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10 Rules of Good Teaching a Foreign Language
by Marianna Popova

A lot of people nowadays have problems with studying even if they want to learn something they often seem incapable of coping with the difficulties they are facing during the process of learning because they don’t know how to learn. But who is responsible for teaching them how to learn if not their teachers? To help teachers to be more efficient in introducing new material and developing essential language skills, as well as making a lecture or a lesson more interesting and memorable there are some simple and effective techniques that can be implied into a teaching process.

 Use the Pomodoro technique during the lesson! Divide you lesson into 22-25 minutes  sections, when you need your students to be focused on some kind of activity. Use a timer on  your mobile phone or get a true Pomodoro-timer to make the technique more explicit. But  don’t forget about the reward after intensive working – 2 minutes of careless talking or letting  your students have a 5-minute break.

2. Control spaced repetition. Sometimes even being motivated people are still not successful in their activities due to “wrong” priority setting. If we are talking e.g. about working people learning foreign languages, it’s often difficult for them to find time for doing their homework because they are tired after work, need to accomplish some other things and simply want to spend some time with their families. Even 25 minutes are difficult to find, as other things seem to be more important. In this case you as a teacher can for example discuss with the group the most convenient time periods to send them their home task via a text message (MMS, E-Mail, What’s Up etc.). The task should be planned for a particular amount of time (e.g. 25 minutes, if you want to combine it with the Pomodoro technique) and the answers should be sent back within e.g. an hour. Besides you need to remind them to turn off all the gadgets while doing the task as it’ll help to increase the chances of a better result. But being not only well instructed, restricted in time and controlled by a teacher, they feel responsibility at a stated time.

#Example of a text message: "Hi, dear students! It’s time for our weekly challenge. Your task today is on p. 89. Don’t forget to turn off everything that can distract you from “knowing the truth” in 25 minutes. Good luck!"

3. Use metaphor and analogy introducing difficult topics. As people have different mindsets, world vision
and understanding, it’s sometimes difficult for them to overwhelm Einstellung and get an idea of some actual because it simply doesn’t exist in their native language.

#Example: explaining phrases “should have done/could have done” you can present your students an analogy with an annoying old lady giving her totally unuseful comment:"you could have done this in advance, my dear, to avoid ….." or late advice: "you should have come 5 minutes earlier" when you already CAN’T change anything.

4. Stimulate using recall and repetition to create chunks. A huge part of new information, worked through during the lesson is forgotten in aproximately a week if not “chunked” (skilled, automatized). Teaching a foreign language, especially in the conditions of non-contact bilingualism it’s important to create small communicative situations to use the knowledge that students get.

#Example: if you've worked through Conditionals at the previous lesson, start the next lesson with a joke containing conditionals or some personal story and present it in the way it’s not a part of the lesson and you just want to share this information with your students. Come 5 minutes earlier to the class and start with a phrase: “Before we start our lesson I’d like to ask you: what would you do, if you won a million?” or just start talking while preparing for a lesson (taking off your jacket, writing something on the whiteboard etc.).

5. Highlighting within reasonable limits is a thing for you to teach. Visual memory is one of the most powerful memorization tool, so use it intelligently. Ask students to use different colours (or different kinds of underlinings) to emphasize important issues at the very first lesson so that they can easily revise all in all at home. Always draw their attention to the words and phrases they need to highlight. And don’t forget to do the same on the whiteboard or in a slide.

#Example (to memorize declension of nouns in German): 

Deklination der Substantive


6. Memory palace technique is your savior by learning by heart. When some words are absolutely not related to each other and your students need to learn them anyway (for instance prepositions, exceptions etc.) help them by creating a memorable funny poem or image.

#Example: (in German to memorise prepositions with Dativ):
Herr VON NACH-SEIT-ZU und Frau AUS-BEI-MIT bleiben mit dem DATIV fit!

7. Interleaving is the key to mastering... Grammar. Grammar is a "skeleton" for every language. With help of grammar structures we learn how to use different words and phrases to be understood correctly. But communication means a SET of interdependent grammar points. That’s why it’s important to accumulate background knowledge mastering new grammar rules. Having a special system of presenting grammar rules may help you by implying interleaving in the lesson without spending much time on it. Besides, languages of one group (e.g. Germanic languages) have a lot in common, so if your students know at least one language of the group and are learning another one, you can always draw a parallel between the languages.


English PresentPastPerfectPast Perfect 
German PräsensImperfektPerfektPlusquamperfekt 


8. Avoid Illusion of Competence! Every time you have worked through some new grammar rules or vocabulary don't grudge the time for creating a small test for your students in oral or written form so that they can objectively evalute their knowledge. Remember, with the book opened everyone can answer any question.

#Example: "Now, please, close your textbooks and copybooks and try to remember the key point of the text - the author's name, the name of the text, the main idea of the text, where and when the action took place - and introduce it in form of a short summury - not longer than 5-7 sentences." 


9. Can a Rabbit Ruin your Bathroom? To tackle the greatest devastator of the 21st century – procrastination you can effectively use a CRRB technique while your lesson:

1) the Cue – what does usually distract  your students from the learning process?
- location (Hopefully most of the teachers have their classes in convenient classrooms equipped in the latest know-how trends. So all you need is to check before the lesson if the room is aired and cleaned)
- time (that’s what we can’t chose at school or university)
- how the students feel (if you see that most of them are tired or sad, start with a nice warm-up to make them forget about thier worries)
- reactions (don't forget about monitoring your students' reactioan to draw conclusions)

2) The Routine (to tackle the “zombie mode” you need a good PLAN, so plan your lessons  ahead with all the timings and additional handouts)

3) The Reward (a good mark is perfect reward for most of the students, but not for everybody. Monitor your students’ reactions and reward them in the way they are expecting it – saying “bang-up job!”, giving a positive feedback about the progress the person is making, giving a bit less homework for active participating during the lesson etc.)

4) The Belief (if you don’t belief in miracles they’ll never happen to you!).

10. The Law of Serendipity: Lady Luck smiles on those who try!  Don’t be afraid to try new ways and methods of teachinh, develop yourself as a teacher as staying the same in the changing world you are losing ground. If the way you’ve implied the new technique doesn’t work, find courage not to give up and keep trying until you are a success!

1. B. Oakley, A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), Penguin, July, 2014
2. B. Oakley, T. Sejnowski, Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects, 2015

Illustration Credits:
1. Pomodoro timer. Source: Wikipedia.org
2. Angry woman pointing you. Source: http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-angry-woman-pointing-you-image15739817 
3. Die Deklination der Substantive. Source: http://www.drofa.ru/cat/product1285.htm

 Barbara Oakley 2014, excerpted from A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), Penguin, July, 2014  

10 Rules of Good Studying 
By Barbara Oakley, PhD, PE

1. Use recall. After you read a page, look away and recall the main ideas. Highlight very little, and never highlight anything you haven’t put in your mind first by recalling. Try recalling main ideas when you are walking to class or in a different room from where you originally learned it. An ability to recall—to generate the ideas from inside yourself—is one of the key indicators of good learning.
2. Test yourself. On everything. All the time. Flash cards are your friend.
3. Chunk your problems. Chunking is understanding and practicing with a problem solution so that it can all come to mind in a flash. After you solve a problem, rehearse it. Make sure you can solve it cold—every step. Pretend it’s a song and learn to play it over and over again in your mind, so the information combines into one smooth chunk you can pull up whenever you want.
4. Space your repetition. Spread out your learning in any subject a little every day, just like an athlete. Your brain is like a muscle—it can handle only a limited amount of exercise on one subject at a time.
5. Alternate different problem‐solving techniques during your practice. Never practice too long at any one session using only one problem‐solving technique—after a while, you are just mimicking what you did on the previous problem. Mix it up and work on different types of problems. This teaches you both how and when to use a technique. (Books generally are not set up this way, so you’ll need to do this on your own.) After every assignment and test, go over your errors, make sure you understand why you made them, and then rework your solutions. To study most effectively, handwrite (don’t type) a problem on one side of a flash card and the solution on the other. (Handwriting builds stronger neural structures in memory than typing.) You might also photograph the card if you want to load it into a study app on your smartphone. Quiz yourself randomly on different types of problems. Another way to do this is to randomly flip through your book, pick out a problem, and see whether you can solve it cold.
6. Take breaks. It is common to be unable to solve problems or figure out concepts in math or science the first time you encounter them. This is why a little study every day is much better than a lot of studying all at once. When you get frustrated with a math or science problem, take a break so that another part of your mind can take over and work in the background.
7. Use explanatory questioning and simple analogies. Whenever you are struggling with a concept, think to yourself, How can I explain this so that a ten‐year‐old could understand it? Using an analogy really helps, like saying that the flow of electricity is like the flow of water. Don’t just think your explanation—say it out loud or put it in writing. The additional effort of speaking and writing allows you to more deeply encode (that is, convert into neural memory structures) what you are learning.
8. Focus. Turn off all interrupting beeps and alarms on your phone and computer, and then turn on a timer for twenty‐five minutes. Focus intently for those twenty‐five minutes and try to work as diligently as you can. After the timer goes off, give yourself a small, fun reward. A few of these sessions in a day can really move your studies forward. Try to set up times and places where studying—not glancing at your computer or phone—is just something you naturally do.
9. Eat your frogs first. Do the hardest thing earliest in the day, when you are fresh.
10. Make a mental contrast. Imagine where you’ve come from and contrast that with the dream of where your studies will take you. Post a picture or words in your workspace to remind you of your dream. Look at that when you find your motivation lagging. This work will pay off both for you and those you love!

Barbara Oakley 2014, excerpted from A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), Penguin, July, 2014

Ten Rules of Bad Studying
By Barbara Oakley, PhD, PE

Avoid these techniques—they can waste your time even while they fool you into thinking you’re learning!

1. Passive rereading—sitting passively and running your eyes back over a page. Unless you can prove that the material is moving into your brain by recalling the main ideas without looking at the page, rereading is a waste of time.
2. Letting highlights overwhelm you. Highlighting your text can fool your mind into thinking you are putting something in your brain, when all you’re really doing is moving your hand. A little highlighting here and there is okay—sometimes it can be helpful in flagging important points. But if you are using highlighting as a memory tool, make sure that what you mark is also going into your brain.
3. Merely glancing at a problem’s solution and thinking you know how to do it. This is one of the worst errors students make while studying. You need to be able to solve a problem step‐by‐step, without looking at the solution.
4. Waiting until the last minute to study. Would you cram at the last minute if you were practicing for a track meet? Your brain is like a muscle—it can handle only a limited amount of exercise on one subject at a time.
5. Repeatedly solving problems of the same type that you already know how to solve. If you just sit around solving similar problems during your practice, you’re not actually preparing for a test—it’s like preparing for a big basketball game by just practicing your dribbling.
6. Letting study sessions with friends turn into chat sessions. Checking your problem solving with friends, and quizzing one another on what you know, can make learning more enjoyable, expose flaws in your thinking, and deepen your learning. But if your joint study sessions turn to fun before the work is done, you’re wasting your time and should find another study group.
7. Neglecting to read the textbook before you start working problems. Would you dive into a pool before you knew how to swim? The textbook is your swimming instructor—it guides you toward the answers. You will flounder and waste your time if you don’t bother to read it. Before you begin to read, however, take a quick glance over the chapter or section to get a sense of what it’s about.
8. Not checking with your instructors or classmates to clear up points of confusion. Professors are used to lost students coming in for guidance—it’s our job to help you. The students we worry about are the ones who don’t come in. Don’t be one of those students.
9. Thinking you can learn deeply when you are being constantly distracted. Every tiny pull toward an instant message or conversation means you have less brain power to devote to learning. Every tug of interrupted attention pulls out tiny neural roots before they can grow.
10. Not getting enough sleep. Your brain pieces together problem‐solving techniques when you sleep, and it also practices and repeats whatever you put in mind before you go to sleep. Prolonged fatigue allows toxins to build up in the brain that disrupt the neural connections you need to think quickly and well. If you don’t get a good sleep before a test, NOTHING ELSE YOU HAVE DONE WILL MATTER. 



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