Merrimack College - School of Education by Merrimack College, on Flickr
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Last week, participants took part in the first ever #langchat snapper! In this speedy format, Langchatters weighed in on four quick questions. They discussed the best professional development programs for teachers in the U.S. and abroad, recommended iPad apps that are enhancing their communicative classrooms, suggested good video series, and offered advice on how to best use interactive notebooks in the language classroom. Participants covered lots of ground in a short amount of time, switching gears every eleven minutes to tackle a new question.

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s #langchat snapper! We would also like to thank last Thursday’s moderators, Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Kris (@KrisClimer), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), John (@CadenaSensei), and Laura (@SraSpanglish), for their continued commitment and inspiring leadership!

Question 1: What are the best professional development programs for teachers in the U.S. and abroad?

With so many resources circulating, Langchatters couldn’t stop opening tabs. @carmenscoggins said, “Well I started [#langchat] with only 4 tabs open, and now I have 12! Thanks to all for sharing!” Langchatters recommended certifications, language immersion opportunities, conferences, and Twitter as valuable sources of professional development.

Certifications

  • ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) Tester Certification: Several participants recognized the value of OPI training. @ProfeCochran wrote, “If you haven’t attended some kind of OPI training or familiarization, it is a MUST!” @mohamedansary72 agreed, writing, “I am an OPI tester and it makes a huge difference to familiarize yourself with it.” @tmsaue1 said, “I do think that the @ACTFL OPI Training is hands-down a must for anything [related to world language teaching] #lifechanging.” To learn more, visit the ACTFL site.
  • Global Competence Certificate (GCC): @William_Caze recommended this 15-month online master’s-level certificate program, which seeks to help educators become more globally competent. For more information, visit the GCC website.

Language Immersion

  • Concordia Language Villages: Looking for a high-quality immersion experience? Langchatters spoke highly of Concordia Language Villages. @mjschrein wrote, “[A really] awesome [professional development site] is Concordia Language Villages.” She added, “Concordia [Language] Villages are all immersion and the quality of the instruction is superb. Family week is 15 [or more] hours [per] DAY [of] immersion.” @ShaneBraverman said, “I’ve heard amazing things about this.”

Conferences

As @magisterb480 noted, “[Attending] language conferences, and any sort of networking between [teachers] of all disciplines is helpful.” Participants had great conference suggestions to share!

  • International Forum of Language Teaching (IFLT): This conference focuses on improving methodologies in second language acquisition. @MmeFarab said, “I haven’t been there yet, but I’m excited to head to #iflt15 this summer.” The conference will take place July 14-15, 2015 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
  • Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA): @MmeCarbonneau recommended “CARLA!” The center just offered its ninth annual international conference on language teacher education, “Changes and Challenges in Language Teacher Education,” May 14-15, 2015.
  • East Asian Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS): @glaubis2 said, “[In] Asia EARCOS conferences are great.” For more information, visit the conference webpage.
  • Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (CSCTFL): Multiple participants recommended CSCTFL as an inspiring conference and opportunity to network with fellow Langchatters in person. @SraDentlinger said, “#csctfl14 was amazing! Amazing [people], awesome ideas. [I can’t] wait for next [year], @csctfl!” @SraWienhold added, “[It] was pretty awesome to learn from people like @SECottrell @senoraCMT @CarolGaab [and] @MartinaBex in person!”
  • Nuts and Bolts Symposium: This conference seeks to provide educators with tools to improve their own success, as well as that of their students and school. @VTracy7 wrote, “I’m going to the Nuts and Bolts Symposium in June. It’s for [middle school] and all of my co-workers rave about it.”
  • EdCamps: These user-generated conferences allow educators to brainstorm with others in their area. @SraKuonen wrote, “EdCamps are great…and free! Check http://t.co/YSUTktNAS1 for one in your area.”

Twitter

Twitter offers professional development whether you’re at home or on-the-go! @MadameJackson wrote, “I’ve been astounded at the amazing [professional development] and [professional learning networks] available on Twitter!” Participants suggested their favorite sources of professional development on the networking platform:

  • @MadameJackson recommended #GoogleEduOnAir.
  • @ShaneBraverman wrote, “ummmm… #langchat ?? Heh heh,” and @SECottrell added, “#langchat spoils me with what I want when I want it, and no paying for childcare.” @SraSpanglish reminded participants about #LANGCAMP: “[And] let us not forget the free virtual [professional development] this summer through #LANGCAMP!”

Finally, @tmsaue1 prompted participants to reflect on the benefit of any form of professional development for students: “[A] former boss challenged me once and I have never forgotten [his question]: Can you track the [professional development] back to the desk of the learner?”

Question 2: What iPad apps are enhancing your communicative classroom?

Participants had lots of iPad apps to recommend! We have listed just some of their many favorites below!

  • Aurasma: @SraDentlinger wrote, “AURASMA! [Augmented] reality! [You can scan] images [and] link [them] to something. [This would] be [a] GREAT addition to novels!” @sonrisadelcampo said, “I experimented with Aurasma this year with novels.” She warned, however, that this can be “[somewhat] time-consuming [for instructors].”
  • ClassDojo: This app aims to facilitate classroom management. @MadameJackson said, “I use @ClassDojo for rewarding positive behavior and [monitoring] use of the target language,” and @KrisClimer commented, “I have a colleague, @MCoachSalato, that is getting a lot from ClassDojo.”
  • Comics Head Lite: This app allows for easy creation of comic strips, making it a great tool for storytelling exercises (@SraDentlinger).
  • Doodlecast: @SECottrell said, “Doodlecast is by far my [favorite] digital storytelling app,” and she shared a sample, “Zoe tells you a Spanish story here http://t.co/bJuVWK0jsn.” One instructor commented, “I’ve been using [Doodlecast] for a couple of years now, and will continue to do so. [It’s great] that it has the recording feature.”
  • Edmodo: @crwmsteach and @spanishplans recommended this app, which promotes communication and collaboration. @spanishplans wrote, “I hope to use [Edmodo] more this year to have students communicate with each other.”
  • Educreations: This app helps instructors engage students with video. @rlgrandis commented, “I think Educreations is the [first] app I’ve found that actually changes how I teach and [students] learn.”
  • Explain Everything: This tool, recommended by @magisterb480, allows for easy annotation, animation, and narration of resources. One instructor observed, “Explain Everything can be used for a variety of tasks, so I’d rank it high.”
  • Fotobabble: This app allows users to snap a picture and record an accompanying audio message. One instructor wrote, “Fotobabble is another great app ([a] photo [with a] recording.) [It’s simple], yet great for speaking practice.” This app could also be used for vocabulary review.
  • Google Voice: Several instructors recommended Google Voice as a tool with multiple potential uses. @mohamedansary72 said, “I lean on Google voice for the warm-up,” sharing an example from his own classroom. Alternatively, @profesorM uses Google Voice for oral assessment.
  • PicPlayPost: This app lets users easily create stories using photos, videos, GIFS, and music. @virgilalligator said, “@PicPlayPost is great for integrating audio, video and images for [a] multi-modal show what you know.”
  • StoryKit: One instructor wrote, “It is my favorite for book creation in the [target language].”

Still looking for more iPad apps? @MadameJackson recommended another source: “I loved this post with apps listed by function (storytelling, etc.),” and @spanishplans shared a blog post, “Top 15 Apps for Spanish Class.” Also, check out this past #langchat summary: “Technology in the Classroom: the Right Tool at the Right Time” (May 2014).

Question 3: What are some good video series to use for different languages?

Looking for a good series to use with your class? We have summarized participants’ video series suggestions by language:

French:

  • @MadameJackson said, “I love @TFOEducation for access to French TV suitable for young people.”
  • @MarciHarrisAA said, “[I] love the videos [‘1 Jour, 1 Question’].”
  • @MlleSulewski recommended ‘Le Petit Nicolas’ and ‘Petit Ours Brun.’ She also wrote, “I’ve gotten some mileage out of ‘Un gars, une fille’ but not a ton.”
  • @natadel76 said, “Have you tried ‘Trotro’ cartoons? [They are perfect] for [level] 1!”
  • @AHSblaz suggested some additional videos for beginners: “[On] YouTube I sometimes use ‘Peppa pig’ or ‘Tchoupi.’ [These sources use very] easy French.”

Spanish:

  • @MaCristinaRV suggested “#earlylang age-appropriate quality video series: ‘El mundo de Polli,’ ‘Lola y Charlie,’ ‘De cuento en cuento,’ [and] ‘Pat el cartero.’
  • Several participants mentioned the telenovela “El internado.” @SraWienhold used this series in her Spanish 2 class.
  • @SraDentlinger said, “#ElInternado is huge, but I have this show marked: #GranHotel https://t.co/pFN4AOID7s.”
  • @SrLaBoone wrote, “I used ‘Mi Vida Loca’ with my 1A [class] this year, and [students] loved it. I made sheets to accompany each episode.”
  • @VTracy7 recommended ‘En Nombre del Amor.’
  • @glaubis2 commented, “#PulserasRojas is excellent; I have been using in my lessons.”
  • For shorter videos, @SoyBolingual suggested “Te Presento a Valentín,” writing that the “7-minute episodes [are] great for repeating within [one] class period!”

Japanese:

  • @CadenaSensei said, “I experimented [with] showing [the first] episode of 「日本人の知らない日本語」this year due to [its context, a] foreigner studying in Japan.” He added, “I bet ‘simple’ cartoons like ちびまる子ちゃん would be good for just seeing everyday life, but some of those accents are just killer.”

Latin:

  • @magisterb480 wrote, “Although it is not a video series, I use the Finnish Nuntii Latini for listening with upper levels.”

Question 4: How can we use interactive notebooks to support language learning?

Before diving into a discussion of the final question, participants worked to define just what ‘interactive notebooks’ are. @SraSpanglish wrote, “[Interactive] notebooks are like a mix between notes and textbooks with foldables mixed in!” @VTracy7 offered another explanation: “[An] interactive notebook is a tool for students to keep their notes and resources all in one place.” She added that these notebooks can have “teacher notes and handouts all on one side ([on the] right side) with student work facing [the] notes (usually [on the] left side).” To help participants visualize what an interactive notebook actually looks like, @ADiazMora shared the following sample for a science class: http://t.co/3KDbHpLv4j. Additionally, @MmeFarab posted “[an] image to help [participants] understand interactive notebooks as [they apply] to language: http://t.co/GtABgUIYa7.”

Some feared that interactive notebooks could take away from already limited time in the language class. @JessieOelke wrote, “I like structured notebooks, but find the interactive thing takes valuable class time away. [I would rather have students communicate] than cut [and] color.” While @VTracy7 acknowledged that it can take “lots of class time setting up [interactive notebooks],” she added that they can serve as “a great resource as the year progresses.” Further, @SraSpanglish pointed out that “you can start small,” writing, “It’s a question of what [students] will need for later [and] how to get them to reflect [on it and] use it.” @SraGSpanish2 inquired about the existence of an interactive notebook app, and @glaubis2 wrote, “I tried Diigo and Evernote, [which] work well [as interactive notebooks]. My students [mostly] use Evernote.” Although an unfamiliar topic for many, participants expressed interest in learning more about interactive notebooks and their potential in the language class. @SraSpanglish said, “[Keep] an eye out for blog posts! #interactivenotebook ideas [are] stewing!”

Conclusion

Last Thursday, #langchat participants tackled four separate topics in just one hour! Their discussions touched on professional development, iPad apps, classroom video series and interactive notebooks and left participants with lots to think about. @MadameJackson wrote, “[I have] lots of new things to investigate and try. [I already] have a summer to-do list!”

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who continue to contribute to #langchat and to those who recently joined in for the first time! Remember, now you can also #langchat on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET in addition to Thursday evenings at 8pmET!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. If you wish to view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. 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!

In Class (16/06/2011) by Shane Global Language Centres, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Shane Global Language Centres 

 
Welcome back to #langchat! Last week, participants met to chat about essential grammar in a proficiency-based classroom. They discussed what makes a language structure essential and how to decide which ones to teach, and when. Langchatters also shared challenges they have encountered when presenting essential structures, and what techniques have worked when it’s time to recycle key structures. Lastly, they reflected on how to avoid leaving the target language while doing all of this. The conversation proved to be yet another productive chat – with participants expressing their gratitude to #langchat as an essential ‘structure’ in their teaching plans. @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[The] #langchat [Professional Learning Network] is the ‘structure’ I need to support my teaching!” and @KrisClimer agreed, writing, “This whole #langchat family is one of my favorite ‘essential structures’!”

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the conversation and to all of last Thursday’s moderators: Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), John (@CadenaSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Sara-Elizaebeth (@SECottrell)!

Question 1: What makes a language structure essential?

#Langchat participants began by sharing how they identify essential language structures. They noted that essential structures…

  • are common: @MmeCarbonneau considers a structure essential “[when] it is [prevalently] used,” and @MmeFarab defines essential structures as those that have “[high] frequency [or] high necessity.”
  • are needed in particular situations: @CoLeeSensei wrote that a structure is essential if “[students] ‘need it’ to authentically communicate in a given situation,” and @MlleSulewski agreed that something is essential “[if] you [can’t] navigate a given social situation without it.”
  • are necessary to communicate and understand meaning: @KrisClimer said, “For me, essential means meaning would be lost without it.” @magisterb480 agreed that an essential structure is key for understanding and conveying meaning: “[It’s something] a student must be able to understand and use effectively to [speak, read, or write in] the language.” @SraGSpanish2 said, “[Students] need to have [essential structures] to navigate in order to get their ideas across in the language,” and @CadenaSensei echoed this idea: “[A] structure [is essential if students] can’t circumlocute around [it] and still be comprehensible.”
  • are flexible: Others highlighted essential structures as those with flexible application and form. For @ADiazMora, a structure is essential “[when] it is something that [students] can use in multiple [situations].” @CristinaZimmer4 underscored flexibility in form, defining an essential structure as “a structure that can be [built upon, added to, or modified] easily.”
  • are requested by popular demand: @CoLeeSensei noted that structures are deemed essential by students themselves: “[They are] the structures [students] ask me for when they are trying to do something – not what I think they need!” @MmeCarbonneau replied, “SO TRUE!” and @CoLeeSensei added, “That’s why I have a page in their unit book called ‘stuff we want to know’!!”

Question 2: How do you decide which essential structures to teach and when?

Langchatters had lots of advice about how to decide what to teach when. They suggested backward planning, consideration of students’ proficiency level, integration of essential structures in units and tasks, and invitations for student input. They also recommended ‘teaching’ structures through exposure and use.

  • Backward Plan: @MlleSulewski said, “I try to backward plan but I always miss some [essential structures]. Zut.” @CoLeeSensei wrote, “I try to ‘backward’ design from the task but ultimately I don’t get them all – and then [students] ask!” She added, “I’ve learned to just ‘give it’ [the structure] then…they like that!”
  • Consider Proficiency Level: Others expressed the importance of considering student proficiency. @CadenaSensei wrote that he decides which structures to introduce when “[based] on [his students’] target [proficiency] level, [asking himself, ‘What] level of [language] (simple sentences, sentence strings, complex [sentences]) do [students] need?’” @CatherineKU72 commented that, nevertheless, some essential structures can be introduced at any level: “[I don’t] know if there’s always a ‘when.’ Even [French] 1 [students] can learn ‘Il me faut/J’ai besoin de’ (I need) structures in [October. This is helpful for] all.”
  • Integrate Structures in Units and Tasks: Some instructors present essential structures as part of thematic units or tasks. @SraGSpanish2 said, “[My] curriculum is divided into a set of thematic units with essential structures in place.” @alenord wrote, “It is all about the task for me and my tasks are based on thematic units. So […] choosing right, relevant themes [is key].” @tmsaue1 agreed that relevant, essential structures should be introduced to enable students to complete the task at hand: “[Students should be presented with] whatever structures are needed to complete the task. If I tell you about my weekend guess what structure I need.”
  • Ask Students for Input! Some participants highlighted the value of asking students what language they need or desire. @ADiazMora wrote, “My good friend @natadel76 always focuses on having [students] express wants [and] needs in the [first] year. I think this is very important!!” @VTracy 7 agreed, writing, “[Wants] and needs often dictate what my students wish to express.”
  • ‘Teach’ Structures through Exposure and Use: A few Langchatters recognized that essential structures do not always need to be explicitly taught. @KrisClimer said, “I also USE [structures] that I don’t ‘TEACH.’ [A need is] created. [Curiosity is] invoked. [Hopefully].” @ADiazMora agreed, writing, “[Students] have learned so much just using [a structure], not [from] me ‘teaching’ it.” @KrisClimer replied, “In fact, that’s my whole philosophy. Language used is language acquired.”

Question 3: What challenges do you encounter when teaching essential structures?

Langchatters recognized that introducing essential structures can prove difficult, and they highlighted some common challenges that they have encountered.

  • Getting too ‘grammar-y’: @MlleSulewski recognized the challenge of “trying […] not [to] get too grammar-y about [structures].” @MmeCarbonneau commented on the difficulty “avoiding boring grammar driven lessons [and finding] fun ways to actually USE [structures] in real meaningful authentic ways.” @CoLeeSensei prompted instructors to ask themselves, “[Do] I want [students] to use [a structure] in isolation or know how to really ‘use it’ in other situations?” Even when instructors make an effort to help model and encourage use without getting ‘grammar-y,’ some students request explanations. @KrisClimer said, “One challenge for me is [that students] want [a structure] EXPLAINED more than modeled.”
  • Breaking student attachment to ‘fuzzy blanket’ structures: @CristinaZimmer4 highlighted yet another challenge, namely, “[students] not being able to let go of those ‘fuzzy blanket’ structures, [being too] comfy with old stuff.” @alenord agreed, recognizing the struggle to “[break] kids out of [their] comfort zones!” She wrote, “In level 2, [this means] getting them away from ‘me gusta’ all the time!”
  • Helping students learn new structures without forgetting the old: @Melissa77459 acknowledged the challenge of “[getting students] to use […] new structures without losing the ‘old’ ones.” @SrLaBoone agreed, writing, “[Students] forget the previous structure. Like @ADiazMora says, we must recycle!”
  • Focusing on the essentials: It can be easy to overdo it, presenting students with too many ‘essential’ structures at once. @lclarcq recognized the difficulty of limiting structures and giving time for students to acquire them, writing, “[It’s better for students to] have [a] few well-acquired structures than [to] ‘teach’ so many [that] they master none.” @KrisClimer acknowledged that being overly ambitious with structures could lead to the “temptation to teach NON-ESSENTIAL structures.”

Question 4: What are your favorite techniques for recycling essential structures?

Langchatters had lots of ideas about how to best recycle essential structures. Some participants felt that instructors should purposefully recycle old structures in class. For example, @MlleSulewski wrote, “I recycle a lot during daily ‘quoi de neuf’ [what’s new] chats [and] act like I’m hilarious when I ‘catch’ myself doing it.” @SraWienhold wrote, “I recycle structures [when asking students a] personalized question [and] repeating their answers.” Other instructors prefer to prompt students to recycle on their own. @alenord said, “I like to think that I am not doing the recycling, but forcing THEM into situations in which old structures [are] still relevant.” @gegroote44 suggested one way to do this: “I ask [open-ended] questions in writing prompts for [example] that would require prior knowledge.” Still other instructors like to prompt students to recall old structures in a game format. @degroote44 recommended “a ‘hot seat’ question activity that incorporates many previously learned structures.” @SrLaBoone said, “Kids might or might not work hard to prepare for a quiz, but they won’t want to lose to their classmates!” Finally, some participants recommended “reading, reading, and reading” (@MCanion) to reinforce old structures. @magisterb480 wrote, “I’d say making tiered readings has helped a bit.”

Question 5: How do you avoid leaving target language to do all of this?

Instructors commented on the difficulty of challenge in the target language when introducing essential structures. Participants noted that a good dose of scaffolding and lots of visual aids around the classroom can help instructors to remain in the target language as much as possible. @KrisClimer pointed out that students have easy access to explanations in their L1, which should justify as much use of the target language as possible in class: “I try not to [slip out of the target language], but I do sometimes. [Students’ book] and [the Internet are] REPLETE with explanations. I want us [to] spend our time USING the [target language].”

  • Scaffold, Scaffold, Scaffold! @virgilalligator encouraged instructors to provide “[lots] of [comprehensible input] strategies and modeling, then practice, then more modeling, [scaffolding] step-by-step.” @alenord reinforced the importance of scaffolding: “[Provide students with] SCAFFOLDING and more SCAFFOLDING, [building] up from something familiar to something new during [a] lesson cycle.” She explained, “My goal is to make discovery of the new seem easy and logical and not a ‘stop and look’ moment.” Want to know more about scaffolding and comprehensible input? Check out this #langchat summary!
  • Post Visual Aids Around the Room: @K_Griffith wrote, “Have stuff posted all over your classroom that can help you communicate at any given moment.” @ShannonRRuiz also uses this strategy: “I have stuff written on my windows, walls, door, etc. that I point to to clarify what I’m saying.”

Conclusion

In this productive chat, Langchatters shared their own definition of ‘essential structures,’ offered advice about what to teach when, reflected on potential challenges, offered tips for recycling older structures, and provided some suggestions about how to present essential structures without leaving the target language (so much). Introduction of essential grammatical structures in a proficiency-based classroom is not without obstacles, but the #langchat team can facilitate your efforts! @HeidiZeigler wrote, “My #langchat doggie bag has […] the structures my [students] need.”

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who continue to make time for #langchat once… or twice a week! As the Thursday #langchat came to a close, @SraClouser wrote, “[There was way] too much to keep track of tonight! I need the Saturday encore #langchat.” Remember, now you can #langchat on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET, as well as our normal time of 8 p.m. ET on Thursdays!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. If you wish to view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. 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!

Connecting with a Student - the Power of by cityyear, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cityyear 

 
Last week, Langchatters met to brainstorm how to create a culture of learning in the world language class when stakeholders are focused on traditional grades. They reflected on what a culture of learning looks like, shared strategies that contribute to such a classroom culture, and described steps that teachers can take to de-emphasize number grades. Participants then discussed how to convince different stakeholders of the value of a learning-centered classroom culture. Lastly, they considered reform that is needed in the education system to shift the focus from numbers to learning.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this inspiring chat! A special thank you to last Thursday’s moderators: Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Laura (@SraSpanglish), Kris (@KrisClimer), and Cristy (@msfrenchteach).

Question 1: What does a culture of learning look like?

Participants started off the conversation by describing a culture of learning in their words. @SraSpanglish wrote, “[A] culture of learning [entails a] growth mindset and personalized pathways to achieving overarching goals.” @KrisClimer said, “For me, a culture of learning eliminates COMPARISONS, [RANKINGS], [ENDS], [and] focuses on GROWTH, JOURNEY, [and] PROGRESS of [individual learners].” StefaniaMonti18 added, “I believe that a culture of learning is where students are genuinely excited about gaining knowledge and not an A in the course.” @SraWienhold phrased this idea in different terms: “In a culture [of] learning everyone is more concerned with ‘[What] do I know?’ [and not with] ‘[What] is my grade?’.” As @rlgrandis pointed out, “The end goal of getting the A or getting to college is NOT a bad focus. [Instructors] just need to emphasize the [learning] process too.” @SraSpanglish added, “ALTHOUGH if [students are] genuinely excited, the grades probably will reflect that to some extent,” and @KrisClimer agreed, writing, “Almost always, a focus on learning leads to even better grades.”

Question 2: What practical strategies most contribute to a culture of learning?

Next, Langchatters offered some practical strategies to foster a culture of learning. We have summarized some of their main suggestions below:

  • Clear expectations: Some instructors highlighted the importance of “routines and clear expectations” (@senoritasatar). @Mr_Fernie wrote, “[Let] the kids know that [the] emphasis is on what they can do at any time, not just on a test day.” @rlgrandis echoed this point, writing, “Recycle, recycle, [so that] students know they are always held accountable for what they learn, not just on one test.”
  • Regular feedback and celebrations of growth: Others mentioned the importance of celebrating growth in student proficiency. @kltharri encouraged “[performance] and proficiency-based assessment where ANY growth is celebrated.” @MagistraHasner noted, “Comparing assessments side by side overtime helps the students to see their own growth.” Additionally, @KrisClimer commented on the value of highlighting what students are capable of, “using CAN do statements, [always] thinking and [talking] about what [students] CAN do.” @MarciHarrisAA also recommended “[daily] feedback that does not always [come in the form of] grades, [such as praise], encouragement [and] motivation.”
  • Choices: @SraClouser recognized the value of student choice: “Provide opportunities for students to show what they know – give them choices!” For more discussion on student choice, check out this #langchat summary!
  • Retakes and revisions: Some participants commented that retakes and revisions positively contribute to a culture of learning. @MadameMoodle said, “[Allowing] for retakes and revisions is practical … Fewer [students] give up.” @SraSpanglish wrote, “I’ve had luck with my redo approach to portfolios: http://t.co/TPMRtE7gt8.”
  • Enthusiasm: @SraMcNeilly observed that presenting material with enthusiasm can make students want to engage and learn for the sake of learning: “[Position] the material as AWESOME, not as bitter medicine to pass the test. Enthusiasm can be contagious :).”
  • Communication with students and parents: @CTracy7 encouraged fellow participants to “educate the students and their families.” @K_Griffith suggested that instructors could “[send] a positive e-mail home to a [different] parent every day (Stolen from @SraWienhold),” adding, “Parents will get on your team if you care.”

Question 3: What steps can teachers take to ‘de-emphasize’ number grades in their class?

Langchatters had helpful ideas about how to shift the focus away from number grades. Their suggestions centered on downplaying numbers, educating students about proficiency, and implementing more formative and project-based assessments.

  • Downplay number grades: @klharri encouraged instructors to “stop giving number grades [or to] at least try to stop [giving them] for some tasks if [they are] too scary [for students].” @SECottrell echoed this suggestion: “Call me a broken record but it was a huge successful step when I STOPPED WRITING NUMBERS [or] LETTERS ON ASSESSMENTS.” @StefaniaMonti18 added that instructors should limit their discussion of number grades: “[Simply] don’t talk about [number grades]…unless absolutely [necessary].” Alternatively, @rlgrandis shared his view that more number grades can sometimes work to de-emphasize individual grades and shift the focus to growth: “This may seem counterintuitive, but at times giving a LOT of grades helps […] [Giving] grades for all sorts of assignments shows and focuses on growth, and one grade does not make or break success.”
  • Educate students about proficiency: @SECottrell said, “If you want [students] to stop harping on grades, you gotta get ‘em informed on proficiency.” She shared a resource that she uses to explain proficiency to students and parents: http://t.co/7plpLaHcZa. @snesbitt1972 offered another way to train students in proficiency: “[Students] ask what they can do to improve their grade. @Michelle_Kindt tells them to ‘show her they’ve learned more.’ [I love] it!” @kltharri commented that students are very capable of reflecting on their proficiency if teachers avoid labeling all of their work with number grades: “[Hearing] my students articulate their growth surprised and humbled me. They DO see it if we stop labeling their work.”
  • Increase formative and project-based assessments: @MagistraHasner recommended replacing summative assessments with formative assessments, and @camccullough1 advised project-based assessments, writing, “I did more projects this year. It takes [students] longer to work on them. [There are fewer] grades, but they are more communicative.”

Question 4: How can we convince different stakeholders of the value of a learning-centered classroom culture?

Participants noted that it is not difficult to convince informed stakeholders of the benefits of a learning-centered classroom. They also recognized that students have the potential to serve as instructors’ greatest advocates in promoting a culture of learning.

  • Inform stakeholders and show them the benefits: One instructor wrote, “I only see cases where the public needs convincing of [the] benefits of a learner-centric classroom when they are NOT well informed.” @khtharri added that “[stakeholders] fear the unknown so [instructors] need to make it known [in the form of] examples, testimony from [students], [can-do’s], etc.” @SraWienhold suggested that instructors “send home a parent newsletter to show them what [instructors] are all about from the start.” @SraSpanglish shared an infograph that she uses at open house to help parents understand her learning-centered classroom: https://t.co/MGlx2PHsej. Finally, @VTracy7 added that instructors should “emphasize that this is a partnership.”
  • Make students your biggest advocates: @LisaShepard2 wrote, “Evaluating proficiency, rather than memorizing grammatical rules enables more students to be successful-happy stakeholders.” @AHSblaz noted the potential of happy students to serve as advocates: “[Kids] will do the convincing for us [when] they are so happy to be able to communicate! Kids [are] our best advocates.” @rlgrandis observed, “[Parents] will buy in when they see how much we care and what their kids say.” In order to make parents more aware of student progress, @Mr_Fernie suggested instructing students to teach something to their family: “I try to get [stakeholders] hooked early, [telling students,] ‘Go home and teach a [family] member what you learned.’ [Parents] love to hear [their student’s] progress.”

Question 5: What reform is needed in the education system to focus on learning more than numbers?

At the end of the hour, Langchatters reflected on reform needed to shift the focus away from numbers to learning. @LisaShepard2 recognized the need for “[a] system to record progress using words instead of numbers,” recommending standards-based grading, where “[students] are assessed [based on] whether they are developing/meeting/exceeding each [standard].” [Want to learn more about standards-based learning? Check out this recent #langchat summary!] @silvius_toda also encouraged a decrease in the use of standardized tests: “[There is a need for movement] away from all of [these] standardized assessments purely for data, [which are] causing [students] to focus on getting the right answer.” @LisaShepard2 added that the “[percentage] of students [that] increased a proficiency level is data.” @SraSpanglish commented, “I think if we develop purposeful assessments that truly convey proficiency, that would be the biggest step.” @camccullough1 acknowledged that this entails a “[mindset shift with recognition that problem] solving, critical thinking, communication, [and] collaboration [come with] no [numerical] value, yet [are] invaluable.”

Conclusion

Langchatters offered a wealth of advice and encouragement for those looking to de-emphasize grades in their classroom. They provided strategies that contribute to a culture of learning and described steps that teachers can take to downplay number grades. Participants also highlighted the importance of educating students and other stakeholders about proficiency and recognized that students can serve as their biggest advocates. Finally, they reflected on ways to reform the educational system to emphasize learning and de-emphasize grades.

Thank You!

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. Got a topic you’re eager to discuss? Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Shelley Shott by IntelFreePress, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  IntelFreePress 

 
Last week, #langchat participants took part in an energetic conversation about authentic resources – they discussed the selection process for students at different proficiency levels and what outcomes they expect, as well as ways ways to prepare students for engagement with authentic resources. To finish things off, Langchatters shared their strategies for supporting students as they engage with written and audiovisual authentic resources. While the chat revealed diverse thoughts and opinions about the value of authentic resources, @natadel76 spoke for many of the participants when she said, “[I] can’t stay away [from] this topic.”

Thanks to everyone who joined in the chat, and a big thank you to last Thursday’s moderators, Laura (@SraSpanglish), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), and Amy (@alenord)!

Question 1: How do you select authentic resources for students at different proficiency levels?

Participants recognized the importance of considering accessibility, theme, and student interest in selecting appropriate authentic resources.

  • Accessibility: @Mr_Fernie reminded fellow instructors to “[keep] texts level appropriate in [students’] L2 and L1,” noting, “[If a text is] too advanced for kids in [their] L1, they [probably] can’t understand it fully in [their] L2.” In considering level appropriateness, @SraWillis pays attention to the “quantity of [vocabulary and number] of cognates.” @MlleSulewski observed that “[text] length [and the] extent to which visual cues are used” are other factors worthy of consideration. @SraSpanglish pointed out that “images [and] familiar formats like recipes [or Wikipedia] articles [lower students’ affective filter]” by presenting them with a familiar genre that feels more accessible. Even when interesting texts seem out of reach in light of students’ current proficiency level, @ProfeCochran noted that they can still be valuable tools: “If I find an [authentic resource] that I love and really fits the theme, but is difficult, we will pick out key words, main ideas, etc.”
  • Theme: Some participants look for authentic resources that complement a current theme in the class. @MmeFarab wrote that she selects authentic resources for her class “[mostly] by theme,” and @profesorM said, “I choose [authentic resources] by topic.”
  • Interest: @MmeCarbonneau recommends considering student interests in selecting authentic resources: “Choose [resources] by [their] interest level […] and [relevance] to students’ lives.”

In addressing this question, one participant questioned the need for authentic resources in the classroom and a side conversation took shape. In response, some participants shared their thoughts on the benefits of incorporating authentic resources. For example, @alenord said, “[Authentic resources allow] students [to] interact with authentic [language] as it is found in [a] country [where the target language is spoken].” @natadel76 added, “[Using authentic resources] provides opportunities [for students] to learn how to deal with [the] unknown and learn [from] context.” @MlleSulewski wrote, “[Also], language and culture [are] intertwined [in these resources, allowing us to kill] 2 birds [with] 1 stone.” @profepj3 noted that authentic resources “give learners a real world context to wrap their learning around.” While some remained unconvinced that authentic resources are necessary or important for language learning, all could agree with @SenoraDiamond55’s comment that “[carefully] chosen resources (authentic or not) [along with] careful scaffolding [are] keys to success!”

Question 2: What outcomes do you expect from your students interacting with an authentic resource?

Participants shared expected outcomes for students engaging with authentic resources, which included cultural insights, ‘ah-ha’ moments, confidence and motivation.

  • Cultural Insights: @ProfeCochran wrote, “[Authentic resources offer important] insight to products, practices and perspectives of the target culture.” @SraWillis also noted students’ “exposure to culture,” and @SrLaBoone added that this can foster an “appreciation for [the] target culture, [and prompt] comparison to [one’s] own [culture], [while leading students to the] realization that language serves a practical purpose.”
  • Ah-ha Moments: Ideally, @SrLaBoone wrote that “[carefully] selected [authentic resources that are] presented well [should trigger] ah-ha! [moments for students].” He commented, “I honestly expect a lot of ‘light bulb’ moments when presenting [students] with [authentic resources].” @bjillmoore added, “I think it’s hard for some [students] to ‘let it go’ so to speak and [focus on the] gist. But once [they] learn [to] it’s amazing what they do!”
  • Confidence and Motivation: ‘Light bulb’ moments in turn are seen to increase confidence and motivation. @SraWillis wrote that authentic resources “build confidence when [students] realize they ‘get it’.” @SenoraDiamond55 said, “The confidence that comes with ‘getting’ [authentic resources] is amazing. [I love] watching that.” @William_Caze added that authentic resources can also be motivating: “Motivation! Authentic resources inspire students to realize they really CAN function in their L2!”

Question 3: How do you prepare students BEFORE interacting with an authentic resource?

Many instructors commented on the importance of frontloading vocabulary before having students engage with any type of authentic resources. @SenoraDiamond55 wrote, “Warm-up activities should involve KEY vocabulary for success using [authentic resources].” @Mr_Fernie suggested “personalized pre-teaching of [vocabulary where] students read through [a text] and find words they don’t know [or] recognize [for the class to] discuss together.” @senoritasatar recommended “graphic organizers [and] brainstorming” as another way to help students think about a topic and relevant vocabulary. @SJWLI shared ready-made “graphic organizers for Spanish teachers”: http://t.co/8Vq6qOVHx8. Additionally, @magisterb480 reflected on the importance of contextualizing an authentic resource: “[The instructor should] activate prior knowledge and provide background information, especially [from an] historical perspective.” Lastly, @SraWienhold reminds students that total comprehension is unlikely, and that’s OK!: “[Prepare students] that they will [not] get every word, [and explain that it’s] more about overall meaning #hardforhighflyers.”

Question 4: How do you support students WHILE they interact with a WRITTEN authentic resource?

Langchatters offered helpful suggestions on how to support students as they take on written authentic resources. Many participants suggested circulating around the room to offer assistance and encouragement. @espanolsrs wrote, “[Circulate and] help [students]. I try to explain [a] word [or] phrase in [the] L2 or point out [that] they should keep reading to gain context clues if possible.” @SenoraDiamond55 said, “Look for [and] support those [students] for whom the struggle may be entering BAD (unproductive [or] frustrating) territory. Give MORE help.” Other instructors recommended going through the text in chunks, posing questions to students along the way. @MmeCarbonneau recognized the benefit of deciphering authentic resources in pairs, groups, or as a class versus individually: “[Let students] work with someone while interacting with [authentic resources. There is safety] in numbers.” Aside from human aids, others recognized the value of textual supports. @textivate said, “Provide…. a glossary, a parallel text, an image, a cartoon, a video in support of the text.” Some added that processing guides or graphic organizers can also support students as they attempt to understand the content of resources. @William_Caze pointed out that sometimes instructors can help most by being a bit unhelpful: “Sometimes I help by being unhelpful. I remind [students] of tools available [for them] to try on their own. 3 [out of] 4 times, they figure it out!” Lastly, @SenoraDiamond55 noted that instructors should encourage students to calmly approach authentic resources: “Remind them to breathe? [I’m half] kidding.”

Question 5: How do you support students WHILE they interact with AUDIOVISUAL authentic resources?

Some participants wrote that the supports they provide for both textual and audiovisual authentic resources are the same. @MmeCarbonneau wrote, “For me [support is] no different than [for] written [authentic resources].” Just as for written resources, @CatherineKU72 suggested that instructors have students “[look] at vocabulary in [a] smaller context, [provide supporting] pictures, [and build] in moments of confidence [with dissection of] chunks [of material].” Nevertheless, langchatters also offered some specific recommendations for audiovisual authentic resources. In particular, they suggested befriending the pause button. @SECottrell wrote, “[It’s] not worth the time if it’s not comprehensible. PAUSE IS OUR FRIEND.” @SenoraDiamond55 added, “[Especially] for lower levels, we have to teach [students] it’s OK and APPROPRIATE to need to see [and/or] hear [content] more than once!” @magisterb480 suggested asking students to focus their attention on specific parts of a resource and providing multiple listening opportunities: “Maybe have them listen to [a resource] a few times to pay attention to specific parts.” @SraWienhold noted that pauses also allow instructors time to “retell [content and] ask questions.” @MaCristinaRV shared a resource that supports strategic pauses for comprehension checks: “#EDpuzzle is a great tool to use with [authentic resources], since it makes checking for understanding at the right moments easy.” Finally, Langchatters suggested encouraging students to use visual cues as an aid for comprehension. @SrLaBoone said, “[Have students] pick out a few things they DID understand. Also, [have them] reflect on images and [the] overall mood of what they’re seeing.” @William_Caze added, “A silent first watch of a video before introducing sound is often helpful, and I love to hear my students’ wild theories!”

Conclusion

Langchatters had plenty of thoughts and insights about authentic resources and their place in the language classroom. Participants discussed strategies for their selection and projected outcomes, and they also offered tips on how to prepare students for engagement with authentic resources. Finally, they shared advice on supporting students as they interact with textual or audiovisual authentic resources.

Eager to know more about authentic resources (#authres)? Check out these past #langchat summaries:

Thank You!

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. Got a topic you’re eager to discuss? Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!