This episode was recored live during the National Foreign Language Center’s Virtual Summit. Ben Tinsley, a French teacher in Pennsylvania, joins me to talk about equitable feedback in the language classroom. We all know how essential feedback is for students in their language learning process, but does feedback look the same for all students. Ben Tinsley provides insights along with actionable suggestions.
In this episode I talk about the ideas of practice and communication in the language classroom. Sometimes what we think is authentic communication in the language is actually just practicing structures and vocabulary. Is there a place for practice or should it always be focused on communication? I take on these concepts with suggestions for what this can look like in you classroom.
I speak specifically about:
Sandra Savignon’s definition of communication: “The expression, interpretation and very often negotiation of meaning in a given context. Communication has purpose.”
Proficiency: what a student can do with language in real-world situations .
Distinguishing Practice and Communication and what these look like in our classrooms.
In this episode we are talking about textbooks. Some of us use them, some of us don’t. Maybe you are required to use one and maybe it’s a choice. Wherever you are with textbooks there’s a place for you in this conversation.
I am joined by Timothy Chavez, a Millennial Teacher, who, as you will hear, is part of a generation of students that were “brought up on proficiency in the classroom”…. proficiency natives if you will. And these proficiency natives are teaching the way the they learned. How exciting.
Timothy speaks about…
his experience as a student with textbooks in the classroom
how textbooks were traditionally designed and what might be missing
whether or not we need to ditch the textbook all-together or if there are ways to use them effectively
how to integrate a textbook (when required) with proficiency-based approaches to teaching
the possibility of teaching without a textbook
how teachers advocate to administration if they want to move away from a textbook-based curriculum
In this episode we talk about how essential positive teacher-student relationships are, particularly when we want our students to feel valued, comfortable and motivated to speak the target language. [sign up for Talking Points]
I am joined by Ebony Thornton, a teacher in Georgia, who speaks about…
relationships with her own teachers and those that influenced her student-teacher relationships
barriers that make teacher-student relationships challenging
respecting distance when needed
how do you get to know your students
how effective relationships enhance the teaching and learning experience
In this episode I take on the topic of communicative language teaching (CLT). What is it exactly and how do we teach communicatively? [sign up for Talking Points]
CLT is an approach and not a method.
Difference between an approach and a method?
Bill VanPatten’s description of CLTR.
The role of input.
The role of output.
The communicative classroom:
students create with language
focus is communicating messages
What does this look like in the classroom?
What does the teacher do in the communicative language classroom?
“[It is not] because some plants will grow in a desert, [that] watering the ones in your garden is a waste of time. In fact, of course, while the desert may provide the minimum conditions for a plant to grow, watering it may help it grow faster, bigger, and stronger, that is to realize its full potential.” —Larsen-Freeman and Long, 1990
Keep your students actively engaged in their language learning with these interactive digital squares vocabulary activities. I have done a paper version of this activity, but now I do them digitally using Google Slides™.
To complete the puzzles, students begin with a word from the number column and find the picture in the letter column. They then find the corresponding square in the grid, such as 1E, 5G or 7B and drag a red dot the the square.
When all numbers are filled in students can verify their answers. The total of the numbers in each row, column, and diagonal is 34.There are 4 puzzles in this activity, an answer slide and a vocabulary reference page.
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
Can Do Statements are essential to backwards design. They are what keep us focused on what our students will be able to do with the language they are learning.
I wanted to find ways for students to use the statements actively and regularly throughout a unit. I’ve used various paper versions, but I took on the task of finding a way to do this digitally and in a way that lets me check in on student progress at any time.
I initially started with a Google Form, but the data was only available to me, not to students once they submitted it. I then moved on to several versions using Google Sheets. This is the one that has worked the best.
The sheet is set up with the Can Do Statements for the unit.
As we progress through the unit, students choose their current ability to meet the objective by choosing from the drop-down menu to the right of the statement.
I have the responses set to change color for easy identification.
When students choose “with confidence” they type in an example to show that they can meet the statement objective.
When shared through Google Classroom I set the assignment to make a copy for each student and then I can check in on their progress individually. I have been particularly impressed with the conversations about proficiency that come up. Students take an active role in concretely understanding where they are and what they need to do to level up and meet the goal.