Vocabulary for World Language Classrooms

During Korean Lesson. David Woo. Nov. 30, 2007.

Last week’s #LangChat participants discussed their strategies for helping students acquire vocabulary. @tmsaue1 correctly noted that the wording of the topic was deliberate: participants were asked how to help students “acquire vocabulary,” not just how to “teach” or “introduce” it.

Participants shared their best practices for ensuring that students are exposed to and retain meaningful and relevant vocabulary, and that they feel comfortable using it in context. We reassessed the value of traditional vocabulary-learning techniques (like lists and flashcards), and put forth innovative ways to use technology for new word acquisition.

Debating the Value of Vocabulary Lists

In most traditional world language classrooms, students are exposed to new vocabulary through “vocab lists.” Our participants took a step back and debated whether or not they are a natural and useful way for students to learn new words.

Several participants shared how they have let go of traditional lists and now focus on student-generated lists. @LauraJaneBarber often has her students do brainstorms based on pictures; they students are allowed to use English or L2 circumlocution to describe, and she provides the L2 word. She recommends focusing on fewer words at a time, as it increases the likelihood that student will remember them. @placido and @trescolumnae both generate lists with their students based on a text or topic of discussion. @trescolumnae’s advanced Latin students select topics 1-2 weeks in advance and help him develop the final project-type assessment with self-selected vocabulary.

Putting Flashcards in their Place

Traditional vocabulary lists and traditional flashcards go hand-in-hand. Participants also debated the value of this “old-school” memorization tool.

  • @placido warned that studying isolated words on flashcards do not mean students will acquire them. Student need to hear and read vocabulary words in context many times before the words are actually acquired.
  • @LauraJaneBarber, however, acknowledged that flashcards can be useful for students who really struggle with memorization. She recommends that they make their own electronic flashcards on Quizlet. @msfrenchteach also likes Quizlet because it can incorporate authentic audio as well as visuals.
  • @MartinaBex agreed that flashcards can be a useful tool for some students to use outside of the classroom; they just waste time in-class.

Some participants pointed out that flashcards often just use translation: the L2 word on one side, and the L1 translation on the other. @LauraJaneBarber warned that translation does not help acquisition. Many advocated using flashcards with images, rather than L1 words. @placido pointed out, however, that a simple translation of more abstract terms can save students a lot of confusion.

Learning Vocabulary with Visuals

Participants touted the value of teaching vocabulary using visuals. Both photographs and drawings can contribute to meaningful vocabulary acquisition:

  • @sonrisadelcampo recommends the WordFoto app for introducing students to new vocabulary: http://t.co/PKtwilbw
  • @CoLeeSensei has had her students go on phone photo “treasure hunts,” teaching her students to create their own visual vocabulary lists.
  • @placido, a TPRS teacher, recommends pre-teaching vocabulary using gestures, images, and personalized Q&A; she then “activates” it with storytelling.
  • @CoLeeSensei also uses Microsoft ClipArt images so as not to violate copyright law. She also takes the opportunity to expose students to open photo source rights – so important to understand in our digital age!

Teachers of all subjects are falling in love with Pinterest as a way to get ideas and organize lessons. The visual nature of Pinterest’s virtual pinboards make it a great tool for world language teachers introducing vocabulary to their students. @msfrenchteach makes thematic pinboards with relevant images and types the L2 word into the description box.

Activities and Strategies for Introducing Vocabulary

Several participants shared specific activities that they use with their students, and the strategies and philosophies that inform them:

  • This year, @laurenna725 started introducing her students to five new words each day after her warm-up activity.
  • @katchiringa believes the best way to help her AP students acquire vocabulary is by inundating them with authentic materials and asking them lots of questions.
  • Many participants recommended using songs to introduce and reinforce vocabulary. Authentic music puts words in context in a memorable way.
  • @klafrench has students apply and use new vocabulary immediately after it is introduced. She calls this “writing to learn.”
  • @DiegoOjeda66 recommended having students keep a journal of new vocabulary, and suggested that students connect L1 and L2 words through common etymologies.

Finally, @tmsaue1 reminded us that not every strategy works for every student when it comes to vocabulary acquisition. All the more reason to offer up vocabulary in a variety of ways (audio, visual, etc), pointed out @CoLeeSensei. And @msfrenchteach wisely notes that her greatest success with vocabulary acquisition has come since she made the shift to 90%+ spoken target language (TL) in her classroom, in accordance with ACTFL guidelines. Be sure to read last week’s #LangChat summary for more on the 90% TL classroom!

Thank you to all who participated! A warm thanks to @msfrenchteach and @placido for moderating the fast-paced discussion.

Have an idea for a future #LangChat topic? Be sure to share it on the #LangChat wiki! Also, don’t forget to vote in each week’s poll to help decide the next topic.

Join us Thursday, November 1st at 8pm EST (5pm PST) for the next #LangChat discussion!

#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.

Strategies for Staying in the Target Language with BeginnersLast week’s #LangChat participants discussed the challenge of maximizing target language use when teaching beginners, and strategies for overcoming that challenge. ACTFL recommends that language teachers aim to stay in the target language 90% of the time. The ACTFL magazine, The Language Educator, recently featured an article on this very topic.

But the 90% goal can be daunting for teachers standing in front of a class of beginners who don’t know a single word of the target language (henceforth abbreviated as “TL”). Many shared that this was in fact their greatest challenge as a language teacher.

To that end, participants in last week’s discussion shared the strategies, techniques, and methods that they use to maximize TL use with novices. They also suggested that teachers might need to change both what they teach and how they teach it in order to come closer to the ACTFL goal.

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Reframing Our Approach: Focusing on Comprehensible Input

@tmsaue1 got our discussion off to a great start with an insightful proposal: We as teachers need to think from the learner’s perspective. What are students receiving from the teacher? Is it useful? Relevant? The 90% TL use goal does not serve students well if student are not receiving comprehensible input.

@CalicoTeach reminded us that teachers must ensure that students are receiving the TL message. Sometimes this means going slow, added @dwphotoski. @SraSpanglish admitted that she was not prepared for how much an increased focus on comprehensible input slowed down the other things she had planned on accomplishing. But, as @dr_dmd pointed out, “covering material” does not guarantee that students are actually learning how to use L2. Sometimes, “less is more,” as the saying goes!

Examples of Comprehensible Input in the TL

One of the best ways to start introducing the TL to novice learners is by talking to them about what they know best: themselves. As @senoralopez pointed out, beginning language students will find talking about themselves to be meaningful and relevant, and will thus remain curious and attentive. For example, @senoraCMT is a big fan of a technique from Ben Slavic (circling with balls). She has each student draws a pic of what they like to do, and spend the first two weeks of class just talking about  students’ likes that they have drawn. She shares that because of this method, her class has been close to 90% TL since the first day.

@katchiringa cautioned that while students love to talk about themselves, teachers should not lose sight of the key purpose of learning a new language: opening them up to others.

Grammar and the 90% Goal

Ensuring 90% TL use in the novice classroom usually means forgoing traditional, explicit teaching of grammar and the use of vocabulary lists. For many students, parents, and even some teachers, this is hard to imagine: how can you learn to speak a language without starting with the building blocks? @Catherineku1972 shared that she had a parent ask her to assign more homework with more grammar.

As @dr_dmd said, teachers may need to remind parents and students that they learned their L1 without a grammar book; L2 can be learned in a similar way. @placido reminded us that world language teachers have to advocate for best practices, not cave to traditions. Sometimes this means giving students the “pieces” and having them put them together, as opposed to de-constructing a model, said @SraSpanglish. She shared this link to a post on her old blog on that deals with this very topic: http://t.co/h4W4MkIK

@SraSpanglish also posed an interesting question, asking whether we as teachers are doing future college students a disservice by not exposing them to the old-fashioned style language teaching that they will most likely encounter at the university level. Our participants weighed in:

  • @Catherineku1972 suggested that K-12 world language teachers are actually more innovative in their teaching styles than many college professors. @katchiringa also noted that secondary education is currently more “dynamic” than post-secondary.
  • @placido argued that preparing students for “bad” instruction in college does not justify “bad” teaching now. She suggested that by modeling great language teaching before college, students will perhaps start demanding more of their college instructors.
  • @trescolumnae pointed out that college world language programs are really looking more for students who already have some level of proficiency – not beginners. He suggested that we try to send colleges students with as advanced skills as we can.
  • @tmsaue1 said that it will take some time for post-secondary education to “catch up” with what K-12 teachers are doing, but he also suggested that if the entire K-12 field does their job right, colleges will get students with proficiency levels they have never seen before!

For those who worry that not teaching grammar explicitly will negatively impact students later in their academic careers, several participants put those fears to rest. @LPHS14 shared that last year was the second time she taught AP Spanish; her students from last year are saying that their college Spanish classes are so much easier than their high school classes! Similarly, @DonaKimberly has had many of her students come back to visit and share that they now tutor their peers in college.

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Specific Strategies for Staying in the TL with Beginners

Participants shared the following strategies that they use with their novice learners to help them stay in the target language:

  • @katchiringa recommends lots of repetition, visual support (images, gestures, cueing), and introducing cognates. Since beginners don’t have a large vocabulary, asking yes-or-no questions and/or allowing them to answer with a thumbs up or thumbs down questions lets students engage without feeling too much pressure.
  • Several participants suggested establishing one specific location in the classroom where English is permitted. The teacher must abide by this rule, too, and can only address the class if he or she is standing in this place. @tmsaue1 has seen a teacher section off an English-only zone using a hula hoop. @shannon_lorenzo has an American and Spanish flag displayed in the class; students know that English is only permitted when the US flag is raised. She shared that her students love to play language “police” by enforcing the flag rule!
  • @dr_dmd said that to stay in the TL at the novice level, a teacher must be prepared to make a fool of him or herself, with lots of humor, gestures, pictures, games, and stories – but always followed with a comprehension check.
  • @sonrisadelcampo has her students sketch things for her to talk about in the TL, which gives them plenty of input, with lots of personalized attention.
  • Since staying in the TL often seems daunting to beginners, @alenord recommends that teachers begin by telling their students, “We are going to try to stay in the TL for 10 minutes.” After those ten minutes, take a break and ask students if they are ready for more. Students will come to love the challenge of staying in the TL for longer and longer periods. @madamebaker pointed out that some teachers don’t trust their students enough to stay in TL; maintaining an open dialogue allows teacher to gauge their students comprehension and level of comfort.

@tmsaue1 reminded us that TL use isn’t something that just spontaneously happens; teachers must actively plan what to say in the TL. @senoralopez recommends designing plans backwards: she starts by thinking about assessments, which then allows her to scaffold lessons so that she can stay in the TL.

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Teaching Methods that Increase Target Language Use in the Classroom

Many #LangChat participants cited methods like TPRS and AIM (Accelerative Integrative Method) as effective in achieving the ACTFL’s 90% goal. @AudreyMisiano shared her satisfaction with the AIM method, stating that it helped her to make the shift from using the target language 50% of the time to 90% of the time, starting day 1.

Participants who were not familiar with the TPRS method received clarification from their TPRS-teaching colleagues. TPRS teachers @dwphotoski, @senoraCMT, and @placido were enthusiastic about using the method and were proud to share that their students consistently excel on university placement exams, despite the fact that TPRS does not explicitly teach grammar. @senoraCMT added that students are comfortable with the method, despite the fact that TPRS does not use textbooks or worksheets.

@dr_dmd praised TPRS and other storytelling techniques for the way they provide context for content. His one critique of TPRS, however, was the fact that the stories it uses often do not have strong cultural contexts; he usually creates his own stories, and delivers them to his students using TPRS technique as comprehensible input. This is perfectly fine, stressed TPRS teachers, as TPRS is a method, not a curriculum. As @placido put it, TPRS “is whatever you make it.” Similarly, @trescolumnae doesn’t do “pure” TPRS, but has borrowed and used TPRS techniques for his own classes.

Teachers interested in learning more about TPRS should check out webinars from TPRS Publishing Channel. @placido shared this link to YouTube videos showing TPRS in action: http://t.co/eQxiAWXA.

#LangChat participants @dwphotoski, @senoraCMT, and @placido all teach using TPRS, and @senoraCMT shared that she would welcome any visitors who wanted to watch her teach TPRS in southern Illinois.

More On Staying in the Target Language

For more insights on how to stay in the target language in the world language classroom, we recommend you look back to previous #LangChat summaries that touched on this topic.

A few favorites:

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A Warm #LangChat Thank You!

Thank you to all who participated in this fast-paced discussion! It is your insightful questions and answers that make #LangChat such a valuable resource for language teachers everywhere.

Our team of current #LangChat moderators were all able to participate in this particular chat: many thanks to @CalicoTeach, @dr_dmd, @placido, and @msfrenchteach! The moderators also expressed a special thanks to @@tmsaue1 for his helpful insights and mentoring.

Remember to make suggestions for future #LangChat topics on our wiki, and don’t forget to vote in our weekly polls to pick the week’s discussion topic. Want to keep the discussion going? Feel free to comment on these summaries to add any of your thoughts, or to let us know what you would like to see more of in the future.

See you this Thursday, October 25th at 8pm EST (5pm PST) for the next #LangChat!

#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.


Last week, #LangChat participants shared their insights on the best classroom management practices and techniques. It was a dynamic discussion, and teachers with all levels of experience were able to come away with new ideas!

As @placido noted, the discussion was more focused on general goals and philosophies, as well as some helpful tricks and techniques. There was no “magic bullet” solution that automatically makes a classroom run smoothly. After all, as @sonrisadelcampo pointed out, “magic bullet” practices don’t exist: classroom management is an ongoing labor of love.

The Key to Classroom Management: Relationships

All participants agreed that the most important way a teacher can manage his or her classroom is by building a positive relationship with his or her students. @klafrench and others said that trust was a huge component in the positive teacher-student relationship, which is so crucial in making a classroom run smoothly and helping everyone succeed. Students feel at ease when they trust that it’s okay to make a mistake, and that good work will be recognized. @suarez712002 suggested that it is important not just to give praise (“Good job!”) but also to give specifics on how and why something was well done.

Humor can go a long way towards making students feel comfortable in the classroom. Both @msfrenchteach and @placido shared that it is important that teachers be willing to laugh at themselves and admit to their own mistakes.

While it is important that teachers maintain control of the classroom and their position of authority, teachers (and especially world language teachers) should not be afraid to relinquish some of the traditional symbols of authority to help make their students feel more comfortable. Several participants shared that they no longer stand and teach from the front of the room; instead, they walk around the room as they teach, and sit with their students in a circle and participate in discussions. When @fravan assigns an activity to his students, he does the activity with them instead of just supervising, which also allows him to give extra help to struggling students.

@klafrench shared a particularly poignant quote: “[Your students] won’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Teachers can show their students that they care in a myriad of ways. For example, @sonrisadelcampo suggested that teachers make it a priority to get to know their students by asking them about themselves in the target language. @fravan shows his students that he cares about them beyond the classroom by attending as many of their games and performances as he can. @LauraJaneBarber reminded participants that it is important as a teacher to be yourself; students can pick up on false positivity very easily, which does little to build a sense of trust.

This relationship-building should begin on day one. @LauraJaneBarber shared a post from her blog in which she discusses how she works to set a positive tone in the classroom starting at the beginning of each school year: http://t.co/bARh7kVB

The Importance of Consistency and Routine

Many participants shared their thoughts on the importance of consistency and routine in the well-managed world language classroom. When students know what to expect, they are put at ease. @cbdamasco pointed out that routine is important at any level of study. Several participants shared ways in which they use routines to manage their classrooms:

  • @cbdamasco creates consistency and routine in her classroom through daily warm-up activities, end-of-class activities, and by having a central location where students turn in all work.
  • @profesorM starts each class with a Spanish pop song.
  • @LauraJaneBarber begins her classes by introducing a Spanish saying, and sometimes offering a brief life lesson to go with it.
  • @CoLeeSensei starts her classes by having a student act as a monitor, and by going over the date, weather, and homework in the target language.
  • @sonrisadelcampo reminded us of the importance of privately thanking a particularly helpful student (who distributed or collected papers, or who volunteered as monitor) to let them know that their help is appreciated.
  • As a fun class tradition, @Marishawkins gives students a free homework pass on their birthdays.
  • @klafrench said that ultimately, routines should become so natural to students that they should be able to (theoretically) run the class without the teacher even present!

Consistency and Discipline

Having consistent behavioral expectations and ways of dealing with disciplinary issues is just as important as students routinely expect to have fun and enjoy class. @cbdamasco advised teachers to be consistent in enforcing classroom rules so that students understand that you as a teacher mean what you say. @Marishawkins expressed that it is important to be consistent with expectations, but still be understanding when necessary (for example, if a student is going through a particularly difficult time for personal reasons).

Participants shared their perspectives on how to handle behavioral issues and discipline when necessary:

  • When a student creates a problem in the classroom, @LauraJaneBarber recommends handling the issue with the student individually. Don’t publicly discuss an issue, as embarrassment leads to resentment and damages the student-teacher relationship.
  • Anger and yelling are never the answer when dealing with behavioral issues. Instead, @placido suggested that a stern look, a hand on the desk, and a firm tone of voice can be much more effective in getting a point across.
    Similarly, @LauraJaneBarber reminded participants to stay calm and matter-of-fact, keeping an even tone. The most important thing is making sure the student understands why their action led to a specific consequence.
  • @SraHeebsh has created a behavior checklist and she has students self-evaluate and comment on their own in-class behavior. She comments back and discusses the self-evaluations with the students’ parents at the end of each quarter.
  • @placido reminded participants to make sure students actually understand what you are saying in the target language. Students will be less inclined to misbehave if they can actually follow the flow of the class.
  • @suarez712002 reminded us to separate the student from the behavior: bad behavior does not mean the student himself is “bad.” It is important to reconnect with the student to keep them from feeling that their misbehavior has forever redefined the student-teacher relationship.

@placido advised that teachers be mindful of transition times and try to make them as seamless and quick as possible so as not to lose the class flow and students’ attention, as this can create opportunities for misbehavior.

To prevent any behavioral problems before they start, @CoLeeSensei has her students switch their seating every 1-2 weeks so that students end up interacting with the whole class.

Teacher Organization and Logistical Strategies

Participants shared their organizational tricks and logistical strategies for effectively managing their classrooms. For example, @SraHeebsh keeps her class organized by picking the most energetic student in the class and appointing him or her class “secretary.” It is his or her job to collect assignments and make sure that they all have names on them (saving @SraHeebsh lots of time later!).

Participants also shared lots of ideas to help keep students alert, engaged, and on their toes.

  • When students ask @LauraJaneBarber, “What are we doing today?” she simply answers, “All sorts of great things!” to keep them guessing.
  • @Marishawkins uses popsicle sticks to call on students at random; that way, everyone has to be ready to answer at any given time.
  • @SraHeebsh and @placido both like to move around and teach from different spots around the room. @placido also likes using a laser pointer to point to things around the room.
  • If students seem sluggish, @sonrisadelcampo has them all stand, just as she has to do when she’s teaching. Students may roll their eyes at first, but they perk up quickly after being on their feet.
  • Alternatively, when @SraHeebsh’s freshmen are too rambunctious, she turns off half the lights, which seems to calm them.

Thinking outside the box when it comes to desk arrangements and seating can completely transform a classroom dynamic. Participants shared some truly creative ways that they have rearranged their classrooms:

  • @placido groups her students at large tables of 4-6 and gives each table the name of a country. She calls on these groups by the country name.
  • @CoLeeSensei likes pairing her students; she finds that partners look after each other.
  • @LauraJaneBarber likes to keep her students moving by changing the seating. She plays music and has students move around the classroom; when the music stops, students pair with the person nearest to them.
  • @sonrisadelcampo has eliminated desks from her classroom; she finds that students are distracted by them, and they actually prefer not having them. @trescolumnae plans to do the same in his classroom.
  • Now that all of @msfrenchteach’s students are using iPads, she has swapped desks and chairs for bean bags. Students are still just as focused, but more comfortable than they were before.

Insights from Experienced Teachers

Finally, co-moderator @placido asked experienced teachers how they developed their classroom management skills over the years, and what they continue to struggle with. Participants gave insightful and honest answers:

  • @CoLeeSensei shared that she is where she is today as a teacher from many years of trying, failing, and asking veteran teachers for their input.
  • @SurviveSpanish studied his teachers that had great classroom management skills and tried to figure out what made them successful so that he could imitate them.
  • @SraHeebsh said that when she started to put responsibility back on students, her classroom management skills got better. Students can’t argue if expectations are made clear from the beginning of the course.
  • @dwphotoski found that two books in particular have really helped him develop his classroom management skills. He recommends Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones and Teaching with Love and Logic by Jim Fay.
  • @SraHeebsh recommends that every teacher get a good mentor teacher and not to be afraid of sharing mistakes with him or her. She also has found that serving as a mentor teacher has helped her strengthen her own management skills.
  • @BHS_Doyle admits that he tends to begin faltering as soon as he starts to think that he has it all figured out.
  • @msfrenchteach struggles with classroom management on days when she isn’t feeling well; at those times it is harder to be patient with certain behaviors.

Participants also shared that they always learn a lot whenever they get a chance to observe their colleagues teaching. It was recommended that every teacher take advantage of any opportunity to watch others teach.

Many thanks to all of our participants for sharing their experiences and insights last week! A special thanks to co-moderators @dr_dmd, @placido, and @msfrenchteach for helping to make the discussion particularly informative.

While we bid farewell and good wishes to @SECotrell, who will be taking a leave of absence from the #LangChat team, we welcomed Cristy Vogel (aka @msfrenchteach) as the newest #LangChat team member and co-moderator! Congratulations, Cristy!

We also want to wish congratulations to @SenorG, who is a finalist for the ACTFL teacher of the year award!

Join us this Thursday, October 18th, at 8pm EST (5pm PST) for the next #LangChat! And don’t forget to vote in the poll to help choose Thursday’s discussion 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.

Last week, #LangChat participants tackled a much-used buzzword in education. It seems that “rigor” gets thrown around a lot by educators, but the definition remains somewhat unclear – especially in the world language classroom. As many participants pointed out, the dictionary definition of “rigor” is certainly not in line with the goals of most teachers. Webster’s dictionary defines “rigor” as “harsh inflexibility, a condition that makes life difficult, strict precision” – which does not describe a supportive, healthy learning environment!

Nevertheless, as @tmsaue1 pointed out, learning can be difficult and uncomfortable, particularly in the world language classroom, which often forces students out of their comfort zone. But that can be a good and important thing. Learning in a language other than one’s own is one of the greatest academic challenges any person can face, thus making the performance-based world language classroom rigorous by default. At the same time, a world language classroom where students play games all day, perhaps acquire vocabulary, but are ultimately unable to communicate, is not a rigorous classroom.

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Rigor in the World Language ClassroomParticipants sought to reclaim the word and apply it to the world language classroom in a constructive way. For some, rigor is an ideal to which teachers adhere; for others, rigor in the classroom can be student-driven, as well. Still others decided it refers to the nature of the material taught in class (for example: depth versus breadth). Ultimately, any and all of these re-definitions of “rigor” are useful for the world language teacher seeking to help his or her students acquire the target language and become truly proficient.

Teachers and “Rigor”

“Rigor” can represent an ideal to which teachers themselves aspire. Participants shared their thoughts on how teachers can apply the idea of “rigorousness” to themselves and their teaching:

  • @dr_dmd believes that teachers should be “rigorously” devoted to ensuring that all students are successful, and looking for ways to make that happen best we can. Teachers can be rigorous not just with their students, but also with themselves: unwaveringly committed to being the best teachers we can be.
  • For @pamwesely, “rigor” is achieved when there is a connection between lesson objectives, activities, and assessments.
  • To @CoLeeSensei, a rigorous class focuses on depth in learning, use and application of the target language, rather than breadth (number of tenses or vocabulary words memorized).
  • @MartinaBex re-defined “rigor” as “the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate,” thereby facilitating acquisition of the target language. She went on to say that this means challenging each student at his or her level through differentiation, which provides appropriate challenges for progress.
  • @DiegoOjeda66 believes that rigor in education is synonymous with having high expectations. Teachers create a rigorous learning environment when they have high expectations for their students and give them the tools to meet those expectations.

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Rigor and Efficiency

@DiegoOjeda66 went on to note that while “rigor” may have a different meaning in other contexts, in education, rigor and efficiency are very much related. Using in-class and out-of-class time effectively to attain proficiency represents rigor. @tmsaue1 noted that some teachers think because their students can conjugate in three different tenses, their classes are “hard” and “rigorous;” he contested that this is not the case. If students cannot use those tenses in context, then the time spent memorizing them was wasted, and the class was not “rigorous” because it failed to get students closer to proficiency. As @espanolbartlett pointed out, rigor means getting students to hone higher thinking skills in L2; rote memorization does not do this. Similarly, @CoLeeSensei shared that a teacher who holds him or herself to rigorous standards will ask students “what didn’t you know that you needed to know to do this” to refine activities and assignments to students needs for more efficient learning in the future.

But a rigorous classroom is not exclusively or overly focused on student output. As @MartinaBex noted, many teachers believe that using a lot of communicative activities in the classroom indicates rigor. But she believes her class to be much more rigorous now that she focuses more on input, rather than output. @SECottrell agreed, noting that world language teachers often overlook the importance of input when they focus so much on output, pushing students to use language that they don’t have. This represents an inefficient use of class time, and if “rigor” is associated with “efficiency” (as @DiegoOjeda66 suggested), a classroom that focuses too much on output without appropriately preparing students cannot be rigorous. @dr_dmd pointed out that teachers need to be rigorous about their own part in the process.

Teachers, Administrators, and “Rigor”: Aligning Expectations

Many participants noted that school administrators may have a different sense of the meaning of “rigor” than teachers. For example, administrators may be more concerned with rigorously preparing students for standardized testing and AP/IB exams, while teachers are focused on actual language acquisition. Participants notes that exams like the AP can help teachers and students set appropriate
goals, but teachers must not lose sight of the larger goal of language acquisition and proficiency. Teaching to the test allows many students to pass who actually unable to communicate in the target language.

To help get teacher and administrators goals in line, @dr_dmd suggests inviting an administrator to observe an excellent lesson focused on authentic communicative learning opportunities where students are appropriately engaged for acquisition. @SrtaLisa’s department brainstormed ideas for how to explain the goal of world language teachers (to develop higher order thinking skills in L2) to non-language teachers here: http://t.co/nuOCa3Wt

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The Role of Student Motivation in Creating a “Rigorous” Learning Environment

A rigorous classroom needs more than a capable teacher; students must be engaged in their own learning. It is up to the teacher to motivate students to take personal responsibility for their learning and to be actively engaged in class. Participants rightly differentiated terms like “rigor,” “fun,” and “engagement.”

  • @DiegoOjeda66 stated that a fun class with no rigor is just a fun class; however, a class can still be fun while being rigorous, and will leave a lasting impact on students.
  • @tmsaue1 reports that he has seen classes that are engaging and fun, but that did not challenge students to learn anything new. Such classes cannot be called rigorous.
  • @pamwesely believes that rigor does not necessarily equal student engagement. Rigor suggests active, progressive learning as well as engagement.

It can be a challenge to cultivate motivation in students. Many participants reported that their students often as for “free days” where the focus is shifted away from actual learning. @SraHoopes says that her students don’t ask for “free days” because they know it’s not going to happen. She established early on that class time is too valuable to waste on “free days.”

So how can a teacher help students contribute to “rigor” in the classroom? @CoLeeSensei shared that it’s important to offer students the opportunity to strive for and choose their own levels of achievement. She offers students “level up” options in oral assessments, which include things not explicitly taught in a particular unit. She is consistently impressed at how students take these opportunities that lead to excellence.

Many thanks to all our participants for their engagement and insightful contributions! A special thanks to @dr_dmd for moderating the evening’s discussion.

We invite all participants to suggest topics for future #LangChats on our wiki. Participants are also encouraged to vote in each week’s poll to help choose that week’s topic.

Join us Thursday, October 11th at 8pm EST (5pm PST) for the next #LangChat!

#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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