Tag Archives: teacher

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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10: Equity in the Language Classroom with A.C. Quintero

In this episode we talk about equity in the in language classroom, but it’s really about equity in any classroom.  [sign up for Talking Points]

I am joined by A.C. Quintero who helps us to understand the importance of creating a classroom and student experience that moves beyond equality and focuses on an authentic equity.

A.C. speaks about…

  • what students “bring” to the classroom that language teachers need to be aware of.
  • how we can assess in ways that are equitable and recognize students’ skills in different areas.
  • culturally responsive teaching and how this benefits student.
  • teaching equitably in intentional ways.
  • biases and our responsibility as teachers to recognize them.

Connect with A.C. Quintero:

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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:

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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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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.

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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?

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How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching?

I like a good story.  Stories are interesting, intriguing and often capture and maintain our interest.  While I enjoy a good story or pleasant anecdote, I need more than a story of success and suggestion based on experience when I’m looking introspectively at my practice as a language teacher.

I actually like reading research that is conducted in applied linguistics and, more specifically, in the field of second language acquisition (SLA).  I quite enjoyed my graduate school days when we dove deep into empirical research and used it to inform our understanding of the cognition and social dynamics that govern learning a first or second language.  Who doesn’t like spending a little quality time with Krashen, Vygotsky, Swain, VanPatten or Asher?

While I do enjoy a good, quality, peer-reviewed, empirically sound research project I don’t always have the time, and, let’s be honest, the  focus, to read all about it.

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching? (French, Spanish)

OK.  Get ready for it.  This is the the type of thing that I get incredibly excited about….On an episode of Bill Van Patten’s podcast, Talkin’ L2 with BVP, a guest mentioned the Website OASIS .  It is quite remarkable what they provide and are able to produce.

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching? (French, Spanish)

OASIS summaries are one-page descriptions of research articles on language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The summaries provide information in accessible, non-technical language about each study’s goals, how it was conducted ,and what was found.  There are often ideas for using the information to inform classroom teaching as well.

Just use the search bar on the OASIS  Webiste to look for articles any topic of language acquisition of interest to you and you will soon have accessible research findings that allow you to move beyond anecdotal evidence.  Enjoy, and try not to fall down the rabbit hole.  I always do.

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom

What comes to mind when you hear “Millennial” or “Gen Z?”  We all know that they get a bad rap.   Generations are different, and just like the Baby Boomers had to figure out how to teach the Gen Xers we need to look carefully at what we need to do to reach Millennials and Gen Zers.  Basically, it comes down to knowing that these generations want to know the value and use of what they are learning.  Let’s take a look at how to approach teaching languages to these generations and understand all they have to offer.

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

A quick review of the names of the generations over the past 70 years:

Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1964

Age in 2018: 54-72

Gen X

Born: 965-1985

Age in 2018: 33-53

Millennials

Born: 1986-1995

Age in 2018: 23-32

Gen Z

Born: 1996- present

Age in 2018: 0-22

I learned a lot about the Millennials and Gen Z from the Millennial Impact Project (2015) & The Business of Good (Haber, 2016).  Haber’s book is about social entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who want to make a social difference with profits from their companies.  Looks like the Millennials and the Gen Z are approaching their employment with this goal.

Here are a few things that Haber writes about these these younger generations in The Business of Good:

“They don’t wait for taxis, they take Uber. They don’t wait for emails, they text. They don’t wait to work up the corporate ladder, they start their own business. It should come as no surprise that they have no interest in waiting to make a difference. It’s as if the generation has been hardwired to believe in the fierce urgency of now.”

OK, now that I’ve made the case for not giving them the bad rap that they get, let’s look at how we go about teaching this generation of elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students.

Let’s start by looking at the the brain and cognition.  Some of this data is adapted from the work of Dr. Bobb Darnell of Achievement Strategies, Inc. (www.achievementstrategies.org)  

Before the arrival of technology, Baby Boomer and Gen Xer brains :

  • were good at single-tasking
  • were able to sustain focus for long periods of time
  • were adept on concentrating for long periods of time

After the arrival of technology, Millennial and Gen Z brains:

  • are good at multi-tasking
  • can effectively navigate multiple input streams

It is through no fault of their own, but rather the reality of how their  brains are being wired for a certain kind of learning, that Millennials and Gen Zs have/are:

  • Shorter Attention Spans
  • Uncomfortable With Boredom
  • That Fierce Urgency of Now
  • Visually Preferred
  • Interactive and Hands-On
  • Love Challenge
  • Curious
  • Success Trough Strategy

So…what we do?  What are some ways to adapt our teaching, instruction, class routines, curriculum and relationships to the reality of the Millennial and Gen Z brain?Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

The PDF download includes tips and suggestions for…

  • dealing with shorter attention spans and being uncomfortable with boredomTeaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)
  • responding to the fierce urgency of now

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • preparing lessons and activities for students who are visually preferred

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • creating opportunities for interactive and hands-on learning experiences

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • adding challenge and elements of curiosity to classroom instruction

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

  • guiding students toward success through strategies

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) One other thing to consider….Are we, in fact,  listening to our students and providing what they need to be successful and proficiency speakers of the language that we teach?  If they were aware of what their brain needs (or read this post), they would say to us:

  • Challenge me.
  • Let me work with others.
  • Let’s have fun.
  • Be flexible.
  • Encourage me.
  • Make me curious.
  • Give me feedback.
  • Learn from me too.
  • Let me give you my ideas.
  • I need to know the goal.

It is never easy to understand the experience and lens of a generation that is seemingly so different from our own.  Our parents thought that we were going to be the demise of the world because we did things differently.  Many of us are repeating the same behavior with the younger generations that we teach.  Let’s break the cycle and celebrate all that our students have to offer.

Teaching Millennials and Gez Z in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift. That Was Then. This Is Now.

The field of language teaching is always on the move.  Every decade or so there is an innovative way to approach language teaching.  For a recap of the language teaching methodologies that have surfaced over the past century take a look at this post.  Over the past decade many foreign language teachers have embraced communicative language teaching, which focuses on authentic communication over language forms such as grammar structures.

That Was Then. This Is Now. Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift (French, Spanish)

To be clear, a certain level of accuracy of language is needed to convey a message that is comprehensible.  The difference from methodologies of the past is that previous approaches to language teaching focused almost solely on accuracy of language.  These days we see the value in focusing on the message, even when that means looking past some errors when the learner has not yet acquired the language structure.  ACTFL has compiled a significant amount of research to support the the effectiveness of communicative language teaching.

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 in the past 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 approaches.

Here are four areas of this mindset shift that distinguish current communicative approaches from accuracy-centered approach of the past.

Objectives and Content:

  • Past: The teacher was the all-knowing possessor of knowledge and directed all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.
  • Present: The teacher works in collaboration with students and there are shared learning objectives.  Content is driven by both the teacher and the student.

Communication:

  • Past: Typically communication was focused on the four traditional language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  This usually meant that these skills were practiced in isolation and were not interconnected.
  • Present: The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are now the focus.  They provide students with opportunities to do something with the four skills.

Performance:

  • Past: The focus was on what students knew about the language and its structures.  Practice of correct grammatical forms of the language were typically done in isolation and out of context.
  • Present: The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language.  This is always tied to context and students communicate authentically with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is clear.

Assessment:

  • Past: Assessments determined the level of language accuracy and the teacher could easily and quickly point out what was incorrect, such as verb forms, noun gender, adjective agreement, etc.
  • Present: Assessments are performance-based.  Teachers use tools and strategies such as backwards design and Can-Do statements to guide students toward communication.

Where are you regarding your teaching mindset?  If you want to embrace communicative language teaching, take a look at the “present” mindset statements and see where you are.  It can take some time and a solid approach is always evolving.  It doesn’t have to happen this week.   Download this PDF with some questions to help keep your lesson planning in the “present.”

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive?

Approaches to teaching are always improving, or, maybe we should say changing.  When there is momentum behind a new, innovative or highly-supported methodology many of us get behind it and begin to implement it, as best we can at least.  Teachers are particularly prone to “buy-in” when we see colleagues (real or virtual) having some level of success with a new methodology.

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive? (French, Spanish)The wave of communicative language teaching is currently, and rightfully, the foreign language teaching methodology that is supported by the foreign language teaching community. This has helped put the teaching focus on guiding students toward authentically communicating rather than simply learning about the details of the language.

One of the biggest debates or challenges among the communicative language teaching community is the topic of grammar instruction.  There are lots of questions and concerns around this.  Should we teach grammar?  Should we only provide examples of language structure through comprehensible input? What is the “right” way to teach or expose students to grammar structures in a second language?  Implicit or explicit grammar instruction?

Some researchers in language acquisition and teachers claim that grammar should be taught explicitly, as rules.  Others point to the teaching of grammar implicitly, suggesting that students acquire language structure only through meaningful exposure in context.  As a result they create their own “language rules” implicitly rather than having the rules taught explicitly.  Let’s make sure we have a solid understanding of the two approaches to language instruction.

  • Deductive instruction is a “top-down” approach, meaning that the teacher starts with a grammar rule with specific examples, and the rule is learned through practice.
  • Inductive instruction is a “bottom-up” approach, meaning that the teacher provides examples of the structure in context and students make observations, detect patterns, formulate hypothesis, and draw conclusions. PACE Model is an example of this approach.

I prefer to move beyond anecdotal evidence and consider the benefits of the two types of grammar instruction as they are presented in language acquisition research.

Brown (2007):

  • “While it might be appropriate to articulate a rule and then proceed to instances, most of the evidence in communicative second language teaching points to the superiority of an inductive approach to rules and generalizations.”

Shaffer (1989) :

  • “Evidence against the notion of an inductive approach should not be used for difficult structures.”

So, where does this leave us?  As much as we as teachers would like one tried and true way we all know that teaching and education is mostly a mixture of effective techniques.  To this end here are some thoughts from Shaffer:

  • Implicit grammar instruction is effective for language structures that are regular and consistent as this allows students to observe patterns, make generalizations and form linguistic rules.
  • Explicit grammar instruction is more effective for language structures that are irregular, inconsistent and less commonly present in communicative language.

Ultimately it would seem that a varied approach is necessary depending on the regularity or irregularity of a the focus structure.  The important thing to keep in mind is the active engagement of the student in whichever process is used. The inductive approach lends itself to active engagement using a process such as the PACE Model.  When teaching irregular language feature deductively be sure to provide opportunities for students to use the structure communicatively and also provide additional comprehensible input activities that contain the focus structure.

Brown (2007).  Principles of Language Learning and Teaching.  Pearson Longman

Shaffer (1989).  A Conversation of Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Teaching Foreign Languages. The Modern Language Journal 73.4