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What Happens Behind the Classroom Door?

Find Out What Happens in a Language Class

Learning a language is an adventure and one that most people start with feelings of excitement, enthusiasm and perhaps a little bit of apprehension. If you have never learnt a language in a communicative environment your only experience of language learning may be that of memorising verb tables at school. Our classes are very different to this, therefore before booking their course a lot of our students want to know what happens in a language class and what should I expect? As well as, “what are the best ways to start learning a language?” Here we will address exactly what happens behind the classroom door.

An Example: Spanish Beginner 2 with Javier

Using our Spanish Beginner 2 (A1 CEFR Level) class with teacher Javier Paz as an example, we will take you through the staging of the lesson, give you an idea of the atmosphere in the lesson, explain the methodology and outline your involvement and participation in the class. Everyone attending the Spanish Beginner 2 course has completed the 10 week Spanish Beginner 1 course, which gives them a reasonable understanding of the basic every day vocabulary and also the present tense. All our evening classes are held over 2 hours, either once (10 week courses) or twice (5 week courses) a week.

What Happens in a Language Class: The Atmosphere

Although Javier’s students are still at beginner level Javier only uses Spanish in the class. He uses a lot of gestures, mime, visuals and also drawings on the board to ensure the meaning is clear and despite their low level, everyone seems to keep up and understand. This creates a relaxed, fun but focussed environment in which it is ok to make mistakes and everyone is supportive of each other’s learning.


What Happens in a Language Class: Step by Step, Stage by Stage

Javier’s lesson are divided into a series of activities and feedback which are based around the assigned course book and his own materials. Some of the activities are completed as one large group, some are carried out in pairs or smaller groups. Throughout the lesson every student is engaged in the activity and Javier ensures that everyone contributes to the task, to allow the whole class the opportunity to speak as much as possible.

At the beginning of his class Javier and his students recap what they did last lesson to refresh everyone’s memories. This leads into a short discussion on holidays the main topic of the day. Students then work in small groups of 3 to discuss their ideas (beach or city holiday? Sunbathing or sport?), and to clarify the meaning of some new vocabulary items. After feedback the whole group analyses a grammar structure and focuses on the meaning , form and pronunciation of this structure (ir = to go). After students work in pairs to discuss which Spanish speaking destinations they would like to visit and to practise the verb structure.

Just before the short 2-minute break halfway through the lesson, Javier names one of the students El Rey de Los Deberes? (the King of Homework) for his dedication and for always completing his homework. The winner has to choose between castauelas (wooden clackers typical from Spain) and a can of Spanish peas (!) as a prize. The student doesn’t hesitate and happily selects the food.

After the break Javier gives the students an activity which combines the topic (holidays) with the new vocabulary, new grammar (ir = to go) and the transportation vocab taught in the previous lesson. This speaking activity, which is conducted in pairs, allows students to put everything they have learnt together and to reinforce some of the new language they had learnt that day. The lesson comes to an end with a listening task that summarizes the topics addressed and Javier gives the group a reminder about the homework for the week that will be sent to the students by email.

What Happens in a Language Class: Student Participation

Over the two hours students spend around 70% of the time speaking, with Javier listening, correcting and taking notes. Javier only speaks around 30% of the time when he is setting up tasks, clarifying the meaning of vocabulary and grammar structures, and getting feedback or doing error correction. All students actively participate in the class, and although it is clear that some students are more confident than others everyone has an equal opportunity to use the language and to participate in the tasks using their Spanish. It was surprising how much Spanish everyone was able to use given they had only been studying Spanish for 18 weeks.

What Happens in a Language Class: What Next?

If you like the sound of these classes and think that it might be something you would like to try why not find out more at our Language Course Questions page or take a Free Online Level Test to check your level and see which level course you should book.

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