Last semester I posed the following question related to a problem of practice (PoP) I faced as a teacher: How might we create routines and tasks in the Spanish classroom so that students engage in authentic conversations with each other? With the help of my colleagues, I created some novel activities that engaged students in Spanish and really motivated them to speak. Check them out here. Nevertheless, tackling my PoP is still very much a work-in-progress for me, and it is work that I will continue to engage in this semester.

I consider a successful class one in which my students do more of the talking than me. While I believe in the primacy of comprehensible spoken and written input for language acquisition, I also want student to be able to feel a sense of self-efficacy when they produce the language. Thus, providing students with authentic tasks seems to be the key to getting them to speak more with each other. When it comes to learning a new language, there is nothing more authentic one can do than actually speaking it!

In February I attended the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages that focused on the topic of Authentic Language, Authentic Learning. I attended many inspiring workshops, and I came away with several ideas that I would like to implement to address my problem of practice. Below are some goals are high-leverage teaching practices that I will focus on in the upcoming weeks. These ideas came from the following workshop I attended: High-Leverage Teaching Practices: A How-To Boot Camp facilitate by Rebecca Blouwolff & Catherine Ritz.

Please feel free to send me questions, feedback, and suggestions about the below ideas!

  1. Student-led routines: At the beginning of each period, I toss a stuffed animal around class and engage in a rapid-fire question-and-answer drill to review and recycle vocabulary from the year. This process lasts 6 minutes, and students track how many times they raise their hand and how many times I call on them. At the end of the week, they self-assess. I often ask the questions and the students answer them.
    Goal: I would like a student leader to ask questions to his/her classmates. I would also like to have students practice asking and answering questions to each other in small groups.
  2. Key phrases for negotiation of meaning: It’s extremely important for students to ask for clarification, express approval/disapproval/shock/excitement, etc. Native speakers in every language expressively react to their interlocutors all the time!
    Goal: I would like to teach students these words and expressions and encourage them to use these expressions throughout class.
  3. Talking about texts: Last semester I had students talk to one another about their likes/dislikes and personal opinions.
    Goal: This semester I would like students to read authentic texts and discuss them with one another.
  4. Interpersonal speaking tasks: These types of tasks are natural, real-world conversation that are unscripted and unrehearsed between 2 or more students.
    Goal: I hope to provide speaking prompts based on pictures from the target culture that encourage students to relate what they see to their own lives and make cultural comparisons about observable products, practices, and perspectives from the images they see.