South African Roads by cornstaruk, on Flickr
"South African Roads" (CC BY 2.0) by  cornstaruk 

 
Last week, langchatters joined in an enlightening conversation about how world language teachers can best go about equipping their student to be lifelong language learners. Participants discussed ways to help students connect their second language learning with their larger life goals, as well as how to ensure students leave a WL class with the necessary skills to make independent language learning possible. Contributors also chatted about how to identify and counteract education practices that keep students from being motivated to work towards lifelong learning. Finally, langchatters shared the resources they felt are best for students to continue to use for language learning after their last official language class.

Thank you Kris (@KrisClimer) for moderating the Thursday night chat, and also thank you Laura (@SraSpanglish) for leading the #SaturdaySequel. And as always, thanks to everyone who participated in this week’s chats, new and old #langchat-ters alike! We wouldn’t be here without all of your great input.

Question 1: How can we help students connect their language learning with their larger life goals?

In order to truly engage students in language learning in a way that is going to capture their interest permanently, world language teachers have to figure out ways to get students to connect with it on a personal level – both in and outside of the classroom. Doing so can be a challenge but if you can help students identify their personal life goals, then you can help them make a connection between language learning and those long-term goals. Once that’s established, you can get them to invest in language learning in a way that will ultimately have a lasting outcome and expand their horizons. As @ADiazMora pointed out, “It is not about language all the time, but rather perspective, empathy, (and) understanding of other cultures.”

Participants had a plethora of ideas for how to help students make that important connection and they varied from simply reminding them that not all life goals are professional (and that a second language is often a huge help for life’s relationship goals), to showing them that language doesn’t stop in the classroom but extends out into their real lives as well. For example, they might be presented with various friendships, internships/job opportunities, travel options, life experiences, etc., that wouldn’t be available to them without that second language knowledge. Like @IndwellingLang put it, you can point out/ask students, “Do your life goals include enjoying yourself? Another language million-ifies the stuff you’re able to enjoy!”

Helping students to understand and connect with all the reasons that knowing a second language can benefit them is the real reason that all world language teachers choose to teach – impressing on students all the ways that a second language is something that can enrich their real lives should be built into your class structure. For example, using authentic resources, sharing your own journey with the language, and using real life scenarios (especially in IPAs) so that students can see the value, are just a few of the ways you can do it. Like @CadenaSensei pointed out, “We also have to help [students] understand the process – proficiency really is a lifelong journey, not [let them think] ‘I’ll be fluent after Level 2 class’.”

Question 2: What skills must we make sure students leave with to make INDEPENDENT learning possible?

If students don’t have the drive and skills to continue learning a language on their own after their formal classes come to an end, then there is no chance of them becoming a lifelong language learner. To make sure students are ready for it, the skills that world language teachers must start instilling in them from Day 1 are curiosity about (and a love for) the language itself, perseverance, empathy, compassion, and the ability to think independently. As @sr_connolly pointed out, students have to have “Patience, imagination, respect, curiosity, [and] courage.” Because in order to truly make independent learning possible, @kris_climer reminded langchatters that students have to first off have “…the desire to TRANSCEND grades and scores and EMBRACE ‘tests’ of their [language] skills.”

Independent language learning can only come once students have gained enough interest in the language, as well as having had enough exposure and understanding of the benefits of the language to want to continue on their own. That means using fun/meaningful authentic resources in class to show them how it relates to their lives outside of school – such as YouTube, Netflix, magazines, TV shows, apps like Duolingo, etc. It also means helping them realize and decide that the work is worth the outcome – as @SraSpanglish put it, students have to come to terms with the fact that “THE PRACTICE IS THE LEARNING. Beautifully put! [And that] USING it IS how you grow!”

Students also have to get comfortable in the knowledge that language learning will be uncomfortable, and that they don’t have to know/understand all of the words all the time, or write/say everything perfectly if they can learn to get the meaning of the language in other ways. As @aacpswcl explained it, students have to figure out how to “Negotiate meaning, especially in an interpersonal speaking situations.” Similarly, @beckyjoy agreed that, “Circumlocution is key!” Getting students to understand and embrace that concept is one of the major skills necessary to make independent learning possible.

Question 3: How can we identify and counteract education practices that quell students’ motivation for lifelong learning?

For the vast majority of world language programs, there are long-standing education practices in place that are counteractive (and highly counterproductive) when it comes to students gaining real/effective language skills in a classroom setting. Letter grades, GPAs, homework, class-work, and percentage points are just a few of the obstacles that language teachers face when they try to get students to understand the concept of working towards proficiency rather than working towards a grade. As @CadenaSensei put it, “Fighting the Game of School is soooo hard, when all stakeholders have been taught grades = credit = everything.”

Students are trained to value the means to an end in order to get a grade, not the actual learning process or their ultimate proficiency/ability to use the material they learned from any given subject after a class is over. In a second language setting, teachers have to work doubly hard to get students to value the process not just the outcome. Participants shared lots of ideas including making sure to focus assessments on the language acquisition process, de-emphasizing grades and make them work for your particular situation instead of against it, employing mastery-based learning/grading techniques, allowing retakes/re-does if necessary, assessing students’ overall progress rather than their first attempt, and focusing as much of your class grading structure on assessing/building proficiency as possible. As @SenoraLauraCG put it, teachers have to “Work with [students] to reflect on progress throughout the year rather on grade at the end. Cheer them on as they develop skills!”

In order to ultimately remove the education practices/barriers to students’ understanding of what it takes for true language learning to happen, a cultural revolution in the education structure would have to be applied across all subjects, in all schools, and at all grade levels. Like @srawilliams3 pointed out, “It really has to be a school culture to teach [students] to value the learning & not the letter or percentage.” So until then, @krisclimer pointed out that language teachers can work towards that desired outcome by “Help[ing] turn the tide in our own schools and communities, getting other [teachers] and [students] to value GROWTH rather than FIXED [because] we can be the catalysts for change.”

Question 4: What resources can students continue using to learn after their last language class?

In this ever-developing age of online apps and social media, the number of resources for students to use outside of the classroom is long and continually growing. Students have access to Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Daily Motion, Hulu, Instagram, Pinterest, NPR Alt Latino podcast, music videos, movies, newspapers, TV shows, short stories, Web sites, social media, language learning apps, free language learning software, Skype, pen pals, heritage speakers, and so much more. As @mcanion said, the list of ways/outlets that teachers can help “Train students [on] how to get comprehensive input [from] viewing, listening and reading [the target language].” is virtually endless.

Several langchatters also chimed in that people who speak the target language are one of the best resources students can have outside of the classroom – whether that’s friends at school or from trips abroad, tutors or ePals via various social media sites, having people to talk to who speak the language is the ultimate tool to continue language learning outside of the classroom. As @shannon_LTS pointed out, “If [students] have built meaningful [relationships] with native speakers, those [relationships] can be an invaluable lifelong resource.” Similarly, @SraWilliams3 stated how much she “Love[s] when [students] make real friends with students abroad. They have a life long language connection & desire to travel is heightened.”

Because in the end, getting students to want to connect with other people who speak the target language, and helping them experience and cultivate a love/appreciation of the target culture, is really what language learning is all about.

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters had lots of great ideas to share about the ways that world language teachers can go about equipping students to be lifelong language learners. Takeaways included helping students see what they can do with language beyond the school classroom, working to get students interested in the language and finding something that gets their attention hooked, seeking out authentic resources to connect with students and not being afraid to keep evolving, and working on be an example of a lifelong learner yourself so that students can see what it looks like as you give them the tools to do the same. @SraStephanie really summed up the overall takeaway from this chat when she said, “There’s really no reason a student who is interested in a language can’t practice outside of class, we need to be their guide!”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat this week and shared their ideas for ways to make lifelong learners out of language students. We hope that you continue to join #langchat as often as you are able – if the regularly scheduled weekday 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 twees 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!

A New Japanese 7th Grade Classroom by A is for Angie, on Flickr
"A New Japanese 7th Grade Classroom" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  A is for Angie 

 
Last week, langchat participants joined in a lively conversation about student choice in the assessment process, and ways to integrate that into the world language classroom. Langchatters shared their thoughts on the pros and cons of giving students a choice in assessment prompts/tasks, as well as the types of assessment formats that work well with choice. Contributors also mulled over the question of how world language teachers can balance giving students a choice while still being able to measure the pre-determined performance targets. Participants also discussed formative and summative assessments, along with ways to integrate problem solving into assessments.

A big thanks to Wendy (@MmeFarab) for leading the Thursday night chat, and also to John (@CadenaSensei) for moderating the #SaturdaySequel. And as always, thanks to our entire group of regularly participating #langchat-ters, we wouldn’t be here without all of your fabulous input.

Question 1: What are the pros & cons of giving students choice in assessment prompts/tasks?

Opinions came flying rapid-fire right out of the gate this week when it came to discussing the pros & cons that teachers see when the decide to give students a choice in the assessment process.

Some teachers loved the idea of letting students play to their own strengths when it’s time for them to be evaluated – @MmeFarab pointed out that with a choice she sees the pros as, “… engagement, personalization, and gives [students] a chance to shine at something they’re interested in!” Others teachers felt that assessing students fairly is tough enough without throwing a wide variety of methods into the mix – @PiperKrupa said, “I use rubrics to grade language production (Presentation/Interpersonal mode) from students, but Interpretive varies too much for [student] choice.”

There were so many pros & cons thrown out in a short amount of time that a summative list of both kinds of ideas are listed below:
Pros:

  • Choice helps students take ownership of learning, and also (theoretically) lets them pick what’s best for their abilities
  • The teacher gets variety while grading.
  • Students can choose what best fits them and their own perspective, which might be different from the teachers so they learn too.
  • Gives students a sense of autonomy, which makes them more confident when being assessed.
  • Higher student engagement and a built-in differentiation.
  • More fun to grade when students choose what interests them.
  • More student buy in, which answers where they will perform better, and they have an increase in confidence.
  • Able to honor students’ abilities, strengths, & voice.
  • Students use their abilities to show their learning

Cons:

  • Worrying about assigning apples & oranges.
  • Sometimes makes it very difficult to evaluate/grade different types of projects.
  • Having to have different rubrics for different projects.
  • Students may only do what they know they can do and not challenge themselves.
  • Tough to grade, time consuming when all projects are so different.
  • Realizing AFTER you’ve give options that you’ve given two options that are too different from each other.
  • Hard to adapt to all student choices, potentially much harder to grade.
  • Trying to make assessments equitable in all choices, and decide if you’re measuring the same skills.
  • Not all students will choose to challenge themselves.
  • There’s nothing worse than grading and realizing something was more difficult (or way easier) than intended.

But even with some many pros & cons being tossed out, @ SraWienchold shared a very popular idea when she said, “Even w/ [giving students] choice in assessment, I [make sure to] have same performance rubric for all #showwhatyouknow”. Basically, it comes down to being able to balance letting students feel involved but making sure that you have standards in place so that you know what you are assessing for in any format.

Question 2: What assessment formats work well with choice?

Not all assessment formats are created equally when it comes to incorporating student choice into the mix. Ideas for what types of things easily allow for letting students choose their assessments included presentational writing/speaking, reading/listening/responding, graphic organizer, use of infographics, written responses/summaries, speaking on a topic that interests them (article, song, video, etc.), literature circles, reading poems/mini-stories, and many more.

For the most part, langchatters seemed to be in agreement that lettings students have a choice works most easily into the interpersonal and presentational assessment modes rather than the interpretive. As @MlleSulewski said, “It’s really hard for me to assign choice in Interpretive tasks. Level of difficulty in student-chosen resources can be off the charts.” Similarly, @SrtaSpathis said that she prefers to give students a choice when it comes to “Interpersonal and presentational writing/speaking [assessments].”

Overall, it’s up to you as a teacher to evaluate each class of students and decide what types of assignments they can handle, and when it’s appropriate to let them have a say in what they take on by themselves – you have to find the balance of making sure they’re succeeding, but also being challenged to grow and continue learning.

Question 3: How can we give students choice in assessment AND measure pre-determined performance targets?

World language teachers have to work hard to find the middle ground when it comes to trying to give students a choice in the assessment process, and still measure the required/pre-determined performance targets.

In order to do both, langchatters felt that you often have to do one of a few things in order to limit the students’ choice, and get them to focus their efforts on the desired outcome:

  • Be particular/semi-manipulative in the “choices” that you offer students to make sure that whatever they pick will be measurable against the pre-determined guidelines.
  • Tell them outright what the performance targets are and what has to be included in whichever “choice” of assessment they decide to pick.
  • Pre-align the choices you give students with “I can” statements, and give them a rubric to follow no matter what their choice of assessment (complete sentences, connecting words, etc.)

On the flip side, another popular viewpoint was to be less particular about the choices that you give students to meet a goal but rather, tell them exactly what the goal is and let them choose how they get there – as opposed to giving students a set list of “choices” as to how they could meet the performance target. A summary of that stance came from @profepj3 who shared that he “…get[s] more reliable results when my [students] develop their own tasks around the same [objective] so [students] choose HOW to meet [objective].”

Question 4: Is student choice best fostered in formative assessment, summative assessment, or both?

The overwhelming majority of #langchat participants agreed that student choice can be fostered in both formative and summative assessments, even though formative tends to lend itself to student choice much more easily. Depending on class structure, age of students, activity options, etc., students might have more ideas for summative assessments but that varies on a per classroom basis.

Several chatters shared variations of the feeling that it’s easier to work with student choice in formative assessment as it can vary so widely, but that they also want to establish a set summative to use as well. @la_sra_hinson summed up the overall feeling for this answer when she said, “The more you go to proficiency, the easier choice becomes. Also, can split up tests into mini summative assessments to ease grading.”
Question 5: How can we integrate problem solving into assessment?

Problem solving is a hard enough skill to have in one’s first language, let alone in a second language where students also need to be assessed on their ability to figure things out on the fly.

In order to integrate problem solving into the assessment process, langchatters shared a variety of ideas that included changing up the way you ask questions or asking students “What’s another way to say that?” when they’re asking for vocabulary. A few more of the most popular ideas included throwing in an unexpected twist or complication in interpersonal assessment, valuing/encouraging them to use/develop skills like circumlocution, using a word students don’t and ask them to figure it out by negotiating the meaning around it in the sentence, and several more.

Problem solving is in and of itself a hard thing to get world language students to do period, and @MmeFarabh shared a much-liked idea when she said that she tries to integrate problem solivng into the assessment process… “Interpersonally: I like OPI-style, where we “warm up” and then I push them to the next level! I try to personalize this part.”

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters had lots of great ideas to share about how and when to integrate student choice into the assessment process. Takeaways included the thoughts that it’s important to change things up for students and make sure to “throw them a curveball” every once in a while, giving students a choice in output is a good way to go, and even though incorporating student choice takes a lot of planning on the teacher’s part, it gives students a safe place to explore/grow/meet targets in a more effective way. @MlleSulewski summed up the overall takeaway from this chat when she said, “Students can get “standard” school experience anywhere. Let them choose something special even if just for 1 hr/day.” Because that’s what world language teachers really care the most about – helping students expend their worlds in a special and unique way!

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and discussed student choice in assessments with us. We hope that you continue to join #langchat as often as you are able – if the regularly scheduled weekday 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!

classroom by Lead Beyond, on Flickr
"classroom" (CC BY 2.0) by  Lead Beyond 

 
Last week, langchat linked up to talk about group work in the world language classroom and participants brainstormed strategies to help make it a successful learning experience for students on a regular basis. Contributors discussed their opinions as to when/why you would decide to use group work, as well as the norms/procedures they’ve found that lead to productive (and effective) group work. Participants also went over their thoughts about how/why differentiation should be incorporated into group learning, and how you can effectively and fairly assess group work. Lastly, langchatters discussed the finer points of the challenges that group work represents and ways that teachers can overcome them.

Give a big round of applause to Amy (@alendord) and her Thursday night co-moderators, Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) and Kris (@KrisClimer). We’d also like to thank Wendy (@MmeFarab) and Laura (@SraSpanglish) for leading the #SaturdaySequel. And as always, thanks to our regular #langchat participants, it wouldn’t be the same without you.

Question 1: When/Why do you have Students work in groups?

Langchatters seemed to be in agreement that group work is essential to successful learning in the world language classroom because at it’s core, learning a language requires students to actually speak the language – and THAT requires a significant amount of partner/group work to be worked into the structure of the classroom. As @MmeCarbonneau put it, group work should be happening, “All. The. Time. They [students] need/want to talk, right? Only way [for them] to negotiate meaning and grow in TL.”

The “when” varied a lot per each langchatter’s class set up and preference – reasons included things such as for long-term projects, after input, for students to process together, to help out the weaker students, to motivate all students, to help with vocabulary and reading projects, to work on conversation and collaboration, to complete presentational projects at the end of a unit, for station work, and to keep students engaged. The “why” was more universal in that langchatters felt that group work is essential to growth since language learning is about communicating, and pairing and grouping students is a way for them to practice communicating.

Like @CoLeeSensei said, “I tell them [students]…’you’ll never talk alone’…” and that’s really the “why” of group work – it’s important in order to give your students a safe place to talk in the target language where they feel comfortable trying and using the things they are learning.

Question 2: What norms/procedures lead to effective/productive group work?

While group work is essential to students being able to speak the target language on a regular basis, langchatters also agreed that it has to be set up correctly for it to actually be an effective and productive tool in the world language classroom. Some suggestions for norms/procedures to be established for group work included setting expectations ahead of time, mixing up the groups so it’s as fair as possible, establish/assign roles for each member for each task, keep your groups small, thoughtful grouping based on purpose, and many more.

Many suggestions revolved around the thought that each group member needs to clearly understand their role and the expectations for what they need to contribute to the group work. @magisterb480 put it clearly when he said, “[Give] Specific rubrics to explain what roles each person has in the group so one person doesn’t do all the work.” Similarly, @SraWeinhold said she’s found that “Having a set purpose, direction & goal helps to keep the whole group on track”.

Overall, participants seemed to universally agree that in order for group work to be both effective and productive, it has to be clearly structured with clear expectations for each student, and for the purpose of the activity. Like @alenord said, it’s imperative to “Give purposes for each task. Why are they reading? Why are they talking? etc.” Summing up the overall feeling for this questions was @ProfeCochran, when she stated that you have to explicitly outline your, “Class expectations – [Tell students] Use what you know, participate, infer/cirumlocute, don’t be afraid to take risks/make mistakes, [aim for] 100% TL.”

Question 3: How/Why should we incorporate differentiation in group-learning experiences?

Differentiation is an important key in group-learning for several reasons – the first being that you need to make sure students don’t burn out on one aspect of learning, and the second being that students are all different so differentiation is the only way to make to make sure that you’re meeting as many of your student’s needs, as often as possible. As @SrtaScislowicz stated, “Differentiation ensures ALL students have an opportunity to gain proficiency.”

While most langchatters acknowledged the importance of differentiation, the “how” of incorporating it into group-work proved to be a harder piece of the puzzle to answer. Some hands on suggestions for “how” included using homogeneous (fast-slow, slow-slow) pacing, a reading club with a novel, new prompts for conversations, changing up expectations for activities, suing differentiated assessments, tiered reading passages, offering students a choice of project (newspaper, a comic strip, presentations, storyboard, a paper, summarize, act something out, etc.) and many more.
Popular suggestions for differentiation included @rachelcinis’ idea to “…offer different options to show comprehension: drawing a comic, summarize in TL, act it out. Groups then choose!”, as well as @ProfeCochran’s suggestion to “Let your [students] be your curriculum. Let your {group} prompts grow out of what they’re wearing, doing, liking. Tailor to them!”

Question 4: How do you assess group work tasks? (Maybe, beyond the rubric?)

Assessing group work is a sticking point for every teacher when it comes to making group work a part of the class structure, as it’s hard to assess individual students from their work in a group set up. Several participants shared how they struggle with this aspect of group work since it’s hard to really know if each student understands and/or fully contributed their role in the group.

The main thing that chatters seemed to agree on when it comes to assessment was that the real key is to never try to assess the final result, but rather make sure that you are working to access the process, as that allows for built in differentiation/expectations when it comes to each student’s role in the group. @kballestrini had a much liked tip for his peers when he shared that he “[had a] breakthrough this year; aside from collaborative Google docs (where I can see everything…) and my own analysis, I created a Google form for collaboration reports (1 member per night, rotates through the week) — analysis of each member.”

Other much-liked suggestions for ways to assess group work included not trying to assess it formally but rather circulate/give feedback as they go, have students do some self-evaluation, make sure that students are working in the target language, story re-telling as a measure of students’ understanding, orchestrating a group conversation with you (the teacher), recording conversations to listen to later, and many more.

A thought-provoking piece of the group-assessment issue that arose was whether or not you compare/assess the participants in the group against each other, or whether you assess each individual student against their own progress – most participants agreed that as much as possible, you should try and keep each individual student’s progress as a measure only for that individual student.

Question 5: What challenges does group work pose and how can we overcome them?

It was made obvious through this week’s conversation that group work is an essential piece of the learning process in the world language classroom – BUT there are some built in challenges that have to be addressed in order to make sure its effective.

Challenges to the group work process include making sure students are actually staying on task, figuring out how to structure the accountability piece, being certain that everyone is participating and learning, group dynamics (aka – enemies, friends, etc.), making time to actively monitor the group work, and more of the like. It can be hard to keep up with your groups, and it can sometimes feel a bit impossible as @natadel76 put it, “[If] You mean me standing behind every group every step of the way… #NeedClones”.

Some ideas for overcoming the challenges of group work included using small groups of 2-3 students at most, making sure to scaffold the group assignments so they have all the tools they need ahead of time, use a simple “self-assessment” form for each group so they are responsible for checking themselves, use short prompts, make sure your seating/group assignments make sense, get your students to buy in to the activity as soon as possible, constantly have them changing partners, and more. @KrisClimer had the most popular tip overcoming the challenges of group work when he reminded everyone that the “Biggest hurdle is enlisting them [students] into the process. When they buy in, its magic!”

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters were full of good suggestions and ideas for how to make group work a successful and effective part of your schedule in the world language classroom. Takeaways included the desire to work to set better expectations for group/pair work, it’s a good tool to make students provide a product to show what they accomplished, and the thought that sometimes you can have too many group projects/too much group work so it’s important to work for a balance. @christasgould really summed up the big takeaway for this conversation when she said it’s important to, “Group work with purpose, not just because I think it’s the right thing to do. Not all collaboration/group work is equal.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and discussed group work with us this week. We hope that you continue to join #langchat as often as 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!

“Snapper” Chat Covers 5 World Language Topics in 1 Hour: Try and Keep Up!

Duck-Duck-Goose by just_a_cheeseburger, on Flickr
"Duck-Duck-Goose" (CC BY 2.0) by  just_a_cheeseburger 

 
Last week, langchat hosted another “snapper” round of conversation where participants joined in to talk about five unrelated questions that are relevant to the world language classroom. In these “snapper” chats, contributors weigh in on separate questions so that several smaller topics can be covered in the same hour-long period that’s usually dedicated to one more complex topic. This week, langchat covered how to prepare students for future teachers’ expectations, tips for dealing with classes of 30 or more students, sharing what additional supports are available for “department of one” teachers, what everyone’s favorite places are to find authentic resources, as well as how classical language classes can include more interpersonal activities.

Thank you Wendy (@MmeFarab) and Kris (@KrisClimer) for co-moderating the Thursday night chat, and a big hand for John (@CadenaSensie) and Laura (@SraSpanglish) for heading up the #SaturdaySequel. And as always, thanks to all our regular #langchat participants, we couldn’t do it without you.

Question 1: How do you prepare your Students for future teachers who expect a more grammar-based instruction model?

Preparing students for future teachers and/or classes that may be more grammar-based than proficiency-based is something that a lot of today’s more “new school” world language teachers have to think about. But even if you do prefer a proficiency-based model, grammar is still a necessary part of the language so really, even if your class isn’t grammar-based, your students shouldn’t have too much of an issue moving to a classroom that is. As @MileSulewski put it, “Filling in grammar charts is easy. Keep focusing on embedded grammar. That’s real language. They will figure out the charts.”

Participants shared many ideas for ways to prepare students for more grammar-based classes. A few of the most popular suggestions are listed below:

  • Read a lot so that they are exposed to lots of grammar in context
  • Teach a hybrid class that sometimes utilizes CI, and sometimes grammar method so they’re well rounded
  • Just teach the language and tack on grammar occasionally where it fits, and aim to cover the big things by the end of year.
  • Give a blend of instruction; give grammar explanation first then have students make personal connection second.
  • Remember that a communication-based program doesn’t exclude grammar; it’s just not presented explicitly.
  • Try to be conscious of good grammar habits at lower levels but also try to help language happen organically.

The general consensus from langchatters on making sure students are ready for grammar-based classes was that you do the best to teach your students the language the way you teach, and that should be enough to help them adapt to a new style of teaching. As @MmeFarab said, “This year, I just did what I thought was best for my [students]. Next year, they can learn what I didn’t teach them.”

Question 2: What tips do you use for teaching large classes of 30 students or more?

Large class sizes seem to be a growing and unfortunate trend in schools, and world language classrooms are not immune to it. Many participants shared that they’ve had experience with large classes or are currently teaching them right now.

Suggestions for structuring a class with that many students to still be successful included using stations so that you can make time to get around to each group, set up partner work, utilize individual computer recordings, and arrange for stylized group work. Other ideas were to incorporate well-planned downtime, arrange for ways to give immediate feedback, and have half of the class read/write/collaborate with each other while other half interacts more directly with the teacher

There’s an art to keeping more than 30 students focused on language learning at one time, and teachers have to be willing to change things up on-the-go if something is not working or a class of that size can get derailed much more quickly than a smaller one. You have to find what works for you and your students and put it to use every day. A popular suggestion came from @greerslatin who said, “Almost all of my classes are 30+ [so] the key is keeping the lesson moving so no one gets bored enough to be off task.”

Question 3: What additional supports are available for singletons/1-teacher departments?

Language departments comprised of “singletons” or a single-teacher have a different set of demands to meet and challenges to face than departments who have multiple teachers. While it can be nice to only have to answer to oneself when it comes to lesson planning, it can make it more difficult when it comes time to needing new ideas or support from teachers who truly understand what you’re going through.

Participants (singletons and non-singletons alike) flooded the conversation with suggestions for the best places for teachers (in general) to find support. Ideas included langchat, Twitter, Facebook, online resources, blogs from language teachers, iFLTeach, OWLanguage forums, teaching conferences, collaboration/networking with teachers in other departments, Pinterest, joining your district leadership team, reach out to language teachers at nearby schools, and many more.

And while department-of-1-teachers definitely have a specialized set of trials to deal with, they also have some advantages that departments with multiple teachers don’t have. Like @magisterb480 said, “[There’s] so much more room for experimentation with new methods, new teaching ideas when you’re your own dept!”

Question 4: What are your favorite places for finding authentic resources?

The use of authentic resources is a very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to facilitating effective, and useful, learning in the world language classroom. And finding good authentic resources is hugely important to making sure that students connect and learn from them in a real way.

Suggestions for places to find good authentic resources focused heavily on Internet based sources and included things like Twitter, specific Twitter feeds from the target language country, relevant learning/teaching blogs in the target language, Pinterest, Google image searches, following media outlets on social media in the target language, Internet radio stations in the target language, YouTube channels, Netflix, Billboard Latino, subscriptions to popular magazines/newspapers in the target language, etc.

Overall, participants seemed to agree that online resources are the best, easiest, and quickest way to find authentic resources that students will connect with. (Feel free to read through the tweet archive for this chat to find links to specific suggestions imbedded in the conversation).

Question 5: How can classical languages include more interpersonal activities and CI in their instruction?

Classical languages can sometimes get a bad rap for being “dead” languages or not being relevant in today’s world. However, language teachers know better because classical languages are the root of every other language spoken/taught today. So including more interpersonal activities and CI in their instruction is a good way for classical language teachers to help students connect to the language in a real way. Suggestions for ways for classical language teachers to do just that included the use of TPRS stories, Mensa Latin, Verba, OWLangauge, attend general language teaching conferences, and so on.

While a few participants wondered at whether or not it was necessary to get Latin/Greek students speaking in the target language, others felt that teaching those languages like a spoken language is the best way to help students invest in the class. @KrisClimer’s observed that “ I’m always impressed with my Latin colleagues having students USE the Latin, compose & create, engage interpersonally.” Similarly, @magistrahooper’s suggestion to, “Teach it like a spoken language. Have [students] talk about themselves. If there isn’t a Latin word for something, make one up!” was met with applause.

Plus, @IndwellingLang filled langchat in on the fact that, “Forthcoming Standards for Classical Language Learning [will] include Interpersonal Communication and Presentational Speaking, along with rest.” So don’t be too quick to write off the classical languages as a “literature” class, as there are plenty of ways to incorporate CI and interpersonal activities into the everyday structure of learning.

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters had a lot to say about a lot of topics! This rapid-fire “snapper” chat led to a lot of knowledge and ideas flying around, and left participants with plenty of things to think about. Takeaways included the thought that communication is key to teaching, having a network of teachers to support you as you go is big help, and there are always new ways to do things so it’s good to keep an open mind and learn from those around you. And @ProfeCochran really summed up the overall feel of this chat when she said, “[My] Takeaway: 1) Latin is ALIVE! 2) Grammar can’t get us down! [and] 3)We are the best support group around!”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and discussed this week’s shortened “snapper” chat topics. We hope that you continue to join #langchat as often as 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!

Making Rubrics Work FOR (Not AGAINST) You in the World Language Classroom

15/365 Research by ajclarkson, on Flickr
"15/365 Research" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  ajclarkson 

 
Last week, langchatters put their thinking caps on to discuss the key elements of effective rubric design in the World Language classroom. Participants talked through the finer points of the challenges in finding and making an effective rubric, and how to make a rubric communicate proficiency development. Contributors discussed ways to make a world language rubric student-friendly, as well as how to come up with simple rubrics for everyday tasks. Finally, chatters talked about how you can make a rubric translate into the required grade-book grade that’s necessary in the majority of classrooms.

A big thanks to Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Wendy (@MmeFarab) for co-moderating the Thursday night chat, and round of applause for Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) who led the #SaturdaySequel. And thank you to all our weekly #langchat participants, it wouldn’t be the same without you!

Question 1: What are your biggest challenges in finding/making an effective rubric?

Langchatters had a lot of input on the challenges they face when it comes time to finding and making effective rubrics for their classrooms. Some issues that participants noted were simply knowing what to include in the rubric, making a rubric that can assess all student levels of proficiency, knowing whether or not to change a rubric for the task, keeping rubrics focused, finding a rubric that finds a balance between desire to provide feedback and the real need to give grades, making rubrics that take into consideration all of the students as well as differentiation strategies employed in each project/assignment, making a rubric give enough guidance for a good product without having to outline every single possible nuance, and many more.

Participants seemed to universally agree that rubrics are a tough nut to crack, especially when it comes to accounting for all the things that come up in a world language classroom format. To make it work, you have to be willing to adapt and not stress over all the details. Like @WHS_French said, sometimes it’s most important to think about, “What’s my focus? How [do you] provide an outline not just ‘do x,y,z and you’ll get this grade’?” Similarly, @tmsaue1 said “#nosecret: I’m a big fan of giving kids the big picture. Show all (most) levels. Make proficiency continuum transparent.”

Question 2: How does a rubric best communicate proficiency development?

When it comes to communicating proficiency development through a rubric, sometimes you have to be more hands off in your design so that the real intention of the task/assignment can shine through on it’s own. As @ProfeCochran pointed out, “Just like the ACTFL [proficiency levels] focus on the functions of the language; [focus your rubric] on the “trunk of the tree.” Similarly,

Suggestions for making rubrics communicate the need for proficiency development included making rubrics show a continuum from just getting started, to needing help, to being on target/to going above, or by making sure to provide room for feedback (aka – “good, better, if” design). Other ideas included consistent continuum rubrics, making sure to point out that not everything is done for a “grade”, ensuring that it gives students specific expectations and has them aim for high levels of proficiency, make each rubric focus on clear communication/function, and aiming to find performance assessment rubrics that look at the big picture.

Question 3: How do we make a world language rubric student-friendly?

Making a rubric “student-friendly” is essential to making sure that students feel invested in the tasks and assignments that are presented to them. If they don’t understand a rubric or can’t see the obvious purpose behind something on it, they’re going to be less likely to want to participate to their full extent. Some simple ideas for helping students engage with a rubric included make the language student-friendly, using lots of “can-dos” and keep it focused, not using too many big words or superfluous boxes, utilize examples and descriptors, and keep the criteria short, sweet, and chuck all of those complicated grammar-y words that aren’t necessary.

A popular suggestion came from @Lwbespanol when she said it’s a good idea to “…give [students] credit for taking risks with the language, and focusing on task completion.” Another suggestion was @SraWeinhold’s, when she said “…having [a] life size proficiency rubric on the wall has been huge w/ understanding for all.”

To really make a rubric student friendly, you have to adjust it per class level and for each individual group of students since not all of the students at the same grade level are going to need the same things. Like @windycitysenora said, “Know your crowd and write [rubrics] accordingly.”

Question 4: How do you design a simple rubric for everyday tasks?

Langchatters seemed to be of two minds when it came to answering this question – on one side there’s those who feel that rubrics are unnecessary when it comes to everyday tasks, and on the other there’s those who feel that rubrics are necessary but take on a less formal shape on a daily basis. @kltharri represented the first group when she said, “Easy – I don’t. Everyday tasks are for practice, so they get my feedback in passing.” And @MlleSuweski characterized the feeling of the second when she said, “I do 10 pt scale for everyday things. 10=omg awesome, 9=very good 8=meets expectations etc.”

Other hands on suggestions for simplifying rubrics for everyday tasks included using the TALK score rubric for early language levels, having checklists with expectations and guidelines for daily work, or even just once in a while deciding to give students a score out of 10 on one aspect of the rubric such as comprehensibility or functional language so that it doesn’t get overwhelming on a daily basis.

Question 5: How does your rubric translate to the required grade-book grade?

This seemed to be a big sticking point for a majority of langchatters since figuring out how to make a “student-friendly” or “simple” rubric translate into a grade-book grade is usually very difficult to do.

There were so many suggestions for ways to approach making rubrics and grade-books line up that the ones that were proposed most are listed below:

  • Exceeds=A, Meets=B, Approaches = C, etc. Have to tweak category point values to get the right numbers.
  • Keep it to a 4-point scale. Students have to re-assess if they make less than a B.
  • “Meets expectations” is generally an 85, above and beyond gets to that 90-95 level
  • Keep all rubrics are on a 4 pt scale just like the report card, easy to look across grades for trimester & see grade for report cards
  • Exceeds= 96+ Meets = 90-95, Approaching = 80-89, so on.
  • Convert ACTFL-style rubrics to out of /10 scores, AAPPL levels aligned with /10 scores
  • If grading 3 things, 5 is highest possibly score, possible total 15/15. Have to explain grading system to students
  • 10=exceed level, 9/8=meet level, etc.
  • Each box has point range that is weighted by importance. Message communicated gets big chunk of importance.

On the other hand, there were quite a few participants who felt that trying to force the rubric to meet a grade-book grade is not entirely necessary. @senornoble said, “It’s the other way around for me. My gradebook requirement is translated to the rubric.” And similarly, @tmsaue1 stated, “If you’ve been to my workshop you’ve heard this line: ‘proficiency and grading have nothing to do with each other’.”

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters had a lot to say about rubrics and ways to make them effective in the world language classroom. Takeaways included the thought that while rubrics are elusive, they can slowly and steadily be improved, it’s important to make sure that rubrics are simple and student friendly, the idea that HOW a rubric is used is more important than actual rubric itself, the realization that rubrics are FOR the learners NOT to make grading easier for teachers, and the thought that it’s important to remember and be aware that your grading habits can impact/handicap rubric design. And @LaurenErinParker really summed up the overall takeaway from this chat when she said that it’s important to, “Be more intentional about educating students on rubrics and developing/revising more proficiency based rubrics.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and shared their thoughts on making rubrics work for you. 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!