Category Archives: Cultural Exploration

Preparing for AP Success Beginning at the Novice Level

Do you have AP language classes in your program?  When do you begin focusing on the linguistic and cultural competence skills that students will need to succeed at this level? A Pre-AP focus can be quite beneficial in the language learning process, fostering critical skills and mindsets early on. Whether students pursue a language at the AP level or not, these skills not only enhance and support academic success, but  they also cultivate confidence and competence.

Preparing for AP Success Beginning at the Novice Level (French, Spanish)

Let’s look at the benefits of integrating Pre-AP strategies and curriculum into language program curriculum and objectives. These provide students with a strong foundation for their language learning pursuit.  They will be well-equipped to succeed in an AP class, or, if they don’t follow that route, they will still have the skills needed to communicate effectively and with confidence.

Building Strong Language Foundations

To pave the path for success, emphasizing core language skills—Interpersonal Speaking Interpretive Listening and Reading, Presentational Speaking and Writing—is pivotal in lower-level classes. These skills are the foundation of language proficiency and serve as the building blocks for advanced language studies. Incorporating authentic resources, such as news articles, videos, and podcasts, enriches language learning experiences. Students greatly benefit from exposure to real-world materials, providing a glimpse into how language operates in authentic contexts.

Cultivating Critical Thinking

Even at lower proficiency levels, cultivating critical thinking skills is attainable. In lower-level classes, introduce basic analysis and synthesis abilities. For instance, encourage students to analyze short texts or compare different viewpoints on straightforward topics. Questioning techniques play a pivotal role in promoting critical thinking. Pose thought-provoking questions that urge students to delve deeper into a text’s meaning, nurturing thoughtful discussions and enhancing overall comprehension.

Integrating AP Themes in Lower-Level Classes

Delaying the exploration of AP themes until AP classes is not necessary.

Beauty and Aesthetics

  • At lower proficiency levels, you can introduce discussions on topics like art, music, and cultural expressions. Challenge students to describe a famous painting using simple vocabulary and then compare their interpretations.

Science and Technology

  • Basic science and technology-related vocabulary can be introduced . Have students read simplified news articles about technological advancements and discuss their implications in the target language.

Personal and Public Identities

  • Exploring personal interests and identities is relevant at any proficiency level. In a straightforward “About Me” presentation activity, students can introduce themselves and share their hobbies.

Families and Communities

  • Family structures and communities are universal topics that can be discussed even with basic language skills. Encourage students to create posters representing a community event or a family gathering.

Global Challenges

  • Basic global challenges, like environmental issues, can be introduced in lower-level classes. For instance, students can engage in dialogues discussing simple ways to contribute to solving these challenges.

Contemporary Life

  • Everyday life topics are relatable for all learners. Consider a role-play activity where students simulate common situations like ordering food at a restaurant using basic conversational phrases.

Differentiation and Inclusion

Acknowledge the diverse learning needs in your classes. Implement strategies that cater to various learning styles and skill levels. Tiered assignments serve as an excellent approach to adapting tasks to different proficiency levels, challenging advanced learners while providing extra support for those who require it.

Your Turn…

The advantages of focusing on these “AP skills” extends beyond advanced content; it lays a solid foundation for language learners. By integrating these strategies and curriculum into lower-level classes, educators equip students with the tools and mindset required for success in advanced language courses. Try out these suggestions and tailor them to your unique classroom contexts as you empower students to grow in proficiency and reach higher levels of cultural competence.

Pecha Kucha in the Language Classroom, At All Levels

Are you familiar with Pecha Kucha?  It’s a Powerpoint or Google Slides presentation style that originated in Japan and it is known for its concise, visually engaging format. It’s an excellent tool for building presentational speaking skills and boosting confidence.

Pecha Kucha in the Language Classroom, At All Levels.  French, Spanish.  Presentational Speaking.

How does Pecha Kucha work?

Pecha Kucha, which means “chit-chat” in Japanese, involves creating a presentation with precisely 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds. This unique format challenges students to be concise, organized, and creative in their delivery. The ultimate goal is to present a dynamic presentation lasting six minutes and 20 seconds.  Typically the presenter sets a Powerpoint or Google Slide to advance every 20 seconds to keep the timing consistent. There are only images on the slides and no words.  Students should have ample time to practice on their own with a partner before sharing with a larger group.  You can have students do their Pecha Kucha for a small group of 4-5 or the entire class.

Benefits of Pecha Kucha

  • Speaking Confidence: Pecha Kucha challenges students to speak clearly and confidently within time constraints, boosting their self-assurance.
  • Vocabulary Expansion: It encourages the use of diverse vocabulary related to the chosen topic, expanding their language proficiency.
  • Improved Organization: Students learn to structure their thoughts logically, enhancing their communication skills.
  • Visual Engagement: Incorporating images not only reinforces language concepts but also adds a dynamic element to the presentation.

Adapting Pecha Kucha to Proficiency Levels

For novice and intermediate proficiency levels, you might want to begin with fewer slides and shorter durations. Let’s Look at Pecha Kucha for different proficiency levels.

Novice Mid to High: At this stage, students are building their foundational language skills. Pecha Kucha can start with as few as five slides, with each slide lasting 10-15 seconds. Here are some topic ideas and examples:

  • My Family: Include pictures of family members and use basic vocabulary to introduce them. For instance, “This is my sister, Marisol. She is 20 years old.”

Pecha Kucha in the Language Classroom, At All Levels.  French, Spanish.  Presentational Speaking.

  • My Hobbies: Show images related to interests, such as sports, music, or art. Encourage students to use phrases like “I like” or “I enjoy” to express their preferences.

Pecha Kucha in the Language Classroom, At All Levels.  French, Spanish.  Presentational Speaking.

Intermediate Low to Mid: At this stage, students have a firmer grasp of the language, allowing for more complexity. You can increase the number of slides to 10-15, with each slide lasting 15-20 seconds. Here are examples:

  • Travel Destinations: Share pictures of famous places and discuss why they want to visit them. Encourage the use of descriptive language and future tense, e.g., “I will visit Paris because it’s beautiful.”

Pecha Kucha in the Language Classroom, At All Levels.  French, Spanish.  Presentational Speaking.

  • A Day in My Life: Describe their typical day, incorporating past, present, and future tenses. Include images of various activities, such as waking up, going to school, and spending time with friends.

Pecha Kucha in the Language Classroom, At All Levels.  French, Spanish.  Presentational Speaking.

Language Use in Pecha Kucha

Emphasize the use of relevant vocabulary, verb tenses, and connectors while presenting. Encourage students to incorporate phrases like “First, then, next, finally” to structure their presentations. Provide feedback on pronunciation, fluency, and correct word usage to help them improve.

What do the listeners do?

  • Provide listening students with a template or worksheet where they can jot down key points, interesting phrases, or questions during the presentations. This will help them stay focused and retain information.
  • If listening students have questions about what they heard during the presentations, provide an opportunity for them to seek clarifications from the presenters. This promotes interactive learning and communication within the classroom.
  • After each presentation, ask listening students to share their understanding of what their classmate discussed. This can be done individually or in small groups.
  • Listening students can compare their notes with their peers to see if they captured the same key points. This can lead to interesting conversations and collaborative learning.
  • Initiate a class discussion where listening students can share their thoughts on the presentations they observed. Encourage them to express what they found interesting, challenging, or informative.

Final Thoughts on Pecha Kucha

Incorporating Pecha Kucha into your world language classroom offers an exciting way to foster presentational speaking proficiency, creativity, and confidence. Whether students are just starting out or have been studying for a few years, this method can be tailored to their level, ensuring continuous growth and engagement in their language learning journey!

88: Representation in the Language Classroom with Kia D. London

How do we bring the diversity of cultures of the target language into our classrooms?  In this episode, we are talking about how to do just that.  Kia D. London, a Spanish teacher in Chicago, speaks with me about how she brings the afro-latino diaspora to her students in the classroom. Kia has lots to share from how she came to understand and appreciate the diversity of cultures to how she provides this experience to her students.

Topics in this Episode:

  • Kia’s personal connection to the Spanish Language and Afro-Latino Culture
  • Kia’s Cuba trip and what she learned from that experience
  • why representation of racial and ethnically diverse content is vital in the language classroom
  • why “one-off” lessons around representation of racial and ethnically diverse content are less effective and why should consistency should be the goal
  • examples of centering representation and diverse racial and ethnic content from Kia’s classroom and curriculum
  • how to do this consistently while also engaging students authentically
  • what Kia has personally seen as a result of centering diversity and representation in her classroom and curriculum

Connect with Kia D. London:

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87: Personal and Teacher Identity with Jenniffer Whyte

How can we bring authentic cultural experiences to our students? In this episode, I’m joined by teacher and podcast host Jenniffer Whyte, who speaks with me about her experience as a self-described “Afro-Latina teacher in the Rural South.” She also has a podcast aptly titled Afro-Latina teacher in the Rural South. Jenniffer Whyte tells us about her teaching journey through Florida, Georgia and Alabama and how she got more comfortable bringing her authentic self into the classroom, and then decided to start a podcast to connect with other teachers. 

Topics in this Episode:

  • Jenniffer’s journey from the Dominican Republic to the Rural South
  • what Jenniffer has learned about yourself while navigating life in the Dominican Republic, NYC, Miami, Atlanta and now Anniston, Alabama
  • how Jenniffer brings her Afro-Latina identity and lived experience into her classroom and how this benefits her students and representation overall
  • what led Jenniffer to start a podcast specifically focused on the Afro-Latina experience, and particularly that experience in the rural south
  • what Jenniffer hopes that listeners get out of her podcast episodes

Connect with Jenniffer Whyte:

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Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me on the podcast.
We record conversations remotely, so you can be anywhere.

78: Seeing, Hearing & Tasting Culture with Allison Perryman

What is culture and how do you engage your students in cultural topics?  In this episode, we are looking at culture, but with a lens of seeing, hearing and tasting so that culture comes alive for students in the classroom.  Allison Perryman, a Spanish teacher in Virginia, joins me to talk us through how she uses the senses to engage students in the diversity of target language cultures. We also talk about why it is beneficial to honor our students’ individual lived experiences as they approach their language and culture learning.

Topics in this Episode:

  • what culture is and how culture can be an entry point for student engagement
  • why it is necessary, and ultimately incredibly beneficial, to talk about diversity in the language classroom and how can we use this as an opportunity to affirm students
  • formats for presenting and engaging students in diverse cultural experiences
  • Allison’s approach of seeing, tasting and hearing diverse cultures with students

Connect with Allison Perryman:

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Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me on the podcast.
We record conversations remotely, so you can be anywhere.

33: Integrating Can Do’s and Social Justice Standards with Cécile Lainé

In this episode we discuss the Learning For Justice Social Justice Standards, incredibly necessary topics in the language classroom.  One of the biggest hurdles is addressing the topics of Identify, Diversity, Justice and Action in the target language.  We do not have to put our language objectives aside when these topics come up.  We can integrate them into our Can Do’s.  Cécile Lainé, a French teacher in Tennessee, joins me to talk through the Social Justice Standards with suggestions for integrating them into our Can Do Statements.

Cécile speaks about…

  • what the Learning For Justice Social Justice Standards are and how they are designed
  • how can we use the Social Justice Standards along with Can Do Statements
  • what this integration looks like in the classroom, particularly at the novice level.
  • how we can address these topics at all proficiency levels without the need to rely on native language

Resources that Cécile mentions:

Connect with Cécile Lainé:

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28: Courageous Dialogues and Affinity Spaces with Vicky Wang

In this episode Vicky Wang joins me to address the effect of anti-Asian sentiment on Asian ( particularly Chinese) teachers in their schools and classroom.  Vicky Wang began an initiative, along with several colleagues, called Courageous Dialogues with Chinese Educators.

Vicky Wang is a Chinese Language and Culture Teacher in Maryland.  She helps us understand how anti-Asian language, actions and microaggressions have increased throughout the Covid Pandemic.  Vicky provides actionable suggestions for Asian (particularly Chinese) educators to confront these issues and for allies to support Asian colleagues and student.

Vicky speaks specifically about:

  • the inspiration to create a space for courageous dialogues
  • microaggressions and how are they damaging, particularly regarding Covid-19 and Chinese teachers
  • support and resources are available through Courageous Dialogues With Chinese Educators
  • Vincent Jen Chin and why 1955 is included in the CDCE social media handle
  • empowering Chinese educators, and essentially any teacher, that is marginalized or targeted by microaggressions or disrespectful language

Connect with Vicky Wang and Courageous Dialogues with Chinese Educators

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement”  by Paula Yoo.

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27: Diversifying World Language Curriculum with Ben Tinsley

In this episode we look at what world language curriculum has included and what has been left out, with a critical eye on diverse ethnicities and voices.  I’m joined by Ben Tinsley, a French teacher in Philadelphia.  He guides us through his own language learning journey as a Black student and how he did not see himself and the Afro-Black-Caribbean experience reflected in his language learning experience.

This prompted him to unapologetically center Francophone Black people in his curriculum.  This conversation will help us all provide our students with language learning experiences that authentically, and accurately, reflect the diversity of our target language cultures.

Ben speaks about…

  • his personal experience with language learning
  • what has been missing in language curriculum, particularly regarding diverse ethnicities, voices and lived experiences
  • why is it essential that we include diverse voices and ethnicities as an essential part of our curriculum, rather than one-off discussions
  • how to make sure that our students understand the full range of voices, ethnicities, and lived experiences of those in our target language cultures
  • where to find resources and how do you make them an organic part of the curriculum

Connect with Ben Tinsley:

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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 culture 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.

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.”