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by Erica Fischer on Jun 11, 2013

How Are You Developing World Language Curriculum Over Summer Break?

For world language teachers, summer is the lazy time of year when we relax from all the pressures and stress of preparing lessons and trying out new teaching technologies.

Actually, that’s completely wrong.

For most world language teachers, summer becomes a hub of activity as teachers become familiar with new methods of teaching world language, collaborate with other teachers, and develop their language skills. This Thursday’s #langchat revolved around the ways that participants will be using their summers to prepare world language curriculum for next year. What were some of the most popular ideas for creating/updating curriculum? Online resource curation and personalized texts.

Collaborating with Other World Language Teachers: #LangCamp & Conferences

One of the first topics that came up was the goal of many world language teachers to collaborate with others through the #langcamp medium. Some of the active #langchat members mentioned this idea last week, and interest has begun to spread. @SraSpanglish said, “#LangCamp topics so far include PBL, SBG, CI, portfolios, rubrics, and #authres.” @dr_dmd, @SraSpanglish and @cadamsf1 are just a few of the 30 teachers signed up to attend. While some are coming for the amazing professional development, most are simply excited about the opportunity to meet other #langchat tweeps in person (Skype actually) and work together to design curriculum for the upcoming school year. Visit the #langcamp wiki for more information and sign-up to participate. @CatherineKU72 suggested attending the national conferences for AATF/AATSP as a great way to acquire resources.

Driving Questions, Backwards Design and Authentic Assessment

Another topic on everyone’s tongue was how to create effective backwards-designed curriculum that stems from effective driving questions and results in real learning. While this describes effective curriculum in a nutshell, the #langchat teachers had some great ideas on how to create comprehensive curricular units that incorporated these three vital functions.

Begin at the End: @alisonkis asked the important question, “Where to begin when planning curriculum bckwards?” @SECottrell replied, “Begin with the end: the assessment” @dr_dmd interjected his viewpoint: “Where to begin? We build the assessments based on the standards and proficiency goals. Start with Standards, then build the assessment, then the learning activities and the comprehensible input you need.” @PaulSolarz put it succinctly: “Begin with the end in mind. What are your essential questions? What do you want students to know and be able to do?”

Essential Driving Questions: Many teachers agreed that essential driving questions that are standards-aligned are vital to creating comprehensive curriculum. @SraSpanglish said, “I try hard to start w/ driving questions, situations where Spanish is needed that also interest students. HARD!” Both @PaulSolarz and @dr_dmd suggested books about how to use Essential Questions to facilitate backwards designed lesson plans.

Authentic Assessment: @SECottrell said, “I don’t usually use the comprehensible text to plan the assessment, I do it in reverse, based on proficiency standards.” @dr_dmd heartily agreed that assessment was an essential part of backwards curriculum design. He said, “Assessment is essential – make them more real world!” @SraSpanglish said, “Real-world focus is essential to meaningful curriculum and CC ties well w/ literacy strategies we do already!”

@SraSpanglish summed up the whole backwards design goal in a single thought: “My goal this summer is to come up with engaging driving questions, AUTHENTIC projects, and reflective grading strategies. I need to work on more proficiency-based focus for evaluations, especially for portfolio artifacts for NC’s new ‘exam.’”

Managing the Use of Textbooks

A number of teachers began to discuss the ways they might be able to use, change or replace their current textbook curriculum over the summer. The #langchat participants have varied experiences working with textbooks. While some, like @julieh1999, have the curriculum mostly defined by a textbook, others like @jennahacker have no textbook and must design all of the curriculum themselves. Many #langchatters prefer this type of curriculum setup. @Elisabeth13 said, in one of the most retweeted comments of the night, “I stopped using textbook 2 yrs ago. Looked up one day and 2/3 class asleep!”

Of the ideas presented about using textbooks, a few stood out as good alternatives to this traditional tool.

1. Modify the textbook to incorporate themes or resources. @SraSpanglish shared that “using relevant vocabulary, maybe tweaking themes” is a good way of dealing with a mandated textbook.

2. Create or write your own textbook. @alisonkis said, “ [I’m] tired of textbooks so I want to write my own textbook this summer and add #authres.” @madamebaker responded, “In my opinion, the problem with textbooks is that even the #authres get outdated FAST. Curate…ideas.”

3. Curate an online digital textbook or resource collection. @dr_dmd suggested using “wikis as a digital textbook” through the use of theme pages and online authentic resources. @MCanion shared thoughts about relying solely on external sources: “The challenge is finding enough comprehensible input- not thematic texts that are 3 levels above students.” Specific curation sites mentioned by world language teachers were Evernote, Schoolology, Pinterest, Diigo, MentorMob, EdCampus and LiveBinders.

Other Goals for Summer

While all the world language teachers present were focused on creating the best curriculum next year, they had many specific ideas for how they would use their summer months to make it happen. Here were some of the other admirable goals that teachers have for the summer:

  • @CatherineKU72 said, “Looking forward to progressing more towards project learning, #geniushour, standards assessment, student-led learning.”
  • @Marishawkins said, “I am also working on including more proficiency-based teaching and writing more comprehensible input.”
  • @alisonkis said, “My goal is to design backwards grades 6-12 language B curriculum.”
  • @madamebaker said, “Integrated performance tasks/assessments, using AP and IB themes vertically, backward design.”
  • @julieh1999 said, “Goal: to incorporate more #authres, supplemental activities and authentic assessments into our textbook-heavy curriculum. I would love to learn more about proficiency-based grading. Eliminate talk of ABCD and more novice-low, etc.”
  • @SraSpanglish said, “My goal this summer is to come up with engaging driving questions, AUTHENTIC projects, and reflective grading strategies.”

Thank You!

We’d like to give a big thanks to @dr_dmd, who led the discussion even though it was his last day of school! We are also appreciative of the many brilliant and wonderful teachers who shared their thoughts and ideas about curriculum development with us. There were a number of great ideas that we didn’t list in the summary. You can find a full transcript of the conversation in our online archive.

Thank you for being a part of #langchat by participating in the summaries. If you have a specific topic for future #langchat discussions, please share it with us! We are always open to new ideas to help better the world language teaching community.

Additional Resources

#LangCamp wiki
Developing Units with 21st Century Skills in Mind
Student ePortfolios
Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding
Make developing curriculum even easier
la mariposa spanish school
le célèbre chanteur belge, Jacques Brel
Le cyclisme
Understanding-based Curriculum
The puzzle of motivation
La ciencia y la tecnologia: Las Redes Sociales??
Project-based learning in World Languages

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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