By Deborah Espitia
Immersing students in the target language embraces all facets of the classroom environment—physical, social, emotional. This immersion encompasses a variety of tangible elements through which we can purposefully use the target language in our own classrooms: print, audio, and video authentic resources; authentic tasks in the three modes of communication—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational; formative and summative performance assessment; classroom management; teacher-to-student plus student-to-student informal interactions.
While using the target language for curriculum-oriented items (i.e. authentic resources, authentic tasks, assessments) is more easily incorporated into our teaching, we may find it challenging to stay in the target language to establish rapport and build relationships with our students who are at the Novice or Intermediate proficiency levels. There is a sense that the lack of language stands as a barrier to developing those social and emotional connections.
But don't let that stop you from bringing the language into all facets of your classroom. Staying in the target language creates a more cohesive sense of community, a community that has shared goals and experiences, empowers its members to contribute, provides a safety net for taking risks, and consequently, builds trust, collaboration, and a “can-do” attitude with using the language.
There are many strategies and tools we can use to build community through immersion in the target language. Today, let’s take a look at one tool and six strategies that take advantage of the power of social media.
No, we’re not going to access one of the social media tools that students may use with their friends. We’ll be working in a secure environment that comes with your Wayside product: the Classroom Forum in each Explorer course on the Learning Site. This is one of my favorite tools for building that sense of community with students as well as immersing them even more into the language and culture.
Highlight school events, student achievements and celebrations
Post notices of upcoming school events (i.e., concerts, theater productions, sports) in which your students are participating. Highlight their achievements in these events, but also include what they’re doing outside of school. Provide notecards on which students can share what they’ve done if they’re too humble to post the notice themselves. Also, encourage parents to send in notices and links to photos or online news stories. And don’t forget to post birthdays, along with bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, cotillions, quinceañeras, Eagle Scouts, etc.
Another idea is to feature a student of the week (Nuestro/a estudiante estupendo/a). Include in the post why he or she was selected and encourage classmates to add their own kudos or congratulations.
Share student work
The Classroom Forum is a great spot to display exemplary student work. Take photos of the work and attach them to a post. Upload and share audio or video recordings students have made for a specific task. Create a series of “awards” (i.e. most creative, best use of vocabulary, most culturally authentic) and post multiple works for a given assignment. Have classmates add positive comments and ask follow-up questions about the content or context.
Conduct team challenges
Post a prompt with a list of partner challenges. In groups of two, have students “spin” an online spinner and then complete the corresponding challenge. Include tasks that encourage kindness, collaboration, teamwork, expression, and the sharing of ideas and opinions. Here is an example for Novice learners who have been expressing likes and dislikes:
Write a note of appreciation to one of your teachers.
Talk for one minute to your partner about what you like to do in your free time.
Draft a top-ten list of your favorite things about your school.
Talk about three things you would like to do if given a free-choice activity in language class.
Describe three things you would like to take with you on a month stay in Paraguay (or another country other study).
Each month, share class highlights from the previous month. In preparation, take photos of class activities, student work, and students in action (headless shots are my favorite; I don’t post students’ images and they have fun trying to guess who is in the photos). Post the images and have students write captions (i.e., adjectives, rejoinders, simple sentences, complex sentences). Or post sentence starters and have students submit their versions of the complete sentence. Some examples include (prompts that reinforce language structures serve double duty):
Three adjectives that describe class last week are …
The best moment in class has been ...
Last month, I remember when …
My favorite activity last semester was ...
Select a student blogger or student paparazzi
Have students take the lead in posting a comment, task, or prompt to which classmates can respond. Have a student take photos related to the content under study or of interest to classmates so that they can write captions or design memes.
Pose a Friday 3-2-1 reflection
Choose a day of the week and have students complete a 3-2-1 reflection or task. For example, on Fridays, the following makes sense:
3 words that describe my week
2 things that made me smile this week
1 thing I plan to do this weekend.
On Wednesdays, many students love celebrating Zachary Jones’ Miaucoles:
3 words that describe cats
2 things that cats do that make me laugh
1 name I would give to a cat and why.
Come up with a creative task for the other days of the week and over the course of the school year, use each of them once.
And it goes without saying (but, I’ll state it anyway) that all these posts and responses are in the target language.
So, take the plunge! Immerse your students even more in the target language by using the Classroom Forum to build a positive, supportive language community!
Watch what EntreCulturas can do! In this brief video, authors and teachers talk about our groundbreaking Spanish language program. See how can do statements help teachers think about student performance in a new way and help students focus on what they can do with the language right from the beginning. EntreCulturas leads with culture, which helps students engage in language learning as they find themselves pushed to communicate on an authentic level.
What is interculturality? How do you maximize the impact of authentic resources? How exactly do you teach grammar in context?
Our Proficiency Talks sessions during ACTFL 2018 will provide you with answers and you will walk away with ready-to-implement strategies for your classroom. You can also find out about our latest products, including the only truly proficiency-drive French language program, EntreCultures, as well as the new edition of the respected AP Spanish bible, Triangulo.
Download the full list of sessions here.
Stop by booth #1137 on Friday and Saturday for quick demos on can-do statements and the power of self-assessment (Friday at 10:50 a.m. and 12:50 p.m.) and on how to leverage technology to teach grammar in context (Saturday at 10:30 and 10:50 a.m. and 12:50 p.m.)
Attending a large conference can be overwhelming. So many sessions! So many exhibitors! So many new people to meet! To help you out, we collected five great tips from our instructional strategists. Deborah Espitia, Cristin Bleess, and Jay Ketner are veteran conference-goers and know how to get the most PD bang out of a large event like ACTFL.
Have a plan
The more planning you do ahead of time, the better off you will be once you get to the conference. It’s a good time to decide: do you want to go narrow and deep on one or two topics, or wide and varied on many? Focus your attention on what you want to learn and base it on the direction you are going with your teaching. Take the time to really study the program (it’s available online weeks ahead of the event) and figure out which sessions will fill your needs.
Pro tip: Download the ACTFL 2018 App and build your schedule there. Remember, if you build your schedule through a web browser, you’ll have to recreate it on the app, so why not just use the app to start with?
One of the best ways to start ACTFL is to attend the orientation session for first-time attendees early Friday morning. Then stay for the ACTFL Opening General Session with the featured keynote and the announcement of the Language Teacher of the Year. It’s an inspiring and energizing way to kick off your conference experience.
Pro tip: Be sure to attend sessions by the current and former Teacher of Year winners, as well as the “best of” sessions from regional conferences.
Just think—all of these people who attend sessions with you or wander the exhibit hall around you are there for the same reason: to learn to become better language teachers. So don’t be shy to strike up conversations during sessions, breaks, or at various other events during ACTFL. Make connections that will help you become a better teacher. Stay connected after the conference on Twitter or via email. This is a great time to build an online professional learning community.
Pro tip: Have business cards handy for networking purposes. No cards? Take a picture of your new friend's name badge so you can look each other up later.
Don’t skip the exhibit hall
Be sure to spend some time in the exhibit hall. People at the booths will be happy to chat with you about ways you can help your students learn a language. And you just never know what conversation might spark a great idea that you can take straight back to your classroom.
Pro tip: Don’t by shy to ask for free resources, samples, or catalogs to browse later for ideas or to remind you of products and services that caught your eye.
Plan to share with your colleagues
Professional development does not end at the end of ACTFL. Plan to share what you have learned with your colleagues back home and see what new directions or ideas come from those conversations. It’s a great time to re-energize not just your own teaching, but those around you as well.
Pro tip: Whether in a notebook or on a laptop or iPad, be sure to take good notes at all sessions. Many presenters will also upload their PowerPoint presentations or handouts to the ACTFL website or app for easy access later.
Do you have tips to share? Tweet to us using #followtheowl and #ACTFL18.