Start Right with a Language Learning Orientation

By Jennifer Robertson Montes posted 08-19-2010 09:06


The Language Learning Orientation is an important component of any language course.  It should be done on the first day of class and must include all the information that students will need to know about the course.  Please note that this is more than just reviewing a course syllabus.  The Language Learning Orientation is designed to teach students how to learn.  You must explain what you will do in the classroom, why you do it, and what you expect the students to do.  The orientation should be conducted in English for the beginner levels but can be done in the target language for the intermediate and advanced levels. 


The following is a list of suggested topics for the orientation.  The content of each component may change based on your program and audience:

  • Course Content:  Explain to students what to expect in the course in terms of the theme and objectives.  Tell students what they will be able to do upon completion of the course (the outcomes). 
  • Course Methodology:  Explain what the communicative approach means and describe why it is important.  Give examples of what they will be doing in class.
  • 100% Immersion:  Tell students that your goal is to conduct the class 100 percent in the target language and how this might be very challenging for them at first.  Put students at ease and reinforce that you will ensure that nobody gets lost along the way.
  • Language Learning Strategies in the Classroom:  Talk to students about the role that they must play in the language-learning process.  Provide a list of strategies that they should implement in the classroom in order to make the most out of every class; i.e., come prepared, use the clarification phrases in the target language, give your full attention to every activity, etc. 
  • Language Learning Strategies at Home:  Provide a list of strategies that students can implement outside of the classroom; i.e., practice with native speakers, watch television or movies with subtitles, practice on the Internet, etc.  Reinforce the fact that language learning takes a long time and the more they practice outside of the classroom, the greater their learning experience will be. 
  • Homework & Assessments:  Explain your policies regarding homework and assessments.  Tell students that homework will be reviewed in each class and if they do not come prepared, it puts the class behind.  Be sure that students know they will be tested and when.
  • Review Classroom Policies:  Have a list of policies prepared in advance to give students as a handout or make it part of the course syllabus.

Some other things you should do during the first class:

  • Find out if students are new to the program and which students have never been in a language course before.  These students may have high anxiety levels that you will need to address.
  • Verify that students have been placed at the appropriate language level.  Tell students not to write in their books until you are sure that they have been placed at the correct level.  If a student feels that the course is too difficult or too easy, tell them to speak to you after the class.

Conducting a Language Learning Orientation 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