This past Thursday we had a steamroller of a #langchat crammed full of resources and suggestions from our enthusiastic participants! Thanks to everyone for showing up, and especially to @CalicoTeach, @dr_dmd and @SECottrell for moderating. If you couldn’t find the time to make it out, it’s not too late to join the discussion. Please feel free to comment or share your own tips in the comment box below; we’d love to hear from you!

We hold #langchat on Twitter every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. EST, with varied subjects chosen by you and your colleagues. This Thursday’s conversation was on the best methods and ideas for using authentic materials with novice learners. As always, participants blew us away with their useful contributions and thoughtful debate! Below are some of their great ideas and contributions.

Why Authentic Resources?
Authentic materials are materials geared towards target-language speakers, in contrast with materials geared towards target-language learners. These materials don’t necessarily need to be originally written in the target language, as most times any translation is aimed specifically at the target-language audience.

Why do we use them? Authentic materials expose students to native culture, accents, pronunciation and patterns of speech. Expose your students to authentic resources from the beginning, or else they risk only being comfortable listening to second-language speakers’ manner of speech.

How to Choose the Right Authentic Resources for Your Students
There are many important notes to consider when choosing the right authentic materials. Principal among them, @dr_dmd says, is to make sure it’s level appropriate. For novice learners, choose resources that are not too difficult, but with some new concepts included. Keep in mind Stephen Krashen’s Input +1 hypothesis, which involves including comprehensible material that students have learned in the past with small amounts of new material to create learning opportunities that strengthen past knowledge.
@SECottrell believes that the choice of the text is important, but that it’s first essential to choose the question or target concept. Questions are tailored to the level. For novice learners, some examples are “What’s his name?” and “What’s he like?”You’ll find many suggestions for authentic resources throughout this post.

Ideas to Implement Authentic Resources in Your Class
Once you’ve decided on the appropriate materials to share with your class, it’s important to know how to implement it effectively. Implementation varies with the nature of the resource — is it text, a video, a song or even just pictures?

Texts
Authentic texts are useful literacy- and fluency-building resources, but with novice learners you can’t just choose a resource and distribute it to students. @rrrrrrrrrrrrosa stresses that it’s important to activate background knowledge and engage in pre-reading activities to make meaning.

Reading and literacy strategies with authentic texts are essential. Once you’ve chosen a text, @klafrench suggests you highlight, underline or circle words to assist students with their comprehension and reading. Bring attention to both familiar and unfamiliar words, and feel free to attach sticky or margin notes with notations and tips, etc.
  • Graphic organizers are also great tools to help kids decode the text.
  • As are double-entry journals or charts. @klafrench uses these by having students write down a quote or other text on one side, then responding on the other.
  • Guided reading with questions as students read is an effective strategy. @klafrench creates questions using familiar vocabulary. In this way, you can bring student attention to the key elements you’re targeting.
  • @joellerudick is a proponent of re-reading texts. The first time, concentrate on comprehension. Later, focus on building fluency and language structures. Read more here.
  • For students with reading difficulties, like many younger novice learners, @mmebrady advises letting kids read the text while listening to it at the same time. Great for pronunciation.

For authentic writing practice, @mmebrady suggests using customer service surveys. Grab a handful from your next trip overseas or off the Web, and let your kids describe their fictional meal experience. Several teachers mentioned other forms, as well, such as doctor’s forms.

Videos
Videos can be a great method to introduce new language, concepts or a topic, according to @klafrench. First ask your students to look for specific things or words in the video, such as past material, then focus on the new language. At times, you can ask students to draw the actions in the video or otherwise demonstrate comprehension.

  • @msfrenchteach lets students listen to a video without watching the first time, so they concentrate on the audio component. Later they can listen and watch together.

@klafrench’s students love watching videos of products sold in both the US and abroad. Pick a product, find some authentic commercials for each on YouTube and ask students to compare the differences between the two. #Langchat recommends Nutella.

@cadamsf1 likes using the commercials from the Latin Grammy Awards, as kids can also make a great connection with the music. The different accents from different countries are both educating and a good listening challenge for students of any level. Try comparing with the commercials from major American cultural TV events such as the Super Bowl or our own Grammy Awards.

@SECottrell finds that the Latin Grammy Awards are great opportunities for practicing and learning about expressing gratitude, too. Eventually, someone ends up mentioning their family members for the added family practice.

Full films are great, but @dr_dmd admits it’s challenging to stay in the target language for all activities, especially for novice learners. Showing a short scene from a film and then discussing or describing it in the target language is a good project. He admits that full films have their place, however — perhaps as a reward for a long and intensive unit?

Cloze activities are fantastic with commercials, which can also be audio-based. Songs are great as well (discussed below), but commercials might match authentic speech a little more closely. Check out @SECottrell’s resources on commercial cloze activities. She suggests the difficulty is adjustable depending on the words that you drop from the files.

Images
The 3-2-1 strategy, shared by @joellerudick with credit to @RichardSmithAIM, requires students look at a picture, writing three things they see, two things they think and one question. It can also be used with videos easily, and with a little modification could work with texts and other authentic resources. Great way to show comprehension and create a speaking exercise.

In French, @dr_dmd loves to teach art history and appreciation, so paintings are often used in his class. They’re great prompts for skits, poems and short group presentations or stories. @klafrench had exciting results by showing students a French painting and asked them to create stories around it.

Another idea that combines authentic text: try finding the family tree of the royal family in Spain for Spanish family-themed units. Descriptive vocabulary works very well with the pictures, too (@profeguerita).

Songs and other audio
Songs are great audio resources, as well as text. If you’re musically inclined, they can also be excellent speaking activities that really get students engaged, especially for young learners. For an example of a Spanish song for beginners, check out this post by @SECottrell.

Songs are perfect for cloze activities. @karacjacobs likes to use cloze songs with cognates as the missing words; great authentic resource and activity for novice learners.

Tools to Share in Class
Once you’ve selected authentic materials that you’re certain your students will love and be motivated to explore (Nutella’s YouTube channel or recipe page, anyone?), how do you share it with them in class?

  • @mmebrady uses the class Wikispaces home page, and @mllegcohen likes to ask students to share authentic resources on the class wiki as well.
  • @SECottrell and @karacjacobs will take advantage of class iPads and iPod Touches when possible, but mostly uses projectors.
  • @SraSpanglish usually uses Edmodo links, but if there are enough resources she’ll make a glog using Glogster.
  • @lesliedavison uses Jog the Web to create Web books for students and to channel them towards specific sites.
  • @profesorM uses a Smart Board in class; Edmodo and computer labs for reading projects online.

Useful Teacher-Suggested Sources
@erindebell puts it best: there are too many authentic materials out there NOT to use them. All the same, some authentic resources might be not be age- or level-appropriate. Where can you find resources that your students will both be interested in and capable to absorb?

Several teachers suggest advertising. There are many forms of advertising available, too: containers, television, radio, print, online, travel brochures, catalogs, phone books, etc. — advertising is everywhere in our modern times.

Authentic websites are excellent resources for all kinds of units. If the unit has real-world implications, it’s certain you can find a target-language site to go along with the project. Sites can focus on anything, from restaurants to dating to diapers. Be careful with students using autotranslate features, however. Check out these examples:
  • Here’s an example of a site that @lesliedavison used recently for some classes: El Potty Dance.
  • Real estate ads and sites are excellent sources to discuss measurements and house vocabulary, says @[email protected] thinks the same sites might be great for students to choose a dream house and explain why.
  • @profesorM lets kids do a Web scavenger hunt with target-language restaurants, department stores, public transportation, etc. @SECottrell suggests asking students to write their own scavenger hunts for classmates.
  • @mundaysa recommends IKEA’s website for furniture units.
  • Missing people reports are unique ways to work on learning units on descriptions. @spanishplans suggests the site http://www.pgjdf.gob.mx/.

An important note with websites: sites don’t necessarily need to be originally based in the target-language country or culture. Major American companies’ sites are nearly always specifically written for the target-language customers, not Americans, so the material is very much authentic. Sometimes, using American corporations even helps kids to identify with the project more — quite a few students would love to learn more about McDonald’s in Mexico, France or Japan.

Menus from famous restaurants — or favorite ones — are also good, but maybe not right before lunch period! Use them for telling hours, prices and food.

@profesorM looks for authentic comic strips online. Combining both text and pictures in an often kid-friendly package, comic strips are bite-sized resources that pack a big punch. Check out these comics shared by @SECottrell here and here.

@SraSpanglish likes YouTube ads and selections, things like reality shows, travel ads, music videos. Lots of options! @mmebrady suggests Dailymotion as well; sometimes they have more options in French. @SECottrell used some great authentic media from a contest the group Camila ran on YouTube; she wrote a useful post on the resource here.

For audio materials, there are lots of options out there. Novice learners might especially like nursery rhymes and children’s songs. Songs are also great sources for authentic texts, and combining the two allows you to cater to both learning styles.

For speaking and text resources, authentic tongue twisters are fun activities or warm-ups in class. @profesorM suggests “Pepe pide pesos a paco para poder pagar el pqueno pepino podrido.” He also likes using jokes. Riddles are good ways to grab students’ attention at the beginning of class.

Works of art, such as paintings, are great authentic prompts for the target language and culture. @fravan likes using these sources because it allows you to work with the language, culture and history together.Books! Authentic books and stories are great for all learners. For novices, stick to stories that students might already know (fairy tales) or children’s books to aid comprehension and keep the focus on the language.

More Recommended Resources

@cadamsf1 likes using the website El Corte Ingles, a Spanish-language department store, for vocabulary and groups — they also have an iPad app.

Loogares is a great spot for novice Spanish learners focusing on reviews of places in Chile. Review places like this with lots of opinions are good for creating questions for students, @SECottrell suggests.

Several might be too advanced for novice learners, but recordings of historical speeches can be great listening or cloze activities. Check out this list of Che Guevara speeches — but preview before showing to kids.

A Spanish real-estate site shared by @sonrisadelcampo: http://espanol.era.com/. @mmebrady follows @maisons_avenir on Twitter for French real estate.

@FrenchAmis shared http://www.ina.fr/ for French video and audio, especially commercials and other ads.

@profesorM recommends http://seat.es, the SEAT car company, for car vocabulary in Spanish.

@spanishplans shared @alenord’s authentic resources wiki, full of great ideas and materials.

For teachers whose schools block YouTube and other video-sharing sites, @spanishplans recommends saving the clip as a movie file, putting it on a flash drive and bringing it to school for easy sharing! Check out http://mediaconverter.org/ for more information.

Thanks again to everyone who showed up and participated in the discussion on Thursday — it’s amazing what you all contribute to the profession each and every week! If you have any comments on our topic or ideas that you think your colleagues would find useful, please feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Don’t forget to join us next week for #langchat on Thursday night at 8 EST. If you have anything you’d like to see addressed, make yourself heard through our voting early next week (monitor the #langchat hashtag for more info).

#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for Thursday night’s #langchat, and thanks especially to our moderator for the night, Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell). Our topic for the night was “How can we make our feedback more effective?”

Effective feedback is a popular issue, and teachers often struggle with the best method to provide it. Participants had a host of useful information and ideas, and our discussion was very fast-paced. We’ve included a summary of the night’s chat below in case you weren’t able to join us.

It’s not too late to take part in the discussion. Please include your thoughts in the comment box below; your fellow #langchatters would love to hear from you!

Defining Effective Feedback
@SECottrell says that making mistakes is the way that every single person acquires language. Because of this, we must provide feedback to students so they realize both 1) that they made a mistake and 2) how to learn from that mistake for the future. On the other hand, too much correction hurts students and decreases their confidence in class. We should then limit the feedback to specific areas and ensure it is effectively reaching the students.

But what is effective feedback? More than simple error correction, feedback involves discussing the students’ weaknesses AND strengths to guide them in improving their outputs. There are essentially two types of feedback: evaluative and descriptive.Evaluative feedback expresses judgment, whereas descriptive feedback is information about performance or the product. Descriptive feedback is the better of the two, as it provides established assessment criteria and enough information for students to recognize and improve upon their mistakes.

How to: Effective Feedback

In past #langchats we’ve discussed the importance of a comfortable atmosphere in world-language classrooms. Participants believe that environment and atmosphere are also essential to giving effective feedback to students.
  • A great start to your efforts is to make the feedback a two-way conversation between student and teacher, rather than directed correction (@mmebrady). Try to focus on negotiating the meaning of the language when correcting students. Can you understand their intended message?
  • @msfrenchteach believes that effective feedback also means commenting on a personal level with the student, such as “Hey, I read what you wrote and here are my thoughts.”
  • @klafrench says that knowing your students well definitely improves your feedback. It shows them that you care about their success.
To ensure students are fully aware of the feedback process, @sleary1023 suggests telling students ahead of time what you will be grading them on specifically. Follow up by having students write a practice sample as a class. Share rubrics and proficiency levels with students so they can see where they are going and what they are expected to accomplish (@suarez712002).
Also, though we’d like to think that students are capable of learning all aspects of the language through feedback and class instruction, @suarez712002 reminds us that sometimes certain things are just going to be acquired later. So, rather than give feedback on every little detail that could be improved, restrict yourself to elements that students can improve on immediately, or to just a few key points per assignment or lesson.
  • @CalicoTeach likes to focus on one or two areas of error at a time and leave the rest alone. This is great for maintaining confidence as students won’t be inundated with errors, but also keeps the focus small so it’s easier to adapt for future assignments.
When to Feedback
In order to keep a comfortable and inviting atmosphere, you often want to avoid correcting students’ errors in class, but this doesn’t mean you have to hold off on all feedback. Several participants indicated that they like to limit their correction of speaking and reading activities, but do more correction for writing — especially when the assignment is a [email protected] feels that giving students feedback in small group activities or one-on-one is more effective than in the full class. Students tend to feel more confident without everyone else listening.

At the same time, some mistakes are going to be widespread throughout the class. To address these issues without personally speaking with every student, @mmebrady suggests discussing the error with the class as a whole. This keeps students’ confidence up by letting them know that it’s not just them having difficulties, and lets you focus on individual problems one-on-one.
Several participants discussed whether teachers should correct accent or pronunciation in addition to grammar and vocabulary. Most said no, authentic pronunciation should come naturally from teacher modeling and listening to native speakers through authentic resources. However, @mskennedy13 will recast the word correctly if it’s a commonly used word so that students can hear the correct pronunciation and accent. @SECottrell focuses on pronunciation corrections if the meaning is compromised.Teacher Modeling + Feedback = Recast
In many world-language classrooms, teachers model the correct pronunciation and usage of words for the students. This keeps instruction in the target language while showing students the language in action. When combining teacher modeling with feedback, teachers recast students’ errors into correct language.

When students make a mistake in speaking, provide feedback positively by recasting the error as a corrected form. For example, student: “Juan hablo español.” Teacher: “¿Oh, Juan habla español?” For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, an English example would be as follows, student: “Sally speak English.” Teacher: “Oh, Sally speaks English?”

The main issue with recasting is whether students catch the subtle correction. Participants didn’t share any research on the matter, but speaking from personal experience they said that it appears that most students catch on. For those students who have already sunk back into their seat to check how long before the bell rings, we can try more direct feedback methods.

Another issue with recasting is that it works best with speaking rather than writing. Technology allows us to do more and more here, however. Check out the Resources section below for some tips from @mmebrady on tools she has found effective.

Tools and Techniques

Participants shared a wealth of useful tips and tricks for providing effective feedback in the classroom. Check them out below.

Techniques

  • Peer editing can be a useful feedback method — it helps students to look for and understand mistakes and takes a little work off our shoulders! To keep it effective, however, make sure students understand what they are grading and being graded on. Not guiding students in their efforts could result in wide variation or simple “This is perfect!” evaluations.
  • Several participants recommend positive feedback as much as possible to keep students motivated. For example, when a student makes a mistake in speech, pauses and corrects it, praise them wildly!
    • Compliment communication whenever it occurs and use an “encouragement sandwich” — compliment, correction, compliment (@CalicoTeach).
  • Several participants mentioned frustration with students looking at a grade and then forgetting the assignment — not checking over the feedback or giving the project a second thought. There were some interesting ideas to bypass this tendency and get students to focus on the feedback rather than the grade.
    • @cadamsf1 sometimes gives feedback on an assignment but doesn’t provide a grade. Instead, she asks students to assign a grade themselves — great way to get kids to think seriously about their mistakes.
    • @SECottrell withholds grades from physical assignments. If students want to see their grade, they must access the online grade book.
    • @sleary1023 requires students to revisit past assignments before working on future ones.
  • Writing assignments in multiple drafts can be effective learning tools. @mmebrady often provides feedback and error corrections to students’ assignments, without a grade. She then asks students to make corrections and assigns a grade to the second draft.
    • @MmeNero suggests that giving students chances to make mistakes before an official assessment gives them confidence and positively affects their language development.

Tools

  • @mmebrady and @msfrenchteach use a key when giving kids feedback on written work. @mmebrady’s key can be accessed here: http://francais3brady.wikispaces.com/Key+to+Editing+Abbreviations. @msfrenchteach uses a number system, where each number corresponds to a grammatical point.
  • In time for Halloween, @mmebrady mentioned using a Frankencollection of class errors. Create a mixture of common student errors so kids are thinking about them.
  • Several participants mentioned using screencast technology to walk students through their essays or other written assignments. While time-consuming, this method really appeals to many students. Check out the Resources section below for some blog posts by @mmebrady on the subject.
  • @klafrench likes Google Voice because you can send the students what they previously recorded so they can hear what you are talking about. To do so, download a student’s recording as an mp3 file and find the ‘Email’ button.
  • An easy-to-overlook tool that every teacher has access to is the “teacher look.” When students make mistakes in an area that they should know better, don’t draw attention to them with a correction, try the look (@profesorM).
  • Photopeach is a useful tool that allows you to make comments directly on a student’s video. A good way to provide feedback, both error correction and more (@klafrench).

Resources

@mmebrady shared two of her blog posts on writing feedback on students’ papers while using some interesting Google Chrome add-ons. Check them out at: http://mmetechie.blogspot.com/2011/10/grading-drafts-of-student-written-work.html and http://mmetechie.blogspot.com/2011/10/grading-student-writing-drafts-part-2.html?utm_source=BP_recent.

Check out @cybraryman1’s page on learning from mistakes at: http://cybraryman.com/learningfrommistakes.html.

Our #langchat this Thursday was full of debate and interesting ideas, and we want to thank everyone again for making it out. If you weren’t able to make it, feel free to join the conversation below, or we’ll see you next time!
#Langchat is held every Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and the summary and archive are available shortly afterwards. To see this week’s archive, go here. See you next week, and in the meantime monitor the #langchat hashtag for information and a chance to vote on our next topic!
#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.

Thanks to all the participants of Thursday night’s #langchat! We had an animated discussion on the best ways to get kids speaking productively in large world-language classes. Lots of you were able to join us, and we shared a fantastic amount of ideas and resources for use in the classroom.

Thanks again to all our participants and also to our two moderators for the night, Diego Ojeda (@DiegoOjeda66) and Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell). If you weren’t able to join us, please enjoy the summary below or check out the archive here. Feel free to join the conversation by commenting on any ideas you thought useful or by adding your own ideas in the comment box below; we’d love to hear from you!

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speaking productivelyProductive Speaking

@tmsaue1 asks early on, What do we mean by speaking “productively”? While definitions differed slightly, most teachers agreed that productive language involves getting your point across comprehensively and pushing yourself to higher levels. Productive language differs by skill level; “Hello, my name is Chris” is great for beginners in early classes, but doesn’t cut it by itself at advanced levels.

It’s sometimes difficult to get students in large classes (or any size class) to participate, but teachers shared lots of ideas on how you can get them speaking. As we discussed in a previous #langchat on ways to inspire conversation, a large part is getting students comfortable and preparing them with the tools they need.

The amount of error correction you use also factors into students’ production. @ZJonesSpanish suggests that the more correction you apply, the less language students will produce. In speaking and learning a language, making the effort to communicate is often more important than communicating with 100% accuracy. Try rewarding students for communication, not perfection (@myclasstalk).

After a comfortable and welcoming environment, perhaps one of the most essential elements is student engagement. Many of our colleagues stressed how important it is to make the language about the students(or the escargot they recently adopted! @klafrench). Bring up current issues that they’re interested in (@DiegoOjeda66).

  • A tip for picking subjects students want to talk about: surveys. @DiegoOjeda66 says students will respond if you ask them what they’re interested in.
  • Also, when talking about students, remember to do so in a careful and tactful way. Don’t embarrass the students. (@DiegoOjeda66)
  • Some common subjects that students seem to always want to discuss: school policies, popularity, their hobbies and other teachers.

As we’ve discussed many times on #langchat, interdisciplinary teaching is also very crucial to student engagement. Combine several subjects to boost both participation and production in the classroom.

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Ideas for Implementation

This week’s #langchat was so fast and full of fantastic ideas that some participants had trouble keeping up! That’s why we provide these summaries, so that none of the ideas shared by your colleagues go forgotten. Below you’ll find quite a few techniques and suggestions for implementation in world-language classrooms.

@SunnyEarth1 has been trying to teach language in set phrases. For example, she might teach three question and answer sets in a class, and students practice with various activities. These phrases help to build students’ language skills without getting bogged down in the technical details of grammar.

It’s always a challenge to keep kids speaking the target language instead of their native language. Rather than take away participation points or otherwise punish students, make remaining in the target language fun. In past #langchats we’ve discussed the “English box,” a designated area of the classroom in which English is permitted, and participants shared a few more ideas this time around.

  • @myclasstalk likes to use a water gun or sprayer in class to squirt students when they slip up. Kids might love it, but first make sure that your administration (and parents) are accepting.
  • @SECottrell’s classes earn beans towards a pizza party for producing the language and working together, while @SraSpanglish’s classes earn candy in a jar and get to split it when full.
  • @mmebrady has worked with ClassDojo to manage her classes virtually.
  • @kelld does a points system using clothespins. If students participate, they gain pins. If they speak English, they lose pins — but have a chance to win them back. At the end of the month, pins are worth varying amounts of points.

@DiegoOjeda66 likes to assign himself a seat when he’s assigning seats for students. His goal is to be working with students 60% of class time. He recommends that this is also a great way to find out what students’ true perceptions of the class are.

Timing of activities is important in any classroom to ensure you cover all your material and the class pace is constantly moving. Several participants like to time speaking sessions to keep kids on edge. Bring a timer to class or use a computer-based one; you might be surprised how your students respond.

  • @klafrench likes to use random amounts of time for her activities to keep kids on their toes.
@klafrench makes a habit of giving some preparation time to students just before starting an activity or speaking practice. Students use it to practice by themselves, write notes and look up useful words — but watch the time!

Several participants believe teachers should keep as much of the class instruction in the target language as possible. Try to use authentic resources and situations. When in the target language, use circumlocution in combination with visual prompts — such as school supplies, pictures, demonstrations and drawings — to ensure students comprehend.

  • Lots of participants suggest using stories or other context methods to teach vocabulary and grammar, too. Similar words in the two languages are a great way to expand students’ vocabulary. Let them decipher and identify the words in children’s stories on their own. Use stories that students are familiar with so they can focus on the language used.

@myclasstalk has a simple method of eliciting more participation: give students time to respond. She suggests that if you wait, students will often speak more about the subject.

Games and Activities

To practice and encourage students to participate, @langology uses lots of games in class with flashcards, balls and other prompts. Students have to speak productively to advance in the games. Many other participants shared their productive-speaking games and activities with us, and we’ve included a huge list of them below.

  • @sleary1023 likes the game “Password,” where students select a vocabulary word and must describe it to their partner — no charades!
  • @louvre2012 enjoys having students create paper bag puppets and using them to converse. It keeps the atmosphere light and the students engaged.
  • @myclasstalk uses guessing games in the target language for vocabulary and definitions. Students have to guess a classmate’s word.
  • @kelld likes to play “Telephone” at the end of class with simple sentences. Students whisper a sentence down a line and see how close the result is to the original. In large classes, try having each row compete in a race.
  • @cadamsf1 likes the “Or” activity suggested by @js_pasaporte in a previous #langchat, where students are given two options and should discuss with a partner. For example, “football or soccer?”
  • Lots of teachers use debate in the classroom to really get kids interested and push language skills to the limit. For large classes, divide students into debating teams. For topics, get ideas from a student survey, let students choose their own or come to class with several controversial options.
    • @SraSpanglish likes to use debate with flexible teams. Students can switch teams if persuaded one way or another, but have to explain their reasoning.
  • @profesorM plays the “Familia misteriosa” game where students have to guess the identity of a classmate through yes/no questions.
  • @sleary1023 suggests that “Twenty Questions” is good for almost any topic or vocabulary set.
  • @pamwesely often adopts word games such as “Password,” “Taboo” or “Balderdash” to the chalkboard to get students speaking. She says there are many opportunities for board or TV games to be adapted to the world-language classroom.
  • @profesorM teaches an expression for every week, then gives students lots of examples and opportunities to say it.
  • @SraSpanglish plays “Piramides,” after the $64,000 pyramid. She makes a period of vocabulary and teams have to use circumlocution to get the blindfolded student to guess the active word.
  • @klafrench likes a simple activity of having students write any question, then pose that question to their partner.
  • @SunnyEarth1 makes video-taped skits with students and watches them the same day. Then students pause and correct their mistakes before retaping the next day. Huge improvements!
  • Several participants use a fly-swatter game with words on the board and two students who race to swat a word that the teacher shouts or acts out with a fly swatter.
  • @klafrench finds that “Show and Tell” is a great way to get kids productively speaking.
  • @muchachitaMJ has had some fun experiences with “Would you rather…?” questions. It can be really enjoyed when both options are bad.
  • @cadamsf1 had students act out a faculty meeting where each student played as a department chair and discussed school issues.
  • @sonrisadelcampo likes to play short videos of two to three minutes, then ask students to predict what happens next.
  • @profesorM suggests trying out “Pecha Kucha,” Japanese for chatter. Show 20 short slides of visual prompts for 20 seconds each, and students must discuss or give their thoughts on the slide quickly with their partner. Works great with food!
  • @DiegoOjeda66 uses crazy statements in class to spark student discussion, such as “Do you enjoy eating shoes?”

Wow! Lots of activities and ideas to implement in class! For those of you who can make it to Thursday’s #langchat, I’m sure Fridays are great days to experiment with new techniques. For those of you who can’t make it, we continue to publish the summaries on this blog and the archives here. Although you might have missed the chat, there’s still an opportunity to share your thoughts on our topic or continue the conversation below.

Be sure to join us for next week’s #langchat on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and monitor the #langchat hashtag in the meantime for news about and a chance to vote on our next topic.

#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.

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We had a remarkable #langchat this past Thursday with a large turnout! Many participants shared their thoughts on a very important topic for world-language educators: How can we collaborate with school administrators to provide strong world-language programs?

Thanks to all our participants and especially to @SECottrell and @dr_dmd, our moderators for the night. As always, if you couldn’t make our discussion, it’s not too late to make your thoughts heard. Please feel free to share your comments on our topic below; we’d love to hear from you!

The Need for Collaboration

@tmsaue1 began our discussion with the question, “Why do we even have to worry about this?” Do our English- and History-teaching colleagues worry about how best to gain administrators’ support? Unfortunately, most participants stressed that we do need to work on ties with administrators to get the support and respect that we need. Why?

A common problem that interferes with world-language educators’ efforts is the recent focus on STEM funding (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), a part of the nationwide Race to the Top initiative. School administrators often focus on these disciplines, which leaves world language programs off their priority lists.

In addition, many administrators might have had limited or negative world-language education experiences. How many times have you heard the comment “I had two years of _____, and I can’t say a thing!” (@tmsaue1). On the other hand, others might not have had ANY exposure to studying a language.

We can’t expect administrators to understand all the benefits of studying world languages; sometimes, we must take it upon ourselves to demonstrate them. If no one fights for world languages, we can lose out on funding, respect and even students.

Developing Relationships with Administrators

It’s important to view administrators as allies and colleagues, not as enemies. Administrators cannot be experts in all fields; we must cultivate good relationships with them so that they are open to hearing our ideas and methods. If administrators see us as credible experts, they will rely on us for our input and support and seek us out for information (@dr_dmd).

@dr_dmd likes to sit down with administrators, go over world-language standards and advocate for the kids. He suggests that most administrators are receptive when discussing students, and the best educators advocate strongly for ALL kids.

@klafrench believes that world-language educators can really set the standards for other content areas by staying current in the field and collaborating with other teachers. Our use of technology in innovative ways is a great way to get administrators’ attention. We might not get the funding that STEM schools receive to spend on additional technology, but there are plenty of free Web 2.0 technologies available that we can make efficient use of (visit these past #langchat summaries for some great ideas suggested by your colleagues: Using Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom and The Best Apps for World-Language Education).

This innovation and willingness to try new methods and ideas like grading practices can make us administrators’ best allies when it comes to testing new theories and initiatives (@DiegoOjeda66).

Several participants remind us that many administrators might not know what an effective language classroom looks like. We can invite principals and administrators to join us as guests at state world-language associations and welcome them to our conferences (@ DiegoOjeda66). It’s also our responsibility to train administrators in how to observe a world-language classroom (@gretafromtexas).

Sharing research studies can help to educate administrators as well as cultivate a strong professional relationship. The ACTFL is always working on new research-based standards for use in world-language classes. Even just taking the time to e-mail selected articles or studies to administrators (@SECottrell) is worthwhile and shows that you’re keeping abreast of current developments.

The Benefits of World-Language Education to Other Subjects

It’s important to view our job as not only educating students in the target language, but as educating them in multiple content areas and teaching them skills for future opportunities. Language and communication have purposes beyond themselves, and it’s our responsibility to make that known. What strategies that students learn in the world-language class can apply to other classes (@suarez712002)?

Find the connection between the language and the community, both locally and internationally (@SECottrell). Global experiences, whether a Skype conversation with students in South America or a class trip to Europe, are incredibly beneficial to students’ growth and learning. Pursue these opportunities, then make sure that administrators join you and your class, or share the results with the school.

In addition to furthering their education, including other content in your world-language classroom increases students’ interest in the material. As we’ve discussed in previous #langchats here and here, students really respond to material that encompasses multiple content areas. As @gretafromtexas points out, most 9th-grade students aren’t fascinated about learning colors. Bridge the language with other elements that students and administrators can really latch on to.

Demonstrating Students Ability and Progress to Build Collaboration

Demonstrating students’ ability and progress is a fantastic way of showing administrators the value your program brings to the table. Simply discussing progress is useful, but we can gain a greater hearing by showing how it is done instead.

Our most powerful advocacy is what our students can actually do (@SECottrell). @dr_dmd says one of the most useful and important things we can do is to show what students can produce with their new skills and how they engage with others.

A challenge you might face is that students’ production is often incomprehensible to administrators — is this a problem? Most participants think not. Often, any amount of production impresses non-speakers, especially when they can see the language used to authentically communicate. If we can show administrators what the production means, what to look for and why it is important, the actual comprehension isn’t necessary (@dr_dmd). Sometimes, just seeing kids engaged, excited and expressing themselves is proof enough.

Documenting results and presenting them to administrators builds credibility and educates administrators on best practices (dr_dmd). Be sure to tell administrators about your efforts and achievements at every opportunity. When @SECottrell connects with the community, she lets the administration know. @cadamsf1 terms this approach a “blitz” — everything the language department does that promotes the school or the students is relayed to administrators; make sure they know!

Other academic disciplines have social studies and science fairs, academic teams, and national tests, so create your own world-language events as an opportunity to display your students’ progress. Participants shared many great ideas for activities that can demonstrate your students’ language skill and ability to administrators and parents alike, and we’ve reproduced a lot of them below.

  • @sylviaduckworth hosts French assemblies and likes to invite the administrators. They’re usually impressed with what they see, and it’s a good way to promote the language program as well.
  • Many participants like to ask administrators to visit their classes and sponsored activities. Field trips are great ideas — several mentioned success with administrators joining language students, ranging from trips to local museums to trips to Europe.
  • @klafrench gets students involved with her department’s open house. Students add their input to videos and really work to sell French as a world-language choice.
  • When hosting student-led conferences, open houses or other events, display student portfolios to parents and administrators to demonstrate progress and ability (@js_pasaporte).
    • In these portfolios, @js_pasaporte has students reflect on their progress in the state standards with sample work, goals set and met, and other achievements.
    • Some tools for portfolio creation include LinguaFolio and Google Apps for Educators.
  • Show administrators examples of students’ progress outside of events, too. Portfolios, interaction with native speakers and international classrooms, and tangible benefits such as student blogs are all great ways to do this.
  • Arrange for students to interact with students around the world, and then invite administrators to join in the fun or watch videos of the event (@js_pasaporte).
    • @SECottrell has had great success with her program’s relations with administrators after her classes had a Skype conversation with schools in Honduras.
    • @js_pasaporte plans to create a Global Connections Club to encourage connections between the school and other world classrooms.
    • @CalicoTeach points out that just encouraging exchange programs with other classrooms can improve the world-language department’s reputation within the school.
  • @cadamsf1s’s advanced students make pamphlets for use with ELL (English Language Learner) students for when they arrive at the school. She suggests that tangible evidence of ability such as this is very beneficial.

Students and Parents Building Relationships with Administrators

Students are great advocators when they can relate positive experiences to administrators. Parents are as well. After demonstrating students’ progress to parents, give parents opportunities to influence administrators, too. @tmsaue1 asks, how many schools have world language parents’ clubs or support groups?

@SECottrell asks whether students’ choice of a language major is a useful tool in demonstrating the important of world language education. It could be a good statistic to show administrators the percentage of students who move on to take the language as a major or minor in university (@cadamsf1). @DiegoOjeda66 suggests always showing off where former students have gotten in life thanks to their world language education. Keep track of them on Facebook.

Host an Administrator’s Day!


Thursday’s #langchat was full of great ideas and debate by all the participants, and I’m sure that everyone had some good food for thought at the end of the day. If you’d like to read the entire archive, go here.
The discussion isn’t over quite yet, though, as everyone is welcome to post their thoughts in the comment box below. If you missed Thursday’s chat, this is an excellent opportunity to express your own ideas. Otherwise, be sure to join us next week for #langchat at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday. Monitor the #langchat hashtag for information on the topic, and feel free to check out our wiki at http://langchat.pbworks.com/w/page/39343677/FrontPage in the meantime.

Good luck in building strong relationships between administrators and your world-language programs! To start, @dr_dmd suggests holding an Administrator’s Day soon — take one of your classes to the office to sing a song in the target language, just for fun. Be sure to let us know how it goes!

#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.