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We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For Life

by Erica Fischer on Oct 12, 2016

How has your teaching style adapted over time to changes in curriculum, technology, and your students’ needs?

Little_and_Large

Little and Large” (CC BY 2.0) by Matthew G

Most recently, the #langchat community decided to chat about how world language teacher’s style has had to be adapted over time to changes in curriculum, technology, and students’ needs. Participants talked about the factors that have led to the biggest changes in their personal teaching style, and how they’ve adapted their instruction to include and work with technology changes over time. Contributors shared the adaptations they’ve made to meet the changing needs of different groups of students, as well as what best practices/strategies have remained constant in their teaching style throughout the years. And finally, chatters discussed some of the changes that they aspire to make in the future.

Question 1: What factors have led to the biggest changes in your teaching style?

Over time, there are a lot of changes and adaptations that teachers of all subjects have to make to keep up with the times, and the world language teacher is no exception. There are a lot of factors that can motivate a teacher to enact change, and some of those shared factors included #langchat, the availability of new technology/teaching tools like blogs, observing/learning about TPRS style of teaching, attending workshops on new styles of teaching like CI and TPRS, seeing other teachers succeed without textbooks and trying it out, expanding PLN through social media, teaching for proficiency goals/using language in context, using the three modes of communication to make lessons more interesting, and many more.

Many teachers agreed that they had to adjust their teaching style from what they learned in school to actually be an effective teacher in the classroom and word towards what students can actually do with the language rather than just what they can memorize and repeat. Like @SrMedina said, “Proficiency guidelines and “I can do” statements have changed my instructional practices.” and @MmeCarbonneau agreed when she shared that, “Learning about Standards Based teaching/learning/assessment and Growth Mindset. Proficiency training = eye opener.”

Having the self-awareness to know when it’s time to make adaptations is important and having the courage to step out and try something new is key. As @KrisClimer said, “It takes courage if there are those not on board around you!”

Question 2: How have you adapted instruction as technology changes over time?

Technology has grown exponentially in the last few decades, and its effect on the world language classroom has been felt in many ways. Teachers have needed to adapt their instruction to account for the additions in technology and ways they’ve done that included things like utilizing interactive websites/apps, collaboration with others/using presentational applications, and overall, just taking advantage of the easy to access authentic resources that are abundantly available on the internet. Several teachers referenced using sites like YouTube and other authentic resource apps to give students another voice to hear speaking the language.

Most chatters agreed that the easier access to technology acts as a huge boon in the world language classroom. As @alenord pointed out, “Through digital access to [authentic resources] I am able to deepen & enrich my lessons in ways I never could before.”

However, one good point that was made several times was that using technology just for the sake of using it is a no-no, as it needs to serve a specific purpose/learning goal in order to be effective and not just a distraction for your students. So if you’re going to use YouTube, Twitter, etc., make sure that you’ve got a clear goal for students to accomplish so that way, as @MmeFarab put it, “[You] get to focus on getting students to interact with the language outside of just [the teacher]!”

Question 3: What adaptations do you make to meet the changing needs of different groups of students?

Adapting your teaching style to meet the changing needs of different groups is one of the more difficult techniques for any teacher to master. Suggestions for ways to be fluid and keep up with students’ different needs included no longer assigning homework, utilizing the right kind of tools for that group whether that’s visual/auditory/or hands-on work, letting students have more of a choice in the types of activities that they do, facilitating more exploration and collaboration between students so that they are more invested, making sure to focus on proficiency instead of accuracy so that students all feel like they have the ability to succeed, and lots more.

Different groups of students have different needs and sometimes even within each of those groups, you’ll have students who need more (or different) attention than the rest. You have to learn to work with those needs and allow for them as @MmeFarab suggested that you plan for giving students, “Retakes, redos, choice activities, flexible seating … Some need [the extra help] some don’t, but school’s hard enough without it!

Another very popular idea shared was the need for teachers to remember that while proficiency-based student acquisition may be slow at times, that really isn’t a bad thing. As @beckytentzer pointed out, “We walk a fine line encouraging communication while we really want accuracy. Learning how to keep quiet is important!”

Question 4: What best practices/strategies have remained constant in your teaching style through the years?

While being open to change is all well and good, there are always best practices that should remain constant and carry through the years of teaching in a language classroom. Some of the suggestions for strategies not to lose included remembering the importance of the relationship with the students and gaining their trust so that they can be productive, being unrelenting in the use of/demand for the target language in class, always being positive and encouraging no matter how the students are doing, teaching grammar in context through the use of authentic resources so that it sticks, having students pick a goal that they are aiming for at the beginning of the year so the take control of their learning process, using games in all shapes and size to help students really connect to the language, making sure that there is always lots of talking going on in the target language 24/7, and lots more. And many teachers agreed with this sentiment from @BeckyTetzner when she said that, “Connecting with the kids & making them feel safe & comfortable in our class is still my first priority before anything else.”

@Mundodepepita made a great point when she reminded chatters that it’s important to, “Teach relevant content to [the given] age group – what they’re interested in, children’s culture, being little kid focused & centered.” Similarly, @burgespanish encouraged langchatters to remember to, “Make time to put first things first. Always believe [that] every student can succeed!

And last but not least, the one idea that every agreed on was to make sure that your students know that mistakes are OKAY and (actually) ENCOURAGED so that they can grow and be successful speakers/users of the target language.

Question 5: What are some changes that you aspire to make in the future?

Working for growth and being open to change need to be a part of any world language teacher’s line-up from year-to-year (or even class-to-class) in order to see success and growth happening in student’s language abilities.  Some changes that teachers shared that they’d like to try and make include designing more opportunities for meaningful communication with members of the target culture, moving towards being desk-less as much as possible, make the shift from accuracy based class to proficiency based, create deeper/more meaningful units (especially for novices), using more target language as much as possible, improve story-telling skills to incorporate more authentic resources, and lots more.

Several teachers mentioned their hope of switching the focus of their grading structure to communication (instead of memorization) and then being able to change their report cards to reflect student proficiency and growth. Another popular suggestion was to increase the use of internet applications to bring the world into the classroom, and find ways for students to connect with cultures and people using the target language outside of the classroom.

@magisterb480 summed up the overall feel for the answer of this question when he said, “This is the sign of a good teacher: always learning new things to implement every year, always changing things to suit our [students].”

Takeaways

This week, #langchat contributors took on the topic of adaption in the world language classroom and they had some great thoughts and feedback to share with the group. Takeaways included things like it may seem hard to implement new tools but it’s always worth it to experiment/see what happens, remembering that great teaching is a marathon (not a sprint), and that it’s important to keep making steps toward an acquisition-based classroom (but don’t stress if it’s not immediate, it does take time).

Several teachers pointed out that their main takeaway was the fact that they are grateful for the all the supports and help #langchat community offers on a weekly basis, and we agree!

Thank You!

A big round of applause to Amy (@alenord), Kris (@KrisClimer), Wendy (@MmeFarab), and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for teaming up to lead this week’s chat, and as always, thanks to everyone who takes the time to join these discussions every week. We hope that you continue to link up with #langchat as often as you are able – if the weekday chats on Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. ET don’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET instead!

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.

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