Tag Archives: spanish

9: Teach Grammar as a Concept and in Context with Mike Travers

In this episode we talk about grammar.  This is always a hot topic in language teaching with lots of questions about how (or even if) we should do it.  [sign up for Talking Points]

I am joined by Mike Travers, a teacher in Massachusetts, who has presented on this topic many times at teacher conferences, having been named “Best of Conference.”  So, who better to help with this conversation?

Mike speaks about…

  • The role of grammar in communicative language teaching.
  • ACTFL’s Core Practice of Teaching Grammar as a Concept and in Context.
  • Why is it essential and beneficial that language structures be taught in context.
  • Procedures for teaching grammar in context and as a concept.
  • Possible benefits of explicit grammar instruction.

Connect with Mike Travers:

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

Unpacking Language Pedagogy

I’m a big fan of teaching practice that is supported by data and research.

I appreciate resources such as the OASIS Database, which provides one-page descriptions of research articles on language learning and language teaching. The summaries provide information in accessible, non-technical language about each study’s goals, how it was conducted, and what was found.

My newest find is Dr. Florencia Henshaw, an instructor and Program Director at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

I can’t get enough of her YouTube videos where she unpacks research articles and language terms in ways that are clear and accessible to language teachers.  I rewatch her videos when I need a refresher and catch something new each time.

Dr. Henshaw adds new topics all the time and keeps the videos to about 10 minutes so that the topics are not too overwhelming.  She also does an excellent job of breaking down topics into individual videos that are focused and concise.

Equity & Social Justice in the World Language Classroom

The world language classroom is certainly a place where we can highlight and embrace equity, equality and social justice.  Given that we engage in discussions of cultural almost every day we should keep this equity lens front and center. Before we even begin to think about language learning, or learning of any kind, we need to create welcoming classroom environments where every student feels safe, valued and understood for who they are.

Social Justice in the World Language Classroom

I’ve been familiar with the work and publications of Teaching Tolerance for many years.  Despite the good work of the organization I have always had a problem with the word “tolerance.”  It seems like such a low bar.  I was very happy to see that they decided to change their name to Learning for Justice.  So much better.

There are lots of resources on the LFJ website.  One that I think we can all use in the language classroom is the Social Justice Standards and Anti-Bias Framework.  They are set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes divided into four domains—Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action.  The anchors provide common language and they guide teachers and administrators as they seek to make schools more just, equitable and safe.

I particularly appreciate how the standards are leveled for K–12 education.  They remind me of how the ACTFL Can Do Statements are organized.

There are 5 anchor standards for each domain. Social Justice in the World Language ClassroomThen there are grade level and developmentally appropriate outcomes and goals for each anchor. Here is an example of the goals for the Action Anchors for grades 9-12. Social Justice in the World Language Classroom

It is interesting to track a goal through the developmental levels. Let’s take #17 under Action for example:

17. Students will recognize their own responsibility to stand up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

K-2:  I can and will do something when I see unfairness—this includes telling an adult.

3-5: I know it’s important for me to stand up for myself and for others, and I know how to get help if I need ideas on how to do this.

6-8: I know how to stand up for myself and for others when faced with exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

9-12: I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

You can see the progression from “can do something,” and “know how to get help” to “stand up for myself and others” and “take responsibility.”  The outcomes and goals make the anchors very concrete and understandable.

Since we are often in the proficiency-level head space these Social Justice Standards blend well, particularly in the language classroom where we have infinite opportunities to take on issues of equity and equality.

4. What is Communicative Language Teaching?

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]

Topics:

  • 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:
    • student-centered
    • students create with language
    • focus is communicating messages

What does this look like in the classroom?

  • Performance
  • Assessment

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

This blog has a pdf that you can download with all of these details on communicative language teaching.

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

2. Language Teaching Then and Now


In this episode I discuss 3 major approaches to language teaching of the past 50+ years. It’s helpful to understand where it all started and how we arrived at the communicative teaching practices that we employ in our classroom.

Sometimes we need to look to the past to fully understand how to got to where we are now.

Find out about:

  • Behaviorism; Pavlov, Skinner
  • Innatism; Chomsky
  • Social Interactionism; Vygotsky, Hymes

What has been refuted, supported or sustained in our modern approaches?

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

French & Spanish Digital Verb Form Activities

I have done a paper version of this activity, but now I do them digitally using Google Slides™.  Students are actively engaged in their language learning with these interactive digital squares verb form activities.

To complete the puzzles, students begin with a subject/infinitive from the number column and locate the correct form in the letter column.  They then find the corresponding square in the grid, such as 1E, 5G or 7B, and drag a red dot to it.

Each completed slide creates an obvious pattern that can be quickly graded by the teacher. There is an answer slide included with the solutions for each slide.

This video shows how to do the activities.

These digital squares activities can be used in class or remotely for:

  • Quick review
  • Activity for students who finish other activities early
  • Do Now (individual puzzles)
  • Homework (multiple puzzles)
  • Classwork (individual, group, station)
  • Substitute lesson plans

The activities are ready to go right away. All you have to do is share with your students.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom

ACTFL provides us with Core Practices that guide teachers toward teaching language proficiency rather than simply teaching about the target language.  It comes down to providing students with opportunities to do something with the language and not just demonstrate what they know about the language.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom; French, Spanish

When we take on the task of providing opportunities for students to engage with culture ACTFL recommends using authentic cultural resources.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom; French, Spanish

What is an authentic cultural resource? 

  • Eileen W. Glisan and Richard Donato explain that “Authentic texts […] are created for various social and cultural purposes by and for users of the target language.”  The word authentic implies that “the text has not been simplified or edited for the purpose of language instruction.”

How do I choose authentic cultural resources? 

Leslie Grahn suggests that these resources should be:

  • Authentic (truly for by and or native speakers)
  • Appealing (compelling to students)
  • Accessible (according to the students’ proficiency level)
  • Aligned (integrated into goals and backward planning)

What are some possibilities for authentic cultural resources? 

  • Video clips
  • Poems
  • Audio clips
  • Songs
  • Articles
  • Commercials
  • Infographics
  • Books
  • Podcasts
  • Advertisements
  • Images
  • Memes
  • Quotes
  • Movies
  • Stories
  • Conversations

One of the best pieces of advice that I have heard regarding using authentic cultural resources is from Leslie Grahn:

“Adapt the task, not the text.”

NCSSFL ACTFL Intercultural Can Do Statements

It is now commonly understood that language and culture are inextricably connected.  Every language is used within a culture and every culture involves communication in at least one language.  These two concepts of language and culture cannot exist in isolation, but rather influence and depend on each other.

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can Do Statements were originally published with a focus on authentic communication and were a useful guide for language teachers to make sure that the students were using the language in communicative contexts.  The Intercultural Can Do Statements were published a few years later.  In addition to the goal of language proficiency they now include competencies for investigating and engaging in the various cultures where the language is used.

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFLIntercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

  • They now include these goals for investigating and interacting with culture:

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

  • There are also specific goals by proficiency level that dive into further detail:

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

By following the communicative goals along with the intercultural goals we are moving our students toward a stronger CQ (Cultural Intelligence).  This will provide the skills and insight to navigate, interact and behavior appropriately and respectfully in cultures that are different from their own.

Download the NCSSFL-ACTFL Intercultural Can Do Statements  and the Reflection Tool.

 

French & Spanish Digital Vocabulary Activity

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™.

French & Spanish Digital Vocabulary Activity

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.

Each completed slide creates an obvious pattern that can be quickly graded by the teacher. There is an answer slide included with the solutions for each slide.

This video shows how to do the activities.

 

These digital squares activities can be used in class or remotely for:

  • Quick review
  • Activity for students who finish other activities early
  • Do Now (individual puzzles)
  • Homework (multiple puzzles)
  • Classwork (individual, group, station)
  • Substitute lesson plans

The activities are ready to go right away. All you have to do is share with your students.

 

French and Spanish Verb Form Magic Squares (Digital, Google Slides™)

What is that you hope to find when looking for resources?  Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Digital files that I can easily share with students
  • Activities that can be used in class, remote or hybrid
  • Little to no prep
  • Self-grading or easy to grade
  • Provides students with effective practice with polishing verb form knowledge

Digital magic squares activities using Google Slides™ check all of the boxes.

The right side of each screen has 16 subject/infinitive pairs and the grid has the verb forms that correspond to each pair. Students type the number of the subject/infinitive pair below the verb form.

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.

Absolutely no prep needed. Just share with students. Useful for distance, hybrid, blended or in school learning and teaching.

Digital files, Useful in-class, Remote or hybrid, Little to no prep, Self-grading, Effective practice

Get your magic squares activities now and share immediately with students.