In my university classrooms, which are conducted entirely in the target language, my primary responsibility is to guide student language development in a respectful, positive learning environment. My role in student language development is to inductively present content, to guide small-group and whole-classroom interactions, and to direct students’ attention to mistakes they make in class. This section will address these aspects of teaching in addition to the development of rapport with students and my approach to assessments.
The learning environment is a critical component of a language learner’s journey. Developing rapport with the students results in knowledge of their interests, and therefore in the ability to personalize the course to increase student engagement and willingness to communicate. Providing opportunities for students to make connections between their target language and the knowledge or interests they already have is key to maintaining their investment in the language and in the classroom language practices. In introductory classes, this is straightforward, as the introductory material often covers interests and hobbies. In advanced classes, my students complete brief surveys in the target language at the beginning of the course, so that I may assess their writing ability and begin to understand their interests and academic pursuits. The student survey responses guide the use of the presentation materials I use for the duration of the course. In this way, I begin to develop a rapport with my students from the beginning of the course, which both helps me to develop engaging materials, and helps my students to perceive me as approachable and invested in their academic development.
Introduction of Content
When presenting any new content, I provide examples that allow the students to observe the new material in an authentic context. Visual support is often given through technology (e.g., PowerPoint, YouTube, Prezi, GoogleSlides), and, when possible, examples are taken from publicly available authentic materials, such as news articles, clips of conversations from films or series, social media profiles and interactions, interviews, etc. Presentations are scaffolded and sequenced to allow students to make connections to their previous knowledge and then to create theories about what they have observed. See the Sample Works page for a lesson plan that includes the introduction of new material.
Student Practice and Error Correction
After completing the presentation of new material with the students, I ask students questions that require them to both understand and apply the new material. These activities enhance the students’ interpretive language capabilities and prepare them for the decoding of progressively more advanced authentic materials, as well as allowing me the opportunity to assess their understanding. I then guide the students through a co-construction of the underlying principle of the new material and a discussion of any particularities (exceptions, related principles, etc.). My students also engage in scaffolded small- and large-group discussions during much of the class time, which allows them to practice the language in guided, simulated authentic face-to-face interactions as often as possible. Since students inevitably vary in level within each classroom, this type of collaborative learning allows them to use these differences to their advantage and to enhance their interpersonal communication abilities. These interactions also provide time for formative assessments, as I am able to monitor the discussions in each group and guide the students’ use of any new lexical or syntactic items.
For summative assessments of written and oral language competence, my students complete digital projects, in-class presentations, oral assessments, and some traditional exams and compositions, all adapted to their level and to the objectives of the course.
Digital projects (see sample works page for an example of a French 2 digital project) allow students to highlight their creativity and to apply their language knowledge to another domain. Quizzes and exams assess students’ metalinguistic knowledge within contextualized exercises. Written assessments provide opportunities for the students to demonstrate their understanding of the new syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic systems of their target language. They allow students to explore the relationship between their own experiences and their new language. At the intermediate and advanced levels, written assessments provide opportunities for students to improve their use of tone and register for a variety of contexts and audiences while developing a more sophisticated writing style that they can apply across disciplines and studies (see sample works page).
Oral assessments include digital projects, in-person presentations, skits, and conversations with their peers. Group and individual projects take the form of slideshows, posters, or short videos, either presented in class or recorded and submitted digitally. Oral assessments may also take the form of organic, simulated real-world conversations with a peer. Students are encouraged to ask questions after any in-class presentations and during the conversations in order to give their peers the chance to demonstrate their unscripted communication capabilities. These presentations and oral assessments assess the students’ ability to communicate coherently, appropriately, and fluidly in the target language.
Examples of student projects include social media profiles, critiques of films or restaurants, missing persons reports, reviews for study abroad programs, digital postcards from francophone cities, digital brochure videos for imagined restaurants and travel clubs. Presentations on topics related to cultural phenomena or current events are used to assess the presentational and interpersonal communication skills of intermediate and advanced students. See sample work page for examples of student work.