How learning the guitar has made me a better French teacher

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn John Cotton Dana

It has nearly been a year since I started learning the guitar and it has been a wonderful experience on so many different levels. And yes, I have made some pretty basic mistakes along the way. The main one being trying to learn on a cheap acoustic guitar. I now know that a poor quality instrument will lead to frustration and very sore fingers. Thankfully, my progress has improved greatly because I bought a better guitar.

So, how has playing this instrument made me a better MFL teacher? Firstly, the guitar is the first thing I pick up after school and it helps me to de-stress. Being able to do something non-teaching related helps me to recharge the batteries for the next day. When I practise, I analyse fingers movements etc and what seems so simple will take hours of dedicated practice. This makes me think about how I teach languages to students. Nowadays, I always spend a little bit of time in lessons going over words like “je” “j’ai” “le” “une” “a” “est” etc I have noticed that students do find the constant revision of these words useful.

I am very fortunate to have found an excellent guitar teacher and during our hour-long lesson, I’ve noticed how much new learning I can cope with before I want to stop. Generally, I can cope with 15 minutes practise of a difficult skill before I need to stop. The feeling I get is “I’ve had enough now, let’s do something I am quite good at” Then with my teacher, we practise something which needs refining but is less challenging. Basically, I like getting things reasonably correct. Also, I enjoy the sound that I am producing. I love it when I have mastered a chord change which has taken many hours of practise and I enjoy getting it right.  The skill which is a challenge will be practise later by myself over the coming weeks.

This is now how I structure my lessons, the first part of the lesson  is a warm up which allows students to reconnect with previous learning. Next, there will be a section of the lesson which is challenging, here students will be forced to think quite hard and will be making mistakes. The latter part of the lesson is consolidating on previous learning from lessons which may have taken place six months previously.Here, I try to help students to refine their skills. Like me, students enjoy getting things right and producing sentences/language quite naturally. The following lesson we go back to the challenging element of the previous lesson and gradually improve. I like to set homework which focuses on areas which students find difficult.

In short, I now dedicate more time in my lessons to deliberate practise than before and it seems to be paying dividends in terms of pupils’ enjoyment and progress.

Now, I am keen to teach myself some music theory and I know that will be an invaluable learning aid in this endeavour.

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