Connecting can-dos to assessments

By Helen Small
Curriculum Coordinator

Most teachers understand the use of Can-Do statements as daily learning targets or for the purpose of student self-assessment as quick exit slips or in connection to the Portfolio. They are written in student-friendly language; represent short-term, achievable goals; and relate to real-world communicative tasks. In this post I’d like to explore the direct connection between Can-Do statements and the formative assessments in our EntreCultures and EntreCulturas French and Spanish series.

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“Inclusion is not just about checking off boxes”

An inside look at creating authentic diversity
in language programs

By Eliz Tchakarian
Editorial Project Manager

As an Editorial Project Manager at Wayside Publishing, one of my most enjoyable responsibilities is to coordinate our diversity and inclusion efforts. As a part of that role, I did a little research into what other educational publishing companies do and found that efforts at diversity that come across as forced or inauthentic are easily spotted and perhaps ridiculed.

Those findings and a couple of anecdotes from my own personal life will shed a bit of light on how I approach the topic of authentic diversity, and illustrate why these efforts and awareness are essential in building respectful relationships between cultures.

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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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Part 3: The 6 dos and don’ts of a proficiency-based grade book

By Cristin Bleess
Instructional Strategist

In the first two installments of our proficiency-based grading series, we discussed how I came to use a proficiency-based grading system and ideas on how to set up a proficiency-based grade book. Today, I want to share some thoughts on what types of grades we want to include (or not include). Remember, our goal with transforming our grade book is to have our grades truly represent what our students know and can do in the target language.

Here are the 6 dos and don’ts of a proficiency-based grade book:

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Part 2: The nuts & bolts of proficiency-based grading

By Cristin Bleess
Instructional Strategist

Grades should be effective communication vehicles, and the methods used to determine them need to provide optimum opportunities for student success and to encourage learning.—Ken O’Connor, How to Grade for Learning 

Over the course of a few years, my colleagues and I came up with a proficiency-based grading system that we felt truly reflected how our students were able to use the target language. I want to share a few topics you need to consider when making the shift to a more proficiency-based grade book. You may not be at a place to implement all of these ideas right now (if you are, that’s awesome!) and that’s OK; you can start by changing one or two things now as you are transitioning. 

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4 steps for refreshing your teaching & starting strong in 2020

By Elena Spathis

Teaching often seems like running a marathon—we train and prepare, we push ourselves, and we keep going no matter what the circumstances. Reaching the end-of-year “finish line” to winter break gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect, and recharge.

I take this time to evaluate my methods and my students’ engagement. Which activities did my students seem to enjoy? Which activities fostered the most growth in their speaking, writing, reading, or listening comprehension? I also take some time to organize myself, and most importantly, to decompress—we’ve earned it!

The start of the new year brings a sense of rebirth and renewal. It’s an ideal time to seek new inspiration and to set new goals. Read on to learn about my 4 steps to start your new year off strong.

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Part 1: Getting started with proficiency-based grading

By Cristin Bleess
Instructional Strategist

I have always focused on getting my students to use the language in the classes I have taught, even before anyone was talking about the “path to proficiency”. But I never really thought much about my grade book and if it reflected what was important in my classroom: how the students use the language. I now realize that for more than half of my teaching career my grade book was not focused on what I was saying important. It was focused on tests, projects, quizzes, homework, and participation, not communication. 

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Holiday activities for your world language classroom

By Diego Ojeda

Christmas and the end of the year are two important events for most of the Western world, but of course there are differences in how they are celebrated in different countries and cultures. I am originally from Colombia and I came to the United States 20 years ago and I still remember my first Christmas in this country as if it were last year.

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ACTFL 2019 Conference Hacks


Attending a large conference can be overwhelming. So many sessions! So many exhibitors! So many new people to meet! To help you out, we collected some amazing tips from our instructional strategists. Deborah Espitia, Cristin Bleess, Jay Ketner, Jen Carson, Helen Small, and Michelle Olah know how to get the most out of a large event like ACTFL. Below, their best suggestions for ACTFL 2019: 

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