When I submitted my proposal for an ACTFL session last January with my colleague, I was hoping it would get accepted. What I didn’t know was that not only would it get accepted, but I was also pregnant as well. Whoops! It’s awfully hard to turn down ACTFL, so I made plans to go anyways. It’s even harder to turn down an email from THE Paul Sandrock himself when he asks you to come a day early to present to the Assembly of Delegates, so now there really was no turning back! So I booked a hotel, invited my mom, and hopped on a plan with my mom and sweet two month old for an adventure in New Orleans!
I was so honored to be asked by Paul Sandrock to speak to the Assembly of Delegates on how the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages (MCTLC) has been leading change efforts locally, regionally, and across our state. I’m going to feature the content of that message in a separate blog post (coming soon!). How humbling it is to be chosen to speak in front of your peers. And it’s not everyday when @actfl itself mentions you in their tweet (now if @psandrock ever gives me a mention on Twitter, my professional life might be complete)! I was so impressed hearing about all the amazing work that’s happening across our country to promote language learning and support our world language professionals. Work like the Leadership Initiative for Language Learning (wow, what an opportunity to grow leaders!), and the Grow Your Own program in Oregon, where they are recruiting bilingual speakers (within their district and community) and providing them a pathway of support to earn a master’s degree in elementary/secondary education with a bilingual/world language endorsement, all while they are working simultaneously as classroom teachers, full-time substitutes, or paraprofessionals – what an outstanding way to address the teacher shortage! It was an empowering day of networking, discussion, and collaboration, and I made some new friends along the way!
#ACTFL18 Social Justice Learning
One of my areas of focus for the conference was social justice learning, and I was delighted to have so many great options to choose from! My takeaways from these sessions include:
- In order to truly teach social justice, you must have students investigate a critical/controversial issue, and there must be an action that students take.
- I have been on a mission to use and feature visuals from people and cultures all over the world ever since hearing Paul Sandrock share that we can teach about ALL cultures, not just the target language culture, using the target language. This connects well with the social justice framework, as it’s important to help students visualize that they are included in the curriculum and the classroom.
Have you stopped to consider what message the visual representations used in our textbooks, posters, worksheets, flash cards, and on our SmartBoards are sending our students? How can we be more intentional about the visuals we choose and the messages we want to send? When students look around my classroom, I want them to be able to see themselves, so I’m striving to be very intentional about the images I use in my curriculum and choose to display in my classroom.
Then I attended the thought-provoking session Who are we? Diversifying Cultural Representation as a Social Justice Tool. The session leaders, Katherine Fowler-Cordova and Tamise Ironstrack, pushed us to consider how we could promote a more complete view of the national identity of the target cultures we study. What struck me the most was their idea to find authentic resources by a target community, or subculture, of a target language country. They shared examples of authentic resources made by Chinese Peruvians and AfroLatinos. By featuring subcultures, we can provide perspectives that go beyond the stereotypical images of target cultures to provide a more complete view of a culture’s complex identity. As I continue to use visuals to ensure students feel included in the picture, it’s important that those visuals also feature the diversity within a culture to show them that the world is just as diverse as our own classroom.
#ACTFL18 Making the Interpersonal Mode More Purposeful
I will admit, I almost didn’t attend Paul Sandrock and Donna Clementi’s session Interpersonal Communication: Focus on Feedback. I mean, I’ve heard them both so many times before, there can’t be anything new, right? WRONG! Seriously, I don’t think I will ever stop learning from these two! In their session, they really made me think about how the interpersonal mode really is intended to be purposeful. Donna Clementi sure made us laugh as she described how she would spend hours creating these great interpersonal tasks with such beautiful clip art and it would last a grand total of…two minutes in the classroom. Then she would smile and tell her students “Do it again….about 5 more times with 5 more partners!” Anyone else want to raise their hand with me and admit they’ve been there??? Rather than just talking for the sake of talking, let’s strive to make our tasks more meaningful and purposeful. One great example that Donna shared – rather than just describing what you are wearing to your partner (because your partner can clearly already see what you are wearing and what color it is!), how about you describe what you are wearing to a concert/the mall/on vacation/etc. so your partner could pick you out of the crowd in a photograph? So simple, but look at how much more MEANING and PURPOSE their is now to the conversation! And imagine the negotiation and authentic follow-up questions that might take place because students might need more information to decide which person you are in the photograph. My immediate application of this learning is to start by ensuring all my interpersonal assessment tasks have a purpose to them, then work backwards to ensure those formative interpersonal tasks I use in class can have more meaning and purpose to really engage students in a more authentic conversation.
I also absolutely loved these two guides that explicitly tell learners how to be a good listener and really engage in the conversation. I’ve often had my students brainstorm as a class what makes a good conversation partner, and they usually think of most of these ideas, but not all. I envision creating some kind of poster-size visual from these to feature in my classroom for reference. I also will definitely have students use these to self- and peer-assess during interpersonal task!
#ACTFL18 Leading with Culture
One of my other areas of focus was interculturality – how can I naturally embed more culture into my curriculum? Going to be honest, culture and interculturality are NOT my strong points in my curriculum and I often flounder when it comes to products, practices, and perspectives. Which is why I so loved Rich Madel’s session Addressing the Cultural Dilemma: Making Culture Meaningful in the WL Class. Rich made it so easy to present culture to students as the What? (products), How? (practices), and the Why? (perspectives). I can easily start incorporating this to be more intentional with my lessons as well as present the ideas of products-practices-perspectives to my novice students with these student-friendly questions.
Rich also took through an experience of how he might present culture in a meaningful way using the IMAGE model:
- Display an Image (we saw the image in the tweet to the left)
- Make observations (could provide options, checklist for novice learners). We observed that there is a guinea pig, it’s large, it looks like a mural, it’s holding a cloth, there’s a picture of a heart, there’s a woman, she’s wearing a hat and a shawl…
- Analyze additional information about the product/practice from the image. We shared our own cultural practices that we associate with guinea pigs: it’s a pet, we keep it in our house, we feed it, we play with it, we take it to the doctor when it’s sick, we name it…
- Generate hypotheses about the cultural perspective – a co-construction piece
- Our practices with guinea pigs lead us to believe that guinea pigs can be special, we value them as pets…
- Explore perspectives and reflect further
- Rich then had us watch a video in English of an American sharing about her heritage culture and how guinea pigs are important in her culture – they are used for rituals (rubbing a guinea pig on yourself can bring healing and good luck), but they are also eaten for food.
- Rich had us look at an images of guinea pigs being raised and roasted on spits, as well as watch a video where a woman rubbed a guinea pig over a man for healing. We went through the IMAGE model again with the photos and video.
Being able to experience the IMAGE model made the idea of presenting culture so concrete! I can definitely take this back to the classroom and start using the authentic resources I already have to put this into practice. Some intentional planning will be needed to ensure my students can do this in the target language, perhaps with a follow-up reflective piece in English, but I’m excited to bring in deeper conversations about culture with my students!
Leaving #ACTFL18 and looking to #ACTFL19
Can we talk about the tweet I didn’t post? I can’t tell you how many sessions I attended where presenters talked about giving points to students for everything. As we journey on this path to proficiency, we need to have a conversation about grading. How can we be more intentional about our grading practices? We can do better than giving points for the amount of vocabulary words a student uses or how often a student speaks in the target language. How can our grading practices promote proficiency? How can we let go of grading everything and focus on providing more feedback to move students to the next proficiency level? These ideas are weighing heavily on my mind, and I see this as one of the next pathways we need to pave. So on that note, looking forward to #ACTFL19!