Exploring Before Explaining in World Languages


Exploring Before Explaining in World Languages

Pat Brown and I recently had our article “Exploring Before Explaining in World Languages” published in Edutopia – George Lucas Educational Foundation.


Our article introduces the concept of “explore-before-explain” teaching in world language classrooms, aiming to redefine the roles of teachers and students, enhance student agency, and address the complex standards set by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The method focuses on engaging students in a process of meaningful exploration and understanding.

The explore-before-explain approach involves three key ideas:

Utilizing Prior Knowledge and Critical Thinking: This method encourages students to use critical thinking skills such as recognizing patterns and causal relationships to connect prior knowledge with new learning. For instance, students can leverage similarities between words in different languages (cognates), identify patterns, and explore cause-and-effect relationships, including gender-specific meanings in languages like German, Spanish, and French.

Note: Please see the PDF that we created here: https://edut.to/3DSzSQV

Enhancing Understanding: Teachers play a crucial role in enhancing student understanding by facilitating the development of explanations and utilizing elaboration-type activities. This is achieved by connecting new ideas to students’ own experiences and prior knowledge. For example, teachers bridge conceptual gaps by introducing terms like “tío” and “primo” in Spanish, and “mère” and “père” in French, to deepen students’ comprehension.

Promoting Metacognition and Reflection: The approach emphasizes fostering metacognitive skills, enabling students to become self-sufficient problem solvers who can effectively make sense of new learning situations. Students are encouraged to reflect on their learning process, engage in additional translations, and assess their confidence levels. This reflection supports the development of strategies for independent learning.

Our article also highlights how explore-before-explain teaching addresses the challenges of preparing students for a rapidly changing world, where technology, including online translation programs, is prevalent. By deliberately designing instruction using this approach, educators can activate student thinking through familiar concepts, introduce new ideas, and encourage reflective practices, ultimately promoting more profound language learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom.

I invite you to read the article and reflect on the roles of teachers and students in the world language classroom. Your thoughts and comments are appreciated, so please comment below!

Mach’s gut!

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