Category Archives: Listening

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.”

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

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!

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.”

Foreign Language Modes of Communication (ACTFL)

What is the purpose of communication?  Is it to practice language?  Maybe it is to polish our verb forms and word order?  Perhaps it is to use all the vocabulary that we have learned in a language?  Hopefully, we can all agree that this sort of “communication” that has not have a clear goal is not the reason that we engage in language learning.  The reason we communicate in any language in any form is to convey or understand a message.

The Importance of Message when Communicating in a Foreign Language (French, Spanish) When it comes to understanding or conveying a message there are three ways of looking at the communication.  The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines put communication to these categories: interpersonal, interpretive and presentational.  Each of these modes of communication looks at the message in unique way.  A solid understanding of how a message is conveyed or understood when speaking, writing or reading is essential to using various tools needed to effectively communicate.

Presentational communication is one-way speaking or writing that does not allow for real time clarification of meaning.  This means that the speaker/writer has to be sure to “fill in the gaps” and have a solid understanding of what the listener or reader knows or needs to know to interpret the message.

Conversely, interpretive communication is one-way listening or reading that also does not allow for real time clarification of meaning.  When reading and listening in this context the reader/listener needs to fill in their own gaps in understanding.  This may require accessing personal knowledge of the topic or doing research.  The most effective tool is the use of context clues and identifying what is understood to make meaning globally.

Interpersonal communication, on the other hand, is two-way speaking that allows for clarification of the message in real time.  When communicating interpersonally all speakers and listeners are involved in creating and interpreting the message and work together to assure that there is a collective understanding.

These tables below lay out the three modes of communication.

The Importance of Message when Communicating in a Foreign Language (French, Spanish) The Importance of Message when Communicating in a Foreign Language (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Listening Activity with Numbers

Students can write the numbers 0-9 on index cards to do this activity, or you can use the cards from an UNO deck (digit cards only).  Students take one of each number (0-9) and lay out the cards in front of them.  Students can do this in pairs or individually.

Foreign (World) Language Listening Activity with Numbers (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThe teacher says a number and the students build that number using the cards in front of them.  The teacher can easily do a quick check and redirect any students who may have an incorrect number (in the target language of course).  Depending on the level of the students, numbers can go as high as 9 billion.  I usually stick to numbers under 100 for beginners or in the hundreds and thousands for more advanced students, but it could be a good challenge to go higher.  Just keep in mind that numbers can’t be repeated (22, 336) since there is only one of each digit.  Of course, the teacher can provide multiples of each digit, but I find that there are to many cards to manage.  It’s great when students get the hang of it and want to say the numbers for their classmates to build.

Interactive Dictation in the Foreign Language Classroom-Improves Writing and Spelling

Interactive Dictation in the Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlteacher.wordpress.comStudents can progress in their foreign language writing skills, spelling and identification of sound-letter (or letter combination) correspondence by doing dictations.  The traditional use of dictation in the language class did not provide much opportunity for student engagement or interaction.  Below is a dictation process that I have created to make the process of doing dictation in the foreign language classroom that is more engaging and interactive for students.  The 5 steps can be done in one class or spread out over two or three days.  The topic should include vocabulary and verb forms that are familiar to students.

Step 1:

  • The teacher reads the entire dictation at a fluent speed.
  • The teacher then reads each sentence slowly, word by word, so that students can write the sentences.
  • The teacher finishes the dictation by reading the entire dictation a last time at a fluent speed.

Step 2:

  • Students copy the dictation from a handout, the board or a projected screen without referring back to the dictation that they wrote in the first step.
  • Students should be expected to write the dictation perfectly as they are copying it.

Step 3:

  • Students read through the dictation that they wrote in step 1 and correct any mistakes they made, using the dictation text that they copied as a reference.

Step 4:

  • Students pair up and take turns reading the dictation (that they copied in step 2) to each other and writing it out.
  • Students then trade and correct each other’s work using the dictation text that they copied in step 2.

Step 5:

  • The teacher repeats step 1.
  • The teacher then grades the final written dictation.

Interactive Foreign Language Activities with …Cothespins?

Clothespin activities are an engaging way to practice listening and speaking skills in the target language. Everyone has a card and a clothespin. They hear a question or prompt and clip the clothespin on the card to mark the answer. Clipping on the clothespin engages students  and the teacher can quickly check the answers visually.

Interactive Foreign (World) Language Activities with ...Cothespins? (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comClothespin activities can provide excellent listening and speaking opportunities. Students can ask the questions and take turns giving instructions to the group or they can work in pairs.   You can make this more interactive with cards that students flip over with a picture and words to pin or subjects and infinitives with conjugated verb forms to pin.  This is a a good version for small groups or pairs and it can be a little competition.

Interactive Crossword Puzzle to Practice Foreign Language Vocabulary

Interactive Foreign (World) Language Crossword Puzzles (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comWith this Interactive Crossword Puzzle students have the opportunity to practice speaking, listening and writing in the target language.

  • Partner #1 has the A picture sheet and the B crossword puzzle.
  • Partner #2 has the B picture sheet and the A crossword puzzle.

The two partners alternate reading a clue out loud from the crossword clues on his/her crossword puzzle sheet. The other students has the answers on the picture sheet and provides the answer orally at which point the student reading the clue fills in the answer.

These can be created using websites to create word puzzles or you can download the activities below.

French Interactive Crossword Puzzles:

Spanish Interactive Crossword Puzzles: