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We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For Life

by Erica Fischer on Jan 12, 2015

Ideas to Make this an Amazing Year of Language Learning!

 
Last week, participants were eager to jump into a new year of #langchat! Their phones were going crazy from all of the #langchat tweets circulating, causing family members to turn their heads in confusion (@profepj3: “My wife was a little frightened [because] my phone was pinging so much tonight. I replied: #langchat. Haha.”). Participants also made sacrifices to get in their first dose of #langchat for 2015; @ShaneBraverman put dinner on hold: “[Tonight] #langchat won over dinner. I couldn’t miss it!” This time, Langchatters met to discuss their strategies and resolutions for the New Year.

Thank you so much to all of the #langchat regulars who joined us, to those who brought a friend along, and to the fresh faces who tuned in for the first time. We would also like to extend a big thank you to our moderators, Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) and Kris (@KrisClimer), for leading a productive chat with support from Amy (@alenord), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell).

Question 1: What are ideas or strategies to do “less” to get more out of our classroom experience?

Less is more, right? #Langchat participants discussed ways to improve the classroom experience while expending less energy. To begin with, they suggested cutting down on busy work. @SenoraWienhold wrote, “I am trying to assign less busy work. If I don’t have time to grade it, I shouldn’t assign it.” Several participants felt that homework should generally not be graded, and blogs were mentioned as a possible alternative. @ProfeCochran heartily agreed with @mrsbolanos that instructors should release themselves from homework grading. In addition to cutting back on graded homework assignments, instructors advocated for stretching a single classroom activity for multiple uses. @srtathompson4 encouraged fellow Langchatters to: “Expand more – do more with a single activity [or authentic resource (#authres)] instead of over-creating.” @SenoraWienhold expressed agreement: “[Yes!] I need to go deeper, not wider, with my class work.” When it comes to planning, participants urged instructors to collaborate. @espanolsrs said, “Collaborate with colleagues on the planning and preparation side of things.” Even if you are the only teacher of a particular language at your school, it doesn’t mean that you’re on your own. @rinaldivlgr wrote, “[I am the] only [French teacher] at [my school] so [I] got together with friends [over the] summer [and we] planned [for the] entire year together. [It was very] helpful.” Finally, Langchatters encouraged handing over more control to students. @KrisClimer prompted instructors to “[give students] the ownership to do ‘more’, so [the teacher] does ‘less.’” @CatherineKU72 offered one way to do this: “Invite [students] to find [or] curate some resources with you. If you are exploring a global topic, encourage them to explore.” @CoLeeSensei added, “[Try not] to throw everything at them [you] think they’ll need. [Let] them find their own language, too.”

Question 2: What are ideas or strategies to make the language we teach more ‘applicable’ for students this year?

Next, Langchatters discussed ways to make language more relevant for students. Participants suggested thoughtful selection of unit themes as one way to make languages feel more ‘real.’ @la_sra_hinson wrote, “[Teach] using thematic units based on real life contexts!” Additionally, @espanolsrs suggested “[showing students] that [the vocabulary they learn] isn’t used in isolated phrases [within the walls of the classroom] … [but that the words] they learn are used in [the] real world.” Speaking of the real world, participants encouraged fellow instructors to incorporate authentic resources and current events. @Melissa77459 said, “It’s all about authentic, current resources. If it’s real and interesting, [students] find it relevant.” @RLavrencic wrote, “Current events relevant to students’ [interests] help. Sometimes my students bring in items they wish to discuss for a few [minutes].” Additionally, numerous Langchatters underscored the importance of student choice. @ShaneBraverman wrote, “CHOICE! So important. [Students] choose and relevance [and] interest are elevated.” Instructors suggested a variety of ways to implement student choice in language classes. @tbcaudill wrote, “Ask students to find and submit [authentic resources (#authres)] that catches their eye.” @magisterb480, among others, encouraged some degree of choice in vocabulary covered: “Maybe have students vote on a unit of words we normally wouldn’t learn in Latin. [Kids] always want to learn colors [and] numbers.” Further, many participants advocated for student choice in homework. @SraSpanglish encourages her students to reflect on their goals when selecting their homework assignments: “I’m making students think a lot more about short-term [and] long-term goals [or] strategies before assigning themselves their homework.” @profepj3 wrote, “My [students’] outside [homework] is to [read, watch, or listen] to authentic [resources] during the week for 45, 75, 80 [minutes] according to [their] level… They have to keep track of what they watched [and] write about what they saw [or] listened to on their blogs.” Finally, @frauwarren901 advocated for student reflection upon completion of each unit: “[At the end of units,] students reflect on what they’ve learned [and] how they can use their [learning] in real life by completing surveys.”

Question 3: What are ideas or strategies to personalize the language learning experience for students?

For many #langchat participants, personalization means student empowerment. @KrisClimer wrote, “Empower the learner [with] as much choice as is feasible. Be the guide, not the dictator.” @CoLeeSensei agreed, adding, “I actually start classes with ‘I am your guide but not your leader’….” Langchatters encouraged instructors to make an effort to get to know their students and to become aware of their interests in an attempt to personalize instruction. @ShaneBraverman uses a “Google survey in [September] to find [out students’] interests [and favorites] everything to use in examples and content.” @frauwarren901 agreed that if you “[survey] topics that students are interested in [they are] fully engaged and they trust that [their instructor] will continue to value their feedback.” @SECottrell added that, in addition to surveys, blogs are another way to learn about students: “[My] student blogs taught me so much about my students, who they were [and] what they could do!” Other instructors suggested specific activities that work to personalize instruction and capture students’ interest. @ProfeCochran, among others, favors letting students create and “curate their own ‘vocabulary lists’” on topics related to their personal interests. @SraMezzina said, “I love teaching students to ‘text’ like a native speaker,” and she shared a link on texting ‘like a native’ in Spanish: http://t.co/ldSFiw3tX0. @magisterb480 suggested student and teacher co-authored stories as another option: “I’ve been doing stories half-created by me and half by the [students] where the [students] draw pictures [and] give me [the] basics of narration.” Finally, @alenord pointed out that personalization also means making instruction more personal for the teacher: “#Personalize to me also means ME personalizing the content of what I teach. [Comprehensible input] is about me, so [it’s] more personal.”

Question 4: If you had to pick your own #oneword focus for your 2015, what would it be and why?

As the #langchat hour came to a close, participants shared their #oneword focus for 2015. We bring you some of words that they are keeping in mind for the coming year:

  • Better. @KrisClimer said, “Better. I want to always, every day, every year, be Better. 2015 included.”
  • Relax. @ProfeCochran wrote, “#Relax. If I’m not having fun, [my students] definitely are not! Getting my blood pressure up is NOT going to change their attitudes.”
  • Enjoy. @tbcaudill wants to “enjoy (life/students/language/family).”
  • Prioritize. @frauwarren901 wrote, “‘Prioritize’ – No one has time to beat around the bush. Work and meet goals.”
  • Reality. @SECottrell said, “I thought about ‘reality’ as a #oneword – [There are] too many reasons in some classes for kids to say, ‘But I’d never REALLY do that’.”
  • Speaking. @magisterb480 said, “[Speaking] – I really want to speak more Latin in the classroom. I want my students speaking more as a result! [My] runner-up would be comprehensible. [I want to] make a 2000+ year-old culture relevant, engaging, and most of all relatable to teens.”
  • Connect. @Profe_Taylor said, “CONNECT [because] I see so many [students] disconnected from learning I want to see [them] connect.”
  • Movietalk. @espanolsrs is thinking about “Movietalk [because students] are engaged, are exposed to lots of good [comprehensible input], and it’s fun for me to find new clips to work with!”
  • Conferences. @SrtaJohnsonEBHS wrote, “My #oneword is conferences. [It’s not] specifically class-related, I know, but I want to attend at least 2-3 this year.”
  • Collaborate. @profepj3 said, “My #oneword is collaborate. I don’t need to recreate the wheel [and] #langchat has helped so much!”
  • #Langchat. Last but not least, participants showed some #langchat love. @ShaneBraverman said, “I think my one word is #langchat. I can’t even describe how awesome it is to find my teacher soul mates. I <3 you guys!” @MartinaBex added, “Teacher soul-mates! I love it! I have quite a few up in here ;-),” and @CoLeeSensei added, “How could I forget another #oneword focus for 2015???? What? #langchat !!! (duh).”

Conclusion

The first #langchat of 2015 was filled with positive energy and hope for an even better year of teaching! #Langchat participants discussed how to do less and reap more positive results, how to make language instruction more applicable for students, and how to personalize the language learning experience. Finally, they shared their #oneword focus for the New Year. We wish all of our participants a wonderful (and #langchat-filled) 2015! May all of your #oneword wishes come true.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who helped #langchat start the New Year with a bang! You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. In case you can’t join us at that time, now you can also #langchat on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET – Same questions, more chat time!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

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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