of the planet to thank for that.
The Guardian Teacher Network is the UK paper’s educator platform.
Find the “Resources” button on the lower left-hand side, choose “Languages” as the subject and find printable French, Italian, Spanish and German lessons to take to class. They’ll mostly be in PDF format and available for different age levels—from those as young as 4 years old, right up to 18.
The Guardian Teacher Network extends holistic help to teachers—offering not only lesson plans, worksheets and activities, but articles that an educator might find eminently useful—like how to balance work and home. It goes into the political, emotional and social underpinnings of teaching and even gives career advice. It speaks well of a paper that takes this munificent undertaking to provide support to teachers not only in the UK but the world over.
Sign up and become part of a community that tries not only to make this world a better place, but also encourages that world to speak more than one language.
Imagine if the drawings in your handouts moved. What if they came with sounds and music? And what if they were interactive, too. They’d be several times more engaging!
That’s where FluentU comes in.
FluentU turns ordinary videos—like music videos, vlogs, cartoons, commercials and inspirational talks—into mini-foreign language lessons that your students will love. All videos are sorted by level and category, so you can easily find winners that fit your teaching needs:
All videos come with interactive subtitles that make native content accessible to your students. When they hover their mouse over (or tap) a word, students will see an image, meaning, example sentences and even other videos in which the word is used!
Students can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s unique Learn Mode. Simply swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re learning.
What’s more, FluentU keeps track of vocabulary that your students have learned to give each student a 100% personalized experience. It uses that information to recommend videos, ask Learn Mode questions and even remind students when it’s time to review.
You can organize chosen videos into “Courses,” name your courses and assign them to your students for homework or in-class activities. They can each sign in using nothing but a secret password that we bestow to you, the teacher.
Then you can track their progress individually and as a group. How many videos and activities have they progressed through? What percentage of the exercise questions are they getting right? You’ll be able to see all this information and more.
Language Nut is the brainchild of language teachers who had the goal of making fun, simple and engaging language resources available to schools around the world. They want to help nurture an army of passionate language learners who will also encourage others to do so.
Language Nut’s award-winning materials are a perfect companion for the language curricula of schools around the world. The website offers a great variety of interactive activities, games, songs, stories and tests that make language learning painless and addicting.
You want to teach the different colors in Italian? Or what to call the different members of your family in Chinese? Language Nut offers interactive lessons for 18 of the world’s languages that develops the 4 key linguistic skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Their material is accessible through the full range of devices from computers to tablets. So instead of banning those in class, why not tap their full potential, usher them into Language Nut website and watch the whole class get crazy learning languages?
Share My Lesson is a platform where teachers can upload their Word docs, PDF’s, audio and video lessons so other teachers on the other side of the planet can use them in class. The ultimate winner? The students who benefit from excellent resources shared by creative minds.
Share My Lesson commits that it’ll forever be free so you can just sign up and open yourself to the great number of activities, assessments and guides available.
While there are lessons for absolute beginners, most materials here are geared for middle school and up. There are plenty of enrichment topics available so you not only have materials to teach the language itself, you also have plenty of additional cultural and historical lessons to contextualize them with.
And in addition to the shared resources, the site also has an active community that’s ready to dish out helpful advice and insights into the different aspects of teaching a foreign language. So get into the forums and communicate with a peer.
NFLRC stands for National Foreign Language Resource Centers.
In 1990, the US Department of Education recognized the national need for expertise in the pursuit of foreign languages. Through the Higher Education Act, it established the first Language Resource Centers in US Universities and got into the groove of developing language learning materials that can be used by learners and instructors alike.
Today, there are about 16 Language Resource Centers stationed in different Universities across the US. Some possessing catchy names like CARLA—the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (University of Minnesota) and CLEAR, for Center for Language Education and Research (Michigan State University). Some, not so catchy—like the CERCLL—Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language & Literacy (University of Arizona).
Nflrc.org is the link that collectively houses these 16 language resource centers and you can visit each one of these centers and find resources critically useful for you as an instructor—not only lesson plans and worksheets, but the latest research on language acquisition and opportunities for professional development.
Give them a spin and you’ll get more than your fair share of excellent teaching material and the coolest research.
So, how about that? You ready for that “Thank You!” speech yet?
Well really, the important thing to know here is that you’ll never ever run out of things to do in your classes. Your class can be super enjoyable and super interesting as long as you devote enough time and energy to tap the powerful resource that we call The Internet.
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach languages with real-world videos.