Sunday, January 4, 2015

ACTFL 2014: Year End Professional Learning Recap

After preparing the ENTIRE Thanksgiving dinner for a few guests and preparing over 100 gingerbread man cookies for the annual holiday decorating party that took place at my home this year, As you can imagine, I was delighted to be able to just hang out with friends and family for a couple of weeks.

Just before that holiday whirlwind, I attended the American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages' annual convention. This year, it took place in gorgeous San Antonio, Texas. How fortunate was I to get full funding from my school for this four-day professional learning experience! Not only did I attend many inspiring sessions, but I co-presented on phototelling (Click here to access our presentation and resources:  Phototelling on the Go: Using Instagram to Engage Students in Learning ) and supported fellow #langchat team members during our session on the chat.  Many thanks to my administrators for providing me with this opportunity!

In recent years, I've gotten in the habit of just tweeting the big (or just cool) ideas that I hear at professional learning events. Fortunately, I printed all of my tweets related to the ACTFL convention upon my return to school the following Monday since I knew I'd be thawing a turkey and entertaining over the next couple of weeks. So, after about six weeks, I am able to revisit my printed tweets and handouts in order to share my learning with you. Hope you find some inspiration in these notes.

-Annie Griffiths, the keynote speaker, kicked off the convention with a brilliant talk on her life as a photographer. Favorites from the keynote: 1. "People are nice if you try (to speak a language." 2. "When you are out in the world, have a smile on your face... Teach our kids to be fearless (in exploration and language study.")  3. "Get out of your comfort zone."  4.  "Photography has power unlike no other art form. All educators can show the world in images to their learners." 5. "When you come in with solutions, you have to listen to the people."

-On motivation:  Greta Lungaard (@gretafromtexas) led this session on what seemed to be a recurring theme this year --  and, boy, is it one that challenges us all!  She shared with us that content might need to be more about what the learners want then what we want in the level one course. She also talked about the need to facilitate experiences in which learners take ownership of their learning.

-On attrition:  Greg Duncan, a world language consultant, also spoke about motivation, and highly recommended John Keller's Theory of Motivation for professional reading. In Maria Nuzzo's research on attrition (2006,) she found that world language learners want to be able to speak in their language course.

Session participants sighed when Duncan shared that 75% of world language learners drop their language course when the requirement has been met. This is the national average, according to his research. Duncan suggested that educators create a quick and easy survey to ask learners to complete in order to find out what will make them stay.

He ended the session with a little discussion on that pesky grammar that seems to be such a controversial topic in world language educator circles.  He sums it up well:  "Grammar is not necessarily hard. It's the quantity that's hard. We are a fire hose of grammar."  He told us that we need to ask ourselves some questions when planning learning experiences: Which grammar? When do we bring it in? How much?

-On interpretive tasks:  Ken Stewart and another Spanish educator colleague whose name has escaped me led this session which was of particular interest to me.  I must say, it was a wise decision to show up for this one as it was informative.
    -Translation is not an interpretive task.
    -We remember 10% of what we read. (from research published in Cognitive Science, 1989)
    -When preparing for an interpretive task, make it a reading AND listening or speaking task. It                helps with the 10% reading retention issue.
    -Ask students to underline and annotate. Reading is always a writing task.
    -Intonation matters.
     -Task idea: Compose a title or headline for a text.
     -For novice-low learners, ask them to write two truths and one lie regarding a text they read.
            Use their work to discuss the text. (We will be trying this one out in the spring!)
     -Make a Wordle to show the key words to learners. Give them time to write what they think                 the text will be about.
      -Consider creating a table with poems and countries listed for each level you're teaching. It is                a great visual to reference when planning.
-On voice and choice: The session title and presenter's name have escaped me, but I'll edit this post with that information once I find it.
    -Voice and choice means that it is MY story and  I choose how to tell it.
    -In order to make small changes that empower learners, you could let them determine the order that      tasks will be done during a given class period or unit.
    -With the amount of tech tools at our fingertips, learners have a lot of choice as to how they share.         Our learners are NOT digital natives. They need our guidance for purposeful use of technology           for learning.
    - Concerning proficiency levels, ask learners to explain what levels of proficiency would look like         for an activity they love. I need to do this one at some point.

VoilĂ  ! Hope you found something interesting to try in your classroom.
Have a great week!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cristy, great blog post! I especially noted your mention on how learners want to speak more in their language classes. I'm the cofounder of a language teaching application called Colango. Colango is a social language teaching tool bringing interactive language learning to the classroom. Teachers create studyposts from Youtube videos or recordings that engages their students! Colango provides reports that helps teachers evaluate, manage and help students more effectively.

    I was wondering if you'd be interested in being a Beta tester for our full web release on 1/25/14. We really want to make a great tool for language teachers and your feedback would be invaluable to us. You can find out more information about Colango here -

    Please email me @ with any questions! =)