Innovative Teaching Strategies For Second Language Acquisition in the 21st Century

María Postigo

María Postigo is a native speaker from Spain. She teaches Spanish III/Honors & IV and is the Spanish Club Advisor at Canal Winchester HS. She is on the OFLA Secondary Language Learning Committee. She is also working on her PhD Dissertation on Translation and Interpreting Studies.

It seems like I am constantly reflecting on Second Language Acquisition. In Spain I took Latin, ancient Greek, English, German, Italian and Dutch. I spent two weeks in a Danish high school, did my junior year of college in Belgium and my PhD research on Translation Studies in Canada for another year. I have worked as a translator, an interpreter, an Associate Professor of German and a teacher of English and Spanish. I met my American husband in Spain when he was studying there, and he is also a Spanish teacher. Our two children are growing up bilingual. I hardly have any memories of a day in my life when I wasn’t trying to speak, understand or teach another language. I have traveled to more countries than I can remember and have met people from all over the world.

However, I have never been as conscious of the changes in learning as I have been in the past two years. In order to assess students according to OFLA/ODE recommendations and in accordance with OTES I have attended several workshops and conferences to learn about “I can” statements and IPAs (Integrated Performance Assessments) which is very close to the way languages were assessed when I lived in Europe. But what keeps getting my attention the most is: how does the 21st Century brain work, what catches our students’ attention, what are their learning habits? As anyone could imagine, the number one thing that comes to mind is their use of cellphones. We have gone from not allowing them in the classroom to using them as a natural resource. Here are some examples of how innovative strategies just emanate by themselves in a classroom where phones and Internet access are available:

-As a “zooming tool”: I will leave a hands-on activity like a foldable on the board. (Example: to write all the irregular Preterit Tense stems and endings). If students can’t see it from their seats, they can take a picture of it, go back to their seats and make one.

-As an “on-line class”: students can take pictures of my notes or activities to send to their absent friends, who come back the next day turning in their work rather than asking what they missed. Or the question: what am I going to miss…? can be answered with a quick: take a picture of this and that assignment if copies haven’t been made yet.

-As a “materials creator”: I can assign vocab words to students to take pictures for a specific theme (Example: classroom objects)  The pictures are shared in a document -like It´s Learning or Google Drive- that can be used to practice pronunciation or to create writing and speaking activities. This involves students in their learning, giving them ownership and creating long-lasting memories. Another activity involves students taking a picture on their own time. Taking turns, they describe it in class as the other students listen and draw what is being described. The student walks around showing the picture on his/her phone to check for listening comprehension and accuracy.

-As a “real life simulator” for speaking scenarios. For instance, to give directions from point A to point B, students can drop pins on the maps on their phones and give directions from the high school to their favorite restaurant, shop, etc. Speaking scenarios are endless.

-As a “comfort device”. Like babies hold on to an object for comfort, adults feel just as good holding on to their drinks or phones in some unfamiliar situations. Phones can be a good tool to share pictures in group conversations. They get people’s attention and that gives confidence in return. Students are likely to pay attention when they have something in their hands. That is why I like tossing a ball for conversations, having them show me a green or red card for comprehension (Example: green for Imperfect Tense, red for Preterit Tense) or using conversation cards, menus or brochures. They also pay attention when I have something in my hand. That’s why I have the Standards magnetized on my board. I tell students what activities we are doing, and they tell me what are the standards being used so that I place the correct magnetized Standard on top of the activity. It sets the tone. I also get their attention with the Interactive Pen for my BrightLink Projector.

-As a “native listener”. There are various Apps where students can read or dictate a paragraph that will be transcribed to be translated. Since apps are made for native speakers, pronunciation needs to be seamless, which forces the student to put emphasis on pronunciation to get the app to write things correctly and be graded accordingly.

-As a “recorder”: their conversations can be saved using Google Voice.

When I reflect on what actions they like to do with their phones, I try to incorporate those action verbs in my lesson plans, like sharing, commenting, searching and having apps. Here are some of the strategies I use:

-They like to share: homework can be looking at videos (Example: reflexive verbs) like a “flipping” the classroom strategy. They share their favorite ones with me, and I pick the best ones to show in class. They can share their likes about songs in Batanga, digital newspaper articles, TV shows, touristic resorts, anything in the target language.

-They like to search: homework can be doing mini culture web quests to hit the Culture Standard.

-They like to comment: homework can be commenting on a presentation done in class (Example: a PowerPoint about their favorite dish in the target language). A thread in It’s Learning can be used for this.

-They like “Apps”. As I plan my lessons, I think with the end in mind. There needs to be a relevant product that they have to create at the end of the lesson, there needs to be a purpose, a real life application. If there is no “app,” there is no interest for them. When you plan, think of the “app.”

Other resources I have incorporated in my lessons besides phones are doing FaceTime with my family in Spain, providing students with passwords to the on-line textbooks and using a Document IPEVO camera to show things on the projector like my Euro collection, my Three Wise Men or my passports.

Students in the 21st Century like to click, drag and tap. They like interaction, they like fast, immediate feedback and apps. Taking these factors into account when we plan our lessons can help to increase their attention, participation and appreciation.

The aforementioned strategies can be effective tools to cover the two World Language Standards: Culture and Communication, the three modes of Communication: Interpretive, Presentational and Interpersonal and the four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.  They can also be used in preparation for the Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) that we use to measure student growth.

In conclusion, creating teaching strategies with students’ involvement in this technology century is really endless.

This entry was posted in OFLA News: Association, Vol. 52, No. 2 - Winter 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

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