It was truly thrilling to attend ACTFL for the first time this year. As a gathering for 8,500+ world language teachers, the conference was a veritable "This is your life" professional experience. On the escalators, I crossed a teacher from Falmouth Academy where I interned in 1997; reconnected with the once-young chorus (now French) teacher who left my middle school over a decade ago; and got to catch up with my former student teacher at a session on proficiency-based grading. Not to mention getting to meet all of my tweeps from #langchat and blog heroes like Megan & Kara from Creative Language Class, Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, Amy Lenord, Stephanie Schenck, and Laura Sexton. Very, very cool.
Throwing my former curriculum (aka the textbook) out the window and designing my own thematic units has been a messy process for me. While I'm in Year 3 of the change with my French 8s, I'm rolling out a brand-new French 7 curriculum this year. Therefore I am reliving the confusion, worry, and mistakes that I made when I began this journey. However, I am not the educator I was in 2013. I've learned so much from my #langchat PLC and Proficiency Academy experiences with Greg Duncan and Thomas Sauer that I've actually set a much higher bar for my units today. It was in this mindset that I came to ACTFL hoping to gain clarity on some areas that remain especially challenging for me and my students:
• Getting more out of fewer & better-curated authentic resources
• Allowing students more time & ways to process in class: "repeating without being repetitious" as Laura Terrill said in her session
• Designing a realistic & informative standards-based grading system
While I did not follow Thomas Sauer's sage advice to craft my conference path for a particular goal, I focused on seeing my heroes in the flesh and learning from them face to face. Each session got me thinking about ways I can be more intentional in my practice and more effective in my teaching.
Here are the questions I'm asking myself after ACTFL, organized by session I attended:
Do This, Not That (Megan Smith & Kara Parker)
• How can I write daily Can-Dos that engage learners of all levels?
• How might Yelp restaurant reviews strengthen my units on Quebec City & food?
• How could I introduce students to new vocabulary in the shopping unit using the Bon Marché website?
• When can I offer pecha kucha as an option for presentational speaking tasks? How will I engage the class audience during this task?
5 Steps to Making Vocabulary Memorable (Laura Terrill & Donna Clementi)
• How can I be more intentional about assessing active vocabulary actively, and passive vocabulary passively?
• How can I incorporate vocabulary practice in all 3 modes into my lessons?
• What could I do with Wordle to support vocabulary practice?
Liberation from the List (Amy Lenord)
• How can I provide more opportunities for students to process, make meaning & draw attention?
• What is the difference between processing, making meaning, and drawing attention?
• How might examples from her Bright Lights, Big City unit apply to my Quebec City & shopping units?
Textbook as AID (Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell)
• Truly communicative tasks allow students to find out new information and create original meaning
• Valid Can-Dos are ones that would make reasonable answers to questions asked at a bus stop (exemple: "I can count to 60" is not a reasonable answer to the question "What time is it?" whereas "I can answer simple questions about time" is).
Moving Toward a Much-Needed Proficiency-Based Grading System (Lance Piantaggini)
• How can I adopt this method even if I'm not a "CI teacher" because I require output?
• What would happen if I scored work but did not count most of it?
• If I don't average grades, what can I do instead to represent overall achievement?
• How do I allow students to show growth & how do I document this growth?
• How can I make provisions for students having a bad day?
As I work toward answering these questions, I look forward to sharing my emerging understandings here with all of you.