It was an absolute career highlight to be interviewed by Jennifer Gonzalez for episode 131 of her Cult of Pedagogy podcast. In early 2019, I interviewed her for the We Teach Languages podcast and highlighted examples of her work that are highly relevant for world language teachers. This time the tables were turned, and I was in the hot seat! Jenn is an incredibly engaged and thoughtful interviewer, which made the experience a real pleasure. How often do we get to sit down with a curious educator from outside our field and talk deeply about our daily work and professional evolution?
Jenn created this episode for anyone curious about the changes in our profession: teachers of other subjects, parents, students, and world language teachers less familiar with current best practices. As we were talking, I could hear myself quoting wisdom from many of my mentors and world language heroes. This post is a sort of annotated bibliography, extended footnote, link-fest, and all-around letter of appreciation to accompany the episode. In it, I provide additional background and resources that might not be of interest to those outside the field. I write with deep gratitude to those who have helped me improve my practice over the years, whether by writing books, giving presentations, coaching me one-on-one, sharing models that I could adopt, or chiding me gently when I needed a push.
I organized the interview around the ACTFL Core Practices:
Although not exactly the same, there is a lot of overlap between Core Practices and High-Leverage Teaching Practices outlined in the ACTFL book Enacting the Work of Language Instruction: High-Leverage Teaching Practices. You can check out the day-long workshop I gave on HLTPs at NECTFL 2019 with Dr. Catherine Ritz of Boston University here to learn more about how to enact each one in the classroom.
Here is a deep dive into each of the six changes that I describe during the interview:
1. Use Target Language for Learning
Thanks to Greg Duncan who taught me at MaFLA Proficiency Academy 2015 that students study world languages in order to speak them. Kudos to Colleen Lee-Hayes for her blog post, Thank You for Having an IEP, which I quoted directly during the interview. See my ACTFL 2017 presentation They, Too, Can-Do: Strategies and Accommodations for Diverse Learners on supporting diverse learners with research-based strategies. In addition:
• ACTFL’s position statement on 90%+ target language use is worth a read.
• Check out Inspired Proficiency Episode 1 of Season 3 with Ashley Uyaguari where I discuss comprehensible input, aka Target language comprehensibility or HLTP #1.
• Check out Inspired Proficiency Episode 2 of Season 3 with Ashley Uyaguari, where I talk about getting students to use the language in class, aka Creating a target language discourse community or HLTP #2.
• Want to make a two-sided English/target language poster for your classroom (available in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish)? Visit Shelby County Schools’ World Language website.
• Credit to Laura Terrill for the essential question Why Can’t All Children Go to School? See her model unit from The Keys to Planning for Teaching here. My version of this unit and accompanying resources are shared on my blog here. I also wrote an article in The Language Educator about this unit here. Pictures of schools around the world can be found here and the See, Think, Wonder thinking routine here (which I learned from Natalia DeLaat).
2. Design communicative activities
• Great examples from Paul Sandrock and Donna Clementi’s ACTFL 2018 session are featured in my NECTFL workshop here, on slides 42-44.
• Bill VanPatten clearly defines Tasks in his book, While We’re On The Topic. See examples here.
• Find collaborating teachers on the ePals site and read my blog post about how I use ePals.
3. Teach Grammar as Concept and Use in Context
Much credit to my department head Tim Eagan for teaching me about “grammar as vocabulary,” Thomas Sauer who taught me at MaFLA Proficiency Academy 2016, 2018, and 2019, and Greta Lundgaard who taught me at MaFLA Proficiency Academy 2017. “Language is much more complex than a set of memorized rules” is a quote from Bill VanPatten’s While We’re On The Topic. Helpful resources include:
• Sample vocabulary list that shows vocabulary chunks that include grammar
• Curated tweets for a PACE-style grammar lesson on "I go to…(Je vais à la/au…)” which I learned how to do from Lisa Shepard
4. Use Authentic Cultural Resources
Rich Madel is a great resource for learning how to introduce products, practices and perspectives in the classroom. See his ACTFL 2018 session for clear examples. I teach my students to attack authentic resources with these strategies geared toward ACTFL’s IPA template. I first learned about the cultural perspective vis-à-vis les toilettes and la salle de bains on this site from SUNY Cortland.
5. Plan with Backward Design Model
The original impetus for my teaching makeover was learning about thematic unit design in a backward design framework from Laura Terrill. I first wrote about this journey here in ACTFL’s The Language Educator. To get a sense of backward design in the world language classroom, check out:
• Sample assessment about my town and Quebec City
• Sample unit Un Meilleur Moi (self-care with a focus on sleep). Eric White from PBL Works helped me shape this unit and suggested that my students create self-care kits for their ePals.
6. Provide Appropriate Feedback
Much of my learning here stems from time at MaFLA Proficiency Academy with Thomas Sauer, Step Away from the Red Pen by Karen Tharrington on Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s blog Musicuentos, and reading Ahead of the Curve (ed. Doug Reeves), especially Ch. 6 by Ken O’Connor (thank you, Kara Parker, for recommending this reading to me!). Thanks to Stephanie Carbonneau for teaching me about "glow and grow" feedback, which she describes here on her blog. My department head Tim Eagan has introduced me to a single-point rubric that incorporates this type of feedback. See an example here. Our department’s performance targets are here and are based on Greg Duncan’s recommendations. In addition:
• Here is a description of how I use the TALK rubric to assess student group conversations, based on my ACTFL 2016 session.
• You can find a sample French chat mat here and a reference with French communication strategies here.
And, that's a wrap! I hope you found the podcast useful and I welcome your comments.