Category Archives: Classroom Procedures

18: Make Your Can Do Statements Communicative


In this episode we are talking about Can Do Statements.  Are yours truly communicative and proficiency-based, allowing students to show what they can do with the language?

We discuss:

  • what the ACTFL Can Do Statements are and why they were created
  • the Intercultural Can Do Statements
  • how to write an effective Can Do Statement that is rooted in the proficiency level of your class
  • what makes a Can Do Statement communicative
  • examples for modifying Can Do Statements to make them more communicative

Links mentioned in this episode:

Let’s work together, either in person or remotely.

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17: Increasing Student Motivation with Tracy E. Rucker


In this episode we are talking all about student motivation in the language classroom.  Where does it come from?  How can we motivate students?

I’m joined by Tracy E. Rucker, a widely respected and insightful French teacher, who walks us through his personal experience with student motivation and offers some actionable advice for all language teachers.

Tracy talks about:

  • what we need to understand about motivation
  • how we know when a student is motivated to complete a task, and not just complying
  • actionable ways that teachers can motivate students
  • obstacles to motivating students that teachers can plan for proactively

Connect with Tracy E. Rucker on Twitter.

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What is Communicative Language Teaching?

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

This is a question that comes up often.  It is a term that we hear as language teachers and maybe even use it to describe our classroom.  But, do we have a solid understanding of what it is?

Let’s take a look.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

the research

There is considerable research being conducted and published on effective ways to teach and learn language.  At the forefront of this work is Dr. Bill VanPatten, a linguist whose work focuses on second language acquisition. Through his own extensive research as well as compiling studies done by other linguists and educators, Dr. VanPatten concludes these points:

  • Language is an abstract and complex mental representation that bears no resemblance to textbook rules and charts.
  • Language acquisition is largely controlled by unconscious mechanisms internal to the learner.
  • In order to develop a linguistic system, learners must be exposed to language (input) embedded in communicative events and comprehensible in nature.
  • Communicative ability develops as a result of participation in communicative events.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

communicative language teaching

There are three concepts of communicative language teaching that set it apart form more traditional approaches:

  1. The focus is on communicating and doing something with the language as opposed to practicing isolated language features out of context.
  2. It is student-centered as opposed to teacher-centered. Students create with language rather than having the language explained to them.
  3. The approach is focused on understanding the message being conveyed by students despite inaccuracy in language form. This is a change from focusing on correct usage of language structures and only secondarily tending to the message.

communicative classroom

There has been a significant shift in mindset along with the arrival of communicative language teaching.  Previous methodologies focused on what learners did wrong rather than on their progress.  The goal was complete accuracy along with the belief that a speaker would not be understood if the language was not completely correct.  We now accept that communication can happen despite occasional inaccuracy.  This is the base of the difference in mindset, or underlying tenets that support the communicative approach.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

Examples of a communicative classroom

Objectives and Content:

Non-Communicative:

  • The teacher is the all-knowing possessor of knowledge who directs all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.

Communicative:

  • The teacher works in collaboration with students with shared learning objectives.

Communication:

Non-Communicative:

  • The communication is focused on the four traditional language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) in isolation and not interconnected.

Communicative:

  • The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are represented and focused on what the learner does with the four skills.

Performance:

Non-Communicative:

  • The focus is on what students know about the language and its structures. There is only practice of correct grammatical aspects of the language in isolation and out of context.

Communicative:

  • The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language. There is authentic communication with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is conveyed.

Assessment in a communicative classroom

Assessments focus on what students can do with the language. Communicative assessment characteristics:

  • Students create a product or do a demonstration
  • Graded more holistically
  • Focus is on completing a task
  • Tasks are situation-based or use real-world content
  • Higher-level thinking skills of application, integration, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation

These are common assessment activities that focus on what students can do with language.

  • Complete the sentence logically
  • State your opinion, thoughts, or comments
  • Give personal answers
  • Create a situation
  • Seek information
  • Develop a product, e.g. advertisement, brochure, collage, poem, song, essay, video, etc.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge
  • Summarize, paraphrase
  • Change the ending

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

You might also want to listen to me talk through this on an episode of the World Language Classroom Podcast.

Resources:

Lee, J. F., & VanPatten, B. (2003). Making communicative language teaching happen.

VanPatten, B. (2003). From input to output: A teacher’s guide to second language acquisition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Van Patten, B. (2014). Creating Comprehensible Input and OutputThe Language Educator, 7(4), 24-26.

Krashen, Stephen D., and Tracy D. Terrell. “The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom.” (1983).

Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-158.

VanPatten, B., & Fernández, C. (2003). The long-term effects of processing instruction. In Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary (pp. 277-293). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Equity & Social Justice in the World Language Classroom

The world language classroom is certainly a place where we can highlight and embrace equity, equality and social justice.  Given that we engage in discussions of cultural almost every day we should keep this equity lens front and center. Before we even begin to think about language learning, or learning of any kind, we need to create welcoming classroom environments where every student feels safe, valued and understood for who they are.

Social Justice in the World Language Classroom

I’ve been familiar with the work and publications of Teaching Tolerance for many years.  Despite the good work of the organization I have always had a problem with the word “tolerance.”  It seems like such a low bar.  I was very happy to see that they decided to change their name to Learning for Justice.  So much better.

There are lots of resources on the LFJ website.  One that I think we can all use in the language classroom is the Social Justice Standards and Anti-Bias Framework.  They are set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes divided into four domains—Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action.  The anchors provide common language and they guide teachers and administrators as they seek to make schools more just, equitable and safe.

I particularly appreciate how the standards are leveled for K–12 education.  They remind me of how the ACTFL Can Do Statements are organized.

There are 5 anchor standards for each domain. Social Justice in the World Language ClassroomThen there are grade level and developmentally appropriate outcomes and goals for each anchor. Here is an example of the goals for the Action Anchors for grades 9-12. Social Justice in the World Language Classroom

It is interesting to track a goal through the developmental levels. Let’s take #17 under Action for example:

17. Students will recognize their own responsibility to stand up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

K-2:  I can and will do something when I see unfairness—this includes telling an adult.

3-5: I know it’s important for me to stand up for myself and for others, and I know how to get help if I need ideas on how to do this.

6-8: I know how to stand up for myself and for others when faced with exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

9-12: I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

You can see the progression from “can do something,” and “know how to get help” to “stand up for myself and others” and “take responsibility.”  The outcomes and goals make the anchors very concrete and understandable.

Since we are often in the proficiency-level head space these Social Justice Standards blend well, particularly in the language classroom where we have infinite opportunities to take on issues of equity and equality.

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 my 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.