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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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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Interculturality: reflection is key

By Deborah Espitia
@despitia
Instructional Strategist

As language educators, we take pride in integrating culture and language.  We understand the importance of being understood in terms of the words we use in light of the products, practices, and perspectives of the target culture. Too often, culture is seen as an aside in the classroom and not integrated into every aspect of what we teach, but our profession is changing that. 

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We all speak a dialect

By Jennifer Carson
@jncar4
Curriculum Coordinator

In English, I sound like I am from New York. That should be no surprise as I was born and raised in New York, even though I have lived most of my life in the south of the U.S. But when I speak my L2 and L3, strangely, I do not have a New York accent or even an American accent. In French, one can hear that I studied in Paris and Avignon, two places with distinct, even competing accents, whereas in Spanish, I sound Puerto Rican. No Castilian th-th when yo hablo! I explain this to my students, so they will understand that they too have an accent. (And often they do not believe me!) The key is that we can understand one another if our accents do not affect comprehensibility. And in a communicative classroom, accuracy is a destination, but comprehensibility is king.

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5 technology tools to try in the 2020-2021 school year

By Maureen Lamb
@latintechtools

Many teachers are beginning the year with some or all of their students participating in class virtually. What are some technology tools that can help teachers create virtual tasks for students that will provide them with the best experience possible this year?

Caveat: Try out these tools to see if they work for you and your students and if they work for what you would like to accomplish. If a tool is not working for you or your students, it will not help them to acquire knowledge. If the tool does not help students to achieve their goals, then they will not have a meaningful experience. Also, if you are not comfortable trying a tool out on your class but you would like to try it, work on it on your own or with a friend over video conferencing. Youtube is a great resource for videos on how to use many of these tools, and many of the websites for these tools have great instructional materials.

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Talking to students about their path to proficiency

By Jennifer E. Newman-Cornell

As language teachers, we talk about having a proficiency-based curriculum to guide our classroom instruction, but how do we talk to our students about proficiency and do we even need to? 

The answer is that we do it with lots of examples and YES, we absolutely must!

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