Tag Archives: language teaching

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.

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38: Strategies to Engage Early Language Learners with Carolina Gómez

Even if you are a middle or high school teacher you will surely learn a lot from Carolina Gómez, my guest on this episode.  Carolina is Spanish teacher in Massachusetts and she walks us through planning and procedures that authentically engage learners with compelling, meaningful and comprehensible language.
Carolina speaks about:

  • the benefits of early language learning and any concerns or fears that parents may have.
  • what draws her to teaching early learners.
  • how we can engage early learners and make language comprehensible for them.
  • what lesson planning looks like with early learners.
  • what teachers of all ages can take away from the strategies that she shares with us.

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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.

34: Technology to Support Language Students with Joe Dale (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part episode on using technology in language learning.  Joe Dale joins me to talk about technology tools and resources to support students in the language classroom. Joe Dale is a language consultant from the UK who works with a range of organizations such as Network for Languages, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. He is a regular conference speaker and recognized expert on technology and language learning. He has spoken at conferences and run training courses in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

Joe Speaks about…

  • how technology enhances opportunities to engage language learning
  • ways to use technology to practice interpersonal, reading and writing skills

Connect with Joe Dale:

Resources that Joe mentions:

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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


  • 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


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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31: Picture and Movie Talks with Sarah Moghtader

In this episode we talk about movie and picture talks in the language classroom.  This a popular and effective Comprehensible Input (CI) procedure that uses visual story-telling.  This process helps students to acquire and reenforce vocabulary and language structures in context.  Sarah Moghtader, a French in Massachusetts,  joins me to talk us through the benefits of picture and movie talks and how to do them with students in the classroom.

Sarah speaks specifically about:

  • what picture and movie talks are
  • why picture and movie talks are a useful CI approach to teaching language
  • procedure and techniques
  • what to look for in a useful story, book, or movie clip
  • where to find these resources
  • working through a story and extension activities

Links references in the discussion:

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30: Music in the Language Classroom with Allison Wienhold

In this episode we talk all about using music in the language classroom.  I’m joined by Allison Wienhold, a Spanish Teacher in Iowa, who speaks about the numerous benefits of music in our language classrooms.

Allison speaks about:

  • the value and benefits of using music in the language classroom
  • the flexibility of using music, from a few “quick wins” to diving into culture and representation
  • where can we find music to use in our classrooms
  • activities to engage with music
  • I have a song…What do I do before, during and after?

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No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump)

I have to start by saying sorry (not sorry) that once you introduce this activity to your students they will ask to do it all the time.

This activity is all about students listening intently and reacting to what they hear.

No prep involved.  Just grab an object, like a ball, and you’re ready to go.

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

I call this activity Sauter or SaltarJump in the target language that you teach.

Pick a topic category.  Any category.  Any proficiency level.  Here are some possible topic categories:

  • colors
  • animals
  • seasons
  • time
  • family
  • days
  • months
  • adjectives
  • family
  • masculin nouns
  • feminine nouns
  • singular nouns
  • plural nouns
  • present tense
  • past tense
  • future tense
  • imperfect tense
  • details about a story
  • information about an article

Here’s how it works:

  • The entire class stands in a circle.  If there is not enough room in the classroom, maybe take a trip outside.
  • Tell students the topic they are listening for.
  • The teacher tosses the ball to any student and says a word, phrase or sentence.
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is on the chosen topic,  the 2 students next to the student who catches the ball jump.  The one who jumps first stays in.  The other sits down and is out. There are often ties. [example:category is “days” and teacher says “Monday”]
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is NOT on the topi, the 2 students next to the student who catches the ball DON’T jump.  If they jump they sit and are out. [example:category is “days” and teacher says “July”]

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

  • Continue tossing the ball to random students around the circle.
  • The same rules apply.  Keep in mind that…
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is on the topic the 2 closest students still standing to the left and right of the student who catches the ball jump.  The one who jumps first stays in.  The other sits down an is out. [example:category is “past tense” and you say “I went to the store.”]
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is NOT on the topic, the 2 closest students still standing to the left and right of the student who catches the ball DON’T jump.  If they jump they sit and are out. [example:category is “past tense” and you say “I go to the store.”]

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

  • When there are only two students remaining the ball is not tossed.
  • The teacher says a list of words, phrases or sentences that may or not be on topic.
  • The first of the two remaining students to jump when they hear the word, phrase or sentence that fits the category wins the game.

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

Once you have played this a few times and students have the hang of it you can choose students to be the one to give the prompts in the middle of the circle.  It may be the winner from the previous round.

This activity works well as a class starter, closer or as a brain break at any time.  It’s also useful for quickly reviewing vocabulary themes before diving into a discussion or follow-up activity.

French & Spanish Digital Writing Activity: Moving Verbs

Sometimes students know the meaning of verbs. Sometimes they know the forms. But, isn’t it great when they use accurate verbs in the correct context?

Put that together with a no-prep, time saving activity for you and it’s even more than a simple win-win.

Simply share these digital activities with students and they will move through a seamless process of identify meaning and forms and then putting it all together and writing their own sentences

This no-prep-for-the-teacher activity makes sure that your students don’t just master meaning and forms. They will combine these skills and write accurate and meaningful sentences on their own.

Take a look at the French version:

and the Spanish version: