Category Archives: Classroom Procedures

Differentiation in the Language Classroom

Every teacher knows that in any classroom there are many student needs.  A “one size fits all” approach to learning and teaching is just not effective.  The word we use, and often hear about, is differentiation.

We know that we should be doing it, but what do understand what it is, particularly regarding teaching language?

Take look at these graphics from ASCD:

Now that you have a solid idea of what differentiated instruction is and isn’t, let’s turn our attention to doing this effectively in the language classroom.

First we’ll consider how we differentiate.  There are two ways to break this down.  One is focused on the teacher (instruction) and the other is focused on the student (learning).

Teacher

  • Content: What is learned
  • Process: How it’s learned
  • Product: What is produced

Student

  • Readiness
  • Interest
  • Learning Profile

Here are a few articles that go into more details with these possibilities.

Another useful concept for employing differentiation in the language classroom:

Here are some resources for using these approaches when teaching in the language classroom:

As with any teaching suggestions…there is a lot to consider and take in.  I wouldn’t try to do it all at once.  Pick a focus area, work on it, modify as needed, try it  again, and move on to another suggestion when you’re satisfied with the results.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom

ACTFL provides us with Core Practices that guide teachers toward teaching language proficiency rather than simply teaching about the target language.  It comes down to providing students with opportunities to do something with the language and not just demonstrate what they know about the language.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom; French, Spanish

When we take on the task of providing opportunities for students to engage with culture ACTFL recommends using authentic cultural resources.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom; French, Spanish

What is an authentic cultural resource? 

  • Eileen W. Glisan and Richard Donato explain that “Authentic texts […] are created for various social and cultural purposes by and for users of the target language.”  The word authentic implies that “the text has not been simplified or edited for the purpose of language instruction.”

How do I choose authentic cultural resources? 

Leslie Grahn suggests that these resources should be:

  • Authentic (truly for by and or native speakers)
  • Appealing (compelling to students)
  • Accessible (according to the students’ proficiency level)
  • Aligned (integrated into goals and backward planning)

What are some possibilities for authentic cultural resources? 

  • Video clips
  • Poems
  • Audio clips
  • Songs
  • Articles
  • Commercials
  • Infographics
  • Books
  • Podcasts
  • Advertisements
  • Images
  • Memes
  • Quotes
  • Movies
  • Stories
  • Conversations

One of the best pieces of advice that I have heard regarding using authentic cultural resources is from Leslie Grahn:

“Adapt the task, not the text.”

NCSSFL ACTFL Intercultural Can Do Statements

It is now commonly understood that language and culture are inextricably connected.  Every language is used within a culture and every culture involves communication in at least one language.  These two concepts of language and culture cannot exist in isolation, but rather influence and depend on each other.

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can Do Statements were originally published with a focus on authentic communication and were a useful guide for language teachers to make sure that the students were using the language in communicative contexts.  The Intercultural Can Do Statements were published a few years later.  In addition to the goal of language proficiency they now include competencies for investigating and engaging in the various cultures where the language is used.

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFLIntercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

  • They now include these goals for investigating and interacting with culture:

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

  • There are also specific goals by proficiency level that dive into further detail:

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

By following the communicative goals along with the intercultural goals we are moving our students toward a stronger CQ (Cultural Intelligence).  This will provide the skills and insight to navigate, interact and behavior appropriately and respectfully in cultures that are different from their own.

Download the NCSSFL-ACTFL Intercultural Can Do Statements  and the Reflection Tool.

 

Digital Can Do Statements in the Language Classroom

Can Do Statements are essential to backwards design.  They are what keep us focused on what our students will be able to do with the language they are learning.

I wanted to find ways for students to use the statements actively and regularly throughout a unit.  I’ve used various paper versions, but I took on the task of finding a way to do this digitally and in a way that lets me check in on student progress at any time.

I initially started with a Google Form, but the data was only available to me, not to students once they submitted it.  I then moved on to several versions using Google Sheets.  This is the one that has worked the best.

The sheet is set up with the Can Do Statements for the unit.

As we progress through the unit, students choose their current ability to meet the objective by choosing from the drop-down menu to the right of the statement.

I have the responses set to change color for easy identification.

When students choose “with confidence” they type in an example to show that they can meet the statement objective.

When shared through Google Classroom I set the assignment to make a copy for each student and then I can check in on their progress individually.  I have been particularly impressed with the conversations about proficiency that come up.  Students take an active role in concretely understanding where they are and what they need to do to level up and meet the goal.

It took some time to figure out how to best do the drop down menu and have the cells change color, but I eventually figured it out.  Good news is that you can can copy the Google Sheet directly to your Google Drive.

Are We Speaking Our Students’ Language?

How many times have we done our best to come up with scenarios and role plays that may or may not be applicable to the everyday lives of our students?  Where are they reading, writing, speaking and communicating?  Social media is certainly one place.  I put together a template for Instagram™ photos and stories and students write their own descriptions of photos and comment on their classmates’ posts.  I even added on opportunities to “post” Instagram™ Story videos.

I can’t actually use social media platforms with my students, so I created Google Slides™ where they insert photos and videos with descriptions into a template.

This link will make a copy in your Google Drive™ of the template that I created. 

This digital activity that works well if teaching in school or remotely.

Virtual World Language Classrooms (with or without Bitmojis)

I’m sure that you have seen Bitmojis™ around the Web.  If they are new to you they are little cartoon versions of yourself, which are used on social media, in texts, or in a virtual classroom spaces. You just create an avatar that resembles you, and there are lots of options from which to choose once you are all set up.Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without BitmojisWhen we entered into distance learning teachers began creating virtual classrooms. They are shared with students as a go-to spot for resources and assignments or as a screen share when conducting synchronous lessons on platforms such as Zoom™ and Google Meet™.  Teachers then add their Bitmoji™ avatars to the virtual classroom to personalize the space.  This is a good video tutorial that walks you through creating your own Virtual or Bitmoji™ classroom.Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without BitmojisI have seen many versions of these classrooms being used by world language teachers.  It appears that there is not any particular version that is the the best way. Some options include:

  • Posters with functional junks
  • Audio or music resources library
  • Movie or video clip links
  • Book (pdf or Web link) library
  • Escape rooms
  • Posting daily agendas
  • Posting tasks and instructions
  • Choice board links
  • Do Nows or Quick Questions
  • Conversation or topic hooks and class openers

The possibilities are as endless…anything we do in our physical classrooms can happen in our virtual classroom, provided we can digitize it.

I created a Bitmoji™ classroom a few weeks back and asked by PLN friends on Twitter and in my Facebook Group for feedback.  The most common feedback was that there was too much stimuli and too much going on.  I needed to pare it down to focus on one activity or task at a time.  I started with this version.

Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without Bitmojis

I then made templates of the same room with a task-specific focus.  For examples these are classrooms I use for conversation or topic hooks and class openers.

Who is our guest today?  Students ask questions to try to figure out who the special guest behind the door is.  There are prompts posted to support the question process.  When students figure it out I have the animation set to make the door disappear revealing the guest.  This can be a celebrity, a person from school, a character in a story or book…anyone with a connection to the topic of the day to get students thinking about the topic.

Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without Bitmojis

What’s in the box?  This works just like the previous activity, but instead of a person it is an object in a box.  Again, students ask questions to try to figure out what is in the box.  There prompts posted to support the question process.  When students figure it out I have the animation set to make the box disappear revealing the object.  This can be anything with a connection to the topic of the day to get students thinking about the topic.

Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without Bitmojis

Where are we? For this opener the window is linked to Window Swap. This is Website that shows views from windows all around the world that people submit to the website.  The views change each day and there are multiple options to click through.  While this does not work as direct hook to the topic of the day, it is an engaging way to get students talking and describing what they see, who might live there, and they can also learn the names of countries and cities in the target language.

We would all love to see what you are doing with your virtual classroom.  Please share on Twitter and be sure to tag @wlclassroom.  Looking forward to seeing all the great spaces.

Suggestions for Foreign Language Choice Board Options

I recently wrote a post about using choice boards in the foreign language class. I included 2 ways to use Google Slides and Forms to show 9 options that include the three communication modes and choices around learning style.  You can read that post here and copy the template to your Google Drive.

Suggestions for Foreign Language Choice Board Options (French, Spanish)

The organizational part is step one, then we need to figure out what the actual choices are.  I compiled suggestions for each option below.  Since the choice board template is designed to be used for any language, theme or proficiency level I am keeping the suggestions and resources general so that you can easily adapt them to the content that you are focusing on in your classes.  Hopefully this list will spark some ideas and make the process of creating choice boards more manageable.

Nuts and Bolts:

1-Way Speaking:

  • Flip Grid
  • Vocaroo
  • Ad for Podcast
  • Ad for YouTube Channel
  • Voicemail
  • Movie Talk-watch a video clip with no sound and tell what happens
  • Describe picture or story or storyboard

Writing:

  • Create an Ad
  • Make an Infographic
  • Write a quiz
  • Make a Storyboard and write what happens
  • Comic strip
  • Write an Email
  • Write a text
  • Social media post
  • Movie Write -watch a clip with no sound and write what happens

2-Way Speaking:

  • Sign up for in-person or Zoom, one-on-one or small group
  • Role play
  • Themes in advance
  • Record (audio or video)

Listening:

Reading:

  • Websites
  • Book
  • Articles
  • Infographics
  • Lingro
  • Classmates’ writing

Art, Music, etc.:

  • Paint and describe (write or speak)
  • Draw and describe (write or speak)
  • Sculpt and describe (write or speak)
  • Write song lyrics

Web Activities:

 

Picture1

Culture:

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

There is increasing research that shows that learner independence builds confidence and increases academic performance and language proficiency. I have seen an increase in choice boards among language teachers on social media.  These boards provide students with options of how to learn and practice content or a skill.  They also encourage students to be more responsible, accountable and independent as they work at their own pace. In a time of remote/distance/hybrid learning these choice boards are a great way to keep students engaged in or out of the school building.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

As I took on this challenge of implementing choice boards I soon realized that the challenge comes in the organization and keeping track of assignments. When students are completing different assignments at various times how do I manage it all?  So, I took to Twitter to ask teachers how they do this in their classrooms.  There were great suggestions from generous teachers all over the country.  I compiled responses and got to work creating two versions of choice boards.  One uses Google Slides and the other uses Google Slides and Forms.  There are apps, Websites and platforms out there that do this sort of thing for a fee, but I wanted to find a way that uses Google (Classroom) that does not require yet another username and password… and does not have an annual cost associated with it.

Be sure to look at this post if you would like to see ideas for each of the options.

The choice board is the same for both versions.  It is the way students submit work that differs.  Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

There are 9 options on the choice board, which include the communication modes as well as culture, Web activities and art, music, etc.  There is also a “nuts and bolts” option which all students begin with.  This is for initial presentation of content through comprehensible input.  This is all done in a Google Slide presentation that is shared with students so that they each have their own copy.  In this first version all work is put on the corresponding slides either as an image or a link to a Google doc.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

 

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

This second version begins with the same choice board in Google Slide format, but there are links to Google Forms to submit work. Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Be sure to take a look at this follow-up post that has ideas and suggestions for the choice board options. I hope you have success with choice boards and that these templates help to make it a little more manageable for you.

Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive

Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level

If you teach multiple grade levels, or various proficiency levels, you probably like to find an activity or project that can be used across levels.  I would like to share a project with you that you can use with novice and intermediate learners.  It is essentially the same concept. It differs only in how students engage with the content that they produce.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (french, Spanish)

Students create a time capsule that is a snapshot of their life over the past year.  I typically do this as the school year, so you will see 2019-2020 in the examples.  I have students do this digitally in Google slides.  I have seen in done in a journal as well with pictures and writing glued to the pages.  While the tactile nature and opportunities for creative design are more apparent with the physical product I find that that it is logistically easier to manage when it is digital.

Students begin by responding to prompts in the target language.

  • Name:
  • Town/City:
  • Birthday:
  • Age:
  • Personal adjectives (3) to describe yourself:
  • Family (name, age, relation):
  • Gratitude (3 things you are thankful for or appreciate):
  • School:
  • Teachers and Subjects:
  • Friends :
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Music:
    •  Song:
    • Singer:
  • Film/TV/Netflix/Amazon :
    • Favorite Move or TV Program:
    • Favorite Actress or Actor:
  • Reading
    • Favorite Book:
    • Favorite Writer:

Once these are done students find pictures to go along with each of these topics and put them in google slides.  I provide the template and they fill it in.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

The final step is where the projected is differentiated by proficiency level. You can see a review of proficiency levels here.

Novice mid to novice high students write about what is “in” their time capsule and these sentences go on each slide with the images.  At this level I usually provide sentence starters as well, such as “My favorite actress is…” or ” My math teacher is…”  At this proficiency level the work is done in the present.Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

Novice high to intermediate low students write as if they were opening the time capsule in five years and write about they did, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. five years ago. For languages with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to distinguishing between the preterite and imperfect.  Students at this level tend (in my experience) to be better with the preterite. For the sentences that would require the imperfect I typically provide sentence starters. 
Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)Intermediate low to intermediate mid students write as if they were opening the time capsule in fifty years and writing about they used to do, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. fifty years ago. For language with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to using the preterite and imperfect accurately, and it provides an effective way to contextualize the tenses.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

I also include a speaking component.  Once students are done with the time capsule, and are very familiar with all of the content, I set up time for them to have a 5-minute discussion with me about their time capsule.

 

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

As I write this post many of us are teaching remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  I have been using Zoom to teach and communicate with students.  One of the features is breakout rooms where students can be put into small groups. Other platforms offer similar possibilities.  I was trying to find a way to see what groups are doing in real time in addition to popping in and out of each group.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

I saw on Twitter that Rebecca Blouwolf, ACTFL Teacher of the Year, was trying out using shared Google docs during breakout group time.  I have known Rebecca for over 20 years and I respect her so much.  We started our teaching career together and I have been very impressed with all that she has accomplished.  When I saw what she was doing with Google docs I knew that I had to look into it.

My first iteration looked like this.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

I shared the doc (I used Google sheets) with all students and groups worked collectively in the same document.  I was able to see what they were entering in real time and could write a message to all of the groups (broadcast message in Zoom) when I saw saw some common inaccuracies or I could go into an individual group when I wanted to support them verbally.  There was one problem with this, they were all doing the same questions and could see each other’s responses.  It didn’t seem to be much of an issue, but I wanted to give each group different prompts while all working in the same shared document.  I could have shared different documents with each group, but that would mean looking at different documents.  I wanted the individual group work all together so that I could  see what all groups are doing at once.

So, I got back to work. This is the second iteration and the version that I have been using successfully.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

This allows for different prompts for each group (blue column), while being able to see all responses in real time. Atelier means “workshop” in French and the is the word I use with students for “breakout room.”  They type their group responses to the right of the prompts in blue.  In addition to text, groups can insert images in response to a prompt or a link to audio or a video that that they record or through search.  My initial intent was to use this to see work done in real time in Zoom breakout rooms, but I’m envisioning using this for asynchronous (not in real time) student work as well. Though this is a work-around during a crisis, I plan to continue using it when we are back in the physical classroom.

If you would like to us this with your students, make sure that you share one document with the entire class and allow editing when sharing a Google doc. For ease of formatting I use a Google Sheet, but you can do this with any of the Google doc options.  I tell students that they can delete  it out of their Google account when done so that it is not yet another document taking up space.  I have the original with all of their responses….another benefit of having it all in one place.  You can also have a spot for groups to put their names in  next to the the breakout room.  I keep track on my own.

This link will make a copy of the breakout room document in your Google Drive (just like assigning  to students in Google Classroom)  and you can modify it for your own personal use.  This is a work in progress for me.  I’d love to see and hear about what works for you.