In my own classrooms, which are conducted entirely in the target language, my primary responsibilities are to inductively present content, to guide small-group and 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.
Introduction of Content
When presenting new material, whether it be linguistic or sociocultural, I provide examples that allow the students to observe and hear the new material in an authentic context. Visual support is often given through technology (e.g., PowerPoint, YouTube, Prezi) in order to facilitate the visual learning style. Whenever 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, etc. Presentations are sequenced to allow students to make connections to their previous knowledge and then to create theories about what they have observed. See this page for a sample lesson plan.
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.
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. Developing a 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.
In introductory classes, this is straightforward, as the introductory material often covers interests and hobbies. In advanced classes, my students frequently 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 interesting materials, and helps my students to perceive me as approachable and invested in their academic development.
For summative assessments of written and oral language competence, my students complete traditional exams and compositions, digital projects, in-class presentations, and oral assessments, all adapted to their level and to the objectives of the course.
Written assessments provide opportunities for the students to demonstrate their understanding of the new syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic systems of their target language. Quizzes and exams assess students’ metalinguistic knowledge within contextualized exercises. Written compositions allow students to explore the relationship between their own experiences and their new language. At the intermediate and advanced levels, these compositions provide opportunities for students to develop a more sophisticated writing style that they can apply across disciplines and studies.
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, that are either presented in class or submitted digitally. This allows students to practice using what they have learned while imagining themselves in a real-world context. Examples of student projects include missing persons reports, reviews for study abroad programs, digital postcards from francophone cities, and 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. Oral assessments may take the form of organic, simulated real-world conversations with a classmate. Students are encouraged to ask questions after the 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. See this page for examples of student work.