Category Archives: Cultural Exploration

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.


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


  • 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)



  • 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:




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

Teaching Skills of Cultural Competency in the World Language Classroom

Skills in cultural competence are in high demand as we all become more interconnected around the globe.  These skills, which are essentially behaviors and attitudes that enable us to work effectively cross-culturally, are a central part of my classroom teaching.  And, it starts early on.  Here are a few ways that I provide opportunities for some of my youngest student to start honing their skills of cultural competence early on.

Teaching Skills of Cultural Competency in the World Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Teaching Skills of Cultural Competency in the World Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.comThe French speaking world is so much larger than France and Canada, and I strive to expose my students to the many countries and cultures around the world that use the French language. Beyond European countries such as Belgium and Switzerland, French is used in many African countries including Senegal, Benin, Guinea, Cameroon, Chad and Rwanda just to name a few. Additionally there are francophone areas in the Caribbean (Haiti, Martinique) and the south Pacific (French Polynesia and New Caledonia).  In an effort to engage students in the language and culture of these countries, my French students have been corresponding with students from around the francophone world.

Teaching Skills of Cultural Competency in the World Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.comThree years ago my fourth grade class connected with the Fontamara School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The partnership was made through a connection I have with the Power of Education Foundation, which started the Fontamara School following the earthquake in 2010.  My students wrote autobiographies in French to talk about their homes, families, likes and dislikes, and their school.  The students at Fontamara also wrote to our fourth graders following their lead of topics which made it rather easy for my students to understand the French.

Teaching Skills of Cultural Competency in the World Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.comTwo years ago one of my classes was paired with a Peace Corps volunteer teaching in a school in Senegal. Our Peace Corps partner, Samantha, kept a blog of her experience, and the my class was able to follow her adventure in addition to corresponding with her students in French.  They even got to see pictures that Samantha posted on her blog of students in Senegal writing to us.

Teaching Skills of Cultural Competency in the World Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.comThis year we were able to take advantage of my school’s partnership with the APAPEC School in Rwanda.  Each year a teacher from each school spends two weeks in this sister school. One of our first grade teachers recently traveled to Rwanda and prior to her departure my students wrote personal letters that she presented to the APAPEC students. Many of the classes in the school are taught in French and upon her return she brought letters in French from the students in Rwanda.  I put them on display on bulletin board outside of my classroom with QR codes so that community members can scan and listen to our French students reading their letters.

Teaching Skills of Cultural Competency in the World Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.comThese connections between my students and students in Haiti, Senegal and Rwanda have been a truly authentic way of engaging the skills of cultural competence.  Students are often quick to point out what we all have in common, but we as educators need to push students to look for what is different as well.  This is where we have to put our cultural competency skills to work.  It is easy and somewhat effortless to respect, honor and understand that which we share in common.  The learning and strengthening of skills of cultural competency come from respecting, honoring and understanding that which is different.

Language Learning Promotes Acceptance of Social and Physical Diversity

I wrote a previous post on how a change in the words that a student uses can change a students mindset.  Essentially, a mindset that is more focused on growth and overcoming challenges will lead to higher confidence and a clearer understanding, whereas a fixed mindset causes students to limit their confidence and potential (Carol Dweck, Mindset).  I recently came across the results of a study done at Concordia University in Montréal, Québec that looked at how this concept of a growth or fixed mindset can be influenced by the process that a young learner goes through as he learns a foreign language.

Language Learning Promotes Acceptance of Social and Physical Diversity (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThis was an interesting study in its methodology.  The children they worked with were 5-6 years old.  Some children were monolingual and others were children who had learned a second language in some capacity.   The researchers told the children stories about babies born to English parents but adopted by Italians, and about ducks raised by dogs. They then asked if “the children would speak English or Italian when they grew up, and whether the babies born to duck parents would quack or bark”  They also questioned “whether the baby born to duck parents would be feathered or furred.”  The children who had learned a second language knew that a baby raised by Italians would speak Italian, whereas the monolingual children were not as certain. The children with experience learning a second language were also more likely to believe that an animal’s physical traits and vocalizations are learned through experience or that “a duck raised by dogs would bark and run rather than quack and fly.”

The results of the study show that learning a second language (not two languages together from birth) not only promotes a growth mindset, but it can “alter children’s beliefs about a wide range of domains, reducing children’s essentialist biases,”  which leads to less stereotyping and prejudiced attitudes. In addition, the study posits that “early second language education could be used to promote the acceptance of human social and physical diversity.”

Engaging with Culture in the World Language Classroom: Cultural Value Dimensions

In a previous post I wrote about Cultural Intelligence (CQ), which is based on  David Livermore’s research and posits that CQ begins with an interest that motivates us to learn about a culture and we use that knowledge to effectively navigate and interact with the culture.

But how do we gain knowledge about a culture that gives us insights into perspectives that influence behavior, traditions and practices?  There are 10 dimensions of cultural value that researchers at the Cultural Intelligence Center (including Livermore) use to compare one culture with another.  It is important to point out the difference between a stereotype and archetype in this research. A stereotype is the belief that all members of a group act the same way while an archetype is a tendency of a group of people to behave in a certain way.  These cultural value dimensions are based on archetypes.

Engaging with Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom: Cultural Value DimensionsI use these cultural values to engage conversations about culture that come up in classroom.  Rather than viewing our own culture as the norm, we reference these cultural values to gain an understanding of the perspectives of our culture and that of another country or community.  This framework helps to move beyond statements such as “Culture A is always late and Culture B is always on time.”  With an understanding of the “Time–Punctuality versus Relationship” cultural value dimension there is a better understanding of how to engage with a culture that is different than one’s own in regards to this  particular dimension.

I don’t reference all of the dimensions with students because it can get a bit overwhelming.  Instead, I focus on a few and they learn to words to reference them in the target language. These are the Cultural Value Dimensions that tend to be more approachable for students, though more are possible with additional time and dedication.

Engaging with Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom: Cultural Value Dimensions

Teaching Students How to Engage with Culture : Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

The common way of approaching the teaching of culture in the foreign language classroom is focused on what is known of as a “functional” view of culture.  This essentially means that learning about culture means knowing about elements such as what people eat, where they live, what holidays they celebrate and the structure of the government.  This knowledge of the culture is a helpful starting point, but we need to take this a step further with our students and teach them how to use this knowledge to engage with the culture.  There is more involved in understanding the perspectives that contribute to the behavior of any given cultural group, and you can read more about that in my earlier post, How to “Teach” Culture in a Foreign Language Class.

Knowledge is the first step in engaging with a culture.  The ultimate goal is to develop a strong Cultural Intelligence (CQ), which allows us to appropriately and effectively engage with a culture that is different from your own.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.37.20 AMCQ has 4 Factors:

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.37.36 AM

To put this all together in simple and cohesive statement, our CQ begins with an interest that motivates us to learn about a culture and we use that knowledge to effectively navigate and interact.

These ideas are based on the work of David Livermore at the Cultural Intelligence Center.

How to define Culture?

There are many definitions of culture and these definitions tend to vary based on the perspective and approach of the person or organization defining the term.  In an attempt to find an understandable and accurate definition that is appropriate for students, I searched the internet for various definitions from well known researches and authors in the field of cultural studies.  I found 10 viable definitions.  I took these 10 (often verbose) definitions and put them all together in a word cloud.  The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.   I wanted to see what the most common words were that came up in all of the definitions.  The word cloud produced a clear, concrete and easily understood definition.  Based on the word cloud, this is the definition that stands out.

Culture: Shared patterns of learned behavior.

How to define Culture? (French, Spanish)

I’ve received a few requests for a download of this graphic.  You can download a pdf here.

Foreign Language Speaking or Writing Activity that Begins with Two Words

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 11.31.24 AM

To begin this activity, show students two pictures that are different in some way.  Ask them to take a close look and interpret how they are different.  Then, they write one word for each picture that best describes it. Limiting it to one word causes students to focus on one aspect.  Once they do this, the teacher can have them talk in small groups about why they chose these words or they can write about it.  The activity and also be combined and students and speak in groups after writing about it.  This activity lends itself to the ACTFL standards fairly well as students can be guided to speak or write in the text type of the various levels (individual words, phrases, sentences, strings of sentences, connected sentences or paragraphs). A great starting point or hook for conversations.  This particular picture inspired such great conversation that I decided to make a bulletin board out of it with different languages.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 11.15.14 AM

Cultural Connections in the Foreign Language Classroom – from Novice to Advanced

The Peace Corps has been working internationally for more than 50 years in more than 139 countries. The Peace Corps has kept true to its mission over the years, “to promote world peace and friendship.”  The Peace Corps is more vital than ever, working in collaboration with partner organizations and using cutting-edge technologies and well-tested best practices to enhance impact.

Cultural Connections in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comWhat better way to have students learn about the world than to partner with a Peace Corps volunteer in a country where the language they study is spoken.  There is a division of the Peace Corps dedicated to providing these opportunities to teachers.  It is called Global Connections and teachers can search for lesson plans and also apply to get a Peace Corps Exchange Partner.  This program connects classrooms with a Peace Corps Volunteer serving abroad. Peace Corps Volunteers in the field exchange emails, letters, videos, photographs, and telephone calls with classrooms.

I have had a Peace Corps Exchange partner for several years and I have had novice and intermediate level exchanges between my students and students in a school in Senegal.  Culture can start at the novice level.  In fact, my 3rd grade class had an informative and interesting exchange.  They began by writing a few sentences about themselves on one side of a sheet of paper (in French) and drew and labeled their family and home on the back.  We sent these to Sam, our Peace Corps Volunteer, in Senegal along with blank copies of the paper that my students completed.  Sam did the same activity with her students and sent them back.  There were so many great conversations that happened simply by looking at way my students drew and labeled their families and homes and how that compared to the drawings of the Senegalese students.

photo 3

Take advantage of the many great opportunities out there to connect students to the culture of the language that they are studying.  No need to wait for intermediate or advanced levels, it can start at the novice level.