The Power of Feedback in the Proficiency-Driven Classroom

by Holly Morse
@Srta.Morse

When I was in my undergrad program, I had two professors who stood out to me. The first, let us call him Professor Deadly Pen shredded our papers with his red pen. Reading his comments was exhausting and at times a bit demoralizing. The second, who I will call Professor Nonspecific, gave little feedback, and what she did provide was vague. Which teacher did I resent? Well, both! One made me work hard for my “A.” The other seemed indifferent and was not particularly helpful. But I bet you can figure out which one I admire today. Yep, Professor Deadly Pen. He set expectations and worked with us to meet them by outlining proficiency requirements for the class, then provided consistent feedback. 

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The Battle Over Cameras During Distance Learning

By Alexis Buschert
@SrtaBuschert

My large public-school district outside of Portland, Oregon started the school year with 100% comprehensive distance learning, and for now it will continue through at least February. From the beginning, I knew there would be a constant battle with students about using their cameras, so I decided I would not require them during class. I was aware, though, that many teachers would disagree with me. Indeed, there are many teachers who voice concerns over the absence of student faces on their screens, and I understand why teachers feel this way. But the battle over cameras is not worth fighting.

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4 Hybrid Teaching Strategies to Engage Your Students in School or at Home

By Elena Spathis
@elenaspathis


My district, like so many others, opted for a hybrid model this fall, combining in-person classes in the mornings with online classes in the afternoons. As you can imagine, I realized quickly that I had to rethink my methods, get creative, and be innovative. 

My Spanish classes have always been communicative and collaborative. I want my students to immerse themselves in the language by using it with each other because what’s the sense in me talking at them and them zoning out? So, I have always focused on interactive paired or group tasks that make my classes flow. But due to the current restrictions limiting student group size and mandating social distancing, accomplishing this became more challenging. I knew I had to think differently about how I could truly engage my students in person and online. Fortunately, I found four ways to meet the needs of classroom-based and online student groups. 

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Accessing Authentic Resources – Beyond Questioning Part 3: After Reading/Listening/Viewing

By Deborah Espitia
@despitia
Instructional Strategist

World language teachers are the most creative educators. We have a million and one ways to engage learners in speaking and writing in the target language. Engaging students is our passion – well, that and intercultural connections, of course! Unfortunately, though, it is too easy to develop the habit just of asking our students to answer comprehension questions to evaluate their understanding. Instead, why not have them demonstrate that comprehension through the very acts of speaking and writing? 

In earlier blog posts, we examined pre-reading, listening, and viewing strategies, and during reading, listening, and viewing strategies. Today, we will take a closer look at what we can have learners do after they have engaged with an authentic resource to show they understand it. 

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Accessing Authentic Resources – Beyond Questioning Part 2: While You Are Reading

By Deborah Espitia
@despitia
Instructional Strategist

Since the time Joaquín was sitting in my Spanish 3 class, student engagement has been a key guidepost for me in lesson design. Joaquín was a bright student with a great sense of humor and a strong creative streak, so, I could have anticipated what he would do, but I did not. That day, the class was ideal; students were quietly completing writing exercises in their workbooks. You could hear a pin drop. A dream class, right? Suddenly, Joaquín put his pencil down, stood up, and walked to the window. He opened the window, stuck his head out, and screamed. Then, he closed the window, walked back to his seat, and sat down. And stared me down. The class and I stared back with our mouths opened. The bell rang and I came to, closed my mouth, and vowed to change the way I teach. Obviously, workbook exercises were not cutting it with student engagement, or with helping students acquire the language.  

We now know that communicative ability cannot be drilled, and as evidenced by Joaquín, drills are stifling. Bill VanPatten, a current researcher in second language acquisition, writes that, “[Communicative ability] cannot be practiced in the traditional sense of practice. Communicative ability develops because we find ourselves in communicative contexts.” As a result, world language teachers are moving to proficiency-driven classrooms in which students are immersed in the target language, engaging in real-world tasks, using language to explore content in intercultural contexts, and showing what they know and can do via performance assessments.  

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Accessing Authentic Resources – Beyond Questioning Part 1: Gearing Up

By Deborah Espitia
@despitia
Instructional Strategist

World language teachers have been incorporating authentic resources – materials made by native speakers for native speakers – into their lessons since forever. How many of you have collected “realia” during your travels? Menus, ticket stubs, magazines, newspapers, posters, and coasters have all found their way into my suitcase and then into my classroom. And with the Internet, the sky’s the limit. All types of print and audiovisual materials are at our fingertips and shared with our students. 

Fortunately, our students love these materials as much as we do. Authentic resources are highly motivating because they provide students with a window into the everyday use of the target language – real people actually communicate with this language! Authentic resources not only bring authenticity into the classroom, but they also prompt students to use the language themselves and support them in making intercultural connections. 

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7 Ways to Find Support in Online Teacher Communities

By Alma Rivera

@proferiveraac 

Now that we’ve had about a month of this new school year, how do you feel? Overwhelmed? Exhausted? Challenged? Perhaps even discouraged? You have heard it already: This is a totally different school year. What do we do when these feelings grab at us?

One answer is to find support in online teacher communities. We need to lean on each other more than ever before. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few websites that have helped me get through the rough times:

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4 ideas for Back to School Night-pandemic style

By Elena Spathis

@elenaspathis

It has been such a whirlwind of a year, especially as educators; we have been forced to revamp and rethink our methods in this unprecedented time. After scrambling to teach virtually last spring, many of us returned to our classrooms in a hybrid format this fall, while others are still teaching completely online. Our profession as we know it changed in what seemed like the span of a single day.

We are all familiar with back-to-school nights at the start of the year. Typically, they are opportunities to share basic information about our classes and meet our students’ families. This year, just like everything else, it’s going to look a bit different. Here are four ideas to help make your virtual event as engaging as possible.

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Going beyond: The added value of Project-Based Language Learning

By Ryan Casey

@rcaseylhs

My favorite day of a thematic unit on volunteerism with my ninth graders is the day of their oral presentations. I love watching them pitch their ideas for volunteer projects (organizing a day to celebrate our custodians; cleaning up the trash on our campus) to their classmates, who are typically so impressed with each other they have a hard time voting for their favorite idea. 
 
While watching their presentations a few years ago, however, I felt something was missing. What if students actually executed these projects instead of merely envisioning them? 
 

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When realities collide

By Frank Masel

Time and time again we look at the world through different lenses. As teachers, we get a first hand vision of what the values are, considering our daily interaction with our students. As adults of a certain age, we remember a world when we didn’t have technology attached to us at every waking moment.  With the introduction of technology into our lives, we have, for the most part, been able to separate our virtual presence from our physical.  Online is online and real life is real life, if you will.  

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