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The Importance of Repetition

Every lesson we teach has a goal or communication objective that we are trying to achieve with our students. It is not realistic to think that second language learners are going to achieve a communication objective, integrating it into their comprehension and language usage, immediately after completing any given lesson. This is where repetition comes in. Frequent, everyday repetition as well as annual repetition need to occur for students to really integrate communication objectives.

Frequent, everyday repetition should occur in each lesson that you teach. It is simply a matter of reviewing the vocabulary and concepts taught in previous lessons in each succesive lesson. The review can occur through songs, games, shared reading strategies or more explicit review activities. It is amazing to see how this kind of repetition solidifies comprehension and language usage in your students. Students begin to rely less on imitation and use the repeated language concepts with ease and fluency. Another benefit of this kind of repetition is the ability to apply new vocabulary and concepts to learned language structures. For example: One of the first lessons in the Sonrisas Curriculum is the “Me llamo” lesson. Students do an activitiy where they throw a hacky sack to each other and ask, “¿Cómo te llamas tú?” and then respond with “Me llamo. . .” The first few times that students do this, they are just imitating the vocabulary from the teacher. As they repeat the activity many times in each lesson, they begin to integrate it so that they are comprehending and speaking with fluency. Once they have achieved this, the teacher can then introduce a new question/answer into the routine such as, “¿Cuántos años tienes tú?” and “Tengo __ años.” As you build routine acitivities into your lessons, you can begin to switch back and forth between them, focusing on the language concepts that you feel need attention.

Annual repetition is the repetition of thematic content from year to year. With this kind of repetition, students are going to be able to learn and apply new vocabulary and concepts to previously-learned thematic content. In other words, you can teach a lesson with the same theme from the previous year, but vary the content so that your students learn new vocabulary and concepts. For example: In the Sonrisas Curriculum, students do a lesson on “Familia.” The first year that they do this lesson, they may only achieve the objective of being able to say the different names of family members in Spanish i.e. “mamá, tío, abuelo, etc.” The following year, the teacher can repeat the “Familia” lesson but this time focus on the usage of the verb “ser” by having students learn the question, “¿Quién es?” and having them respond with “Es mi mamá, es mi tío, es mi abuelo, etc.” Annual repetition also works to build students’ confidence with their second language. When they begin to do a lesson with a familiar theme, students feel comfortable and confident, and this helps to put their brains in a more receptive state for learning. Upon starting a familiar/repeated lesson, I have often heard my students exclaim with smiling faces, “Oh, I remember this!”

The value of repetition may seem obvious in second language learning. But if it is not carried out systematically and explicity, the value is diminished. Planning frequent, everyday repetition as well as annual repetition into your lessons will insure that your students achieve the communication objectives.

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