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In the week before Thanksgiving, participants shared why they are thankful for #langchat! This time, some of them even met off-screen at the 2014 ACTFL conference for a #langchat tweeting session. @alenord reflected on the experience of meeting Langchatters face-to-face, writing, “These #langchat folks are even cooler live! But they have weird accents!” In case you couldn’t join us last week, we bring you the top 10 list of tips or ideas that participants have gained from #langchat!

Thank you to all of the language instructors who showed some #langchat love last week, and thank you to our dedicated moderators, Don (@dr_dmd), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), and Kristy (@placido), for participating.

Top 10 List: Why #Langchat Rocks

Langchatters recognize the importance of finding a professional learning network (PLN) that supports you and stretches you to grow. @alenord wrote, “BEST TIP EVER: Learn with a group of like minded educators that bring the best out in you and encourage you at your worst!” @MmeFarab wrote, “I feel like everything I know about language teaching, I’ve learned from this PLN.” Participants reflected on just what makes #langchat such a wonderful PLN, and, without further ado, we bring you their top 10 list!

1. It’s a great place to make connections with fellow language instructors.
#Langchat allows instructors from all over to connect on a weekly basis. @dr_dmd wrote, “Best thing for me – all the wonderful connections with people I have come to love so much! Friends everywhere!” @placido agreed that this is the best: “For me, [the] best part of #langchat is connecting virtually with like-minded collaborators!”

2. It provides instructors with a variety of fresh instructional ideas and advice. If you’re looking for fun and innovative instructional ideas, #langchat participants have got you covered. @kwieser24 said, “This awesome PLN has helped keep me from falling into the habit of traditional teaching methods, instead [keeping] things fresh!” #Langchat offers a wealth of ideas and advice, even if you can’t make the Thursday chats. Summaries provide an overview of the conversation, and you can follow #langchat participants on Twitter or visit their personal blogs. @katchiringa wrote, “Even though I don’t make it to weekly #langchat often, I look to many chatters for ideas [and] guidance via blogs [and] tweets.”

3. It reminds instructors to value student input, choice, and voice. Participants highlighted some of the ways in which #langchat has taught them to allow for more student involvement. @MlleSulewski has learned “[how] to incorporate student choice into assignments!” @SraB_C highlighted the importance of student choice, “[giving] students options to demonstrate their understanding.” @mmepercival313 wrote, “Agreed. Student choice is vital to the success of whatever product they create [or whatever] task they perform.” @SraB_C responded positively, “Definitely! It shows ownership of their assignments, differentiates, and creates interest.” @CatherineKU72 reflected on the benefit of a more student-centered approach, writing, “Student voice and student choice have made a major impact in the past two years.” For more thoughts on student input, be sure to check out a recent summary!

4. It highlights the importance of ‘keeping it real’ in the classroom. #Langchat inspires instructors to use activities that are relevant for life beyond the classroom. @KUBuffy wrote that #langchat is helpful for “[coming] up with real-life, relevant tasks.”

5. It’s a wealth of fantastic resources. If you’re looking for authentic resources (#authres), look no further. @FrenchatMcAuley wrote, “I’ve gotten so [many] good #authres from #langchat, as well as help with differentiation [of activities. This is] great for a second year teacher!” @alenord developed #authres addiction thanks to #langchat: “Well, if you don’t already know, I am an addict of #authres. That addiction started [with] this group and inspired me to curate them!” In case you missed the discussion on how to incorporate #authres in the classroom, have a look at a recent summary! Instructors also listed some of their favorite applications that they learned about on #langchat. @CoLeeSensei promoted “Kahoot!!!” and @MmeFarab mentioned infografics and Socrative. Quizlet (@KUBuffy) and ThingLink (@SraB_C) were also mentioned. For advice on how to use the right tool at the right time, have a look at this post. Participants added that #langchat is a great place to find lots of helpful blogs! @ShaunaWiese said, “I get links to all kinds of great blogs!” and @MartinaBex encouraged instructors to “read blogs! tons of blogs! blogs of all kinds!” Instructors then shared some of the blogs or bloggers that they look to for advice. @MmeFarab gave a shout out to participants whose blogs have provided her with wonderful tips: @SECottrell, @alenord, @MartinaBex, @SraSpanglish, @senoraCMT, @HolaSrHoward, @CoLeeSensei, @SraDentlinger, @SenoraWienhold, @viajando_kj, @muchachitaMJ, @CecileLaine and @msfrenchteach! @JessieOelke added to this already lengthy list: “Don’t forget @mike_peto @SraDentlinger,” and @CristinaZimmer4 mentioned some final bloggers: “I love ideas from the blogs of @karacjacobs and @sraslb. [They] always [have] great ideas for #authres.” We encourage you to follow fellow language instructors’ blogs and to continue to add to this list!

6. It encourages instructors to differentiate instructional approaches. #Langchat doesn’t just encourage instructors to vary their approach, but it provides them with concrete ways to do so. Additionally, the weekly chat underscores how differentiation helps instructors reach out to all different students. @magisterb480 said, “Keep trying new approaches to help [students] learn; use as much [of] the TL as possible but in meaningful, relevant ways.” For an older post on ideas for differentiated instruction, click here!

7. It reminds instructors of the value of comprehensible input (CI). @srdoylewchs wrote, “Mostly, #langchat is [good at] reminding me of the importance of CI and using [the] TL as much as possible. To learn a [language], one must hear the [language].” #Langchat helps instructors define CI and suggests ideas on how to incorporate it in the classroom.

8. It helps participants become less worksheet dependent. As previously mentioned, participants often reiterate the importance of activities with real world relevance. To this end, they encourage each other to become less worksheet dependent and share alternative instructional materials. @connolly335 wrote, “[Worksheets] are weak. Real tasks [and] projects are key.” @Jjeiden added, “French class used to have too many worksheets. [We are] throwing them out unit by unit and speaking more!”

9. It helps instructors see that it’s OK to make mistakes. They are encouraged just to try, reflect, and grow! Several participants wrote that #langchat reminds them that no one is perfect and encourages them to take risks in the classroom. @KUBuffy said, “Another thing I’ve learned is to not be afraid to make mistakes in front of the [students]. [It makes] us all more human.” @MmeFarab wrote, “#Langchat has pushed me to make mistakes, to try new things, and to persevere.” Not only does #langchat encourage you to try, but it celebrates your efforts. As @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[This PLN] has convinced me to ‘try’ and supported/cheered me on when I did.” #Langchat provides a friendly space for instructors to share in more or less positive outcomes. @oowwoo wrote, “#Langchat keeps me motivated to keep trying new things and to hear other teachers’ struggles and successes.” In addition to encouraging experimentation, #langchat promotes self-reflection as key to growth. @MartinaBex tweeted, “#Langchat has forced me [to] articulate why I do the things I do…and in doing so sometimes I realize that maybe I need [to] make a change or 50.” @senoraCMT reminded instructors, “Never stop growing!!!” adding, “I always have more to learn!”

10. It makes us want to keep #langchatting! #Langchatters leave weekly chats counting down the days to the next #langchat. In short, langchatting encourages more langchatting. @StratfordFrench wrote, “I need to #langchat way more often! These people are awesome!” @cbloodworth summarized his advice in two words: “Keep langchatting!”

Conclusion

Participants overwhelmingly agreed that #langchat is an invaluable PLN, and they shared the reasons that they keep coming back for more week after week. #Langchat could not be the fantastic resource that it is without the commitment of all of YOU! We echo @cbloodworth’s words in encouraging you to “Keep langchatting!” so that we can all continue to try, grow, and reflect as a community!

Thank you!

Thank you again to all of the participants, including our moderators, Don (@dr_dmd), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), and Kristy (@placido), who gave thanks for #langchat last Thursday! Due to space limitations, some of the reasons you love #langchat had to be omitted from this summary. We encourage you to continue to share your thoughts on Twitter. 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!

Calico Spanish Level 1 in Action in a SLD!

Cindy and Her Students Loved Calico Spanish!

“When I first saw the Calico Spanish curriculum I got really excited because it’s a product that Spanish language teachers are desperate for. It uses excellent Spanish so I don’t have to make grammar corrections to the resources. It is Spanish, not Spanglish nor Spanish taught in English. It’s so fun and so well integrated!”Cindy Colyer, Spanish teacher

Maestra Cindy was given the opportunity to use Calico Spanish with kids who were struggling in their daily Spanish Language Development class. Cindy’s new students had been grouped into a class with children who spent 50% of their day learning Spanish in a dual-language program. The dual-language kids were far ahead in their Spanish skills, but Cindy’s small group of students were intimidated by the Spanish language. Their discomfort with the language caused them to be restless, noisy and distracting to their peers. Their affective filters inhibited them from being able to learn anything and made the Spanish Language Development class a challenging 30-minute block for the classroom teacher.

Using Calico Spanish, Maestra Cindy quickly saw drastic changes in the students’ behavior and language comfort. Within 5 days of using Calico Spanish during the same 30-minute language development block, these once “distracted and off-task students” were excited and eager to use their Spanish skills.

They came into class singing the Mi guitarrí songs before Maestra Cindy even had them in the Spanish area ready to begin their lesson. They were thrilled to make language connections, even though she was speaking to them only in Spanish. They understood an amazing amount of what she was saying and quickly picked up for themselves little bits and pieces of the language.

Best of all, when these students returned to their regular classroom with the advanced dual-language kids, they had become so confident and comfortable with Spanish, they were eager to teach their classmates the songs they had learned from Calico Spanish. Their classroom teacher reported that the students were thereafter excited to use their acquired Spanish skills in and out of the classroom. Maestra Cindy’s knows that when students truly engage with the language they learn it. With Calico Spanish, she and her students got to “experience, create and play with the language” and they definitely acquired new Spanish skills as a result of this well crafted program.

Tips for Implementing a New Proficiency Based ProgramLast Thursday night, #langchat was back in full force! Even our seasoned moderators were out of breath trying to follow the fast paced conversation. @alenord said, “I can hardly keep up and I am a moderator!” Langchatters enthusiastically shared their thoughts on how to implement a new proficiency-based program. They discussed initial goals that instructors could set, brainstormed the first instructional changes to be made in a move towards proficiency-based teaching, talked about good ways to deliver content using this approach, and reflected on changes to make in implementing proficiency-based assessment. If you got lost in the whirlwind of tweets or couldn’t join us last week, your #langchat summary has got you covered!

 
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the rich discussion and a special thank you to last week’s moderating team, Amy (@alenord) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), for structuring the conversation.

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Question 1: What goals should a teacher set in a proficiency-based program?

Langchatters laid out some goals for teachers looking to implement a proficiency-based program. We have summarized their main suggestions:

  • Use the TL to communicate. #Langchat participants urged instructors to model communication in the TL as much as possible. @tmsaue1 said, “My advice: start small, inhale proficiency … speak the language.” @MmeFarab also encouraged instructors to serve as TL role models: “[Speak] the language! [Your students] won’t do it if you don’t do it!” @SenoraWienhold reiterated the importance of TL exposure in proficiency-based courses: “[To] me proficiency-based classes are all about using the language to [communicate].”
  • Align your goals with student ability. Instructors highlighted the importance of being aware of student ability. @LauraErinParker wrote, “Goals should be based on what students can understand/interpret or communicate (speak/write).” @Marishawkins agreed that “goals should … align [with] student ability,” adding, “Do not expect too much at the start.”
  • Start with can-do goals and help students reach them. Many instructors suggested that teachers “start with can-do statements and work backwards” (@AndyCrawfordTX). @MmeFarab wrote, “Like several others, I think that the first step is setting a proficiency goal you want [students] to reach. Planning comes after.” @ms_kdub also advocated that instructors “[Plan] in reverse. [Say:] This is where we will end up and these are the steps we must take to get there.”
  • Make goals relevant to students. Langchatters have said it before, and they said it again! @espanolsrs wrote, “Make language relevant to the students. Give them real reasons they will use it!”
  • Share goals with parents. Some participants favored sharing proficiency-based expectations with parents and/or administrators. @tiesamgraf wrote, “Providing a can-do letter [with] expectations for parents at open house night is a great start to proficiency [language] for stakeholders.”
  • Familiarize yourself with Proficiency Guidelines. @tiesamgraf shared a link to the @ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (http://t.co/GbpZbVPwn9), encouraging instructors to “chew and digest slowly.” He also provided a link to “[awesome] samples of each level from @actfl http://t.co/ScPK4zeKSG.”

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Question 2: What are the first instructional changes to make to move toward more proficiency-based teaching?

Participants shared initial steps that you can take if you’re looking to move to a more proficiency-based approach.

  • Become less textbook reliant. Some participants felt that instructors seeking a proficiency-based approach should gravitate away from the textbook. This might not mean ditching it all together but rather using it as a resource and not the sole means of instruction. @LauraErinParker wrote, “I like skimming through textbooks to spark ideas for possible units. [I don’t] use the book necessarily, but as brainstorm tool.”
  • Implement more performance-based assessments. Langchatters urged moving away from grammar-based tests to assessments that evaluate performance. @jackimorris23 said, “For me, [moving to a proficiency-based approach meant getting] rid of grammar [tests] and putting in performance [assessments] like letters or [conversations].” @MmeFarab agreed, writing, “Ditch fill-in-the blank, conjugate this, check [the] box grammar stuff. It’s not necessary.” In light of this, @alenord commented that “[sometimes] the very things we thought MADE a language class are the things that we should get rid of first!” @klharri highlighted the importance of focus on real world relevance: “[Proficiency] is not about getting ‘rid’ of grammar. [It] is [about] moving students toward useful functions.”
  • Ditch the dictionary? Instructors valued making students more comfortable with circumlocution. To this end, @alenord proposed that language teachers might “ditch the dictionary [to get] kids comfy with being uncomfortable,” adding, “You won’t hurt the children!”
  • Emphasize mastery over grades. While you most likely can’t get rid of your grading system all together, many #langchat participants did endorse placing more emphasis on mastery than grades. @tiesamgraf said, “[I’m] trying to work towards grading less and giving more feedback.” @IndwellingLang also pointed out the importance of recognizing students for what they have mastered: “Give [students] credit for what they Can Do, whenever they can do it.”
  • Consider rearranging your classroom. In another step towards a proficiency-based learning environment, you might think about reconfiguring your classroom. @esantacruz13 said, “I also rearranged my classroom, [putting students into groups] instead of [focusing on] individual work.”

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Question 3: What are good ways to deliver content in a proficiency-based approach?

When it comes to delivery of content in proficiency-based instruction, participants recommended “[anything] that’s comprehensible input! Videos, stories, games, whatever you can do to [have students] listen and read as much as possible” (@SrtaJohnsonEBHS). They also recognized the importance of modeling circumlocution. @tiesamgrad wrote, “CIRCUMLOCUTION is key! [Teach] it intentionally. He shared “one great example from @chericem http://t.co/9zMHm9ya2N.” Finally, Langchatters once again encouraged “relating [content] to things that students are interested in and/or have prior knowledge about” (@Sralandes). They recognized that there are a number of ways to do this and shared some useful ideas:

  • Personalized Questions or Discussions. @sonrisadelcampo suggested use of “personalized questions [or] discussions … that [create a] need for [students] to [communicate] their opinions.” @IndwellingLang also encouraged “Personalized Question and Answer (PQA) before, during, [or] after any type of content (story, movie, article, commercial, etc.).” @espanolsrs suggested movie talk as one possible discussion topic: “[Movie talk] is super too! … I’ve dreamed about teaching entire course around just that…” @sonrisadelcampo proposed using an image to catch students’ attention and engage them in a discussion: “A picture is worth a 1000 words; [it] encourages communication [and] conversation [and] more!” @MlleSulewski shared another idea about how to get students talking: “We’re telling ‘rumors’ in [French 3] this week [as a] lead-in to talking about love [and] relationships and François Hollande. [Students] loved it!”
  • Storytelling. Use of stories with content related to student interests was also recommended. @espanolsrs wrote, “Storytelling! About stuff kids are interested in/find funny/movie stars/etc.!”
  • Free Reading. Free reading was mentioned as a way to allow students to pursue their interests while developing language skills. @MmeMurphy commented, “Free reading, too! Reading builds [vocabulary] and proficiency. And student choice helps build motivation and interest!”

Question 4: What are the first changes to make to move toward more proficiency-based assessment?

#Langchat participants emphasized creating ample opportunities for students to show what they know. @IndwellingLang said, “Let [students] demonstrate proficiency (with [an] effect on [their] grade) ANY TIME, not just ‘on the test’.” @carmenscoggins pointed out the need to differentiate assessments in order to provide maximal opportunities for students to demonstrate their proficiency: “Realize that students might need a variety of ways to demonstrate proficiency. Differentiate assessment.” In light of the focus on relevance, instructors encouraged providing students with realistic contexts in which to show proficiency. @espanolsrs wrote, “[Let] students demonstrate proficiency in as many ‘real-life’ situations as they can,” adding, “‘Real life’ makes it relevant to students and gives them more motivation to learn it [and] see value in it.” Finally, @esantacruz13 highlighted the essential role of student reflection and corrections in increasing proficiency, writing, “[Reflection] is the key. What’s the point of grading an essay if the student receives it and she/he never looks at it again?” She also commented, “[And] always let students … make corrections. Mistakes are part of life. It is [OK] to be wrong.”

Conclusion

Participants shared lots of thoughts on how to shift to a more proficiency-based approach. While you can’t get there overnight, they suggested small changes as steps towards proficiency-based instruction. @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[Take] baby steps [and] keep trying. [It’s] a journey and [there are] lots of #langchat colleagues to support [you] along the way!” Finally, in the words of @Sra_Arnold, “Support students [on] their way to proficiency! Find what they like and celebrate their accomplishments!

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Thank You!

Thank you again to all of the Langchatters who contributed to last Thursday’s discussion and to Amy (@alenord) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for moderating a rapid-fire chat! 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!

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