Category Archives: Teaching Methodology and Research

60: Building & Leading a Proficiency-Based Department


In this episode we discuss building and leading a proficiency-based language department.  Tim Eagan, the 6-12 Department Head of World Languages in Wellesley, MA, joins me to talk about his experience leading his department through the process of embracing proficiency.

Topics in the episode:

  • contemporary and emerging research and the shift in approach and expectations.
  • what collaboration looks like in a proficiency-based department and how this supports consistency, particularly with assessments.
  • the objectives and benefits of using success criteria in a language department.
  • the essential role of feedback in a proficiency-based program.
  • how we get our department members on board.
  • www.visiblelearningmetax.com

Connect with Tim Eagan

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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.

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57: Why “Common Ground?” Why now?


In this episode I’m beginning my series on exploring Common Ground: Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom by Florencia Henshaw and Maris Hawkins. There will be 5 episodes total between now and the end of October.  Today we take a general look at why this book, why now, why I am such a fan. 

Topics in the episode:

  • Why this book? Why now? 
  • Why I’m a fan of Florencia Henshaw and Maris Hawkins.  
  • How the book is set up.
  • What to look for in the upcoming episodes devoted to Common Ground.
  • Making the discussion interactive on Twitter with Joshua (@wlcalssoom), Florencia Henshaw (@Prof_F_Henshaw) and Maris Hawkins (@Marishawkins).

Get your own copy of Common Ground.  Hackett Publishing has generously offered a 25% discount when you use the code WLC2022. [Available through December 31, 2022].

**The 25% off discount code can be used for any book through the end of December, 2022.  Hackett publishes several intermediate language-learning textbooks in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, and Classical Greek. New releases include Cinema for French Conversation, Cinema for Spanish Conversation, and Les Français.

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Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

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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.

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45: Taking in all the Information


In this episode I talk about how you can take in and use the information that you hear on this podcast without feeling overwhelmed.  So far there have been 30 guests and 15 solo episodes and it can sometimes feel like a lot to digest.

I offer up some ideas to sift through and figure out what will be most useful to you personally and how you can actually do it when you likely have so much else to do.

Topics that I cover:

  • Decision Paralysis: too many choices to choose from
  • How can we choose what to focus on?
  • First, remember that we do not have to do it all and we teach in different situations (levels, languages, interest, demographics).
  • Second, remember that none of this happened in a day. Teachers are regularly working on their teaching effectiveness.
  • Third, think about what is discussed and suggested with this lens:
    • I can likely do this tomorrow.
    • This needs a little prep, so I’ll do it next week.
    • That will be effective in the _____ unit, so I’ll try it when that unit comes up.
    • The concept is a bit of a change in approach for me and I want to sit with it and learn a little more because it is more of a mindset shift for me, so next year I’ll prioritize trying it out.

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44: Starting a Dual Immersion Program with Francesco Fratto


In this episode we talk about dual immersion programs.  You may be wondering what the difference is between immersion and dual immersion? Francesco Fratto joins me today to clarify and talk us through the process he and his district went though to implement their program.  Francesco is the Director of World Languages, Language Immersion & English as a New Language in Herricks Public Schools in New Hyde Park, NY.

Francesco speaks in detail about:

  • what immersion and dual immersion programs are and how they work.
  • the articulation of the Herricks Public Schools’ dual immersion program and the steps they took to implement the program.
  • the goals of the program, how they measured, and entry requirements.
  • the logistics: finding qualified teachers, promoting the program, student retention, parental concerns around things such as L1 literacy development.

Connect with Francesco Fratto:

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40: Microinstruction in the Language Classroom with Lindsay Mitchell


In this episode we talk about the concept of Microinstruction. This approach is being applied in general education contexts, but we we speak about how it can be used specifically in the language classroom.  I’m joined by Lindsay Mitchell, a Spanish teacher in New Hampshire, who talks about her own personal experience and success with Microinstruction.

Lindsay speaks about:

  • the skill set from her previous profession that she brought to her teaching
  • obstacles and challenges that she saw in her classroom that led her to look for other approaches
  • the concept of microinstruction and its benefits
  • what a lesson looks like using the microinstruction approach
  • the levels and content best suited to microinstruction

Connect with Lindsay Mitchell:

French and Spanish Teaching Position at the Brookwood School in Manchester, MA.

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Grading for Proficiency and Competency

There is momentum in the move toward competency-based or proficiency-based grading and assessment.  The foundation of these assessments is to provide feedback about what students are able to do with the target language.  There will certainly be formative assessments of vocabulary of or perhaps some language structures, but ultimately we want students to be able to communicate with the vocabulary and structures.

If we are assessing the language that students can interpret and produce then the majority of students’ grades should rightfully reflect that.  With the understanding that there are other factors that come into play, here is the grading percentage breakdown that I use.

Let’s break down one of the categories to see what a competency/proficiency-based grade looks like.  For this example I will use my Presentational Writing assessment process.

I begin with the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Presentational Writing:

The main takeaway for me is the Text Type, as this the language that students are producing and there are clear indicators of what student output should be at each proficiency level.

I began with the idea of a single-point rubric from Jennifer Golzales at the Cult of Pedagogy and combined it with John Hattie’s notion of Medals and Missions. 

I modified the idea of the single-point rubric and developed a 4-point rubric with a “3” being the goal/objective, which is a B+.  This allows for feedback below or approaching the objective and output that goes above.  Here are examples of Novice High, Intermediate Low and Intermediate Low/Mid rubrics.  You will notice the text-types and language control are aligned with the ACTFL Performance Descriptors.

I then took that 4-point scale and aligned it with letter grades, which is how grades are reported in my school.  When it comes time to average out the grades, I take the average grade of each mode (on the 4-point scale) and average them together with the formative grade using this scale.

Here is an example of how a term or semester grade would be determined using this process of assessment for competency and proficiency in the target language.

As we move in the direction of assessing what students can do with the target language, and not just what they know about it, we will need to find ways to bridge traditional grading with competency assessment.  The above process is working well for me and my students, but I will continue to modify and reassess how I’m doing it, and look forward to feedback from others as I continue to work out the details and efficacy.

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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32: The Origins of CI: Krashen’s Input Hypothesis


Where does the whole concept and idea behind Comprehensible Input (CI) come from?  In this episode I walk you through Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis that is part of his theory of second language acquisition that he calls the Monitor Model.  Krashen’s Input Hypothesis is the origin of what what we are doing with Comprehensible Input today.

What Is Comprehensible Input?

  • Comprehensible input means that students should be able to understand the essence of what is being said or presented to them.
  • This does not mean, however, that teachers must use only words students understand. In fact, instruction can be incomprehensible even when students know all of the words. 
  • Students learn a new language best when they receive input that is just a bit more difficult than they can easily understand. In other words, students may understand most, but not all, words the teacher is using. (i+1)

Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Model (late 1970’s, early 1980’s):

5 individual, yet somewhat interrelated theories and comprehensible input is just one.

  • Acquisition-Learning hypothesis
  • Input hypothesis
  • Affective Filter hypothesis
  • Natural Order hypothesis
  • Monitor hypothesis

Criticism:

  • Brown (2000): Krashen’s theory of SLA is oversimplified and the claims he made are overstated.
  • McLaughlin (1987): Krashen does not provide evidence in any real sense of the term, but simply argues that certain phenomena can be viewed from the perspective of his theory.
  • Gregg (1984): bypasses counter-evidence

Support:

Lichtman and VanPatten (2021): Was Krashen right? Forty years later

Ideas have evolved and are still driving SLA research today often unacknowledged and under new terminology.

  • The Acquisition-Learning Distinction
    implicit versus explicit learning
  • The Natural Order Hypothesis
    ordered development
  • The Input Hypothesis.
    communicatively embedded input

Motivated Classroom Podcast (Liam Printer) : Episode 50
Translating second language acquisition research into motivational practice with Dr. Karen Lichtman & Dr. Bill VanPatten

Where does this leave us?

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26: Languages: Vehicles for College and Career Readiness with Ryan Smith


In this episode we are take on the question that we often get from students…”Why are we learning this?”  Ryan Smith joins me to talk about how language teachers can infuse the idea of language learning as an essential skill when preparing students to be ready for college and careers.  Ryan points how many useful communication skills that are developed and honed in the language classroom in addition to language learning and cultural competence.

Ryan speaks specifically about:

  • why language learning is an essential aspect of being college and career ready
  • convincing reasons to learn a new language
  • skills that will make students college and career ready, particularly  21st Century Skills
  • some “carrots” to help motivate students to learn a language and hone their skills
  • how we can incorporate college and career readiness into our classrooms
  • Seals and Credentials, especially the Seal of Biliteracy 

Connect with Ryan Smith on Twitter (@renosenor).

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24: Redesigning Classroom Structure with Darcy Rogers


In this episode we look at how we structure our world language classrooms. How can we redesign our classrooms so that they are more communicative and support risk-taking, promote community, and help students rise in proficiency?  I’m joined by Darcy Rogers, Spanish Teacher and founder of OWL (Organic World Language), who helps us all re-envision what our classroom can be.

Darcy speaks about:

  • the traditional classroom structure and the obstacles it creates
  • how we can remove these obstacles
  • the linguistic and social-emotional benefits of removing these obstacles
  • the foundations of OWL methodology
  • infusing pieces of OWL into our classrooms

Connect with Darcy Rogers:

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