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 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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Mindfulness exercises in the target language

By Elena Spathis
@ElenaSpathis

Teachers and students are finding their formerly jam-packed, planned schedules on a sudden hiatus. Schools have emptied out, as have nearly all public places. Life as we knew it has abruptly changed.

These unimaginable circumstances have not only ignited a sense of uneasiness in teachers, but also in students. As teachers across the world have scrambled to digitalize their lessons or devise quick plans of action to teach remotely, students have also had to rapidly adjust to these changes. This has not only filled students with stress and worry, but also with disappointment and sadness. The adolescent and teenage years provoke enough stress as it is; the current state of the world adds another layer of anxiety.

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