Category Archives: Classroom Procedures

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

I’m writing this post during the Covid-19 quarantine and distance learning.   Many teachers have had to figure out this new world of distance learning in a very short amount of time.  Though not ideal in many ways, I have had to discover new ways to keep language learning moving forward, or at the very least not regressing.  Thanks to social media and the many generous and insightful language teachers out there I have a long and inspiring list of apps, Websites and ideas to try.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get to them all.  Until now.  Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

I am using this time of reinvention to look into and implement these ideas that I have come across, but have not had the chance to implement.  One of these is Flip Grid.  Now that I am using it regularly to keep students engaged in all of the communication modes I can’t imagine not continuing to use it when we get back to the classroom.  Dare I say that I appreciate the opportunity to try out new things during this time.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

Flip Grid allows teachers to post a prompt, such as written questions, videos or images.  Students then simply click a record button and then begin recording a video response.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

When done, they can edit, work with filters and then submit.  The teacher can decide which of these functions to make available.  The teacher can then choose to make the videos viewable by the entire class or to keep them private and only viewable by the teacher.  Personally, I have used it both ways.  When only viewable by me I use the platform for an assessment (formative or summative) and make the videos available to the class when I want students to interact with each other.

There are lots of things that can be done directly on the Flip Grid Website, such as students leaving video comment or reactions to each other, leaving feedback on student videos and following student interactions.  Many of these features require students setting up an account.  That may be something that you are interested in doing.  I only use the video response feature and created unique usernames for each student in the class.  You can send them direct link to the grid (prompt) either through email or directly on Google Classroom.  Students just simply enter their username and they go right to the prompt.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

I’m also having students watch each others videos and answering questions that I create based on each individual video.  This is a way of keeping the communication modes alive.  Sometimes the videos are spontaneous responses and I have also had students read something that they wrote. These are the videos with more accurate language that I use for follow-up questions for the rest of the class to engage with.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom


Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

Also… “Flip Grid, which has 20 million users from all over the world, will now be completely free for schools; previously, the service cost $1,000 a year per school. The purchase will help Microsoft in its push against Google and Apple in the classroom.”

Worth a try at that price!

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching?

I like a good story.  Stories are interesting, intriguing and often capture and maintain our interest.  While I enjoy a good story or pleasant anecdote, I need more than a story of success and suggestion based on experience when I’m looking introspectively at my practice as a language teacher.

I actually like reading research that is conducted in applied linguistics and, more specifically, in the field of second language acquisition (SLA).  I quite enjoyed my graduate school days when we dove deep into empirical research and used it to inform our understanding of the cognition and social dynamics that govern learning a first or second language.  Who doesn’t like spending a little quality time with Krashen, Vygotsky, Swain, VanPatten or Asher?

While I do enjoy a good, quality, peer-reviewed, empirically sound research project I don’t always have the time, and, let’s be honest, the  focus, to read all about it.

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching? (French, Spanish)

OK.  Get ready for it.  This is the the type of thing that I get incredibly excited about….On an episode of Bill Van Patten’s podcast, Talkin’ L2 with BVP, a guest mentioned the Website OASIS .  It is quite remarkable what they provide and are able to produce.

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching? (French, Spanish)

OASIS summaries are one-page descriptions of research articles on language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The summaries provide information in accessible, non-technical language about each study’s goals, how it was conducted ,and what was found.  There are often ideas for using the information to inform classroom teaching as well.

Just use the search bar on the OASIS  Webiste to look for articles any topic of language acquisition of interest to you and you will soon have accessible research findings that allow you to move beyond anecdotal evidence.  Enjoy, and try not to fall down the rabbit hole.  I always do.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

There are often buzz words that come up in education. For the past ten years or so we have been talking about, exploring, redefining and doing our best to implement communicative language teaching. If you were asked to define what this is exactly, what would you say? It’s a methodology that we tend to understand best when we see it, and we are often very capable of pointing out what is not communicative language teaching.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?  (French, Spanish) Bill Van Patten

Bill Van Patten was instrumental in my graduate education in applied linguistics and second language acquisition. We often cited his research and used his books in a several classes. I’ve continued to follow his research, publications, and now, his weekly podcast Talkin’ L2 with BVP.

He continues to explore the nature of language and the most effective and efficient ways to teach and learn a second language. On a recent episode of the podcast he talked about recent, short, concise and rather concrete piece that he wrote in response to teachers’ requests for an approachable, understandable and actionable definition of communicative language teaching. He discussed and provided that he titled Tenets of Comprehension-based Language Teaching with a Focus on Communicative Ability.

In this Communicative Language Teaching “manifesto” BVP lays out five facts about language acquisition based on empirical research. He then provides five principles that should underlie contemporary language teaching where the focus is on communicative ability. This is the most useful resource that I have come across that defines communicative language teaching, what it is, why it exists and how these factors should drive our lesson planing, curriculum and goals.

“Who is it?” Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students

I put a few pictures of an activity that I did with my students on Facebook and Twitter.  There was a lot of interest and several teachers asked for the template so that they could do the activity with their students.  So, I figured it would be helpful to write a blog post about the activity and include the template.

"Who is it?" Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students (French, Spanish)

This activity is what I call “Who is it?” or “Guess who? ”  It is particularly useful for level 1 students who are in the novice mid-novice high range.  At this proficiency level students are typically using chunked language and are at the beginning stages of creating some language on their own as they swap out some details of the memorized language that they have acquired.  As a way to provide students with an opportunity to use this language authentically in reading and writing I created these “Who is it?” mini books.


Download a template for designing communicative activities with an example lesson.

The PDF includes directions for folding the paper along with templates to do the activity in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.

Students write in information about themselves on the topics of age, birthday, origin/ethnicity, preferences, free time activities and family.  What is not included is their name.  Once done classmates read the mini books of their classmates and try to guess who it is based on the information.  This adds authentic reading to the activity as well.  We also put the mini books on a bulletin board for other classes to engage with as well.

"Who is it?" Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students (French, Spanish)

On the back of the mini book students put a selfie so that readers can confirm their guess of who it is.  The addition of the selfie is a fun way to really get students excited.  We took the pictures in class and I just printed them out and students glued them to the back of the book.


The great thing about this project, besides the effective use of novice level language, is that it can all be done with one piece of paper that is folded to make the mini book.  This tactile part of the activity is also very motivating because students enjoy seeing the transformation of the paper into a mini book.

"Who is it?" Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students (French, Spanish)

The PDF includes directions for folding the paper along with templates to do the activity in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.

Download a template for designing communicative activities with an example lesson.


Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom

What comes to mind when you hear “Millennial” or “Gen Z?”  We all know that they get a bad rap.   Generations are different, and just like the Baby Boomers had to figure out how to teach the Gen Xers we need to look carefully at what we need to do to reach Millennials and Gen Zers.  Basically, it comes down to knowing that these generations want to know the value and use of what they are learning.  Let’s take a look at how to approach teaching languages to these generations and understand all they have to offer.

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

A quick review of the names of the generations over the past 70 years:

Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1964

Age in 2018: 54-72

Gen X

Born: 965-1985

Age in 2018: 33-53


Born: 1986-1995

Age in 2018: 23-32

Gen Z

Born: 1996- present

Age in 2018: 0-22

I learned a lot about the Millennials and Gen Z from the Millennial Impact Project (2015) & The Business of Good (Haber, 2016).  Haber’s book is about social entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who want to make a social difference with profits from their companies.  Looks like the Millennials and the Gen Z are approaching their employment with this goal.

Here are a few things that Haber writes about these these younger generations in The Business of Good:

“They don’t wait for taxis, they take Uber. They don’t wait for emails, they text. They don’t wait to work up the corporate ladder, they start their own business. It should come as no surprise that they have no interest in waiting to make a difference. It’s as if the generation has been hardwired to believe in the fierce urgency of now.”

OK, now that I’ve made the case for not giving them the bad rap that they get, let’s look at how we go about teaching this generation of elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students.

Let’s start by looking at the the brain and cognition.  Some of this data is adapted from the work of Dr. Bobb Darnell of Achievement Strategies, Inc. (  

Before the arrival of technology, Baby Boomer and Gen Xer brains :

  • were good at single-tasking
  • were able to sustain focus for long periods of time
  • were adept on concentrating for long periods of time

After the arrival of technology, Millennial and Gen Z brains:

  • are good at multi-tasking
  • can effectively navigate multiple input streams

It is through no fault of their own, but rather the reality of how their  brains are being wired for a certain kind of learning, that Millennials and Gen Zs have/are:

  • Shorter Attention Spans
  • Uncomfortable With Boredom
  • That Fierce Urgency of Now
  • Visually Preferred
  • Interactive and Hands-On
  • Love Challenge
  • Curious
  • Success Trough Strategy

So…what we do?  What are some ways to adapt our teaching, instruction, class routines, curriculum and relationships to the reality of the Millennial and Gen Z brain?Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

The PDF download includes tips and suggestions for…

  • dealing with shorter attention spans and being uncomfortable with boredomTeaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)
  • responding to the fierce urgency of now

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • preparing lessons and activities for students who are visually preferred

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • creating opportunities for interactive and hands-on learning experiences

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • adding challenge and elements of curiosity to classroom instruction

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • guiding students toward success through strategies

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) One other thing to consider….Are we, in fact,  listening to our students and providing what they need to be successful and proficiency speakers of the language that we teach?  If they were aware of what their brain needs (or read this post), they would say to us:

  • Challenge me.
  • Let me work with others.
  • Let’s have fun.
  • Be flexible.
  • Encourage me.
  • Make me curious.
  • Give me feedback.
  • Learn from me too.
  • Let me give you my ideas.
  • I need to know the goal.

It is never easy to understand the experience and lens of a generation that is seemingly so different from our own.  Our parents thought that we were going to be the demise of the world because we did things differently.  Many of us are repeating the same behavior with the younger generations that we teach.  Let’s break the cycle and celebrate all that our students have to offer.

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content

This is an activity that I have used with various proficiency levels.  It involves presentational writing and interpretive reading.  It can be used with on demand writing, that is writing that is generated in the moment and doesn’t go through a revision process, or polished writing that includes feedback and additional drafts.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Essentially students begin by responding to a prompt in writing and then the other students in the class read what their classmates wrote and write a response.  Depending on how lengthy the writing is students may be able to read almost all of their classmates writing and respond within one or two classes.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

This works particularly well when students are able to use language expressing opinions and agreeing or disagree with the writer.  I have students put their writing piece on their desk with a blank sheet of paper next to it.  Students then circulate and read their classmates’ writing and write a written response or reaction on the sheet next to it.  For novice level students they use chunked phrases such as “me too,” “not me,” “I also enjoy…,” I prefer….” when writing a reaction to novice level writing.  For Intermediate students they may begin by writing an opinion on a reading or a film and their classmates will write a response.  I have also had students write two reactions; one that is their own and then one that is in response an existing reaction.  This takes on the feeling of a social media thread.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Even if the original writing undergoes a feedback process, the written responses allow students to also do on demand writing and to write in response to other comments.  What the actual written responses and reactions look like will vary depending on what the original writing prompt is and the proficiency level of the class.  I have used this with novice and intermediate students with lots of success.  It take s bit more modeling with lower proficiency levels, but they are able to see how much they are able to write when the piece they are reading is at their level.  This is one of the benefits of using student-created content as the reading text.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Students like to get up an move and this allows them to do that in the classroom.  I use paper so that it is more tactile, but this type of activity could easily be done on a computer or even using Padlet.  As for a follow up activity, try a discussion of what different students read or of trends and consistencies.  Maybe ask  questions about what students learned.  Again, the type of follow up will vary based on the original writing prompt and proficiency level of the class.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Here is description of this activity that I recently did with a group of novice mid/high students.  I asked them to write a “paragraph” telling about themselves using any and all phrases, vocabulary and structures that they have acquired so far. This particular class is 6th grade and meets 3 times a week for 45-minutes.  Most of the class has reached novice high, though some are novice mid.  Students wrote their paragraphs in class with no access to technology or dictionaries for looking up words.

They focused on novice language topics such as personal info (age, name, where they live, who they live with,what they like to do, what sports/activities/school subjects they prefer). I gave some ideas of topics, but it was on demand writing, meaning all generated in the moment. For homework they typed it and added some photos. Because it is all student-generated, using vocabulary and structures that they have acquired, the reading is “at level” for classmates reading and commenting. If anything was unclear the images are there to assist.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Give this student-generated reading and writing activity a try.  It is very useful when moving the audience of student writing away from always being the teacher.

Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift. That Was Then. This Is Now.

The field of language teaching is always on the move.  Every decade or so there is an innovative way to approach language teaching.  For a recap of the language teaching methodologies that have surfaced over the past century take a look at this post.  Over the past decade many foreign language teachers have embraced communicative language teaching, which focuses on authentic communication over language forms such as grammar structures.

That Was Then. This Is Now. Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift (French, Spanish)

To be clear, a certain level of accuracy of language is needed to convey a message that is comprehensible.  The difference from methodologies of the past is that previous approaches to language teaching focused almost solely on accuracy of language.  These days we see the value in focusing on the message, even when that means looking past some errors when the learner has not yet acquired the language structure.  ACTFL has compiled a significant amount of research to support the the effectiveness of communicative language teaching.

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 in the past 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 approaches.

Here are four areas of this mindset shift that distinguish current communicative approaches from accuracy-centered approach of the past.

Objectives and Content:

  • Past: The teacher was the all-knowing possessor of knowledge and directed all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.
  • Present: The teacher works in collaboration with students and there are shared learning objectives.  Content is driven by both the teacher and the student.


  • Past: Typically communication was focused on the four traditional language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  This usually meant that these skills were practiced in isolation and were not interconnected.
  • Present: The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are now the focus.  They provide students with opportunities to do something with the four skills.


  • Past: The focus was on what students knew about the language and its structures.  Practice of correct grammatical forms of the language were typically done in isolation and out of context.
  • Present: The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language.  This is always tied to context and students communicate authentically with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is clear.


  • Past: Assessments determined the level of language accuracy and the teacher could easily and quickly point out what was incorrect, such as verb forms, noun gender, adjective agreement, etc.
  • Present: Assessments are performance-based.  Teachers use tools and strategies such as backwards design and Can-Do statements to guide students toward communication.

Where are you regarding your teaching mindset?  If you want to embrace communicative language teaching, take a look at the “present” mindset statements and see where you are.  It can take some time and a solid approach is always evolving.  It doesn’t have to happen this week.   Download this PDF with some questions to help keep your lesson planning in the “present.”

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive?

Approaches to teaching are always improving, or, maybe we should say changing.  When there is momentum behind a new, innovative or highly-supported methodology many of us get behind it and begin to implement it, as best we can at least.  Teachers are particularly prone to “buy-in” when we see colleagues (real or virtual) having some level of success with a new methodology.

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive? (French, Spanish)The wave of communicative language teaching is currently, and rightfully, the foreign language teaching methodology that is supported by the foreign language teaching community. This has helped put the teaching focus on guiding students toward authentically communicating rather than simply learning about the details of the language.

One of the biggest debates or challenges among the communicative language teaching community is the topic of grammar instruction.  There are lots of questions and concerns around this.  Should we teach grammar?  Should we only provide examples of language structure through comprehensible input? What is the “right” way to teach or expose students to grammar structures in a second language?  Implicit or explicit grammar instruction?

Some researchers in language acquisition and teachers claim that grammar should be taught explicitly, as rules.  Others point to the teaching of grammar implicitly, suggesting that students acquire language structure only through meaningful exposure in context.  As a result they create their own “language rules” implicitly rather than having the rules taught explicitly.  Let’s make sure we have a solid understanding of the two approaches to language instruction.

  • Deductive instruction is a “top-down” approach, meaning that the teacher starts with a grammar rule with specific examples, and the rule is learned through practice.
  • Inductive instruction is a “bottom-up” approach, meaning that the teacher provides examples of the structure in context and students make observations, detect patterns, formulate hypothesis, and draw conclusions. PACE Model is an example of this approach.

I prefer to move beyond anecdotal evidence and consider the benefits of the two types of grammar instruction as they are presented in language acquisition research.

Brown (2007):

  • “While it might be appropriate to articulate a rule and then proceed to instances, most of the evidence in communicative second language teaching points to the superiority of an inductive approach to rules and generalizations.”

Shaffer (1989) :

  • “Evidence against the notion of an inductive approach should not be used for difficult structures.”

So, where does this leave us?  As much as we as teachers would like one tried and true way we all know that teaching and education is mostly a mixture of effective techniques.  To this end here are some thoughts from Shaffer:

  • Implicit grammar instruction is effective for language structures that are regular and consistent as this allows students to observe patterns, make generalizations and form linguistic rules.
  • Explicit grammar instruction is more effective for language structures that are irregular, inconsistent and less commonly present in communicative language.

Ultimately it would seem that a varied approach is necessary depending on the regularity or irregularity of a the focus structure.  The important thing to keep in mind is the active engagement of the student in whichever process is used. The inductive approach lends itself to active engagement using a process such as the PACE Model.  When teaching irregular language feature deductively be sure to provide opportunities for students to use the structure communicatively and also provide additional comprehensible input activities that contain the focus structure.

Brown (2007).  Principles of Language Learning and Teaching.  Pearson Longman

Shaffer (1989).  A Conversation of Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Teaching Foreign Languages. The Modern Language Journal 73.4

Bloom’s (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom

 Alan Bloom’s taxonomy (1956)  is a classification system used to define and distinguish different levels of human cognition (thinking, learning, understanding). Teachers use Bloom’s taxonomy to guide assessments, curriculum, and instructional methods.

  • Knowledge: Learner’s ability to recall information
  • Comprehension: Learner’s ability to understand information
  • Application: Learner’s ability to use information in a new way
  • Analysis: Learner’s ability to break down information into its essential parts
  • Synthesis: Learner’s ability to create something new from different elements of information
  • Evaluation: Learner’s ability to judge or criticize information

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Benjamin Bloom’s classic 1956 learning taxonomy was revised and refined by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl in 2000.

  • Remember: Learner’s ability to recall information
  • Understand: Learner’s ability to understand information
  • Apply: Learner’s ability to use information in a new way
  • Analyze: Learner’s ability to break down information into its essential parts
  • Evaluate: Learner’s ability to judge or criticize information
  • Create/Design: Learner’s ability to create something new from different elements of information

Theses updates reflect of a more active thought process and include three main changes:

  • Category names were revised from nouns to verbs.
  • The last two stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy were switched so that evaluation (evaluating) comes before synthesis (creating).
  • The knowledge (remembering) category was updated to reflect four knowledge dimensions instead of three.

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

More specific to foreign language learning it is important to recognize that these skills are not a hierarchy, but are interrelated and dependent on each other to function most efficiently and effectively.  Language creation is dependent on understanding, analyzing, evaluating and applying knowledge.

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comHere are questions to use when creating tasks, activities & assessments in the world language classroom using the updated Bloom’s taxonomy categories:

  • Remember: Can the student recall or remember the information?
  • Understand: Can the student explain ideas or concepts?
  • Apply: Can the student use the information in a new way?
  • Analyze: Can the student distinguish between the different parts?
  • Evaluate: Can the student justify a stand or decision?
  • Create/Design: Can the student create or design a new product or point of view?

Download a pdf with a list of over 60 verbs to use when creating tasks, activities & assessments in the world language classroom using the updated Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl : A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York : Longman, ©2001.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom

Feedback is information that teachers provide to students regarding where they are, how they are performing, and what they need to work on to progress in their language proficiency.  We tend to think about feedback as only corrective in nature, but we also provide supportive and encouraging feedback.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

If video if better for you, take a look at this Facebook Live video that I did on the topic of effective feedback.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Feedback in the foreign language classroom can be looked at in three ways.  These three types of feedback are not given in isolation, but should be used together to provide information for language students who are working toward increased proficiency.


  • This involves encouragement and indication that the efforts on the part of the learner are paying off and helping them progress in language proficiency.  Motivation is an important part of language learning.  We as teachers need to find the progress (big and small) and point this out to our students.  If they see no progress in language learning they are likely to lose motivation.


  • Along with the appreciation and building motivation and confidence in our students, we also need to coach them in the process.  Just like an athletic coach who suggests different approaches and shows the path to the objective, we as language teachers should approach our language coaching in the same way.  This is not so much about correcting the language, but more a question of creating learner experiences in which learns can use the language they have and grow in proficiency.  We should guide their path to the goal, but they are responsible for making the goal on their own, just as a soccer player would do.


  • Our evaluation of language learners is feedback on where they are regarding their present proficiency level.  This is not about pointing out what is incorrect or inaccurate, but more a matter of concretely showing students where they are on their language learning journey.  This will also provide information about where to go and what to work on so that students can continue to grow in proficiency.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Teachers are often wondering what to do when they encounter learner language that is inaccurate.  Is this an opportunity for correction?  Is it useful?  Will it stick?  The answers to these questions depend on whether or not the learner has had sufficient input with the inaccurate structure or if it is an attempt at language creation. It is important to distinguish between and error and a mistake in learner language.

  • Mistakes are performance errors, where the learner has acquired the accurate form, but in a particular moment produces inaccurate language.
  • Errors occur in the learner’s interlanguage because a learner has not yet acquired the accurate form, and they are making a guess, often based on their native language and their current knowledge of the target language.

When students create with language and hypothesize a form or word in the moment and make an error we should use this information as an indication that students are “ready” for (i.e.need ) this structure in their language learning journey and we should then begin using the structure more often and providing comprehensible input.  In this situation we as teachers are getting the feedback that we need to adjust our instruction.

As teachers, we should focus language feedback on mistakes because this is what our students should be able to do in the target language.  If a student has had sufficient input and exposure to the structure and there is inaccuracy in the student language we then take on the role of coach.  This means that we create situations in which we guide the student toward the accurate structure.  Here are some suggestions for how to coach students in this situation.

  • Clarification requests : If there is a mistake in the vocabulary or verb form a question about the inaccurate wording brings attention to the error.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • Yesterday?
  • Elicitation: If you hear a mistake in the student language, repeat the sentence and pause at the place where the mistake was made.  This provides the learner with an opportunity to correct his own mistake by concentrating only on that word or structure.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • Yesterday, I….
  • Repetition: When there is a mistake repeat exactly what the learner said. Emphasize the mistake. This will indicate where the mistake is located, and gives the learner an opportunity to focus on that particular part of the output and, upon reflection, produce accurate language.
    • “I go to the store yesterday.”
    • I GO to the store yesterday?”

Providing effective feedback is one of the ACTFL Core Practices for effective language learning and instruction.  Use this post and the information to provide feedback to your students that will guide them toward a higher lever of language proficiency.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish)


Lyster, R. and Ranta, L. (1997) Corrective Feedback and Learner Uptake: Negotiation of Form in Communicative Classrooms. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 19, 37-66

Mantello, M. (1997) A Touch of…Class: Error Correction in the L2 Classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, Vol. 54, No. 1.

Truscott, J. (1999) What’s Wrong with Oral Grammar Correction. Canadian Modern Language Review Vol.55, No. 4.

Yamamoto, S. (2003) Can Corrective Feedback Bring About Substantial Changes in  The Learner Interlanguage System? Columbia Teachers College, Working Papers in TESOL and Applied Linguistics.