Avalos_students_DSC2751crop by avalos4assembly, on Flickr
"Avalos_students_DSC2751crop" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  avalos4assembly 

 
Last week, participants of #langchat got together to chat about ways to get and use student input/feedback when it comes to informing future lessons, units and levels. Contributors had a lot of great ideas to share about why it’s important to let students have a voice when it comes to shaping curriculum plans, and how/how often they think teachers should try and get feedback from their students. They also discussed what things they think can be amended due to student feedback, and how they handle negative feedback when it comes their way. Lastly, chatters discussed how they positively communicate with students about the things that are 100% non-negotiable in their classrooms.

We’d like to offer a big round of applause to John (@CadenaSensei) for leading the Thursday night chat with help from Colleeen (@CoLeeSensei), as well as give a shout out to Wendy (@MmeFarab) and Laura (@SraSpanglish) for holding down the #SaturdaySequel. And a special thanks to our weekly #langchat participants, we couldn’t do it without you!

Question 1: Why would it be important to let students have a voice in your curriculum plans?

Students are the reason that world language teachers do what they do – without student interest and progress, there would be no reason to teach a world language class in the first place. As @MlleSulewski pointed out, “Well, they [students] are the ones who the curriculum is FOR! I already know French, it’s gotta be about them now!”

With that thought in mind, many langchatters had a lot of great opinions to share on the reasons why WL teachers would need (and want) to let students to have a voice in their curriculum plans. One participant proposed that if kids get to learn about their interests, they’re more interested, they pay more attention, and they acquire more, and many participants agreed. Other reasons to give students a voice included the thought that engaged students are happier and better behaved, it builds trust and allows for them to take risks (which leads to growth), and the fact that it’s easier to get them to buy in when they get to be involved in the process. Langchatters universally agreed that students have to see themselves as shareholders in the process to ever truly achieve language acquisition, especially since they will only remember what they find useful and interesting. With that in mind, it’s very important to take the time to find out what exactly is “useful and interesting” from their point of view.

Another really good way to think about this topic was shared by @CoLeeSensei – she pointed out that if you’re ever wondering why you need to get student input then just think about, “…how [do] we [teachers] feel when we are asked to comment/contribute to something. [So then] why wouldn’t we ask them [students] to do the same?”

Question 2: How, and how often, do you get student feedback about your class?

Opinions on how, and how often, WL teachers should try to get student feedback about their classes were fairly varied. Depending on the class level, some teachers shared that they try to work it in on a daily basis in the form of an informal/verbal Q and A about a particular activity, while others felt that taking the time for a more structured journaling or written Q and A on a less frequent basis was a better way to go. Overall, the consensus seemed to be that getting feedback on some kind of a regular basis is a desired goal to work towards, as a lot of teachers are still trying to figure out ways to make it a regular part of their class structure.

On the other hand, Some popular suggestions came from teachers who already have a system for gathering student input down pat – such as @la_sra_hinson’s saying that she gets it, “Every four and a half weeks…[through] progress reports and report cards [that] means [students] turn it in to me signed with a reflection on class.” or @ProfeCochran’s statement that at a, “Bare minimum: every Friday through journaling. Daily reflections are always a goal, too.”

Suggestions for ways to work in gather student feedback ranged from things like class debriefing and one on one discussions in the upper levels, to more formal things (such as school sanctioned feedback surveys once a term) and less formal things (such as open question/discussion sessions after activity asking things like how did this feel, how’d it work, etc.). Similarly, @doriecp was a proponent for the use of both when she said, “…informally (through observation, engagement): daily; formally (writer or oral feedback): at least once a unit.”

Question 3: What pieces of your curriculum do you change based on student feedback, and how?

When it comes to taking the step of actually changing the curriculum based on student feedback, opinions were varied on just how far you should go when taking it into account. Various langchatters shared that they’ve dropped themes, topics, novels, daily activities, and even whole units based on student feedback. Others felt that taking student feedback into account should be more about changing your teaching tactics and strategies rather than removing actually pieces of the curriculum.

A few suggestions for things to change included making adjustments so that it all fits into the larger proficiency plan, re-focusing a theme/the necessary language functions based on students level of comfort/motivation, reorganize units and add scaffolding to activities, adjust grade book organization, alter the pace/sequence of things, change the type of project/the time they have to complete it, blend the project with technology, or simply change the way the content in question is presented and add activities.
A couple of participants also pointed out that while sometimes students have helpful feedback that truly assists your goals of streamlining and making a lesson better, sometimes students will ask for things that don’t push them towards proficiency. They’ll want things that are “just for fun” or because it’s an activity that they’ll enjoy doing more, but it doesn’t really have much substance. And while it’s fine to adjust plans and add those less significant activities once in a while, you have to make sure and take student input with a grain of salt so that you don’t end up with a unit or lesson that provides them with very little substance.

Question 4: How do you handle negative feedback?

Langchatters seemed to agree that while getting constructive criticism and negative feedback is a part of any job, it can be harder to not take it personally when that negative feedback is coming from students who you give a lot of effort to, day in and day out. You have to be willing to make adjustments if something is actually too hard or not suited to a class’s proficiency level, while at the same time being mindful that you need to push them out of their comfort zone – it’s a balancing act that takes time to perfect. To get started, @ksipes129’s suggested that teachers who are getting negative feedback, “Smile, take a breath, and ask for more specific info or an alternative/suggestion.” While @MmeBlouwolff’s suggested that you work to turn it into an “…‘I’m curious’ conversation: [For example] tell me more about… I’m trying to understand…etc.”

Ideas for ways to handle student’s negative feedback included making sure to figure out if it’s because the assignment is hard and they don’t like, or because there’s actually something about the structure of the assignment that needs to be addressed. Teachers have to sort through the typical whining that can happen when students simply don’t like an activity, as opposed to negative feedback that indicates that there’s something fundamentally wrong with that activity.

As @”ProfeCochran pointed out, “…a lot of negative feedback in [world language] stems from [students] being uncomfortable with the struggle, the inferring that is inherent [in studying another language].” Similarly, @VTracy7 said, “The real challenge is HEARING what they MEAN amidst their whines and incoherent gripes. #UnderDevelopedPrefrontalCortex.” So if it’s one or two students who have an issue with something, you’re most likely good to go – but if the whole class has a problem, then you might need to rethink what’s going on and take another look at what you’re asking them to do.

Question 5: How do you communicate positively with students about areas that are NOT negotiable?

As in any area of life, there are certain things about your classroom that are non-negotiable, no matter what students might think of them. While those vary from teacher to teacher, some of the “non-negotiable” things langchatters mentioned include seating arrangement, grading practices, using target language 90% of the time, participation, eye contact, communicating, supporting partner and classmates, being kind, not just ‘trying to finish’, making the ‘team’ more important than self, and many more.

To the effect that students don’t like something or don’t want to do something you’ve deemed 100% necessary, you have to communicate about it in a positive way that doesn’t shut them down, and also lets them know that it’s not open for discussion. Langchatters shared various techniques for positive communication, including pointing out student’s strengths and how the undesired activity will help them in the long run, telling them what’s going on ahead of time so that they feel more comfortable with it, and letting them know that while they can’t have input on this thing, they’ll be able to have it about something else later on.

Takeaways

Last week, Langchatters joined in a great discussion about student feedback and the ways to use and incorporate it into future lessons, units and levels. Takeaways included that end of the unit/year surveys are a great tool to use when restructuring that content the next time around, that there’s always more reflecting to do on what/when/how you get student feedback, that it’s important to tailor things to student input/interest as much as appropriate because they really will participate and learn more, and that there’s always room to grow when it comes to taking and using negative feedback to your advantage. As @ ProfeCochran said, “My takeaway: We all get some negative feedback from time to time. It’ what you DO with it that matters! #langchat #dustyourselfoff.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their thoughts on how to use student feedback to inform your future curriculum and lesson plans. 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!

Our weekly #langchats are getting busier and busier, so due to space limitations, the summaries always focus on the main themes and takeaways from each week’s conversation. Many tweets have to be omitted but to read the entire conversation from this week, 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!

When Young Children ”Hate” School by wecometolearn, on Flickr
"When Young Children ”Hate” School" (CC BY 2.0) by  wecometolearn 

 
Last week, #langchat discussed the grammar and how to go about deciding what grammar really matters in the world language classroom. Participants talked about the “less is more” theory when it comes to grammar, and ways to identify which grammar structures have high-value status in proficiency-oriented classes. Contributors also shared their thoughts on what specific structures are needed to move students to the next sub-level of proficiency, as well as how to narrow broad grammatical concepts into more manageable chunks that actually support comprehensible input. Lastly, langchatters discussed the strategies that they feel help students to process/practice new structures to really aid in acquiring and growing their proficiency.

We’d like to say thanks to our Thursday night moderating team, led by Amy (@alenord) with backup from Coleen (@CoLeeSensei) and Laura (@SraSpanglish), and also give a big round of applause to John (@CadenaSensei) for holding down the #SaturdaySequel. And a special thanks to our weekly #langchat participants, it wouldn’t be the same without each and everyone of you!

Question 1: How does the idea “Less is More” apply to grammar instruction in language classrooms?

World language teachers tend to have strong thoughts about the use (or lack thereof) of explicit grammar teaching in the classroom at various levels, so this first question really got everyone’s attention! Langchatters seemed to universally agree that grammar instruction is far less important at the lower levels, as understanding the functions of the language mean more when students are starting out. As @teaacheratheart pointed out, “…grammar doesn’t have to be taught explicitly it can be taught implicitly through speaking, reading or writing in [the target] language.”

Participants really got behind that sentiment as a lot of ideas for applying “less is more” included thoughts like teach them what they need and can actually use to communicate, teach grammar that is high-frequency/essential for communication, aim for less explicit grammar teaching as that gives more time for comprehensible input, which allows students to recognize patterns on their own.

While contributors also acknowledged that more grammar instruction can be necessary at higher-levels and depends greatly on your students knowledge and understanding of the target language, a good rule to follow is that if you can’t explain the grammatical concept in the target language, then that group of students probably doesn’t need it yet. A popular idea that summed up this view came from @KathleenBlum, when she said, “A1: Ss need time to process and practice the concept, language learning requires conversations and engagement, not lectures .”

Question 2: How can we identify grammar structures that have high value vs. low value in a proficiency-oriented class?

Langchatters had a lot of good ideas for how to identify the grammar structures that have high values. They included things like high value structures are the ones that students keep asking about/are the ones they need to express ideas, if they it have a purpose for what you are asking students to do, if they are relevant for today’s learners, and is it language that comes up naturally when talking about what students are interested/is it contained in the content you want to use. @la_sra_hinson had a good take on this thought when she said, “Does it help [us] communicate clearly? Is it something [we] use all the time? Is it super important in the context we are learning?”

A popular idea for figuring out what is high value was to find the most common/most used, most understood, and most heard structures in AUTHENTIC interactions, and then apply/use those rather than the sometimes-contrived textbook structures that can be suggested for any given theme. @sarah_e_moore summarized this thought when she said, “Give highest priority to the ones they [students] will USE most often in TL [target language] conversations.” Similarly, @alenord suggested that, “…before we pick tasks, [I think] we have to identify what proficiency level we are shooting for by end of year.”

And @cforchini really summed up the overall feel of the answer for this question when she suggested that in order to figure out the most high values structures, teachers need to identify the “Purpose and relevance [of the structure]: what are we asking students to do and why?”

Question 3: Which specific structures do you target to move your students to the next sub-level of proficiency?

The main consensus from langchatters on this question was that proficiency really isn’t dictated as much by grammar as it is by students’ ability to use words to form phrases, sentences, strings of sentences and paragraphs. But to make sure that they’re ability to do those things is improving as their knowledge increases, you can target things that follow the need for communication in the targeted level. So for lower level students, look at pushing them to ask questions like how and why, as well as structures that support their immediate needs for communication. And for upper level students, work on adding transitions, sequencing words, idiomatic expressions hypothetical situations, etc.

Which specific structures need to be targeted really depends on the students’ level as @SraSpanglish shared that, “My kiddos start w/ essential verbs, but need connectors to keep moving up.” And @davis0670 agreed saying she works on adding, “…ways [for students] to connect simple ‘baby’ sentences into more complex ones.” when working in lower levels. Similarly, @doriecp said that, “…at novice [elementary] level, verbs, verbs, verbs! Novices just want to list, so giving them verbs helps build sentences.”

For more advanced students, @ProfeCochran shared that in her “… Level 3 (intermediate classes) we start targeting other major time frames for narration and description.” And @alenord said that she’s, “…been playing with starters like, ‘I heard that…’ or ‘I read that…’ to get kids to use TL in academic discussion.” Overall, it takes time and planning to make sure that you’re balancing using grammar structures that support what students currently know, and also push them to work towards where you’re trying to get them to go by the end of the year.

Question 4: How might we narrow a broader grammatical concept into manageable chunks that can be supported by comprehensible input?

This question brought langchatters back to the concept of using the context and what’s needed for a given task as the main determiner of what grammatical concepts need to be introduced at any given time. @profepj3 nailed the summary of the answer for this question when they said, “This Q kinda answers itself: break it into manageable chunks. Repeat a simple use in context.”

Popular ideas for narrowing broader grammatical concepts down for real comprehensible input included focusing on one form of a tense or structure that you want to model, and then using it in a ton of CI scenarios before adding a new form. Another suggestion was to we leverage one form, tense, etc., off of another so that students will automatically notice and ask about it. Another was to NOT use grammar jargon when introducing new concepts, so instead of telling students that such-and-such is a stem-changing verb, just show them how it looks/sounds and how to use it.

Categorizing and picking out the concepts that don’t fit in with your goals was another well-liked suggestion, and @IndwellingLang shared a good way to work through that process when they said, “Deal with whatever form/use comes up in a particular context [and/or] text instead of “presenting” all possible forms up front.”

Question 5: What strategies are useful to help students’ process/practice new structures to acquire them & grow their proficiency?

Langchatters shared great strategies for helping students’ process and practice new structures, such as giving them a context that they know, then adding new structures, and practicing those on repeat. Repetition and context are hugely important to help students grow their understanding of new concepts, as well as their proficiency in the target language. @nicola_work shared this idea in a succinct way when she said, “Recycle, recycle recycle with meaningful activities….personalize it, integrate it, [use in] various skills.”

Additional suggestions included things presentational writing based on prompts, structured input, readings, patterning grammar into stories, and TPRS activities. Repetition of the key structures in a variety of ways seemed to get the overwhelming vote as to how best to help students’ process and practice new grammar structures over time. To sum that feeling up, @SraWienhold suggested to, “CI the new structures with variety of reading & listening until they catch it. Then keep recycling so never forget!”

Takeaways

Last week, Langchatters joined in an especially rapid-fire chat on grammar and it’s place in the world language classroom. Takeaways included things like if students aren’t really going to use it then don’t feel like you have to teach it, be more deliberate in the grammar that you choose for your different classes of students, and realizing that explicitly teaching all forms/subjects isn’t necessary to help students improve their proficiency. @sarah_e_moore really summed up the overall feel of this chat with her takeaway that said, “ It’s not all about grammar! It’s about preparing Ss to have meaningful interactions!”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their ideas for how to effectively utilize grammar instruction in 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!

Our weekly #langchats are getting busier and busier, so due to space limitations, the summaries always focus on the main themes and takeaways from each week’s conversation. Many tweets have to be omitted but to read the entire conversation from this week, 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!

urban_views_372 by perceptions (off), on Flickr
"urban_views_372" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  perceptions (off) 

 
Last week, #langchat enthusiasts joined in to continue the discussion on units in the world language classroom. Participants shared their thoughts on how to best structure and design each new unit to fit the needs of students, and meet the requirements of the approved curriculum at the same time. The contributors covered how they pick units, when and where the planning process starts, as well as how they decide what content is worth including. Chatters finished up with discussing the ways that they vary unit elements, while still making sure to take students’ cognitive levels into account throughout the planning process.

Thank you Wendy (@MmeFarab) for leading the Thursday night chat this week, as well as Coleen (@CoLeeSensei) for bringing us the #SaturdaySequel. And thanks to everyone who joined in for either (or both) of last week’s great #langchat conversations!

Question 1: How do you determine what units you do?

#Langchatters had a plethora of great tips and tricks to share for how they pick what units they do in their world language classes. While some teachers have the freedom and responsibility to create their own units from scratch, other have to follow more restrictive guidelines according to their school’s curriculum policies. This question really helped explore some of the ways that teachers on both sides manage to make the best of their situation, whatever it might be.

For teachers who get to create their own units, a lot of the ideas centered on things like finding motivating themes to incorporate students’ culture, looking for content that ties into other disciplines, building around novels and cultural themes, finding good music and movies, or even utilizing really great authentic resources as the basis of a new unit. @CatherineKU72 shared a popular idea when she said, “Units come from AP themes, global issues, student interest, and culturally-rich stories/legends. It’s a wide buffet of choices.” Similarly, @mmshep suggested that teachers really work to take, “Student interest, [your] passions, student proficiency & current events.” into consideration when deciding what new units they want to design.
For teachers who’s units are set by outside forces (aka – a textbook, administration policies, co-teachers preferences, etc.), most of the suggestions were about working to take those set unit topics and personalize them for each class and group of students to keep them from feeling forced or boring. Ideas for personalization were closely aligned to previous ideas, such as finding ways to incorporate teacher/student interest through content choices, as well as finding interesting novels and authentic resources to supplement the text or laid-out-plan. Like @MaCristinaRV said, even when your classes have to be based on a book, your lessons can be “…greatly enhanced by videos, stories, authentic resources, songs, interactive games, activities, etc.”

Question 2: Where does your unit planning process start, and why?

The beginning of the unit planning process is highly-personal for some as several chatters shared that they get their best ideas while doing everyday things such as cleaning, in the shower, and even while trying to fall asleep! Other participants were proponents for a more concrete planning process such as using district performance assessments as a starting point. @nicolawork shared her fun way of blending both the creative and concrete planning processes when she shared that she starts with, “… [the] textbook for topic, gym for inspiration & Pinterest for concrete materials.”

Popular suggestions included @CristinaZimmer4’s idea to “Look for engaging and current topics and then see what’s out there to learn about it!” and @mmeshep’s suggestion to begin with “Can-Do’s [which] progress from immediate environment to social situation to ‘anything I’ve learned about.’ [And] Try to plan accordingly.”

Other ideas for starting the unit planning process included things like picking a sequence of books, focusing on theme and essential questions/student can-dos, finding authentic resources and creating CI, making sure goals are proficiency based, and most importantly, making sure to provide opportunities within the unit plan for students to engage and interact with the target language, and with each other

Question 3: How do you decide which content is worthwhile to include in a new unit?

Participants overwhelmingly agreed that choosing the right content is essential to the creation of a worthwhile and effective unit. The general feeling was that content has to be comprehensible enough for students to get something out of it, while at the same time meeting the requirements of the class. Several suggestions centered on looking for content that works together toward the theme/goal of the unit, making sure the content recycles old vocabulary in new contexts, and overall ensuring that the content provides engaging, compressible input in a variety of formats.

Many chatters agreed with @MmeFarab’s idea that, “If it’s interesting, engaging, silly, might happen in “real life,” or cultural, I want it in my unit.” Similarly, @IndwellingLang suggested that teachers look beyond the content itself and figure out, “What all can we do with it in addition to read/view/listen? Lots of great content, but some lends itself better to extension.”

Langchatters had many submissions for ways to determine which content is worthwhile, including age/proficiency appropriateness, what is needed to scaffold, making sure to use a variety of types/sources, thinking about the theme/vocabulary/grammar, and most importantly, deciding whether or not the content will support the unit’s communication goals since the point is ultimately for each unit to further your student’s ability to speak/understand the target language.

Question 4: How do you vary the elements of a unit (or not)?

Most chatters felt that varying the elements of a unit is very important to the success of the student’s use and relation to that unit’s content. One suggestion for incorporating variation was to begin each lesson with an authentic resource, and then interpret and discuss it before having students write about it. Similarly, @MCanion suggested for teachers to “Vary the input – [use] stories, video clips, music, short texts, longer texts.” to provide variety and keep things fresh.

Another idea to provide variation that a lot of teachers got behind was to incorporate lots of different types of elements within a theme to provide students with new vocabulary and new experiences in as many contexts as possible. Doing so always depends on the age of your students, and @CecileLaine had great tips for concrete ways to make sure you take that into account when she suggested, “For Novice the “bone” is often the same (CI CI CI + carefully chosen #authres) but with a variety of activities. [And] for Intermediate, I tend to follow the IPA model: read/listen, talk about it, write/speak about it with extensions.”

Variation can also be super simple, such as providing variety within one element. For example, @alenord’s idea for if you are teaching something like a unit on music, “… have [students] listen to music, describe, but then recommend based on how that music compares to U.S. genres.” The overall consensus was that varying elements is key, 100% of the time if you want to keep student interest and make it effective for long-term proficiency.

Question 5: How do you honor students’ cognitive levels when planning instruction of a new unit?

Participants agreed that making the effort to tailor new units to your students’ cognitive levels and abilities is a huge part of whether or not that new unit is successful. While it can be time consuming to adjust content on a per-class basis, making the material too hard or too easy for different classes of students can have very negative effects on their progress and understanding of the new content.

Suggestions to gauge whether you’ve lined up the difficulty of your new unit with your students’ cognitive levels included going slowly at first, asking students their opinion, and making sure to only plan to use lower-level materials once in a while for very specific activities (i.e. – kids songs in high school classes). And of course, you have to take time and how much in-depth attention a new unit is going to need into account based on the age of a class – for example, you’ll usually need more time/in-depth activities for middle-schoolers than high-schoolers for similar content.

Takeaways

Last week, Langchatters had a lot to say about how to structure and design new units so that your students will get the most out of the content. Takeaways included making sure to focus on the end task, varying the final assessment for each unit, keeping the content interesting, using as many different types of content as possible within each unit, and always incorporate authentic resources whenever possible and appropriate. @bjillmoore summed it up well when she said, “[My Takeaway]: We all have great ideas. [We should] Go ahead and plan our topics that will engage students and help them see connections to real world.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their ideas for structuring and designing new units for 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!

Our weekly #langchats are getting busier and busier, so due to space limitations, the summaries always focus on the main themes and takeaways from each week’s conversation. Many tweets have to be omitted but to read the entire conversation from this week, 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!

Music Fdation Layout 6 - Version 2 by Photo Dudes, on Flickr
"Music Fdation Layout 6 – Version 2" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  Photo Dudes 

 
Last week, #langchat-ters joined in from all over the US to discuss their thoughts on the best way to go about laying a foundation for a new unit in the world language classroom, and how to best do it well. Participants chatted on the essential elements that are needed to build a new unit, and shared their thoughts on ways to help students interact with the new vocabulary. Chatters also discussed ways to effectively introduce cultural aspects to a new unit, and then concluded the chat hour by sharing thoughts on how to choose what comprehensible input will anchor the new content and make it work well.

Thank you Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for spearheading the Thursday night chat this week, as well as John (@CadenaSensei) for bringing us the SaturdaySequel. And thanks to all you dedicated #langchat fans (old and new alike) who joined in for either super instructive hour of #langchat!

Question 1: What elements do you consider essential to any unit you design?

Langchatters had a plethora of elements to share that each contributor felt was essential for any and every unit. One common theme running throughout the suggestions was “purpose” and making sure that everything you do is purposeful, with a reason behind it and a goal that it is helping your students work towards, not just busy work. @ADiazMora summed this collective thought up when she said, “There has to be purpose. I think @tmsaue1 just said today that if u don’t know why u r doing something, then something is wrong.” Similarly, many chatters agreed that the unit focus has to be about actual content that students will want to learn, not just the language you want them to acquire.

Essential element suggestions ranged from well-know lesson planning tools such as Can-Do’s, PBL, authentic resources, target language activities, performance-based assessments, TPRS, a good hook activity such as video/infograhic/song, IPA, and many more.

A popular thought was to establish your end of theme goals/essential outcomes that you want students to reach, and then go about planning the steps/content that you need in order to help them get there.

Question 2: How do you help students interact with the new vocabulary they’ll need to succeed?

Teaching vocabulary is one of the most essential tools for building students use of the target language, and yet it can be one of the most difficult to do without being boring.

Popular suggestions included breaking new words into categories so that they’re easier to comprehend and relate to, using new words as much as possible in meaningful context, and creating learning experiences that require students to use the new vocabulary to communicate in all three modes. @GusOnTheGo suggestion to, “Personalize it, contextualize it, [and] give them interesting activities to use it in.” was met with lots of applause from participants. Similarly, @learnsafari advocated to, “Introduce [vocabulary] w/ stories & different fun activities, repetition & scaffolding!”

Participants shared lots of great tips for how to keep vocabulary interesting when it comes to new units ranging from the use of repetitive/comprehensible/engaging input to the use of more hands on and visual tactics such as utilizing graphs, charts, tallies with student’s personal information such as likes/dislikes, etc., related to the new vocabulary. @MmeCarbonneau summed up the overall answer for this question the best when she said, “Lots and lots of comprehensible input and opportunities to use it interpersonally.”

Question 3: How do you introduce the culture aspects of the unit?

Overall, langchatters agreed that cultural aspects are hugely important to the success of teaching a new unit. Students need to have that context to understand the new material, and it helps them connect to it on a more personal level.

A bulk of the ideas for incorporating culture into a new unit revolved around beginning with it to peak student’s interest in the new topic. Suggestions for ways to do that included embedding it in the unit from the get go and beginning with a choice of authentic resources that are both rich in the target vocabulary as well as cultural details. @BethanyEasom2 suggested the use of, “…a hook, something unique and exciting from the culture. A native dance, food, song or personal experiences.” and lots of participants loved that idea. Other submissions included using authentic resources regularly, utilizing drama, showing pictures, reading novels/books, having “food” days, and incorporating field trips whenever possible to relevant places in your community.

Another popular thought was to remember that if you’re doing it consistently, culture is embedded in your classes through all the little things – gestures, how you greet your students, the little words/idioms you use throughout conversation, etc. Similarly, @MundodePepita suggested to focus on the use of, “[Authentic resources] & regalia, integrate culture on a daily basis in our everyday activities, routines, procedures, etc.”

Question 4: How do you decide what comprehensible input will anchor the new content in a new unit?

Participants’ thoughts on comprehensible input varied according to grade and proficiency level. Some felt that it’s easy to incorporate with lower levels but more difficult with more advanced students, and other’s felt that it really depends on each class as to what/how much comprehensible input is needed to anchor the new content.

Langchatters ideas for how to decide what comprehensible input is needed included things such as tying in the high frequency/key words to the theme, limiting vocabulary to high-frequency words, making stories engaging for students and finding out what they’re interested in. Many chatters agreed with @SraSpanglish when she said, “I look for something familiar plus something attractive plus something useful.” Similarly, @rahanagan advocated for first figuring out if your comprehensible input is, “…related to [students] lives? Will [students] be able to get what you want out of it? Can [students] be creative/have fun with it?”

Many participants chimed in with ideas centering around making sure that you provide hint, hooks, cultural pieces, and plenty of authentic resources to help students understand and connect to the comprehensible input, and in turn, the new unit. Plus, if you make an effort to activate student’s prior knowledge through content-based instruction using authentic materials with graphics or movie clips, you’ve got a much better chance of the new information sticking long term!

Takeaways

Last week, Langchatters had a fast-paced chat about how to lay a foundation for a new unit, and how to do it well. Participants’ takeaways included wanting to make culture units appropriate for language level and what interests your specific students, the need to curate lessons and utilize CI whenever possible, and @CatherineKU72 summed up the overall feeling of this chat when she said, “It is exciting & inspiring to see teachers try new ideas (stations, flipped lessons, #authres, etc.) to best meet student needs.” And our takeaway is we hope that this (and every chat) inspires you to do just that! Try new ideas, and branch out of your comfort zone to make sure your students are getting the best world language experience you can give them.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their ideas for designing new units and making them effective in 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!

Our weekly #langchats are getting busier and busier, so due to space limitations, the summaries always focus on the main themes and takeaways from each week’s conversation. Many tweets have to be omitted but to read the entire conversation from this week, 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!