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Last week, Langchatters were all about authenticity! They started off by defining an ‘authentic’ classroom experience in their own words. Participants then reflected on how to design authentic experiences for interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes. Finally, Langchatters shared some tips for assessing authentic tasks. As @magisterb480 noted, “ [An authentic experience] is about [students’] needs (to discover, to express, to share). School sometimes quells authentic [learning].” Not to fear, for participants had a wealth of suggestions about how to keep things real in the classroom!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s chat, and to Thursday’s moderating team: Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Laura (@SraSpanglish), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), and Kris (@KrisClimer)!

Question 1: What makes a class experience ‘authentic’?

Langchatters characterized authentic class experiences as involving real language in real situations with real relevance!

  • Real Language: Participants pointed out the importance of using authentic language. @KrisClimer wrote, “[For] me, [this means using] actual, non-contrived, non-discrete-point-in-isolation [language for] communication.” @MmeCarbonneau agreed, encouraging “[real] life language (not textbook) jargon used in meaningful ways not contrived situations.” Similarly, @ProfeCochran said, “Authenticity is [about] communicating with words, structures, [and] ideas that you would really use in the real world.”
  • Real Situations: @LisaShepard2 wrote that an experience is authentic if “[it] replicates an experience that a student would have in a target language environment.” @SenoraLauraCG echoed this point, writing that keeping things authentic means “doing the types of activities that prepare [students] to have ‘I can do this!’ moments when using the [target language] in the real world.” @natadel76 added that students might even practice interacting with target language speakers: “Authentic class experience involves providing [students with] opportunities for meaningful real interactions [with the target language] community.” @LisaShepard2 noted that making contact with the target language community can be tricky: “The authentic source is easy, the audience is more difficult,” but @la_sra_hinson pointed out that such connections are easier than ever before: “I disagree! [With technology] and globalization rising, no matter what [language you] teach [you] have an audience at the touch of [your] fingers.”
  • Real Relevance: Langchatters also acknowledged the importance of real-world relevance. @kballestrini noted that an authentic “task is done for the sake of learning … not for a grade, compliance, or other mitigating factor.” Others described personal relevance as central to authentic experiences. For example, @doriecp wrote, “If it’s relevant and meaningful to the students, it qualifies as an ‘authentic’ learning experience in my book.” @VTracy7 also cited personalization as a feature of authentic activities: “All I’m coming up with is [relevance]. It has to matter to the [students] for them to be [or] feel invested.”

Question 2: How can we make interpreting (reading and listening) an authentic experience?

Many participants highlighted the importance of “choosing authentic texts in relevant situations” (@kltharri). In the words of @MmeCarbonneau, this means “using material created by natives for natives, [and] adapting the task not the material.” Langchatters shared some of their favorite authentic sources for interpretive tasks. @profepj3 wrote, “I use online news [and] news videos for interpretive [mode because] they’re shorter [with] wide appeal. Plus [students] can connect to other contents.” He added, “I love using [20minutos] @20m in my classes—[They publish a] variety of articles [and] videos that [students] can relate to.” @Lwbespanol suggested podcasts as another option, writing, “[Materials] must be culturally-related. [I use] ‘Radio Ambulante’ podcasts and transcripts.” @SlocumBeth recommended “reading tweets” as yet another alternative. As an added benefit, @KathTomi pointed out that interpretive tasks can lead to critical reflection on one’s home culture: “Reading [and listening] to what those from [the target language] countries say about [students’] country allows [for an] increased intercultural awareness [or] perspective.” @doriecp added that instructors should not do all the searching but could “…[encourage] students to be on the lookout for [the second language] in the wild and bring examples to class for interpretation,” adding that this “[increases] motivation.”

Others pointed out that stories need not come only from major news sources, but could originate in the classroom. @VTracy7 suggested “[using] class stories or info about [students] to make stories.” @magisterb480 described how he shares oral stories with his Latin class as an interpretive task: “Present only vocab on board [that students] don’t know. Tell the story orally. Have them negotiate [for] meaning without seeing [the] text itself,” adding, “[This] strategy … has helped Latin 1 [students] become not only good listeners but also has developed their writing skills.”

Question 3: How can we make interpersonal communication an authentic experience?

Langchatters noted that making interpersonal activities more authentic can entail handing more control over to students. @SenoraLauraCG wrote, “[Give students the] overall theme, but let them pick how they talk about the theme and let the [conversation] unfold.” @learnsafari also advocated for personalization: “Get students talking about something real and current to their lives, [things] that matter to them. It’s ok if they make mistakes.” Several participants underscored the importance of spontaneity. @alisonkis said, “To make it interpersonal, spontaneous conversations should be considered.” @kltharri agreed, writing, “[No] scripts! Life doesn’t come with a script!” Participants acknowledged the value of teaching students how to engage (somewhat) spontaneously with their interlocutors, sharing information but also asking questions. @doriecp noted, “Also, we shouldn’t be the only ones asking questions. Teach [students] how to express curiosity and ask questions.” A few Langchatters offered ways to get students to interact with native speakers outside of the classroom. For example, @CecileLaine wrote, “[In] French 1 we interview [native speakers. It] is not ‘[spontaneous]’ conversation but it is a step towards it.” @SraSpanglish added, “[One] time I took kids to Plaza Latino and had them find out about shopkeepers! #semiscriptedisok.” As for @JessieOelke, she has her “[students] go to [a Mexican restaurant] and order in [Spanish] with [Spanish-speaking] staff.” @SraSpanglish commented, “I think [semi-scripted] conversations are an important scaffolding tool, especially [with] authentic audiences.” @kballestrini observed that such interactions can be a “challenge in Latin,” but he has found a “partial solve by creating [a] multi-year roleplaying epic. Students think, act, read, write, speak like Romans.” He added, “[As] a result, students (as their characters) are interacting with other characters (me), and each other inside imaginary space.”

Question 4: How can we make presentational writing and speaking an authentic experience?

When it comes to presentational mode, Langchatters had lots to say about audience choice. @kltharri wrote, “[Oh] man, [it’s] sooo important to have an audience other than [the] teacher.” Many participants suggested having students present to penpals. @AHSblaz said, “[Really], pen pals (Keypals) are the answer to all 3 modes of expression and [are] highly motivating.” Some instructors have students communicate with penpals abroad. For example, @SraWillis wrote, “Throughout the year my [students] send videos [or] padlets to [a] sister school in Argentina.” @CatherineKU72 commented that penpals might also be fellow learners: “Even if students connect [with] other students in North America, [they are] great audiences for opinions, comparisons. We´re all learning.” @SraSpanglish added that penpals can be highly motivating: “[Yep], and if [students] have a ‘little buddy’ to tell about themselves, they’re SO much more into it.” In addition to penpals, Langchatters cited other possible presentational outlets. @LisaShepard2 noted that “[social] media–Twitter, [YouTube] comments, etc., provide authentic contexts [and] audiences for [novice presentational] writing.” @profepj3 mentioned blogs as yet another option: “I have [had] my students keep blogs … for a few [years] now. [I want] to expand their audience to include more interpersonal [interactions].” Speaking of interpersonal interactions, participants noted the value of feedback on presentations. @SraWiemiller recommended “[having students] ask questions of the speaker or writer.” @MmeBlouwolff echoed this suggestion: “I think it’s about looping the presentation back into the interpretive [and] interpersonal cycle, with [students] listening and responding.”

Question 5: What tips do you have for assessing authentic experiences?

When it comes to grading an authentic experience in the classroom, @CecileLaine recommended doing so “[à] la Standard Based Grading, [using whole] grading, [or using [rubrics] for each mode.” Others also suggested use of rubrics. For example, @SraWiemiller said, “[I use good] ol’ rubrics, but recently [I’ve been] doing more ‘I can’ statements – [like] ‘I can get my point across and be understood!’” Since there had been lots of talk about spontaneous communication, @VTracy7 asked, “Can spontaneity be a rubric category?! Good, gracious, what they might share!” @alisonkis shared a link with lots of ways to perform formative assessment, drawing on different modes: Finally, @kballestrini questioned whether activities can still be considered authentic once grading is introduced: “[I recommend using] your teacher listening skills and professional [judgment to evaluate]; formal assessment, [in my honest opinion], kills the ‘authentic’ nature [because of the] grade.” He added, “[The] minute you introduce a reward [or] punishment (grade), the authentic nature of the task drops away; there’s a new purpose.”


If you’re looking to keep it real in every mode, #langchat has got you covered! Participants first shared what an ‘authentic’ classroom experience means to them. Then reflected on how to design authentic experiences for interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes. Finally, instructors shared some tips for assessing authentic tasks in all modes.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to yet another productive #langchat! Remember, now you can get your #langchat on both Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET!

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. As @CoLeeSensei reminded participants: “Got a topic to suggest? #langchat gets its ideas from teachers like you! [Yes,] you!” Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

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Last week, participants met to discuss the ins and outs of interpersonal assessment. In an open-format chat, Lanchatters raised pertinent questions and weighed in with advice. The discussion touched on such diverse topics as the amount of correction that instructors should provide, assessment logistics for large classes, the instructor’s role in interpersonal assessments, teachable communication strategies to sustain conversation, and measurement of proficiency versus performance. Participants took #langchat activity to a whole new level! Newcomers struggled to keep up with the flurry of tweets; @Meriwynn wrote, “Crazy – [We] #langchat [newbies] are panting to keep up! [We are two] conversations behind at all times, just like [language learners].” Even our seasoned moderators had to resort to skim reading; @SraSpanglish commented, “Y’all, this #langchat is AWESOME, but I’m having to skip like 60 tweets at a time!”

Thank you to all those who braved last Thursday’s #langchat on steroids! We extend a special thanks to our moderators: Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell).

How much output should you correct during an interpersonal assessment?

@Hjoblythe prompted fellow participants to reflect on appropriate doses of correction: “When is it appropriate to be a grammar stickler when assessing interpersonal communication?” Many Langchatters felt that correction should be limited for lower-level students. @SraSpanglish wrote, “I think grammar stickling is only appropriate for upper levels, not before intermediate.” @MCoachSalato tries not to let corrections impede conversation: “[What] a GREAT question! I teach [middle school], so my strategy is to correct ([without] being a stickler) within [the] flow of the [conversation].” @LisaShepard2 suggested only correcting errors when they hinder comprehension. @SECottrell shared guidelines from ACTFL and the College Board, writing, “[The] ACTFL answer is a novice answer: nail grammar when it impedes comprehensibility … [The] College Board answer is an intermediate [or] pre-advanced answer: nail grammar when it’s a distracting pattern.”

How do you manage interpersonal assessments with large classes?

As participants recognized, it can be a challenge to conduct interpersonal assessments when working with large numbers of students. @tmsaue1 wrote, “[The biggest] question I get from teachers is how do you assess 160-200 student doing interpersonal [assessments]? #teacherrealities.” @sen_ohsen13 welcomed “tips to assess classes of 29 [and] 30 [students] without taking more than the required 2 days,” adding, “[It’s middle school,] so [I] can’t leave my lovelies unattended.” @kltharri suggested assessing one pair of students at a time and providing immediate feedback: “I have a rubric and listen while my students talk to each other in front of me.” @LisaShepard2 echoed this recommendation: “Assess [students] in pairs [with] 2-3 [minute conversations] per pair?” Alternatively, @rinaldivlrg proposed that instructors could circulate and listen in to pair conversations occurring throughout the room: “I roam [and] listen. [I use a] mini rubric.” As yet another option, @SECottrell noted that Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) can be used to facilitate interpersonal assessment: “[This] is where it’s helpful to make it part of an IPA, so some [students] are doing [something in the] interpretive [mode] while others do [an] interpersonal [activity].” Finally, several Langchatters suggested having students record themselves engaging in conversation with a peer. @kltharri wrote, “Can [students] record themselves speaking to each other using devices and you listen later?” @MmeJCesario observed that this method can have the added benefit of lowering students’ affective filter: “I send the [students] off with a scenario and voice recorder. They aren’t as nervous and I can listen [to the recording] over and over!” In terms of recording technology, @CoLeeSensei just has her students use their cell phones: “I use their cell phones. [Students] record [the conversation] and send [it] to me (from home on ‘free’ WiFi).” @WescottSpanish commented, “@Schoology is great for recording. [Students can] have video discussions too.” @SraSpanglish noted that technology such as Google Classroom may speed up the assessment process but may prolong grading: “Google Classroom and class iPads and/or student devices means THEY get done in 1 day (grading however…).” For this reason, some are reluctant to have students record their conversations. For example, @CecileLaine wrote, “I don’t like recording, I prefer to listen [while] other [students] do [another] task and give more timely feedback.”

What role should the instructor play in an interpersonal assessment?

Instructors also reflected on the role that they themselves should play during an interpersonal assessment. @CoLeeSensei asked, “Should the [teacher] be part of the [interpersonal] assessment?” adding, “[My] goal is to watch [and] listen – not [participate].” Some participants favor only using peer-to-peer assessments. For example, @kltharri wrote, “I never do [teacher-student assessments] anymore.” Others take student level into account; @tmsaue1 said, “[Here’s my] rule of thumb: [If students] are novices, [their] teacher has to be a partner. If [students] are intermediates, they talk to each other.” Still others use peer-to-peer interactions as a form of ungraded practice to prepare students for assessments with their instructor at a later time. @SECottrell wrote, “I [frequently] assign but never *assess* novice [student-to-student] interaction. [I always assess teacher-student interactions].” Lastly, @KrisClimer proposed having learners self-assess: “Why is it that WE do all the assessment? Can’t [or] shouldn’t the learner share the curation responsibility of what he [or] she CAN DO?” He added, “[I’m not] shirking my duty here; [I] just wanna build ownership.” @CoLeeSensei replied, “GREAT QUESTION – I do LOTS of self-assessment as well,” and she shared a link to her blog: @SraSpanglish commented on the importance of training in self-assessment: “I think self-evaluation can be useful, but [students] need PLENTY of training first.”

What are some teachable communication strategies to help students sustain conversation?

Communication may break down or become strained at times during an interpersonal assessment. Langchatters discussed ways to prepare students to handle such moments. @kltharri wrote, “Communication strategies are important to teach at all levels to avoid things falling apart.” @cadamsf1 commented, “I’ve taught my kids to rescue their peers. They actually earn an extra [point for doing so].” @CoLeeSensei also trains students to help a partner in need: “We practice the ‘rescue’ too [and] saying ‘I don’t understand.’” @Meriwynn replied, “[This is such] a simple yet brilliant idea because this is what happens in real life,” and @LisaShepard2 wrote, “I know we’ve discussed this before. I totally agree. Kids need to learn to negotiate meaning.” @CoLeeSensei added, “I teach my [students] that your partner not understanding you is YOUR responsibility to clear up!” @WescottSpanish suggested that instructors could also “teach novices to repeat questions,” noting, “[They] can always get different answers.”

How can we be sure that we are truly measuring proficiency and not just performance?

@shakejively wrote, “My challenge is figuring out ways to assess proficiency instead of performance. [It seems] like everything’s a bit too rehearsed.” @caraluna34 replied, “[I’m working] to get more … spontaneous [production from students. I have big] classes, so [I’m] trying [to ask] a short [and] sweet random [question] on [a] topic for [students] to [answer], then [I ask for] extra [follow-up].” @WescottSpanish pointed out that this doesn’t mean catching students ill-prepared: “[I don’t] tell [students the] task [ahead of time] but practice similar tasks leading up to [the assessment] so they are prepared.” @SraSpanglish agreed, writing, “I think it’s important that the general topic be familiar, but the task [be] spontaneous.” @LisaShepard2 offered another way to keep output spontaneous: “Although my students know their topic, they don’t know their partner in advance—[This way they] can’t memorize [the conversation].”


In an open-format chat, thoughts about interpersonal assessment ran wild as participants actively raised questions and weighed in with advice. The discussion touched on the amount of correction that instructors should provide, assessment logistics for large classes, the instructor’s role in interpersonal assessments, teachable communication strategies to sustain conversation, and measurement of proficiency versus performance. As the hour neared a close, @MartinaBex wrote, “[I’m not] gonna lie, [but I’m] kinda glad that there’s only 10 [minutes] left since I’ll need the next 10 hours to sift through tonight’s chat.” In case you still haven’t finished reading, we hope that this summary has helped you catch up!

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s chat. Now you can get your #langchat on twice a week– Remember, #langchat will take place on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET!

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. As @CoLeeSensei reminded participants: “Got a topic to suggest? #langchat gets its ideas from teachers like you! [Yes,] you!” Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Humphreys, Pyeongtaek students experienc by USAG-Humphreys, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  USAG-Humphreys 

Last week, #langchat was playing at full volume as participants met to chat about music in the language classroom. They discussed how to choose songs and what logistics help with effective music use. Langchatters also brainstormed tasks involving songs that can help increase learners’ proficiency level. They talked about how songs can complement target structures and also considered how songs that don’t align with particular targets can still have value in the classroom. From the first few minutes of the hour, it was clear that participants had much to say! @KrisClimer wrote, “[I’m feeling] the makings of a busy #langchat. Settle in, get your head on a swivel, and get ready to sing!”

Thank you so much to all of you who tuned in last week! We extend a special thank you to last Thursday’s moderators: Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Cristy (@msfrenchteach)!

Question 1: How do you choose songs for class?

When it comes to selecting songs for the language class, instructors take many factors into account. Many mentioned the need for a connection to class themes and/or content. @MmeJCesario wrote, “If we’re going to study [a] song, connections to the curriculum, [in terms of the theme], topic, grammar, [or vocabulary are necessary].” Some instructors take student level into account when deciding whether to use songs to highlight grammar or complement themes. @rinaldivlgr said, “[For] lower levels [I select songs] by grammar. For upper [levels, I select them] by theme [and sometimes by grammar] … too.” @LisaShepard2 agreed, writing, “So far, I’ve just chosen songs that were related to the unit theme, [usually] just with the upper levels, who can understand.” @ProfeCochran commented, “I choose songs with themes and/or structures we are using. [It’s a bonus] if I can get both!” Additionally, instructors consider the status of certain songs as classics or current hits. @CatherineKU72 seeks to achieve a “[mixture] of modern, oldies, [and ‘younger’ songs],” adding, “[I look at the] top 20 charts from Francophone countries [and] listen to [the] radio.” @SECottrell also consults the charts: “Billboard’s Latino charts is a good source.” Others find music by frequently listening to YouTube or Pandora. @MlleSulewski wrote that she mostly finds songs “by listening to ones I like on YouTube and falling down the ‘Recommended’ rabbit hole.” Similarly, @SECottrell wrote, “[Honestly], my ‘aha’ songs almost all came from playing Pandora incessantly [and] catching a great tune [with] useful lyrics.” Aside from popularity, instructors search for tunes that will easily get stuck in students’ heads. @SraSpanglish commented, “[A song has to] be CATCHY! If it’s not impossible to remove from their heads, it’s not doing its job! [If] they can’t go around singing the song that’s stuck in their head, not much languaging [is] happening.” @MaCristinaRV added that this is important with younger learners: “At the elementary level, I choose simple, catchy songs that are connected with theme [and] teaching objectives. Sing, play, repeat!”

Question 2: What logistics help you effectively use music?

Before you blast some tunes in the target language, you may want to consider some important logistics. Langchatters encouraged fellow instructors to keep music organized, block advertisements, download music instead of streaming songs, and establish designated music days.

  • Get your tunes in order! @CatherineKU72 suggested organizing songs by theme: “[Try always] creating playlists for the songs [and/or] videos in thematic groups. Several hundred videos need organization for both [students and teachers].” @SrLaBoone wrote in favor of making these playlists available to students long after class has ended: “@SraSpanglish, I love ([and] copied) your idea of the YouTube playlist. [Students] can go back and listen to their [favorites]!” As an alternative to YouTube, @SECottrell suggested curating music on @Delicious: “I’m a broken record. Use @Delicious to curate everything.” She also recognized the benefit of organizing playlists for specific levels: “I need to do this! [I saw that] @SraSpanglish has leveled [playlists] and thought ‘why didn’t I ever do that?!’”
  • Block the ads: Some instructors advised blocking advertisements when playing music videos online. @Emily_Bach wrote, “I use Viewpure when showing a music video [or] playing [a] song so that I don’t get any unexpected ads that might not be kid-friendly.” @SrLaBoone also wrote in favor of this site: “Yes! Viewpure is great!”
  • Download; don’t stream: Some instructors prefer not to stream music on the Internet. For example, @rinaldivlgr said, “[I] have to be able to download [music] to [a] computer. [The] Internet is too shaky!” @CoLeeSensei added, “[You can] find many ways to download off [YouTube, including KeepVid.] I never stream live!”
  • Establish a music day: Many instructors set aside a specific day each week for music. @TiptonAn1 wrote, “[Maybe have] a specific music day to go listen to songs with [specific] vocabulary words from the chapter!” @SrLaBoone suggested Wednesday an ideal music day: “As far as when, I like ‘miércoles musical’- not every Wednesday, but many. [It breaks] up the week nicely.” Another instructor likes starting the week off with a song: “Music Monday has been happening in my classroom since last January … I save the [videos] to my [YouTube] playlists.”

Question 3: What tasks can students do with songs to push their proficiency level?

As #langchat participants made clear, activities with songs can go far beyond traditional fill-in-the-blank exercises. Participants had lots of suggestions about ways to use songs to boost student proficiency!

  • Give me another word! Langchatters suggested pushing students to provide synonyms or suggest other words that rhyme with particular lyrics. @CoLeeSensei said, “I like ‘another word for’- [Students] use the [target language] to find synonyms for [highlighted] words in [a] song.” @oowwoo suggested a similar activity, based not on similar meanings but on similar sound patterns: “If there are rhymes in the song, I have [students] identify the rhyming words [and] then think of other words they know that rhyme.” Additionally, @oowwoo recommended working with small chunks of text at a time: “I learned at a [professional development workshop] this summer that just focusing on one part of the song is the best way for students to retain it.”
  • Make a remix! Let students creatively “[write] or remix their own [version]”
    of a song presented in class (@TiptonAn1). @SECottrell said, “[It took] me time to figure this out. I learned to focus on small bits [and] get kids to change words and sing them out.” @BreeStillings echoed these suggestions: “[Have] them make their own version highlighting key [vocabulary] and phrases.”
  • Summarize and analyze with words or visuals! @SraHeebsh said, “I’ve done a [five] word summary of the song in the [target language]. Fun!” @MmeLohse added, “[Having students summarize a] song in their own words or reflecting on meaning alone or in pairs can be valuable, [either in a] written or spoken [format].” @profesorM commented that summaries could also be visual: “Maybe turn the song into a cartoon!” In addition to summarizing lyrics, @SenoraLauraCG suggested guiding students in deeper analysis of lyrics: “[Have students] share their opinion and why using examples from the song. Ask follow-up [questions] to [have them] explain their position.”

Question 4: How do you use songs to complement your target structures and vocabulary?

As @KrisClimer noted, songs naturally complement language learning: “Advertisers have known it for years: music embeds phrases, ideas, syntax, emotions.” He added, “[Look for songs] that have [vocabulary, structures, cultural elements or ideas being covered in class]. Then when it’s time to ‘learn’ it, [students] magically already ‘know’ it.” Instructors agreed that songs can help to reinforce particular material in context. @SrLaBoone wrote, “I think things like direct [or] indirect object pronouns are much easier when [students] have heard [or] seen them in countless songs before.” For this reason, @SraHeebsh tries to find songs that highlight structures being studied in class: “I try to pick something for [students] to listen to so they can hear it in context. [For example] ‘Tú’ [by] Carlos Baute. Have [students find] the ‘tú’s [in the lyrics].” @MlleSulewski commented that songs show students that particular structures have real-world applications: “It was funny to watch [students] last year when we listened to song [with] lots of subjunctive. [They] realized I wasn’t just making it all up.” @CoLeeSensei added that structures found in the chorus provide repeated exposure: “[Complement your target structures by focusing] on the chorus – [It’ll] hit the target over and over in [one] listen.”

Question 5: How do you use songs that don’t align with particular targets?

Not sure that a great song you’ve found aligns with particular learning targets? Not to fear! As Langchatters acknowledged, music can serve other purposes in the language classroom.

  • Background music: @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[I love] to have ambient music playing in [the background. This avoids a] ‘silent’ room [and] makes [it feel] safe for [students] to talk [and take risks].” @BreeStillings also encouraged use of background music: “[Just] play [music] while they are doing group work. Worst case scenario: [They] love [a song] and randomly add [it] to their own iTunes and listen?” @senorajtaylor pointed out that exposure to music offers additional input: “I use it as simple background music! The input is still there though subconsciously.” For this reason, as @TiptonAn1 noted, music can help “to keep up with fluency!”
  • Fun time: @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[To] quote @KrisClimer: [Listen] to something for fun!!!! [Just] because!” @Emily_Bach added, “Use songs as [a] warm-up or as a ‘fun time’ … reward. Even if it doesn’t line up with [a] target, songs still help with SLA!” @oowwoo agreed that music can be used “[as] a reward for hard work.” @Shannon_LTS noted that the promise of some fun music can serve as a useful motivator for young learners: “In primary school music was a great [management] tool. [The] promise of a [three-minute music] clip at the end of productive lessons [worked] like [magic].”


If you’re looking to bring more music into your language classroom, #langchat has a wealth of tips to offer! Participants shared advice on how best to select music and discussed logistics for efficient use of tunes. They also described some creative ways to use songs to increase student proficiency. Finally, participants suggested ways to use songs when they complement material covered in class—and when they don’t!

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who sang along to #langchat last week! Remember, now you can #langchat both Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET! Also, don’t miss out on fresh, new #langchat gear! Order your t-shirt or sweatshirt by September 21!

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. As @CoLeeSensei reminded participants: “Got a topic to suggest? #langchat gets its ideas from teachers like you! [Yes,] you!” Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Upper Intermediate Class by Shane Global Language Centres, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Shane Global Language Centres 

Last week, Langchatters met to discuss lesson planning! They reflected on their first steps in the planning process, described how they go about gathering resources, and offered some tricks to speed up planning. Participants also noted how their planning process changes when they need a substitute. Efficient lesson planning is an art that we all strive to perfect, and #langchat participants offered a wealth of tips and support. @MmeFarab wrote, “Good thing there’s #langchat to the rescue!!” and @SraSpanglish commented, “WOW! Here on #langchat ask and you shall receive! Thank you all!”

Thank you, indeed, to everyone who contributed to last week’s conversation. We extend a special thanks to Thursday’s dedicated moderators: Laura (@SraSpanglish), John (@CadenaSensei), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell)!

Question 1: What is the first step in your planning process?

Langchatters reflected on how they get the lesson planning process started. While some begin by considering key Can-Do statements and end goals, others think up unit themes and ways to capture student interest.

  • Can-Do Statements and End Goals: @LisaShepard2 starts her planning process by “[choosing or modifying] Can-Do [statements] to fit [a] theme [or] topic.” Similarly, @VTracy7 considers “[I-Cans] and Proficiency Standards.” She added, “I wish I had them committed to memory.” @SraWillis keeps her Can-Do statements close at hand: “[I have] my ‘Can-Do’ expectations hanging above my desk for each [unit], and am constantly looking at them to stay on track.” While some participants did not specifically mention Can-Do statements, they too keep end goals in mind. @Marishawkins wrote, “[The] first step in overall planning is deciding on the end product: [What] do I want students to know or be able to do?”
  • Units and Themes: Others plan units and themes to get the planning process rolling. @MlleSulewski wrote, “[I start by] figuring out what themes I want to address and make into a unit.” @SECottrell agreed: “I can’t talk lesson planning without talking unit planning.” @SraSpanglish also uses units as a starting place, although that wasn’t always the case: “[My] lessons tend to start with units, but there was a time it was day by day…”
  • Student Interests: Still others begin by thinking about student interests. @MmeCarbonneau encouraged “[deciding] what students are interested in learning and what cultural aspect to lead with.” She added, “Find the HOOK and create essential [questions].” @SraSpanglish whole-heartedly agreed with this approach: “YESS! If you can’t picture your kiddos neck deep in the topic happy as pigs in mud, is it really worth it?”

Question 2: How do you go about gathering resources for a lesson?

Langchatters reminded fellow participants that resources are at their fingertips, often just a click away. They encouraged one another to make use of different online platforms, including Twitter (…and #langchat!), and to also look for real-world resources offline.

  • Get Online! Participants recognized just how much the Internet has facilitated the search for useful resources. In the words of @SrtaOlson, “Blogs, [Twitter], YouTube, you name it! Resources are everywhere!!!” Several Langchatters also mentioned Pinterest, and @SraCastle suggested looking at “other sites where you might find stuff pertaining to a theme, [for example checking out a] school website for schedules.” #Langchat was also mentioned as a useful source! @rlgrandis wrote, “Check #langchat !! Y’all have so many great blogs and … sites!” @MmeCarbonneau agreed, writing, “I ask my [#langchat] buddies.” With so many resources circulating online, it can be difficult to keep them organized and readily accessible. Some participants recommended tools to save and organize useful resources. @SraSpanglish said, “You can use GetPocket or Evernote to automatically store sources…We also have a #langchat Diigo.” @SenorG commented, “[This is an important] theme here about saving [and] curating resources. If you’re not using [Diigo] or the like, start. It’ll change your life.” He described Diigo as “bookmarking on steroids,” adding that it “[lives in the] cloud [and] allows [for] multiple tags, annotations, [and] highlights.”
  • Look for Real-World Resources! @tmsaue1 prompted instructors to ask themselves the following question when looking for resources: “[Where] would students find the [language] in the real world?” He encouraged fellow participants to “[look] there, [be it in] brochures, menus, tweets, schedules, [picture] captions, [etc.].” @SraGarces searches for and collects authentic resources during her travels: “I also hoard when traveling [because] I never know how I might be able to use [resources I gather]. Friends abroad now hoard for me.”

Question 3: What are some tricks that speed up your planning process?

As participants readily admitted, planning can take lots of time. Langchatters shared lots of helpful tips to speed up the process!

  • Borrow, borrow, borrow! @MlleSulewski observed that “shameless thievery from other teachers” facilitates the planning process. Others also referred to this act as thievery, to which @Shannon_LTS responded, “[It’s [strange that] when we use others’ ideas [and] resources we tend [to] call it stealing. We [absolutely] should do this, and with pride … Collaboration saves time, money, gives us more energy for [students, and] brings [in different] perspectives.”
  • Establish a Routine! @Marishawkins wrote, “[Having] a routine helps me speed up planning, [for example] always having a warm-up, [and] songs once a week, etc.” @rlgrandis also notes easier planning when a “[class] follows a routine even if the [students] can’t always tell,” adding, “[This way] I have an easy template to quickly fill out!” @SrLaBoone readily agreed: “Yes! A routine helps immensely! I use ‘[miércoles] musical’ most weeks.” @SenorG added, “Routines [with] opening activities can help ease planning and your predictability for [students].” For example, he wrote that Mondays could start with music, Tuesdays with memes, Wednesdays with art, etc.”
  • Review and Evaluate Previous Resources! Instructors recommended revisiting and reflecting on previous resources. @magisterb480 wrote, “Go through last year’s lesson plans. If [something] worked last year, keep it. But always add something different. Different is good.” @SrLaBoone shared an additional tip: “[To] help with planning, I edit my documents [and] activities RIGHT AFTER USING THEM….[That way they are] already tweaked for the next time!”
  • Use Online Tools to Make an Organized Plan! @oowwoo recommended Planboard as a great (and free!) application for lesson planning. @bjillmoore pointed out that this application can save time for lesson planning now and in the years to come: [I love Planboard. It lets] you move lessons from one semester to next [and put] all your links in one place.”
  • Stop Trying to Design Perfect Lessons! @Marishawkins highlighted the importance of “recognizing that there are only so many [hours] in a day and sometimes accepting a less than perfect reading, [authentic resource,] etc.” @SraDentlinger replied, “Well said. We are only human, albeit in search of perfection!”
  • Set Aside a Specific Time for Planning! Many participants advised dedicating a specific time to lesson planning. @MlleSulewski wrote, “I plan on Sunday afternoons, for the whole week. [This saves] my sanity [Monday through Friday].” @MmeFarab commented, “Same, but Saturday mornings for me!” @SraWienhold avoids letting lesson planning follow her home over the weekends: “[My] rule is the next week has to be planned by the time I leave Friday afternoon.” No matter when you prefer to plan, @SECottrell urged instructors to “plan to plan! [Pick] a time and make it yours.”

Question 4: How does your planning change when you won’t be there?

Participants recognized that it can be tricky to make plans for a substitute, who may or may not speak the target language. They shared technological tools that they turn to when preparing for their absence. Langchatters also noted that they try to put students in charge and give them tasks that they can reasonably complete on their own.

Participants mentioned a few different technological resources that they use when away from the classroom. @SraDentlinger wrote, “Blendspace is great for hosting [technological] activities [with substitutes. There’s one] spot for everything.” @CatherineKU72 turns to “Google [forms with] videos [and] links or [an] @EDpuzzle activity that can be done [without the instructor].” She added, “Student engagement is remarkably high [with a video and questions].” @SECottrell agreed that online tools aid substitute planning: “I was just going to say, online tools make this so much easier. I have conducted class many times via Google chat.”

@SraSpanglish also suggested putting students in charge of class: “I do like to appoint student leaders in [substitute] plans [and] alert the kiddos who’s leading.” Instructors added that it is important to enable students to take charge of their learning. @SraGSpanish2 said, “I have to make sure I know it’s something the students can do without help from the [substitute]. I leave a key too.” @MlleSulewski agreed, writing, “[I] usually [assign] tasks that students can complete easily, without asking too much of [the substitute]. I fear wrong input.” If there is an anticipated absence, @rlgrandis noted the benefit of scaffolding preparation: “If I know in advance [that I will be absent], I plan [an] extended assignment that I scaffold before I leave so [students] can work in groups while I’m gone.”


#Langchat participants had much to say about lesson planning! They shared their first steps in the planning process, described how they gather resources, and offered some tips to facilitate planning. Instructors also noted how they plan differently when they know that they will be absent. Participants acknowledged the wealth of resources now available online and the ease with which different tools can be shared and borrowed. That said, several Langchatters referred to this circulation with relative unease, describing it as an act of stealing. As @CadenaSensei observed, “[There seems to be lots] of teacher guilt pent up in lesson planning – [It’s] important to ask ourselves why that is. We [probably] deserve forgiveness.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who tuned in for #langchat last week! Remember, now you can #langchat both Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET! Also, don’t miss out on fresh, new #langchat gear! Order your t-shirt or sweatshirt by September 21!

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!

Salamanca. Clase de español para estudia by Madrid2011jmj, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Madrid2011jmj 

Last week, #langchat participants met to chat about review. Langchatters discussed how to handle review of prior content, shared their thoughts on what material is most important to revisit at the start of the school year, and mentioned some of their favorite activities to help students activate prior knowledge. Participants also reflected on ways to push students’ proficiency while reviewing older content and talked about how to keep tapping into this knowledge throughout the year. Langchatters struggled to keep up with what proved to be a lightning-speed chat! @jaybeekay518 wrote, “Is #langchat always this lively?? [I had] a bit of a hard time keeping up tonight [with] the rapid-fire tweets!” Even our seasoned moderators were out of breath by the end of the hour. @alenord said, “I have NO IDEA what anyone said tonight. That’s how fast this #langchat went!”

Thank you to everyone who contributed to yet another action-packed hour. We would also like to extend a big thank you to last Thursday’s moderators, Amy (@alenord), Kris (@KrisClimer), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei)!

Question 1: How do you handle review of prior content?

Instructors generally disfavored explicit review of prior content, preferring a more organic integration of previously taught material. @profe105 wrote, [After] years of doing ‘comprehensive review’ at [the beginning] of [the year] with dismal results, I don’t any more. [Instead, I review] as needed [to support language functions].” @magisterb480 has also abandoned this practice: “I used to do all the tedious grammar review but not anymore! I’m using stories with important concepts from the previous year.” @CecileLaine agreed that stories represent a useful tool to support the learning of all students: “Since some [students] need review but others don’t storytelling is a great way to recycle old structures while introducing new concepts.” Whether you use stories or other tools to activate prior content, @MaCristinaRV mentioned the importance of variety to hold student interest: “I review prior content by presenting it in an unexpected and different context, so it’s not boring and repetitive.” Additionally, @SrtaJohnsonEBHS underscored the importance of providing students with a wealth of input: “[Provide input], input, input that recycles prior structures.” On the topic of input, @kballestrini observed that comprehensible input in and of itself can be understood as a form of review: “I mean, if you’re providing comprehensible input, you’re ‘reviewing prior material’ by just delivering understandable [messages].”

Question 2: What material is most important to revisit at the beginning of the year?

According to Langchatters, key phrases to help students remain in the target language and fun, engaging material are most important at the start of the year! @profe105 recommended “survival phrases, phrases for circumlocution, [or] anything that helps [the teacher] and [students] maintain [target language] use.” Similarly, @MadameZapor suggested “classroom survival phrases … and question words.” Aside from tools to stay afloat in the target language, participants also underscored the importance of material that motivates students. @rlgrandis wrote, “[In my opinion], revisit the fun material at first! Help [students] remember why they would WANT to continue learning!” Many highlighted the value of personalization. @VTracy7 noted that [expressing] wants, likes and needs [is] motivating [and] interesting for [students].” @Marishawkins recommended starting with “high frequency vocabulary and then [vocabulary that] can be individualized.” She asks herself, “What does each student remember that is relevant for [him or her]?” @SrLaBoone offered an example of how to review key vocabulary while allowing for personalization: “For my 1B classes, I like to review travel [or] vacation [vocabulary] ([presented at the] end of [level] 1A) – [This is] fresh in [students’] minds and many traveled this summer.”

Question 3: What are your favorite activities for helping students apply prior knowledge?

Participants reminded us that applying prior knowledge can be fun! Numerous Langchatters suggested games as a form of review. Some wrote in favor of VERBA, in particular. @kballestrini likes “[having students] get quality [repetition] of … level-appropriate sentences in a playful way using VERBA ;).” @profe105 commented, “I cannot say enough good things about Verba. My [students] LOVED it. [I was] so pumped when my cards came in mail.” @jaybeekay518 also wrote in favor of “games games games games…,” adding, “[For] some reason [students] think it’s not as hard if they get to talk and laugh in the [target language] with their friends!” As a word of caution, @kballestrini urged participants using games in the classroom to be sure that game goals align with learning objectives: “[Games] are really tough to get ‘right,’ [so we] need to be aware of what the play objectives are… are the learning objectives the same?” Participants also suggested activities that get students to work together and get to know one another while reviewing. For example, @ProfeCochran wrote, “We just finished ‘Family Vacay Photos.’ [Students] get in families, take ‘vacay’ [pictures] all around school, [and] present in [the target language]. SUPER divertido.” Even when students aren’t participating in games or lively activities, Langchatters encouraged pair work. @SECottrell asked, “What about asking [students] to pair up and work through checking off @actfl Can-Dos as review?” @caraluna34 replied, “I’ve done a [modification] of that – [I] typed out my review [Can-Dos] and students colored them in traffic light colors.”

Question 4: What are some examples of pushing students’ proficiency while reviewing prior content?

Langchatters recommended presenting new material in familiar contexts as a way to boost student proficiency and support review. @alenord wrote, “For me, [I offer] familiar contexts, but [give students] higher order questions to respond to.” @kballestrini agreed that “[context] is key,” writing, “[If] you stay in a familiar context, [vocabulary] will naturally be [familiar, which will make it] easier [for students to understand] new structures.” Along these same lines, @MartinaBex encouraged instructors to “[target] new structures with discussion that [cycles] in old [vocabulary].” For example, she suggested introducing the past tense to discuss students’ summer activities. @SlocumBeth also proposed presenting students with “complex grammar in [a familiar] context and deciphering the meaning. [For example,] subjunctive use in [an] ad campaign.”

As another way to boost proficiency, participants advised “fishing for more [information] when [a student] gives [a] response” through follow-up questions (@profe105). @MlleSulewski wrote, “Instead of just accepting ‘I went to the beach’ I push for more details. With [whom]? When? What’d you do? Was it fun?” @SECottrell added, “I can’t remember who did this but someone had students count on their hands how many details they could add (@senoraCMT)?”

Question 5: How can we keep tapping into prior knowledge throughout the year?

Langchatters agreed that tapping into prior knowledge comes naturally in the language classroom. @jaybeekay518 said, “Frankly, I think it would be hard not to!” One participant wrote, “It’s easy to tap into prior knowledge in a [world language] class since moving forward can only happen if you’ve got a toolbox in use.” @KrisClimer added, “To quote our illustrious moderator @alenord ‘prior knowledge is their [comprehensible input].’ We just need to know keenly what that is.” Finally, @MlleSulewski mentioned her affinity for [Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs)], in particular, as a way to pull together prior content: “[This] is why I love IPAs. Nothing is ever isolated: [You] need the ensemble of all [of] your knowledge to complete the task.”


If you’re looking to help students recall prior knowledge, Langchatters have lots of tips! They talked about how to handle review, what material to revisit first, and what activities to use to activate prior knowledge. Participants also reflected on ways to increase students’ proficiency while reviewing and discussed ways to tap into prior knowledge throughout the year. As @ProfeCochran spoke for many when she noted, “[Instructor’s first] priority [should be to] build relationships with students, [and their second priority should be to] make review FUN [and] unnoticeable!” @profe105 summarized the theme of the chat with one pithy Tweet: “[Recycle], don’t review!”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined us last week! Still haven’t had your #langchat fill? Remember, now you can #langchat both Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET! Also, fresh #langchat gear is on the way! Check out a sneak-peek here!

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!