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by Erica Fischer on Jun 2, 2015

Langchatters Reflect! Looking backward, moving forward

Welcome back to #langchat! Last week participants met to reflect on their experiences in the classroom over the past year and to (already!) begin the process of making plans for next Fall. They shared a change that they made this year – large or small, discussed their big ‘AHA’ moments, and talked about the biggest risk they took. Looking ahead, Langchatters reflected on what they are planning to try or ditch in the coming school year, and they tweeted some questions or issues that they are seeking to resolve. @Narralakes described the conversation as “a [Twitter] tsunami [with] lots of good stuff, but fast!!” reporting, “93 new tweets in a minute!!”

Thank you to everyone who joined in the dynamic conversation and to Thursday’s moderating team: Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Amy (@alenord)!

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

This has clearly been a year of change and growth for many Langchatters. Several instructors mentioned their efforts to develop a more proficiency-based language classroom. @CoLeeSensei started doing “‘less recording’ in the [mark book, giving] more ‘feedback’ to [students].” She noted that this process entailed “erasing the numbers from all of [her] rubrics and changing [them] to [say] ‘expectations: meeting, exceeding, [etc.].’” @MmeFarab also made this shift, writing, “[I changed] my style to proficiency-based, which meant throwing out textbooks and changing all my activities. [I’m never] going back.” @alenord also reported far “fewer grades than normal,” adding, “I like that [students’] grade in my class better reflects their performance.” Additionally, some participants experimented with ‘Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling’ (TPRS). @Mr_Fernie said, “[I made] lots of changes this year; [the] biggest was [my] shift away from [the] textbook to TPRS.” @rlgrandis wrote, “[I] tried to dip my toes in #TPRS and ended up diving in head first! [This was my best] move all year!”

Participants mentioned a range of other changes that they implemented. Here are some of their comments:

  • @kballestrini reported “moving further down the continuum of treating Latin as a ‘language.’” This meant spending “a lot more time […] delivering understandable messages [in the target language].”
  • @magisterb480 integrated more technology in the classroom: “I also started using much more technology since my students all have iPads.”
  • @SraDentlinger wrote, “Professionally speaking, I had a [student teacher] for the [first] time! [This was scary] and exciting at the same time.” @CoLeeSensei replied, “Awesome – [Having] one really helped me ‘define’ what teaching meant to me!”

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

This year was full of valuable insights for participants, and many #langchat participants couldn’t mention just one! Most ‘AHA’ moments centered on proficiency, TPRS, students’ wants and needs, and Twitter as a source of professional development.

@MariaTrolese wrote, “When my students stopped talking about [percentages] and [numbers], I knew changing my [assessments] to [be standards-based] had worked!” For more information on standards-based assessments, check out this recent summary! While this shift in mindset can have great results, @CatherineKU72 realized that a change in proficiency takes time and requires patience: “[ACTFL] guidelines for proficiency reminded me that [the move from] novice [to mid-high levels] takes time. [This relieves] ‘pressure’ to reach a certain level.” @SraSpanglish added that this mindset has the added benefit of advancing all students: “[If] I keep focus on proficiency it keeps ALL kids focused on advancing, not just grade grubbers [or] natural linguists.”

@rlgrandis realized how TPRS could become a reality when watching another instructor: “[I] observed a [teacher] at another school that uses #TPRS. To see it in action clicked and made it possible.” On the topic of TPRS, @SraDentlinger realized that guides can save teachers lots of valuable time: “I guess my big AHA [moment] was that @TPRSPublishing [Teacher] Guides save lives. I was SO busy, and creativity was rough.”

Student wants and needs
@RyanWestBosson learned the benefit of focusing on student interests: “Tying the curriculum to the [students’] interests is more motivating than content I find interesting. [This may be obvious], but I’m a newer [teacher].” @VTracy7 shared her realization that student needs also matter: “Working hard, and I mean [putting in hours] of thought and effort (on my part) were futile UNTIL I shifted my focus to what my [students] NEEDED.”

@cwilsonspanish came to realize the valuable professional development offered by Twitter: “Twitter is the best [thing] I’ve ever done professionally and I should have done it sooner.” In particular, some participants became aware of #langchat’s role as a source of ‘AHA’ moments. SraGSpanish2 wrote, “These discussions are an [‘AHA’] moment for me every week.” @magisterb480 commented, “[I realized] that if I have a question about some random education buzzword that I don’t know, #langchat has an answer!”

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

Langchatters were big risk-takers this year! Most of the risks they described involved emphasizing stories in class and viewing phones as resources instead of obstacles to learning.

@Mr_Fernie described his biggest risk, namely, “shelving textbooks we just bought last year to tell silly stories.” He commented on the success of a story-oriented approach: “[My] valentine’s story had 5 different couples proposing to each other…[Students] loved it more than anything else all year.” @SraSpanglish wrote, “[That] was another big risk I took–writing dumb stories for kids in Spanish!” She shared a link to some of her own creations: @CoLeeSensei also ditched more traditional materials in favor of stories: “I scrapped two units that didn’t seem right [and] went into a story unit. It was magic!”

Phone usage in class
Instructors attempted to change their views on phones in the classroom, accepting them as useful tools with the potential to enhance learning. @SraGSpanish2 said, “I would have to say [my biggest risk concerned] phone usage in class; it’s so ingrained in us to tell [students] to put them away and not use them for [education].” @SraCurling also mentioned “[incorporating] more tech into class,” noting, “[Students] loved being able to use their devices on various tasks.”

Other risks included increasing time in the target language, implementing IPAs and blogging about successes…and failures!

  • @kballestrini said, “[I started] aiming for around [70-percent] of the time in Latin, along with slowing down just enough to meet a wider range of learners.” Looking to increase your own use of the target language? Check out this past summary.
  • @SraSpanglish wrote, “I went all in with IPAs [and] even modeled the final exam on [this] format. Kids UNDERSTAND their scores AND their performance levels!” For tips on adapting IPAs for your classroom, take a look at this summary.
  • @SraWienhold said, “My biggest risk was blogging about my lessons and failures #hardtoputyourselfoutthere,” and @SraDentlinger offered words of encouragement: “People appreciate admitting failures almost more than successes, [in my opinion, and] your stuff if GOLD. Keep it up!” @SraWienhold suggested, “[We] could start a series on #langfails for those lessons that explode in your face.”

Question 4: What are you looking forward to trying, or ditching, next year?

Even though the year has yet to come to a close for many, #langchat participants were already planning for Fall. They mentioned incorporation of novels and TPRS, increased use of technology in the classroom, greater student-led inquiry, and rearranged seating.

Novels and TPRS
Many instructors were eagerly discussing use of novels and storytelling next year! @SraGSpanish2 said, “[I ordered] my first class set of novels for next year,” and @SoyBolingual wrote, “[#Langchat] has convinced me to buy sample packs of novels to read over the summer! [I] hope to find [one] to include [in class] next year.” @rlgrandis said, “[I’m] going to make the full switch to #TPRS and [Spanish] 2 as novel-based. [It only] feels possible with #langchat.”

Use of technology
@CatherineKU72 said, “[I’m looking] forward to [a] new set 30 Chromebooks for next year. However [I’m] not jumping on the bandwagon of ‘everything tech.’ Balance!” @CatherineKU72 kindly offer tech assistance: “If anyone needs any tech integration assistance, you know my Twitter handle! I am your [world language] geek girl.”

Student-led inquiry
@dpilla said, “I want to ditch ‘presenting vocab’ and make vocab acquisition [inquiry-based] and [student-led] instead.” @alenord added, “What is meaningful, valuable and REUSABLE to [students], they find a way to remember. #selfselectedvocab.”

Rearranged seating
Some participants expressed intent to reconfigure the seating in their classroom. @VTracy7 said, “I moved the desks and left just the chairs. [Students] will become active listeners! I hope.” @kballestrini wrote, “I keep asking for standing tables so that I can ditch the desks. [I hope] that next year is the year for them.”

Question 5: What are some questions or issues that you need solutions for by next year?

Langchatters had some lingering questions and issues that they would like to resolve before the start of the next school year. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

  • @magisterb480: “I still don’t know after so many explanations what in the world an IPA is and how to do them for Latin effectively.” He added, “I still need help with all the ACTFL modes [and] terminology and applying it to Latin more appropriately.” @kballestrini wrote, “Couple of months, bro 🙂 New Classical standards are going to rock. I promise.” Any tips, Classicists?
  • @SraCurling would appreciate advice on “[how] to help [administrators], parents, students, and teachers embrace the move towards proficiency.” This summary could be a useful starting point.
  • @MmeFarab seeks advice for “[keeping] novice [students] in the [target language] as much as possible.” @SraWienhold voiced a similar concern: “I need ideas for building relationships with new students while staying in the [target language].”

Do you have other issues or questions that you’d like to voice? Consider submitting your ideas for future #langchats, contact fellow participants for advice, and take a look at previous #langchat summaries on the @CalicoSpanish blog or our Wiki page.


Last Thursday, Langchatters were eager to reflect on the past year and plan ahead for the coming school year. Participants shared the changes they have experienced, ‘AHA’ moments they have had, and risks they have taken this year. They also discussed plans they are eager to implement and voiced lingering concerns and questions. Participants expressed their appreciation for #langchat as a source of support as they seek to improve the quality of world language teaching. @MmeFarab commented, “All of us want to grow and make changes. We’re not alone in wanting to get better, even the ‘best’ of us.” @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[#Langchat] is my go-to for those who have done what I want to do – or on the journey with me as we all try to do it.”

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who continue to contribute to #langchat and to those who recently joined in for the first time! Remember, now you can also #langchat Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET in addition to our standard time of Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. ET!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. If you wish to view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have a topic you’re eager to discuss?

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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