Secondary Language Learning

An Old Dog Learns New Tricks!

Debbie McCorkle, Secondary Language Learning Committee Chair

Bonjour! I would like to introduce myself to the OFLA membership. My name is Debbie McCorkle, the sole French teacher at Unioto High School located near Chillicothe, Ohio. I teach French I-IV. I will be chairing the Secondary Language Learning Committee (SLLC) this year. The purpose of the SLLC is to: “promote best practices as related to academic standards”; “support related professional development opportunities” and  “work on issues of articulation” between teacher training institutions and high school educators. Along with these charges, I would also like the committee to become a think-tank for the “nuts and bolts” of our profession, i.e. World Language Standards, textbook selection, travel abroad, methodology and mentoring.

Now, what about the title of this article? Well, this old dog, I’ve been teaching for 26 years, learned some new tricks this year!

During the last academic year, our district’s curriculum director approached me about adding AP French to my curriculum. I was hesitant at first because, like so many high schools in Ohio, our World Language program begins at grade nine. Could I really prepare my students for AP in the 3.75 years before the exam? I was skeptical, but willing to think about it. My decision was to ask for Professional Development days, 2 days in this case, to go observe an AP teacher at work. After e-mails and scheduling, I observed at Solon High School. I was hosted by Davara Potel and her colleagues, Magalie Frazier and Diane Kumley.  What an excellent experience! First of all, I learned that I can, with a cohesive program, offer AP French. Like the Solon program, I must provide a French program that builds, year-to-year, on themes and functions that will lead to a successful AP program. I also learned many small lessons about methodology and classroom management. For example, Mme Potel returns writing assessments with both positive and negative written comments. What’s new about this? She writes all positive comments down the left side of the paper and the corrections are written down the right side of the paper! How simple! As for classroom management, while doing a teacher-to-student speaking assessment, why not utilize an organization method that I last saw at the shot-put area at a Track and Field event. Mme Potel, has a student “up”. This student is performing. The next student to speak is “on deck” and waiting to go. The third student is “in the hole”. The cycle continues until everyone has spoken. The students have been trained in this method and I watched nearly 30 students be assessed in a quick and efficient manner.

So, this old dog learned some new tricks! I encourage all members to seek out members of our profession. You never know what you’ll learn. Please contact me at with questions or comments!

This entry was posted in Committee News, Vol. 51, No. 1 - Fall 2012. Bookmark the permalink.