George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teaching Strategies

An Inductive Model for Teaching World Languages

Teachers can create lessons that engage students as active learners to improve their understanding of how languages work.

January 4, 2022
Illustration of people reading books
Keith Negley / The iSpot

Using an inductive approach to teaching a foreign language positions students as active learners. They use prior knowledge and cultural knowledge, as well as deductive and reasoning skills. As a result, they gain a better understanding of how language works.

This method is broken down into six stages or moments: motivation, globality, analysis, synthesis, reflection, and verification. I’ll walk you through each component in detail and offer suggestions for how to put it into action.

6 Stages of Inductive World Language Learning

1. Motivation: Choose a text (visual, written, or auditory) that will be the focus of the lesson for the day. Use an authentic text, such as an excerpt from a book, an article from a magazine, or a poem. You can alter it to make it more suitable for your students.

Begin class with a warm-up activity to break the ice and get students thinking and talking, then start tapping into your students’ general knowledge and understanding. Rather than providing correct or incorrect answers, the goal of this phase of the lesson is to pique students’ interest and encourage participation.

Let’s say you choose an excerpt from any of the books in the Harry Potter series. Start by projecting an image of the character Harry Potter onto the board and asking students what they know about the books or about the genres of science fiction and fantasy. Alternatively, if the focus text is a recipe, use images of different foods, and ask students questions about foods from their cultures. This step will help develop a context for the text that everyone will read later.

2. Globality: Students progress from introductory activities to tackling the text during the globality phase of the lesson, meaning they consider the text as a whole. After reading or listening to it several times, students answer comprehension questions. The goal is to move students from a cursory to a more detailed and in-depth understanding of it.

True/false or multiple-choice questions, matching exercises, and fill-in-the-blanks are some of the first activities that students may be asked to complete. Then more difficult tasks, such as rearranging details, transcribing a text they hear, and writing summaries, may be assigned. For example, after reading a recipe aloud, have students write out the steps in the proper order. Or give them the task of writing down the sequence of events in a literary excerpt. It is critical for students to understand the text in order to apply what they have learned to the next steps.

3. Analysis: During this phase, students must use their contextualized knowledge to delve deeper into the focus text to identify grammar and conjugation patterns. The focus text contains the rules that students will learn in the lesson, but they are not immediately presented to them. Instead, students must deduce them. They’ll begin by speculating about patterns.

Assign tasks like completing cloze passages, paraphrasing a text, taking dictation, scanning a text and writing a summary, or highlighting key features of a text. Then, for example, ask why a particular grammatical tense is used in a given sentence. Assess students’ comprehension during a whole-class discussion.

4. Synthesis: During the synthesis phase, students are assigned tasks that require them to practice the grammar and verb conjugation rules they learned from the focus text. A fill-in-the-blanks activity could be used for students to practice the same tense used in the recipe. Ask students to change the register of a literary excerpt from descriptive to formal or colloquial to demonstrate their understanding of how language is used for a specific purpose or in a specific communicative situation.

5. Reflection: This section of the lesson allows students to both reflect on and deepen their understanding of the material covered in class. Students can be asked to explain the rhetorical function of the sentences in a recipe. They may be given a set of sentences and asked to identify which ones contain information, directions, or advice. Students could be asked to compare and discuss how language is used in both texts by watching the same scene from the film adaptation as a literary excerpt.

Students gain a deeper understanding through reflection rather than rote learning from a typical grammar drill because they must apply contextualized knowledge alongside the language rules they learned.

6. Verification: Check students’ understanding of the day’s lesson during this time by allowing them to share their thoughts on the class, write down key takeaways, and clear up any lesson-related misunderstandings. Give students an opportunity to extend their learning. Students can be assigned tasks like writing a recipe for their favorite dish or continuing the story from where the excerpt left off.

An inductive approach to language learning replaces the traditional in-class recitation with an emphasis on the critical role of culture in language instruction. Rather than relying on the teacher to spoon-feed knowledge, this multifaceted approach encourages students to figure things out on their own, resulting in more engaged classroom learners.

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