Lurking by -Jeffrey-, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  -Jeffrey- 

It was an exciting and fun tweet-up last Thursday as we got together with some of our #langchat regulars and had a few in-person laughs at the American Convention of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). It was so much fun, we almost forgot that we were supposed to be learning and sharing online as well as offline!

The discussion surrounded the theme of this year’s ACTFL: The new realities for learning language any time and any place. It was clear from our discussion that ideas like real communication, interaction with the community and an ever-increasing emphasis on technology make learning language available in any location and at any pace imaginable.

Top 10 Concepts that Will Shape the Future of World Language Education

Through our discussion, we developed a couple of concepts that we are sure will continue to allow students to learn at their leisure and from wherever they desire.

10. Goodbye to paper-based resources

Some of our participants are drifting ever farther away from reliance on textbooks and workbooks. @CoLeeSensei said, “For me, the new reality means bye-bye to a the text driven curriculum – Ss need skills to learn outside my room.”

With the increased access to authentic documents, speakers and curriculum supports available on the Internet, world language teachers will be able to more easily create classes that are relevant and interesting to students. @Ashida_Linda said, “There are so many authentic contexts and communication opportunities with authentic audiences.”

9. Hello to connection

As teachers reduce their use of traditional paper-based resources, interpersonal communication with native speakers around the world and around the corner will become the lifeblood of the language classroom. @Ashida_Linda said, “There are exciting new opportunities to collaborate and learn beyond the classroom with google docs, hangout, skype, etc.”

#langchat teachers shared their ideas for taking connection to the next level as well. @MaestraVance suggests you “expose students to people in their own community who are using the language.” @CoLeeSensei is having students “report their “real life encounters” with the TL outside of class.” And @jas347 wants to “find real world connections and reasons to practice the language. Engage them with people in the community.”

8. Putting the power with the student

As in all areas of education, world language teachers will begin to put more and more emphasis on student-centered and student-driven education. Flipped classrooms, student mentoring and project-based learning is allowing students to define their learning objectives within parameters that are set by teachers. This new way of thinking about education has long-lasting implications and may be one of the game-changers for traditional education.

Specifically, teachers will become more aware of how to take advantage of teaching moments and support students in their own learning goals. @jas347 said, “Lessons that are planned need to be adaptable to teachable moments that connect with students’ interests. Adapt your curriculum to your students.” @fletch_kirsten said, “New reality for me is giving students more autonomy to direct their own learning and share their discoveries with me.” In addition, @Ashida_Linda suggests making lessons “relevant to students’ lives” and encouraging them to connect with authentic audiences.

7. Education on your own terms

All the emphasis on student-centered learning is likely to lead to additional freedom for the teacher. @msfrenchteach said, “This new reality means that my students can lounge on the classroom floor bean bags AND interact with students across the globe. Love it!”

But, it’s not just classroom furniture that leads to increased interaction. World language teachers will be able to connect with each other more, sharing insights and lessons via Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media channels. Additional technology will allow them to grade faster, teach more in-depth and use better authentic resources.

6. Learning beyond the classroom

@CatherineKU72 said, “Helping students learn the realities of learning beyond classroom are still a challenge. We need to be the leaders in promoting that concept.” World language instruction is becoming about much more than just a few hours of direct instruction a week. Increasingly, teachers are focusing on getting students engaged with the language outside of the classroom in unique and individualized ways.

Learning beyond the classroom is necessitated by our growing global world. @HSspanishApp said, “My new reality is that my students need to know Spanish for their everyday lives and implement what they learn in their professions the next day!” As students realize the need for language competency, they will begin to use their personal time differently. This means teachers will need to get students used to connecting in the target language on the internet, in person and on social media. @GaryDiBianca suggested starting students now on following interesting people on Twitter and other social media in the target language as a first step.

5. The age of communication

The necessity of language skills makes traditional “worksheets” increasingly obsolete in language education. @CoLeeSensei said, “The new reality is that the worksheet has been replaced by the ‘show me how you know it’ work.” This means that teachers will be focused on much more than just language accuracy. In the future, an emphasis on grammatical and structural perfection may be supplanted by the focus on actual communication in the target language.

This emphasis leaves little room for abstract knowledge that can’t be used in a real-life communication situation. @senoraCMT said, “We need to learn to communicate in the target language, not learn about the target language. If they are going to own and use the language, they need skills! @SECottrell agreed, saying, “It’s time to stop saying, ‘Imagine you…,’ and take our students’ language to their streets in real ways.”

4. Fighting for appropriate and applied technology

Innovation isn’t always embraced at the same pace throughout a system. @LauraJaneBarber shared a frustration that is very commonly felt. She said, “World language peeps try to be fancy and techy, but the tech department in our district shuts down anything “risky” we try to do.” She went on to say that the Edmodo platform, which is widely used by language teachers, in not allowed in her school.

As teachers continue to lobby for access to effective technology in language classrooms, hopefully there will be a trend to allow unique technologies and educate students on how to interact with them appropriately. @CoLeeSensei shared an example of this by saying, “I use my phone a lot to document what goes on in my class so my students also see me model ‘proper phone use’.” Other technologies like GeniusHour, Weebly, Quizlet, PollEverywhere, GoogleVoice, WordReference and QR codes have already been effective in many world language classrooms.

3. Blogging, curating and pinning

One of the key technologies that have also gained an important place in the world language education community is content sharing, curation and management. Class blogs, commonly shared pinboards and online portfolios save time and allow students to have better access to authentic resources.

#langchat teachers offered a few ways that they currently use these curation devices.

  • @natadel76 said, “Once saw common blog: French and American students posted comments and videos on predetermined themes.”
  • @Ashida_Linda said, “I’m looking to having my students build their own academic prof professional learning network (PLN) blog, and then publish.”
  • @natadel76 said, “Have students keep their own portfolio with samples of work that can be shareable.”
  • @alenord said, “I would also like to have students use Pinterest to curate info, resources based on our units.”

2. Rethinking the homework doctrine

While homework is mandated in many districts, it seems to be a trend among #langchat teachers to stay away from the traditional definition of homework. Although this might not lead to a future without homework, it will give rise to a discussion about whether or not homework is meeting a specific need and how it is achieving results. @LauraJaneBarber said, “I don’t ever give homework besides “study” if you need to and provide resources on school site.”

Regardless of how the dialogue resolves, it is likely that homework will become much more technologically based and much less intensive, based on the opinions of last Thursday’s #langchat. @CarolGaab shared her passionate perspective: “I hate HW, unless it’s USEFUL, QUICK and ENJOYABLE For homework, I tell students to go to the wiki, listen, read, label, comment on photos, videos, songs, etc.”

1. Playing a brand new ball game

We wish that we could have a crystal ball so that we could clearly see what the future holds for world language instruction, but we don’t. We do predict that technology will provide quite a few more surprises for education and communication that will make us rethink how we teach. @MartinaBex said, “How you teach now isn’t what they will need in the future! Technology is a high speed train.”

The future isn’t ours to see, but as long as we are adapting and focusing on communication, we can hopefully keep up with the technological and educational demands the future will no doubt pose to us. @CoLeeSensei summed up how many of us felt on Thursday’s chat: “I must admit that a new reality is the realization that the way I used to teach isn’t what my students need now. I must change as they do!”

Thank You

We’d like to thank @CoLeeSensei and @SECottrell for keeping the online discussion rolling. @msfrenchteach and @CalicoTeach welcomed participants to the face-to-face live chat. We loved meeting and chatting with all of you who joined the live Tweet-Up during ACTFL 2013 and hope to see many more of you at ACTFL 2014 in San Antonio, TX.

Visit the online archive to read a full transcript of this chat. Also, if you have ideas for topics you’d like to discuss in the future, please feel free to share your ideas with us. We love to talk about the things that matter to you, and we appreciate you sharing what is working (or not working) in your world language classroom.

Additional Resources

Homework? A Quick Phone-Recorded Conversation Please!
Recreating The Awkwardness
Holly Jiménez Twitter
Google Voice: Including student voices in class (Part 2)
Genius Hour Experiment
How To Use Google Street View In MFL Classrooms
Homework: To assign or not to assign?

Question mark sign by Colin_K, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Colin_K 

World language classrooms revolve around understanding and participating in a new language. For many teachers, there are still many questions about how to assess speaking activities, prepare students for success and incorporate technology into speaking lessons. On the latest #langchat, participants responded to 8 vital questions when thinking about speaking assessments. They also shared some great ideas for how to engage students in the target language through oral communication.

1. What Kinds of Speaking Assessments Are There?

There are two main types of speaking assessments: formative and summative. Formative assessments are done as a vital part of the learning process. They check up on skills that have been taught to ensure the student is progressing in the right direction. Summative assessments are usually more extensive, with the goal of allowing students to show what they have learned over a unit or semester.

Examples of Formative Assessments:

Interpersonal Speaking. Group or partner speaking activities are a good way to informally assess speaking proficiency. @dr_dmd said, “I also walk around with a clipboard to tick off criteria as I listen in on groups. Easy to keep checking in on all kids.”

Presentational Speaking. Sharing out information from a group activity in the target language is a great way to assess presentational speaking without putting undue pressure on the student. @tiesamgraf said, “For presentational mode- it’s practice, practice, practice – with tools/support slowly being removed for more independent speaking.”

Examples of Summative Assessments:

Interpersonal Speaking. Having students interact with you in a one-on-one situation is one of the most common ways to summatively assess interpersonal communication. @klafrench said, “My summative are mostly individual. They prepare in advance, or at least the ones who worry about proficiency do!”

Presentational Speaking. Having students perform a skit, a debate or a report are all ways that summative assessments can be presentational. Technology makes this even easier, as apps like Audacity, GoogleVoice and Evernote allow students to record these presentations beforehand. @dr_dmd said, “In my BIG classes, I need to be creative to get to all students. If presentational, I use Google Voice or Evernote app.”

2. How Often Should You Have Speaking Assessments?

The answer to this question completely depends on your district, classroom and individual students. While some #langchat teachers do formative assessments on a daily basis, others do formative assessments once or twice a week.

Summative assessments are slightly different. Depending on the number of units in each year, and whether your school is on a quarter, trimester or semester schedule, you could have as few as 2 and as many as 12 summative assessments each year! For example, @klafrench has 3 each semester, while
@CoLeeSensei has one every 2-3 weeks depending on the unit. The key to remember is to have enough summative assessments to allow the students to exhibit their new skills effectively, without rushing students who are not learning at the same rate.

3. How Do We Prepare Students for Speaking Assessments?

Many #langchat teachers agreed that preparation is the key to having a successful speaking assessment. Scaffolding information, allowing time to practice and even having students script their responses gives them more confidence in their speaking.

Some of the best ways to prepare students for speaking in the target language are:

Providing daily speaking warmups. Bellringers or opening activities that activate students’ prior knowledge are a great way to get them ready to use their speaking skills in the classroom. @msfrenchteach said, “For speaking quizzes, students prepare by practicing possible scenarios daily. I give them prompts when we are in practice mode.”

Designing a helpful word wall. It gives students confidence to be able to see helps if they begin to struggle in an assessment situation. @klafrench said, “I am really using my word wall this year. Lots of common verbs in past and present. Helps get them started in speaking in class.”

Teaching test-taking skills. A great way to prepare students to succeed is to teach them skills and tools for when they freeze up during a speaking assessment. @CoLeeSensei said, “We also practice how to assist/rescue or rework your points so ‘panic’ does not occur during a summative.”

Allowing practice with scripts. Although most world language teachers agreed that using a script on a summative assessment is not ideal, they agreed that it is a good way to help students feel confident on formative assessments. @klafrench said, “If they have written a skit with a partner, they can [use notes]. But, when it is formal, no notes.”

4. How Do We Keep Them On Task During Speaking Assessments?

When class sizes are large, it is hard to find ways to keep all the students on-task all of the time. While group formative assessments may require you to constantly move from group to group to assess proficiency, summative assessments may require your full attention on only a single student. Managing both of these needs can be very challenging.

World language teachers shared a few of their favorite ways to keep students on task for both summative and formative assessments.

  • @CoLeeSensei said, “I often use a quick ‘self assessment’ rubric that includes “did not use English.”“
  • @CecileLaine said, “Keep self-motivated kids in the back and kids who need your “support” in the front helps some.”
  • @msfrenchteach said, “Moved my desk back into quads this week. MUCH more of a team spirit and interaction. I see no change in noise level, so it works.”
  • @msfrenchteach said, “Another classroom management strategy during speaking assessments involves giving the students well thought-out tasks. Failed and learned more than once!”
  • @crwmsteach said, “Ask for students immediate feedback after all presentations. What did you see or hear that made a presentation better? No names, just honest feedback.”

5. How Do We Provide Them Feedback?

@natadel76 said, “The million dollar question: How do we provide students with feedback during these quick daily practice sessions? Interpersonal student-to-student interaction is a challenge for me to orchestrate AND provide meaningful feedback at the same time.”
Providing feedback is a necessary part of the learning cycle, especially feedback that is relevant and timely. @CoLeeSensei said, “I don’t think you can hit all at once – sometimes I stand near a group – oral feedback or quick ‘correction.’“

The idea of constantly being on the move was one that took hold of the #langchat conversation. @dr_dmd said that his students compared him to a “shark,” because he is always “circling.”@SenoraDiamond55 took this concept even further, hinting that world language teachers should be actively participating with students. She said, “My philosophy on talking and movement with students: if you’re not working with them, you’re working against them.”

Other great ways to give feedback are:

@msfrenchteach said, “I have an area of the room set up like a café. Two students at a time meet me there for speaking quizzes.”
@CoLeeSensei said, “I grab my rubrics from DELF – and tweak as necessary depending on task.”
@tiesamgraf said, “I have made it a point to sit outside their circles and try to collect 3 or 4 specific feedback items for after the activity.”
@dr_dmd said, “Feedback during warmups is possible as we circulate around the room and prompt with level 2 questions and answers – suggest new words, phrases.”

6. How Do We Have Appropriate Expectations About Speaking Assessments?

Often, one of our biggest weaknesses is in making sure our expectations are within the realm of possibility. Too often, we expect students to be able to remember and accurately represent the lessons that have been taught, without taking the individual into consideration. @KrisClimer said, “I have to remind myself when I get frustrated that they are 3 month olds, linguistically speaking.”

So, how can you have more reasonable expectations for your little language babies?

  • @crwmsteach said, “In the Novice level, put more emphasis on quantity. As their level increases, include more complex and accurate language.”
  • @dr_dmd said, “Novice speakers have limited level 2 language skills, and as we learn to converse on a theme, they can predict what the assessments are about.”

7. What Are Some Speaking Assessment Ideas That Really Work?

  • @Ashida_Linda said, “For practice I often do a “speed-dating” style line-up. Ss speak to each other 1 min, then switch partner. Gets them up and moving. The activity often ends with a whole class report out. That way students feel more prepared to report out, more prepared for assessment.”
  • @Sra_Kennedy said, “I do a matching game where students have to get 3 of a kind cards by asking other students questions.”
  • @SrtaTeresa said, “I like “show and tell” presentations in which the students get the chance to talk about an object that’s important to them and why.”
  • @tiesamgraf said, “Using images (thematic) help to provide opportunities to recycle and practice – I like to encourage word associations.”
  • @CoLeeSensei said, “We did a Year 4 debate today on school uniforms (yes or no). They self-assessed practice and debate – I also assessed debate.”
  • @klafrench said, “I have a scenario and rubric. Then students record using Quick Voice. They e-mail me their recording.”
  • @dr_dmd said, “When I decide to interview students myself, I have small group work going – reading assessments, writing assessments, or project time.”
  • @tiesamgraf said, “I love infographics – great idea to use as prompts – they work well for compare/contrast convos.”
  • @dr_dmd said, “Spontaneous communication assessments can be done often. Keep index cards for each student – write score on the card when called – easy!” @Ashida_Linda said, “Yes! And index cards can be used to call on students randomly for report out after small group practice.”
  • @msfrenchteach said, “The best assessment is the simplest one — not mapping out every little detail of the exchange leaves room for improvisation.”
  • @Sra_Kennedy said, “@dr_dmd Students repeat, practice in pairs and play interpersonal games where they have to use the language chunks learned to win.”
  • @crwmsteach said, “For students to use target language, keep daily surveys. Lower levels can ask questions and record short answers. Upper levels have questions or topics and time segments to use the target language.”
  • @cocamanar said, “For structured practice with different partners, use a random partner generator on computer. It gets their energy up, and helps students branch out.”

Thank You

We’d like to thank our moderators, @CoLeeSensei, @msfrenchteach and @dr_dmd, for keeping us on track and asking us all of these awesome thought-provoking questions. There were a few key ideas that we didn’t cover in our summary this week. If you’d like to read what we missed, check out the online archive for a full transcript.

As always, we wouldn’t have #langchat without amazing teachers like you. If you have an idea for a future chat, please share your ideas with us! It’s great to have new and fresh perspectives on how we can become better language teachers.

Additional Resources

Pursuing Authentic Assessment in the Classroom – My 3 Rubrics
PALS: Performance Assessment for Language Students
The Art of Teaching Speaking
Kagan Strategy: Inside Outside Circle
Visual Learning – Visual Cues
Stick Pick
Performance Based Assessments (Laura Terrill)