vor der lateinarbeit by rolohauck, on Flickr
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Last Thursday night, there was a full house for the weekly #langchat hour, and a “superspeedy” (@SraSpanglish) chat ensued! This time, participants discussed ways to facilitate vocabulary instruction. Langchatters talked about how to best select, introduce, and practice new vocabulary so that it sticks. They also brainstormed review methods that foster long-term vocabulary retention. Finally, they briefly commented on how to assess how much new vocabulary students have absorbed.

Thank you to everyone who joined us last week! We would also like to thank our team of moderators, Laura (@SraSpanglish), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), and Amy (@alenord), for leading a rapid-fire chat.

Question 1: (How) Do you select vocabulary for your students?

Participants began by reflecting on their methods for vocabulary selection. The majority of Langchatters agreed that vocabulary should be drawn from both thematic units and student interest. @MmeMinor wrote, “[The] thematic unit gives the skeleton, [while frequent], and more meaningful [vocabulary] fills it out.” Other instructors favored giving students full agency to self-select. For example, @AndyCrawfordTX said, “[We don’t] select *for* [students. We] have them self-select.” Additionally, some participants take student level into consideration when deciding how much vocabulary should be based on student interests. @axamcarnes wrote, “[Spanish] 1 [vocabulary is] primarily district curriculum [or] unit based. [Spanish] 3 [vocabulary comes from a combination] of [students] curating what they need for [a] task [and] some [terms that] I give them.” @sonrisadelcampo agreed that level matters, adding, “In my experience, the higher the [language] level, the less [vocabulary] ‘lists’ are needed.”

Question 2: How can we effectively introduce vocabulary?

Instructors next shared their favorite means for introducing new vocabulary. Some language teachers turn to technology as a useful resource. For example, @mundaysa wrote, “I like to show real websites and [students] say what they see, for example furniture [on an] IKEA website from Spain or Mexico.” MmeCarbonneau shared her favorite interactive applications, recommending “Quizlet, Zondle, Smartboard activities, Pear Deck, [and] Socrative [as resources] to make [students] interact with the [vocabulary] visually.” Other instructors turn to different forms of visuals for contextualized presentation of new vocabulary. As @sr_delaney noted, “[Visuals] are KEY to [students] understanding [without] using English.” @sonrisadelcampo suggested photographs, writing, “[If they’re] my photos [shared] along [with a] background story, that’s even better.” Alternatively, @magisterb480 recommended memes as another visual aid. No matter how you choose to present new vocabulary, participants agreed that contextualization is key. As one Langchatter noted, “The most effective way to introduce vocabulary is in context. For [example], look at a map of the zoo rather than a list of animals.”

Question 3: How much/what kinds of practice do learners need to really remember vocabulary?

To cite @alenord, “Use it or lose it.” Instructors emphasized the crucial role of repetition in long-term retention. @silvius_toda highlighted the importance of repetition in different contexts, writing, “[Students should be exposed to lots] of varied [repetitions] in meaningful contexts. [To] quote @rachelcinis, ‘[We] want repetitions [without] being repetitive.’” Participants suggested activities that situate vocabulary in different contexts. @MmeLohse recommended “[daily] practice within a creative framework, [in the form of skits], comic strips, poems, shared stories, etc.” @virgilalligator also mentioned story-telling or student visual creations as a form of vocabulary reinforcement. Alternatively, @mundaysa suggested a way to keep students thinking about vocabulary outside of the classroom: an Instagram challenge in which students try to find, snap pictures of, and post evidence of vocabulary. Additionally, Langchatters have discussed the importance of personalization many times before. Recognizing the value of personal engagement with class content, @LisaShepard2 recommended “[interpersonal activities] that enable [students] to use [vocabulary] to express personal meaning.” Others recognized that student’s emotional engagement can also promote retention. As @MmeLohse recognized, “Humor helps with memory as well. If words are presented in a funny context, sometimes they’re easier to retain.” Finally, @SenoritaBasom urged instructors to provide students with “[vocabulary practice] in as many modalities as possible!: [speaking], writing, reading, and listening.” @Luzgriselda offered one last important reminder: “[Vocabulary] builds up, and leads on to the next unit [or] problem. If [it] is isolated, [forget it]- GONE!”

Question 4: What review methods foster long-term memory of vocabulary?

Most Langchatters favored long-term use of vocabulary in a variety of contexts over explicit vocabulary review exercises. @IndwellingLang wrote, “I rarely ‘review.’ [I use the target language] naturally [and] understandably, use [a] wide variety of [authentic resources, and] talk lots about [students]. [The important] stuff sticks.” @MmeLohse also makes a point to recycle vocabulary in new contexts, and @LisaShepard2 suggested reading as a source of “natural [vocabulary] spiraling.” @SenoraWienhold summarized the views of many when she wrote, “[It] is not about reviewing or [playing] games with vocab but USING it that moves [students] toward long-term memory.”

In addition to repeated exposure through efforts on the part of the instructor, participants also recognized the value of student creations. As @profesorM observed, “When students create they remember.” @SenoritaBasom agreed, noting, “I find that when a student creates something original using the target vocabulary they are more likely to remember it.”

Question 5: How do we assess what vocabulary students have acquired?

In the last five minutes of the hour, Langchatters briefly commented on vocabulary assessment. There was hardly any mention of traditional vocabulary quizzes. Participants instead emphasized creative forms of expression that evidence vocabulary acquisition. For example, @SenoraWienhold suggested that instructors “have students show what they know with open ended prompts.” @espanolsrs also recommended spontaneous creative writing exercises as evidence of vocabulary retention: “I enjoy having them write something off top of their heads, or add [their] own ending to a story we’ve been working [with] in class.” Once again, student creations in all media where suggested. @MmeMinor encouraged instructors to “get [students] making, with speech, writing, drawing, [or] communicating with [each other].” Finally, @sonrisadelcampo wrote that instructors could engage in “[casual], natural conversations [with students]” in order to assess changes in their vocabulary.


Last week, #langchat participants reflected on ways to facilitate vocabulary instruction. They generally favored a mixture of student and instructor choice in vocabulary selection, and they encouraged introducing students to contextualized vocabulary. Instructors hammered home the importance of repetition of vocabulary in varied contexts, and they also recognized the value of student creations in helping to make vocabulary memorable. Finally, participants encouraged flexible and creative assessments to evaluate changes in students’ vocabulary.

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for helping keep #langchat stong! In the words of @alenord, “All of your ideas are solid gold. You push me to be a better teacher every time you’re online!” You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. *Reminder*: In case you can’t join us at that time, now you can also #langchat on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET – Same questions, more chat time!

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!

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Iria Flavia Spanish Courses

Last Thursday night, #langchat was a flurry of activity! As @KrisClimer remarked, “The #langchat is a buzz with familiar faces and some new additions!” Participants met to reflect on how to increase target language usage in the language classroom. They discussed when and where instructors should increase target language use, brainstormed activities that encourage students and their instructor to stay in the target language, reflected on how to avoid their own temptation to slip out of the target language when teaching, and talked about strategies that create buy-in for learners to increase target language use. Finally, Langchatters thought about the legitimate place and time for non-target language instruction.

Thank you to everyone who joined us last week, and thank you to our moderators, Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), and Laura (@SraSpanglish). One moderator wrote, “As usual, I can barely keep up reading (much less moderating) because I’m favoriting so much! Love the #langchat hour!” In case you missed a beat, your #langchat summary is here!

Question 1: Where and when should instructors implement increased target language use?

The majority of participants favored implementing increased target language use as soon as possible. Moderator @KrisClimer noted, “[It] sounds like lots of folks [are] on [the] same page. Historically some [teachers] waited.” Although Langchatters recognized that increasing target language use could be challenging, they encouraged instructors to act sooner rather than later. @MmeFarab wrote, “[Increase it] RIGHT NOW. If not, you’ll be like me and put it off again and again.” @SenoraDiamond55 prompted instructors to consider discussing their motivation with students: “If 90%+ [instruction in the target language] is a BIG change for you, I think it’s good to talk to [students] about it so they’re prepared, and understand why.”

Question 2: What activities minimize the need for the teacher and students to go back to their L1?

If you are in search of activities that help students and instructors to avoid temptation and remain in the target language, you are not alone! @MmeFarab said, “Don’t mind me, I’ll be favoriting almost every answer to [question 2] as this is where I struggle!” Before discussing activities, participants agreed that lowering students’ affective filter is key. @IndwellingLang suggested reassuring students that target language instruction will be made comprehensible, writing, “I tell [students] on day 1: I’m going to be speaking LOTS of Latin, and you’ll understand ALL of it [because] I’m going to give you the tools!” @cadamsf1 added that, in addition to scaffolding and providing comprehensible input, teacher-student rapport can lower students’ affective filter. In terms of activities, Langchatters favored anything with comprehensible input. @SraSpanglish noted that this might mean use of “[repetition], visuals, gesturing, background knowledge activation and cognates.” Participants also suggested using pictures with lots of contextual cues as a focus for discussion. Additionally, as always, they emphasized the value of activities that are personally meaningful for students and have real-world applications. @cadamsf1 said, “I like to use activities that are related to their world as well as current items. Background knowledge and cognates help them.” @SraSpanglish added, “EVERYBODY loves something that relates to outside lives, something they can keep applying when they leave!” Finally, @SenoraDiamond55 highlighted the importance of teaching students the value of circumlocution as a tool to remain in the target language: “As I ‘ramp up’ [with eighth graders,] we worked on a circumlocution activity this [week]. [We talked] about what it is, why to do it.”

Question 3: How do we avoid our own temptation to go back to our L1?

Next, Langchatters reflected on their own temptation to slip out of the target language and provided lots of suggestions on how to resist. To begin with, participants noted that instructors could make a visual statement signaling their motivation to remain in the target language. @dpilla said, “You can make your own button to say YO HABLO ESPANOL to promote [target language] usage.” @SrtaLibertad221 mentioned another visible statement for moments of weakness: “I put myself in time out!” Other instructors shared that they feel more comfortable in the target language if they come to class with a clear plan, take a breath, take their time, and rest up as much as possible. Still others remind themselves that they may be their students’ only source of exposure to the target language each week. As @JessieOelke wrote, “[I think to myself,] ‘I am the only Spanish speaker they hear for only 45 [minutes] of their day’.” @jklopp added that teachers can serve as a model for students in speaking the target language as much as possible. Finally, participants noted that simplifying speech makes it easier to stay in the target language. @ProfeCochran wrote, “If you feel the need [to] say it in [your] L1, then it is probably not going to be [comprehensible in the target language]. Go back to the drawing board on your lesson.” @nathanlutz added, “[Spending] a lot of time with early [education] kids over the years has helped me learn how to explain things in the simplest way.”

Question 4: What strategies create buy-in for learners to increase target language use?

Instructors thought up ways to help sell increased target language use to students. @CoLeeSensei suggested ‘tricking’ them into using it for extended periods with level appropriate tasks: “[Try] do-able interactive tasks – where [students] don’t realize they are in [target language] for how long they are!” Again, Langchatters wrote that interesting content helps promote student buy-in. @SenoraDiamond55 said, “Keep content current, fresh, topical. Learn what makes [students] tick, and figure out how to work with that in [target language].” @MmeLohse added, “[Make] the activity or conversation so interesting that they WANT to be a part of it; they WANT to know what’s going on.” Content aside, many participants stressed the positive influence of praise and increased student confidence on student buy-in. @profepj3 recognized the value of profusely praising “kids when they comprehend, especially the lower levels.” With regard to confidence, @SraSpanglish said, “[My] kids will go along with a lot of things if they feel confident. Build up confidence [by] really hitting [the] essentials hard.” @SenoraDiamond55 agreed, noting, “Confidence is KEY. Emphasize [the] process of learning over correctness! We learn by doing, and mistakes come with that.” Finally, @CoLeeSensei encouraged “building a community in the class where it’s safe to risk, get help and support each other!”

Question 5: If you are at 90% target language use, what is a legitimate place and time for the remaining 10% in the L1?

Langchatters overwhelmingly favored reserving L1 use for moments of confusion or clarification on assignments. @JessieOelke slips into the L1 during “[one-on-one conversations] with the [student] who is completely lost,” and @MlleSulewski saves the L1 for moments of “[true], widespread confusion.” Like many others, @profepj3 uses L1 time to give instructions: “I strive to leave 10% in [the] L1 for giving instructions. I’d rather the kids complete the assignment in [the target language] knowing what to do.” Alternatively, @espanolsrs suggested using the L1 as a way to get to know students a few minutes each day and build rapport: “I’m [going to] go out on limb [and] say [that the L1 could be used at the] end of class to have ‘deeper’ [conversations with students] to get to know them better.” As a final point, @KrisClimer suggested that instructors could “[ask] colleagues [or administrators] to film [or] record [them] so [they] can see what [percentage of the target language they] actually use.”


If you’re looking to increase target language use in your classroom, Langchatters had lots of advice. They encouraged making the change as soon as possible, brainstormed activities that promote target language use, discussed how to avoid the temptation of reverting back to the L1, thought up ways to increase learner buy-in, and reflected on the legitimate place for the L1 in the classroom.

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for helping #langchat start the year with a good dose of positive energy, enthusiasm, and encouragement! You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. *Reminder*: In case you can’t join us at that time, now you can also #langchat on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET – Same questions, more chat time!

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!

Not 365:60 - New Years resolutions by hebedesign, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  hebedesign 

Last week, participants were eager to jump into a new year of #langchat! Their phones were going crazy from all of the #langchat tweets circulating, causing family members to turn their heads in confusion (@profepj3: “My wife was a little frightened [because] my phone was pinging so much tonight. I replied: #langchat. Haha.”). Participants also made sacrifices to get in their first dose of #langchat for 2015; @ShaneBraverman put dinner on hold: “[Tonight] #langchat won over dinner. I couldn’t miss it!” This time, Langchatters met to discuss their strategies and resolutions for the New Year.

Thank you so much to all of the #langchat regulars who joined us, to those who brought a friend along, and to the fresh faces who tuned in for the first time. We would also like to extend a big thank you to our moderators, Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) and Kris (@KrisClimer), for leading a productive chat with support from Amy (@alenord), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell).

Question 1: What are ideas or strategies to do “less” to get more out of our classroom experience?

Less is more, right? #Langchat participants discussed ways to improve the classroom experience while expending less energy. To begin with, they suggested cutting down on busy work. @SenoraWienhold wrote, “I am trying to assign less busy work. If I don’t have time to grade it, I shouldn’t assign it.” Several participants felt that homework should generally not be graded, and blogs were mentioned as a possible alternative. @ProfeCochran heartily agreed with @mrsbolanos that instructors should release themselves from homework grading. In addition to cutting back on graded homework assignments, instructors advocated for stretching a single classroom activity for multiple uses. @srtathompson4 encouraged fellow Langchatters to: “Expand more – do more with a single activity [or authentic resource (#authres)] instead of over-creating.” @SenoraWienhold expressed agreement: “[Yes!] I need to go deeper, not wider, with my class work.” When it comes to planning, participants urged instructors to collaborate. @espanolsrs said, “Collaborate with colleagues on the planning and preparation side of things.” Even if you are the only teacher of a particular language at your school, it doesn’t mean that you’re on your own. @rinaldivlgr wrote, “[I am the] only [French teacher] at [my school] so [I] got together with friends [over the] summer [and we] planned [for the] entire year together. [It was very] helpful.” Finally, Langchatters encouraged handing over more control to students. @KrisClimer prompted instructors to “[give students] the ownership to do ‘more’, so [the teacher] does ‘less.’” @CatherineKU72 offered one way to do this: “Invite [students] to find [or] curate some resources with you. If you are exploring a global topic, encourage them to explore.” @CoLeeSensei added, “[Try not] to throw everything at them [you] think they’ll need. [Let] them find their own language, too.”

Question 2: What are ideas or strategies to make the language we teach more ‘applicable’ for students this year?

Next, Langchatters discussed ways to make language more relevant for students. Participants suggested thoughtful selection of unit themes as one way to make languages feel more ‘real.’ @la_sra_hinson wrote, “[Teach] using thematic units based on real life contexts!” Additionally, @espanolsrs suggested “[showing students] that [the vocabulary they learn] isn’t used in isolated phrases [within the walls of the classroom] … [but that the words] they learn are used in [the] real world.” Speaking of the real world, participants encouraged fellow instructors to incorporate authentic resources and current events. @Melissa77459 said, “It’s all about authentic, current resources. If it’s real and interesting, [students] find it relevant.” @RLavrencic wrote, “Current events relevant to students’ [interests] help. Sometimes my students bring in items they wish to discuss for a few [minutes].” Additionally, numerous Langchatters underscored the importance of student choice. @ShaneBraverman wrote, “CHOICE! So important. [Students] choose and relevance [and] interest are elevated.” Instructors suggested a variety of ways to implement student choice in language classes. @tbcaudill wrote, “Ask students to find and submit [authentic resources (#authres)] that catches their eye.” @magisterb480, among others, encouraged some degree of choice in vocabulary covered: “Maybe have students vote on a unit of words we normally wouldn’t learn in Latin. [Kids] always want to learn colors [and] numbers.” Further, many participants advocated for student choice in homework. @SraSpanglish encourages her students to reflect on their goals when selecting their homework assignments: “I’m making students think a lot more about short-term [and] long-term goals [or] strategies before assigning themselves their homework.” @profepj3 wrote, “My [students’] outside [homework] is to [read, watch, or listen] to authentic [resources] during the week for 45, 75, 80 [minutes] according to [their] level… They have to keep track of what they watched [and] write about what they saw [or] listened to on their blogs.” Finally, @frauwarren901 advocated for student reflection upon completion of each unit: “[At the end of units,] students reflect on what they’ve learned [and] how they can use their [learning] in real life by completing surveys.”

Question 3: What are ideas or strategies to personalize the language learning experience for students?

For many #langchat participants, personalization means student empowerment. @KrisClimer wrote, “Empower the learner [with] as much choice as is feasible. Be the guide, not the dictator.” @CoLeeSensei agreed, adding, “I actually start classes with ‘I am your guide but not your leader’….” Langchatters encouraged instructors to make an effort to get to know their students and to become aware of their interests in an attempt to personalize instruction. @ShaneBraverman uses a “Google survey in [September] to find [out students’] interests [and favorites] everything to use in examples and content.” @frauwarren901 agreed that if you “[survey] topics that students are interested in [they are] fully engaged and they trust that [their instructor] will continue to value their feedback.” @SECottrell added that, in addition to surveys, blogs are another way to learn about students: “[My] student blogs taught me so much about my students, who they were [and] what they could do!” Other instructors suggested specific activities that work to personalize instruction and capture students’ interest. @ProfeCochran, among others, favors letting students create and “curate their own ‘vocabulary lists’” on topics related to their personal interests. @SraMezzina said, “I love teaching students to ‘text’ like a native speaker,” and she shared a link on texting ‘like a native’ in Spanish: http://t.co/ldSFiw3tX0. @magisterb480 suggested student and teacher co-authored stories as another option: “I’ve been doing stories half-created by me and half by the [students] where the [students] draw pictures [and] give me [the] basics of narration.” Finally, @alenord pointed out that personalization also means making instruction more personal for the teacher: “#Personalize to me also means ME personalizing the content of what I teach. [Comprehensible input] is about me, so [it’s] more personal.”

Question 4: If you had to pick your own #oneword focus for your 2015, what would it be and why?

As the #langchat hour came to a close, participants shared their #oneword focus for 2015. We bring you some of words that they are keeping in mind for the coming year:

  • Better. @KrisClimer said, “Better. I want to always, every day, every year, be Better. 2015 included.”
  • Relax. @ProfeCochran wrote, “#Relax. If I’m not having fun, [my students] definitely are not! Getting my blood pressure up is NOT going to change their attitudes.”
  • Enjoy. @tbcaudill wants to “enjoy (life/students/language/family).”
  • Prioritize. @frauwarren901 wrote, “‘Prioritize’ – No one has time to beat around the bush. Work and meet goals.”
  • Reality. @SECottrell said, “I thought about ‘reality’ as a #oneword – [There are] too many reasons in some classes for kids to say, ‘But I’d never REALLY do that’.”
  • Speaking. @magisterb480 said, “[Speaking] – I really want to speak more Latin in the classroom. I want my students speaking more as a result! [My] runner-up would be comprehensible. [I want to] make a 2000+ year-old culture relevant, engaging, and most of all relatable to teens.”
  • Connect. @Profe_Taylor said, “CONNECT [because] I see so many [students] disconnected from learning I want to see [them] connect.”
  • Movietalk. @espanolsrs is thinking about “Movietalk [because students] are engaged, are exposed to lots of good [comprehensible input], and it’s fun for me to find new clips to work with!”
  • Conferences. @SrtaJohnsonEBHS wrote, “My #oneword is conferences. [It’s not] specifically class-related, I know, but I want to attend at least 2-3 this year.”
  • Collaborate. @profepj3 said, “My #oneword is collaborate. I don’t need to recreate the wheel [and] #langchat has helped so much!”
  • #Langchat. Last but not least, participants showed some #langchat love. @ShaneBraverman said, “I think my one word is #langchat. I can’t even describe how awesome it is to find my teacher soul mates. I <3 you guys!” @MartinaBex added, “Teacher soul-mates! I love it! I have quite a few up in here ;-),” and @CoLeeSensei added, “How could I forget another #oneword focus for 2015???? What? #langchat !!! (duh).”


The first #langchat of 2015 was filled with positive energy and hope for an even better year of teaching! #Langchat participants discussed how to do less and reap more positive results, how to make language instruction more applicable for students, and how to personalize the language learning experience. Finally, they shared their #oneword focus for the New Year. We wish all of our participants a wonderful (and #langchat-filled) 2015! May all of your #oneword wishes come true.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who helped #langchat start the New Year with a bang! You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. In case you can’t join us at that time, now you can also #langchat on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET – Same questions, more chat time!

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!