Podcast Episode 20: Making Learning Fun With Theresa Schenker

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Much of the best teaching at Yale is done by our language instructors, and on this episode we are joined by Theresa Schenker, senior lector and director of the German language program. Theresa shares her general approach to teaching as well as many ways she gets students creatively engaged in her classroom including telecollaboration, movie making, and web quests.

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Show Notes

0:00 Intro

0:39 Welcoming Theresa.

1:12 Language teaching is very different today.

2:04 Role play is still a part of teaching. But there’s also cultural knowledge, video clips.

3:11 The acting in the clips may be bad, but the language is real.

3:42 We don’t lecture in language classes.

4:18 We don’t say “today we’re learning the subjunctive”; instead we invent a scenario requiring the use of the subjunctive.

4:53 We don’t even say “this is the subjunctive….” They follow our models.

5:25 No one in the real world will say “now please give me a sentence in the subjunctive.”

5:49 Doing doesn’t always require explicit statements and conscious awareness.

7:00 To explain or not to explain?

8:05 Drawing comparisons to something familiar.

11:06 Planning instruction around functions.

14:18 Language students making movies.

18:29 Blogging for reflection in lower-level German classes; practicing speaking in class and writing outside class.

20:02 Connecting learners of German who don’t share a common language forces them to use only German.

21:20 Blogging can be used for in-class activity: The Parent Trap.

23:24 Learning about motivation from language instruction: the learning activities are inherently interesting.

25:24 Language classes have a lot of time to fill.

26:23 Making the students agents sometimes means giving them very specific roles.

27:44 Making the student an expert: no one else knows what happens in chapter one.

29:09 Doing a web quest and putting students in new groups.

30:18 Arranging group activities so that students are more active. For example, give students a goal for each segment of the class.

31:17 Not enough faculty see what language instructors do.

31:49 Translating Theresa’s methods to other disciplines. Doug’s lecture method.

32:31 What Theresa’s doing this semester: chatting on Facebook with students in Germany.

36:00 Theresa’s research on her teaching: students living abroad, but briefly.

40:38 Why put so much effort into one’s teaching? A sense of mission.

42:25 Theresa’s teaching roots go deep. Teaching throughout her Ph.D. Earning an M.A. in language teaching.

45:02 Students can have fun–and you might get more majors.

48:03 iPad apps like Quizlet help students play games for vocabulary learning.

48:24 Does Theresa have an example of something failing in the classroom?

50:07 Theresa improvises so she recovers quickly from her failures–That’s what expert teachers do.