Modeling for Students in the Language Classroom

By Jennifer Robertson Montes posted 06-29-2010 06:43


Modeling is an extremely important step in any learning environment.  Modeling means that you show the learner what you expect him or her to do, and it takes place after you have outlined the instructions either in writing, visually, or both.  This is a critical step at the beginner level when you are presenting an activity for the first time, but it should still be done when repeating an activity to ensure all students are on the same page.

When modeling an activity, first try to have one of the students perform the activity.  You should usually choose one of the stronger students in the class.  If all the students are unclear as to what you want them to do, then the teacher should model the activity, but this should be the last resort.  Always remember that you need to 1) stay 100 percent in the target language, and 2) use clues to get students to figure out what you want without translating to English.

To illustrate modeling, let’s take the “Read It and Look Up” technique.  This is used when you have two or more students practicing a dialogue.  Student A will read the line silently, look up at their partner, and try to say the line from memory.  Then Student B will do the same.  The teacher would model this by having two students up in front of the room.  Write on the board in the target language – Read, Look, Say.  Instruct Student A to read the line silently (point to the line).  Make a hand gesture telling them not to speak but to say it in their head.  Then tell Student A to look at Student B and say the line.  Continue using clues and gestures until Student A performs correctly.  Then have Student B perform.  Ask if there are any questions and have students now work in pairs.  Circulate and check that students are performing the activity correctly.

An easier modeling example can be done with an activity from the homework or a workbook activity in class.  Let’s say that the exercise asks students to read the paragraph and fill in the missing verbs while conjugating them at the same time.  Choose one of your stronger students to read the first sentence.  When he or she gets to the point to select the verb, ask the student in the target language what verb to use, and then ask what form of the verb to use.  Now have the student read the sentence again filling in the correct form of the verb.

Modeling activities for students is just one component of creating an effective language learning environment for your students.  Look for more articles in the future on this topic at: