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by Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell on Dec 22, 2017

Hindsight is 20/20: Reflecting on a Semester’s Language Learning

reflecting on semester How can a teacher learn from last semester and it’s failures and successes in the world language classroom? Guest #langchat moderator Heidi Trude (@htrude07) invited teachers to reflect on that question in a recent chat.

After all, the #langchat community exists to be a place where world language teachers can collaborate and encourage each other through sharing their experiences. Reflection is a key to that growth.

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Learning from mistakes

Without considering last semester’s mistakes, teachers cannot begin to plan for next semester’s successes. @omahafrenchie shared, “speed dating with the subjunctive was a massive failure. #liveandlearn.” @MmeMORLEY shared that she went awry with “the guided essays for level II class. I didn’t scaffold the way I should before giving the essay. Many didn’t understand some of the questions from the year before.” Also, Langchat teachers learn from each other’s mistakes. @MmeCarbonneau said, “jumping into TALK interpersonals without unpacking the principles first” did not go well.  By sharing what went wrong, #langchat teachers helped each other prevent future problems in the classroom.

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Success through new strategies

The semester’s successful techniques lifted the discussion and revealed that taking a new risk with input, seating, technology, assessment and empathy can sometimes pay off. @SraWilliams3 found that “using stories to give context to vocab has shown me some amazing results in my level 1.”

As for seating, the deskless trend is gaining traction in the field, for good reason.  @MmeMORLEY shared, “having no desks in the classroom has worked really well. I’m able to work one-on-one with some and others collaborate easier.”  The new deskless format worked especially well for tall students because they could move more freely in flexible seating. They even seemed to be inspired to speak in the target language more.  But what about tasks that require a platform? She has addressed that issue by establishing procedures for writing tasks and Chromebook use.

What about technology success? @MmeCarbonneau and @htrude07 both found “huge success” using @Flipgrid.  @htrude07 commended, “Wish I would have been using this awesome tool earlier.” She also loved “using Google cardboard! My next idea is to have the students do 360 pics/video and narrate them to share with our partner school.”

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For assessment, @MmeCarbonneau also gave a positive report about “doing random, unannounced speaking and writing checks across topics for proficiency check- NOT a grade.” Fresh perspectives were beneficial for teacher @CatherineOusselin. “Acknowledging that many of our students are going through stressful moments reminds me to create experiences that promote a calm and inviting atmosphere.”

What brought joy and success in your language classroom last semester?

Overcoming Challenges and Accomplishing Goals

Next, participants turned to discussing achievements students had accomplished, especially in producing output even at the lowest levels. @MadameCarbonneau exulted in that her students could write “an entire letter in French [without] being afraid to do so despite being novices!” @hrude07 had first-year French learners that “were very quiet” and reluctant to participate before she introduced @Flipgrid and @AdobeSpark.  With these tools as part of the lessons, learners “let their walls down. Never had a class that was like this bunch! They have come a long way!”

With her more advanced class, @MmeMORLEY was proud that her “level four students could debate about the concept of beauty without help.”

Indeed, teachers have so much to be proud of when their students show improvement in what they can do in the target language!

For you:

What have you learned or changed based on past “mistakes”?  What has brought joy and success in your language classroom in recent months?  What achievements are your students showing because of your commitment and support?

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Thank You

Thank you to all of the #langchat teachers who shared their experiences and participated in this langchat. Many thanks also to Heidi Trude (@htrude07) for her sincere and honest guest leadership for this special edition of #langchat.
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Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell
Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell is a homeschool mom of three bilingual children. She’s also a Spanish teacher and the COO and chief storyteller for Calico Spanish.

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