Monthly Archives: December 2014

A New Resource for World Language Teachers

This article was first posted on Edutopia at this link.

I want to spread the word about a new resource from the National Capital Language Resource Center. It is free, on-line to consult, and to download in PDF format. What is it? Let me tell you!

The resource is a well written and well documented book called Teaching World Languages, A Practical Guide. You can download it here:

Why do I recommend it? Well, not only is it free, but it references our ACTFL National documents, including the World Readiness Standards, and the Can-Do Statements, then explains how to apply them to the classroom.

I wonder if you have ever struggled with trying to interpret the ACTFL National standards without going back to the usual ways of teaching World Languages? For example, in teaching a unit on the family, do you find yourself going with the traditional vocab list with all the family relationships? Do you add in a verb conjugation here and there? Do you couple these with the “possessive adjectives” or something similar? Of course we do want students to know those things, but in the end, how well do the students perform when we teach that way? How many novice mid to novice high students remember their verb forms and possessive adjectives really well? Really, how many? Most? Many? Some? Few? Be honest! Now, don’t you ever wonder if there isn’t a better way, especially when you go to grade the assessments which come with the traiditional textbooks most of us have for our classes?

There is a better way! And this practical guide can help you explore some of the many strategies and options which will help you become a more communication-based language teacher.

The book is divided into principles and practices. The section devoted to principles starts with an overview of 9 essential concepts:

  1. Communicative Competence
  2. Cultural Competence
  3. Learner-Centered Instruction
  4. Standards for FL Learning for the 21st Century
  5. Understanding by Design (aka Backwards planning)
  6. Performance Assessment
  7. Transfer in Language Learning
  8. Language and Culture are Inseparable
  9. Authentic Materials

Each of these terms is well defined and the authors give examples. Later chapters develop these concepts in greater detail.

The chapters devoted to practices break down the concepts into the areas where a teacher seeking to implement a proficiency-based curriculum will devote her or his focus in create authentically communicative units of instruction. The chapters in the practices section are organized according to the 5 C’s of our ACTFL World Readiness Standards. The first C, for Communications, is divided over three chapters, each one for the three modes of communication:  interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational, in oral and written formats. There are lots of examples included in these three chapters. In addition, the other 4 C’s of the World Readiness Standards are addressed: Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities. These also come with examples of ‘how to’ do it!

Whether you are a new or an experienced teacher, I think you will find this resource useful, if for no other reason than that it is so full of great ideas for engaging students in real-world, real-life activities, to help them become competent communicators in another language. Go get a copy and have some fun making creative ways to help your students really speak the language! As I always say, ‘no one ever went into a restaurant and conjugated a verb!’

Seriously! No one ever did that!