6 Ways to Celebrate National Foreign Language Week

by Elena Spathis
@elenaspathis

Every year, National Foreign Language Week serves to highlight and honor all languages. In our increasingly globalized, interconnected society, it has never been more crucial to promote the value of language learning. Although this year presents several unique challenges with hybrid and virtual settings, there are still ways to encourage your students to celebrate languages and cultures. Read below to see how you can incorporate this special week into your classroom, from March 7-13, 2021.

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Engaging All Students with Google Slides

by Maureen Lamb
@latintechtools

At a Google for Education conference in 2017, another educator referred to Google Slides as the swiss army knife of the Google Suite. At the time, I really thought it was just a digital answer to PowerPoint. I had not used it extensively except to upload my existing PowerPoint slides onto my Google Drive. 

Well, I was in for a shock when I began exploring all the amazing features! I Immediately started converting almost all my Google Docs to slides because of the wonderful functionality of the program. Some of my favorite key features of Google Slides are the ability to assign slides to different students or student groups, to ask and answer questions interactively, and for students to add notes on their slides.

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STEM and World Languages: A Perfect Match!

by Angelika Becker
@diebestefrau

Effective communication is an important factor in any field, whether you are a teacher, a nurse, an administrative assistant, a chemist or a computer programmer.  Today’s students, regardless of which path they will choose, need to be able to express their ideas clearly, communicate effectively, be persuasive, and accept criticism gracefully, in order to encourage innovation and social change. What better place to learn this than a world language classroom! Not only do they learn important communication strategies, but they also learn to communicate in a different language and make connections across cultures, a skill that will only gain importance in our global economy.

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Io Saturnalia!

By Alex Terwelp

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to express your joy than a sacrifice to the god Saturn? The Romans had some odd festivals and traditions, and Saturnalia was one of them. It was a special event that provided liberation to slaves, gambling across the city, and crowned the “King of Saturnalia.” The celebration began on December 17th and eventually was extended to incorporate days up to the 23rd. Beginning with a sacrifice to Saturn, everyone would partake in a public feast.  Back at home, masters would serve their slaves food, and the guests would elect a “King of Saturnalia” to provide direction for the night. Groups would also exchange small and typically gag gifts, “White Elephant” style. As Catullus so accurately stated, it was “the best of days.”

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The Imagination Within Latin

by Alex Terwelp

When I was little, imagination drove my sand empire and my castle in the woods. It brought me playmates made of dancing leaves and shadows in the sunlight. As I grew older, it sparked my curiosity about adulthood, and it led me to a career that fuels others’ imaginations. 

Some believe imagination wanes as we mature, but it only takes looking at ancient Roman culture to know it exists in people of all ages. It led to the naming of the constellations, the building of arches and roadways, and the creation of the Julian calendar. Indeed, imagination drove the Roman Empire. 

Students benefit immensely from using their imagination to make connections with abstractions. You will not find a student in your career who has met an ancient Roman or has visited ancient Rome. Because they cannot immerse themselves in the culture, students must imagine everything. 

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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 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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