combined-levelOn May 11, the #langchat discussion addressed the strategies used to help effectively teach a classroom full of students with various language levels. Participants considered the approaches and methods on how to keep materials fresh and exciting while meeting the needs of a diverse combined-Level group of students.

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Advantages of Teaching a Combined-Level Class

At first, it may seem daunting to teach a combined-level language class. However, there are many advantages to teaching world languages in this type of classroom. For example, “peer coaching and cooperative grouping reinforces learning for both the high and low flyers” (@MrM0REHEAD). A primary advantage of a combined-level language class can be known as the “One-Room Schoolhouse effect.” This is where “novices can learn from more advanced students who can learn by teaching the novices” (@magistertalley). In other words, @SraWilliams3 shared, “if set up right, [students] can be teamed and work together. [Students] become “teachers”.  #Langchat teacher @ADiazMora said, “I’d like to think that [combined-level language classes] can motivate [students] to push themselves.”

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Various Approaches to Teaching a Class with Different Levels of Students

#Langchat teachers shared a variety of perspectives on teaching a class with different levels of students. Every classroom of students has different needs, so learning about the different approaches can prove to be very beneficial to world language teachers. @MrM0REHEAD said, “Reach for the sky. Set high expectations for everyone. They will all rise to a level that’s attainable for them.” @mmeshep shared, “I definitely prefer ‘teaching’ them together and having an A/B curriculum.” When teaching a mixed level group, “use tech to differentiate. Differentiate tasks while using the same text. Sometimes keep [students] with their same level and sometimes mix them!” said @angardner06. When mixing students of different levels together, “the collaboration still has to be carefully scaffolded instruction!” said @SraSpanglish. World language teachers can teach the same material to different level students, but change the expectation based upon the student’s proficiency levels. According to @GrowingFrench, “students get different proficiency goals based on where they are.” For world language teacher @welangley, “Higher level [students] do independent reading activities during class time.”

Keeping Material Fresh

#Langchat participants discussed strategies they use to keep the materials fresh for those students who have already been exposed to a split-level class. #Langchat teachers shared ideas on how to keep the material new and interesting, instead of repeating familiar topics and lessons.

  • @angardner06 suggested implementing “new tasks, activities, materials every year, no matter what level or if it’s a split class.”
  • @SraWilliams3 said, “the curriculum rotation helped with [keeping the material fresh] a lot. It was fresh for all the students.”
  • @sr_connolly said, “Don’t be afraid to reframe, revisit, and recycle. One learns by seeing the same thing with different eyes [and] experiences.”
  • According to @MmeGoodenough, “every class has a different dynamic and you always have to play to your audience.”
  • @MarshDuxfemina shared, “change what you can, accept what you can’t, foster a spirit of camaraderie and grace.”

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Strategies for a Single-Level Class with Students of Diverse Backgrounds and Abilities

Single-level classes with students of diverse backgrounds and abilities can also be a interesting classroom to teach. #Langchat teachers shared how they begin to tackle this teaching challenge in the World Language Classroom. “Meeting [students] where they are first” is essential; then, “nudging them up the proficiency scale and making them feel valued” is one way to strategize teaching a diverse group (@VTracy7). @mmeshep said, “providing appropriate scaffolding (sentence starters, etc.) can enable all students to participate in interpersonal activities.” @magistertalley uses “personalized reading: students choose what to read and how to demonstrate understanding. [This allows] students to proceed at their own pace.” Another strategy is to “prompt with [questions] that spiral up through [levels]; sometimes pair with similar levels, sometimes with different levels” (@angardner06). Finally, @MarshDuxfemina shared, “be honest with all the stakeholders about what the curriculum requires, what it takes to get there and what commitment is required.”

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Pairing Students in Ways that Benefit Everyone Involved

#Langchat teachers shared their approaches to effectively pairing students of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and proficiency levels.

  • @welangley shared, “I would say only pair [students] for interpretive tasks when mixing levels.”
  • @mmeshep said, “Using the speed-friending set-up for interpersonal tasks allows [students] to negotiate meaning with a variety of proficiency levels.”
  • @AHSblaz prefers “pairing by interest. Do some teambuilding, find strengths, choose a task and off they go!”
  • @JessicaKunz1 enjoys “variety! At times allow same levels to work together and then have varied level groups. They all bring some skill to the table!”
  • @HVRHS_Frau uses “stations, varied groupings. Modify, differentiate or scaffold activities/worksheets, varied acts – they always shine somewhere!”

Thank You

Thank you to our moderators Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Elizabeth (@SraDentlinger) for leading the chat on how world language teachers can effectively support learners in combined-level classes. Thank you to all who participated by sharing their successful classroom techniques. Don’t forget to check out the #langchat wiki to suggest a future discussion topic!
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collaborationThis #langchat discussion focused on the ways in which World Language teachers can collaborate and connect with one another. Despite differing opinions, limited time, and even hesitancies toward change, many #langchat teachers find that collaboration must be a priority.

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Finding Common Ground as a World Language Teacher

It is not always easy to find similarities or common ground among world language teachers. As evidenced through weekly #langchat discussions, teachers have their own ideas and styles of how to best teach languages, but the struggles and successes are often a good common ground. @MmeBlouwolff said, “We share common struggles, although we may look for solutions in different places and ways.”

At times, it is necessary and important to seek common ground because it helps colleagues collaborate more and better, as well as giving way to new perspectives and insights. “Regardless of the language we teach, we are all playing in the same natural language acquisition process,” said @magistertalley.  It seems as if  #langchat teachers all share a “common goal: to pique curiosity and instill the fire to be a lifelong language learner” (@MmeCarbonneau). @Marishawkins added, “we all want to help students grow and love language like we do.”

Coming together can start with content and personal interests. @SenoraHamilton suggested “find common ground on themes to start.” @SrtaOlson finds common ground through past experiences. “We all love CULTURE and have all had different travel experiences to speak on!” she said. Finally, @joyeuse212 said, “Agree that everyone’s goal is to provide [students] with the ability to USE the [target language] to communicate, not just talk about the [target language].”

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Starting Conversations with Colleagues who have Different Opinions

Often, though, colleagues within the same department can have very different opinions.  How then to start a conversation respectfully?  #Langchat participants shared their tips.

  • @MrM0REHEAD said, “We reach common ground by not judging one [another]. They don’t know what they don’t know. Be the light. Show them the path.”
  • According to @SrtaOlson, “Providing reasoning and clear logic on why you think what you do” is a healthy way to share a difference of opinion.
  • @angardner06 suggests “asking questions about their successes and listening to their responses. There’s reasons why teachers do what they do.”
  • @CoLeeSensei shared, “I think the most important thing is to realize that there shouldn’t be [an] ‘I’m right’ position – it’s an inquiry into practice.”
  • @profelopez716 said, “ALWAYS start with a positive. Approach issues with a “we” in mind. This creates a better team environment and focuses on [students].”
  • @MbiraAbby said, “ask questions first, get curious about why they hold a different belief. Don’t interrupt.”

Solutions to Address Reluctance about Changing Practices

It can be challenging and even scary for any teacher to change her personal teaching practices. It can also be difficult for teachers to inspire positive change in the practices of others. If colleagues resist necessary changes, “persist, be patient, wait. Change takes time. Also, remember you are changing and evolving too.” (@angardner06). @BThompsonEdu addresses this reluctance by “not focusing on [the teacher], but [students]. Sometimes it’s better if you say less and let [students] do the talking.” Also, it’simportant to remember that “part of the reluctance is often due to lack of time; however, change can happen gradually” (@SenoraHamilton).

Participants also cautioned against only looking to inspire change in others instead of walking a journey together. @SraA_CHHS shared, “Honestly, I just question the heck out of what I don’t understand, and that’s helped me move to better practices – ASK questions.”  @SECottrell said, “we need to be more cautious about saying ‘This is THE answer. THE research. THE truth.’” Clearly, growing teachers are always investigating where even better practices are to be learned.

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When Collaboration is an Option and not a Requirement

#Langchat participants shared a variety of routines for when collaboration is an option, but not a requirement. Many agree that collaboration with others is highly important and should be a priority, even when it is not required or expected. “Our best products are those that we do together – 2 heads (or 3 or 4) are better than 1 always!” (@SenoraHamilton). @madameparkinson said, “I make collaboration a priority! It’s a great way to build camaraderie with colleagues. As well as save time and stress.” @klasekastellano shared, “When collaboration is not a requirement, I still attempt the partnership because it brings me out of my comfort zone.” @profelopez716 “always makes the effort to initiate conversations even if not required because [he believes] it’s good to know what happens in other classes.”

Although collaboration is often time consuming, its benefits make it worth it. “Crazy schedules make collaboration time rare, but I have shared my entire Google Drive with colleague,” said @GrowingFrench. Of course, “Collaboration by choice with online #langchat friends is [everyone’s] favorite!” (@SraWienhold).

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Thank You

Many thanks to all who participated in the discussion on Fostering Collaboration as a World Language Teacher. Thank you to Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for leading this engaging chat. Don’t forget to check out our #langchat wiki to suggest a theme or topic for the weeks ahead!

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Committed to responsive quality

If you could see us work behind the scenes here at Calico Spanish, you’d go away knowing two things for sure.  First, we are truly interested in your feedback.  Second, we are always working to make higher quality products that truly help children speak real Spanish to real people.

So: ¿De qué color es?

Song to help children learn to ask and answer the question "What color is it" in SpanishBecause of a language issue in one of our songs, we’ve redone both the song and the video.  The new song is ¿De qué color es la fresa?  It’s the perfect complement to our most popular song, Colores, colores, because children can start there by saying what color they like and move to this song in order to ask and answer questions about what color something is.

Working with this song

How can you use this song to support your lessons on talking about colors?  Here are some of our tips.

  • Categorize the objects in the song as la words, el words, las words, and los words. (These are the terms we use in my classroom instead of the grammatical labels masculine and feminine, which I’ve found distract learners.
  • Show how many of the color words match the object words.
  • Use verde to describe all of the objects to highlight how this color word does not need to change.
  • Identify things in the room that children know the word for in Spanish.  Switch out our word for that word.  Use the same tune to sing the question and answer with children.
  • Make this question/answer your password for a day de vez en cuando.

And the song?

Let us know what you think!