Thank You, 2020!

By Diego Ojeda
www.srojeda.com
@DiegoOjeda66
@Sr_Ojeda

The end of the year is a special time.  Starting with November’s Thanksgiving celebrations, we begin to publicly acknowledge our gratitude for those who have inspired and challenged us. However, this year has been different, and much more stressful, than past years. Typically, there would be social media threads dedicated to enhancing collaboration and mutual support, but this holiday season, social media has been full of messages about how 2020 is a year to forget, not to be thankful for. 

Christmas is approaching, and I am already beginning to hear voices clamoring not to celebrate it or even mention it. I understand that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but I also know that the end of the year is a special time when we love to feel closer to the important people in our lives. There is nothing religious about that, and celebrating does not hurt anyone.

We teachers always want to motivate and empower our students, especially when they may be feeling defeated in their academic, social or family lives. We are aware that we are responsible for academic content, but we also know deep down that nothing teaches more than the constant support we give our students through a positive and hopeful attitude. However, I keep finding the same kinds of messages: “2020 is to forget. 2020 has been the worst year in the history of the world. There is nothing to celebrate in 2020. I hope 2020 will end soon.”

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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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Tags & Searches: How You Can Get the Most Out of this Blog

by Beth Velletri

At Wayside, we strive to empower our teachers by providing them tools to succeed with their students in the world language classroom. To honor this mission, we’ve teamed up with real life world language teachers -just like you- to offer advice, tips, reflections and fresh perspectives through our blog, Proficiency Talks.

Here is the situation: you may have read a post and thought it was worth re-reading at another time (but what was the title, again?). Or perhaps you are new to our community and do not know the topics or authors, but want to read a post that more closely speaks to you. How do you go about finding these?

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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 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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