Hello everyone, and welcome back to #langchat! We had a fast-paced, fantastic discussion Thursday night on somewhat of a repeat topic: homework that helps students’ language acquisition.

Back in June we shared many motivating homework ideas, and participants voted to explore this topic further through our topic debate poll — and for good reason! It was difficult to keep up on Thursday as your colleagues shared many fantastic resources and ideas, and we’ve included the summary here below.

But first, we’d like to thank everyone for continuing to show up and so freely share your professional expertise each and every week. We’d also like to especially thank Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell) and Erica Fischer (@CalicoTeach) for moderating Thursday’s chat. We’d also like to thank several current and past students who stopped in to share the homework assignments that were the most useful for them in learning a language.

The Homework Challenge

@mcastroholland mentioned early that she dislikes “busy work” and always struggles to assign meaningful assignments to students. This was a common theme throughout the night, with many participants weighing in on how they provide meaningful assignments that genuinely help students acquire the language.

Another hurdle that teachers must leap with each assignment is the prejudice many students have about homework. In many cases, students have dealt with irrelevant and “busy work” homework for years, so finding assignments that both engage and aid acquisition is a constant challenge.

As with any assignment we give, we always face the challenge of motivating students. This is essential when creating assignments that aid in students’ language acquisition — if students aren’t motivated to learn, they simply won’t. In many of the ideas and tips below, participants endeavor to engage students through several different strategies.

Homework that Aids Acquisition

We started off the night’s chat with a discussion on what homework your colleagues usually give and what they generally think about homework assignments. Opinions were varied, but there were several key elements in common.

@cadamsf1 believes that we give too much homework in general. It should be limited more to assignments that provide real value to the students. Other participants questioned whether homework is necessary when students can adequately demonstrate learning inside class.

  • @CalicoTeach believes that homework in world language classes is more than just demonstrating learning; it should teach students how to be lifelong learners and continue their education outside of class.
  • @dlfulton says that we can always use homework as a way to go deeper and broader, to add to what students have already mastered.

Last June, we discussed the “flipped classroom” model, where students practice the language inside class and get language input outside of class as homework. @tmsaue1 mentioned that the one thing students can’t get outside of class is feedback, so we should focus on giving more of this.

  • @cadamsf1 likes homework with instant feedback. A good way to give instant feedback is to assign homework using technology or Web-based tools, then provide feedback in the form of text messages, voice recordings or even a quick email or social-media message.

For relevancy in homework tasks, @SECottrell tries to keep in mind a lesson from “The Homework Myth” author Alfie Kohn: If the answer is “Who cares?,” then the question was worthless.

@tmsaue1 mentioned that many teachers in his district are struggling with how to allow for more choice in students’ homework. Choice is important as it allows students to do assignments that are meaningful and helpful to them in their unique stage of learning, as not all students are at the same point. Choice also engages students, as they really respond to being empowered and can choose topics that appeal directly to them.

  • @Sra_Hildinger gives students the power of choice in homework assignments by providing a chart with nine different potential assignments, and students must do three that connect. Through this way, students perform reading, writing and speaking assignments.
  • LinguaFolio is great for helping students to make choices in learning for class or homework.

Homework Ideas

Participants shared a veritable wealth of tips and tricks to try in the classroom. Below you’ll find many different ideas, ranging from specific activities to general strategies.

Vocabulary ideas to try:

  • @dmerante shared that as a student, reading elementary-level novels always helped her to learn new words and phrases, and it was easy to accept because it never felt like a large vocabulary assignment.
  • @mcastroholland stresses vocabulary through creation, by requiring students to make sentences or summaries using the key unit vocab.
  • @spanishplans asks students to practice on WordChamp for homework assignments.
  • Several participants mentioned using the websites Wordle and Tagxedo for interesting vocabulary tools. To brainstorm vocabulary, ask students to list things that they like to do, to eat or to play with.

Listening ideas to try:

  • @maestraVB often records unique listening comprehension homework and then uploads them onto a Quia assignment.
  • @colleenchilders shared that listening to music always helped her to get used to listening to the language as a student, and aided with listening and vocab both.
  • @CalicoTeach has had a lot of success engaging students with the BBC interactive videos in Spanish. They worked great as a review for 2nd-year students.
  • @maestraVB recommends assigning listening tasks on Yabla for giving students exposure to native speakers and music.

Reading ideas to try:

  • Many participants shared that they often assign reading homework as an extension and application of learning. Assignments can vary, but authentic media is a strong choice. Try to incorporate some choice by giving students some parameters to find their own topic and article.
  • For a traditional unit, @tmsaue1 recommends having students find a print or paper advertisement in the target language for a food or restaurant and bring it in to class. For many areas, this may work best with Spanish.

Writing ideas to try:

  • @NinaTanti1 suggests a fun homework idea: students read her target-language blog and write an ungraded response. She then responds to students’ responses in class.
    • Her topics include: cultural events, weekends, holidays, favorite movies and anything she thinks students might be interested in reading about.
  • @aelethco shared that using Twitter and email to communicate with Spanish speakers in other countries was always a big help for her as a student, and fun at the same time.
    • This is a popular topic in past #langchat discussions — and rightfully so, being a Twitter-focused group! @msfrenchteach currently asks her high-level students to tweet with Parisian students each week, and many other teachers require similar homework. @klafrench is considering using TweetChat as a homework and class discussion activity.
  • Using Google Voice or another messaging platform, @tmsaue1 might ask students to text in the target language about a family member and why they don’t get along.
  • For students who prefer Facebook to more educational tools such as Edmodo, @profeguerita gives the option to chat in Spanish on Facebook chat — students only need to print the conversation as proof.
  • Many participants like assigning blogs or blog commenting as homework. Check out this blog post on the subject of free-topic blogging.
  • To combine writing with visual prompts, @klafrench likes to assign students pictures and ask them to write about the actions and conditions. This is great for tenses.

Speaking ideas to try:

  • @msfrenchteach uses Google Voice with her classes by asking students to record short samples.
    • Several other teachers have expressed success with Google Voice. @NinaTanti1 sends students texts with immediate feedback, but she never listens to student recordings in class — too intimidating. @mweelin says Google Voice helps you to hear the quiet kids, which is often difficult in large classes.
    • Similarly, @profesorM suggests having students make Vocaroos for homework, such as of items that they like or don’t like to eat for breakfast. Some other recording websites include VoiceThread and Fotobabble.
  • An example of a homework assignment for a traditional unit, @tmsaue1 recommends having students order in the target language at a local restaurant. They can have the waiter sign the receipt as proof.

A concern that @msfrenchteach has with using recording software outside the classroom is the use of translators for a student’s script.

  • @SraSpanglish overcomes this by including spontaneity as part of the students’ grade.

Above are some great ideas to try, and we hope you find something that you can implement in your classroom. If you’re looking for some additional ideas that will motivate your students, try incorporating some choice by asking them what they’d like to see. Many of @SECottrell’s best ideas for current homework assignments come from suggestions of past students.

Homework Resources

There are many links shared above by your colleagues to different Web 2.0 tools and other Internet resources, but a few links slipped through the cracks. Check these out for even more terrific homework ideas:

Thank You!

Once more, it’s time to say goodbye for this week. Thanks again to all the participants who showed up and shared such wonderful ideas for use both in and out of the classroom!

It was a fast-paced chat and full of great ideas; if you missed it or an opportunity to share some of your experiences, please feel free to join us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to see the original chat archive, please go here.

See you next week on #langchat! In the meantime, don’t forget to let us know what topics to discuss next!

#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.

Hello everyone! We had an engaging and fast-paced discussion on Thursday concerning the best strategies to get students motivated to start and stay in world language classes.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by and contributing your thoughts to the discussion; it was a wonderful debate and I’m sure that everyone had something to take away with them at the end! Below you’ll find a summary of the night’s discussion, or you can check out the entire archive.

The “Two and Done” Problem

Too often we see that many students stop taking a foreign language after the second or third year, when it is no longer a school requirement or when students think they’ve reached their higher education “quota.” This is a shame, as students are often just getting started on their path to fluency and cultural awareness.

We often hear our neighbors and others exclaim, “I took two years and don’t remember anything!” To avoid our students following the same path, it’s important to explain to kids that two years is not nearly enough to develop the language skills necessary for communication. Getting this message through could go a long way toward retaining students.

Attracting Students to World Languages

Attracting students is often not as difficult as retaining them since many school districts require several years of world languages, but it is still a challenge. Also, by strongly hooking students early on, our chances of retaining them once their required classes are over increase.

Participants had some wonderful ideas for implementation in your school to increase student attraction:

  • @dr_dmd’s school offers a curriculum fair for all incoming 8th-grade students to attract students to take languages.
  • Language clubs for students are a great resource for attracting new students. Encourage your students to set up a booth at the end of the school year for incoming students, or at orientation before the school year begins.
  • For future efforts in attracting students, try surveying your new students at the beginning of the school year as to why they chose your language (@mannkm).

Retaining Students in World Languages

As we mentioned and many participants echoed, retaining students is the real challenge. Our discussion on Thursday focused mainly on this issue as it is at the forefront of many teachers’ and administrators’ agendas.

Often, students take a language only to satisfy the sometimes-mythical two-year requirement for college. Once they’ve reached that point, they depart the program in droves. How can we keep them around?

One of the most effective ways to keep students engaged in the language is to capture their hearts. Make learning fun and help them to see why it’s necessary to learn languages in our modern world (@ITeachHola). Try to steer clear of the worksheet-based, grammar-heavy instruction of the past, and emphasize communication and production in the classroom.

This is the most important piece when it comes to retaining students — our enthusiasm and passion for the language transmitting to the students.

How else can we get students burning for language? Sometimes, simply being upbeat and interesting isn’t enough, especially once senioritis and related higher-grade illnesses start to kick in.

  • One option would be to bring in professionals from various sectors to speak (@msfrenchteach). This is a good way to show students the real-world possibilities with learning a language.
    • Use your high-school alumni who have gone on to use the language professionally or personally (@ITeachHola). One suggestion to help in this: students can follow you on Facebook after graduation. Use this new connection to keep tabs on their language use! (@msfrenchteach)
  • Another possibility to retain kids in the later years is to branch out from just language to cross-curricular materials (@karacjacobs). This is related to keeping the language fun and engaging.
  • Traveling abroad is another great way to keep students interested in the language (@AudreyMisiano). Try contacting the local Rotary or other service club sponsoring exchange student programs; ask a member to stop in to speak about study abroad opportunities.
  • AP classes might be strong retainers. The theme-based classes and high reliance on authentic readings and videos keep students involved in the class (@Catherineku1972).
  • @tonitheisen recommends looking into passion-based reading. Passion is contagious.
  • Related to using authentic resources as often as possible, a favorite tactic of #langchat participants, is to use lessons applicable to real-life as often as possible. For example, @mmesidle’s 6th-grade students shop, prepare and cook their own French meals. Their next step: a field trip to a local patisserie.
  • Encourage social media usage as well (do teenagers require encouragement?). Students can connect with other students with similar interests all over the country or world. Show them opportunities to use language to connect with even more individuals (@mannkm).
  • As mentioned above, language clubs are fantastic resources to motivate kids to stay enrolled. Time is limited of course, but their effectiveness increases with the more time that students and teachers alike can put in (@senoralopez). If you get desperate, stress that colleges look favorably on involvement and leadership in such school clubs.
  • When you survey new students at the beginning of the year, as mentioned above, take note of what they’re most interested in learning. Cater to those interests to keep students engaged. For example, a desire to learn culture is often the main reason that @mannkm has noticed students choose to learn French.
  • Give students opportunities to interact with other students in the target language, through Skype or video exchanges with other countries.
    • @js_pasaporte’s classes exchanged culture boxes.
  • Students respond well to Web 2.0 tools. Try keeping a wiki or other online portfolio of students’ progress as proof of advancement — very motivating (@dr_dmd).

Some ideas that require more work on the administration side:

  • Maybe try a jumpstart program over the summer to get kids ready for AP classes (@maezinha73). This ensures kids continue to think about the language over the summer, and also keeps them hooked on the language before their schedules get so full.
  • Try having your older or higher-level students teach special classes to younger students. For example, @AudreyMisiano’s 7th-grade students regularly do an outreach program for elementary students in the area. This requires some collaboration between different schools, but it’s well worth the extra work. Kids teaching kids is a win-win for both, as younger students look up to what they can one day do, and older students feel a sense of pride and ownership in the language.
    • If class times are a problem, try videos and letters between the two classes.

At the end, the most important point is to show our enthusiasm for the language and try to make that connection for students between the language they’re studying today and the world after graduation. Hopefully, your attitude plus some of the great suggestions above can help a few more students stick with languages past those first two years!

Thank You!

As always, thanks to everyone for showing up and so freely sharing your experiences and ideas in the interest of collaborative professional development. We appreciate your participation!

If you missed the chat, or thought of something to add after signing off, please feel free to comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks, and see you next Thursday!

#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.

We had a fast-paced #langchat discussion on Thursday, full of great debate and some terrific suggestions to implement in your classroom. Our topic was on how to enhance language acquisition and make class relevant to students with authentic media.

Participants continue to amaze with the sheer amount of tips and ideas that are so willingly shared. Below you’ll find a summary of Thursday’s chat along with a compilation of many of the links and tools that were discussed. You can find the full archive of this chat here.

But first, we’d like to extend a warm welcome to Kristy Placido (@placido) to the #langchat team. Kristy joins Don Doehla (@dr_dmd), Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell), Erica Fischer (@CalicoTeach) and Diego Ojeda (@DiegoOjeda66) as the moderators of the weekly #langchat meet-ups on Twitter. Welcome Kristy!

Why Use Authentic Media?

We’ve discussed authentic resources in the past on #langchat, and we always come to the conclusion that using authentic materials, including media, is essential and should be done from the beginning of any 21st-Century world language class.

Media is a particularly useful educational resource as it gives such easy access to authentic materials (@tonitheisen). Most media is authentic by default — written by native speakers for native speakers — rather than something artificial written for a textbook.

Authentic media is useful because it can be naturally scaffolded. Students who are ready for more can easily get more (@Lauren_Scheller). Another important reason to use authentic, leveled media is that it often can show students that they’re not that different from target-language culture students (@fravan).

As far as relevancy, authentic media is naturally relevant to students because this is how they already communicate. Some students are just more comfortable using technology to communicate, even in their first language (@ProfaEsp).

Choosing Your Authentic Media

The diversity of media allows your chosen content to appeal to many different learning styles. The same material can be delivered via video, images, texts, audio and many more formats to ensure that all students have the opportunity to connect with the content (@Watermelonworks). This makes the choice of which media to use dependent on your students’ natural learning styles.

To maximize relevancy and increase students’ comprehension, keep your choice of media close to the topic. This in turn increases acquisition and engagement. Relate the media to the task at hand. Rather than taking a shotgun approach, choose media to use with units that relate to your objectives and subject.

Applying Your Authentic Media

As mentioned, try to use a variety of media. This is good both to cater to individual learning styles and to vary the material to keep students engaged. Different media use different vocabularies, too, and using varied media allows students to learn vocabulary specific to the media (@msfrenchteach). A variety of media on the same topic also builds deeper comprehension and language acquisition (@dr_dmd).

Another benefit of the diversity of media is the ability to learn about something from multiple points of view. This leads to stronger discussion and a richer understanding (@msfrenchteach).

After exposing students to authentic media, encourage them to find their own sources for a follow-up discussion (@tonitheisen). This is a great way to get students thinking about and taking ownership of their learning. When doing so, consider giving students a list of key words in the target language so that their search is well-organized.

How to Apply Authentic Media without Scaring Students into Silence

@tmsaue1 posed the question on how to introduce authentic media to students while avoiding the “but it’s all in French/Spanish/Target Language!” reaction. Participants had a lot of great ideas to share, and we hope that you can apply some of their suggestions in class.

  • @tonitheisen supports not making an issue of it. Ensure that the media you choose is level- and age-appropriate without mentioning that it’s all in the target language. Also, use the media a lot and often. Make it a regular part of the students’ day.
  • @dlfulton starts by giving students a small task and building off their success.
  • @ProfaEsp believes that the first step should be explaining the “why.” Once students know why they’re watching something, they are more likely to be open to it.
  • @karacjacobs sets students’ expectations early on. When first using authentic materials, she tells students that they should aim to understand from 20-70% of it, rather than every word. @placido adds that it’s normal to feel lost and confused at first; students should focus on what they can do, not what they can’t.
  • @suarez712002 models how to get meaning from context, including the strategies of skimming, scanning and getting the gist of a source.
  • For young kids and early levels, @msfrenchteach asks kids to read short texts with photos. Kids circle cognates and gradually move on to longer and more difficult texts.
  • @Watermelonworks gets students to break tasks down into small increments. They should find the meaning in that increment and then proceed to the next.
  • @dlfulton likes to show students at the beginning of a unit an example of what they are expected to do at the end of the unit. This can be the teacher modeling or examples of students’ work from the past year. The latter is especially useful as students often know the kids in the examples and thus can relate to them well.
  • When @Lauren_Scheller’s students ask if spelling counts, she tells them that comprehensibility counts. Students who preoccupy themselves with not making simple spelling mistakes will not extend themselves as much as possible.
    • As @dr_dmd mentions, spelling can and will improve with students’ increased interaction with authentic media.

Ideas for Application

The following are some specific ideas for application in your class. If you have any additional ideas to share with your colleagues, please feel free to add them in the comments section below!

  • A great resource for authentic media that students can interact with is sites where students can add their own comments, such as movie or product reviews (@tonitheisen).
  • @SECottrell’s classes have used media reports to study the recent Spanish elections and the impact that Twitter had.
  • As a recurring activity, @placido has done “YouTube Tuesdays” where a student picks a short YouTube video in the target language, everyone watches the clip together and then the class discusses.
  • For a creation task, have students put themselves in the situation of a story they’re following using authentic media. For example, for the Chilean miners rescue, ask students to keep a daily journal as if it were them (@Lauren_Scheller).
  • If your area has a local Spanish paper, check out their site and articles for increased relevance to students’ daily lives (@SECottrell).
  • Big Huge Labs is a great site for allowing students to create their own posters and other visual documents to demonstrate comprehension. Glogster is also a good choice. Several participants mentioned trying out two other sites, Diigo Education and Collaborize Classroom.
  • Visit this site to learn how one class created their own infographics.
  • Visit this site for 10 free tools to create your own infographics.
  • For Spanish, a good blog to highlight a different worldview from what students typically get would be Fidel Castro’s blog. As a contrast, have students check out Generacion Y — an underground blog from Cuba.
  • The http://rtve.es site for Spanish is great for beginner-level weather, news and events (@Thesarito).

As we’ve mentioned, students should be learning to get the gist of a sample when listening or reading authentic media — they’re not expected to understand every single word. When assessing comprehension, choose questions that focus on some specific facts that are repeated and are the main focus of the sample. For example, when @SECottrell’s students watched a commercial advertising a competition to win soccer tickets, students were later asked:

  1. which teams were playing;
  2. what sport;
  3. and what city.

Student involvement is essential when using authentic media sources. It’s important to find what your students are interested in, and provide sources in this area. To find topics that your students are interested in, try asking them! You’ll be surprised at what students are willing to discuss.

For other topics, remember that student engagement is also directly related to teacher engagement. Stay excited, focused and having fun, and your students will follow along with you (@dr_dmd).


Thanks to everyone for coming by and participating in our discussion Thursday night — #langchat has become a fantastic free professional development resource, and it’s all thanks to everyone’s sharing of ideas and tools every week. Thank you!

If you haven’t already, be sure to get your free copy of #langchat’s e-book on the best Web 2.0 Tools for the World Language Classroom! This book is a direct result of the past year of chats and participants’ great ideas, and it’s available free to anyone at the link above.

Be sure to join us next week for a sure-to-be excellent discussion on how we can help get students motivated to start and stay in world language classes. This topic was our close runner-up for your choice of topics this week, and so we’ve decided to debate and share ideas on it next Thursday at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Thanks again, and see you next week!

#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.

how to develop students' higher-order thinking skillsHello everyone, and welcome back to #langchat! We hope your holidays were filled with joy and good companionship.

This past Thursday, we had a fantastic first #langchat of 2012 with some quality discussion and professional development. Our topic, “How do we develop higher-order thinking skills in the world language classroom?“, was a big hit and we’re sure you’ll find some useful tips and tricks in the summary below. For the archive of the chat, please go here.

Also, be sure to check out the conclusion of this summary below for a special holiday offering from all of us at #langchat!

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Higher-Order Thinking Skills: A Rundown

Higher-order thinking skills include such skills as critical thinking, analysis and problem solving. These skills differ from lower-order thinking skills such as remembering and understanding in that they prepare students to apply existing knowledge in new areas. These are cross-discipline skills that stick with students throughout life.

One characteristic of higher-order skill instruction is the importance of modeling what happens in real life as much as possible (@tonitheisen). These skills involve analyzing, evaluating and creating material, and students need to have a real-life foundation.

With all instruction, it’s a good idea to praise students’ efforts even when they are having problems communicating. With critical thinking and other higher-order skills’ assignments, this is even more important. Be sure to praise the message, not kill it (@tonitheisen).

Critical thinking can be multiple choice, but it’s tough to make it work. Instead of asking “A, B or C,” try asking “How, why and what if” (@SECottrell).

Finally, critical thinking takes time. It’s important for us to remember to slow down and allow students the time to make the meaning. Try giving students more opportunities to ask questions, rather than ask all the questions yourself (@GlastonburyFL).

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Examples of Higher-Order Skills

Critical thinking involves solving problems, such as with situational prompts and questions like why, how and what if (@tonitheisen). Creating with the language involves critical thinking by taking words that students have learned in one context and putting them in another (@Lauren_Scheller).

Determining and debating why cultures are different by comparing products and practices is an example of evaluation (@Lauren_Scheller). Any evaluating or analyzing activity is good practice. Students often have different — but good — answers that they can debate with their classmates (@SECottrell).

Inferring from context is a skill that many students have difficulties with or are afraid of doing. Students are often trained to have right or wrong answers, but with higher-order thinking skills there shouldn’t be any right or wrong responses (@tonitheisen).

Circumlocution is another higher-order skill that language students will find extremely useful. It’s also a simple matter to practice in class, and many students will develop it on their own in a communicative atmosphere.

Higher-Order Thinking Skills in the World Language Classroom

Participants shared a wealth of ideas for activities and assessments you can try in the classroom to develop your students’ higher-order thinking skills. Check some of them out below.

  • Finding errors is a fantastic critical-thinking activity. Try using it before an assessment to get your students warmed up.
  • Anything interacting with the real world is good. Production for a purpose (@Lauren_Scheller). For example, try using prompts with food such as what food should we put in the box that is nutritional (@tonitheisen). @SECottrell recommends having students think about what food means to them and to people around the world.
  • @HJGiffin regularly uses language classes as an opportunity to discuss advanced topics in the target language, such as the concept of self.
    • For example, looking at self portraits, ask students how the portrait shows the artist’s definition of self? What would they put on a portrait to define themselves?
  • @Lauren_Scheller suggests hosting an evening for ESL parents at the school to help with the school website when learning technology vocabulary.
  • If they’re up for it, try and have your higher-level students teach lower-levels an essential grammar or culture point. @klafrench’s French 5 students taught the future tense to French 4 this week, for example!
  • Similarly, have students investigate target-language ads or periodicals on the Internet and then write or develop questions for other students to answer (@atschwei).
  • Try writing some target-language prompts or questions on various Jenga blocks, then play a game in the class (@HJGiffin).
  • Use tools such as Google Maps and Google Street View to plan a virtual trip of students’ choice using a set amount of money (@kc_lewis).

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Higher-Order Thinking with Novice Students

Developing novice students’ higher-order thinking skills is difficult. These skills usually require that students already have an established knowledge base, as they generally involve applying existing knowledge in new areas. Still, there are quite a few activities you can do to develop your students’ skills. Some of the ideas above can be used for novice kids, and some of those below can be used with more advanced students — adapt accordingly.

  • Have students label classmates with descriptive words (@SECottrell).
  • Making Venn diagrams for compare and contrast on stories, photos and more works well (@CalicoSpanish).
  • Show images to students and ask them to describe the situation. Then go into detail. For example, “What needs do these people have? What can you imagine they were doing before and after this photo?” (@CalicoTeach).
    • This works well with other levels, too. @klafrench likes to show images of the target culture to intermediate students and ask them to write the story of the painting.
    • @tonitheisen likes to use art images where students play a role from the painting in a skit or dialogue.
  • This is a great method with all ages, but particularly well-suited to young and novice learners: rather than test vocabulary and knowledge with English translations, try using images. For example, @suarez712002 likes to use images for matching exercises and @klafrench often asks students to draw pictures instead of writing definitions, which makes for much improved connections.
  • @GlastonburyFL shows novice students maps (try Google Maps) and asks them to decide the best transportation method from place to place. Use real locations in target-language countries and cities and ask questions such as “Can you walk from el Prado to el Palacio Real? What would be a better way to go?”
    • @CalicoTeach suggests adding to the descriptions to give students more to consider, for example “You have two toddlers with you…”
  • @GlastonburyFL suggests letting young, novice students describe a fruit to classmates. The classmates have to guess what the fruit is. An alternative is to put a picture of a fruit on the blackboard behind a student, and the class has to describe it for the student to guess. Or in pairs, put a picture of a fruit on one student’s forehead for the other to describe.
    • These activities are actually good for any vocabulary or set depending on the students’ ages — from fruit and sports to movie plots and celebrities (@klafrench).
  • Try using irrational questions to get kids thinking and responding critically. For example, “Do you brush your hair with bacon? Why not?” (@ProfaEsp). Students interact with the real world by defining items and their use.

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Tips and Resources

Thank You!

Thanks to all our participants for joining us for our first #langchat of the new year — you shared so many great resources and ideas, and everyone appreciates your support! As we’ve mentioned for the past several weeks, we’ve been working on compiling a #langchat e-book, Web Tools for 21st-Century World Language Classroom, and we’d like to make it available to you, absolutely free!

Over the past year, #langchat has really turned into some of the best professional development out there for world language (and other) teachers. This is possible because of you joining us every week and so freely sharing your ideas for your colleagues’ benefit. We’ve compiled some of your best ideas and resources from the past year in this book for everyone’s reading pleasure, and you can download the free e-book here.

Please, accept this token of our thanks and check out the e-book soon. It’s designed to be a resource for you to consult as time goes by, no need to read it from cover to cover (though that’s a fine choice, too!). When you’re finished looking it over, please let us know what you think on Twitter or by commenting on the download page.

Thanks again, and see you next Thursday on #langchat!


Get your free #LangChat e-book, containing the best teacher-suggested tips and tricks for world-language education!

#LangChat is an independent group of educators who get together every week on Twitter to discuss topics of interest to the world-language community. Your colleagues and fellow language enthusiasts share their tried-and-true tips, tools and resources freely in the interests of communal professional development.

We at Calico Spanish sponsor summaries of each week’s #LangChat as a service to the community. And now, we’re proud to make available an collecting the best suggestions from participants for web tools that enhance the world language classroom!

– Don’t miss a summary: follow the blog on Bloglovin –

Free Ebook from #LangChat

This ebook is Web Tools for the 21st Century World Language Classroom Tools for the 21st-Century World Language Classroom, and it brings together all the excellent tools and resources that your world language colleagues have suggested since we began meeting in February 2011. From innovative places to find and organize authentic resources for your students to the best apps for use in the classroom and beyond, this e-book has everything you need to lead a modern, 21st-Century classroom.

And it’s available FREE to all #LangChat participants and other world language enthusiasts! Simply click the link in the sidebar and download your copy today.

– Like Calico Spanish on Facebook –

Download your copy of the e-book now, then head on over to the latest #LangChat summary to let us know what you think. If you have anything you’d like to add to the discussion, please feel free to contact us at the #LangChat wiki or by commenting on the weekly summaries. This project is a community effort composed of suggestions from you and your colleagues, and we’d love to hear what works for you in the classroom.

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If you like the book and want to spread the word to your language education colleagues, please feel free to tweet or like us below. We appreciate it! See you next Thursday on #LangChat!