Tag Archives: language teaching

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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20: Rubrics for Assessment and Learning with Becky Bray Rankin


In this episode we talk about rubrics, not just as an assessment tool, but also as a way to help students grow in proficiency.

I’m joined by Beckie Bray Rankin, a high school French Teacher in Massachusetts, who has presented widely on the topic of rubrics…or, as she refers to them, the “thingamabob that does the job.”

Beckie talks about:

  • what pre-rubric teaching was like
  • how she discovered rubrics (or rediscovered)
  • the benefits of rubrics for students and teachers
  • rubrics and IPA’s
  • the Learn -Practice -Assess -Reflect cycle
  • how a rubric is never really “done” and what she continues to work on

Connect with Becky on Twitter (@BBRlaprof)

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15: Stories as Windows and Mirrors with Jennifer Degenhardt


In this episode we talk about stories in the language classroom.  Stories provide opportunities to see and interpret words and structures in context.  There are numerous opportunities to engage with the text in all of the communication modes.  Additionally, students learn about different cultures and can also see themselves reflected in the story.  This form of representation is incredibly valuable for students on their language learning journey.

I am joined by Jennifer Degenhardt, a language teacher and author of CI (Comprehensible Input) novels for novice and intermediate students.

Jennifer offers her thoughts and insights on…

  • the value in representation
  • how she finds her characters and their stories
  • the research that goes into a book
  • how she writes an “authentic” personal experience
  • what she hears from students and teachers who read her books

Connect with Jennifer Degenhardt:

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13: Diving into Comprehensible Input with John Bracey

In this episode we talk all about comprehensible input (CI), which you will see is a useful approach in teaching and learning any language.

I am joined by John Bracey, a Latin teacher who uses CI very effectively with his students.  He also makes a strong case for all teachers to try out CI, including Latin teachers.

John speaks about…

  • his journey with CI and how he discovered it.
  • the linguistic benefits of CI. 
  • using CI to personalize language and connect with and validate students’ lived experiences.
  • what CI looks like in his classroom.
  • why Latin teachers should use CI.

Connect with John Bracey:

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12: ACTFL Proficiency Levels


In this episode I walk through the ACTFL Proficiency Levels and Performance Descriptors.

What are they?

The ACTFL Performance Descriptors (Can Do’s) for Language Learners…

  • Describe language performance that is the result of instruction in a classroom setting 
  • Reflect how language learners perform in various learning environments.

How are they used in teaching and learning?

  • Help teachers create performance tasks targeted to the performance range, while also challenging learners to use strategies from the next next level up (Krashen, i+1). 
  • Teachers can set realistic expectations at the summative assessment level. 
  • Describe a pathway for learners to keep track of progress, identify areas that need more attention, and have a clear understanding of how to move to the next level.

How are they designed?

The ACTFL Performance Descriptors:

  • “Describe the language performance of language learners in Standards-based, performance-oriented learning environments”
  • “Provide descriptive performance outcomes adaptable to fit differences in languages and learners” (Any language at any level)

How are they organized?

  • Three levels – Novice, Intermediate, Advanced Range (and superior, but for our purposes)
  • Three Modes of Communication – Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational (episode 8)

What is involved with each proficiency level?

  • Functions (global tasks the learner can perform in the language)
  • Contexts (learner can function) and Content (topics)
  • Text Type (that which the learner is able to understand and produce in order to perform the functions of the level)

Interpersonal Proficiency Levels:

Novice

  • Function: Can ask highly predictable and formulaic questions and respond to such questions by listing, naming, and identifying. (May show emerging evidence …)
  • Context: Able to function in some personally relevant contexts on topics that relate to basic biographical information.
  • Text Type: Understands and produces highly practiced words and phrases and an occasional sentence.

Intermediate

  • Function: Consistently able to initiate, maintain, and end a conversation to satisfy basic needs and/or to handle a simple transaction.
  • Context: Able to communicate in contexts relevant to oneself and others, and one’s immediate environment.
  • Text Type: Able to understand and produce discrete sentences, strings of sentences and some connected sentences. Able to ask questions to initiate and sustain conversations.

Advanced

  • Function: Can communicate with ease and confidence by understanding and producing narrations and descriptions in all major time frames and deal efficiently with a situation with an unexpected turn of events
  • Context: Content areas include topics of personal and general interest (community, national, and international events) as well as work-related topics and areas of special competence.
  • Text Type: Able to understand and produce discourse in full oral paragraphs that are organized, cohesive, and detailed.

 How to use Proficiency Levels (Performance Descriptors) in the classroom

  • Unit Can Do (focus on function and text type); global tasks the learner can perform in the language and the language they need to do it
  • Assessments (stay with the range)
  • Activities: Too low or too high leads to lack of or limited engagement. 

Blog posts:

  • wlclassroom.com/ican —  walks through writing I can statements that are truly communicative and there is a link to the ACTFL Performance Descriptors
  • wlclassroom.com/levelupshows what language looks like at each proficiency level and what students can focus on (or do) to level up.

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What is Communicative Language Teaching?

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

This is a question that comes up often.  It is a term that we hear as language teachers and maybe even use it to describe our classroom.  But, do we have a solid understanding of what it is?

Let’s take a look.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

the research

There is considerable research being conducted and published on effective ways to teach and learn language.  At the forefront of this work is Dr. Bill VanPatten, a linguist whose work focuses on second language acquisition. Through his own extensive research as well as compiling studies done by other linguists and educators, Dr. VanPatten concludes these points:

  • Language is an abstract and complex mental representation that bears no resemblance to textbook rules and charts.
  • Language acquisition is largely controlled by unconscious mechanisms internal to the learner.
  • In order to develop a linguistic system, learners must be exposed to language (input) embedded in communicative events and comprehensible in nature.
  • Communicative ability develops as a result of participation in communicative events.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

communicative language teaching

There are three concepts of communicative language teaching that set it apart form more traditional approaches:

  1. The focus is on communicating and doing something with the language as opposed to practicing isolated language features out of context.
  2. It is student-centered as opposed to teacher-centered. Students create with language rather than having the language explained to them.
  3. The approach is focused on understanding the message being conveyed by students despite inaccuracy in language form. This is a change from focusing on correct usage of language structures and only secondarily tending to the message.

communicative classroom

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 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 communicative approach.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

Examples of a communicative classroom

Objectives and Content:

Non-Communicative:

  • The teacher is the all-knowing possessor of knowledge who directs all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.

Communicative:

  • The teacher works in collaboration with students with shared learning objectives.

Communication:

Non-Communicative:

  • The communication is focused on the four traditional language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) in isolation and not interconnected.

Communicative:

  • The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are represented and focused on what the learner does with the four skills.

Performance:

Non-Communicative:

  • The focus is on what students know about the language and its structures. There is only practice of correct grammatical aspects of the language in isolation and out of context.

Communicative:

  • The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language. There is authentic communication with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is conveyed.

Assessment in a communicative classroom

Assessments focus on what students can do with the language. Communicative assessment characteristics:

  • Students create a product or do a demonstration
  • Graded more holistically
  • Focus is on completing a task
  • Tasks are situation-based or use real-world content
  • Higher-level thinking skills of application, integration, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation

These are common assessment activities that focus on what students can do with language.

  • Complete the sentence logically
  • State your opinion, thoughts, or comments
  • Give personal answers
  • Create a situation
  • Seek information
  • Develop a product, e.g. advertisement, brochure, collage, poem, song, essay, video, etc.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge
  • Summarize, paraphrase
  • Change the ending

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

You might also want to listen to me talk through this on an episode of the World Language Classroom Podcast.

Resources:

Lee, J. F., & VanPatten, B. (2003). Making communicative language teaching happen.

VanPatten, B. (2003). From input to output: A teacher’s guide to second language acquisition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Van Patten, B. (2014). Creating Comprehensible Input and OutputThe Language Educator, 7(4), 24-26.

Krashen, Stephen D., and Tracy D. Terrell. “The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom.” (1983).

Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-158.

VanPatten, B., & Fernández, C. (2003). The long-term effects of processing instruction. In Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary (pp. 277-293). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

7: The Why & How of Positive Teacher-Student Relationships with Ebony Thornton


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
  • the “savior” complex
  • representation in the language classroom
  • #BlackWLTeachers

Connect with Ebony Thronton

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22: 90%+ Target Language Use


In this episode we are talking about 90%+ target language use in the classroom.  We start with where this comes from and why we want to do it, then I ask 4 questions about what is happening in your classroom.  These questions will help to focus on some of the challenge areas and I provide some ways to address them.

  • Q1: Are prompts and tasks at the appropriate proficiency level?
  • Q2. Do students have the language tools they need to communicate?
  • Q3. Are students held accountable for using the target language?
  • Q4. Are all the students actively engaged and interested?

Links referenced in this episode:

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