Transitioning to Proficiency Part I: Advice From a Recent Convert

By Conner McNeely
@indyprofe1

 Would you rather conjugate verbs in another language or have a conversation with someone who speaks another language? Unless you are a true grammar geek, you prefer communicating. That is why teaching through comprehensible input and using a proficiency-based practice is what we language educators should all be doing with our students. The question should not be whether to transition to a proficiency-based curriculum, but instead when and how to begin the transition.

My department has recently adopted the proficiency-based EntreCulturas and EntreCultures series for Spanish and French. It has been a challenging process, but during the transition, I have learned a few things I would like to share with you:

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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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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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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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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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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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Songs & activities for Spanish learners

We just created a new library of activities related to Spanish songs for your mid- to intermediate-high Spanish learners. They are designed to be posted via a discussion forum like the Wayside Learning Site Classroom Forum or Google Classroom.  Activities for each song can be posted all at once for students to complete at their own pace, or posted daily for completion as a class exercise.

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Using Triángulo APreciado to prepare for the modified AP® exam

Last week, The College Board revealed its modified 2020 exam structure, in which learners will have 45 minutes to complete two free response questions (FRQs). The full webinar of Thursday’s announcement is available on the College Board website, as are numerous resources supplied directly by College Board, including online AP® class sessions on YouTube. Regardless of personal feelings on if this format provides equitable opportunities for all learners to succeed, we wanted to provide resources that learners using Triángulo APreciado 6.a edición could use to prepare. 

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Day of the dead; day of the living

By Diego Ojeda
www.srojeda.com
@diegoojeda66

Celebrations such as the Day of the Dead allow us, Spanish teachers, to reflect on the purpose of our classes. Do we teach Spanish so that our students learn to decode the language? Or is it also our responsibility to teach about culture? A language is not only its syntax, but also its semantics, and it is semantics combined with cultural expressions that allows us to find the ultimate meaning of each interaction.

The Day of the Dead is one of those celebrations that can cause problems for more than one Spanish teacher. In Western European culture, death is a dreary, sad and sometimes even forbidden topic.

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Beyond the piñatas: An authentic celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

By Diego Ojeda
www.srojeda.com
@diegoojeda66

It was my first year of teaching Spanish in the United States when just a few weeks after I started the school year one of my colleagues approached me and asked me about my plans to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. I confess that I was a bit perplexed because I had never heard about this celebration. For a moment I thought she was referring to Día de la Raza, a celebration of Latin American countries where we honor our roots and our identity.  But I soon realized that we were in September and that Día de la Raza is celebrated on October 12, the same date of the federal holiday that celebrates the life of the man who left so much poverty and sadness after the “discovery” of America.

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