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Welcome back to #langchat! Last week, familiar and new #langchatters alike gathered to share their thoughts on effective pre-teaching strategies (and a promise to post selfies with their new #langchat T-shirts, of course!). Participants worked to define pre-teaching, suggested strategies to help students explore a (unit) theme, discussed strategies that prime students for success in various modes, reflected on ways to train students to pre-teach themselves, and expressed their view of the interplay of students’ L1 and TL in pre-teaching.

We would like to thank all of the participants who took part in the Q&A conversation last week, as well as our moderators, Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Kris (@KrisClimer), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei).

Question 1: What is pre-teaching?

Participants worked to establish a definition of pre-teaching. In so doing, they described pre-teaching as a useful technique for drawing on previous knowledge, laying groundwork for future learning, activating and priming students for new material, and capturing student attention.

  • Drawing on previous knowledge:
    Several instructors observed that pre-learning entails looking back at and connecting with previous lessons. @SrtaLohse said, “[Pre-learning] involves brainstorming and making connections to previously taught material.” @dawnrwolfe noted that with pre-learning “new material is not so ‘foreign’,” and @SrLaBoone suggested “[reviewing] what [students] already learned and then adding something new to […] see if they can figure out what it is.” Participants wrote that pre-learning can additionally help instructors to gauge students’ grasp of previous material. For example, @SECottrell commented, “[Kids are] not a blank slate. So [pre-teaching] can involve finding out what they already know.” @CoLeeSensei added that pre-teaching provides instructors with more than knowledge of student language development but also highlights their past experiences “experience-wise… what have [students] ‘done’ in any language [that] they can draw on?”

  • Laying the groundwork for future learning:
    Some Langchatters expressed that pre-teaching can build a foundation moving forward. @KrisClimer described the effect of pre-teaching as “laying the groundwork (or building the foundation) on which future learning will be constructed.” @magisterb480 agreed that pre-learning entails “[building background knowledge (vocabulary/grammar/etc.).” @SrLaBoone suggested thoughtful organization of units to facilitate the transition from past to future learning: “[My] best pre-teaching seems to occur when one unit flows seamlessly into the next.”

  • Activating/Priming students:
    Other Langchatters characterized pre-teaching as a priming activity involving implicit exposure to new material. @SrtaJohnsonEBHS said, “Pre-teaching is priming the brain for learning by exposing it to information implicitly before [teaching] it explicitly.” @MmeCarbonneau similarly described pre-teaching as implicit showing before telling: “[activating] prior knowledge [and/or] showing a concept/material BEFORE explaining explicitly.”

  • Grabbing Students’ Attention:
    Many participants underscored the value of effective pre-teaching as an attention grabber. @Sralandes wrote that pre-teaching was a hook to pull students in: “Pre-teaching is driving students to want to learn about the [information]. It’s our trailer or hook.” @SrLaBoone also commented on the need for a good hook: “[Pre-teaching] for me is getting young minds excited to learn. What’s the hook? If it’s a good one, they will be receptive.” Even if students still don’t know what’s coming, @SrtaLohse emphasized that engagement is key: “If done right, the students don’t necessarily know what the lesson topic or new concept is, but are engaged nonetheless.” @Ashida_Linda suggested “[activating] personal connections [or] background knowledge” to engage learners. Increasing engagement by helping students to personally connect with material was discussed during previous #langchats (See and

Question 2: What pre-teaching strategies help students explore a (unit) theme?

Langchatters reflected on effective pre-teaching strategies to guide student exploration of a new theme. Their suggestions centered on tracing a learning roadmap with students, exploring authentic resources, and seeking out attention-grabbing tools.

  • Tracing a roadmap with students: What do we know? Where are we headed?
    @alisonkis encouraged student reflection on past learning as key to moving forward: “The goal is to connect [students’] experiences and what they already know [to new units]. Thus, strategies should invite them to reflect.” @Ashida_Linda suggested “an overview, or road map, of future learning, [with] opportunities for [students] to ‘navigate’ some of their own learning.”

  • Exploring authentic resources (#authres) with students:
    @SECottrell described exploration of #authres as her “favorite stations for previewing the unit theme.” @Ashida_Linda suggested that instructors could allow students to search for #authres themselves as an engaging introduction to a new unit: “[Give students] 5 minutes to surf #authres on [a] topic [using sites] including Twitter. [Students] love sharing [and] get ‘hooked’ on theme.”

  • Finding tools to capture student attention: Memes, Virtual Fieldtrips, Games, Storytelling, and More!
    Participants brainstormed different tools to grab student attention when introducing new material.

    • Memes: Many participants proposed memes as a pre-teaching [email protected] highlighted their value for “[introducing] new words and concepts with funny pictures and videos,” adding, “I like using memes a lot!” @SenorG shared a link to “100+ Spanish memes”:, and @magisterb480 shared a meme archive for Latinists: “For us Latinists there’s – a fine source of Latin meme-ness… and sometimes I have the [students] make their own!”
    • Virtual Fieldtrips: Virtual fieldtrips were suggested as an exciting visual introduction to a new unit without leaving the classroom. @SenorG shared a link to his “‘Virtual Field Trips How-to’ [document] for GoogleMaps:” @SrLaBoone added that not only maps but travel videos of different regions are valuable: “Pre-teaching for [a] travel unit, for [example], might [involve showing] official tourism videos from various countries. [They are] [short], engaging, [and] to the point.”
    • Games: Gaming was discussed as another interactive tool to pre-teach new material. @MmeCarbonneau wrote that instructors could have students “[play] Kahoot to see what [they] can do [or] figure out BEFORE the lesson.” For more gaming ideas, you can refer to a past summary on “Technology in the Classroom: The Right Tool at the Right Time”:
    • Storytelling: Stories can also be used to preview a topic and pull students in! @SECottrell said, “Another favorite for previewing [a] theme is also my favorite for introducing all the content: storytelling.”
    • Visual Slideshow: Instructors can draw students into a unit by presenting engaging images related to a new unit. @CoLeeSensei uses a unit visual slideshow to introduce a theme and shared a link to her blog post with a do-it-yourself guide:

Question 3: What primes students for success in the various modes?

Langchatters stressed the importance of scaffolding and making material relevant for students. They also suggested ways to prime students for success in reading and listening.

  • Scaffolding comprehensible input:
    Participants couldn’t stress the need to scaffold “[lots] of compelling comprehensible input!” enough (@andrearoja). As @ProfeCochran reiterated, priming students for success involves “s-c-a-f-f-o-l-d-i-n-g, plenty of exposure to #authres, oh, and scaffolding.” Instructors also highlighted the importance of gestures to make input comprehensible, especially at the novice level. @ProfeCochran said, “[With] my [first] class of [Spanish 1] in [YEARS], I have remembered [the] importance of gestures. [There’s something] really special about physical response.” @SrtaLohse voiced agreement: “Gestures [and] even facial expressions can definitely help convey meaning, even for upper levels.” For more tips on scaffolding comprehensible input, check out a past #langchat summary:

  • Making it Relevant!
    Once again, Langchatters viewed personally meaningful content as key to student success. @Theodulph said, “I like to use [pre-teaching] to personalize lessons so I ask students questions relevant to their lives that involve the theme.” @SrtaJohnsonEBHS similarly encouraged use of “[topics relevant to the [students] and their lives [with emphasis on] real vocab they want [or] need to communicate.” @magisterb480 wrote that this is especially important for particular languages: “With a language like Latin, make it relevant. Try to make examples with meaningful context.”

  • Reading Success:
    Instructors viewed authentic resources as valuable tools for priming student reading. Participants highlighted the need to adapt authentic resources to student level. @alisonkis said, “Use [of] #authres is [a] good idea, but sometimes they might [be] quite complex and need modification.” @CoLeeSensei sees authors as essential for all modes of learning: “priming for reading = #authres; priming for listening = #authres… rinse [and] repeat!” @SECottrell described how she modifies complex authentic readings: “I will actually modify a text by deleting parts that don’t pertain to my goals or are too difficult, and bold [or] highlight [other] parts.” @andrearoja alternatively suggested use of embedded readings as preparation for more extended passages, and @magisterb480 said, “I [also] use embedded readings a lot since textbook passages are often difficult [or] scaffold unneeded vocab.” As a step towards student success, @rmasaoka encouraged instructors to “[teach] strategies for engaging with text, asking: ‘What do [you] know? How do [you] know it? What can we do to work out the unknowns?’ Think aloud.” @Theodulph also favored guided student engagement with texts: “[Preview] new vocabulary and get students to predict the theme of the reading in advance.”

  • Listening Comprehension:
    As for reading comprehension, comprehensible input was again viewed as key. @andrearoja wrote, “I prepare students for harder listening with lots of audio input from me, slowed down, [with] visual support.” In the words of @CoLeeSensei, “[Instructors] walk [students] slowly – until they are ready to run!”

Question 4: How can students pre-teach themselves? How do we arm students for comprehension when there’s no teacher around?

Participants commented on the importance of building student skills, such as “guessing, risking, knowing how to find [information] (@CoLeeSensei),” and arming students with “[strategies], confidence, [and] circumlocution [tools]” (@KrisClimer). Instructors also discussed development of students’ comfort with the unknown. @SrtaLohse wrote, “It’s important for them to think overall meaning [and] not worry about knowing every word. They need to feel comfortable [with the] unknown.” @alisonkis added that “[comprehension] strategies need to be taught explicitly and [students] should know how to deal with unfamiliar language.” @SrLaBoone elaborated on comprehension strategies: “[Teach students] to look for cognates, words that look like others they know, NOT to get hung up on every word[, and to determine the] main idea!”

Question 5: How do the L1 and TL interplay in pre-teaching?

Finally, participants reflected on the relationship between students’ L1 and the TL in pre-teaching activities. @SECottrell commented that decisions about use of the L1 and TL can be determined by time constraints and the nature of pre-teaching resources: “[Deciding] between translation or [not] is a balancing act of [‘How] long will this take?’ [We] don’t have a lot of time!” She added, “[My] main vehicles of pre-teaching [or] introductory teaching are storytelling and #authres, and that keeps me mainly in [the] TL.” @CoLeeSensei suggested that “sometimes [the] L1 can help to elaborate on the context in which the TL will be used,” and @ms_sardinia pointed out that the “L1 can be useful to show difficult concepts side by side [in the L1 and TL], especially grammar concepts.” @SrtaLohse commented, “I think that L1 is better for periodic comprehension checks as opposed to a pre-teaching tool.” As was to be expected, views about the respective place of students’ L1 and the TL in the classroom varied greatly, with a range of preferences.


Last week’s Q&A #langchat generated a productive conversation on pre-teaching. Participants characterized pre-teaching as a way of bridging past lessons with new units and priming students for new exposure. They emphasized that pre-teaching should be “motivating, intriguing, high interest and personally connected to/for students” (@MmeCarbonneau). Langchatters also encouraged training students to pre-teach themselves and become “comfortable with the unknown” (@rmasaoka). Finally, pre-teaching was presented as crucial to improved student success. In the words of @CoLeeSensei, “[Pre-teach] to advance learning! Priming – just like in painting – leads to a better finish!”

Thank you!

Thank you again to the #langchat community and to our moderators, Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Kris (@KrisClimer), for participating in another action-packed hour! Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share with the #langchat community, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

P.S. Have you received your #langchat t-shirt yet? Don’t forget to post a selfie with #langchat or #langchatT!

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A couple of weeks ago, Langchatters gathered to discuss writing proficiency. Last week, they were back, this time eager to share creative ways to achieve and evidence student reading proficiency. Participants tweeted about innovative reading assessment methods and forms of feedback for reading proficiency. They also reflected on who might benefit from student reading proficiency data and how that data could best be shared.

Thank you so much to all of the participants who joined us for a weekly dose of #langchat. We extend a special thank you to our moderators, Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Kris (KrisClimer), for leading another productive discussion!

Question 1: What types of formative/summative evaluations or performance assessments do you use to measure reading proficiency?

Langchatters suggested a myriad of creative ways to measure student reading proficiency.

Many instructors recommended having students demonstrate proficiency through art. For example, @MmeFarab said, “Informally, I love to have [students] draw their [understanding]. [This is not] really authentic, but shows what they know [without resorting to their L1].” Other instructors provided examples of artistic evidence of comprehension. @RLavrencic uses art to verify student understanding of poetic language: “I also have had [students] create a comic strip depicting “Le Déjeuner du matin” by Prévert. [Each] image depicts [three] lines of the poem.” @Mr_Fernie also uses a comic book format for stories: “[Divide a] story into sections, put each section in a box, [and ask students to] draw each section of the story like a comic book.”
Some participants highlighted the need to adapt comprehension activities for beginning language learners. @jas347 proposed a modification to the comic book activity: “[My beginning students] listen to me read a story. [Then,] they draw [the content] in storyboard form. [This allows them to focus on] comprehension only. [There results in] less anxiety [for novices] if they [don’t] see all the text.” @ProfeCochran shared another suggestion for novices: “Tomorrow I am trying out having novices label pictures to show feelings of the characters in our story.” As an alternative to drawing, @jas347 noted that instructors could “have students act out what they’ve read at [the] novice level.”

Aside from soliciting artistic output, participants wrote that they like to ask students open-ended questions. @RLavrencic said, “I go old school and like to ask [open-ended] questions where students write a full answer instead of the quick [true or false] style.” @senoritakelly21 highlighted the value of pushing student analyses of characters to assess comprehension: “[Instructors] can highlight part of a text and ask [students] what they can infer about the person.” @senoritakelly21 and others voiced concern about evaluating student understanding on the basis of responses to questions in the target language. She said, “[I’ve] read that you have to ask in [students’ L1] to be [sure that] their answer is not affected by [their] inability to write in [the L2].” Similarly, @srarolfes wrote, “[Most] of my novice level comprehension questions are in [the] L1.” @tmsengel felt that asking questions in novice students’ L1 can also serve to boost their confidence: “[With] new novices I ask questions in English. [It] makes them feel good [that] they can understand a page of Italian in the first days, too.”

No matter what approach you prefer, @KrisClimer underscored the main goal of any reading comprehension activity: “Key to me is seeing what [students are] able to understand. [Pictures], [comprehension questions with] choices, actions [i.e. acting out a story], retelling, [and] continuing [a story are] all good!

Question 2: What measurements or forms of feedback can we use to ‘quantify’ or ‘qualify’ reading proficiency?

Overall, participants agreed that reading proficiency can be qualified on a continuum: “close, closer, really close, on target! :-)” (@tiesamgraf). @jas347 reiterated this point, describing increased proficiency as a move towards precision with less reliance of comprehension aids: “[The] higher the proficiency level, the more accurate summarization of main and [subordinate] ideas and the fewer [number] of visuals needed.” Participants urged instructors to look for a progression of complexity. @jas347 wrote, “[Look] at the types of texts [students] are reading. Can they comprehend lists/sentences/[paragraphs]? Each shows a progression.” In order to assess the depth of student understanding, @ProfeCochran asks “varied levels of [questions:] main idea, a few obvious details, then more [in-depth questions to see] if [students] are exceeding [standards].” @KrisClimer added his view on increased quality in student reading proficiency: “‘[Quality]’ to me is the ability to extend and do more based on reading… [such as] inferences [and] applications.”

Participants discussed possible quantifiable aspects of reading proficiency, as well. @KrisClimer wrote that quantifiable aspects included “speed, accuracy, [and the] number of details [provided],” adding, “[These] are the same for my 8 [year] old in [the] L1.” @jas347 encouraged examining the frequency and extent of student comprehension: “[How] much do they understand, how often do they understand it, and what aids did they need to understand.” Finally, @tiesamgraf directed instructors to ACTFL Can-Do statements (, which “have some specific language about reading proficiency” that he has found helpful.

Question 3: Who else besides teachers can benefit from reading proficiency data, and how can we share it with them?

So, once instructors have collected student reading proficiency data, should they share it with anyone? Langchatters reflected on who might benefit from student data and weighed in on how this data could best be shared.

  • Students
    Participants overwhelmingly agreed that reading proficiency data should be shared with students themselves, first and foremost. @jas347 wrote, “STUDENTS! [They] should own their proficiency and know what they need to do in order to progress.” @SenoritaClark whole-heartedly supported student ownership, adding, “I love the idea of [students] making, using and owning their OWN data.” @KrisClimer also highlighted the need to make students aware of their progress: “First the [students] themselves need to hear/see how they are progressing!” and @MmeFarab echoed this point, “Seeing progress ([especially] in [the] L2) is so important!” Finally, @SenorG commented on a potential additional benefit of sharing data with students: “[Students] tracking their own data can lead to buy-in, motivation.”

  • Parents:
    Langchatters felt that parents could benefit from student reading data if it was presented to them in a comprehensible format. @sentoritakelly21 wrote, “[Parents] can benefit if [information] is shared in [a] comprehensible way for them.” @SraB_C commented on the need to encourage parents and students to focus on progression: “I think parents [and] students need to look at progression of a skill, rather than just looking at grades.” @tiesamgraf suggested that instructors could bring up proficiency at Open House: “[Open House] is the perfect opportunity to educate parents about proficiency – I hand out a proficiency rubric with the syllabus.”

  • Administrators… and beyond:
    Some Langchatters also recommended sharing reading data with administrators and other members of the community. One instructor supported discussing progress, not just graded exercises, with administrators: “I think administrators need to know a little bit of our lingo too–breaking away from grammar quizzes can confuse some.” @Mr_Fernie saw the potential benefit of sharing reading data with members of the community at large: “Positive reading proficiency data would make a great advocacy tool [to] show the community what the [students] can do in [foreign language] classes.” Finally, @ProfeCochran proposed a large potential audience, extending beyond the school administration: “parents, administrators (for bragging :)), registrar/counselors, employers, higher [education institutions]?”


Participants agreed that there are multiple ways to assess student reading proficiency, which “can even be fun and creative” (@SenoritaClark). They emphasized the value of focusing on proficiency as a continuum, with students progressing towards a more nuanced understanding of texts with less reliance on supporting materials. Langchatters also acknowledged the value of sharing student reading proficiency data with students (above all), as well as parents, administrators, and members of the community at large.

Thank You!

Thank you again to all of the participants who made time for #langchat last Thursday and to Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Kris (@KrisClimer) for moderating an action-packed hour! We will see you again on September 25. In the meantime, “[remember] to follow your #langchat colleagues and continue to share great ideas!” (@KrisClimer).

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

P.S. Have you ordered your #langchat shirt?! Don’t forget to post a selfie (#langchat or #langchatT) as soon as it arrives!

P.P.S. Help #langchat present at #actfl2014 by sharing what #langchat means to you:

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Last Thursday night, a Q&A-style #langchat set off a flurry of ideas! Participants tweeted their thoughts on ways to enable students to reflect on and assess their work. They also discussed ways to document student reflections and assessments over time and how to share them with parents. Langchatters had plenty of ideas on this topic, prompting one participant to say, “I’m going to idea jail tonight from all the stealing of ideas I’m doing. LOVE IT!”

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the conversation last week and to all the moderators, Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Amy (@alenord), Kris (@KrisClimer), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) and Laura (@sraspanglish), who participated in a lively #langchat hour!

Question 1: How do we prepare students to reflect on their learning in a meaningful way?

Participants began by considering how to help students meaningfully reflect on their learning. They emphasized the importance of setting clear goals, communicating clear expectations, and modeling reflective behavior.

  • Help students set goals
    @SraSpanglish encouraged both instructors and students alike to set goals: “I think before they can reflect, [students] have to have established goals [‘which are instructors’] and/or their own.” @SenoraDiamond55 highlighted the need to set goals from the start: “Clear expectations and goals–from the start–are essential. Without a clear start, meaningful reflection is hard.” @ProfeCochran suggested one way to introduce goals early on: “I like to have students preview the goals [before the] unit, select [ones] that are important them and tell why.”

  • Communicate clear expectations
    In addition to setting clear goals with students, participants recognized the importance of communicating clear expectations and showing them what proficiency entails. In the words of @tmsaue1, “[Students] can only reflect if they understand criteria. [They] need to know what proficiency sounds, looks, ([smells]) like.” To this end, many instructors find rubrics valuable. @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[Consistent] use of rubrics builds awareness of criteria!” and @trescolumnae added that rubrics can provide a sketch of proficiency targets: “Self-reflection, with proficiency descriptors [and/]or rubrics, is so important – especially during proficiency level changes.” Rubrics can be reviewed individually with students as a step in setting goals. @cforchini said, “I met individually with [students], assessed them, discussed [their] current level [using rubrics], [and] showed [them] where they [needed] to be at [the] end of [semester one].”

  • Model reflective behavior
    Aside from just communicating goals and expectations, participants encouraged fellow instructors to model reflection in the classroom. As @CoLeeSensei said, “[Just] a thought but having a reflective teacher has to help in making students more reflective?” @SraCastle also saw this as potentially valuable: “I thought about sharing MY reflections to encourage students to do the same.” While teachers can reflect on their own experience learning a language, participants noted that instructors can also model reflective behavior through class activities. For example, @LauraJaneBarber suggested, “Do plus/delta as a class about an activity [asking students] ‘What did we do well? What do we need to upgrade next time.’” @Sr_Hache4 agreed that this “is a great activity for self-reflection. [Kids] are always their own best and worst critic.” @SECottrell added that instructors should also model reflection with a positive attitude: “[Prepare] students with an attitude of success- [We] start where we start, and that’s not failure.” She added, “Helping students understand [the] process of proficiency (novice [being] faster, [intermediate] slower) helps them feel more successful.”

    Question 2: How do we prepare students to assess themselves in a meaningful way?

    Instructors again underscored the importance of communicating expectations and presenting students with rubrics and sample work to familiarize them with different levels of proficiency. @CoLeeSensei highlighted the need to “set expectations for what we expect at different levels,” adding, “[Students] need to know how to place themselves on the grid.” Participants noted that students could learn how to assess their learning through exposure to rubrics (@SraSpanglish) and evaluated samples of strong and weak work (@SraSpanglish and @Sra_Arnold). @SECottrell wrote that “instead of telling students why their language is showing novice high, [instructors should] ask them why it is.” @getClasskick further commented that repeated practice doing self-assessment can train students in making reflection a habit: “[Make self-assessment] part of procedures. [It] won’t become [an] inherent part of [students’] thinking unless [they] do all the time, like anything else.” Finally, @SenoraDiamond55 wrote that she encourages students to honestly critique their work: “In [addition] to clear guidelines for reflection, I REPEATEDLY encourage my [students] to ‘be honest.’ It’s in their interest.”

    Question 3: How can students document their reflections over time?

    Participants discussed different ways of documenting student reflections. @SECottrell explained how this question had changed her thinking about portfolios: “[This] #langchat [question] is the first time I’ve thought about including self-reflection in a portfolio as well as evidence of growth.” Langchatters suggested a variety of online portfolio tools, including Linguafolio (@trescolumnae) and OneNote (@madamebaker). Some instructors turn to GoogleDocs as a space to store reflections over time. Other options were discussed, as well. For example, some instructors favored student journaling, and @muchachitaMJ suggested that students write a letter to themselves with what they hope to accomplish for each unit: Finally, @tmsaue1 shared Proficiency Trackers that allow “students to visually mark their performance levels over time”:

    Question 4: How can we best communicate these reflections and assessments with parents?

    Langchatters suggested ways to keep parents posted on student reflections and assessments. @RLavrencic wrote, “One of the best ways to communicate with parents is [face-to-face] with student’s work as an example.” @SenoraWienhold added that students could participate in these meetings: “[It] would be great to have students show parents [self-reflections] at conferences.” As an alternative to face-to-face meetings, @SrtaLohse proposed that “[students] could email parents [and] teachers about [their] progress in a bilingual format.”

    Some instructors were more hesitant about sharing student reflections and assessments with parents. One participant said, “Devil’s advocate. Sometimes the less [you communicate with] parents the freer you are to do your job. Sometimes, too much [information] backfires.” Other instructors opted not to share too much with parents, preferring to hold students accountable for their progress. For example, one participant favored “[student] conferences instead of parent-teacher conferences,” adding, “It is all about them!” @tmsaue1 raised a question with regard to ownership of student reflections: “[Who] ‘owns’ these students self-reflections? [We] as teachers or the students?”


    @SenoraDiamond55 summarized the dominant thoughts on self-reflection and assessment expressed by Langchatters: “Regular self-assessment (for all!) is key. So is honesty. But a helping hand with [the] terms of [assessment] is still essential.” Instructors noted that students should be trained in self-reflection and assessment. As @alenord commented, “[Students] have to be trained. [Performance and participation] are essential to learning JUST LIKE SPORTS. [You can’t] gain skill watching [from the] sideline!” With regard to sharing student reflections and assessments with parents, participants expressed a variety of views; while some encouraged communication and presentation of student output with parents, other instructors asserted that students own both their learning and self-reflection.

    Thank You!

    Thank you again to all of the Langchatters who contributed last Thursday and to Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Kris (@krisclimer), Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) and Laura (@sraspanglish) for moderating another lively #langchat hour! Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

    If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

    P.S. “Imagine when we ask for the #langchat T-shirt selfies!?!” (@CoLeeSensei) Get your shirt before it’s too late! Sale ends Sept. 21.

    P.P.S. Help #langchat present at #actfl2014 by sharing what #langchat means to you:

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Welcome back to #langchat! Last week, a host of new and familiar faces tuned in to discuss ways to help students develop written proficiency. Langchatters began by defining written proficiency, discussed the extent to which instructors should correct written output, brainstormed ways to provide feedback, and shared ways to help students elaborate more in their writing.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the conversation last week. We extend a special thank you to Kris (@KrisClimer) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for moderating another action packed hour of #langchat.

Defining Written Proficiency

@KrisClimer started off the conversation by asking fellow Langchatters to share their definition of proficiency: “Well #langchat – what does ‘written proficiency’ mean to you?” The vast majority of participants equated proficiency with successful communication and emphasized that perfection was not a requirement. @Sralandes said, “[Written] proficiency means others can understand what you are trying to say. I think at lower levels it doesn’t have to be perfect.” @cmaddoxjr pointed out that any form of writing could be used to demonstrate proficiency, not just essays. @CoLeeSensei agreed that “‘any form’ is key,” and other Langchatters voiced support of this point. @cadamsf1 said, “I agree it can be a note, an email, correspondence.” @axamcarnes highlighted that “we put SO much emphasis on essays and neglect the primary ways that [students] communicate.” @Sralandes suggested using textual forms that students are familiar with: “[I] think about the ways kids communicate: text, kick, twitter.” Overall, @cmaddoxjr insisted on the importance of celebrating all successful attempts at communication: “We have to start small. Communicating through a sentence is success. Paragraph is success. Short story is success.”

How Much to Correct

@PattyNiebauer said, “[Written] proficiency [lets] me [know that students] have the idea, even if [grammar] is not always perfect.” In light of this comment, @KrisClimer asked Langchatters, “What level of correction [is appropriate] with writing?” Preferred approaches varied among instructors. @MmeFarab takes student level into consideration and places emphasis on communication of ideas early on: “With novices, I sometimes correct spelling when I can barely decipher [their writing, but,] if the meaning gets across, [I] usually don’t.” @KrisClimer offers lots of corrections but does not grade students down for every mistake: “I tend to correct lots, but evaluate based on what [students] CAN DO.” Other instructors make a distinction between corrections and suggestions of ways to improve writing. For example, @cmaddoxjr said, “I think of [a distinction between what to] correct [or] suggest. Grammar should be corrected. [Vocabulary] could be suggested.”

How to Provide Feedback

Langchatters shared their thoughts on how to provide students with feedback on their writing. They touched on implementation of classroom feedback codes and rubrics, use of Google to provide students with comments, collective review of common difficulties, and one-on-one meetings to check in with students.

  • Develop classroom codes and rubrics: Many instructors create a feedback code to highlight student difficulties regarding formal aspects of writing (e.g. spelling, word choice, grammar, etc.) @CoLeeSensei likes to provide color-coded feedback, with a particular color corresponding to a certain type of error. (Information on her coding system can be found here:. Additionally, she shared access to a wealth of ready-made rubrics that can be used for a variety of written activities:
  • Use Google to provide comments: Multiple instructors cited Google as a useful resource for providing feedback on written work. @carmenscoggins said, “I have my students write in [Google Docs]. It’s easy for me to highlight areas of concern [and] they often correct their own errors.” @bleidolf suggested using Kaizena within Google Docs to embed recorded spoken comments on student work. @MmeCarbonneau mentioned the benefit of Google Classroom for written proficiency: “Easy turn in [and] easy return = MORE FEEDBACK.”
  • Spot common errors collectively: Several Langchatters discussed the value of discovering and correcting common errors as a class. @cforchini said, “I love creating a common list of errors, posting [them], then having the class correct [them].” @tiesamgraf pointed out that this practice has benefits for instructors and students alike: “Looking for error patterns helps me (and them) more.” Rather than create a list of errors from memory, @cocamanar suggests analyzing student work: “Sometimes I take samples from each student’s work and put them into [an] anonymous editing exercise. [This shows] real errors, [and there’s] more ownership.” @CoLeeSensei presents this activity as a game in her classroom: “I’ve done this too – they love to ‘spot the error’! We make it a ‘challenge game’.”
  • Check in with individual students:
    Langchatters communicated the importance of focusing on areas of improvement for individual students and meeting one-on-one with members of the class. @tiesamgraf said, “I stopped using codes and try to focus on one or two areas for each student with specific feedback – instead of [pointing out] many little ones.” @bleidolf67 also underscored the importance of face-to-face reflections on student progress: “I agree- [Let’s] get away from codes and have honest, [face-to-face conversations] with [students] on how they can improve.” Participants were well aware of the difficulty of scheduling individual meetings. As @RLavrencic noted, “Finding time for conferencing with 30 [students] is hard. 1 [minute per student means] 30 minutes [of class time] lost.” @ProfeCochran agreed but encouraged individual meetings, even if only infrequently: “It (meeting [face-to-face with] students) is hard, but it is crucial, [at a] minimum 1 [time per] quarter. Other [students] must be busy on other ‘work’ [in the meantime].” As an alternative to in-person feedback, @KrisClimer suggested leaving recorded feedback for students [as previously mentioned with tools like Kaizena]: “We’ve started using Ebackpack. I can give recorded feedback and evaluation rather than markup.” @RLavrencic agreed that this saves instructors time: “I’ve been thinking about recording feedback in audio clips into [a] Student Dropbox folder. [This saves] time on writing,” and @MmeCarbonneau shared resources for leaving audio feedback:

Ways to Help Students Elaborate in Writing

@MmeFarab prompted Langchatters to share their favorite strategies for helping students elaborate more in their writing. @SenoritaBason touched on the importance of encouraging written output without the pressure of grades: “We also provide writing opportunities where the work is not graded, especially for younger students. Expression is more important.” In order to guide students through the writing process, @jas347 suggested breaking writing tasks into manageable steps: “[Students] forget how much they know and get overwhelmed. [Break assignments] down into parts [and] then help them assemble [texts] with sentence structure.” @MadameSigman provides her students with key words to get them started: “I give [students] sentence starters and key words to link sentences and begin new [paragraphs].” @RLavrencic shared an idea for writing practice as a collective activity: “For my [students], we spend 5 [minutes] brainstorming [vocabulary] useful for the piece of writing. Then [we] develop a plan [and] organize ideas.” @RLavrencic then has students compose a collective draft without worrying about grammatical errors. Revision and correction are also performed collectively, and improvements are discussed.


Overall, Langchatters stressed the value of encouraging written communication without focusing too much on mistakes. In the words of @profe104, “[Not] every mistake matters. Focus on communication.” There are a variety of ways to provide students with feedback and to help them elaborate more in their writing. @axamcarnes urged instructors not to attempt too much at once: “Pick a couple areas of focus at the time.” Finally, @MmeFarab summarized her takeaway from last week’s #langchat in the following way: “Purposeful! Purposeful writing, purposeful feedback, purposeful elaboration (no ‘fluff’ words)!”

Thank you!

Thank you again to Kris (@KrisClimer) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for moderating another engaging #langchat! Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

@CoLeeSensei reminded participants that, if you “[have] a topic you’re burning to discuss,” send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Don’t forget! There’s still time to order a #langchat T-shirt! Orders close on September 21! Get one before they’re gone!

How do we fit proficiency-based practices into a grading system?

How do we fit proficiency-based practices into a grading system?

Last Thursday, #langchat was alive and well! A lively group of participants tweeted away their ideas about how to fit student proficiency into a grading system. They shared their thoughts on the need to assess proficiency and ways to redesign evaluation. Langchatters also touched on policies regarding retakes, homework, and late work. Finally, they emphasized the importance of feedback as central to improved proficiency.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the conversation last week. We extend a special thanks to Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Amy (@alenord), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for moderating a whirlwind #langchat hour!

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Grading Proficiency

@tmsaue1 highlighted the need to communicate with parents, administrators and students when grading for proficiency, writing, “that’s one of the biggest shifts to explain to students, parents and admins. [Expectations] must change in order to show growth.” He explained, “[The] performance level for the first semester has to be different than the second,” adding, “[That’s] a hard concept for many people.” @tmsaue1 shared a sample letter that could be sent out to ensure that parents are on the same page: @coxon_mike also mentioned the need for teachers to modify their own expectations in implementing proficiency-based assessment: “Proficiency can be assessed but teachers need to be patient and assess over time not week to week.”

Redesigning Evaluation

@kltharri highlighted the need to “bridge the grade/proficiency gap” through the development of better quizzes and tests.” Instructors shared their thoughts on how to improve assessment and encouraged developing new grading criteria, if possible. One participant said, “[Simply] create categories [and] tasks for the three modes of communication [Interpretive, Presentational, Interpersonal].” @CecileLaine suggested that tests could evaluate all three modes, while quizzes could evaluate one, for example, through reading assessment. Finally, @axamcarnes pointed out the importance of meeting with students following evaluations to discuss how to get them to a higher proficiency level: “Those who didn’t score at [proficiency level on a quiz have a conference with] me so that we can get them there [before] moving them on.”

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Retaking assessments?

Langchatters debated whether teachers should allow, or even encourage, assessment retakes or re-do’s. @tmsaue1 wrote, “re-do’s …. another tough topic. [Again] before just deciding the answer, I would ask to think about what the purpose of grades is.” Some teachers advocated for letting students retake an exam as many times as necessary to achieve their aims, while others brought up the possibility of students becoming dependent on re-do’s and not sufficiently preparing for assessments. Other Langchatters hesitated between telling students, “you cannot take the quiz yet” and “take the quiz and see [how you do and if you’ll need to retake it]” (@CecileLaine). @CecileLaine tweeted one possible re-do system, involving a “retake ticket”: With regard to outcomes, @axamcarnes shared a positive result of the re-do system in his classroom: “My kids are taking many more risks knowing that they can’t ‘fail.’ [With proficiency,] you improve and re-do.” Some instructors seemed concerned about potential grade inflation as a result of intense ‘re-doing,’ but @tmsaue1 did not view this as a serious concern: “[If] grades only reflect what students CAN DO, the issue of inflation eliminates itself.”

Every student, every time?

@tmsaue1 posed a question that attracted a lot of attention: “[Another] wrinkle that might make [‘GRADING’] easier (but could be controversial): [Does] every student need to be assessed every [time?]” @bleidolf67 agreed that “choosing a couple of [students] a day to assess is a good practice.” This suggestion represented a possible solution for assessment of students who attain proficiency levels at a different pace.

Homework Choice:

Homework choice was discussed as a way to improve student proficiency. @dalrymple_lisa: wrote that “true proficiency is what [students] can do outside a classroom.” @SECottrell provides students with a variety of homework choices to allow them to select personally engaging out-of-classroom activities that build proficiency. For more information, see: She commented on her success with this approach: “My kids are loving [homework] choice. 30 families went to Latin Festival downtown, a first! Kids spoke to natives at festival.”

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Late work?

Langchatters discussed how best to approach and evaluate late work submitted by students. Several instructors are no longer intent on taking off points, instead choosing to recognize student effort, whenever it manifests itself, as a step towards improved proficiency. @SenoraWienhold said, “[I] used to think I was preparing [students] for [the] real world by docking [points] for late [work], but now I just want them to MASTER it.” Speaking of the real world, @tmsaue1 shared an analogy that attracted much attention: “[You] can pay your water bill two weeks late, but if I bring my homework one day late it counts as zero. #brokensystem.” While many welcomed this comparison, one participant argued that repeated tardiness does carry consequences: “Although I do agree [with] reteach/reassess, I have always disliked that analogy! #theyshutitoff #especiallyaftermanylatebills.” That said, some instructors noted that refusal to accept late work all together could greatly decrease student motivation in the long-run. @SraWienhold said, “[By taking off] 25 or 50% for late work I was killing their chance of passing. [Students] gave up.” @SraSpanglish added that “so many take the zero and feel RELIEVED,” and @SenoraWienhold concluded that “[the] 0 is a cop out for both [students and teachers].”

Feedback > Grades?

Langchatters overwhelmingly agreed that feedback is far more important than grading in improving proficiency. @tmsaue1 wrote, “[Bottom] line: feedback is more about than grades. [Grades] do not communicate to a language learner how to get better.” In light of this, @cadamsf1 chooses not to assign grades to assignments at the start of the term: “The first assignments have only feedback[, no grade,] so that they will focus on that issue and how to improve.” @kltharri wrote that “grades only tell the result. Feedback tells the story,” and Langchatters encouraged individual meetings with students following assessments to evaluate their progress and understand their perspectives. @ProfeCochran shared a feedback rubric that she gives to students following every assignment:


Overall, participants found that assessments should be carefully planned and tied to proficiency (@bleidolf67). They generally favored re-do’s as encouraging mastery over time. Langchatters found feedback and individual meetings with students to track their progress much more valuable for proficiency development than grades alone.

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Thank you!

Thank you again to Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Amy (@alenord), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for moderating another engaging #langchat! Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share with the #langchat community, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

P.S. Reserve your #langchat gear now! Visit to place your order!