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by Erica Fischer on May 10, 2016

“Snapper” Chat Covers 5 World Language Topics in 1 Hour: Try and Keep Up!

“Snapper” Chat Covers 5 World Language Topics in 1 Hour: Try and Keep Up!

Last week, langchat hosted another “snapper” round of conversation where participants joined in to talk about five unrelated questions that are relevant to the world language classroom. In these “snapper” chats, contributors weigh in on separate questions so that several smaller topics can be covered in the same hour-long period that’s usually dedicated to one more complex topic. This week, langchat covered how to prepare students for future teachers’ expectations, tips for dealing with classes of 30 or more students, sharing what additional supports are available for “department of one” teachers, what everyone’s favorite places are to find authentic resources, as well as how classical language classes can include more interpersonal activities.

Thank you Wendy (@MmeFarab) and Kris (@KrisClimer) for co-moderating the Thursday night chat, and a big hand for John (@CadenaSensie) and Laura (@SraSpanglish) for heading up the #SaturdaySequel. And as always, thanks to all our regular #langchat participants, we couldn’t do it without you.

Question 1: How do you prepare your Students for future teachers who expect a more grammar-based instruction model?

Preparing students for future teachers and/or classes that may be more grammar-based than proficiency-based is something that a lot of today’s more “new school” world language teachers have to think about. But even if you do prefer a proficiency-based model, grammar is still a necessary part of the language so really, even if your class isn’t grammar-based, your students shouldn’t have too much of an issue moving to a classroom that is. As @MileSulewski put it, “Filling in grammar charts is easy. Keep focusing on embedded grammar. That’s real language. They will figure out the charts.”

Participants shared many ideas for ways to prepare students for more grammar-based classes. A few of the most popular suggestions are listed below:

  • Read a lot so that they are exposed to lots of grammar in context
  • Teach a hybrid class that sometimes utilizes CI, and sometimes grammar method so they’re well rounded
  • Just teach the language and tack on grammar occasionally where it fits, and aim to cover the big things by the end of year.
  • Give a blend of instruction; give grammar explanation first then have students make personal connection second.
  • Remember that a communication-based program doesn’t exclude grammar; it’s just not presented explicitly.
  • Try to be conscious of good grammar habits at lower levels but also try to help language happen organically.

The general consensus from langchatters on making sure students are ready for grammar-based classes was that you do the best to teach your students the language the way you teach, and that should be enough to help them adapt to a new style of teaching. As @MmeFarab said, “This year, I just did what I thought was best for my [students]. Next year, they can learn what I didn’t teach them.”

Question 2: What tips do you use for teaching large classes of 30 students or more?

Large class sizes seem to be a growing and unfortunate trend in schools, and world language classrooms are not immune to it. Many participants shared that they’ve had experience with large classes or are currently teaching them right now.

Suggestions for structuring a class with that many students to still be successful included using stations so that you can make time to get around to each group, set up partner work, utilize individual computer recordings, and arrange for stylized group work. Other ideas were to incorporate well-planned downtime, arrange for ways to give immediate feedback, and have half of the class read/write/collaborate with each other while other half interacts more directly with the teacher

There’s an art to keeping more than 30 students focused on language learning at one time, and teachers have to be willing to change things up on-the-go if something is not working or a class of that size can get derailed much more quickly than a smaller one. You have to find what works for you and your students and put it to use every day. A popular suggestion came from @greerslatin who said, “Almost all of my classes are 30+ [so] the key is keeping the lesson moving so no one gets bored enough to be off task.”

Question 3: What additional supports are available for singletons/1-teacher departments?

Language departments comprised of “singletons” or a single-teacher have a different set of demands to meet and challenges to face than departments who have multiple teachers. While it can be nice to only have to answer to oneself when it comes to lesson planning, it can make it more difficult when it comes time to needing new ideas or support from teachers who truly understand what you’re going through.

Participants (singletons and non-singletons alike) flooded the conversation with suggestions for the best places for teachers (in general) to find support. Ideas included langchat, Twitter, Facebook, online resources, blogs from language teachers, iFLTeach, OWLanguage forums, teaching conferences, collaboration/networking with teachers in other departments, Pinterest, joining your district leadership team, reach out to language teachers at nearby schools, and many more.

And while department-of-1-teachers definitely have a specialized set of trials to deal with, they also have some advantages that departments with multiple teachers don’t have. Like @magisterb480 said, “[There’s] so much more room for experimentation with new methods, new teaching ideas when you’re your own dept!”

Question 4: What are your favorite places for finding authentic resources?

The use of authentic resources is a very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to facilitating effective, and useful, learning in the world language classroom. And finding good authentic resources is hugely important to making sure that students connect and learn from them in a real way.

Suggestions for places to find good authentic resources focused heavily on Internet based sources and included things like Twitter, specific Twitter feeds from the target language country, relevant learning/teaching blogs in the target language, Pinterest, Google image searches, following media outlets on social media in the target language, Internet radio stations in the target language, YouTube channels, Netflix, Billboard Latino, subscriptions to popular magazines/newspapers in the target language, etc.

Overall, participants seemed to agree that online resources are the best, easiest, and quickest way to find authentic resources that students will connect with. (Feel free to read through the tweet archive for this chat to find links to specific suggestions imbedded in the conversation).

Question 5: How can classical languages include more interpersonal activities and CI in their instruction?

Classical languages can sometimes get a bad rap for being “dead” languages or not being relevant in today’s world. However, language teachers know better because classical languages are the root of every other language spoken/taught today. So including more interpersonal activities and CI in their instruction is a good way for classical language teachers to help students connect to the language in a real way. Suggestions for ways for classical language teachers to do just that included the use of TPRS stories, Mensa Latin, Verba, OWLangauge, attend general language teaching conferences, and so on.

While a few participants wondered at whether or not it was necessary to get Latin/Greek students speaking in the target language, others felt that teaching those languages like a spoken language is the best way to help students invest in the class. @KrisClimer’s observed that “ I’m always impressed with my Latin colleagues having students USE the Latin, compose & create, engage interpersonally.” Similarly, @magistrahooper’s suggestion to, “Teach it like a spoken language. Have [students] talk about themselves. If there isn’t a Latin word for something, make one up!” was met with applause.

Plus, @IndwellingLang filled langchat in on the fact that, “Forthcoming Standards for Classical Language Learning [will] include Interpersonal Communication and Presentational Speaking, along with rest.” So don’t be too quick to write off the classical languages as a “literature” class, as there are plenty of ways to incorporate CI and interpersonal activities into the everyday structure of learning.

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters had a lot to say about a lot of topics! This rapid-fire “snapper” chat led to a lot of knowledge and ideas flying around, and left participants with plenty of things to think about. Takeaways included the thought that communication is key to teaching, having a network of teachers to support you as you go is big help, and there are always new ways to do things so it’s good to keep an open mind and learn from those around you. And @ProfeCochran really summed up the overall feel of this chat when she said, “[My] Takeaway: 1) Latin is ALIVE! 2) Grammar can’t get us down! [and] 3)We are the best support group around!”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and discussed this week’s shortened “snapper” chat topics. We hope that you continue to join #langchat as often as you are able – if the regular chat time on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET doesn’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET instead!

Our weekly #langchats are getting 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.

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