Category Archives: Cultural Exploration

Foreign Language Speaking or Writing Activity that Begins with Two Words

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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.

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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.

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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.

Building Community and Confidence in the Foreign Language Classroom

Teachers need to assist students in taking an active and involved role in their language learning.  A great first step is to create a classroom culture and climate that promotes communication, collaboration, respect and responsibility.  Once this is established students will be more comfortable taking risks in speaking the language and not be afraid of making mistakes.

Building Community and Confidence in the Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comMy students agree to try their best to keep to a “classroom contract” that is posted in the room and referred to as needed.  The major themes are:
-I communicate
-I think
-I respect
-I collaborate
-I take risks
-I take responsibility

Here is the English translation of the French contract in the photo:

I communicate..
-in French.
-with my teacher when I have questions and/or when I need help.

I think…
-about vocabulary that I know and I don’t use a translator.
-about tools that I have.

I respect..
-the cultures, ideas and opinions presented in class and I understand that my way is one possibility and not the only way.

I collaborate…
-with my classmates.
-with the goal of learning from my classmates and helping when I can.

I take risks…
-by participating in class (in French), even when I am not absolutely sure.

I take responsibility…
-by arriving to class with my materials (book, notebook, homework, a positive attitude).
-by arriving on time and ready to be a part of the classroom community.

Teaching Global Citizenship in the World Language Classroom

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 5.38.36 PMThe world we live in is becoming more and more interconnected every minute of every day.  No longer are people only citizens and residents of  the place they live, but rather we all inhabit the planet together.  For this reason we are responsible for the issues and dilemmas that face everyone.  This requires being a Global Citizen.  What better place to teach about being a Global Citizen than in the Foreign/World Language Classroom?

What does it mean to be a Global Citizen and how can we teach this to our students and learn more about it ourselves?  Global Citizens:

  • understand that we share the world with other people, and that events in one part of the world affect people in other parts of the world.
  • engage in active service learning to better understand and  meet the needs of  people in their community and abroad.
  • seek to deepen their own ability to make a difference.
  • learn about people from other cultures and show respect for diversity.
  • demonstrate compassion for people from around the world and seek to understand issues related to social justice, equality and interdependence.

This concept of Global Citizenship lends itself to Project Based Learning.  You can read my previous post on Project Based Learning in the Foreign/World Language Classroom HERE and see some tips for implementation in the classroom HERE.  These projects give students opportunities to engage in Global Citizenship while using the target language authentically.

You can find resources for engaging students in global issues on these websites:

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History of Haiti and the Haitian Revolution

A great resource for French teachers.  This video is a 12 minute introduction to Haiti and the Haitian Revolution.

Tips for Successful Foreign Language Class Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning can happen in many ways and the product and outcome may not be what is expected, but the process is where the learning is most powerful.

Tips for Successful Foreign Language Class Project-Based Learning (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comHere are some helpful suggestions for planning, coaching and mentoring students through successful project-based learning.

  • Student Choice and Creativity that empowers and inspires the students to own their own learning and engage deeply in the project.
  • Tackles Relevant Issues and importance beyond the classroom.
  • Exemplary Models by other students, teachers, or professionals, to set criteria for high-quality work and set strategies to attain them.
  • Incorporates Hands-On Work, such as: art, technology, or processes- related to the discipline.
  • Lasting Learning of a deeper learning skill, idea, or way of thinking that is relevant to students’ lives, their futures, and transforms who they are as human beings.
  • Mirrors Real-World Work of professionals in craft, process, or skill (e.g. historians, writers, mathematicians, artists).
  • Moves Beyond Classroom in purpose, audience, or contribution to community.

You can read the full article by Bob Lenz on Edutopia HERE.

Foreign Language Activities to Practice Countries, Capitals and Nationalities

Here are some engaging and communicative ways to teach geography in the foreign language classroom. These are a few activities that students to practice the vocabulary for country names, capitals and nationalities.

In this first activity, students work in pairs and ask questions to try to figure out the answers that the other partner has decided on. Since the goal is to record information, the focus is on speaking and listening. Students ask yes/no questions in the target language and also answer in complete sentences. This activity can be used many times because the pairings and answers can change each time. (Spanish Version, French Version)Foreign (World) Language Activities to Practice Countries, Nationalities and Capials. (French, Spanish)

This next activity will get students moving around the classroom and speaking. Students are given a sheet with a list of countries. They are also given a small slip of paper with the language(s) that they speak. They first must figure out where they live based on the language(s) that they speak. The task is then to figure out where all the other students live by either asking them where they live or asking them which language they speak. (Spanish Version, French Version)

Foreign (World) Language Activities to Practice Countries, Nationalities and Capials. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comIn this last activity students cut up the squares and line them up in order in one long strip placing the country above the nationality. (Spanish Version, French Version)
Foreign (World) Language Activities to Practice Countries, Nationalities and Capials. (French, Spanish)

Communicative Speaking Activity for Foreign Languages: Category Sort

This activity is a very effective way to get students communicating with each other using a specific set of vocabulary that they are familiar with.  This is also a great activity to practice circumlocution.  I typically provide a list of words that students know well and they have the task sorting the words into categories.  Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 2.05.45 PMI either give a list of words that students list in categories or they cut them out and physically place them in categories.  The first time through, I have them put the words in two categories, then three categories and sometimes up to seven or eight categories.  The objective is to do this using only the target language as the groups or pairs negotiate the categories.  This is why it is best to provide words that are familiar.  This helps to maintain the focus on speaking and communicating the negotiation in the target language and not focusing so much on the meaning of the words.  The great thing about this activity is that there are no right or wrong categories as long as the groups can explain why the words are grouped together.  Here is a WORD document with words to use to practice to do this activity with your students.  The activity is in English, Spanish and French.I have also done this with pictures of well-kn0wn people that are related to the language and culture that we are studying (artists, actors, politicians, authors, etc.).  Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 1.46.27 PM

Foreign Language Travel Scrapbook Project

Foreign (World) Language Travel Scrapbook Project (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThis is a project that can be done with level 1 students in a foreign language.  It gives them an opportunity to use the vocabulary and structures typically taught in a first year course.

The focus of this project is travel and geography vocabulary.  Once students make the scrapbook of a trip, there are opportunities to use the books to do additional speaking, reading, listening and writing activities.

  • Begin by giving a sheet with directions for creating a travel scrapbook with directions for each page including examples.
  • Then hand out a storyboard for students to do a rough draft of their book.
  • Students then assemble the travel scrapbook.
  • When the books are done, students read their book to the entire class or to a small group.
  • Provide a sheet to those students who are listening so they can fill in information when they are listening to other students in the class read their final book.

A final activity gives  students a chance to use the information that they recorded during the presentations to write sentences about that they heard and saw. You can download complete, ready-to-use versions of these projects here:

Foreign Language Class Group Speaking Project for a Food Unit

Foreign (World) Language Food and Restuarant Project (French, Spanish)

You can download full versions of this project here:

We have the food unit that comes up in our foreign language classes almost every year and every text book has at least one chapter devoted to it.  I  created this group project that has students incorporate everything that they learn during a food and restaurant unit.  Students work in groups to create a sales pitch. They have 5 minutes to present their concept for a restaurant to a group of judges (I use other teachers in the school who can understand this level of the language).  Sometimes I record the presentations and email the videos to faculty members to vote on.  Presentations include ideas for the style and decor, the place setting, uniforms, a menu, a chef, and one prepared specialty of the house for the judges to test.

Foreign (World) Language Food and Restuarant Project (French, Spanish) Foreign (World) Language Food and Restuarant Project (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comTo keep it completely proficiency-based, they have visuals to represent decor, menu, restaurant style, uniforms, etc. but they speak in the moment with no notes. The idea is to have them speak completely at their proficiency level without any memorized, prepared language. This is a great way to have them use everything that they learn throughout a food unit, and it’s an effective alternative to skits. I always give students an a a sheet with useful phrases and vocabulary to use during the presentation as well as an in-depth rubric that the judges also use. This is lots of fun and all about proficiency and showing the students what they can do with the language, and the project-based learning aspects are very effective as well.

You can download full versions of this project here: