Brain-Based Foreign Language Learning


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Presented by Dr. Frank Tang and Robin Harvey of New York University's Project for Developing Chinese Language Teachers at the annual conference of NYCAFLT/NYSAFLT, October 31, 2009.

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Brain-Based Foreign Language Learning

  1. 1. Brain-Based Foreign Language Learning Frank Lixing Tang, Ph.D. Robin Harvey New York University Project for Developing Chinese Language Teachers October 31, 2009
  2. 3. What’s new? <ul><li>The meaningful brain </li></ul><ul><li>The curious brain </li></ul><ul><li>The emotional brain </li></ul><ul><li>The social brain </li></ul><ul><li>The conscious & subconscious brain </li></ul><ul><li>(Caine & Caine, 2001) </li></ul>
  3. 4. The curious brain <ul><li>The brain is attracted to novelty. </li></ul><ul><li>It tends to become more active when exposed to new ideas and challenges. </li></ul>
  4. 5. The meaningful brain <ul><li>Meaning is more important to the brain than is information. </li></ul><ul><li>The brain searches for meaning through patterning. Patterning allows for the storage and connection of information into meaningful categories. </li></ul>
  5. 6. The emotional brain <ul><li>Emotions and intelligence originate in separate places in the brain, however, their paths cross each other—they are inseparable. </li></ul><ul><li>It can be enhanced by stimulus and challenge. </li></ul>
  6. 7. The social brain <ul><li>Our brain is social. Interaction and social status impact stress level. </li></ul><ul><li>Language learning becomes more effective in a learner friendly setting where scaffolding, cooperative learning, and social interaction take place. </li></ul>
  7. 8. The conscious and subconscious brain <ul><li>Learning involves both conscious and subconscious processes. </li></ul><ul><li>Learning not only takes place in the classroom but occurs in everyday life. Successful language learners extend their learning beyond the textbook and the classroom. </li></ul>
  8. 9. Mel Levine : Founder of All Kinds of Minds Institute <ul><li>… transform a verbal into a visual </li></ul><ul><li>task, and a visual task into a </li></ul><ul><li>kinesthetic one. Challenging </li></ul><ul><li>the brain, not numbing it with </li></ul><ul><li>overload, keeps the mind happily </li></ul><ul><li>humming and is essential to </li></ul><ul><li>t eaching . </li></ul><ul><li>A Mind at a Time (2002) </li></ul>
  9. 11. The New Bloom’s Taxonomy
  10. 12. Engage the Emotional Brain “ Why do I have to learn Chinese?” “ I have no choice, it’s the ONLY language offered here!” Vs. “ I LOVE CHINESE! We wrote skits and they were soooo funny! “ My Chinese teacher taught us the coolest song in class!”
  11. 13. Engage the Emotional Brain But that’s not REAL learning! Real learning entails suffering! But I didn’t learn that way! But the kids are so NOISY when I teach this!
  12. 14. Engaging the Meaningful Brain <ul><li>What is the purpose of learning a language? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To know all the rules and never make a mistake </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To pronounce every tone perfectly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To communicate and share your meaning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Language teaching is the perfect place to practice engaging, brain-based learning </li></ul></ul>
  13. 15. Sing the song (conjugating “To Be”): Sum es est sumus estis sunt eram eras erat eramus eratis erant ero eris erit erimus eritis erunt And Pray to the God of the North for Snow : Latin was the most popular class in my high school
  14. 16. Engaging Students: The Social Brain Cooperative Work Interviewing classmates, Creative Writing (skits, plays, songs)
  15. 17. Keep everyone involved! <ul><li>Performance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students who watch must understand </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students can ask questions about the performance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students can answer questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engages the emotional, curious, meaning-seeking brain </li></ul></ul>
  16. 18. The Meaningful Brain Seeks Patterns <ul><li>Take advantage of this in teaching characters </li></ul><ul><li>呢 </li></ul>妹 姐 妈 林 树 吧 听 呢 吗 梅 森 果
  17. 19. The Curious Brain Role-Play Activity: Who Am I? <ul><li>Teacher gives student(s) “secret identities” </li></ul><ul><li>Student must speak to classmates as if s/he is the “secret” person </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Describe a typical day of the secret person </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Describe what the secret person likes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May NOT describe yourself or what you do </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Classmates must guess the “secret identity” </li></ul><ul><li>Language becomes the tool to discover the identity </li></ul>
  18. 20. The Curious Brain: Alibi
  19. 21. <ul><li>Music and Movement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Listening to music creates state of relaxed alertness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Music creates emotion in students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students enjoy having music in the classroom </li></ul></ul><ul><li>While Students are relaxed and enjoying music, YOU are evaluating their listening skills </li></ul>Conscious and Subconscious Brain
  20. 22. Chemistry through Dance <ul><li>A failing student astounded everyone with his remarkable dance intelligence. He was able to repeat a complex twelve-count phrase after seeing it only once. &quot;I really put in an effort to understand the chemistry so I could make a good dance,&quot; he explained. Some students worked with first graders, teaching them about chemical reactions and then choreographing and performing with them. A young man said, &quot;I felt empowered because the first graders wanted to hear what I had to say about science.&quot; </li></ul>
  21. 23. Sing a Song: Make your own video <ul><li>Project Procedures: </li></ul><ul><li>Learned the original song, vocabulary and “patterns” </li></ul><ul><li>Designed our own dream houses </li></ul><ul><li>Drew pictures of our own dream houses </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote the lyrics </li></ul><ul><li>Scanned pictures and recorded voices to create powerpoint </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(could use voicethread or other programs as well) </li></ul></ul>
  22. 24. Sing a Song: Culture, Lyrics, Speed! 在 梅 边
  23. 25. Project for Developing Chinese Language Teachers (DCLT) Project DCLT New York University Frank Lixing Tang, Ph.D., Director Robin Harvey, Coordinator [email_address] (212)992-9367