Beth Hanlon, OFLA Executive Recorder and Editor of The Cardinal Spanish Teacher, Oberlin High School
I want to first state that I realize how unbelievably late to the Pear Deck scene I am. As a Xennial, I grew up as the internet did, so I am not afraid to throw myself into new tech to figure it out. However, I had this block with Pear Deck. Various presenters have used it and I was always intrigued. Each time a presenter would utilize it, I was again motivated to look into it. Multiple times I would open a new Google Slide presentation and start the Pear Deck add-on. But when I started adding to the presentation, I thought about how much work it seemed to be and I would close it up.
Recently, I was talking to a social studies colleague. She has used Pear Deck but prefers Mentimeter. I expressed my frustration with the time I perceived it entailed to create a Pear Deck. She shook her head and said “Beth, just make a Google Slide and add the Pear Deck stuff at the end.” Skeptical, I headed home and opened the umpteenth Google Slides presentation and it FINALLY clicked…I successfully made a Pear Deck! And it wasn’t that much work…I actually enjoyed creating it!
Antiracism in the world language classroom and the importance of having difficult conversations
Milton Alan Turner, OFLA Editor for Electronic Media French Teacher, Saint Ignatius High School
The recent Disney film Encanto tells the story of the Madrigal family whose members often have magical gifts. But there is one member, Bruno, who has apparently deserted the family under secret and shameful circumstances. The popular song We Don’t Talk About Bruno is about the attempts of young Mirabel to get information about her uncle from the rest of the family. While we eventually learn that the stories Mirabel hears contain some facts and elements of truth, most of them are either exaggerated, taken out of context, or entirely wrong. But the reluctance or refusal of the family to discuss Bruno makes it frustrating for Mirabel to get any honest information at all, much less to be able to separate fact from fiction.
Recent pressures to limit or even forbid the discussion of “divisive” issues have led many teachers to avoid discussing the topics of race, racism, or social justice. Like Bruno, the very mention of them brings discomfort and many avoid talking about them at all costs. But as world language educators, we should and must talk about these issues, even if the conversations are difficult.
Marianela Serrano, OFLA Professional Development Chair Spanish Teacher, Hathaway Brown School
This school year, I made one of my goals to redefine my assessments. In the unprecedented circumstances of the last few years, research about language acquisition and teaching has revealed that less is more when assessing. A small one to two-page assessment will give me just as much information about a student’s ability as five to six-page assessments (from the Comprehensive Classroom Assessment for Acquisition Boot Camp). I also realized that my current assessments tell the students very little about their abilities. They do not help them understand where they are in terms of proficiency in the classroom or how they can grow in their language abilities. Although I am expected to assess grammar in my educational setting, I wanted to change my assessments to reflect my philosophy of teaching which is Comprehensible Input (CI). I want to give students feedback about their interpretive and presentational skills. The question was then, how do I assess these skills (interpretive and presentational) in real-time and in small ways that did not overwhelm the students or me?
Kirsten Halling, OFLA Public Relations and Advocacy Chair Professor, Wright State University
Advocacy comes naturally to language instructors, who are constantly faced with questions like, “What can you do with a language besides travel and teaching?” or, “Why learn a language when everyone speaks English?” As a veteran French professor at a public university, where my first task in 2000 was to grow a failing program, I learned to tout every victory, every opportunity that studying French would give the students, and every door that French opened for them, both professionally and personally. To this day, in all levels of classes, I make specific references to the cultural relativism they develop in my classes, to their heightened understanding of their own language, to their improved communication and presentational skills, to their critical thinking, and their quick reflexes – just to name a few of the life skills they cultivate through the study of a world language. Advocacy is an integral part of what we do as language instructors, and while we may feel frustrated about having to prove our worth, we understand implicitly that what we hold to be self-evident is not a universally shared conviction.
Teri Wiechart, OFLA Membership Chair Retired French Teacher, Delphos Jefferson High School
The main goal of a world language classroom is for students to become proficient enough in another language to be able to communicate in culturally appropriate ways with other speakers of that language. If students acquire enough language to communicate, that proficiency will follow.
To accomplish this goal, learners spend most of their time on the interpretation of meaning. Communicative ability develops as a by-product of all the input events students are engaged in and the acquisition of the target language as a result of the input. Therefore, it is vitally important that comprehensible input is embedded in communication and forms the center of classroom practice. This leads to acquisition and eventually proficiency.
Teaching towards acquisition requires many paradigm shifts. Teaching with Acquisition Driven Instruction (ADI) as the first and most significant goal requires a new way of thinking about what happens in a language classroom. There are many teaching strategies included in this way of teaching that are useful for any teacher and to attain acquisition more effectively and efficiently, it is important to make these shifts. It’s important to note that teaching with comprehensible input is not a series of new tools to put in one’s teaching tool box, but an entirely new kind of toolbox.
A reflection from an exhausted but hopeful teacher
Megan Brady, OFLA Beginning Teacher Chair Spanish Teacher, Northwest High School
The past few years have been difficult for all of us both in and outside the educational field. While things still seem to ebb and flow, there are a few lessons I’ve learned that I like to reflect on, and I would invite you to do the same.
First, I have been swamped and vulnerable. I am a type-A person who likes to keep everything together, fix all problems, do everything ahead of deadlines and do all things well. Perfectionism has been a battle for me all my life. The past few years have taught me to slow down, and to remember that I don’t have to be perfect to be great. Switching teaching from online to in-person and back to online has been tough. My lessons have been stretched and twisted every which way in an attempt to make them apply to all learners while addressing all styles and modes of learning. The lessons may not have been the best lessons I’ve ever created, but they got the job done. They allowed my students to progress, to show me what they know, to use the language, and that’s what matters most. Trying to find a balance between home and school has always been challenging, but these past few years with so many changes thrown my way have made it seem even more difficult. However, at the end of the day, I must force myself to stop working and take time for myself, for my family, and for my mental health. I know I am not alone in this, that we have all felt the constraints of the pandemic, the desire to do better, and the exhaustion which prevents us from doing better.
Julia Thomas, OFLA Early Language Learning Chair Spanish Teacher, Oberlin City Schools
Imagine being a bilingual parent, sending your child to elementary school knowing that they have been exposed to a second language and have a proclivity for language learning, yet have no opportunity to learn a second language. This is the situation that Kim Faber found when her children attended an elementary school where no second language was taught. As a parent, she wanted more for both her and other young learners in her community.
In 2005, Kim founded the Spanish in Elementary School program (SITES) with Spanish-speaking Oberlin College students whom she trained in second language acquisition pedagogy. Part of their training is the opportunity to teach lessons to the elementary aged students, all with the goal of eventually collaborating with a full-time elementary Spanish teacher in the public school district. Fast forward to 2015 when I was hired! As a young and brand new teacher, I did not come into the position realizing that my hiring was part of a dream, but now I know that working with Kim and SITES has been a dream come true for me!
On the Roles of Geography and Global Citizenship in World Language Education
Lauren Racela, OFLA Technology Integration Committee Chair French Teacher, Milford High School
But why is geography important, and why specifically to the world language classroom? Many world language teachers do simple activities like conducting a quiz over Spanish-speaking countries during the first weeks of Spanish I. These are useful because they give students context in which to place the target language and culture. However, many of us don’t think to incorporate geography regularly into our curriculum. Here are some reasons why it’s important to teach geography, and specific ways in which our students can benefit from learning about other countries.
As world language teachers, we’re lucky. We teach a content area that naturally lends itself to social justice. We spend our days educating our students about people who are part of other cultures. We teach them the language, the products, the practices, and the perspectives. These elements help give our students a more well-rounded view of target language speakers. In addition to cultural instruction, I’ve found that teaching geography can be a powerful tool to foster intercultural understanding.
Celebrating the Rich Heritage from the African Diaspora
Marcia Davis, OFLA Secondary Language Learning and Diversity Committee Chair World Language Middle School, Columbus City Schools
February marks the celebration of Black History Month. This celebration was the brainchild of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” and was founded the second week in February in 1926 as Negro History Week. Dr. Woodson chose February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The purpose of Negro History Week was to highlight the achievements and contributions of Black Americans because Dr. Woodson wanted to ensure that people were aware of the Black experience and its contributions to the overall society. In 1976, Negro History Week became the month long celebration we now know as Black History Month.
Ryan Wertz and Kathy Shelton World Language Consultants, Ohio Department of Education
We’d like to begin this article with another expression of our heartfelt appreciation for everyone who has continued to persevere during the most recent challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. As the omicron variant rages around us at the time of this writing, so many world language teachers have steeled their resolve and committed to getting past these most recent challenges. Such dedication cannot go unacknowledged. Know that we at the Ohio Department of Education see and fully support you!