GWATFL Spring 2018 Reflections

Reflections on Gwatfl

This weekend was amazing!  I learned so many great ideas from GWATFL!  I published a lot of my take aways on Twitter, but I wanted to take time to share even more here as well.

First, if you haven’t seen John DeMado, I highly recommend it!  His keynote was awesome.  He discussed how we cannot continue to teach for mastery and expect proficiency.  DeMado says that we as teachers must really study applied linguistics; however, this is typically not a required class in our field.  He also notes that many teachers spend too much time working on grammar, so then, we resort to giving long vocabulary lists.  Then, this vocabulary is never acquired, so students cannot continue to work on their proficiency.  He also compared teaching for mastery to being an editor.  Editor’s jobs are to find what is incorrect and fix it immediately.  This hinders proficiency and doesn’t help students.  DeMado continued on to discuss the purpose of grammar which is to avoid miscommunication instead of creating communication.  He also notes that accuracy is a by product of acquisition.  Therefore, we cannot push accuracy- and as DeMado states- who are we to change how language is acquired?  (Really, go and listen to him any chance that you get!  It really affirms the shift that we are undergoing in foreign language!)

The first session was tricky because I pretty much wanted to be at ALL of the sessions, but I had to decide to make my time in each useful.  First, I went to technology in the WL classroom  (presentation in the link) with Karlie Hale, Margaret Sisler and Sarah Travis.  One thing that I want to try is to put plans on Google Slides then share it with the students.  That will help students who are absent as well.  Also, I loved the idea of writing letters to people in various positions and actually sending them!  I hopped over to Kristine’s session on bitmojis and booksnaps.  (You can read more here!)  While I have tried booksnaps before, I hadn’t used Google Slides before.  I liked this change because my students can use GIFs.  (And we all know how much I LOVE a good GIF!)  She also mentioned using booksnaps but doing song snaps or show snaps if you are watching a show in class.  I love this idea!  Finally, she mentions that on Fridays, she will post twitter chats for her AP classes.  You can check out her discussion on her school account here.  Next year, I am going to have a Spanish 6 class with just seniors and it is blended, so I am definitely going to do this for some blended days!

The last session I went to was with Jessie Yuan to look at a framework to assess student growth in interpersonal speaking.  I always learn a lot every time I hear someone new talk about proficiency.  Something else resonates with me.  In a Center for Applied Linguistics study, they found that it took about 630-720 hours in the target language for 6% of students to reach intermediate mid in speaking.  Due to the messy nature of proficiency (and the messiness of the “mid” level), Jessie decided to have the following categories: “novice low, almost novice mid, novice mid, almost novice high and novice high.”  She did the same thing with intermediate.  This way, students don’t feel like the whole time they just stayed at novice or intermediate mid when they have often made progress.

She also had us complete a close reading of the rubrics.  I plan on doing this next year more, and I want to do this also with my students before their final IPA.  We would look for different reoccurring words.  We also discussed what the term phrase means.  Students can be in novice levels, speaking in phrases, but if they are all memorized or repeated and they are not creating with the language, they are still in the novice range.  Another AHA moment for me was when she mentioned that even though with intermediate low and students are speaking in sentences, their sentences can be rearranged and the meaning can be maintained.  Therefore, students have   Also, I really liked that when Jessie does the interview with students, she allows them to draw or act out words when they need help.  I believe that this helps students if they become too overwhelmed.  I reflected a lot on my students’ progress as well as our rubrics that I am using with my students.

I highly recommend going to GWATFL next year if you are near the DC area (or want to take a trip here!)

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