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If you’re a teacher, you probably already know that one of the big pushes in education in recent years has been to incorporate self-reflection into the classroom, both for students as well as for teachers themselves. On the student end of things, self-reflection has been shown to promote responsibility and total engagement in active learning, among other benefits.
Formal self-reflection in the language arts, English, or world language classrooms is oftentimes centered around students’ written work: essays, personal narratives, literary analyses, homework assignments, creative writing assignments, etc. These are concrete results of student learning and therefore it’s easy to return to them, examine them, even hold them in your hand, and reflect on them in various ways.
But–and this is especially true for world language teachers–our students do much more in the classroom than simply write. We want them to speak, too, and engage as actively as possible in the development of speaking abilities. How can we return to a speaking “product” and reflect upon its strengths and weaknesses?
With Extempore, it’s actually super easy! Student recordings are saved right there in the app in one central, easy-to-find location. There’s no need to manage sound files, send them back to students, or anything else. Students can easily access their own work, listen to what they said, and start reflecting.
So, what should students reflect upon, exactly? Well, it depends on learning goals and your students’ proficiency level. Here are some areas where self-reflection of speaking abilities can really help your students:
- Grammar: Ask your students to go back to a previous recording, perhaps one from early in the year, or even earlier in the current lesson, and ask them to listen closely for mistakes they may have made when using a particular grammatical structure, like the imperfect in Spanish, or the passé composé in French. (Admittedly, this may be hard to do for beginning learners, because they may feel as though they know so little about the new language that they can’t yet hear their own mistakes.)
- Word choice: Provide a tough challenge to your more proficient speakers by asking them to listen to one of their own recordings and identify areas in their speech where they could use richer, more varied vocabulary.
- Pronunciation: Teaching pronunciation can be difficult because approximating a native-like standard relies on so many factors: individual sounds, intonation, stress, general fluency, and, perhaps most importantly, individual motivation. That last one is key, and maybe self-reflection can be the spark that gets students motivated. They may need to hear exactly how their pronunciation impacts their comprehensibility and figure out ways to improve it moving forward based on techniques learned in class.
Lastly, we have a few pieces of advice to help maximize learning gains from this sort of self-reflection activity.
- Limit the self-reflection to one criterion (i.e. grammatical structure), so that your students can focus as closely as possible on one area of speech and then go about improving it. If you ask them to listen for every single possible mistake or shortcoming, they’ll miss the forest for the trees.
- It may be a good idea to make a self-reflection activity a completion grade, rather than giving a numerical score. This way, students can devote themselves to speaking improvement for its own sake, rather than doing the activity just to get a good score.
Learning how to speak a language takes time. We all know that. But by promoting a convenient way to self-reflect upon speaking, students will engage as fully as possible in the process of becoming fluent. It works for writing; let’s start reflecting upon our speaking, too!