Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Practice Logs

This is NOT a practice log; it's just a normal log.
But I suppose you could practice on it if you needed to.
A few years ago I got really interested in Swedish language and culture. I met some Swedish people, visited Sweden a few times, and even took some Swedish classes at the university. In one of those classes my Swedish teacher introduced me to the Practice Log, and I noticed that it it really helped me improve my language skills. So, I took her idea and I still try to use it in my classes today, whether I'm a teacher or a student.

But what is a log? Well, the picture above shows one type of log (the kind made from tree trunks), but that's not the kind of log we're talking about today. A "log" can also be a type of journal or diary. In my Swedish class, we used a Practice Log to record the time we practiced Swedish activities, whether it was listening to music, reading news articles on the internet, or watching Swedish movies. In my classes today, I have my students do the same thing but instead of Swedish, I ask them to record the time they spend practicing any type of English activity. 

Notice I said any type of English activity: that's important, at least for me. I tell my students that they can do anything they want to practice --play video games, chat online, watch TV, whatever!-- as long as it's in English. I make sure to emphasize that the only requirement is that the activity be interesting for them. (Check out this earlier post with a list of 26 suggestions of interesting ways to practice a foreign language.)

In my classes, I usually have my students provide me with a few basic pieces of information, including the amount of time they spent practicing a language, what activity they did, and any new vocabulary they might have picked up. I've gotten good feedback because it's a non-stressful way to encourage  students to practice. 
Here is an example of a practice log:


The amount of practice time can obviously vary. Some people say that for every hour in a classroom, you need one (or even two) hours of out-of-class practice to advance in a foreign language. I generally have my students practice and report at least three hours per week, but of course the more you practice, the quicker you'll learn the language.

So, that's my tip for today. If you have done practice logs --either as a student or a teacher-- I'd love to hear your comments. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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-Ryan