Engaging Learners in the Languages Classroom.

 Natascia Servini- Associate Leader and Curriculum Leader World Languages

Tuesday 26th September was European Day of Languages. As we continue to celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity of our school, we are also aware of the wider context in which we are teaching.  There is a decline in the number of students taking languages at GCSE nationally, so it is more important than ever to hook our students and teach them to love learning languages from an early age.

Here are my top tips for engaging and motivating students that could be applied to any subject:

  1. Use competition and games

I love using games in my lessons: after all, if I’m going to be teaching for 5 hours a day, I want to have some fun too!

The most popular game is ‘splat’ where I have a selection of images on the board that represent a new word; students have to race to touch the correct image when they hear the new word. I have played this game every week of my teaching career to date, and I’m always amazed that students still get excited at the very thought of it.

  1. Technology

Technology is second nature for many of our students. There are numerous ways we can harness their skills and interests in order to enhance their learning experiences. One such way is the app Memrise. My students can’t get enough of Memrise. It’s completely free and an invaluable resource that helps students learn vocabulary. You can even track how many minutes they have spent on it each week. Memrise also has courses for other subjects and if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, you can create something of your own.

  1. What’s the point?

The future can be a very abstract concept for young people. Some rarely know what they will want to do in a month, let alone in decades to come. It is therefore vital that everything we are teaching has a purpose and enables our learners to make clear links to real life skills beyond school.

Students also love hearing about their teacher’s lives – why not share how studying your subject has impacted on your life and career?

  1. PIP

Think about the last time a colleague motivated you. Was it because of the positive, encouraging words they uttered recognising your excellent work? How did it make you feel?

In the same way praise has an impact on us, praise also significantly impacts our students. A recent student voice survey conducted at Sarah Bonnell highlighted that the thing most students wanted as a reward over money, sweets or prizes was a phone call or postcard home.

  1. Show your passion!

During my training year, a ‘Teachers TV’ video called ‘The Queen of French Grammar’ really inspired me to develop my passion. The teacher was clearly a skilled practitioner but  what impacted me the most was her comment at the end of the video: “love your subject, love your students”.

I think of this every time I plan and deliver a lesson. As well as this, I believe that a teacher’s classroom environment is crucial. An environment that is bright, tidy, welcoming and includes lots of resources can support students in their learning and help them become more independent. Look around your classroom, what does it say about you and your passion for teaching your subject?


To end,  according to a recent survey by TES, the quality that most students want in a teacher is sense of humour. So start and finish every lesson with a smile and enjoy it!


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