Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone! We hope your holidays are starting off nicely and that everyone is enjoying this festive season.

This past Thursday we held a fun #langchat conversation that we haven’t done before — lesson plan sharing and discussion. If you weren’t able to make it, open up a new tab and direct yourself to the #langchat wiki page for the chat before we get started.

Essentially, in the spirit of sharing around Christmastime, we wanted to provide a forum for everyone to share some of their most effective or entertaining lesson plans with other #langchat participants. We’ve shared a lesson plan collection on Google Docs for submitting plans and reviewing your colleagues’ plans. If you haven’t yet checked it out, be sure to do so at the end of the summary or throughout. There are some fantastic plans shared, and we’re confident you’ll be able to find or adapt something for your own class!

Thanks to everyone who participated and shared your plans or ideas, and thanks especially to moderators @dr_dmd, @SECottrell and @placido. If you weren’t able to make it, please enjoy this summary and feel free to post in the comments below. Also, be sure to let us know what you think about this #langchat format; it’s the first time we’ve tried it, and we’d love to hear what you think!

The Best World Language Lesson Plans

Participants shared lots of great plans and activity ideas, but it wouldn’t be #langchat without some insightful discussion on teaching theory as well. This week we delved into what makes an effective lesson plan. What should teachers keep in mind while preparing for their classes?

Lesson Plan Objectives

A common trait that many participants stressed is clear objectives. Students and teachers alike need to know what students are expected to produce at the end of the class or unit.
To create clear lesson objectives, try planning with the end in mind. Ask yourself, what should kids know and be able to do at the end of the lesson? Work backwards from this point as you plot out how you will get your students there.

  • Think in functional terms for your objectives. “My daily activities” versus “Today, we’re going to learn regular -er verbs” (@NinaTanti1).
  • “I can” statements are great, student-friendly rubrics that are easy to plan for and descriptive (@dr_dmd).
  • Create the assessments you’ll give students before deciding how to teach the material; this way you’ll keep the objectives in mind at all times.

Lesson Plan Content

A helpful tip is to make sure students are interested in your topic. Develop a hook for your plan that will get them engaged and participating. The more meaningful a topic is, the better the participation, retention and proficiency.
A great way to find themes or subjects that students are interested in is to poll them. Another trick is to ask your colleagues on #langchat. This particular chat focused on sharing proven plans, but every #langchat discussion is full of tips and tricks to get students engaged in class.

Once students are willing to participate, make sure that they do. Include communicative activities to get them practicing and using the language that they’ve learned for the day.

@SraSpanglish reminds us that not EVERY lesson need have speaking and listening activities, but certainly every unit should. As lesson plans are the basic building blocks for each unit, it’s a good idea to include speaking and listening activities as often as possible.

Remember to use lots of authentic materials!

Lesson Plan Pacing

Another important element to any well-designed lesson plan is the pacing of activities or teaching blocks. @suarez712002 recommends a 4-step process:

  1. Warm-up — optional, but a great way to get students comfortable with the language again. For kids, yesterday (not to mention last week!) was a long time ago.
  2. Presentation — introduce and model the language for your students.
  3. Production — production takes on many forms. Students can practice in games, discuss as a class or a multitude of other activities.
  4. Closure — review the material and check your objectives.

@dr_dmd goes into more detail when organizing the middle stages of a lesson plan. When planning out the presentation, there are two key elements to keep in mind:

  • Setting the stage (a hook)
  • Comprehensible input
    • Remember to provide input that teaches to your outcomes — what do you want students to be able to do at the end of the lesson?
    • Storytelling is an excellent bridge between the two stages, as it’s both an effective method of comprehensible input and a terrific opportunity to have kids create their own stories as production.

For production, there are two major substeps:

  • Guided and independent practice
  • Application and extension activities to take the learning deeper

This week’s chat was focused on lesson plan creation and sharing, but for more information on some of the specific stages, be sure to check out some past #langchat topics that get into the details.

  1. For warm-up resources, visit Quick Motivators and Warm-ups for World Language Classes.
  2. For presentation tips that will speak to ALL your students, try Differentiated Instruction in the World Language Classroom.
  3. To get your students producing, check out Top Ways to Get Students Speaking Productively in Class and Ways to Inspire Conversation in the Target Language.
  4. Closure involves summarizing the content and checking comprehension, and don’t forget assigning homework — kids’ favorite part of the lesson. For homework ideas, see Motivating Homework Ideas in the World Language Classroom or @karacjacobs’ Google Doc for homework ideas.

@SECottrell reminds us that sometimes students’ minds need a “restart” in the middle of a lesson to maximize engagement. So, when teaching a 50-minute lesson, try considering it as two scaffolding 25-minute lessons. Music is a fantastic, on-topic break in the middle of a long class (@placido).

Additional Lesson Plan Resources

Check out @tmsaue1’s list of units mapped out with assessments.

More ideas on maximizing student learning through planning from the TELL Project.

Thursday’s Lesson Plan Contributions

Participants had lots of great lesson plans and unit plans to share Thursday in the Google Doc folder and included some commentary on the various lessons. We had so much to share, reading it all in the summary would take up your entire afternoon! You can check out the full #langchat archive, or better yet, go to the folder at the link above and peruse some of the lesson plans (or add your own)!

We’ll keep the collection going for new submissions and suggest you take your time in reviewing the various plans — as of the end of Thursday’s chat there were over 30 varied plans and activities listed, and growing!

If you have any comments or questions for the teachers who wrote the various plans, be sure to leave a note in the comments section below. Everyone would love to hear from you!

Happy Holidays

Thanks again to all the participants of Thursday’s chat, and especially to our moderators and everyone who shared their lesson plan ideas in the Google Doc collection. Your contributions and free sharing are very much appreciated! Please be sure to let us know what you think of this unique #langchat format.

Also, important note: #Langchat will take the following two weeks off for the holidays. Please enjoy this time with your family, and get some rest! We’ll reconvene in January with a fresh new year of free professional development.

However, keep tabs on the #langchat hashtag on Twitter for a special announcement when the first in a series of #langchat e-books is out. We’ve almost finished organizing this resource, and we’d like to make it available FREE to everyone in a few short weeks!

Merry Christmas to everyone! Joyeux Noël! Frohe Weihnachten! ¡Feliz Navidad! メリークリスマス!圣诞快乐!

(Leave your language out? Let us know!)

#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.

This past Thursday, we had a great discussion on the best ideas on how to engage world language students with current issues and events in the classroom, and participants shared lots of great resources and tips.

As always, please feel free to share the summary and #langchat with your colleagues and fellow language enthusiasts. If you have any thoughts or would like to add your own voice to the discussion, join us in the comments box below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Copy of -POPIssues vs. Events

We first discussed whether “current issues” and “current events” were one and the same. Participants explained the two as related, but not identical. @pamwesely defines current issues as systemic and persistent phenomena, like poverty, racism or ecotourism. Current events are happenings, such as the tsunami in Japan and the Chilean miner rescue. Events can occur within and define issues.

As far as resources go, current issues are usually easier to find materials on due to their longer lifespan. Current events actually make great resources when discussing a current issue.

Educating Yourself

When we’ve decided to discuss current issues with out students, @profesorM reminds us that we must first educate ourselves. For Spanish speakers, try reading local Spanish-language newspapers to keep abreast of what’s going on — also a possible source of articles for your students (@SECottrell).

For all languages, try switching your trending topics in Twitter to one of the target language countries. This is a simple way to learn about some possible topics for class. Also, @SECottrell recommends typing several of your target keywords into Google News for a list of some pertinent sources.

For more information on finding authentic resources in the classroom, check out these past #langchat discussions on Authentic Resources for Novice Learners and Presenting Culture in the Classroom.

Introducing Issues to Your Students

To seamlessly introduce the current issue or event to the classroom in an engaging way, try weaving the topic into project, an assessment or a set of assessments (@SECottrell). @placido likes to connect current issues and events to novels, movies and music. @karacjacobs will often start the subject with a video and music to get students interested, then delve into the details.

The topic should also be one that the students care about. Either show them how this topic affects their lives or pick a subject that they’re engaged in in their first language. For an example of the former, immigration in the US is a strong issue for Spanish students.

Keep in mind that the more sources and materials you use, the more overwhelmed students can feel (@SECottrell). It may be better to use fewer sources and focus on learning the topic well rather than flooding students with resources.

Engaging Resources and Activities for Current Issues

Whenever possible, use authentic resources when discussing current issues or events. Authentic resources not only expose your students to native speaking and writing habits, but they also give students the unique opportunity to see how other cultures perceive the same issue. Participants shared some of their best ideas below.

@karacjacobs has her students use Twitter to follow current issues in the target language. For example, they recently began following #nomasFARC in class.

  •  @placido makes screenshots of clever or informative target language tweets so she doesn’t have to worry about filters and she controls the content.
  • To collect tweets in a visually pleasing program, try Storify (@CalicoTeach).

@NinaTanti1 sometimes likes to start classes with a short news video or recording in the target language. Authentic videos are a great source of news as well as a perfect listening exercise.

  • @karacjacobs suggests using the Univision app, on iPhones or iPads, to watch Spanish-language videos in the classroom or at home. Lots of participants suggested BBC Mundo for Spanish-language news.
  • News in Slow French and News in Slow Spanish are useful resources for students hear the news being spoken at a pace that they’re comfortable with (@lindseybp and @SECottrell). Deutsche Welle does German news at a slow and clear pace, as well.

@hugghinss likes to use the El País newspaper app for higher-level Spanish classes.

@lindseybp uses a word cloud generator like Wordle to create a visual representation of a current issue or event to serve multiple purposes. It works great for summarizing articles, giving students lists of the target terms or just as a fun way to introduce the topic.

For lessons on current events, @pamwesely puts students in groups and prepare lessons. Each week a different small group must choose something in the news to present.

  • @tiesamgraf prints small articles on the theme and gives every student a different one. After reading, students need to report back on what they’ve learned. @erindebell gives students multiple newspapers and lets them choose which article interests them.

For lower levels, try making cloze activities of a news recording or video (@NinaTanti1).

Examples of Current Issues and Events in the Classroom

For issues, choose topics that students can identify with. Issues have been in the news for a while, so there are lots of resources and discussions to have. Remember to make sure that your students can relate to the topic.

  • Immigration is a great topic for Spanish learners. In some places, immigration is a local issue.
  • Narcotrafficking and the drug war — both at home and abroad — are good topics, especially if students are preparing to visit Mexico during vacation (@esantacruz13).
  • Bullfighting is always popular in Spanish classes.
  • Global warming and other environmental changes are fantastic topics for all languages.

For events, choose topics that the students are likely to discuss or hear discussed outside of class for maximum engagement.

  • The “Arab Spring” protests were a popular subject in several classes.
  • The state of the European Union at the moment is a common topic for all European language learners.
  • Try watching and following the marches and protests in Colombia through video, Twitter and news sites.
  • The Chilean miner rescue last year was a hit in @placido’s Spanish 3. Her students still tak about it.

For all issues and events, participants suggested teaching and introducing the subjects in an impartial manner so as to avoid giving students a set way to think about the subject. It’s important to get kids thinking and asking their own questions. @SECottrell says,

The best questions to ask a class are the ones that have no clear answer.

Problems with Bringing Current Topics to the Classroom

While discussing current issues and events in the classroom is an overwhelmingly positive thing, teachers do run into issues from time to time.

The major issue that most participants mentioned is the time commitment. You might spend hours preparing for an hour-long class, and then the material will have expired and be unusable for future years.

  • One way around this is to focus more on current issues than events. Current issues, being longer-lived, can be used over and over again. Of course, current issues also will expire eventually, but how long has immigration been a hot-button topic in America?
  • Another workaround is to use an issue as the backdrop for an entire unit. This way, the resources that you collect have more value for a longer period. @placido recommends finding a lasting resource and then choosing new current issues or events every year to connect to it.

Teaching current events and issues to older, advanced students is one thing — but how can we ensure that young or novice-level students get engaged and can comprehend the material? Since the key is to remain in the target language as much as possible, this can be difficult for students.

  • @placido recommends preteaching vocabulary, making personal connections between students and the info, and teaching in a simple way. Images help a lot! She uses lots of structured conversations and teacher questions and gives students multiple choices.
  • @SECottrell likes authentic news videos and audio, as the standard speaking rate and tone help students to always understand something.
  • @CalicoTeach suggests that if students are up-to-date on the event or issue in their native language, this can provide some excellent scaffolding to learn the new vocabulary in the target language.
  • @tiesamgraf keeps lower-level classes’ treatment of the issue or event more broad, so the language and terms are simpler.

A note, however: for younger students, remember that current events are often not as appealing. The world is their family and their immediate surroundings; focus there (@CalicoTeach). For current topics that appeal to them the most, try holidays, events such as the Olympics and sports.

Further Reading

Check out @placido’s ACTFL 2011 handout on providing authentic resources to novice learners.

@joedale suggested looking into @alenord’s wiki on authentic resources.

@SECottrell shared her list of ecotourism links for Spanish units on the environment.

@placido shared several songs that relate to current issues in Spanish.

Thank You!

Wow, some great ideas and discussion as always! Thanks to all of our participants for showing up and sharing your experiences in the classroom. #Langchat wouldn’t be the excellent professional development tool it is without your contributions! For the full chat, check out our archive.

As always, the discussion isn’t over. Please, share your best ideas for introducing current issues and events to the world language classroom in the comments below. Where do you go to find engaging authentic resources to share with your students? How do you keep up to date on issues in the target cultures?

Thanks again, everyone, and see you next week at 8:00 EST!

#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.

Welcome back to #langchat, everyone. We hope your Thanksgiving holidays were as relaxing and turkey-stuffed as ours!

This week we have Thursday night’s #langchat summary available for everyone who wasn’t able to make it to the discussion. Please feel free to share links to the summary with all your friends and colleagues — anyone who you think might be interested in some of the best, free professional development out there.

Also, please remember that the discussion’s never over! While our weekly meeting is held from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. EST, the conversation continues here in the summary in the meantime. If you have any thoughts that you would have liked to share Thursday, or that are inspired from your colleagues’ tips below, please comment at the end of the post. We’d love to hear from you!

Student Teachers in the World Language Classroom

Our #langchat discussion this week centered on the most important strategies that we can share with a student teacher in the world language classroom. As always, your colleagues shared a wealth of information and tips pulled from their hands-on experiences.

So, why should you agree to mentor a student teacher? Many participants said they’d love the opportunity to do so to pass on the experience and knowledge they’ve gained over time. This is a wonderful reason to do so; it’s important to remember that a student teacher is a student, too. Other participants mentioned that they love the fresh thinking that student teachers bring and enjoy bouncing new ideas off a like-minded individual. Both teachers can grow in this way.

Although this weeks’ topic was targeted at student teachers, many of the resources and strategies apply to all new teachers. Student teaching is a great opportunity for new or soon-to-be professionals to experience teaching first-hand and decide if this is something they want to do. Lots of new teachers, however, can feel overwhelmed by the experience. So share some of the great ideas and strategies suggested by your #langchat colleagues below to help them manage the transition!

Mentally Preparing Student Teachers

Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice you could ever give student teachers is to take advantage of the time they have. A first-year teacher often faces a steep learning curve and a demanding workload. It’s tough to go from theory in university to practice in the classroom. The more practice, the better prepared the student teacher will be for his or her future students.

Student teachers occupy a unique position in the school between teacher and student. Sometimes when they struggle, it’s because they are unable to bridge this gap successfully. To combat this, @fereydoon1975 always recommends that student teachers take it easy and be themselves. If you’re yourself, students believe you and will feel connected to you.

It’s also important for student teachers to get involved with other educators. Try suggesting that they show up for all meetings and visit the staff room in order to be seen and get a clear idea of how the school runs.

An oft-overlooked tip for new teachers is to do what it takes to remain sane. Teachers who first begin working with their own students often feel overwhelmed and feel that they need to work on improving their skills and knowledge all the time. @SECottrell stresses that work outside the classroom is important — essential! — but new teachers also need to make time for themselves lest they feel like they’re drowning.

A good starting tip? Encourage new and student teachers to focus on one thing only for a week or so, then they can move on to another. Trying to do too much at once is a quick path to losing hope.

Classroom Management 101

Probably the biggest issue for new educators, classroom management is a topic that you should always sit down and discuss with your student teacher. Your colleagues shared several of their basic classroom management techniques that would be useful for student teachers.

First, a classroom seating chart is a good idea. @dr_dmd finds it indispensable, as it allows him to learn names, organize groups and assign pairs much faster. @SECottrell uses name tents (cards or paper folded in half to form a tent shape) to assign seats so she can alter the seating rapidly and often.

Structure and consistency are other important ingredients to a well-behaved class. @petreepie suggests student teachers create a consistently structured class with clear explanations and instructions so students understand where the class is going. Consistently following through with “threats” and classroom discipline is also essential — including rewarding positive behavior.

@suarez712002 can’t stress enough how important consistent routines and procedures are to building a relationship with students. Kids need to know what is expected and what to expect from us.

Some of your colleagues other tips and tricks are collected here.

  • Time management, through minimizing (or maximizing) down time, is an important strategy for new teachers to learn (@SraSpanglish).
  • Encourage student teachers to get to know their students; it shows that they care (@dr_dmd).
  • Several participants suggest popsicle sticks with students’ names on them to manage and track student participation and interaction.
    • @cadamsf1 uses colored popsicle sticks for quick group assignments. Students choose their favorite color.
    • @dlfulton puts numbers 0-1-2-3 on the ends of popsicle sticks (one number per end per side) and uses these numbers to record students’ participation.
  • @fravan shares his belief that class starts when students enter the room with new teachers. He likes to be in the classroom chatting and engaging with students from the beginning.

For more tips on classroom management, discussed on #langchat several weeks ago, visit Classroom Management for World Language Classes.

Effective Teaching for Student Teachers and New Teachers

In addition to effective management and mental strategies, there are some useful techniques that you can suggest to your new student teachers to help them in their quests to become a world language educator.

Often, teachers with the worst classroom management problems also have the most problems with their lesson plans. We’ve compiled a list of participants’ suggestions below, all of these ideas are great suggestions for new and old educators alike!

  • @dlfulton always stresses the importance of gestures and visual aids to support comprehensible input.
  • @petreepie suggests varying the activities so students are always challenged and engaged.
  • Lesson plans that use the target language 90% or more of the time are the most effective for students, but often it’s difficult for new teachers to adopt these. We have to help teachers see their effectiveness as well as assist with planning for them (@dr_dmd).
  • Going along with @SECottrell’s tip on choosing one topic and working only on it for a week or so, encourage new teachers to try out multiple techniques and strategies until they find things that work for them.
  • A useful tip for everyone is to create a “bag of tricks” of short activities for when classes end earlier than planned (@fravan).

Useful Resources for Student Teachers and New Teachers

Two useful technologies for assisting classroom management are Class Dojo and MyClassTalk (for iPhone). These are fun, useful tools that can take a lot of the guesswork out of running a class for new teachers.

For an electronic alternative to the popsicle-stick name-picking activity, try some of these teacher-suggested ideas:

  • The Hat, a free software that randomly chooses names for any in-class activities (@placido).
  •’s Fruit Machine random name picker (multiple teachers).

State and ACTFL standards are great helps for new teachers  as they can show what an effective classroom should look like. Other teaching organizations have excellent standards-based resources as well.

The TELL Project’s teacher observation form for administrators can be a useful tool for new teachers — to understand what they should be evaluated on — and for administrators — to understand what they should be evaluating.

@pamwesely presented on fresh ideas for cooperating and mentor teachers at ACTFL 2011, and you can view her presentation handout online.

Thank You!

As always, thanks to all our participants for sharing all your great ideas and discussion! #Langchat and all these resources wouldn’t exist without your support each week. Keep tuned to #langchat for more news about the first free e-book, “Web Tools for the 21st Century World Language Classroom.

Be sure to join us next week for another great discussion on #langchat! Feel free to let us know what you’d like to discuss by visiting our topic suggestion form. Also, check out the full archive of Thursday’s chat. Take care!

#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.