Tag Archives: language

113: Honing Our Craft with Dr. Florencia Henshaw & Dr. Kim Potowski

Have you listened to the last 2 episodes about Comprehension-Based Language Teaching and Standards-Based Grading? I referenced the book Honing Our Craft, World Language Teaching Today as I prepared those topics. In today’s episode I have the 2 editors of Honing Our Craft, Dr. Florencia Henshaw and Dr. Kim Potowski, who speak about their objectives behind this project, working through the content with 15 contributors and how language teachers can most efficiently and effectively use this very user-friendly resource.

Honing Our Craft

  • Edited by Florecia Henshaw (Director of Advanced Spanish at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) & Kim Potowski (Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the University of Illinois, Chicago)
  • 12 chapters written by educators for educators, with a focus on bridging the gap between research and practical application.
  • Practical applications and suggestions for language educators that they can adapt to their particular contexts. 
  • Use this link and the discount code JOSHUA25HOC to save 25% on the book.

In This Episode:

  • What Florencia and Kim would you like educators to gain from reading Honing Our Craft.
  • The “user friendly”chapter layout.
  • The process of editing a volume like Honing Our Craft, where the initial idea come from and the writer/editor relationship.
  • How Florencia and Kim suggest that teachers use Honing Our Craft 

Remember to use this link and the discount code JOSHUA25HOC to get save 25% on the book.

Connect with Dr. Florencia Henshaw:

Connect with Dr. Kim Potowski:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me as a guest on the podcast.

You  can also be a part of Leveling Up coaching episode if there is an area of your teaching that you like to improve or enhance.  Join me on the podcast for a Leveling Up Coaching Episode.  

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

112: Standards-Based Grading

Are your assessments and grades in your classes a reflection of what students are able to do with the target language? Are the communication modes in there?  Are there parts of your grade that are based on compliance to rules and routines? In this episode I am going to look into what grading based on standards in a proficiency based classroom looks like. And once again, luckily there is a very useful chapter on this topic in the newly published book “Honing Our Craft.”  It gives us all the info we need to engage with “Standards-Based Grading for Proficiency-Based Language Instruction.” That’s actually the title of chapter 7. 

Honing Our Craft

  • Edited by Florecia Henshaw (Director of Advanced Spanish at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) & Kim Potowski (Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • 12 chapters written by educators for educators, with a focus on bridging the gap between research and practical application.
  • Practical applications and suggestions for language educators that they can adapt to their particular contexts. 
  • Use this link and the discount code JOSHUA25HOC to save 25% on the book.

Standards-Based Grading for Proficiency-Based Language Instruction

Put Standards-Based Grading in Context

  • Traditional grading system:
    • Variability in what exactly counts towards the percentage average of a traditional grade. Some teachers include non-academic factors such as work habits (punctuality, participation, effort or completion) which have very little to do with measuring learning. (Dweck, 2014, Feldman, 2019, Townsley, 2019)
    • Score is no longer an accurate reflection of what the student can communicate in the target language.
  • 3 Core Principles of Standards-Based Grading
    • Focus should be on mastery of specific skills and grade describes that mastery
    • Multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning and receive specific feedback, typically tied to a rubric
    • Separate factors such as behavior, punctuality, homework completion and extra credit

Key Terms and Misconceptions

  • Proficiency: language ability in the real world, unscripted, without practice
  • Performance: can do with practice in an educational setting. 
  • Mastery: highest level
  • Goal is for students to gradually improve their performance from assessment to assessment through feedback, learning and revision.
  • SBG can be used with any set of standards
  • Rubrics: core principle of SBG to provide feedback for revision and multiple attempts to demonstrate learning.
  • Multiple attempts to demonstrate learning
    • Use feedback to foster the use of multiple attempts for students to demonstrate learning. 
    • Retakes are not identical to first assessment, nor should it be more difficult
    • System in place to have retake opportunities: practice, formative, HW, meet with teacher.
  • Grading behaviors unrelated to mastery
    • Homework leads towards mastery, not a completion grade. If students don’t see connection, why do it?  Make it a requirement for retakes?
    • Removes opportunity for implicit bias.


  • Focus on…
    • Standards and create rubric accordingly
    • Differentiation
    •  Feedback and the iterative process
    • Formative and summative assessments 
  • Do…
    • Plan units around your learning goals
    • Collaborate with colleagues for common rubrics, assessment and learning goals (standards)
    • Plan for reassessments and retakes (additional versions) and decide on what the requirements will be to retake.
  • Don’t…
    • Create retakes that are more difficult
    • Limit scores on retakes and reassessments.  Allow students to receive full credit. Count on the new grade, most recent representation of skills, learning or mastery.

Remember to use this link and the discount code JOSHUA25HOC to get save 25% on the book.

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me as a guest on the podcast.

You  can also be a part of Leveling Up coaching episode if there is an area of your teaching that you like to improve or enhance.  Join me on the podcast for a Leveling Up Coaching Episode.  

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

Evidence-Based Language Teaching

Have you ever found looking  for strategies that are not just trendy but grounded in solid empirical evidence? As we guide our students toward proficiency and communicative and cultural competence, the importance of evidence-based teaching cannot be overstated. But how can we integrate these evidence-based approaches efficiently, given our time constraints and the often lengthy research materials?

 Evidence-Based Language Teaching (French, Spanish)

Let’s take a look at the crucial role of evidence-based teaching with some ideas for navigating the sea of research.  Along with this you’ll also see concrete examples of how to easily integrate research-backed strategies into your language classroom.

Why Evidence-Based Teaching

  1. Maximizing Impact: Evidence-based teaching is like a well-illuminated path in the dense forest of language education. It ensures that the strategies we employ are not just a shot in the dark but are grounded in empirical evidence. Embracing evidence-based approaches enables us to make the most significant impact on our students’ language proficiency.
  2. Time Efficiency: In the busy lives of educators, time is an invaluable resource. Evidence-based teaching allows us to make informed decisions swiftly. Instead of wading through an overwhelming sea of teaching methods, we can focus on what research shows to be effective. 

Where can we access this valuable research without getting lost in a time-consuming quest for evidence? The good news is that there are accessible avenues. Consider attending conferences, workshops, webinars, or tuning into the World Language Classroom Podcast. Engaging with social media can also provide insights, but be sure to vet your sources. Trust content that is grounded in research and empirical findings rather than anecdotes of personal experience, which, while honest, may not be universally applicable to teaching practice.

Examples For Implementing Evidence-Based Teaching

Grammar and Structures

  • Ellis’s (2002) research suggests that grammar instruction is more effective when it is meaningful, contextual, and communicative. Rather than rote memorization, students benefit from grammar lessons that connect to real-life language use.
  • Implementation: Provide students with texts or conversations that naturally feature the target grammar point. This aligns with Ellis’s research and fosters a deeper understanding of the grammar point within authentic language use.

Comprehensible Input

  • Krashen’s Input Hypothesis (1985) serves as a foundation in language acquisition research. It underscores that language learners progress when they understand input slightly more advanced than their current level.
  • Implementation: Tailor your lessons to provide students with comprehensible input. Utilize context, visuals, and scaffolding to ensure their understanding and engagement with the language while maintaining a focus on meaning and communication. 

As we navigate language education evidence-based approaches serve as our guide toward proficiency growth with efficiency and purpose.


Ellis, R. (2002). The Place of Grammar Instruction in the Second/Foreign Language Curriculum. In E. Hinkel & S. Fotos New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms (pages 14-34). Routledge: London

Krashen, S. D. (1985). The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implications. Longman.


Supporting Proficiency Growth in the Language Classroom

One of our priorities as language teachers is to support students in their efforts to communicate proficiently and with confidence. Though this can seem to me very lofty objective, there are practical procedures that we can implement to facilitate students’ progression to higher proficiency levels. These techniques and approaches offer guidance for teachers looking to empower their students on the path to proficiency.

Supporting Proficiency Growth in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Language Proficiency

Before we jump into the strategies, let’s take a moment to consider language proficiency. How do you currently assess your students’ proficiency levels? Are you familiar with the ACTFL guidelines and their descriptions of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced proficiency? It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of where your students are and where you want them to go. Take look at this blog post to see what language text types look like at the various proficiency levels.  You can also learn all about the proficiency levels in this podcast episode.

Let’s explore some strategies that will support students in leveling up their proficiency..

Novice Proficiency: Building a Strong Foundation

  • Comprehensible Input: Novice-level students thrive on comprehensible input. This means providing them with language that they can understand, even if it’s slightly beyond their current proficiency level. Engage them with simple stories, visuals, and gestures that make the language come alive.
  • Repetition and Recycling: Repetition is key for Novice learners. Encourage students to practice vocabulary and phrases repeatedly through games, dialogues, and interactive activities.

Intermediate Proficiency: Moving Toward Independence

  • Authentic Communication: As students progress to the Intermediate level, shift the focus to authentic communication. Encourage them to express opinions, share experiences, and engage in conversations.
  • Expanding Vocabulary: Intermediate learners benefit from expanding their vocabulary. Introduce them to synonyms, idiomatic expressions, and culturally relevant words and phrases.

Practical Strategies to Empower Students in Increasing Proficiency

Integrated Skills: Encourage students to read texts, watch videos, and engage in discussions that require them to use all aspects of language – listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Cultural Context: Connect language proficiency to cultural context. Help students understand how language is used in real-life situations within different cultures.

Feedback and Assessment: Provide timely and constructive feedback. Give students specific comments on their language use, highlighting areas for improvement.

Self-Assessment: Have students reflect on their language progress and set goals for improvement.

Peer Collaboration: Arrange activities that require students to work together, provide feedback to each other, and learn from their peers.

Celebrate Progress:  Celebrate progress, no matter how small. Recognize students’ achievements and growth in proficiency. Whether it’s an improved pronunciation or successfully navigating a conversation, acknowledging their efforts boosts confidence.

Putting It All Together

Supporting students’ proficiency growth is a dynamic journey. It involves understanding their current proficiency levels, scaffolding their learning, and fostering a supportive and engaging classroom environment. As language teachers, we have the privilege of guiding our students along this exciting path, equipping them with the skills and confidence to become proficient communicators.

Shifting the Focus From Grammar to Language Functions

As we step into our classrooms each day, we look for ways to support students understanding the language and using it with confidence in authentic situations. That’s certainly not a simple goal, but one that we can work toward with the right approach.

Shifting the Focus From Grammar to Language Functions (French, Spanish)

The idea of language functions (how we use the language) has inspired a paradigm shift in our teaching methodology. Traditional (or “Legacy” as aI like to say) language teaching focused on grammar and structures. With a focus on functions teachers are embracing a more encompassing strategy—one that revolves around the idea of language functions, or what what students do with the language.

It’s a shift that fundamentally transforms the way we view language teaching, placing authentic communication and language functions at the forefront. Here are practical strategies and examples to support our focus on language functions.

Novice Levels: Making Language Practical

At the novice level, students are like linguistic explorers, taking their first steps into the language terrain. Traditionally, they might have been bombarded with verb conjugations and intricate grammar rules. However, the shift towards language functions allows them to focus on practical, real-world applications.

Novice Low:

  • Students can engage in simple role-play conversations, such as ordering food. They are encouraged to use common greetings, basic food-related vocabulary, and appropriate phrases.
  • The goal is not grammatical perfection but practical communication. Students learn to convey their preferences in an authentic context, laying the foundation for real-life interactions.

Novice High:

  • Students can participate in simulated scenarios such as traveling. Instead of overwhelming them with complex grammar structures, the focus is on enabling them to ask for directions, purchase tickets, and express basic needs.
  • This functional approach helps them interact confidently during hypothetical trips. They understand that language learning is not just about constructing grammatically accurate sentences but about using the language effectively to navigate different situations.

Intermediate Levels: Expanding Communication

As students progress to intermediate levels, they are capable of more substantial interactions. The traditional approach might have kept them confined to rigid sentence structures and limited vocabulary. However, emphasizing language functions empowers them to engage in meaningful conversations and express their ideas authentically.

Intermediate Low:

  •  Students might explore the function of persuading and giving opinions. Instead of fixating on intricate subjunctive forms, they engage in debates about topics like environmental conservation. Here, they use expressions like “I think that” and “in my opinion”  to articulate their viewpoints. They discover that language is a tool for expressing their thoughts and beliefs effectively.

Intermediate High:

  • Students can narrate and describe. Rather than being confined to formulaic sentences, they recount personal experiences, share anecdotes, and describe memorable events using a variety of verb tenses and adjectives. They understand that language is not just a set of grammar rules but a means to convey their unique experiences and emotions.

Embrace the Shift

As language teachers, it’s essential that we embrace this paradigm shift from a focus on grammar and accuracy to a broader emphasis on language functions and authentic communication. By doing so, we equip our students with the tools they need to navigate the multilingual world confidently. This shift ensures that language learning is not just a theoretical exercise, but a skill that can be applied in real-life situations.

111: Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching

What have you heard about Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching?  Is this what you are doing in your classroom?  In this episode I want to unpack exactly what CCLT is and is not. Luckily there is an incredibly useful chapter on this topic in the newly published book “Honing Our Craft.”  It gives us all the info we need to answer the question “What is and What Is not Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching?”  That’s actually the title of chapter 4.

Honing Our Craft

  • Edited by Dr. Florecia Henshaw (Director of Advanced Spanish at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) & Dr. Kim Potowski (Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • 12 chapters written by educators for educators, with a focus on bridging the gap between research and practical application.
  • Practical applications and suggestions for language educators that they can adapt to their particular contexts. 
  • Use this link and the discount code JOSHUA25HOC to save 25% on the book.

Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching(CCLT)

Context and Origin of CCLT

  • Role of Input
  • Krashen’s Input Hypothesis
  • Interaction and production also play a role, but the essential role of input is undeniable.
  • Presentation-Practice-Production (PPP)
    • popular because it is conceptually easy to understand
    • easy to grade and assess
    • accuracy is main criteria for success
  • Approaches need to be more aligned with how language is acquired (communication and understanding messages) and implicit knowledge, rather than explicit, PPP

Key Terms and Misconceptions

  • Communication is not synonymous with oral production (reflection of PPP)
  • move input to the center of the curriculum 
  • Production and Grammar are not neglected (focus on form, structured input)


  • What if my textbook follows the PPP approach?
    • modify activities to give hace a communicative goal
    • use the text in a chapter as a point of departure
  • What if my exams are grammar-based?
    • set aside time for grammar explanation 
    • promote friendly conversations with colleagues.
  • Do…
    • speak the target language most of the class time.
    • make input activities meaningful
  • Don’t…
    • forget that accuracy is developed gradually
    • forget comprehension is communication
    • plan classes around grammar points, grammar is a tool, not a goal

Remember to use this link and the discount code JOSHUA25HOC to save 25% on the book.

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me as a guest on the podcast.

You  can also be a part of Leveling Up coaching episode if there is an area of your teaching that you like to improve or enhance.  Join me on the podcast for a Leveling Up Coaching Episode.  

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

10 Tips for (Language) Classroom Management

Have you ever found yourself in a classroom where the atmosphere was so positive and engaging that you couldn’t help but feel excited about learning? Have you wondered how some language teachers seem to effortlessly manage their classrooms while fostering a sense of community and respect among their students? Classroom management is a critical aspect of language education. Let’s explore 10 effective ways of creating a positive language learning environment. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just starting, these practical suggestions will help you build a classroom where language proficiency and mutual respect thrive.

10 Tips for Language Classroom Management (French, Spanish)

Understanding the Importance of Classroom Management

Before we dive into specifics, let’s reflect on why effective classroom management is vital in the language classroom. A well-managed classroom not only ensures a conducive learning environment but also nurtures a positive and inclusive atmosphere. It sets the stage for:

  • Maximized Learning Opportunities: When students feel safe and respected, they are more likely to actively engage in language activities, leading to better language acquisition.
  • Effective Communication: Clear expectations and routines promote effective communication, helping students understand what’s expected of them and how to succeed.
  • Building Confidence: Positive classroom management boosts students’ confidence, encouraging them to take risks and participate in language tasks.

Strategies for a Positive Language Learning Environment

Now, let’s look at 10 classroom management strategies that can enhance your language classroom:

1. Establish Clear Guidelines: Create a set of clear and concise guidelines that outline classroom expectations, rules, and consequences. Share these guidelines with your students at the beginning of the school year or course. This provides a framework for behavior and helps prevent disruptions. Focus on the positive and the type of environment that you want to create.

2. Foster a Sense of Belonging: Cultivate a classroom atmosphere where students feel like they belong. Encourage open communication, active listening, and inclusivity. When students feel connected to their peers and the teacher, they are more likely to engage positively.

3. Use Positive Language: Promote positive interactions by modeling and using positive language. Praise and acknowledge students’ efforts and accomplishments. Encourage them to do the same with their peers, creating a supportive and uplifting atmosphere.

4. Implement Active Learning: Engage students in hands-on and interactive activities that require them to use the target language actively. These activities can range from role-playing and simulations to group projects and debates. Active learning keeps students motivated and involved.

5. Encourage Self-Reflection: Incorporate moments of self-reflection in your lessons. Prompt students to think about their language learning progress, strengths, and areas for improvement. This self-awareness helps them take ownership of their learning journey.

6. Set Realistic Goals: Work with your students to set achievable language learning goals. These goals can be short-term, like mastering a specific structure, or long-term, such as reaching a certain proficiency level. Having clear objectives keeps students motivated.

7. Create a Comfortable Physical Environment: Arrange your classroom to be comfortable and conducive to learning. Ensure adequate lighting, seating arrangements that facilitate communication, and a well-organized learning space. A comfortable environment positively impacts students’ focus.

8. Incorporate Authentic Materials: Integrate authentic materials from the target language culture into your lessons. These can include songs, videos, books, and news articles. Authentic materials provide real-world context and make language learning more engaging.

9. Promote Collaborative Learning: Encourage collaboration among students by assigning group projects and activities. Collaborative learning allows students to practice language skills while working together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared achievement.

10. Emphasize Growth Over Perfection: Shift the focus from perfection to growth. Encourage students to embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve. Celebrate their progress, no matter how small, and reinforce the idea that language learning is a journey.

Creating a positive language learning environment through effective classroom management is a journey that evolves with each class. By implementing these strategies tailored to various proficiency levels, you’ll be well on your way to fostering a classroom where language proficiency, respect, and confidence thrive.

Vertical Curriculum in World Language Programs

Have you ever found yourself wondering how to ensure your language students have a solid foundation and continue to thrive as they progress through grade levels?  Language educators often grapple with this question as they strive to provide the best possible language learning experience for their students. We’re going to explore an effective solution – Vertical Curriculum.

Vertical Curriculum in World Language Classes (French, Spanish)

What Exactly is Vertical Curriculum Alignment?

Vertical Curriculum is like building a strong foundation for a language house. Each level adds a layer of skills and knowledge that supports the next. Imagine trying to put on the roof before laying the walls – it just wouldn’t work! This alignment is essential because it ensures students are building on what they’ve learned, continuously building on their skills.

In a well-aligned curriculum, students in lower grades may start with basic vocabulary and sentence structure. As they progress to higher grade levels, they can confidently take on more complex structures and vocabulary, such as discussing literature, culture, and global issues.

Benefits for Students and Teachers

When a curriculum is aligned vertically students benefit from a seamless transition between grade levels, preventing gaps in their language learning. A student who grasps basic conversational skills in middle school can confidently approach more advanced topics, such as discussing literary works when they reach high school.

Teachers also benefit from a well-aligned curriculum. Collaboration across grade levels becomes more accessible as educators share common language around student progress and instructional strategies.

What Is Involved in Vertical Curriculum?

Scope and Sequence

  • A well-structured scope and sequence act as a roadmap for language learning and acquisition. It defines not only what topics are taught, but also when they are introduced.
  • At the novice-low level, students may explore basic vocabulary related to greetings and introductions, while at the intermediate-high level, they get into complex topics such as literature analysis.

Language Skills Progression

  • Language skills, such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing, are interdependent and build upon one another.
  • Novice-level students may begin with simple listening and speaking activities  and  gradually progress to reading short texts and writing basic sentences as they advance to the intermediate level.

Vocabulary and Grammar Development

  • Vocabulary serves as the building blocks of language, while grammar provides the structural framework. Effective vertical curriculum alignment ensures that students learn vocabulary and grammar progressively.
  • The teaching of common French verbs like “to be” and “to have” at the novice level paves the way for more complex verb conjugations at higher proficiency levels.

How Do We Create a Vertical Curriculum?

Collaboration among Teachers

  • Collaboration among teachers from various grade levels is a cornerstone of vertical curriculum alignment. Imagine a group of teachers, from elementary to high school, coming together to discuss their teaching strategies. They can identify common challenges, share successful activities, and collectively enhance their curriculum alignment.

Vertical Team Meetings

  • Vertical team meetings are like a roundtable discussion where educators from different grade levels gather to exchange ideas and experiences. These meetings can be instrumental in streamlining curriculum alignment efforts.

Assessment Consistency

  • Consistency in assessment methods and criteria is paramount in vertical curriculum alignment. A shared understanding of assessment practices ensures that students are evaluated fairly and accurately across grade levels.
  • Teachers collaboratively develop rubrics for assessment that outline specific criteria for language elements such as proficiency level text type and vocabulary usage.
  • With consistent assessment criteria in place, students can track their progress from one year to the next, providing them with a clear sense of their language development.

How Can We Address Some Challenges?

Time and Resources

  • Aligning curriculum across grade levels can be time-consuming, but there are strategies to streamline the process. For instance, utilizing digital platforms for collaborative lesson planning can save educators significant time. Teachers can collectively design lessons, share resources, and ensure alignment without the need for lengthy meetings and emails.

Resistance to Change

  • Change can be challenging, but it can also lead to exciting advancements in language education. One way to address resistance to change is to gradually introduce new teaching strategies or technologies.

Action Steps for Language Teachers


  • To begin the journey of vertical curriculum alignment, language teachers can conduct a self-assessment of their existing curriculum. This involves reviewing the curriculum, identifying gaps or misalignments, and highlighting areas that require adjustment or enhancement.

Small-Scale Alignment

  • Language teachers can start small by selecting a single unit or theme and ensuring it aligns seamlessly across grade levels.
  • For example, if 7th-grade students study family members, teachers can ensure that 8th-grade students can build on that foundation by discussing family relationships more extensively in the following year.
  • This approach allows educators to focus on refining specific aspects of the curriculum without feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of a complete overhaul.

Conclusion…and Then It’s Your Turn

Vertical curriculum alignment in world language classes is an effective to support students’ language proficiency. It creates a structured and cohesive progression of skills and knowledge, benefiting both students and teachers. By embracing collaboration, consistent assessment practices, and a growth mindset, language teachers can create a strong foundation for their students’ language learning journey.

Preparing for AP Success Beginning at the Novice Level

Do you have AP language classes in your program?  When do you begin focusing on the linguistic and cultural competence skills that students will need to succeed at this level? A Pre-AP focus can be quite beneficial in the language learning process, fostering critical skills and mindsets early on. Whether students pursue a language at the AP level or not, these skills not only enhance and support academic success, but  they also cultivate confidence and competence.

Preparing for AP Success Beginning at the Novice Level (French, Spanish)

Let’s look at the benefits of integrating Pre-AP strategies and curriculum into language program curriculum and objectives. These provide students with a strong foundation for their language learning pursuit.  They will be well-equipped to succeed in an AP class, or, if they don’t follow that route, they will still have the skills needed to communicate effectively and with confidence.

Building Strong Language Foundations

To pave the path for success, emphasizing core language skills—Interpersonal Speaking Interpretive Listening and Reading, Presentational Speaking and Writing—is pivotal in lower-level classes. These skills are the foundation of language proficiency and serve as the building blocks for advanced language studies. Incorporating authentic resources, such as news articles, videos, and podcasts, enriches language learning experiences. Students greatly benefit from exposure to real-world materials, providing a glimpse into how language operates in authentic contexts.

Cultivating Critical Thinking

Even at lower proficiency levels, cultivating critical thinking skills is attainable. In lower-level classes, introduce basic analysis and synthesis abilities. For instance, encourage students to analyze short texts or compare different viewpoints on straightforward topics. Questioning techniques play a pivotal role in promoting critical thinking. Pose thought-provoking questions that urge students to delve deeper into a text’s meaning, nurturing thoughtful discussions and enhancing overall comprehension.

Integrating AP Themes in Lower-Level Classes

Delaying the exploration of AP themes until AP classes is not necessary.

Beauty and Aesthetics

  • At lower proficiency levels, you can introduce discussions on topics like art, music, and cultural expressions. Challenge students to describe a famous painting using simple vocabulary and then compare their interpretations.

Science and Technology

  • Basic science and technology-related vocabulary can be introduced . Have students read simplified news articles about technological advancements and discuss their implications in the target language.

Personal and Public Identities

  • Exploring personal interests and identities is relevant at any proficiency level. In a straightforward “About Me” presentation activity, students can introduce themselves and share their hobbies.

Families and Communities

  • Family structures and communities are universal topics that can be discussed even with basic language skills. Encourage students to create posters representing a community event or a family gathering.

Global Challenges

  • Basic global challenges, like environmental issues, can be introduced in lower-level classes. For instance, students can engage in dialogues discussing simple ways to contribute to solving these challenges.

Contemporary Life

  • Everyday life topics are relatable for all learners. Consider a role-play activity where students simulate common situations like ordering food at a restaurant using basic conversational phrases.

Differentiation and Inclusion

Acknowledge the diverse learning needs in your classes. Implement strategies that cater to various learning styles and skill levels. Tiered assignments serve as an excellent approach to adapting tasks to different proficiency levels, challenging advanced learners while providing extra support for those who require it.

Your Turn…

The advantages of focusing on these “AP skills” extends beyond advanced content; it lays a solid foundation for language learners. By integrating these strategies and curriculum into lower-level classes, educators equip students with the tools and mindset required for success in advanced language courses. Try out these suggestions and tailor them to your unique classroom contexts as you empower students to grow in proficiency and reach higher levels of cultural competence.

Strategies for Effective Error Correction in the Language Classroom

In the communicative language classroom, nurturing effective communication and language proficiency takes precedence. While linguistic accuracy plays a role, the primary objective is conveying meaning and facilitating genuine interactions. Let’s look at some strategies for providing constructive error correction, focusing on meaningful communication. We’ll address different proficiency levels, from novice to intermediate, and provide examples.

Selective Correction

Prioritize corrections that hinder comprehension or effective communication.

Novice Level (French):

  • Student: “Je aller à l’école hier.”
  • Feedback: “C’est bien que tu parles du passé, mais il faut dire ‘Je suis allé(e) à l’école hier.’ Bon travail!”

Intermediate Level (Spanish):

  • Student: “Yo vio una película anoche.”
  • Feedback: “Es genial que estés usando el pasado, pero recuerda decir ‘Yo vi una película anoche.’ Sigue así.”


Rephrase errors without explicitly pointing them out, allowing students to self-correct.

Novice Level (French):

  • Student: “Je mangé pizza hier.”
  • Recasting (French): “Ah, tu as mangé de la pizza hier?”
  • Student’s Self-correction: “Oui, j’ai mangé de la pizza hier.”

Intermediate Level (Spanish):

  • Student: “Nosotros ir a la playa el fin de semana pasado.”
  • Recasting (Spanish): “¿Ustedes fueron a la playa el fin de semana pasado?”
  • Student’s Self-correction: “Sí, nosotros fuimos a la playa el fin de semana pasado.”

Error Logs

Encourage students to maintain error logs, promoting self-awareness and self-correction.

Novice Level (French):

  • Student: Repeatedly forgets to use articles (e.g., “J’aime manger pizza.”)
  • Error Log Entry: “Oublié les articles. Je dois dire ‘J’aime manger de la pizza.'”

Intermediate Level (Spanish):

  • Student: Confuses verb tenses (e.g., “Hoy yo comió pescado.”)
  • Error Log Entry: “Confundí los tiempos verbales. Debo decir ‘Hoy yo comí pescado.'”

Delayed Correction

Provide feedback after speaking activities, allowing students to focus on communication during the task.

Novice Level (French):

  • Activity: Role-play at a restaurant where students take on the roles of server and customer.
  • Feedback (after activity): “Bravo! Vous avez bien communiqué vos commandes. Maintenant, faisons une petite correction. ‘Je voudrais une salade’ est la phrase correcte.”

Intermediate Level (Spanish):

  • Activity: Group discussion about vacation plans.
  • Feedback (after activity): “Excelente discusión. Han utilizado bien el pretérito perfecto compuesto. Ahora, algunas correcciones: ‘Voy a visitar a mi familia’ es la frase correcta.”

Effective error correction in the communicative language classroom revolves around balancing meaningful communication and linguistic accuracy. By applying these strategies tailored to students’ proficiency levels, teachers can empower their students to communicate confidently while continually improving their language skills.