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by Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell on Feb 5, 2018

It’s a Big, Big, Big, Big Conference: Getting the most out of the ACTFL Convention


The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages – ACTFL – held its annual Convention and Expo in November of 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Although thousands of teachers attended the conference, many more, of course, were not able to.  On #langchat before the conference, teachers gathered to discuss their expectations for the event, and how to process and implement what they learned in their classrooms- whether they were able to attend in person or not.

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ACTFL is over, but ‘tis the season for regional conferences.  NECTFL is right around the corner in New York, and SWCOLT comes to Santa Fe shortly after.  The beginning of March brings the Central States conference to Milwaukee, quickly followed by SCOLT in Atlanta.  (The Pacific Northwest group will meet with the Oregon-Washington conference in October since 2018 is an even-numbered year.)  The perspectives #langchat participants shared apply to those big conferences as well!

Determining Which Sessions to Attend at ACTFL

#Langchat teachers collaborated on the sessions they were most looking forward to attending at the ACTFL. @SECottrell said, “I’m all about focusing on sessions that will help where I’m weakest at the moment.” Strategizing and prioritizing sessions to help growth as an individual or department was key to making the most of the time spent at the conference. @SenorParodi said, “When I’m with colleagues, we split it up. As [department] chair I️ try to balance my needs as a teacher with those of my dept.” @silvius_toda advised, “For a conference like #ACTFL17 know your learning goals ahead of time – it will make choosing sessions much easier!”

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Sharing Classroom Successes with Others

#Langchat participants answered the question, “What’s something you’ve been trying this year in class that you’re excited to share with others at #actfl17?”

  • @SraWilliams3 shared, “I’m using more CI & TPRS. I’d like to pick the brains of the originators of some resources I’m using.”
  • @htrude07 found success with “using @Flipgrid and then app smashing it with @ChatterPixIt. Digital Storytelling with @AdobeSpark is also a hit. Great tools for sharing student voice.”
  • @pwrflteacher said, “Don’t think you can set the same growth curve for every student- have to tailor/ individualize.”
  • @CristinaZimmer4 shared, “We are using proficiency rubrics for assessments and I would like to see how other schools are using them.”
  • @profe_irizarry was excited about using “individual notebooks for Spanish 1 students where they record their conversations- Hacker’s Guide for Spanish 1 conversations.”

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Language Teachers Looking Forward to Learn

Learning never ends, even for teachers! World Language teachers are always looking forward to learning new ideas and techniques at the ACTFL. @htrude07 wanted to learn about “new technology tools to integrate in the classroom. Using Can-dos and working towards proficiency.” @a2laurel said, “I’m looking for ways to streamline feedback. Teach the students to self-assess and set goals.” Connecting with other teachers and colleagues can always spark new and helpful ideas.

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At your next conference, what do you want most to learn or improve?  Create a plan to target that theme.

How to Digest Professional Learning: Reflect, and share

After a professional learning conference, it can sometimes be difficult to digest all the information and begin making changes.  Some teachers had already established a public platform, and sharing their learning there inspires them to keep implementing change.  Though she wasn’t planning to attend the ACTFL event, @Marishawkins shared that after a conference, it helped her to share what she’d learned on her blog, in order to “concretely state how I want to change what I am doing and what part of my unit I feel that I can implement each small change.”  Small changes were also recommended by @htrude07: “Add one or two changes at a time. Small steps so it’s not overwhelming.”

Other teachers talked about both internal and external reflection on their learning. @SenorParodi shared, “I take a moment to collect myself and stop beating myself up after comparing myself to all the incredible educators I meet. Then I️ look to one thing I️ can add each month.”  Similarly, @htrude07 mentioned she would “reflect on my learning by rereading my notes and then writing about what I learned.”  She added she would share her takeaways with colleagues, an action plan echoed by @Mariacsmith: Debrief with colleagues about what is possible for short term vs. long term.”

How to Share What You Learn at #actfl17

At the end of the chat, teachers further explained how they would share what they learned from the ACTFL Convention.

  • @gonzales_lee said, “I will share at my building & district then possibly present at state conference.”
  • @SraScheetz was “hoping to share & collaborate with colleagues while there, divide & conquer sessions, come back & share during department meetings.”
  • @Staceymargarita shared, “I meet as many new people as I can at conferences, maintain contact via email or social media after to keep up learning momentum.”
  • @mmegalea said, “I will do workshops or webinars about what I have learned.”

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Thank You

Thanks especially to Maris (@Marishawkins) the guest moderator of this #langchat!  #Langchat official moderators continue to moderate the first and third chats of the month, but be on the lookout for participant teachers to take the initiative to lead many other discussions to come.

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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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