Holistic foreign language teaching

By Erhard Dahl, May 2019

As long as foreign language teaching continues to be structured to address the “learning brains” of the pupils and there is no understanding that language is connected just as much with emotions and the body, it is a pleasure when books are published which adopt a holistic approach. Ulrike Sievers, an experienced Waldorf foreign language teacher, has presented such a book.

In the first part, she describes the basic principles of foreign language learning and deals with the evolution of language, the acquisition of language both naturally and in school, the seven learning processes and the preparation of teaching and learning. It quickly becomes evident why teaching is an artistic activity. Alongside the corresponding speaking, reading and writing skills, the second half provides numerous practical suggestions. But the wealth of this part consists not just of the diversity of those suggestions. It is the associated reflections on education which provide depth and set out convincingly that such foreign language lessons go far beyond the communication of practical language skills.

Learning foreign languages in school is, in contrast to their natural acquisition, dependent on supporting measures. This is the subject matter of part three, which deals with meaningful monitoring of pupil learning, the importance of mistakes, the role of grammar in the learning process, differentiated teaching, and instructing pupils in autonomous learning. The informative introduction of the author to portfolio work should be particularly highlighted here. 

Copies of tried and tested feedback sheets, vocabulary exercises, learning journals and work stages which can be given to pupils for independent work projects are also an asset for the reader. Ulrike Sievers addresses the latter in a friendly, understanding and encouraging style which is never patronising. She furthermore manages in an impressive way to choose from the many facets of foreign language teaching in such a way that the essentials are all there. The accomplished conceptual structure of the book and the many references between the content of the chapters deepens the understanding of this kind of foreign language teaching. Ulrike Sievers has presented a very helpful book which is highly to be recommended.

Ulrike Sievers: Creative Teaching – Sustainable Learning. A holistic approach to foreign language teaching and learning. Pb., 336 pages, EUR 21.99 (print), EUR 15.99 (e-book), Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2017

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