5 Big Ideas from CSCTFL15 - Mis Clases Locas

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5 Big Ideas from CSCTFL15

As you can tell my brain is still bursting with idea from the Central State Conference. I previously wrote about CSCTFL15 & lista lunes CSCTFL15 edition. After going through all of my notes and tweets I came up with the "Big Ideas" that really stuck with me. 
photo shared on Twitter by @SECottrell

1. Use the Language

A common theme from the CI sessions, to ACTFL, to focusing on 90%+ target language use is we MUST conduct language classes in the target language. ACTFL has even recently changed their standards so that every one includes "uses the language to.." Culture should be embedded in everything we do, and taught in a comprehensible manner in the target language. A great tip from Stephanie Iwan Flame is to SHOW students and parents the ACTFL position statement at the beginning of the year and make sure everyone knows to move up the proficiency ladder, we must ALL speak the language together as a team. As a teacher we must fight the urge to take the easy way out and revert to L1, both inside and outside of class. 

2. Make it Comprehensible

According to Carol Gaab the #1 ingredient needed for second language acquisition is comprehensible input. I have learned there are many different ways that this can be achieved, through stories, movie talk, TPRS novels, cultural readings, and many more. A common theme was that as language teachers this input needs to seem easy to students, while building their confidence. We know all students can learn a second language, and we are there to provide opportunities for them to show what they know, but we can not rush the output. We need to limit their vocabulary and focus on just three structures at a time. Also, for a word to actually be a cognate it must LOOK very similar in both languages, not just sound the same. After positive reinforcement and lots and lots of input, once they are ready, students will amaze us with how much they can produce.   

3. Provide Support for Student Success

We know that if we are all using the target language, there will be times when students will not know how to say something. We need to teach them what to do in this situation and not assume they know how to describe what they mean without using the word. Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell's presentation on circumlocution really got me thinking about how I have just left my students in the dust by not making sure they know how to accomplish this very important skill, being able to go beyond "the thing, used for the thing." She said that most communication problems stem from the wrong vocabulary, not grammar. We need to teach students how to play real life Taboo, but describing in any way that they can to get the point across. This combines points 1 & 2 since circumlocution uses the target language to make language comprehensible. 
I finally got to meet Mrs. Musicuentos @SECottrell

4. Encourage Higher-Order Thinking

Carol Gaab's higher order thinking presentation reminded me that although we may be teaching elementary level language skills, our students need to be challenged to think and not just focus on what is correct. We should save the "right answer" for the test, while using class time to discuss using logic. Carol showed many ways we can move beyond just circling around with particular answers straight from the text. Many presenters talked about the importance of connecting personally with the students in a way that they can compare their own experiences with a text, thinking at a much higher level and not just regurgitating facts. 

5. Language class should be the best part of their day!

As language teachers we have the freedom and privilege of being an elective. While what we do is very important to literacy development and we deserve to sit at the core table, we (usually) have a little more leeway when it comes to curriculum. Our class should be a sanctuary and break from the "sit and get" classes, where spontaneity, fun, music, movement, and speaking are the norm. Grant Boulanger mentioned that his class is based around getting to know each other and becoming a caring community of learners, where everyone can feel safe to go out of their comfort zone and make mistakes. Even if you are tied to a textbook, your class can have it's own creative culture within the school. 
from Grant Boulanger's presentation

What were your big takeaways?


  1. Great takeaways, Allison. I am so glad that you got a lot out of the conference!

    1. Thank you so much for all of your hard work in planning such a great conference!

  2. Wow! What a terrific conference. I wish our teachers could go to something like this. Thank you for this post.

    We are currently trying to restructure our curriculum, but we're struggling a little with the first steps. Hopefully we can really embrace these big ideas and do a full turn-around!!

    1. If you ever get a chance to go to this conference you should!
      Big curriculum changes can be scary, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and try something new. Also, you don't have to change all levels at once, just baby steps.
      Let me know if you want to bounce off ideas! -Allison


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