Carrie Toth

I am so happy I was able to be a part of Carrie Toth’s “Becoming Proficient in Proficiency”.  She is extremely knowledgeable about this topic and I am confident that all the session participants left today feeling much more informed as I do.  She opened her session by explaining that teaching for proficiency is a shift of what we may think as teachers.  It is not teaching for correction but instead for communication.  In a proficiency based classroom, teachers acknowledge that students may not progress at the same speed.  More importantly, proficiency teachers care that messages are being communicated.  Carrie was very brave to share her textbook teacher journey.  And it was precisely this experience that pushed her to using Comprehensible Input, such as novels, TPRS stories and more!  She reminded us that we can not put Spanish 1 students in a bubble of present tense, Spanish 2 only with past tense and so on.  Have you been guilty of telling a Spanish 1 student not to say something in the past tense because they had not learned it yet?  I know I am.  But now because of learning from amazing leaders in the world language field (such as Carrie) I know much better!  When we teach for proficiency our retention rates improve drastically!

Carrie explained proficiency levels very clearly and pointed us in the direction of ACTFL’s website to learn more and watch videos to see where our students might fall on their rubrics.

She also urged us to make this shift so that we can empower our future legislators and superintendents to value world language in the future.  It is our job to create a #nationofadvocates (as Grant Boulanger blogged about here).

Then she gave us tips on how to teach for proficiency:

Always start with what students do really well already.
Take what students know and add more to it.  Start units where students feel strong and are confident  to tackle more.
-Do a pre-unit brain storm with butcher block paper where they write everything they know.  This gives them a huge pool of vocabulary which you can take and  build on it as you go through the unit.
-In her Identify unit in level 3 she delves much deeper than she does in level 1.  She prints out the student’s  yearbook picture, blows it up on a copier and when students come to class they see their photo on their desk.  She then asks them to fill up this paper with all the information they have to describe themselves.  Then she collects it, hangs it and tells them that for the rest of the unit they can no longer use these words to describe themselves.  They need to delve much deeper into their identity and go beyond their superficial selves.  Now students need to begin to explain the influences in their lives and their impact on their identity.

Use the novels for PQA.  Talk about their cell phone usage with novels such as “Brandon Brown” or “El Nuevo Houdini”  Then connect this to cell phone usage in other cultures to make cultural comparisons.

Keep them talking
How does Carrie get her students to say more?
-Elaborate with more details
-Carrie explains her excellent idea of Discussion Thursday here.

Talk around it!
-Ditch the dictionary.  Teach students to circumlocute.  If they do not know a word, they need to be able to use what they have to explain it.  Using English is not possible as an intermediate and therefore circumlocution is KEY!

Use summative assessment to inform
Carrie says if she told a story with the structure “has just” over and over but some students do not use it in a retell, it indicates to her what she needs to go back and revisit in class the next day.

Communicate in all tenses all the time:
Don’t explain  grammar on day 1.  Gradually work it in.  After students master the  first story in the present tense, next introduce the past tense, then future.  Students don’t have to produce it but need to be accustomed to hearing it.

Load up on cognates and personal vocabulary:
Carrie allows her students to have self selected vocabulary lists as well as one she generates. She finds her students enjoy this because they can decide what they want to learn and teach the class.  Giving personal control to pick what they want to talk about in her classroom showed emerging use of what they thought was important in L2.

Communication is the key!  It is not about how perfect they are at it but instead that they are excited about it and their willingness to take risks and communicate.

Blog post by Arianne Dowd, our official blogger of #iFLT17!

Stay tuned for more updates from iFLT throughout the week!

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