Every teacher knows that in any classroom there are many student needs. A “one size fits all” approach to learning and teaching is just not effective. The word we use, and often hear about, is differentiation.
We know that we should be doing it, but what do understand what it is, particularly regarding teaching language?
Take look at these graphics from ASCD:
Now that you have a solid idea of what differentiated instruction is and isn’t, let’s turn our attention to doing this effectively in the language classroom.
First we’ll consider how we differentiate. There are two ways to break this down. One is focused on the teacher (instruction) and the other is focused on the student (learning).
- Content: What is learned
- Process: How it’s learned
- Product: What is produced
- Learning Profile
Here are a few articles that go into more details with these possibilities.
Another useful concept for employing differentiation in the language classroom:
Here are some resources for using these approaches when teaching in the language classroom:
As with any teaching suggestions…there is a lot to consider and take in. I wouldn’t try to do it all at once. Pick a focus area, work on it, modify as needed, try it again, and move on to another suggestion when you’re satisfied with the results.
Task Cards are individual cards that offer students opportunities to engage with a particular topic in various forms. There are different challenge or proficiency levels. Task cards are useful because they provide opportunities for easy differentiation.You may have used the paper versions of these in the classroom. I created digital versions with Google Slides™. They can easily be shared with students through platforms such as Google Classroom™.
There are 5 categories of prompts in each vocabulary task card set.
Picture with choice of 4 words
Word with choice of 3 pictures
Fill in missing letters
2 pictures, student writes words
Picture, student writes a sentence
There are 6 categories of prompts in the verb form task card sets.
1 Subject Pronoun, 4 Infinitives, student writes verb forms
1 Infinitive, 4 Subject Pronouns, student writes verb forms
4 Verb Forms, student writes infinitive
Sentence with Verb Missing, students chooses verb and writes form
Subject Pronouns and Conjugated Verb, student completes sentence Infinitive, student writes sentence
How many times have we done our best to come up with scenarios and role plays that may or may not be applicable to the everyday lives of our students? Where are they reading, writing, speaking and communicating? Social media is certainly one place. I put together a template for Instagram™ photos and stories and students write their own descriptions of photos and comment on their classmates’ posts. I even added on opportunities to “post” Instagram™ Story videos.
I can’t actually use social media platforms with my students, so I created Google Slides™ where they insert photos and videos with descriptions into a template.
This link will make a copy in your Google Drive™ of the template that I created.
This digital activity that works well if teaching in school or remotely.
Posted in Activities and Games, Classroom Procedures, Reading, Speaking, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, foreign language, Instagram, language, language learning, Speaking, Writing
I have written about lesson planning using the “Learn, Practice, Apply” sequence that I learned about from the teachers that I work with in Nicaragua. I have found this simple framework very useful when planning lessons and activities in my language classroom. I created Tab Books on a number of French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar topics that follow this sequence. They are interactive and students enjoy assembling them and working through the process.
I reformatted the Tab Books into a no-prep, 3-page activity. They begin with scaffolded notes so that students get familiar with the new material. Then they practice the material, and finally students apply the material in the last section. The “apply” stage is often left out when teaching new material. These activities assure that students get to this stage in the learning process.
Lots of topics available from time, weather date, possessive and demonstrative adjectives to present and past tense verb forms, as well as conditional and subjunctive.
I am enjoying figuring out everything that you can do with Google Slides™. I’m a big fan of digital task cards (like Boom Cards) and I use them often with students, but I wanted to find a way for students to do similar activities with vocabulary, but that are available without needing to log into a Website…activities that students can access and use to review right from their Google™ account.
These Google Slides™ activities give students opportunities to identify words, phrases or pictures, then to identify and read words, and then to practice spelling. I particularly like that there is absolutely no prep needed. You just share with students. Easily used for distance, hybrid, blended or in school learning and teaching.
Here are examples of these interactive vocabulary activities using Google Slides™.
- Vocabulary review or reference slide
- Students identify words from 4 answer choices
- Students match words/pictures
- Magic Squares
- Students write words
Take a look at these versions of the activity that you can copy right to your Google Drive ™ and share with students.
Lots of topics:
- Greetings and Introductions
- Numbers 1-100
- ColorsDays, Months & the Date
- Seasons and Weather
- Classroom objects
- Food & Drinks
- Rooms & Furniture
Posted in Activities and Games, Online Activities, Reading, Technology, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, distance, french, language, language learning, remote, spanish, task card
This activity is an effective follow up and extension to comprehensible input activities. Once students have seen (in writing) and heard verb forms in context the next step is to begin the process of producing language. I like to use activities that show students various possibilities and have them choose the accurate form based on their interaction with the language forms.If you are moving away from direct instruction of verb conjugations try this out with students. If they have had sufficient contextualized exposure to the verb forms and meanings you will likely see that students can choose the correct form based on what “sounds right.” When this happens we know that they are progressing in their proficiency and moving toward accurate language output.
Here is another way that includes the infinitive of the verb.
I then take it a step further and have students write a sentence that show that they understand the meaning along with the form. They have some question words to support the process.
This activity is also useful when working with students in a PACE lesson, particularly in the co-construction and extension parts of the process. Keep in mind that this is best used with students when they are detecting patterns with forms in an inductive (implicit) lesson, rather than deductive (explicit) lesson.
Deductive instruction is a “top-down” approach, meaning that the teacher starts with a grammar rule with specific examples, and the rule is learned through practice.
Inductive instruction is a “bottom-up” approach, meaning that the teacher provides examples of the structure in context and students make observations, detect patterns, formulate hypothesis, and draw conclusions
The inductive (implicit) approach focuses on meaning along with the forms communicatively. The deductive approach focused more (or maybe even only) on the forms. Brown (2007) reminds us that “While it might be appropriate to articulate a rule and then proceed to instances, most of the evidence in communicative second language teaching points to the superiority of an inductive approach to rules and generalizations.”
I have done these activities with Powerpoints with the entire class. You can take a look at some examples in the post.
I am also using digital activities more with students and now have them do this activity using Google Slides™ that can be shared directly through Google Classroom™ and students get their own copy. Ideal for distance learning, homework, in-person classes or blended, hybrid model.
Brown (2007). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Pearson Longman
Posted in Activities and Games, Grammar and Structures, Teaching Methodology and Research, Technology, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, foreign language, french, Grammar, language, language learning, PACE, PACE Model, spanish, verbs, Writing
Students at the novice proficiency level typically speak and write in memorized chunks of language and phrases that they learn by memory. As they progress in proficiency teachers can support their attempts at creating language on their own. It is useful to guide them in finding their own ways to add on to the target language that they produce. I find that one effective way of doing this is to begin by focusing on verbs that they know well and give them opportunities to use them in context. First with various subjects and then by adding on to the verb phrases in ways that shows their understanding of the meaning of the verb.
This activity is called Hidden Forms (Formes Cachées in French and Formas Escondidas in Spanish). It is useful to use in PACE lesson as students engage in extension using the verb forms and structures that were introduced. There is an added element of fun and strategy as students search for the correct verb forms in the grid. Not necessarily the most communicative part of the activity, but I always think that students enjoy these small amusing elements and it has the added benefit of being done in the target language.
These Hidden Forms activities are all done in Google Slides and can be easily shared with students through platforms such as Google Classroom. They work well whether as an in-class activity, homework or when doing distance or hybrid/blended learning and teaching.
First slide: There is a subject pronoun and an infinitive. Students write the correct verb form.
Second Slide: There is a grid with subject pronouns, infinitives and verb forms. Students find the subject, infinitive and verb form together from the first slide. They then highlight the boxes and “color in” the boxes with the fill color tool.
Third Slide: Students write a sentence with each subject and verb form.
Watch a video that shows how students engage with these digital activities.
Take a look at these Google Slides activities that you can copy directly into your Google Drive to share with students.
You can also see paper versions of these activities in this blog post.
Posted in Activities and Games, Grammar and Structures, Online Activities, Technology, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, digital, foreign language, french, google, language, language learning, spanish
At the novice writing levels, students write with single words and lists initially, then move on to chunked phrases.
- apple, banana, orange
- soccer, football
- movies, restaurant
- My favorite color is green
- I like apples, bananas and oranges
- My name is Josué
- I play soccer and football
- On the weekend I like to go to the movies and to a restaurant
As students move up to the intermediate proficiency level they begin to create discrete sentences on their own that move beyond chunked phrases. This can be challenging for students because they are no longer relying on memorized phrases to chunk together. We can help scaffold this process for students by supporting them in creating sentences. Students often don’t knowhow to add details to a sentence to make it their own, particularly when writing.
I have found that using question words with students is a simple and effective way to have students add details to their sentences that move from memorized, chunked phrases to discrete sentences that are created by the student. The more they do this the more they will grow in confidence and begin to do it on their own when writing.
Here is an example of an activity that has been effective in showing students that they can in fact move up the proficiency ladder by creating their own sentences. I call it “Staring with a Verb” (A Partir d’un Verbe, A Partir de un Verbo).
I created these activities in Google Slides so that students and type their sentences directly in the slide and then submit the document when finished. This is particularly useful when using Google Classroom and ideal during distance learning.
Take a look at some possibilities:
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.
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:
- Flip Grid
- Ad for Podcast
- Ad for YouTube Channel
- 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
- Sign up for in-person or Zoom, one-on-one or small group
- Role play
- Themes in advance
- Record (audio or video)
- 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
Posted in Activities and Games, Classroom Procedures, Cultural Exploration, Grammar and Structures, Listening, Online Activities, Reading, Speaking, Technology, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, choice boards, foreign language, language, language learning
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Posted in Activities and Games, Classroom Procedures, Cultural Exploration, Grammar and Structures, Listening, Online Activities, Reading, Speaking, Technology, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, choice board, foreign language, french, language, language learning, spanish