Tag Archives: 21st century skills

Get Real!: Cultural Literacy through Authenticity – Part One: The Whys

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“Culture is an abstraction; it cannot actually be seen or touched…. We see people acting in agreed-upon ways in the face of similar situations…we notice people moving their bodies in certain ways – making choices in their lives about where to live, what to eat, how to learn, how to work and love – in response to similar events and experiences, and  say: “oh, these people belong to the same culture”.  (H. Ned Seeyle)

Our recent #langchat inspired me to blog about something which I am truly passionate, using authentic texts in the world language classroom.  We discussed the definition of culture and how to teach it.  Because culture is fluid and amorphous, it is difficult to define.  The website http://coerll.utexas.edu/methods/modules/culture/ expands upon culture as a skill.

I like the term “cultural literacy” which includes:
  • The ability to perceive and recognize cultural differences.
  • The ability to accept cultural differences.
  • The ability to appreciate and value cultural differences.
In my experience, the most effective way to teach culture is through the use of authentic texts.  They can teach cultural literacy because they contain authentic cultural information and give students exposure to real language.  Ned Seelye writes: “Learning a language in isolation of its cultural roots prevents one from becoming socialized into its contextual use. Knowledge of linguistic structure alone does not carry with it any special insight into the political, social, religious, or economic system.”

What is an authentic text?
A “text” isn’t limited to something written down. A text can be a film, an artifact, anything in a language and culture that conveys meaning.  Authentic texts are print, audio, and visual documents created and used by native speakers. Examples include books, web sites, articles, artwork, films, folktales, music, advertisements, videos, posters, news, songs, food, commercials.  Think of any experience you go through during a normal day in a foreign country. Read the rest of this entry
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Don’t Beat ’em, Join ’em!: Cellphones Allowed!

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Ian Jukescommitted me” a while ago.  We live in a time of exponential change, and education serves our students only if it prepares them to live in the world as productive citizens.  When we think of the real world, we don’t think of an isolated classroom containing barriers with no access to technology, or where its use is prohibited. Unfortunately, many schools are continuing to educate students in this manner.  Often, teachers are burdened with narrowing technology budgets and limited resources.  Most students have access to cell phones, which currently act a lot more like computers than phones. How can we see them as helpful to our classes rather than hindrances?

Take advantage of the fact that you have 10 or more “computers” in your classroom available for use at any moment, no training required!!

Here are are some useful and meaningful ways to use cellphones in the world language classroom:

1.     GoogleVoice: Save time and go green!  As an oral assessment, have students leave you a message by calling your GoogleVoicemail in class responding to a  prompt. Then, text or email back your feedback and score. Read the rest of this entry

Follow the Leader

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You don’t have to be a school administrator to lead school reform.  My former school principal, @MsKWeldon had a wonderfully positive approach.  She said she was speaking to anyone willing to listen.  (There would inevitably be naysayers who would find problems with anything and everything, and she wasn’t going to twist their arms.)  Her idea was that the enthusiasm of those who were “on-board” would serve as an impetus to those who were not.
Let’s watch this idea in action:

When you are trying to incite a positive change or adjust streams of thought, focus on those who are willing to join.
My last year of teaching, I worked very closely with my colleague @senoralopez designing rubrics to increase proficiency and thematic units based on authentic texts and authentic performance assessments.  The first followers joined because they overheard the enthusiasm in our conversations about planning, not because a new initiative had been forced upon them.  They were embraced!

Voice Thread as an Assessment in the World Language Classroom

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Voicethread is a fabulous tool for a world language teacher for several reasons.
1. It is a performance assessment.
2. It can be differentiated to varying levels and needs.
3. The student is the creator and the audience.
4. It can be viewed publicly.

In my French I class, we completed a unit on the children’s story, Il y a un Alligator Sous Mon Lit (There is an Alligator Under My Bed). The students learned the rooms and furniture of the house, prepositions, fears, and how to compose a message before reading the story. Then they listened, read, watched, and acted out the story through various activities. There were many formative assessments along the way to test acquisition of vocabulary, and the summative assessment was to create a unique story based on the format of Il y a un Alligator Sous Mon Lit.

This assessment showed me what the students are able to do with the language. Rather than testing the students for discrete information, in a test or quiz that shows what they don’t know, they took what they learned and produced the best product they could at their proficiency level.

This class is extremely varied in needs and proficiency level and, I was able to modify the requirements to fit each student. Some students had more requirements than others. I provided templates for certain students, while more advanced students were given less direction. I compacted the past tense for one extremely advanced student and she wrote he story using the preterite and imperfect complete with irregular verbs!! Voicethread allows individual needs to be met on both ends of the spectrum!

After the student creates the Voicethread,they were required to view and comment on all of the other students’ Voicethreads. Because they know their project is public and viewed by their peers, the quality is better.

Using this tool in the classroom enables students to become better equipped to use Web 2.0 in a productive and responsible manner.

Below I have included a few examples of varying proficiency levels:
http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=1908951
http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=1908915
http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=1908915
http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=1893226