What do you give the student who wants to say everything?

By Erin Gibbons
@eeg_il

Teaching intermediate language learners is hard. For a long time, intermediate level was where all of my precious proficiency beliefs went off the rails. Instructionally, my novice classes were straightforward: play games, sing songs, tell stories. Once my high school students reached levels III, IV, V—that was where I was most tempted to bust out ye olde grammar hammer and provide lists of humdrum nouns that served little to no communicative purpose. After a great deal of reading, workshops, and trial-and-error, I realized that the answer was obvious, but, as Glinda told Dorothy, I had to find it out for myself.

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3 basic principles about authentic language

By Elizabeth Zwanziger

I went to the airport to pick up a student from France who will attend my institution as an international student this year. It thrilled me to have been chosen to do this task because this year marks 30 years (!) since I ventured off to France for my semester abroad in Nantes. I remember what that was like—knowing no one at all, navigating an unknown public transport system, eating foods I had never seen or tasted before, and, oh, THE LANGUAGE!!!

Oui, I had studied French for 6 ½ years by then. Like a typical student in the midwestern United States, I started in ninth grade and took four years of French in secondary school. When I went to college I continued on in French and decided to become a French major as a sophomore. I was a mean conjugating and memorizing machine! When I packed my giant suitcase for Nantes that snowy January day, I had no idea what I was about to hear 20 hours later when I disembarked in France.

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The power of authentic resources

By Ed Weiss

During my teaching career, I always had a true affinity for the use of authentic materials.  All the research indicates that student proficiency increases with exposure to a variety of authentic materials.  Perhaps even more compelling than the research, is the memory of my secondary education.  My teachers were well trained and had clearly mastered the language, but those were the days of grammar-centric world language classes.  Verb conjugations and vocabulary lists were featured aspects of instruction.  My only memories of authentic materials were posters from Air France and SNCF and the weekly arrival of Paris Match magazine.  The tasks that we were assigned were essentially decontextualized sentences accompanied by verb form drills.  The curriculum was primarily based on mastery of forms with minimal real life applications of language skills.  From a student perspective, we didn’t know any better.  We couldn’t envision an intercultural, multimedia course with internet access to enrich and connect with students.  Our teachers were limited by their lack of resources and the pedagogical philosophy of that era. 

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The case for interculturality

By Ed Weiss

As world language teachers, we all use various aspects of culture to enrich our curriculum and engage our students.  My love of French began in another era in classrooms where grammar ruled the day.  My true appreciation of languages truly blossomed when I spent time in France and was immersed in the language and culture.  I absorbed language as I grew as a person by learning about and appreciating the differences between my native culture and the new, exciting culture of France.  Looking back on a lifetime of teaching, a philosophy that I have come to embrace is that language teaching without culture is inaccurate and incomplete.  The idea of interculturality allows students to discover language via authentic cultural interactions just as you would in the target language country.

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Choose your own adventure: Self-paced practice for AP® students

By Erin Gibbons
@eeg_il

The Challenge: How do I structure practice for intermediate high AP® students in a way that meets their individual needs and interests without boring them and still appease the “Gradebook Beast” (who must be fed a steady diet of numbers at least every two weeks)?

The Answer: I don’t structure it. Or rather, I provide a loose framework and a bank of resources so that students can self-select practice that they find relevant and motivating at the time.

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