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by Erica Fischer on Jun 20, 2016

#Langchat Reflections: How Lessons from the Past lead the World Language Classroom to a Brighter Future

 
Last week, langchat-ters joined in a lively conversation full of reflections on the last year of teaching students in the world language classroom. Participants talked through the changes they made, their “AHA!” moments, the biggest risk they took and how it paid off, and what they’re looking forward to trying and/or ditching next year. Lastly, they chatted through questions/issues they had this past year that they need to find solutions for next year.

A big thank you to Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for leading the last #langchat of the year, and as always, thanks to everyone who participated in this years chats, new and old #langchat-ters alike! #Langchat wouldn’t be nearly as beneficial to the world language community without all of your great input.

Question 1: What was a change–large or small–that you made this year?

As a collective whole, langchatters should give themselves a round of applause for all the great changes they made in their classrooms this year. So many teachers tried so many new techniques, that we’ve got a summative list below.

  • Using more CI and active methods to help students learn language more effectively
  • Switching curriculum and adding novels to the class structure
  • Using IPAs with older students for finals
  • Changed grading policies
  • Using new tools in the classroom like stuffed animals, teleneovelas, novels, etc.
  • More discussion with students about why/how things are done in class
  • Using new technology tools like MovieTalk, GoFormative, Padlet and EDpuzzle
  • Implementing real-world homework instead of worksheets
  • Adding lit circles into the classroom structure
  • Putting an emphasis on negotiating meaning to see student growth in use of the target language
  • Skyping with target-language speakers across the world

*To see a full list of all the changes that were tried this past year, checkout the chat transcript – link at the end of this summary.

Question 2: What was your big AHA! moment of the year?

‘AHA!’ moments tend to be big helps for world language teachers so when they happen, langchatters know it’s a good idea to hold-on and make them work for you as quickly as possible! One of the most well-liked ‘AHA!’ moments came from @CoLeeSensei who stated that she realized, “That if you tell ’em ‘why’ & ask them to reflect after, you create ‘magical commitment to using the TL’ [from students].” Similarly, @SraSpanglish’s big ‘AHA!” was that it’s really helpful to, “… [make] expectations simple and CRYSTAL CLEAR and return to them FREQUENTLY.”

Another vein of ‘AHA!’ moments were teachers who realized this year that they aren’t in complete control of student’s progress and that you have to make sure you do as much as you can, but learn when it’s time to step back. For example, @SraWilliams3 shared that that she had to learn to be more, “Accepting [of] things I can’t change and noting things I can and [then] making a decision to do so. I felt free and am ready to move [forward]!” Similarly, @ADiazMora shared that her“…big AHA moment was that I can lead a horse to water, but that is all.”

Additional big moments that affected participants this past year included discovering how well IPAs can work throughout the year, the fact that Skype buddies and PenPals are very beneficial to student’s proficiency, understanding that regular weekly ‘features’ are good learning tools, that scheduling in lots of ‘talk time’ for students is hugely important, understanding that student’s have to take responsibility for their own learning for it to really be effective, and lots more.

Question 3: What was the biggest risk you took this year, and how did it pay off?

Risks are scary for any teacher, and they can be especially difficult to maneuver in the world language classroom, as it is already, in and of itself, a “high-risk” environment for students since they tend to be uncomfortable. Langchatters took lots of risks this year to try and help benefit their classrooms and the progress of their students including using the target language textbook less even though it’s time consuming, being really honest in communication with parents, not giving traditional grades, using story units/novels/CI instead of textbooks, trying to incorporate social justice issues into the curriculum, keeping lessons as close to 100% in the target language as possible, and lots more.

One of the most well appreciated shares came from @Shannon_LTS who said that her biggest risk was, “…[telling students] embarrassing stories about my L2 errors (once mixed up ‘barefoot’ & ‘naked’ – don’t ask!). [So] I’m learner too, mistakes [are] ok!” And that’s really what taking risks is all about – making sure that students know they have the support, and are in a safe place designed specifically for them try spread their wings and try new things.

Question 4: What are you looking forward to try–or ditching!–next year?

Langchatters had lots of ideas for things they are eager to try – and ditch! – for next year. Some of the big things participants are looking forward to including are the ability to use more internet resources, having additional teachers working on their same grade levels, trying to turn student’s ‘passion project’ into a ‘passion semester’, digging into some curriculum revamp, trying more methods/tools like TPRS/PQA/MovieTalk, etc., and switching out their old grading practices for new ones focued on proficiency. And for a lot of contributors, incorporating more CI made the #1 spot on their “to-do” list.

One of the most-stated things that people are looking forward to ditching this next year is the ability to say good-bye to their textbooks, and incorporate as many other kinds of resources as much as they possibly can.

Question 5: What questions or issues do you have now that you need solutions to for next year?

This week’s chat went by quickly (per usual), so Question 5 got a little less airtime – but the questions/issues presented by participants for assistance were developed and interesting. Questions included needing help with establishing grading practices that make sense, will their next group of peers by CI friendly and how to approach that, how to purposefully fit a unifying text into target language class, and how to juggle an IPA/CI approach, to name just a few.

Several of participants “issues” centered on student participation and how to make sure you’re actually getting them involved and committed to the process. For example, @SenoraLauraCG asked, “How to hold [students] accountable for Real World Homework. Some of them are easy to do w/o doing if you catch my drift.” Similarly, @CoLeeSensei asked, “How can I have kids see that it’s still not about the ‘mark’ when that’s what drives them still?” and in that same vein, @ADiazMora asked, “What can I do to have [students] look at learning as the goal, not the grade?”

It’s a hard issue to tackle but helping each other figure out how to do it is just what this #langchat community was created for!

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters had lots of great ideas about helping students adjust to moving away from traditional instructional practices. Takeaways included the realization that as long as you’re on the path to improving you’re doing it right, there’s always room for improvement, it’s important to ‘follow your gut’/explore new ideas/ask for help, and that it’s really important for teachers to be willing to take risks and embrace change in front of their students so they know they can take risks too. @SenoraLauraCG really summed up the overall feel of this chat when she said that it’s important to remember that, “Every step toward real communication is valid. Be patient with yourself but also not afraid to take risks & try something new!”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat this week and shared their reflections on the past school year – #langchat is on summer break until August 2016, so until then, we hope that you continue to enjoy reading the full #langchat summaries as often as you are able. The regularly scheduled chats will resume on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET, and every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET for the #SaturdaySequel.

Our weekly #langchats have gotten 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!

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.

One comment

  • Cool ! Thank you for this article I’ve got tips now on how I can learn language systematically. I’m moved, hopefully I will be able to join the next langchat 🙂

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