student_ipad_school - 033 by flickingerbrad, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  flickingerbrad 

Welcome back to #langchat! Last week, participants met to discuss how to supplement a proficiency or communication-based classroom with textbooks and technology. They shared when and how often they employ textbook resources in the classroom and how they put a proficiency or communicative spin on these resources. Next, they recommended technology that promotes student communication and other resources that have helped get students talking. As always, #langchat colleagues had plenty of ideas to share. In case you were overwhelmed, with “tabs a blazin’” (@KrisClimer), your #langchat summary has captured some of Thursday’s highlights.

Thank you to all who participated and to our moderators, Kris (@KrisClimer), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Amy (@alenord), and Laura (@SraSpanglish)!

Question 1: When and how often do you employ textbook resources into your teaching?

Participants’ use of textbook resources varied greatly. Some reported not having textbooks in their classrooms at all, some rarely or never employ resources from the textbook, and others turn to them only when making plans for a substitute. Several Langchatters felt that the textbook has a place in the classroom but should not be the only resource that instructors employ. @CadenaSensei quoted advice from her boss, which was echoed by several other participants: “Our boss always says, ‘The textbook is not the boss of you. But [it] doesn’t have to be the ‘enemy’ either’.” @KrisClimer agreed with this statement, writing, “I must admit, I still follow the text quite closely, but [I] have always used it as a tool, rather than [a] doctrine.” For @silvius_toda, the textbook provides the general scope of the course, with room for flexibility: “The textbook helps form the scope of my curriculum – what I need to cover – but I teach it how I want [and] on my own time [and] pace.”

Participants also mentioned specific textbook activities that they employ in their teaching, sometimes with modifications. @SenoraDiamond55 said, “[I use the textbook for] occasional warm up activities, where appropriate.” Others use textbook listening and reading activities. @alenord wrote, “When I use [textbook] resources it is usually for listening. I just don’t use the corresponding worksheet. I make my own.” She explained her reasoning, adding, “To me, the [textbook] listening sheets give too much away. Kids don’t really have to interpret anything.” @JessieOelke uses textbook readings for comprehension checks: “I do use a lot of the readings, [not] so much [for] cultural [information], but [for comprehension] checks.” Lastly, some instructors use the textbook as a reference for students working on grammar or vocabulary development. @MarciHarrisAA said, “[I use textbooks] as [a] resource for [students] to read in English the grammar that I don’t always spell out to them,” and @dawnrwolfe wrote, “[I only use the textbook] when [students] need [vocabulary] ideas in creating their own stories.”

Question 2: How do you give textbook resources a proficiency or communicative focus?

Next, participants discussed how to put a proficiency or communicative spin on textbook resources. @SenoraDiamond55 wrote, “I’ve latched on to ‘Change the task, not the text’,” adding, “I’ll steal ideas from the text, but then [I’ll] consider: How can I get [students] to REALLY talk [or write] something [with] REAL meaning?” Some Langchatters use pictures from the textbook to start a discussion. @JessieOelke said, “There are pictures that [students] can speak about. [For example, they can talk about] what is happening [in a picture] with a partner.” @Marishawkins agreed, writing, “The pictures are good to use to write a story or questions.” Others make modifications to textbook dialogues. For example, @silvius_toda wrote, “[I use] textbook dialogues but [have students] act them out in different ways (sadly, romantically, Star Wars voices).” Alternatively, @MCanion replaces textbook-provided dialogue participants with interesting characters. Students can elaborate on the dialogue, taking on these new personalities.

Question 3: What technology resources do you suggest for promoting student communication?

Langchatters had lots of suggestions about technology resources to promote communication in the classroom. Below are some of their top picks!

  • Voicethread: @Marishawkins said, “@voicethread is amazing! Students can respond to questions by just talking into their phone or computer!”
  • PearDeck: @Marishawkins wrote, “@PearDeck is great for interactive communication when I tell a story!”
  • Edpuzzle: This service allows instructors to personalize videos to encourage discussion. @SraClouser said, “Edpuzzle is wonderful, and they have a fabulous support staff! [It has] been an invaluable tool for me this year!”
  • Schoology: @SenoraDiamond55 advocated for this resource: “I am a new @Schoology Queen/Devotee! Discussion boards for an occasional ‘silent conversation’ are awesome!”
  • Talking Ginger/Talking Tom/Sock Puppets: @nosilaN said, “I tell [my] kids to practice speaking at home. [Applications] like Talking Ginger [or Talking] Tom make practicing solo less awkward– and fun!” @ShannonRRuiz suggested “Sock Puppets” as a similar, alternative application: “Kids talk and the puppets transform their voice. Kids love it!”
  • Instagram: @espanolsrs said, “I’m challenging [students] to communicate in Spanish using Instagram this semester, [with] our own hashtag. [Students] seem to enjoy [it]!” @doriecp also recommended Instagram: “[I] helped [a high school] teacher use [a] private Instagram [account] to introduce [vocabulary] and practice interpersonal writing. So fun!”
  • Blogs: @JessieOelke suggested blogs as a way to promote communication and build an online classroom community: “My [students] just started blogging. We all love it. I blog with them. [It’s a great] way to get to know them better also.”
  • And more… @virgilalligator shared a final list of some favorite tech resources: “Too many! @vocaroo @explainevrythng, Google Apps, @padlet, @Polldaddy, Google Hangouts, @twitter.”

As a final note, @silvius_toda encouraged fellow instructors to use technology wisely: “[Classroom technology] usage is great as long as we’re engaging students [and] not just entertaining them. [We] need to ask: Are we using [technology] to engage [students and] to elicit higher-level thinking? Or is [technology] just a substitution?”

Question 4: What other resources have you used that have increased communication in your classes?

Before the end of the hour, Langchatters recommended some final resources that have successfully increased communication in their classroom. Here are some of their suggestions!

  • Target Language Challenge: @ShaneBraverman wrote, “[How about bribes] of parties with enough minutes of speaking in [the target language]?” In his class, they have a 1000 [minute goal].
  • Stations: Some instructors mentioned stations as a way to boost communication between students. @SraClouser said, “My students like stations (even as juniors and seniors!) and collaborative [or] pair activities.” @camccullough1 wrote, “My [students] enjoy centers, too. Activities in [5-minute] chunks [are] a great way to keep younger [students] engaged.”
  • Games: @ShannonRRuiz wrote, “[Games] are good to force communication [in the target language] in order to have fun. Games should never be ‘time fillers’.”
  • Films and Follow-up Activities: @profelopez716 recommended films, writing, “[They are so] powerful! [They provide] cultural [information], dialect [exposure], [vocabulary] and provoke discussion.” @alenord offered some suggestions for post-film communicative activities: “One idea – two [students] draw names of characters out of [a] hat [and] then have [a] conversation based on what they know about film.” Alternatively, she added, “[I am also] going to do something with photos of scenes from [a] movie. [I will show a] photo and [students will] have to help each other explain the scene.”
  • Thought-provoking articles: @profelopez716 observed that “kids like a good debate,” writing, “I sometimes just use articles in [in the] target [language] that can spark controversy.”
  • Twitter: @SenoraWienhold noted that students’ participation in Twitter conversations can increase communication and confidence: “[Many] of my [students] love participating in #spanstuchat outside of class. It shows them they can communicate.”
  • Skype: @rinaldivlgr recommended “use [of] Skype whenever possible with [authentic] speakers.”
  • Knowing your students… Last but not least, @KrisClimer wrote, “Is knowing your [students] a resource? #AllAboutRelationship.” @ShaneBraverman affirmed that “knowing your [students] is totally a resource,” adding, “I survey [students] at [the] beginning of [the] year to find out [information] to use in examples.”


Langchatters recognized that there are lots of ways to enrich a communication-based classroom. They noted that the textbook can contain useful resources, which can be adapted to fit student needs and complemented by technology. As @magister480b noted, “Textbooks are guides but not the means by which we have to teach. It’s 2015, take advantage of technological resources!”

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for their commitment to #langchat! 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!

06.25.2009_SCATS_Lemon_-211 by giftedstudieswku, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  giftedstudieswku 

Last week, #langchat participants discussed a HOT topic—literally! The discussion centered on higher order thinking skills (HOTS), and instructors worked together to figure out what HOTS mean for novice learners, to discuss forms of support that encourage learner engagement in HOT, and to brainstorm ways to integrate HOTS in interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational tasks. When they weren’t circulating puns, Langchatters came to realize that, with the right support, novice students are more than capable of developing HOTS.

Thank you to all of the Langchatters who participated and to our dedicated moderators, Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Laura (@SraSpanglish), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Kris (@KrisClimer), Amy (@alenord) and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell)!

Question 1: How can we define HOT in terms of novice learners?

Some #langchat participants expressed confusion about what HOT means for novice learners. @Sra_Kennedy asked, “Isn’t just sitting in a 90-percent (plus) classroom HOT in itself? [Students] have to negotiate meaning the entire time they’re in there.” @alenord shared her favorite definition of HOT at the novice level: “Linguistically simple, Cognitively complex” (citing @lterrillindy). Aside from cognitive complexity, some #langchat participants highlighted the importance of student creativity in cultivation of HOTS. @ShaneBraverman wrote, “I like to think of HOT in curiosity. “ He explained that instructors should encourage students to teach them the rules: “AND [students] tell me the rules. I don’t tell them conjugations, etc.” @AgilityLanguage phrased this idea in other words, writing, “I’d say [HOT] has to do with teaching grammar inductively, and contextualizing acquisition.” @MmeCarbonneau also prompts students to investigate and share their discoveries with her: “[I made] students today TELL ME how to say something in the past based on a series of examples before them. [I made] THEM figure it out.”

Question 2: What supports need to be in place for novice learners to engage in HOTS?

Participants then reflected on sources of support in students’ development of HOTS. @ShaneBraverman again mentioned the importance of curiosity: “[Students] need to learn how to be curious again.” In order to foster curiosity and risk-taking, instructors noted the need to create a safe space. @MlleSulewski wrote that students should “[feel] safe in class! [so that they are more] willing to take risks.” @espanolsrs agreed, writing, “[To a] certain extent [students] need to be immersed in [an] environment where [it is OK] to take risks and make mistakes. It encourages deeper thought.” In addition to creating a supportive environment for learning, Langchatters emphasized the need to make tasks relevant and to scaffold activities. @kballestrini felt that instructors should focus on “immediate relevancy and a situated experience which requires HOT, along with the necessary scaffolding to go along with it.” @Sralandes observed that scaffolding could involve “‘Prompts’ that lead [students] into them filling in the [missing information].” Additionally, some participants commented on the role of instructors’ behavior and attitudes in helping novice students to engage in HOT. @IndwellingLang wrote that language teachers could model HOT with enthusiasm. @maestraschemmer also acknowledged the value of “[an] observant and persistent teacher always ready with questions to deepen [students’] thinking and reasoning.”

Question 3: How do you engage novice learners in higher-order thinking for interpersonal tasks?

@ProfeCochran began the discussion of HOT in interpersonal tasks, commenting, “I’ve always thought of [the] interpersonal [mode] as [a form of] HOT in and of itself.” Instructors discussed different activities that push students to deepen HOT in the interpersonal mode. @alenord wrote, “For practice, not [an assessment,] I give my [students] ‘pre-speaking time’ to thoughtfully prepare questions for interpersonal tasks.” Once students have created questions, @CoLeeSensei recognized the crucial role of follow-up: “I work hard on ‘follow up questions’ to dig for details.” She shared a link to a game involving follow-up questions: @Sra_Stevens agreed that it is valuable to dig deeper over time: “[Ask] questions as part of the warm-up activities [and] increase the [complexity] level as you go,” and @ShaneBraverman observed that “HOT doesn’t have to be complicated, just deeper,” adding, “[Engagement increases when students] interact about topics that matter to THEM.”

Question 4: How do you engage novice learners in higher-order thinking for interpretive tasks?

Langchatters highlighted the importance of calling upon students to read between the lines in an effort to foster HOTS in the interpretive mode. @KrisClimer suggested, “Ask [students] to read between the lines, infer: ‘Why does she have gloves?’” @Mr_Fernie also encourages “discussion about readings [that involves] discussing things that aren’t explicitly written in [the] text: ‘[Why] did __ say __?’” @alenord added that instructors could push students to refine their interpretive skills by removing visual cues: “If [students are] doing listening [and] reading [tasks], [don’t include pictures] sometimes. Make them dig for meaning.” Alternatively, she suggested that instructors could “give [students] a PURPOSE for reading other than just READING. [For example:] Read to explain [the text] to someone else.”

Question 5: How do you engage novice learners in higher-order thinking for presentational tasks?

Finally, Langchatters reflected on ways to cultivate HOTS in the presentational mode. Some participants recommended teaching students how to take audience into account when relating information. @bjillmore wrote, “[Have students make a] video or write [an] e-mail to…, [asking them to] choose [an] audience and relevant information.” @TaliaGonzales2 shared an example of this task, writing, “My students read a [biography] of [César] Chávez [and] then [presented] to [younger] children on his life.” Finally, @alenord reminded other instructors that HOTS need not be cultivated in isolated modes: “I think [presentational] mode [is] best for integrated tasks. [Students read] or listen, then formulate [their] own thoughts, and share or converse.”


As @doriecp noted, “[Thinking] about HOTS takes a lot of HOTS. You all gave me a lot to chew on!” Over the course of the hour, participants came to realize that HOTS can be achieved in all modes at the novice level. @KrisClimer wrote, “My takeaway is that [90-percent of instruction in the L2] already is pretty HOT, we just need to stir.” @alisonkis agreed: “HOT is not [something] new. We [have] all done it explicitly or implicitly in our class already. Don’t be scared!” Instructors commented on the importance of a safe classroom environment that encourages risk-taking, student curiosity, and scaffolding in fostering student engagement in HOT. Langchatters recognized that HOT is a very possible reality in the novice classroom. @maestraschemmer’s realization was shared by many: “I am not expecting enough HOT out of my students! They are more than capable.”

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for helping #langchat remain the “HOT-est chat out there for [world language teachers]!” (@CoLeeSensei). 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!

Ultra Blitztastic Memory Game by TikTik, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  TikTik 

Last week, #langchat was a flurry of activity! Langchatters discussed useful games for vocabulary practice, interactive communication practice, writing skills, and review, while also sharing other favorites. Participants were left dazed and confused, exclaiming, “My #langchat head is spinning!,” (@ShaneBraverman), “I’m gonna need more RAM just for all my #langchat tabs!” (IndwellingLang), and “I’m getting vertigo!! So much great information!” (@Narralakes). Even our seasoned moderators struggled to keep up. @KrisClimer wrote, “My Tweetdeck feed is moving so fast with good #langchat ideas, I can NOT favorite before they’ve disappeared!!!! #LuckyProblem.” Thank you to everyone who contributed to a truly rapid-fire #langchat! We would also like to thank our moderators, Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), and Laura (@SraSpanglish), for leading the chat.

Question 1: What games do you use for vocabulary practice?

Participants’ suggestions for vocabulary games focused on activities that get students moving and circumlocuting!

Vocabulary games involving movement:

  • Simon Says: @Mr_Fernie suggested this “oldie but a goodie – Simon Says with the [total physical response] actions we come up with for new [vocabulary] words.”
  • ¡Matamoscas! (Kill the flies!): A few participants mentioned this game, which @ldpricha described: “[Pictures are] hung on [the] board [or] on [the] projector. [The instructor says a word or phrase] in [the target language]. [The first student] to hit [the correct picture with a] flyswatter gets a point.”
  • Charades: @RLavrencic suggested this as another way to set vocabulary practice in motion: “My senior French students play charades with pronominal verbs. Then as [an] extension, students write [or] say what action just occurred.”
  • Hot potato: @Profe_Taylor recommended a version of hot potato, Pásale Bob: “It’s like hot potato but with a stuffed animal. When the music stops I ask [a vocabulary question to the student holding Bob].”

Vocabulary games involving circumlocution:

  • $20,000 pyramid: @tiesamgraf wrote, “I like circumlocution games – like $20,000 pyramid (though [it’s probably] worth more with inflation…:-)).”
  • Name that word! Definitions in the target language: @RLavrencic has students define new vocabulary words in the target language for homework. The next day, they read their definitions, and the class guesses the word.
  • 20 Questions: @doriecp wrote that 20 Questions is “[perfect] for circumlocution.” “[A student] picks [a vocabulary] word [and] other students ask yes/no [questions] until they figure out the word.”
  • Bingo – Circumlocution style!: @spanishplans said, “If I play Bingo, I make the clues descriptions of the word, not just the word. [This requires higher] thinking and [students] have to understand.”
  • >Hedbanz: @doriecp plays ‘hedbanz’ in class: “[A] student wears [a] headband [with a vocabulary] word, [and] other students describe [the word] until [the] student guesses [it].”
  • Jeopardy!: @MadameKurtz has her students write “[target language] definitions as clues one day (circumlocution) [and] play [the] game [the] next day.”

Additionally, participants mentioned applications that can be used for vocabulary review. @Narralakes summarized the main suggestions: “Socrative, Quizlet, [and] Kahoot.” Memrise is also a great tool for independent vocabulary learning.

Question 2: What games do you use for interactive communication practice?

Participants suggested a range of games that require students to ask one another questions.

  • Inside-Outside Circle: @shakejively described how students are configured for this game: “[Students] face one another and [the] outside ‘wheel’ rotates asking inner ‘wheel’ different questions.”
  • Speed Dating: @LauraErinParker recommended this game as a great way to get students talking and asking each other questions: “I did speed dating with my kids (and gave them topic/focus areas) and they loved it!”
  • Ask a famous person… @Tecabrasileira shows students a picture of a famous person. “[Students] write 10 questions to the characters. [They then] play the characters to answer the [questions].”
  • Guess Who? @SrtaRodriguez explained that “names [are written] on index cards [and] taped to [students’] forehead. [Students then] form [a] circle, face each other and provide clues about [a] person [and] ask [questions about their own identity].”
  • Frisbee/Beach ball Q&A: Instructors recommended playing music and having students throw something to each other until the music stops. @espanolsrs said, “[Students can] throw [a] foam frisbee to [a] partner [to] music. [The music] stops and [the student with the] frisbee tells part of [a] story, [answers a question], etc. until [the] music starts again.” @JJMattson described a variation on this idea using a beach ball “with questions on it. [Students] toss it around [in a] circle, students say [a] question, toss it to [another student] and they answer, etc.”
  • Scavenger Hunts: Participants suggested scavenger hunts as a fun source of interactive communication practice. @ShaneBraverman said that students could be prompted to “Find somebody who…” Alternatively, @Narralakes noted that instructors could “use QR codes and get students into teams and create a mystery game around [the] school using.” @CoLeeSensei replied that it’s “[even] better [when] using ‘verbal QR’ codes – [Students] listen to a clue to follow.” She shared a link to make audio codes:

Question 3: What games do you use to target writing skills?

Langchatters had lots of ideas about how to turn writing practice into fun and engaging games!

  • Collective storytelling: Participants shared a variety of ways for students to collaboratively write stories. @CatherineKY72 offered one suggestion: “[Students] have 5 [to] 10 [minutes] to come up [with a] story. [The class] votes on [the] best/funniest/darkest.” @MmeLohse provided another option: “[It’s not] exactly a game, but [students] write a ‘shared’ story, alternating back [and] forth with every line. [They are usually] very funny [and] creative.” Finally, @crwmsteach suggested that instructors provide students with the last sentence of a story and have teams write a story.
  • Madlibs: This was a very popular suggestion among Langchatters! @doriecp wrote, “Madlibs!!! I loved doing them as a kid and my [students] love them now.” @Mr_Fernie wrote that instructors could use student-created Madlibs: “[Students] write stories, then take out the nouns and hand [them] off to others to fill [them] in.” @magisterb480 added, “I did Latin Madlibs before. It works well with Latin because of not only verb tenses but all the noun case uses.”
  • Live Sentences: @ShaneBraverman recommended having students become sentences: “I like live sentences. I write sentences with extra words [or] conjugations. [Students] choose a card and stand in order.”
  • Hangman: @RLavrencic mentioned this classic, noting that it’s “[easy] to reinforce vocabulary and spelling.”
  • Snowball fight: @SenorGrayNVD described how instructors organize this game: “[Write questions] on [pieces of] paper (enough for each kid in [the] class to have [a] paper) [and] have [a] fight [with] paper balls for 1 [minute]. Then [each student answers the] question [on his or her paper] and [writes] a new one.”
  • Apples to Apples, Bananagrams… @lovemysummer wrote that instructors could use these ready-made games in the classroom for fun writing practice.
  • Spelling Bee: @SECottrell mentioned a spelling bee as another option for vocabulary practice, adding, “[It] might be especially helpful for heritage learners needing to refine skills.”

Throughout, instructors frequently recommended using small white boards in games focusing on writing practice, noting their popularity among students.

Question 4: What games do you use for review?

Next, Langchatters shared their go-to games for review! @KrisClimer wrote, “[It’s been] said here before, but Kahoot is a Ka-HIT!” @StaKuonen agreed, writing, “Kahoot! It is ALWAYS requested!” Alternatively, @MmeLohse said, “Duolingo is great for general review. Now there’s a version for classroom use.” Jeopardy! was again recommended (@crwmsteach), and @magisterb480 said, “I play ‘Periculum’ (Latin Jeopardy) to review for tests. [Students] get varied amounts of denarii (Roman ‘money’) for right answers.”

Question 5: What are your OTHER favorite games and what skills do they help?

As an action-packed hour came to a close, Langchatters shared their favorite games.
A couple of participants mentioned games with songs. @ProfeCochran said, “We play all kinds of games with our song of the week. Today we sorted the lines from the song. [The first] team to finish wins.” @legenda0815 shared another idea, writing that “charades [is] good for verbs [for] oral or writing review.” @shakejively provided yet another option: “[Students] loved improv-groups [with] 6 [to] 8 [students] in front of the class. [Students] build a sentence with one word at a time or story one sentence at a time.”


#Langchat participants has PLENTY of ideas about how to use games in the classroom for different purposes. @CoLeeSensei wrote, “Can I just cite the entire hour of #langchat as my takeaway????” In case you are in search of even more ideas, @SECottrell shared links to previous #langchat posts on gaming in the classroom: and

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for helping #langchat thrive and continue to be such an invaluable resource! 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!

Roll up you sleeves and get ready to lea by VanHallyn, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  VanHallyn 

Last week, Langchatters tuned in to discuss how to effectively employ common assessments in world language classes. Instructors were rushing home and putting other activities on hold to make time for #langchat! They began by sharing whether or not their district or school requires assessments. Next, participants reflected on how to prepare communicative students for grammar-focused common assessments and imagined what a communicative common assessment might look like. They also thought up ways to impact the type of common assessments that are adopted. Finally, Langchatters thought about how a communicative assessment might be used for different languages. As @ShaneBraverman rightly noted, “Time flies way too quickly in #langchat land,” and the end of an eventful hour snuck up on everyone!

Thank you to all those who made last week’s #langchat possible, including our dedicated moderators, Laura (@SraSpanglish), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell)!

Question 1: What kind of assessments does your district or school require if any?

Langchatters shared the types of assessments required by their district or school, and their answers attested to great diversity in practice. Some, like @JessieOelke, represent a ‘department of one,’ and have total control over learning goals and assessments. Others must comply with school-imposed assessments. For example, @Srta_Roberts wrote, “I’m required to give spelling quizzes for every chapter: 50 words in Spanish ;(.” Still other participants have to administer district-wide common assessments. For example, @SenorGrayNVD mentioned “[common] midterms and final exams for all levels across two high schools in [the] same district.” @SraSpanglish wrote, “The only common assessment I had was a 100-question grammar [and] vocab [multiple-choice] exam for [the] ENTIRE district.” Even with common assessments at the district- or school-wide level, some instructors pointed to inconsistencies. One participant wrote, “We are ‘supposedly’ required to have common assessments. Nobody holds us to it [and] not all [teachers] in our [department] actually give it.”@ShaneBraverman also noted inconsistency in grading: “We have [a common assessment] but everybody grades differently, [even] with [the] norming of the rubric. :(.”

Question 2: How can we prepare our communicative students for a grammar or vocab-focused common assessment?

Many instructors did not even want to think about having to prepare students for a grammar or vocab-focused common assessment. @tmsaue1 wrote, “I would like to recall [question 2]. I refuse to answer that question. #stopthemadness.” @SECottrell acknowledged that “communicative teachers get really nervous about grammar-focused [common assessment],” but added that “the students can usually accomplish it.” @tmsaue1 voiced agreement, adding, “[In] all seriousness, just because [students] have been in a proficiency-focused class doesn’t mean they don’t know structures.” @MCanion disagreed with some participants, writing that “[filling] in boxes of verbs and describing when to use a tense is hard.” @axamcarnes suggested preparing communicative students by exposing them to grammar in context: “I don’t give [grammar] assessments, but I do teach my kids [grammar] in context. [It wouldn’t] be fair to them to go to next teacher and [feel] lost.”

Some participants questioned why common assessments should be grammar-based at all. @espanolsrs said, “I think [we should] start by writing performance tasks for students as common assessments. Boo to grammar.” She added that preparing communicative students for grammar assessments isn’t the challenge, writing, “It’s the other way around that’s problematic – grammar-driven [students] struggle with proficiency-based assessment.”

Question 3: What does a communicative common assessment look like?

By this point in the conversation, some participants were already starting to envision what communicative common assessments could look like. @mjschrein expressed a view held by many in stating, “Real world is key.” @espanolsrs agreed that communicative common assessments should be “as close to ‘real world’ situations as possible, [as this helps students] see how they can apply [their] L2 outside of classroom.” @srtakarigan wrote that these assessments should be “authentic, [grounded in] real world [situations],” and should also “[incorporate authentic resources] and [allow students] to use creativity while having them practice higher order thinking.” She added that, ideally, “[Students] must negotiate meaning, complete [a] task, [and] leave an impact on [their] audience.” @SrtaNRodriguez provided a specific example of what such tasks might look like. For example, students might be told, “[You] feel ill. Tell your host family how you feel. Look up a local doctor. Call to make [an appointment].”

Question 4: How can we influence the type of common assessments adopted?

According to @CoLeeSensei, “THIS IS THE $1 MILLION QUESTION!!! (oh did I just shout there?).” Instructors eagerly awaited suggestions from fellow Langchatters. @espanolsrs wrote, “[I would] LOVE suggestions. It’s easy if all [are] on board, [but not] so much [with] philosophical differences [and people] not willing to try new things.” @tmsaue1 agreed that influencing common assessment is challenging: “[This] is a tough one for me. I used to work with 150+ teachers. [They] weren’t all on board. [You] can’t water a rock.”

@ShaneBraverman encouraged instructors to make their presence known at department meetings: “[Get] your tush to a department meeting and be vocal!” @kltharri suggested that teachers “validate what others are doing, then gently share options.” In discussing options, she prompted instructors to show off the success of their classrooms: “[Put] yourself in a position of authority, market your [students’] abilities, prove you really are teaching.” @ShaneBraverman also highlighted the importance of emphasizing the value of more student-oriented teaching and assessment: “So much is based on [teachers’] fear [or] behavior: ‘I teach this way because that’s what works for me.’ WHAT ABOUT [STUDENTS]!?” Additionally, @axamcarnes suggested that instructors could “[volunteer] to be on curriculum writing committees,” noting, “Not many people want to do the extra work.” Finally, @Srta_Roberts reminded instructors that little changes can make a big difference: “[Start] off with small changes! Sometimes that’s all you need to have a big impact and set things in motion!”

Question 5: How can a common assessment be used across languages?

In the final minutes of the #langchat hour, participants brainstormed how common assessments might be used for multiple languages. @jullmann1 noted, “[All] foreign language standards are the same, so assessment is the same. Skills are what matters, not the content.” @tmsaue1 agreed, writing, “[Focus] on language functions no matter the language. [Focus] on context no matter the language.” Lastly, @tiesamgraf pointed out that “themes and communicative objectives across levels [and] languages can help to provide alignment in assessments.”


Last week, Langchatters were busy thinking about ways to improve common assessments. After sharing the specific assessments required by their school or district, they reflected on how to prepare communicative students for grammar assessments and imagined what communicative common assessments might look like. Participants also talked about how to influence the types of common assessment adopted, and, in the final minutes, they discussed how a common assessment could be used across languages. Instructors left a productive chat eagerly awaiting more langchatting! @ShaneBraverman wrote, “#langchat is the best way to spend a Thursday evening! *Smiling so hard my face hurts*.”

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for continuing to make #langchat thrive! You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. As @SraSpanglish reminded participants, “[Don’t] forget about Saturday morning for #Langchat: The Sequel! 10AM EST!”

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!