Next week will be the last week of 9 weeks with our lovely assistant ‘exchange’ teacher. Having a native speaker in the classroom has been a wonderful opportunity for all involved, and should be encouraged and supported more.
For students, it’s a great opportunity to hear ‘real’ language, and to communicate in the target language with immediate feedback (Am I being understood? Am I understanding what is being said?) As a language teacher, it’s great to have an extra pair of hands for assisting students, for group activities, for differentiated teaching for different ability groups, for creating resources, and for bringing new ideas and perspectives. As a language learner myself, I have someone to check my language, and to keep me up-to-date with current cultural trends. Conversing in the target language is great for improving my language, but I also notice a real difference in my students after they see me engaging in real conversation – I can almost see the lightbulb go off in their head, thinking ‘wow, she really can speak Japanese!’. It’s an aim that our beginning students don’t automatically believe possible for themselves, and I hope I am evidence that it is possible for a non-native speaker to gain a high level of proficiency, albeit with a lot of effort.
As my students prepare farewell messages and organise a farewell lunch, I’d like to start the discussion about having native speaker assistants in the classroom. (Of course, I know that things don’t always go smoothly, and in fact I went several years without accepting an assistant teacher after a nightmare experience, but I’ll leave that for another post). For today, let’s talk about all the great experiences that we’ve had.
*Do you have practical ideas for effectively using this very precious resource?
*What activities have worked for you for encouraging communication between students and native-speaker assistants?
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Moloney, M., & Ross, S. (2011). Native speaker assistants in the foreign language classroom: a study of seven schools. Conference Proceedings, Making a Difference AARE Annual conference, Melbourne Dec 2010.
Moloney, M. (2011). Teaching and Learning Languages with a Native Speaker Assistant. The Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Sydney.