University Life 158 by francisco_osorio, on Flickr
"University Life 158" (CC BY 2.0) by  francisco_osorio 

 
Last week, world language teachers from across the country dug in for a rapid-fire chat in order to share and discuss various strategies for how to effectively teach novels and short stories in the target language in class, and still maintain student interest while increasing their proficiency. Langchatters talked about the purpose of (and logistics for) reading novels and short stories in class, as well as ways to use discussion to see what your students are reading. Participants ended the hour talking about ways to make sure that students are actually getting meaning from their reading, along with ideas for how to assess what students are actually learning and retaining from it.

Thank you Amy (@alenord) and Kris (@KrisClimer), for hosting the super-fast Thursday #langchat this week, as well as John (@CadenaSensei) and Wendy (@MmeFarab) for leading the charge for the #SaturdaySequel. And thanks to everyone who joined in for either super informative hour of #langchat!

Question 1: What are your purposes for having students read longer text like novels & short stories?

For a lot of langchatters using novels and short stories in their curriculum comes from a personal connection to specific books and material, or simply their own love of reading. Several shared that their preference for using longer texts stems from the fact that it’s an easier task to get students excited about authentic resources and extended projects when the subject is something they themselves are excited about. @IndwellingLang summed up this perspective best when they said, “Long texts let [students] get lost in the language–in the best of ways!”

Langchatters purposes varied from giving students a sense of accomplishment in being able to read something more extensive, to seeing it as an opportunity for students to expand their vocabulary and understanding of the ways that words and phrases work together in real world content. Other reasoning included the thought that long texts with coherent plot, themes, or style often allows students to encounter the same words and phrases repeatedly without getting bored, and the fact reading teaches good writing skills in the target language as well. Similarly, @MCanion felt that, “When longer texts [are] used, readers can derive more meaning because they don’t use word for word translation techniques.”

One very popular idea that summed up the overall sentiment of participants’ answer for Q1 was @MademoiselleRoe when she said, “[Students] also feel so proud when they can read a longer text. We all support literacy!” Because at the end of the day, literacy and understanding of the target language is what the world language classroom is all about.

Question 2: What do the logistics of reading novels, long text look like in your classroom?

Seeing as every classroom is run differently depending on proficiency level, teaching style, school philosophy, etc., the suggested logistics ranged far and wide across the various ways that teachers have to structure their classes to incorporate reading longer texts into their particular classrooms. Some were advocates for a flipped classroom approach (having students read at home and only discussing the materials in class) while others felt that reading as a group or individually in class and then discussing is the best way to approach it.

A much re-tweeted idea came from @maestartsai when she said that she prefers to, “…front load and circle vocabulary needed for each day’s chapter. I try to vary how we read and respond to the novel each day.” Ideas for hands-on structuring the reading of long texts in class included @KrisClimer’s popular suggestion that the text be, “Broken up into chapters, episodes, punctuated with discussion, activities, interpersonal, form assessments.” Another much-liked suggestion was simply to utilize a variety of ways to incorporate reading and not try to make it a “one size fits all” type of situation for every class. Suggestions were to have students read as a class, read as homework, read to a partner, listen to the teacher read, read and act out, and much more.

Participants made sure to promote the use of activities such as comprehension questions, cultural activities, short writing, readers theater, and the like to make sure that students are really involved with the reading and understanding it. Similarly, @RabeloMaggie proposed that as much as possible, “Reading [should be] done in class. [We] want to model expectations – not [have them] knowing and/or looking up every word. [It should] not always [be] comfortable for them.” Which makes a lot of sense since every activity should be designed to challenge students to go grow their proficiency as much as possible.

Question 3: How do you employ discussion as a way to process what students are reading?

Langchatters agreed that discussion is a huge piece of the learning puzzle when it comes to reading texts in class and suggestions to facilitate it. @SraWienhold had a popular idea to, “…have [a] slideshow of pre/during/post questions that are posted, so as we read it reminds me to stop, discuss & personalize.” Similarly, @MadamesoilleRoe suggested, “When reading together, pause often to ask questions – just like when reading to a small child. Is he happy? Why? What next? Etc.”

Additional ideas on how to use discussion ranged from having students do individual and then group recaps to see if everyone reached the same conclusion, as well as making activity questions more thought provoking to make sure that they’re understanding and relating to the material and not just comprehending it. Chatters pointed out that all of these suggestions depend on making sure what you’re doing is appropriate for the age group, since you need to have different focuses for different proficiency levels. To demonstrate, @SrMedina_NNHS said, “Novice – intermediate low= connection to self, connections to world… IM to IH= student led, adding a provocateur.”

Another popular suggestion was to make the discussion portion as student-focused as possible by having them come up with things to talk about, topics to present from the material, things that they identified with, etc. @AHSblaz had some great ideas for ways to have students do that such as having them, “…choose [a] character and make: a meme, a texting conversation, a playlist, a wanted poster, an avatar w. Explanation. Etc.”

Question 4: What strategies do you use to ensure your students are really reading & making meaning?

Participants were fans of simple strategies when it came to talking about ways to make sure that their students are truly making meaning from what they read. Suggestions included straightforward reading checks, simply drawing what they remember, spontaneous retelling of the plot, acting out what they remember, organizing sentences that describe scenes, discussions cards, formative assessment quizzes, and more of the like.

More ideas included having students write summaries, having them identify themselves as one of the characters and explain what they are thinking and feeling in the last chapter read, or even having students gather into groups to talk through their perspectives and what they thought they understood. For lower levels, a really popular idea was to read to the class constantly as student feedback indicates they like it best because they understand better with the teacher’s inflection and questions imbued into the story.

Question 5: How do you assess what your students learn from reading novels & other text?

Langchatters generally agreed that the length of the text often determines what they do to assess student’s learning, but for many it is often interpersonal in pairs & presentational writing in class to see what students are actually retaining. @MadameMykietyn was an advocate for, “Prompts. Students must use the new vocab and story details in context.” Similarly, storyboards assessments were presented as a great tactic, alongside figuring out ways to get students to actually apply their knowledge of text while assessing in the three modes to really helps students feel accomplished and successful with the reading.

Another less structured way to assess student’s progress came from @senoraCMT idea that she loves to see, “Lots and lots of connections to self! Love reading more for pleasure than pain so any time we can do something fun is a plus!”

Takeaways

Last week, Langchatters talked about all the ways that novels and long texts can be worked into their regular class structure. So many different perspectives and ideas were shared and the takeaways varied just as much! One was that incorporating more (and longer) texts in the target language is a great thing to integrate, another was that longer texts help students concentrate less on the urge to translate word for word and make “absorbing” the content and new vocabulary much easier.

@profe_robbins summed up quite a few chatters takeaway statements when she said, “ Don’t think I’ve liked so many ideas/thoughts on #langchat before. Super excited to try some new ideas next month.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their ideas for how to incorporate long texts like novels and short stories into the world language classroom. We hope that you continue to join #langchat whenever you are able – if the regular chat time on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET doesn’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET instead!

This was an especiallyrapid-fire chat and due to space limitations, this summary focuses on the main themes and takeaways from this week’s conversation, and many tweets had to be omitted. To read the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have a topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

Wang Qinsong’s ”follow me” by the measure of mike, on Flickr
"Wang Qinsong’s ”follow me”" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  the measure of mike 

 
Last week, #langchatters convened on Saint Patrick’s Day to figure out what the non-negotiable components are in world language programs that consistently produce the “gold” that all teachers are working towards in their WL classes – proficient students! Participants discussed necessary core beliefs, helpful tools and resources, and the ways to use all of those things to create lessons that will help support and build a proficiency-based program.

Thank you Wendy (@MmeFarab) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for leading our Thursday chat, as well as Diego (@DiegoOjeda) and Laura (@SraSpanglish) for moderatings the #SaturdaySequel. And thanks to everyone who contributed to (either/or) both great hours of #langchat!

Question 1: What are core beliefs to abide by and how do they drive a proficiency-based program?

Having core beliefs clearly defined and lined out for language programs is hugely important for teachers because knowing the driving force behind what your program expects you to teach your students, will help you figure out how best to teach them those things while still holding true to your own core beliefs about how to build a proficiency-based program.

Core beliefs are personal in nature but many chatters commented on the fact that so many contributors shared beliefs with similar and/or the same sentiments. Listed below are the core beliefs that #Langhchatters shared/retweeted variations of the most:

  • We teach language not about the language.
  • The focus of each lesson and assessment needs to be on communication
  • Our purpose is to help students communicate. With themselves, as much as the world around them.
  • Building respect and rapport with students is foundational to learner success.
  • Proficiency does not require perfect grammar or an endless vocabulary, you need to get your point across.
  • Assessing modes of communication will help create well-rounded language learners/speakers.
  • Language learning is being able to get one’s point across in the target language with increased accuracy based on exposure/previous experience.
  • Anyone and everyone can learn a new language! Learning takes place over a lifetime and we are never “done” learning a language.
  • Using language to connect with others, to learn about them and their point of view of the world in order to change your own.
  • Students have got to understand what proficiency is in order to use structures that will bump them to the next level.
  • We are similar people separated by language and culture but can learn to communicate and understand each other.

@IndwellingLange really summed up the overall feeling and response to the question of what core beliefs are important for proficiency-based programs when they said, “I LOVE how much emphasis I am seeing that says (a) All [students] can acquire languages and (b) Language exists for communication!”

Question 2: What tools help teachers, districts, & fledgling programs & how do they build proficiency-based language programs?

#Langchatters had a lot of great suggestions for tools to help the world language community build proficiency-based programs that ranged from hands-on approaches to technology usage. @MmeFarab said that for her, “…having a curriculum to build off of was key! I based my own off of SCS and JCPS curricula!” Similarly, @K_Griffith suggested tools such as, “Conferences, TPRS, incorporating music, speaking TL 90% of the time, and, of course, #langchat!” Other suggestions included things like having students check off their own can-dos, using comprehensible input and authentic resources, as well as performance assessments to really be able to see what your students are absorbing over time.

Many chatters agreed that tangible things like conferences, professional development, mentors (who teach a language), and a network of likeminded teachers are essential “tools” for teachers and fledgling programs who are working towards being proficiency-based. You have to start somewhere and taking notes from more experienced teachers/programs is the key to doing it successfully.

As @profepj3 so simply put it, anyone working towards a proficiency-based program needs, “A network of like-minded teachers—in your building, district, state or even #langchat—to collaborate [and] leverage your strengths.” There’s no need to go-it alone so don’t!

Question 3: What common resources should teachers have access to & how can they contribute to a proficiency-based program?

Common resources abound for world language teachers in today’s technological age and #langchatters were quick to share their favorites! Suggestions included rubrics, the Tell Project, performance assessment prompts, the ACTFL Keys Books, AAPPL technology, level-appropriate readers and authentic resources, YouTube, blogs, forums, Pinterest, music resources, audio/video interactive technology, and much more. Contributors pointed out over and over again that sources of compelling content in the target language are hugely important to build a proficiency-based program, as getting students to be able to communicate and understand real-world usage of the TL is really what it’s all about.

Mentoring came up again (several times) as a great tool for teachers and @SraDentlinger shared a popular idea when she suggested that she, “…would love to see more Teacher Field Trips, so [that] we can see those [programs who are] already successful!” Many chatters agreed that learning from example is a great way to be inspired, and it also makes it easier to bring back tools that you know will be effective to your program.

Question 4: How do we use beliefs, tools & resources to create unit/lesson planning in a proficiency focused language program?

Creating units and lesson plans that align with the goals of a proficiency focused language program is KEY to making sure that you are actually focusing your efforts on building student’s proficiency. @MundodePepita said it best when she suggested that teachers, “Start from what you want kids to be able to do at end of unit/theme… [and] then, create a road map to get there.” Similarly, @lottesensei put this tactic in simple terms when she said to, “’Backward design with the end in mind!’”

There are lots of ways to do that but several chatters shared concrete steps like looking at the unit theme, figuring out what content you want to cover/use, and then considering student’s interest as good places to start planning. @bjillmoore shared a popular thought when she suggested teachers use, “Pictures and simple news articles to provide students with link to real world topics. Make connections across curriculum.”

Focusing on real-world skills and improving student’s communication skills should always be the main goal for any lesson, so gathering your resources to create relevant assessments and units to help them do that is most important. @SrtaGlynn put it well when she said teachers really need to, “Think about the big picture. [Ask] how are students going to use this in real life?” Then pick what resources best support that [outcome].”

Takeaways

Last week, Langchatters discussed the ins and outs of building and improving proficiency focused language programs in order to really produce proficient students. Participants felt that it’s essential to remember that being “proficiency based” is a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t get discouraged and don’t expect it to happen overnight. There’s always room to improve and things to learn from other teachers/programs (especially those who have been doing it longer than you), so always be willing to keep your eyes open and ask for help. And finally, while chatters agreed that getting a fledgling program off the ground is a lot of work, they concurred that it’s absolutely worth it!

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their thoughts on ways to build a proficiency-based world language program. We hope that you continue to join #langchat whenever you are able – if the regular chat time on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET doesn’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET instead!

Due to space limitations, this summary focuses on the main themes and takeaways from this week’s conversation, and many tweets had to be omitted. To read the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have a topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

Learning by CollegeDegrees360, on Flickr
"Learning" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  CollegeDegrees360 

 
Last week, #langchat contributors were excited for a topic that everyone was eager to tackle – student participation in the World Language classroom! Langchatters joined in to discuss the finer points of how to encourage, track and assess participation, including things like defining what participation looks like, ways to support hesitant learners, strategies for helping students when they’re having an “off” day, and lots more.

We want to say thank you to everyone who joined in a great hour of #langchat, and also thank our committed team of moderators who spend a lot of time prepping and leading these conversations every week. John (@CadenaSensei) captained the Thursday chat, and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) headlined our #SaturdaySequel.

Question 1: What does active participation look & sound like in your World Language classroom?

Participants shared many fun adjectives and descriptions for the current “feel” of participation in their World Language Classrooms. Responses ranged from “noisy” and “controlled chaos”, to “student centered” and “lots of movement”. Langchatters acknowledged that while participation looks different at varied proficiency levels, at its core, participation happens when students are fully engaged and are actively (and appropriately) giving back to the class in the TL. Whether that’s answering questions, joining in stories, reading in the TL, offering suggestions, singing songs, etc., any action that involves a student engaging in the lesson in an active way, counts as “participation”.

As the discussion continued, chatters definitions for what “ideal” student participation looks like were varied, but all seemed to boil down to a few main themes of students demonstrating engagement, comprehension, and interest in the subject material in accordance to their proficiency level. @ProfeCochran put it well when she said, “‘Participation’ looks like discovery, kids trying out new words with their actions…w/ peers, not with me.” Similarly, @senoraCMT said, “Participation is [students] feeling like they are using and understanding language that is valuable to them! #engaged.” @learnsafari summed it up when they said, “[Participation] looks like kids that are alert, and voices chattering with no English. The more [TL] heard, the more on track we are.”

And as @justsara75 so aptly stated, sometimes “participation” at its most basic form simply means that students are, “Looking at me, not sleeping, maybe smiling.” Teachers are all well aware that students can have “those days” where all they can give in class are the basics, and as long as they are giving something, that’s ok!

Question 2: What strategies do you use to encourage student participation?

Langchatters shared lots of great strategies for ways to help students feel comfortable when participating in class. Several posited simple (yet effective) ideas such as personalization and positive reinforcement so that students will want to talk about themselves, and feel supported enough to do it in the TL. @sralil summarized the general consensus when she stated, “[I] can’t emphasize enough the importance of building [a] supportive environment for risk taking so [as] to build [student] participation.”

Participants proposed the use of several hands-on strategies to up students’ participation. Suggestions ranged from utilizing story telling and creating language puzzles, to forming small groups for playing games and increasing the relevancy of the subject matter to students’ interest. Many chatters agreed that targeting your language goals to students’ interests is one of the best ways to get them to participate. By meeting students where they are and scaffolding the material, chatters fell that teachers can really help students to move forward in their proficiency, and in turn, up their participation.

While some contributors were advocates of using a grading scale for participation with their higher-level classes, others felt that grading participation often gets tricky, as it’s a fairly subjective process. Their answer was to focus more on proficiency and individual use of language instead of a number grade in order to help student’s build the desire to participate. @OMS_Pacheco summed it up best when saying, “Create an environment where they feel safe to answer and not afraid to make a mistake. Positive feedback helps.”

Question 3: How do you deal with students who are having a bad or “off” day?

Responses for how to deal with student’s who are having “off” days varied widely as so much of what determines a response to this type of issue depends greatly on each teacher’s personal philosophy, and individual teaching style. Many chatters shared various takes on leaving those students be or having them “sit this one out”. @MundodePepita summed up the feeling behind this kind of method when they said, “[Just] be the person who smiles at them, shows them they matter, [that] they are valued.” Proponents of this tactic were in support of letting those students know that you’d like them to pay attention, but that they are also “okayed” to just observe and then engage, if/when, they’re ready to.

@SraStilson shared a healthy perspective when she said it calls for teachers to give “grace” to students in this type of situation. She also said, “It happens to students & to me. Give a little leeway (not to be rude) & expect things to get better tomorrow.” Chatters agreed that it really boils down to knowing your individual students, reading each of them when those situations arise, and then doing your best to support them through it. Sometimes students just need space and compassion, and as teachers, you can usually tell when one of them is having an off day as opposed to being lazy.

On that note, it is a good idea to feel out each situation, so that you can judge when you are able to encourage students to push through the “off-ness” and grow from the adversity. Sometimes students just need a moment to be human. Because more often than not, as @MrMOREHEAD proposed, all it takes is “Empathy. Compassion. [Give them] a few minutes to process or decompress [and] they’re back in the game and ready to rumble.”

Question 4: How can we support hesitant learners who need extra encouragement to successfully participate in a task?

The bulk of langchatters seemed to agree that one of the best ways to help hesitant learners is to proactively create a class culture that makes students comfortable with participation from Day 1. By facilitating an atmosphere where they feel supported, you build up trust and let students know that they will always get positive reinforcement for trying, and constructive criticism to help them improve. As @DChrisopoulos so aptly said, it all boils down to “Giving [students] a safe environment and letting them know it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process.”

Suggestions for specific support strategies included designing participation activities to play to student’s individual strengths whenever possible, utilizing small groups or partner activities to make their “audience” smaller, or even something as simple as asking your more confident students to answer questions before you address them so that they have a chance to hear you encourage others first. Another suggestion was to make time for 1-on-1 interactions with reluctant students while other students practice in pairs, as it can lower the pressure of peer judgment for students who really struggle with their own image.

Other suggested techniques included scaffolding material, differentiation, and once again, making the content relevant to students’ interests so that they feel like they have something to offer. @sarah_e_moore gave a good plug for this practice when she said, “Every student is uniquely gifted. [Students] who are hesitant to participate have important things to offer too!” And @StratfordFrench added to this perspective by saying that teachers should try to give students, “Lots of opportunities to shine in different ways. Everybody is good at some part of language learning!”

Question 5: How do we convince students to associate active participation in the WL classroom with success?

Takeaways

Last week, Langchatters contributed a bevy of ideas on how teachers can encourage, track, and assess student participation in their World Language classrooms. There were great suggestions ranging from applicable, hands-on tactics to resetting your personal philosophy on dealing with “bad” days, and even ways to restructure the flow of your class to help students build the desire to contribute and try new things. Takeaways included suggestions like it’s never too late to change things up if it will benefit your students, and not to take it personally when students have “off” days. And as @OMS_Pacheco so simply put it, the final takeaway from this hour of #langchat was that “Participation is NOT a ‘one size fits all’.”

So be encouraged to figure out what works best for you and your students when it comes to participation (whether that looks completely different from everyone else or not), and then – don’t be afraid to go for it!

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their ideas for how to up students’ active participation in class. We hope that you continue to join #langchat whenever you are able – if the regular chat time on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET doesn’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET instead!

Due to space limitations, this summary focuses on the main themes and takeaways from this week’s conversation, and many tweets had to be omitted. To read the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have an topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

Teacher meets with student! by NJLA: New Jersey Library Association, on Flickr
Teacher meets with student!” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by NJLA: New Jersey Library Association

Last week, #langchat participants settled in for a fast hour of discussing feedback, and they ways that it can be used to helps students improve in various modes as their proficiency increases. Langchatters shared their thoughts on ways to actually work on providing individual feedback to students, while also discussing specific feedback strategies to help students improve in various modes, including interpretative, interpersonal, and presentational. Finally, participants chatted on ways to use peer-to-peer feedback and self-evaluation to help students improve their proficiency over time.

We want to say thank you to everyone who joined in a fun hour of #langchat, and also give it up to our dedicated team of moderators who help to grow the #langchat community every day! Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) led the Thursday chat with assistance from Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) and Laura (@SraSpanglish), and they also welcomed help from newcomer, Grant (@grantboulanger), while John (@CadenaSensei) moderated the #SaturdaySequel with more help from Laura!

Question 1: How do you manage to provide individual feedback to students?

Managing to provide regular, individual feedback to world language students can be tough, but participants had lots of good thoughts and actionable suggestions to share. Chatters agreed that doing it on a regular basis can be a difficult task, especially as appropriate feedback depends so heavily on students’ proficiency levels.

From there, many langchatters liked the idea of developing rubrics for each activity, and then making sure to always include a personalized comment section for individual students. Others agreed that making an effort to give feedback on the spot as much as possible can be really useful no matter the proficiency, as it help students connect with the idea/correction immediately and in turn, remember it better for later use.

One popular idea was to structure a classroom in a way that naturally facilitates the ability to better give individual feedback. Several langchatters had great suggestions for restructuring class time, and @LisaShepard2 suggested that she likes to have students use, “Lots of interpersonal activities with a partner [which] allows [her] to circulate, monitor, facilitate and provide feedback.” And @muchachitaMJ shared her use of stations when she needs time to give feedback. That way, “Students are doing something new while I work with [other] kids in small groups.” Similarly, @ProfeCochran added that, “If your “instruction” is truly S-centered, & you’re constantly circulating, chances are you are constantly giving [individual] feedback.”

Additionally, participants also shared their favorite technology tools, sites and apps for helping to provide individual feedback to students – suggestions included using Google Voice, Google Classroom, Google Docs for comments, student devices, Nearpod, Notability, and even texting feedback to students. (See Tweet archive for links).

Question 2: What specific feedback strategies help students improve in the interpretative mode as they move through proficiency levels?

Understanding how to give feedback on students in the interpretative mode proved to be a challenge for a lot of participants, which made everyone glad that #Langchat decided to tackle it! @lottesensei summed up the general feeling when she said, “I’m not sure I give formal feedback for interpretative tasks…unsure of what this looks like?” @SraDentlinger added that she, “…feels like the immediate yes/no, right/wrong is most effective for interpretive.” Several chatters agreed, including @yeager85 who said, “I feel like everything just boils down to ‘more input more input more input.’”

Knowing that it’s a hard things to do, contributors posited various strategies for giving students helpful feedback in the interpretative mode, including:

  • Giving strategies to approach what is hardest in the task
  • Teaching that there are several ways to say the same thing
  • Reminding them to always look for ways to rephrase/reword
  • Doing regular reading checks to gauge understanding
  • Encouraging to look for context clues
  • Using ACTFL proficiency targets to let them know where they are headed

One very popular suggestion came from @alenord who said that she likes to regularly utilize a, “Reading check = TL cloze passage with choices in word bank. [Students] must read and apply words in context.” Participants agreed that it can be very effective for higher level students, and that the idea can be simplified/adapted for use with lower level students as well.

Question 3: What specific feedback strategies help students improve in the interpersonal mode as they move through proficiency levels?

Understanding and coming up with feedback strategies for helping students to improve in interpersonal mode proved to be a simple task for participants.

Suggestions came in rapid fire, including the highly lauded idea that students need to really be able to listen to themselves in order to improve in interpersonal mode. Whether that comes in the shape of listing new vocabulary, LTS words or questions, and then once they can “hear” their conversations, having them evaluate the types of questions they asked, how well they elaborated when answering, etc., so that they get an immediate grasp of how well they used the language. That can include making time for partners to interact and see how well they got their point across.

Lots of chatters appreciated @MmeBlouwolff suggestions to, “Assess with TALK rubric: TL use, Accuracy, Listening to others, being kind [etc].” Similarly, @alenord added that she, “Sometimes [has] students listen w/ rubric right after assessment. They write to me what they did well.” In that same vein, many participants felt that having students evaluate themselves on rubric before feedback with the teacher is a very important step, since students can then take ownership of their own performance and lead the feedback discussion.

Participants liked a more structured idea that came from @sarah_e_moore, when she recommended, “Though not always practical, individual oral exams lead to good personal feedback & are great 2-way conversation practice.” And @SraSpanglish agreed with her saying, “I’ve gotta say that the 1 on 1 conversation time provides INVALUABLE insight into all KINDS of progress.”

Question 4: What specific feedback strategies help students improve in the presentational mode as they move through proficiency levels?

Participants had lots of great ideas for helping students to improve in the presentational mode. Suggestions included getting students to think about voice and personality to get them to start speaking the TL in the same way they use L1 (i.e. -sarcasm, humor). Another idea was to consistently use peer feedback to help students concentrate on eye contact, volume, not reading, and fixing basic pronunciation errors.

A suggestion to lower the “performance” pressure was to have peers give anonymous constructive criticism on things to improve and ways to be more understood. Similarly, @KathleenBlum suggested that teachers of all proficiency levels, “Provide informal low-risk practice by having Ss stand in an inner and outer circle and present small topics to each other.”

For students at higher levels, @ProfeCochran said she “…feels like presentational mode gives [the] best opportunity for formal feedback via peer Q’s or teacher rubrics.” And @CoLeeSensei added that she’s a “HUGE believer in having [students] fill out the rubric before I do to know how/what they think.” Participants agreed that a big piece of making feedback successful for students in the presentational mode is to help them focus on more than just the words that they know or the words they think they are supposed to use.

Question 5: How do you employ peer-to-peer feedback and self-evaluation with your students?

Langchatters had lots of opinions and ideas for how to use both peer feedback and self-evaluation. Some suggested using really specific checklists for peer feedback so that students know what they’re looking for, while others felt that using a really simple rubric of “How did that go?” type evaluation is more effective. Another thought for students at higher level is to give one thing to look for in a specific writing assignment, and then give feedback on that one task to their peers, with a new paper/new task each time. Several chatters found that students really benefit from that style of peer interaction.

Others felt that a more individualized peer feedback is useful, such as when @KathleenBlum suggested that, “Having [students] compare answers to homework or a worksheet allows [them] to help each other and reduces anxiety about answering in class.” Similarly, participants suggested the benefits of having students listen/read peer performances, write feedback, and then explain what they saw/heard to each other, so that students can hear constructive criticism from someone other than the teacher.

Most chatters agreed that self-evaluation is key in student’s progress, regardless of their proficiency level. @SraClouser suggested having students “…complete one [self-evaluation] at the beginning & end of each unit to identify growth/challenges.” Overall, participants agreed that working in ways to help students be self-aware as they go through assignments and projects is key to helping them be cognizant of the things they need to work on since they can easily get stuck in ruts if they don’t look at their own performance and reflect.

A helpful takeaway for many langchatters appeared towards the end when @alenord’s suggestion to, “Consider having Feedback Fridays once a grading period. Do several peer feedback in one day. Then set goals!” was re-tweeted en masse.

So while opinions on how to go about using peer-to-peer and self-evaluation were mixed, everyone agreed that they are key to helping students improve their proficiency.

Conclusion

Last week, Langchatters shared really helpful ideas for how to successfully structure the world language classroom to facilitate various forms of feedback. Participants advocated for immediate/direct individual feedback, as well the use of various technologies to make it easier to keep track of, and impart it, to students. Contributors gave their colleagues lots of great advice on how to actually make feedback useful in the various modes (interpretative, interpersonal and presentational) through the use of various tools, such as specific rubrics, low-risk student interactions, cloze activities with word banks, and more. Finally, participants chatted on ways to successfully use peer-to-peer feedback and self-evaluation to help students improve their proficiency over time, such as checklists and simple “how did that go” evaluations.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in and shared their ideas for how to successfully use feedback with students in the various language modes! We hope that you continue to contribute to #langchat once or twice a week! If the regular chat on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET doesn’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET! Due to space limitations, this summary focuses on the main themes and takeaways from this week’s conversation, and many tweets had to be omitted. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have an topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

SAD_Hortons_Kids 114 by US Department of Education, on Flickr
"SAD_Hortons_Kids 114" (CC BY 2.0) by  US Department of Education 

 
Last week, Langchatters were ready for a fast-paced hour of discussion on how to effectively recycle vocabulary in the world language classroom. Participants discussed how to write their learning targets to reuse vocabulary, and shared their thoughts on getting students to understand the importance of using old vocabulary in new ways. They also talked about figuring out how to balance recycling while also working with students to expand their vocabulary. Finally, Langchatters discussed ways to improve students’ use of vocab through improved class structure and unit design.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to a lively hour of #langchat! We also extend a special thanks to our dedicated team of moderators. Kris (@KrisClimer) led the Thursday chat, with support from Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), and Diego (@DiegoOjeda66), moderated the #SaturdaySequel!

Question 1: How to write learning targets that better recycle key vocabulary?

Participant suggested a variety of ways to address the need to make key vocabulary a part of learning target preparation. Several chatters felt that including a language function that can be reproduced across themes was important, while others agreed that focusing on function naturally leads to remembering which vocabulary is important for students to use for that target. Others contributors pointed out the importance of helping bring past language to the forefront of student’s minds. @Sra_Kenneday recommended using, “…stories/tasks [that] include intros, asking how are you, describing things=naturally recycling [of] those [language] chunks.” Another popular suggestion was to start learning targets with “can do” type statements such as describing things, giving opinions, explaining actions, and so on. @Sra_Spanglish added that one of the easiest ways to accomplish vocab recycling when writing learning targets is to anticipate what language students will need and, “…build questions intentionally around familiar words (which are also in the text)” and then take it from there!

Question 2: How do we promote IMPORTANCE of recycling familiar vocabulary to students?

There were a variety of viewpoints when it came time to talk about pointing out the value of recycling vocab to students. Some chatters felt that making importance explicitly clear to students wasn’t entirely necessary since the fact that certain language comes up again and again naturally creates importance even without drawing attention to it. Others felt that the use of circumlocution games and exercises is an incredibly effective way to let students know that past vocabulary is still important while making it interesting for them, instead of redundant. @GusOnTheGo added that it’s not so much about, “… stressing importance as it is incorporating [recycled vocab] in lessons. Natural inclusion is great. “

One very popular suggestion was the use of parallel structures of stories such as fairy tales from the target language country to reinforce the importance of vocab, and help students learns to create new scenarios from there. Many agreed with @CadenaSensei’s observation to make sure and discourage the idea that it’s “…the ‘dictionary’ doing this [activity]” so that students know you’re “…asking [students] to use what [they] know!” A practical action-idea that several shared was to post essential verb posters and/or common questions words on classroom walls and remind students to branch out from their normal responses when formulating their answers.

Question 3: How to balance recycling with pushing students to venture into new, self-selected vocabulary?

Langchatters shared many great ideas for ways to make sure that recycling vocab doesn’t overshadow the need for students to find new vocabulary for themselves. Many participants agreed that the use of a “personal dictionary approach” can be effective in getting students to think about what words interest them, what words they don’t know, what words they’d like to know to express themselves, etc. A popular suggestion was the use of a student-curated word wall where students choose what words are important to them and then post the words for later use.
Another idea that participants got behind (and re-tweeted constantly) was to always include a blank section in every unit book called “Stuff We Want To Know” where each student gets to write down the things they want to learn. Similarly, @SECottrell suggested, “…always give students a list of about 7-10 words/phrases and extra space for them to write their own-and push them to do so.”

A lot of participants loved @MCoachSalato’s suggestion that, “When tackling a new topic, Ss each find a new vocab word to TEACH to the class. Even with repeats, class learns useful words.” There were several variations of the idea to have students keep lists, notebooks, etc., of words they want to know or would like to use so that they are motivated to try expanding their speaking skills.

One thing that everyone seemed to agree on was that encouraging students to self-select new vocabulary can take time, and it requires patience so that their confidence can grow.

Question 4: What “bridges” can we build between units/lessons to help students notice the “need” to re-use, core vocabulary?

In order to “bridge” the gaps that can happen between lessons (which can cause students to forget core vocab), participants shared their favorite ways to structure classes in order to avoid that breakdown. One very popular idea that came in several suggestions of varying degrees, was to create a more ‘thematic” year that would link units by topic so that students don’t feel as if they’re being tossed from topic to unrelated topic. @MlleSulewski wrote that she’s, “…started sequencing some units. [Such as] Travel & study abroad & professions.” Similarly, @CoLeeSensei said that she’s, “…using many of [her] textbook-inspired units… just altering/ adding/ morphing [them] to suit [her] needs.”

Another suggestion that langchatters loved was the idea that the right authentic resources can be extremely useful in helping to bridge units. For example, if you just had a unit on food, make your current unit about how to make plans, and then find a real restaurant menu with a daily special so that students can discuss, “When would you like to go?” which incorporates what they learned, what they’re learning, and then opens the door for the next topic. An idea that garnered lots of attention from participants was that of making sure to reuse high frequency vocab, as that naturally helps to bridge the gap between lessons. @adart_shaw stated that she likes to, “Recycle He/She likes, he/she prefers, family members, because, clothing/sports vocab…”. @MadameKurtz agreed saying the frequent use of things like favorite foods and activities naturally makes students recycle vocab like “…I love, like, hate, a lot, a little, me too.” And lots more!

Question 5: What role does instructional design play in leading students to need certain words/vocabulary?

The vast majority of langchatters agreed that getting students to need certain words/vocabulary, and in turn USE that vocabulary, falls almost solely on the instructional design that the teacher implements. It’s truly up to language teachers to lead their students to the vocab that is needed to successfully complete lessons. @Sra_Spanglish put it best when she said that, “As a WL teacher you just CAN’T ask a question w/o predicting the answer & vocab –try to narrow possibilities.” Similarly, @MbiraAbby said to always make sure and be prepared so that, “…[your] guiding Qs [can] lead class activities into creative, open-ended [student centered language] with [the] concept being learned.”

And while there are numerous ways to accomplish that, @placido advocated for, “Backward planning! Think ahead about what input you want to provide and students will output great stuff.”

Participants felt strongly that it’s really helpful to find great content and then identify the necessary vocabulary to highlight so that you make sure to keep student’s attention and help them constantly add to their bank of familiar words.

Conclusion

Last week, Langchatters had lots of tips for ways to effectively recycle vocabulary in a way that help students understand it’s importance, while also keeping them motivated to learn new vocabulary and actually use it. They also discussed some great ways to bridge the infamous gaps that can occur between units/lessons and derail students’ progress. Finally, instructors shared their thoughts on the importance of good instructional design to ensure that your students have the support they need to go and use the necessary vocabulary at any given time.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who contributed resources and tips for best practices for recycling vocabulary in class! We hope that you continue to join #langchat once or twice a week! If the Thursday at 8 p.m. ET chat feels too fast, consider returning for the slower #SaturdaySequel, 10 a.m. ET! Due to space limitations, this summary focuses on the main themes and takeaways from this conversation, and many tweets had to be omitted. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have an topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!