Now that ACTFL's annual conference is more than a month behind me, I've finally got a moment to catch my breath and organize my reflections from this powerhouse learning marathon. This was my 3rd ACTFL conference, and my 3rd time presenting. The excitement began right at the gate at Logan airport in Boston, where nearly every passenger was a world language teacher headed to New Orleans. My sense of anticipation was high because I'd finally meet Natalia DeLaat in person (see above, photo credit: Thomas Sauer). Although we'd been working together virtually for months to put together our session, I was anxious to see this woman en chair et en os and get a sense of how we'd get along, say...presenting in front of a national audience (spoiler: it all went great!).
I attended many, many sessions and also made time to relax and enjoy the beauty of New Orleans. My only forays into the American South have been for ACTFL conferences, and I was astounded by the architecture, history, and cuisine. Getting a private walking tour of the French Quarter (because no one else showed up!) and eating beignets for lunch were among the highlights.
You can read my notes on various sessions, many with links to the presentations themselves, here. These weren't written for an audience, but I typed them up from my handwritten notes so that I'd remember key ideas going forward.
A month out, here's what I'm still chewing on from the conference:
1. Get students deep into interculturality by having them study a topic with students from the target culture, and then present their stereotypes to one another. Manuela Wagner presented on this with Boston-area German teacher Joan Campbell, and I was intrigued by how they had U.S. and German students read about one another's cultures, make observations, and even write stereotypes. Then students asked questions of the other group, and recorded how their ideas changed.
2. Paul Sandrock and Donna Clementi's session on interpersonal communication was tremendous. Megan Budke blogged about it in detail here, and definitely read through the full slideshow to learn from their wisdom. In a nutshell, too often our students understand paired speaking tasks to consist of "I ask a question, you answer, we're done." This pair pushed us to take it much further, by explicitly rating students on looking at the speaker, asking (and teaching!) clarifying questions, staying in the target language, and more. They also tied their work to Bill VanPatten's work on Tasks and gave a beautiful example of a Task that accompanies an authentic resource that I already use in my classroom:
3. Rich Madel gave a fantastic presentation on teaching culture. Not only did he engage the audience during a tough, late-afternoon slot by using a simple hold-up, but he also presented the IMAGE model for teaching culture in the most approachable manner I've seen. Some of his simple ideas that I plan to use are:
• Ask students to compare a cultural product or perspective in an authentic resource to something in their own culture
• Ask students to name a cultural practice in a text and explain the perspective that motivates it
• Create a T-chart where students can record practices in one column and perspectives in the other
4. Rhashida Hilliard and April Broussard spoke about intentional representation in the world language classroom as part of providing a culturally relevant education to today's students. Their session was described in depth by Jenny Delfini on a recent Inspired Proficiency podcast - check it out here! One of my main takeaways from this session is that I need to continue to learn about my students' racial, religious, ethnic, and linguistic identities so that I can integrate their cultural backgrounds into my class activities. This was the only ACTFL session by African-American women that I have ever attended, and I hope that ACTFL will increase its outreach to bring excellent presenters of color to future conferences. While I'm on that note - I believe that intentional representation is a professional obligation, and I would like to see that impact ACTFL's choice of keynote speaker at future conferences.
5. Although I joined Megan Budke and Karen Nickel's session on IPAs late (due to no-show presenters elsewhere), I was impressed by the depth of their work on this important topic. Check out their Google Drive for some really wonderful resources, including a step-by-step guide to creating an IPA, sample IPAs and essential questions by proficiency level, and - BEST OF ALL - a long, rich list of sample inference, author's perspective, and comparing cultural perspective questions.
I really can't say enough about the professional opportunities that attending this conference affords. Whether you're giving a session, attending a session, meeting colleagues by chance or on purpose, ACTFL's conference is a jam-packed, mind-blowing event.