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For Teachers

Teaching Tips:

  1. See What’s Out There: There’s more Iñupiat resources than you might think, although it may take a little bit of digging to find it. Much of the Iñupiat language resources that are available have been created for students and teachers, so take advantage of that and use them. Check out this document for a list of resources.
  2. Allow Mistakes: Language learning is a scary thing, and it gets more difficult and frightening the older we get. Many students are apprehensive about speaking because they feel uncomfortable making mistakes, whether it is mistakes in pronunciation, getting words mixed up or in constructing their sentences. In a language class, it is important to create an environment where students are allowed to make mistakes. As children, we didn’t go from baby-talk straight to perfectly formed sentences. It was a process, and learning a language later in life is definitely a process that takes time and many mistakes.
  3. Get Student Input: Several years ago, I attended a Where Are Your Keys (a language learning method) training session. At the end of each training session, we conducted a “pluses and deltas” session. This this where the students are invited to share what they thought went well or worked for them (“pluses” or + ), and what they would change about the lessons (“deltas” or Δ). The teacher writes down all suggestions and uses them to adapt their teaching strategies and approaches. What I liked about this is that it gets students to think about their learning, and it reframes the old “pros and cons” approach into something more active. The delta symbol (Δ) signifies change, while “con” simply implies negativity. When students share things that didn’t work for them, see it as an opportunity to adapt your teaching methods to best fit the needs of your particular class.
  4. Communicate and Collaborate: Know other language teachers? Get their input. Even if you don’t teach the same language, other language teachers may have methods, lesson plans, and activities that you might find useful in your own class. You might even be able to collaborate with their classes through Skype, Google Hangout or Zoom.
  5. Share: Got a great lesson plan? Do you have an activity that worked really well in your class? Share it with others.

Lesson Ideas

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Lesson Suggestions

Think of the subjects that are taught from elementary to post-secondary schools. Math, Writing, Science, Art. How many resources do you think are out there? For these subjects, there are innumerable lesson plans, curricula, and activity ideas out there. But this is not necessarily the case for Iñupiat language. Although more and more resources are being developed, there are still many gaps in resources for teachers.

Here are some ideas for creating lessons and activities in your class:

  1. Student-created resources: Have students create an infographic for Iñupiat grammar concepts, such as this one. This will place the responsibility for learning into the students’ hands and allow them to create their own understanding of a subject. An activity like this also allows for some creativity. Make a list of the grammar concepts you are teaching. Some examples are noun cases, types of verbs, verb moods, demonstratives, etc. Have students choose one to create an infographic for. Piktochart and Canva are good places to start for creating infographics.

2. Teaching online? One of the most important ways to practice fluency is by holding conversations in the language. It can be challenging to facilitate this type of practice when your students not only have different schedules, but they also are in different cities. This is where conferencing and discussion platforms such as Google Hangout, Zoom or Slack can be helpful. Here are a couple ways to use these platforms in your class.

  • Students can hold discussions and conversations with each other in Iñupiat. They can even create recordings of their conversations.
  • In order to spark conversation, give your students something to converse about, or have them find something they would like to talk about. It could be an image, a video, a slideshow, etc. Students may use the screenshare function to display whatever you or they choose to talk about.

3. Foster Creativity: Are some of your students interested in music? Have them create or translate a song. Are they creative writers? Let them write stories, poems, or essays. The possibilities are endless and you will end up with some great student-created projects.

4. Get them moving! Dedicate one class period a week, or every two weeks to TPR (total physical response). Let students respond to commands such as “Qaiñ” or “Aullaġiñ.” And give students a chance to give commandments and lead the TPR game. Here are a couple you can try.

  • “Mauŋaġiñ!/ Nutqaġiñ!” (Come here!/Stop!) (aka Redlight/Greenlight)
    • Need: plenty of space (hallway, gym, a field, etc.)
    • Rules: This is a common children’s game but in case you forgot, here are the rules.
    • Skills taught: Basic commands in plural, dual, and singular forms
  • “Natmun? (To Where?)
    • Need: a blindfold (I bought a cheap sleeping mask for this), a somewhat spacious (and clear) area.
    • Rules: Have an end goal, such as a classroom door. One person is blindfolded and spun around three times. The rest of the class directs the blindfolded person to the place they need to go. Each person gets a turn.
    • Skills taught: Demonstrative adverbs, basic commands