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Complete the form to share with us your ACTFL experience and reflections.

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Check out the new site and learn more about opportunities for your students!

Weren’t able to attend AATSP of the Carolinas Fall Conference?

Check out some of the presentations on our conference page!

Exploring World Languages in South Carolina

By Trixi DeRosa-Davis

“Nous sommes voitures”- We are cars.  Yep, that’s what I wrote on my French 3 final exam.  That is when Madame Camp suggested that maybe French was not my language.  

She turned out to be correct, and I went on to study Spanish and become a Spanish teacher.  

Many times in my career, I have thought back to that moment and wondered what if I had figured out way BEFORE French 3 that French just was not my language.  You have probably had students yourselves that have come to this same realization.  In order to help students make this decision early on, my colleagues and I at VirtualSC have spent the last year creating a course designed to help students make a determination about which language truly appeals to them.  

The course, Exploring World Languages in South Carolina, addresses 4 core languages in the three modes of communication, in order to give students not only a glimpse into the culture and basics of a language, but also to allow them the opportunity to delve into language learning.  Exploring World Languages in SC  specifically looks at how students can use language within South Carolina. It is  designed for 6th-8th grade students who are interested in learning more about World Languages but who do not know which language they might like to study.  The course is offered online and free to all students in the state of SC through VirtualSC.

Often as educators, we are asked “Why should a student learn one language over another? ”.  

Exploring World Languages in South Carolina does not promote one language over another, but instead give students sample context of scenarios in which they might find themselves using or needing a language.  

The course begins with an introduction to language learning, including discussion of how important learning another language is, how we learn languages and why learning a language is important here in SC.  

The second unit introduces students to Spanish, where students complete an Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) based unit on likes and dislikes of food.  Students are given opportunities to speak and complete an interpersonal task through live online sessions.  Students are also able to complete optional extension activities, like doing the Mexican candy challenge and sharing whether -Me gusta (Like) or No me gusta (don’t like).  

The third unit of the course introduces students to German through the numerous German businesses in SC.  Students learn how to introduce and describe themselves to potential business people in German.  They complete interactive conversation simulations as well as a live session to practice interpersonal communication.  

The fourth unit of the course brings to life the Latin language for students.  Many of our English words derive from Latin, giving our students a beginning look into word origins.  In this unit, students learn to talk about their family: pater, mater, frater, soror, and their home.  Students share a selfie with a family member in the extension activity, sharing who the person is in Latin.

In the fifth unit, students are introduced to the French Quarter of Charleston.  Students learn how to talk about places and their locations.  Did you know that the French Quarter of Charleston houses some of our oldest and most prolific landmarks? Students are able to virtually tour Charleston learning about the history and the French language.

In the final unit of the course, students are given the opportunity to complete a lesson on either American Sign Language or Gullah.  Students who choose the American Sign Language lesson learn more about the SC School for Deaf and Blind and how they can use sign language with members of the deaf community.  In the Gullah lesson, students are able to learn more about the history, food and song of the people who live along the SC/GA coast.  Extension activities for Gullah include making Beaufort Stew or a Sweetgrass basket.  

The students language is brought to a conclusion in a final lesson, where they review what they have learned in the course and use their interpretive skills to help determine what type of businesses potential business owners might be interested in starting in SC.  

This summer, we were able to pilot the course with a small number of students.  The feedback we received from these students made it clear that our efforts to put together a worthwhile and fun course for students were successful.  Many of the students continued to make connections with the languages outside of the course, sharing what they learned with teachers and peers.

I would encourage you to consider sharing this course with students who might be interested in learning languages, but are unsure how to get started. If your school district does not offer middle school languages, this is a great way to get students looking at languages and language learning.  

For additional information, check out this video: or visit our webpage:

Don’t Forget!!!

AATSP of the Carolinas Fall 2017 Conference

“Learn, Share and Flourish”

Joint AATSPSC and AATSPNC Conference
November 4, 2017 at Winthrop University

Click here to register!

Our keynote speaker will be Prof. Devon Hanahan of College of Charleston.  We will also be introducing our brand new competition for students! We are very excited about the upcoming conference and hope to see you there!  Please look for registration information soon.

Conference Details:

The conference begins at 8:30am with breakfast provided.  Keynote starts at 9am. Cost is $30.  Full-time students pay $10. Pre-service and beginning teachers are encouraged to attend!

Lunch is on your own and the conference will end at 3pm.

Need help convincing your administration to fund your attendance at the conference? Check out our Administrator Letter.

AATSP 2017

Beyond the grade….on to the score

By Brandi Humble

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” –George Bernard Shaw

We are language teachers.  We are those people many just don’t understand how we can actually speak the language we studied all those years.  Then, we take it further and we teach it.  Since becoming a Spanish teacher, the one thing that continues to amaze me is the number of people I meet that can’t speak another language.  While nearly all of them studied and “learned” Spanish or French or German, very few of them can actually do anything with it.

When I take a moment and reflect, can I blame them?  I would imagine, many of us “learned” the same way.  We received vocabulary lists for the unit.  We practiced, then we took a vocabulary quiz or test.  We learned some grammar concept, how to conjugate in this tense or use that prepositional phrase.  Of course, there was a quiz or test for that too.  We did some fill in the blank practice (“plug and chug”), and finally to round it all up we wrote a few sentences using both the vocabulary and the grammar from the unit.  Sometimes this was on the test with the plug and chug and matching vocabulary.  I’m not here to judge it, I went through it too.  So, what made me different?  How in the world did I go from that classroom to where I can speak, and read, and listen, and converse in Spanish?  How in “the world” is exactly how!  I put myself on a plane (twice) and went and lived the language.  I met people, I shopped in stores, I ate in restaurants, and I had to think outside of units and tests and fill in the blanks.

Here is when and where the change is realized.  When I first started teaching I went right into what I knew about teaching Spanish, what I had experienced in the classroom.  There’s a textbook, and standards, and district curricula, vocabulary, and common assessments.  This is the way it had always been done, and I was expected to do the same.  The first few years, I pushed to try new things and sometimes had the opportunity.  However, when I moved to my new district (and when I returned again) I was truly able to work with like-minded people and it has been amazing.

The district where I currently have the opportunity to work still has units, vocabulary chunks, and even common assessments.  The perspective is just completely different.  The units and auxiliary materials are common across languages; thus, it is all produced in English for teachers.  The vocabulary isn’t a set of nouns, set of verbs, set of adjectives and such.  Instead, these units have chunks and main ideas and concepts.  The teachers are expected to teach in the target language, and like children learn language from birth, just expose them to all of the language that language has to offer.

There is a time and place for grammar and vocabulary practice, but in the end what the students can DO with the language is where we focus.  The entire district scores on a proficiency rubric.  Students don’t have homework grades, participation grades, or even extra credit opportunities.  We only score what they do, create, or how they use the language.  Students use some vocabulary we provide, even some they find on their own, and combine it with structures and things they hear to create with the language.  The days of students pulling up a grade to passing because they were well behaved, or turned in all their homework, or bought some new markers for the classroom are gone.  However, also are the days of “passing” Spanish class.  There are specific levels expected from one level to the next to promote; and of course in a day and age of GPA’s and college applications those scores to have to transfer to some numeric value on a one hundred point scale.  However, when a student receives a score of a “seven”, or “Novice High”, it means something.  It represents exactly what they can do with language.  It shows that they can manipulate what they know and write or speak at a certain level and interact in a certain way with another speaker, and even at what level they can interpret meaning from reading or listening in Spanish.  It isn’t an average, resulting in one high or one low grade pulling that reflection of ability to create in one direction or another.  It is a reflection of what can a student do, consistently, throughout the year, with a variety of topics.

The transition for a teacher to this type of scoring has been interesting too.  I started teaching those noun lists, and verb lists, and conjugation charts.  I started with the worksheets and “plug and chug” style quizzes and tests in my early years.  In my defense, that was the expectation.  However, that approach to instructing did not fit with this type of scoring.  In order to provide students with chunks, I had to start using them.  I had to really commit to the idea of “immersing” the students.  My classroom had to be that international experience I had, without leaving our little town in South Carolina.  I am now just on the other side.  Instead of being the foreign student trying to figure out what is happening all around me, and the person in front of me is rewording, pointing, acting out, and becoming completely animated trying to explain, I’m that animated person.  I’m pointing, drawing, dancing, and rewording.

In addition to completely engulfing them in the language, I had to change my mindset from “there is one correct answer” to “show me how YOU would use this” or “how would you explain this”.   I have had to sit back and let my students begin to solve their problems.  Instead of quizzes and tests, they have real world problems or scenarios.  My students have to draw a card that says they broke their leg (no specific scenario provided), walk into our hospital scenario, and figure out how to converse with a nurse to explain what happened.  My students have to plan a trip to Pamplona in July, figuring out transportation, a hotel/hostel/air bnb, restaurants for meals or grocery stores to purchase food while working on a budget and provided only authentic materials in Spanish.  They have to take the base vocabulary I have provided them, build on it, and problem solve to “survive”.

As adults, we all know there is usually more than one solution to a problem.  Given our own backgrounds, experiences, and expertise, we solve a problem as best fit for us.  Our twenty-first century learners need to learn to do the same.  This proficiency based scoring has truly allowed me to open up to that idea.  The rubrics we use are from ACTFL.  They don’t require a specific set of vocabulary, or a specific grammar concept to be able to move up or down in the continuum.  There is some reference to past tense, or the use of multiple tenses, but it is not specific, as these rubrics are applied across multiple modern languages.  There is no more a “you must be able to conjugate regular verbs in the preterite tense” to pass Spanish II.  Instead, we expect students to be able to manage a few different real world settings, with a variety of vocabulary, and a functional base with grammar.  We don’t want the students sounding as if they make no sense at all, but errors are acceptable.  I modified some famous words from a not so educational movie, “but did you understand?”.

The transition hasn’t been easy to put in place, but it has been easy to grab a hold of and try to run.  My personal experience with language learning tells me this is what my students need.  They need to be immersed; they need to be challenged to do, create, and interact with language in order to remember it.  I want my students to come back one day and have a conversation with me in Spanish.  I don’t ever want them to just tell me how much they loved or hated my class.  I want to ask them how they are, how is life, where they live, and what they are doing, all in Spanish.  Then, I want them to be able to put together some sort of response in Spanish, and I want all of that to happen twenty, thirty, forty years after they leave my room.  While I am young, and I have a while to see if this really makes a difference, I am a believer in the change it could make for my students and those interactions in the years to come.

AATSP of the Carolinas Fall 2017 Conference

“Learn, Share and Flourish”

Joint AATSPSC and AATSPNC Conference
November 4, 2017 at Winthrop University

Click here to register!

Our keynote speaker will be Prof. Devon Hanahan of College of Charleston.  We will also be introducing our brand new competition for students! We are very excited about the upcoming conference and hope to see you there!  Please look for registration information soon.

Conference Details:

The conference begins at 8:30am with breakfast provided.  Keynote starts at 9am. Cost is $30.  Full-time students pay $10. Pre-service and beginning teachers are encouraged to attend!

Lunch is on your own and the conference will end at 3pm.

Need help convincing your administration to fund your attendance at the conference? Check out our Administrator Letter.

AATSP 2017

What I learned while teaching in Tanzania.

By Stephanie Schenck

There have been some changes around here lately! After teaching high school Spanish for ten years, with adult ESL at a community college and English at a bilingual elementary school in Spain sprinkled in, here I am. A full-time student again at Clemson University in the Literacy, Language, and Culture PhD program. (Go tigers!)

Last year, one of my professors asked me what I thought about doing some work in Tanzania over the summer. Me!? Go to Africa? I mean, I have experience with second language acquisition, leading teacher workshops, and have spent time living internationally, so I mean, I do have some knowledge under my belt. Turns out, that is precisely what was needed.

Students in Tanzania speak Swahili and one of over 200 local languages, so they are bilingual to start. Some students may be exposed to English in elementary school, but many are not. Then high school hits and according to Tanzanian law, English is the language of all instruction. This is, as you can imagine, problematic.

The high school teachers, in all subjects, find themselves struggling to teach the content and also teach enough English to make the content comprehensible. That is where Mwangaza steps in. Mwangaza is a grassroots organization that focuses on health and education programs in Tanzania. Every summer, they host a week-long teacher training workshop to help high school teachers learn new ways to reach their students while simultaneously supporting students’ English development. It is a tall order. Yet attendees of Mwangaza go back to their schools armed with many new ideas, strategies, and tools to help their students learn in the target language.

What I learned from this experience is that teaching challenges are truly universal. Student behavior and engagement. How to differentiate with faster or slower-paced students. How to reach the students who have given up. How to inspire students and encourage their progress. All of these topics came up time and again as though they were unique to Tanzanian schools. I assured the teachers that no, these are things we all face. All teachers get tired and all teachers need opportunities to recharge. The week we spent together at Mwangaza was a chance to recharge so that the teachers were ready to go back to their students energized and encouraged.

It was fun to see how all I have learned over the years about second language acquisition was put to the test with convincing these teachers that it was, indeed, possible to make their content comprehensible. It was also fun to discuss how teachers are kindred spirits, no matter where you go. It is a tough job. But stepping out of the classroom to connect with other teachers and get fresh ideas is always welcome.

This November, AATSP will host its annual conference in Rock Hill. It is my hope that, like Mwangaza, our South Carolina Spanish and Portuguese teachers will leave with new tools and ideas to reach their own students. Perhaps our situations are not as dire as those faced by many teachers in African schools. But we do have our own challenges, to be sure, and we also deserve to head back to our classrooms energized and encouraged.

Steph Vela Pic with Arsenio

Fall Conference 2017 Call for Proposals

“Learn, Share and Flourish”

This year we will again partner with the North Carolina chapter of AATSP for out Fall Conference.  Submit your proposals here.

We look forward to seeing you all once again!  More information on even registration to come.  Save the date!

AATSP 2017

Música Miércoles

By Maggie Dunlap

By far one of the most popular things we do in Spanish class, at all levels, is Música Miércoles (M.M.). I got this idea from Allison Wienhold of Mis Clases Locas. She blogged in 2014 about using music videos to start class on Wednesdays. I was intrigued from the start: a way to incorporate authentic material in the target language, expose students to diverse cultures, AND an alliterative name? Sign me up!

Plus, music was an invaluable resource for me as a language learner. My family moved to Central America in 2005 when my parents accepted teaching positions at a bilingual school in San Salvador, El Salvador. That same year, Reik released their first album. For the uninitiated, Reik is a Mexican pop group reminiscent of The Backstreet Boys. I listened to that self-titled album on repeat until I could sing along. Mimicking the sounds (even though I didn’t completely understand what I was singing) helped me develop intonation and pronunciation skills, and reading along with lyrics in the liner notes helped my listening comprehension. As a teacher, I was eager to replicate these experiences for my students.

Allison Wienhold is the queen of bell-ringers and M.M. started out as her go-to class starter for Wednesdays. Her approach is more structured now and she has a ton of resources available on TpT for purchase if, after reading my glowing endorsement, you’re ready to try it out.

How I use M.M.

“¿Listos para Música miércoles? Necesitan una hoja de papel y un lápiz o lapicero (bolígrafo).”

I ask students if they’re “ready” (listos) a lot in class. When they hear this cue at the beginning of class on Wednesdays, they know they should find a clean sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. I have not in the past collected their notes from M.M. Some like to document the song/artist more diligently than others. You could certainly have them record their work in a journal that you grade for participation or as a classwork assignment.

A PowerPoint slide with the day’s song is already projected as students enter the classroom and find their materials. I purchased an editable PP template from Mis Clases Locas’ TpT store back in 2015. Each slide includes the title, artist, flag of the country of origin (my addition to Allison’s template), two discussion questions, and some instructions. I record the necessary links to the video and lyrics in the notes section. When everyone is “listo,” we begin:

  1. ¿De dónde es el artista? ¿Cómo llamamos a una persona de _________? (Indicate country of origin, review of adjectives of nationality. I have the flags of all the Spanish-speaking countries on the walls of my classroom and I have found this is one of only times I reference this important cultural element beyond the first unit of Spanish 1. Great review!)
  2. ¿De qué color es la bandera? ¿Cómo es la bandera? (Discuss colors, shapes, make comparisons. Great potential for differentiation.)
  3. El género de música es _____________ (Describe the genre of music in as much detail as necessary or refer students to previous learning about the music styles of the Spanish-speaking world.)
  4. ¿Qué significa el título? (Could be brainstorming and leave open ended to return to after the song, or translate as a class to give context for listening, depending on the level of learners.)
  5. Escriban las palabras en español que escuchan.

At this point I show the music video associated with the song and students write down any words or phrases they hear in Spanish. Sometimes you have to be pretty creative and/or patient in order to find a song you think students might like that also has a video appropriate for school. I have shown live versions, lyric videos, or only a segment of a video in order to meet school environment standards. Students definitely prefer to watch choreographed music videos over any of those options, but sometimes there’s no way around it. Where to find songs: iTunes;; or Google search for country and genre/artists or country and top 40 ex) Chile top 40; Bolivia pop artistas.

After the video, I ask “¿Te gusta o no te gusta?” and students give me a nonverbal response in the form of a thumbs up. The thumbs get pretty technical: I’ll get half way thumbs up/half way thumbs down and a student will explain, “Well, I like the video and the artist’s voice, but the lyrics were silly.” I always ask for at least two volunteers to explain their thumb vote, usually one that liked the song and one that didn’t. Your expectations for how they explain their opinions can vary by learner level, but some M.M. pet peeves of mine are any misuse of gustar, “No me gusta porque es estúpida,” or something similarly insipid. That does not count as a valid opinion! In an ideal world, a class discussion bubbles up from student opinion.

I then go around the room and ask each student to say a word or phrase they heard in the song. This is quick. We then re-play a portion of the video, audio only, and follow along with the lyrics in Spanish. I just Google “letra” and the song title to find the lyrics online. Be careful – some lyric sites are better than others in terms of commitment to Spanish grammar.

The repetition of the listening comprehension with the added benefit of reading along with the lyrics can create some neat “a-ha” moments when students put two-and-two together, or when they can confirm they heard the right thing. Nicely validating for a language learner! We usually listen through the first chorus at which point I’ll stop, and we try to translate what we’ve heard as a class. This is a great time to discuss word order, idiomatic expressions, slang, and any grammar topics you might currently be learning that appear in the lyrics. Sometimes even vocabulary words pop up.

Depending on your students’ level of interest or your desire to get a discussion going, this whole process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to the entire class period. I’d say we average about 20 minutes for M.M.

Variations on M.M.


  • Pick a song for its cultural reference or repetition of a certain grammar topic and really prompt students to listen or look for that specifically as you play the song. Examples: “Hasta que te conocí” by Juan Gabriel to mark his passing at the beginning of last school year; “A Dios le pido” by Juanes for subjuntivo; “Volveré” by Jesse y Joy for future tense; “Ya no sé que hacer conmigo” by Cuarteto de nos for A LOT of preterite verbs.
  • Give a prize to the student who hears the longest word, longest phrase, the most words, or the answer to a comprehension question you create based on the lyrics.
  • In the fall of 2016, we took the entire middle and upper school on a field trip to see the Hispanic Flamenco Ballet, a traveling dance group that performs traditional Spanish and Latin American dances for school audiences. I used M.M. in the weeks leading up to our trip to introduce the different styles of music we would encounter (and we even learned a few dance steps). There are lots of great video tutorials on YouTube to choose from for this purpose.
  • Let your students be the DJ! A culminating project for my seniors this past year was M.M.: ¡Te toca! With a partner, they prepared and presented an entire M.M., from picking the song, to creating the slide, to leading the discussion. Check out my TpT page for a free download of the assignment and rubric.  
  • Other ideas from Mis Clases Locas:
  • As a “welcome back” activity, ask students at the beginning of the year to research songs in Spanish and make suggestions for future M.M.
  • Manía musical: This requires a bit of planning, but we did it for the first time this year and it was so much fun! Create a March Madness style bracket of class favorites from M.M. and vote throughout March. Have students log their predictions on their own brackets and offer a prize to the winner. We used Google Forms for voting and Álvaro Soler’s “El mismo sol” went all the way. I almost had a perfect bracket this year… 😛


Throughout the year, I add our M.M. songs to a public playlist on YouTube. If students are working independently, I ask “¿Quieren escuchar a música en español?” and we rock out to our M.M. playlist. Some M.M. picks have even made their way to being played during the Senior Halloween carnival and varsity basketball workouts. No better feeling than when a student tells me they’ve been listening outside of class. Check out our playlists from the past two years and happy listening!

Música miércoles 2015-2016 *

Música miércoles 2016-2017 *

*(Warning: not all videos are appropriate for school viewing or all ages of listener. Use your best judgment).

Looking for Jobs?

The school year is coming to a close and many schools are still looking for qualified Spanish/World Language teachers.  Below are a few openings with many others posted at Cerra.   If your school district is looking for a Spanish/Portuguese teacher, feel free to send your openings to Trixi  at for posting here.  Feel free to share these openings with others.

South Aiken High School 

Lexington School District One


Maintaining Your Second Language Skills: Tips from an English/Spanish-Speaking Mom of an English-Speaking Family

By Amanda Gomes

For those of us who are not native speakers of the language we teach, it can be tricky business keeping our second language skills strong! I have found this to be especially true after marriage and kids; it’s difficult to dedicate the same time you did before you truly began “adulting”. Of course, that is if you didn’t end up marrying a native speaker of that language! Obviously this would be the number one way to keep up with the language! So if you’re still out there looking for love… well, you catch my drift. (wink, wink)

For the rest of us, let’s explore some ways we can maintain our second language skills!

Listen to international music.

When I first became interested in learning Spanish, I used to watch VH1 (“bay-otcheh-uno”, the español version) all the time. Eventually I’d have some favorite songs and artists, and would run to the store to pick up their CDs (I KNOW! CDs!). I’d memorize the lyrics and look up any words I didn’t know to figure out the song’s meaning. This was such a great tool for learning, and for practicing pronunciation too! The grammar, vocabulary, and context would often present itself in later real life conversations, and just click. What I found most surprising about this practice was that after a car ride of singing along with some of my favorite Spanish music, my mouth would be so sore from working muscles I didn’t normally use in English! That’s got to be a sure sign that it’s doing something for your pronunciation! And I’ve had numerous conversations where people were surprised to learn that I wasn’t a native speaker; thanks VH1!

Now there are all kinds of music streaming apps like Pandora, and, my family’s favorite, Spotify. We can use these apps to keep our international music on in the background and immerse ourselves in our second language while our everyday lives truck on! Eventually familiar songs will pop out, and you’ll be singing (and maybe dancing) along in no time!


Search for foreign movies and shows on streaming services.

Can you remember life before Google and TV streaming services?! These days you can easily search Google for “Spanish (or Portuguese!) shows on Netflix/Hulu/Kodi (You pick the app too!)”, and get a comprehensive list of shows and their descriptions! If you’re like me, your TV time is minimal, and usually shared with someone who isn’t interested in watching a Spanish movie. (Ugh!) When the rare opportunity to watch whatever I want presents itself, I like to make the most of it and really indulge my interests.

You can also put a new spin on familiar movies by selecting your language of choice in the menu settings! I used to do this for my kids all the time. Seriously, Frozen will never be as entertaining it is in español! “♪Libre soy, libre soy…♪”


Audit classes at the local college or university.

Some colleges will allow people to audit classes. This allows you the chance to sit in on courses without receiving a grade. Typically there isn’t a fee associated with this either because you aren’t receiving credit, but you would need to check with the specific college or university. Some require an official process, while some allow instructors to give clearance. I have audited a Spanish conversation course in the past when I needed to improve my language skills. Enjoy the perks of a class, without the stress of a grade! (High-five!)

Attend church services in the language.

In my community there are churches that offer services in Spanish. Ask around! I have visited a friend’s church many times, and really enjoyed their all-Spanish praise and worship, and service. I’m also Catholic, and the Catholic Church on the other side of my town offers misa en español as well. This allows one the opportunity to meet and connect with a community of Spanish-speaking people which can potentially lead to a number of language experiences.

One thing you want to remember when meeting new people is that it’s important to establish those relationships in Spanish! I have a few Spanish-speaking friends with whom I converse in English! (Boooo!) It’s a strange thing how hard it can be to make the official switch from one language to the other!


Work part-time in the language.

When I was a college student I spent time working for a local insurance agency geared toward my local Hispanic community. Aside from one of the co-owners, I was the only native English speaker on staff. The learning and practice I gained from this employment has been unmatched in my other language adventures! As a single mother, semesters and/or years abroad were not an option for me. Instead, I spent most of six days a week submersed in the language for a year and a half before returning to education.

I often think it would be amazing to work in a Spanish-speaking environment again, and consider this when I’m visiting Spanish-speaking businesses. If it’s something you haven’t done before, I highly recommend you give it a go! Imagine everything in your current work place, but in your second language – language, friends, culture, experiences, AND money – win win WIN!



But it isn’t always about money, right? I mean, we are teachers. Volunteering is another way to improve language skills. A Spanish-speaking friend of mine spends part of her summers off working as a volunteer at a summer camp geared toward Spanish-speaking children in her community. I also entertain the idea of offering English lessons to native Spanish-speakers. Basically anything that gets you involved with the Spanish or Portuguese speaking community is a win in my book!



I’m willing to bet that as a foreign language teacher, travel is something that always peaks your interest! There is nothing more satisfying than proving your language skills in their native land. (Seriously, relevant travel should be automatic PD credit!) However, funding, or finding a travel partner, can sometimes prove difficult. But there are resources out there to help you make it happen! Often times there are available scholarships and summer travel opportunities designed especially for teachers, some of which include travel expenses and actual courses overseas! Here are some links that I have explored in the past:

The American Association of Teacher of Spanish and Portuguese:

South Carolina Department of Education:

Tía Tula, Colegio de Español:



Opportunities to use your second language skills don’t always come easy; sometimes you have to seek them out, or create them! As teachers, many of us are afforded the summers to do our own thing. What better way to spend them than reigniting the passion that attracted us to our language studies in the first place? So go out, make connections, and get creative! ¡Diviértate!


Looking for Jobs?

The school year is coming to a close and many schools are still looking for qualified Spanish/World Language teachers.  Below are a few openings with many others posted at Cerra.   If your school district is looking for a Spanish/Portuguese teacher, feel free to send your openings to Trixi  at for posting here.  Feel free to share these openings with others.

South Aiken High School 

Greenwood District 50

Berkley County

Dancing in the Language Classroom

By Luisa Palacio

”Let us read and let us dance; two amusements that will never do any harm to the world” Voltaire

My challenge as a foreign language teacher and learner is to generate strategies that help students succeed in the language learning process. My personal experience shows students that it is possible to learn and to communicate using the target language. However, when I first entered a classroom in the USA I started to wonder how to keep my nature, how to motivate students to appreciate my culture and language, and how to cultivate diversity in the classroom.

As a cultural ambassador I tried to find strategies to share my culture beyond the stereotypes in such a way that teenagers did not perceive me as “corny”, “petty”, or “weird”. Gardner (2016) stated that when dance is introduced in the classroom it is a celebration of language, culture, and people. The author added that dancing gave students an authentic context to interact, be engaged, and actively participate. Dancing is a big part of my heritage and I love it. Students are curious about the rhythms, but a simple video would not raise the amount of motivation teenagers need in order to get up and dance. I decided it would be fun to teach students how to dance and to review language concepts at the same time.

How to bring dance and language together? A new version of musical chairs! You need some star-shaped papers taped to one of the walls; each star should have a situation that calls for students to produce language in order to communicate their needs. All students have to dance with me. Yes, of course I model.  I show them rhythms such as salsa, merengue, and cumbia.  I sing to the music, so students notice how fun it is. No, not all students will be engaged, and of course, some of them will have to be persuaded; but in the end most of them will love the experience. Students get to wear sombreros, shades and a variety of accessories because I have noticed that it helps lower the level of anxiety. The chairs are in a circle around the classroom, so we dance in the middle of the room instead of around the chairs; we need plenty of space. Students stop dancing and find a chair once I play my “charrasca” (another authentic material that amazes them). Three students are left standing; they should get a star and read the situation. Some examples of situations included on the stars are:

  • Let your teacher know you do not have your notebook or book here because you forgot it in your locker.
  • There is a new classmate. Introduce yourself and ask her three questions about his/her family.
  • Let your mother know what you did in Biology class today and what your homework for tonight is.
  • Tell your new friend what you and your siblings like to do over the weekend.

The situations are created based upon the grammar and vocabulary we are studying at the moment. Students have 1 minute to put their ideas in order and to discuss how they would address the situation. After the minute I ask one of them to report what they have agreed upon. Thus, students are expected to discuss, share, and work together. All three students have to be ready to share with the group because all three of them lose credit if the language is not competently used.

This is a great game for reviewing vocabulary, grammar, or cultural concepts. Students have the chance to collaborate and figure out ways to communicate their immediate needs given specific situations. It is a game, but at the same time it is enrichment of culture, folklore, and language. It is integrating music, the most authentic material, into the curriculum giving students the opportunity to explore and to spontaneously use language in a fun environment.



Gardner, A. (2016). The case for integrating dance in the language classroom. Retrieved from

Looking for Jobs?

As the time for signing contracts and determining plans for next school year is upon us, many school districts are searching for qualified World Language teachers.  Below are openings that have been shared, some even include signing bonuses!  If your school district is looking for a Spanish/Portuguese teacher, feel free to send your openings to Trixi  at for posting here.  Feel free to share these openings with others.

South Aiken High School 

Greenwood District 50

Berkley County

Student Reflections:  A Simple Tool for Improved Instruction & Student Learning

By Stephanie Walters

Over the past decade or more, professional jargon such as self-directed learning, individualized instruction, and personalized learning have been at the forefront of the educational shift taking place in the United States.  But what good are terms like these if we don’t have some practical ways in our teacher toolboxes to implement them?

One way that I’ve found to be simple yet effective, always my combo of choice, is by incorporating student reflections.  With experience as both an online educator as well as in the brick and mortar classroom, I have found the use of student reflections to be an effective tool for gathering data to improve my instruction as well as for students to improve their learning.

A student reflection is a document I first encountered in Linguafolio, a proficiency-based, learner-directed portfolio tool to help students set and achieve language goals.  I immediately loved the idea of having students pause and reflect on not only what they have learned how to do in a language but also how they learned it.  The student reflection that I have adapted from that for my classroom is made up mostly of simple, open-ended statements for students to pause and think about.  The statements are designed to give me information I need to improve my instruction but more importantly, I want students to be able to see patterns in their learning and areas that require further practice.

Some example statements include:

  • What I have learned about how I practice or learn Spanish best is….
  • The area that looks like I need the more practice is:
  • Now I can….
  • The most helpful practice activity we did was…
  • I still don’t understand how to (can list several) …
  • I feel __________________ about my progress in Spanish because….

In the online classroom, our team has revised the student reflection statements to reflect the indicators from the SC World Language Standard related to our lessons.  This has helped to ensure that we are in fact meeting those indicators and that students are progressing towards proficiency in them.    In some cases, it has allowed us to see areas where additional practice is needed in the design of the course.  We have also added in some checks for understanding of online procedures and practices that are instrumental to their success.

An example statement question with answer options:

I can ask a few simple questions about someone’s family?

(a)  Yes, I can do this easily and well.

(b)  Yes, but I still need a little help.

(c )  No, I can’t do this yet.

At the end of a unit, students will complete their reflections as they look back through their work and achievements.  Then, in the brick and mortar classroom, we take a few minutes to popcorn out some of their responses, make final revisions, and then I meet with them one on one for conferencing (another invaluable tool).  In our conferencing, we discuss their status in the course, their answers to some of the reflection statements, and record a plan for improvement.  Student reflections are kept in the classroom file cabinet and have been a valuable resource on occasion during parent conferences.  Not every student gains something from this process, but most do.  And, I can honestly say that I always learn something either that I can improve or something about the student that helps drive my instruction for the future.  Shouldn’t that be the point of all that we do?

 Looking for Jobs

A teacher shortage plagues our state and many schools and districts are unable to offer languages due to these shortages.  Sometimes, it can be difficult navigating various district webpages to find available positions.  If you learn of a district or school that is seeking a Spanish and/or Portuguese teacher, please reach out and share with us.  Email Trixi at, so that we can feature your school or district.

To help you begin your search, here are a few websites:

Cerra– Cerra offers an online teaching application that can be accessed by all the districts in SC. (Opens in new window)

SC State Department of Education– Various positions are posted here, including adjunct positions for state run colleges, universities and community colleges.  Positions for VirtualSC adjuncts and language coaches can also be found here. (Opens in new window)

Southern Teachers– Postings are for private schools throughout the south. (Opens in new window)

Three Technology Tools to Try Today

By Jessica Johnson

The transition from typical classroom instruction to incorporating technology can be challenging.  But there are some great tools out there to help you get there! As a teacher of Intermediate level kids (5th and 6th) I use these tools in a variety of ways. Below are just a few tools I use with my students that I find helpful.

If you are interested in managing content to share with your students and have them upload and update information, you should try Seesaw.  Seesaw is a great tool to use for sharing and uploading videos.  The entire class is able to see their classmates’ work and upload their own as well.  It allows you to set up class groups for each section that you teach. (Opens in new window)

Are you having pesky issues with those PDF files that you have made of your scans from those old workbook sheets?  Give Kami a try. It will give you the power to modify a PDF file and allows us to do “handouts” in a new way. (Opens in new window) *This can be added to google chrome as an add on.

Would you like to include live discussions in your lesson?  Try Padlet.  You can have your students respond immediately to a post or question.  They can even include images in their responses, or links to videos. (Opens in new window)

If you are interested in sharing your Top Three Tools- email Trixi

Music to our Ears!

By Bethany Battig Ramseur

As language teachers, we’re all uniquely tuned in to current events and authentic texts in our target cultures.  Between Shakira’s bilingual tweets and Snapchat’s feature videos on human towers in Spain, there is definitely a wealth of information available to our students that was perhaps not so readily accessible to us when we were in school.  Yet sifting through all that’s out there can be a challenge, especially when it comes to music – that great universal language!  With so many different genres, artists, and movements to choose from, how do we reach each of our students’ unique musical tastes and differentiate appropriately?  For most of us it would be extremely time-consuming (not to mention impossible!) to accurately survey musical interests, preview and select appropriate songs, and find a way to somehow tie those songs back to course themes, recent grammatical topics, and vocabulary lists.

While I’ve always loved using music to teach Spanish, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I didn’t need to comb through the Latin Billboard Top 100 or research new Spotify playlists on my own.  With a little bit of modeling and scheduling forethought, I could hand the reins (or better yet, the headphones!) right over to my students and get twice the interest level right out of the gate!  That’s why in my classes, after a few months of introducing students to some of my favorite artists and their music (Juanes, Julieta Venega, Café Tacuba, and Bacilos usually make appearances), each student gets the chance to select and present a song of their choice to their classmates.  They receive a presentation grade for their efforts, and a chance to move their song selection onto the March Music Madness bracket later in the school year.  Song selections are treated as first-come, first-serve, no repeats allowed, enabling me to reward the students who volunteer to present first with the first shot at each selection.  Given the popularity of Enrique’s “Bailando” or every Shakira song ever (just kidding!), you might want to require your students to find and present a song that they haven’t heard before, or you can just grin and bear it when the third round of “Vivir mi vida” starts up in your third section.   As a class, we also usually have a conversation before they sign up for their songs about what we will define as school-appropriate content, and I always reserve the right to veto if we aren’t seeing eye to eye.  That became especially important since many of my students LOVE showing the music videos for their songs, and they don’t always have the most uplifting content.

During presentations, students are required to introduce the song, artist, and country of origin, as well as to provide a lyric-based activity for their classmates, and some kind of follow-up questions to get everyone engaged.  Some of them choose a traditional approach with a fill-in-the-blank, clozeline-type activity.  Others choose to cut out the verses and chorus and challenge their classmates to put the song together again while listening.  A few choose to ask their classmates to put the lyrics into their own words, or discuss what elements they would add if they were directing the music video.  One time, a very sweet, zealous young linguist actually learned her song and sang it for all of us!  Depending on what level you teach, you can easily tweak the minimum requirements for this kind of student interest-led presentation.  Once everyone has had a chance to present their song, we vote as a class on both the songs presented earlier in the school year by me and the songs each student presented.  The songs that we decide make the cut or the “play off’s” move onto our March Music Madness brackets, which we fill out on Friday’s during March.

Since I started teaching this mini-music unit a few years ago, I’ve realized how many teachers have their own variation on this activity.  There are all kinds of brackets available online, ranging from several TeachersPayTeachers sites with brackets of year-specific songs to a free bracket with 16 different Juanes songs and everything in between, but I prefer to use a completely blank template, like the one attached.  It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done and allows me to quickly and easily create different brackets for different class sections.  The good news is that since we’ve already listened to the songs on the bracket in-depth earlier in the year, it can be a quick and fun Friday activity to refresh their memories about what each song is about and sounds like, and move right into voting.  It also creates great camaraderie among the students as they quickly begin canvassing for their favorite songs, arguing about which one should win or should have won, and guessing final outcomes together as the bracket takes shape.  Ultimately though, it’s just another great way to introduce your students to something new in the target language, and get them talking, writing, and interacting accordingly.  And that, my friends, will be music to your ears no matter what!


National Spanish Exam

Becky Bogan

One of the activities that I have enjoyed over the years is administering the National Spanish Exam to my students. It affords teachers the opportunity to see how their students at the same level measure up against other students in the state and nation. Last year, I was sorry to see that we did not have a state coordinator or contest, so this year I decided to volunteer!

Students get excited to see how they compare to others in their class as well as with others in South Carolina. Even though the format of the test is different than the AP or IB exams, the more practice they get with standardized tests, the better prepared they are for the next one.  It is also a valuable tool for students to self-assess their weaknesses and strengths.

What is the National Spanish Exam?

The National Spanish Examinations are online, standardized assessment tools for Grades 6 -12, given voluntarily by about 4000 teachers throughout the United States to measure performance (interpretive communication) and achievement of students who are studying Spanish as a second language.

The National Spanish Examinations are the most widely used tests of Spanish in the United States. In the spring of 2016, a total of 169,697 students participated in the online version of the exam.

What is the purpose of the National Spanish Examination?

The purpose of the National Spanish Examination is

  1. to recognize achievement in the study of the Spanish language
  2. to promote proficiency in interpretive communication in the Spanish language
  3. to assess the national standards as they pertain to learning Spanish
  4. to stimulate further interest in the teaching and learning of Spanish

In addition:

  • Many teachers state that they use the National Spanish Examinations to prepare students to take other standardized tests such as AP, IB, SAT II and college placement exams.
  • Many administrators state that they can use data from the National Spanish Examinations to create reports to show how their schools have improved over an academic year.

What is the mission of the National Spanish Examination?

The mission of the National Spanish Examination (NSE) is to recognize student achievement and to promote language proficiency in the study of the Spanish.

Who can participate? 

Any member of AATSP can register students currently enrolled in his/her class.  The exams are leveled from 01-6, depending on the number of years the student has studied Spanish.  Students are grouped into three categories to make the competition fair:  Classroom Experience, Outside Experience, and Bilingual.

Levels of competition…..explained

Students must be registered for the National Spanish Examination in the level which corresponds to the same Spanish course in which they are currently enrolled, allowing students with like-exposure to compete with each other.

There are seven (8) levels of National Spanish Examinations:


Entry level enrichment class where students have just begun their study of Spanish and where the class does not meet every day. (Grade 6)


Entry level for any program where the course content is equivalent to the first half of first year high school Spanish. (Grade 7)


  • Second year for JHS / MS students where the course content is equivalent to the second half of first year high school Spanish (Grade 8) or
  • Entry level for any program where the course content is equivalent to a full year of high school Spanish. (Grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12)


Second level of high school Spanish. (Grades 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12)


Third level of high school Spanish. (Grades 9, 10, 11 or 12)


Fourth level of high school Spanish. (Grades 10, 11 or 12)


Fifth level of high school Spanish. (Grades 11 or 12)


Sixth level of high school Spanish. (Grades 11 or 12)



AP Language / IB-SL: Students enrolled in a course labeled AP Language or IB-SL should register to take the current year’s NSE exam at one level higher than the course in which they were enrolled the previous year. [Example: A student who is enrolled in AP Language this year and took Spanish 4 last year would sit for the Level 5 exam this year.] Under no circumstance may an AP Language / IB-SL student take the NSE at lower than Level 4.

AP Literature / IB-HL: Students enrolled in a course labeled AP Literature or IB-HL must take the NSE at either Level 5 or 6. These students should register to take the current year’s NSE exam at one level higher than the course in which they were enrolled the previous year. Under no circumstance may an AP Literature / IB-HL student take the NSE at lower than Level 5.

Block Scheduling

Students who are not enrolled in a Spanish class during the Spring semester should register for the level of exam for the course in which they were enrolled during the previous Fall semester.


Students who are enrolled in a Spanish class during the Spring semester should be registered for the level of exam for the course in which they are enrolled during the NSE testing window (March 1 – April 10). However, instead of administering the examination 10 weeks prior to the close of the academic year, teachers should administer the examination 5 weeks prior to the close of the year, provided that testing is completed by April 10. This later administration date will allow students to have had more instruction.

When is the test?

Registration opens on November 1, 2016 and will close on January 31, 2017. The cost is $4.25 per student. ($3 National fee, $1.25 State fee)

The test can be administered anytime between March 1 and April 10.  All you need is computers with internet access. You will need to double check the tech requirements as listed on the NSE website.  Students can use their own headphones for the listening portions of the test.

For more information:

How do I register?

Go to .

Once you are ready to register, you simply enter the student names along with their level and press SUBMIT.  Once you do that, an invoice will be generated and sent to you.  You print it out and send a copy of the invoice and payment (check) to:

National Spanish Examinations

PO Box 2058

Valparaiso, IN 46384

You may also pay by credit card.

What is the test like?  How do we prepare?

On, you can find previous tests, computer requirements, as well as online practice exercises.

Once the test window is closed, you will receive a spreadsheet from me containing your students’ results as well as a list of state (and ultimately national) winners.  State winners will receive a prize from the state chapter and you will have the ability to print award certificates for all who participate.

If you have any questions or if I can help you in any way, please email me or call me at 864-355-3105. I ask and encourage you to participate in this rewarding activity, both for you and for your students.


Elementary Language Teachers:  We’re Better Together!

Jennifer Godwin

“Wo ist der Spüle?”  (Where is the sink?)  I asked anyone who even mentioned German when I was in elementary school.  I continued asking this question throughout middle and high school until I was butchering the pronunciation so much that it became unrecognizable.  I loved it, though, because it was one thing that I had held on to since my days of taking a world language in elementary school.  At my elementary school in Greenville, we took a world language class each year, although I don’t remember if it was weekly, monthly or completely up to the teacher.  In first grade, my teacher had a set of Japanese flashcards that she would show us for a few minutes a week.  In 5th grade we had a new student from Germany so his mom would come to our class for about 30 minutes a week and teach us some basic vocabulary.  Each year our classes looked something like this – the language based on our teacher’s interest or what language the students (and their volunteer moms) spoke at home.  I applaud my teachers’ and volunteers’ efforts to introduce us to a new language and culture, but our world and our students’ needs have changed since the early 90’s.

After 5th grade, I did not take a world language again until I took Spanish in ninth grade.  I fell in love all over again. I continued taking Spanish classes through college and graduate school, where I earned my Masters in the Art of Teaching Spanish.  In graduate school, I learned that some districts actually hire teachers to teach world language classes to elementary students.  This seemed far too good to be true.  I student-taught with Gloria Quave at Red Bank Elementary School in Lexington County School District One.  I witnessed kindergartners, yes five-year-olds, speaking only in Spanish, writing books in Spanish, singing songs in Spanish, even doing math assessments in Spanish, and I was forever changed.  I now work in the same school district where I currently teach Spanish to third through fifth graders.  Every third through fifth grader in our district takes Spanish for 90 minutes a week.  The classes I teach are rooted in third through fifth grade social studies and science standards and are proficiency-based.  The only children who are excluded from this are partial immersion students, who take math and science classes in a world language everyday.

Amazed by what the students and teachers were doing in our schools, I decided I wanted to get more involved and help advocate.  In early 2014, I asked a friend and colleague, Liz Lawrence-Baez, what I could do to help and she suggested I become the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL) representative for our state.  When given the list of current members, I was a little disappointed with only a handful of names.  I wanted to network and collaborate.  I wanted to see what awesome things were happening in other districts in our state.  I wish I could say that I advertised for NNELL and grew the organization in our state and that now there are dozens of us who collaborate and host workshops annually, but that is simply not the case.  That is why I am writing this article and encourage you to share this article with any elementary world language teachers that you know!

I have found elementary world language teachers to be some of the most adaptable people I know.  We have professional development in our schools, where the focus is usually on math or ELA.  We have professional development at conferences, where the focus is usually (not always!)  on middle or high school learners.  Yet, we somehow always walk away with something.  Elementary world language teachers can listen to just about any presentation or read just about any article and find at least a small way that they can use it with their young learners.  That being said, I would still love to see what these teachers would come away with if they were given more opportunities to network and collaborate with professionals when the focus was on world languages in the elementary classroom.

NNELL could be exactly what some early language teachers are missing in their professional lives.  NNELL advocates and provides professional development geared towards elementary world language and elementary language immersion teachers.  Webinars, news, and a journal, Learning Languages, are available for members on their website with topics that any elementary world language teacher would not have to stretch or adapt to use in their class.   Some of these topics include literacy in the L2, storytelling, developing an effective elementary program, using class time effectively, playing to increase proficiency, providing students with hands-on opportunities, school clubs and summer camps.  Their website also provides parent resources, which include ways parents can help their students learn an L2 at home, but also provide ways for teachers to best respond to parents’ questions and concerns.  One of the most engaging things that NNELL has to offer is their summer institute.  This takes place annually and features prominent professionals in our field and revolves around the needs of elementary world language teachers.

Despite the small amount of members in our state, NNELL has helped me become a better advocate and WL teacher.  During the 2015 and 2016 Southern Conference on Language Teaching (SCOLT), I have had the chance to meet with NNELL members from across the country, including the current president, Nadine Jacobsen-McLean.  I have had the chance to have conversations about best practices in the elementary language classroom, growing an immersion program, and advocating for our programs with teachers far more experienced than myself.  This in-person networking has led me to connect with more people in my position via social media, which has provided me with so many great ideas in my classroom.  Over the summer, I watched webinars which have helped me tremendously this year.  One of these webinars inspired me to create a digital newsletter for my students’ families and this has been a great way to advocate for my program and keep parents in the loop!  I will be representing NNELL with Dr. Kelly Davidson Devall this year and cannot wait to connect with more elementary teachers!

I am so excited about the future of NNELL in our state.  As World Language programs grow in our elementary schools, I look forward to more of you joining NNELL so that we can network with more teachers in similar (sometimes lonely) positions at elementary schools across South Carolina.  My dream is that one day our handful of members grow into dozens of members and that we could host a workshop right here in our state for NNELL members to collaborate, network, and grow together.  If you are an elementary world language teacher, please consider joining me on this mission.  NNELL memberships are only $30!

In closing, I would like to thank all elementary language teachers for being so adaptable and “making it work” after every math and ELA professional development session you have been to and for doing more for our students than simply teaching colors and numbers.  Keep advocating, keep growing, and keep networking even if you are the only one in your school who understands how important world languages are.  Keep making a difference in the lives of your students through growing their proficiency and opening their eyes to world cultures!  Keep providing them with meaningful learning experiences so that one day they will look back and remember a lot more than “Wo ist der Spüle?” when they think about their own journey with their second language.


My Three Go-Tos

Erin Carlson, Instructor of Spanish, University of South Carolina,

Regardless of whether you are like me—a slave to a procedure—or more free-spirited, I wholeheartedly believe in the routine I use to start each of my classes. These three activities have served my students and me very well as class starters, but they can be employed at any point during your daily lessons. They work well in a communicative classroom and help prepare students for the IPA. But if you or your school haven’t made the leap to the communicative model or to the IPA as your assessment yet, they still work well.

I always start my classes with a diario, a phrase of the day, and questions of the day.

The diario is an authentic reading that matches the themes of your unit—the culture, the grammar/ support structures, and the vocabulary—and the students answer 3-4 comprehension questions about it. If, for example, your unit is centered around life after school—the job hunt—then you could have students reading authentic resumes that you find online in the target language. If your unit is centered around the house—rooms, furniture, chores—you could find ads describing homes for sale in the target language. It can be tougher to find readings for the beginning of level I, but it’s still possible to do: focus on small bit of language and cognates! I have photocopied the contents page of a magazine and asked about page numbers, I have used job or passport applications and asked what might be written in a certain sections, etc. If all else fails, you are certainly able to use readings that you find in your textbook’s materials and use them. The goal is to have your students reading Spanish everyday—that’s hopefully authentic—not to exhaust yourself while trying to find an authentic unicorn.

Create questions that focus on the vocab, grammar and themes from your unit as well as on cognates. These readings are meant to warm up the students, not beat them down mentally before class has really begun. They are also a great way to ‘sneak in’ culture; you can point out word variations, cultural differences, and more.

Have the reading available to your students as they enter the room and the questions posted somewhere. I would print and photocopy the readings and have the questions on a PowerPoint slide already up and ready for them to get started. I found that doing the diario at the beginning of class got the students seated and working quietly each day, it gave them a chance to ‘switch on’ their ‘Spanish brains’ and warm up in the language, and it gave me a chance to get myself adjusted to that class. The rush of switching between levels and taking care of administrivia (attendance, absences, giving back papers…) during the first few minutes of class is always so obnoxious when I am also trying to corral students, but they work on diarios while I do what I need to do, and then we can start class smoothly when the diarios are done.

I typically gave the students about 5-10 minutes to do the reading and then we went over the answers together as a class. You can also ask for volunteers to answer individually or call on random students to keep them on their toes and to ensure completion and participation.

Don’t reinvent the wheel: Try to find longer readings from which you can squeeze three to four days’ worth of questions. It’s a pain to find a new reading every day, to copy it, etc. Also, you can find pins on Pinterest with links to lots of authentic readings and resources. Try this one for telling stories, for example:

I like to follow the diarios with the phrase of the day. These phrases can serve many purposes—teaching beginning students handy phrases, like ¿Cómo se dice…? or ¿Me permites ir al baño? They can expand on the given vocabulary list for a unit—additional ways to talk about the weather, for example. They can be phrases to strengthen their speaking and writing—like sentence connectors, ways to agree/ disagree, etc.

After each set of 10-ish, I quizzed the students on the phrases. I also required them to use their phrases in both the speaking and written portions of their tests and quizzes. It worked really well, and my students sounded less like Spanish robots and more like Spanish speakers, because their production was sprinkled with these phrases that improved what they were saying and writing.

Don’t reinvent the wheel: Because I am human, I simply had the same set of phrases of the day that I recycled every year and used the same set for all levels, but you—daring, exciting teacher that you are!—could have different phrases of the day for each of the levels that you teach. You can also find pre-made lists on Pinterest; try this site:

Because I required phrases of the day on tests and quizzes, I also required them in students’ daily practice. One place to practice using them in speaking is in the questions of the day—las Preguntas del Día, or PdD. Oh, how I loved PdD! They serve so many purposes: 1. Students practice speaking in the target language. 2. They are an excellent gauge of how well students are acquiring the content of the lesson. 3. They prepare students for the speaking portion of the IPA.

I would write the questions of the day on the back board of my classroom, but putting them on a PowerPoint slide or writing them up as you start the activity—or some other way that you like—also work well. I created questions that reviewed the content that we covered in class the day before and that set them up to be successful for the speaking portion of the IPA (review where we’ve been while steering them toward the final destination.) If we struggled with one of the questions one day, I might repeat it—or a similar variation—the next day or two in class, as well.

Each day, we looked at the questions, discussed what they were asking, and discussed what some possible answers could be—all as a class. Then I gave them time to work with partners to practice with each other one on one for about two minutes. Then I had the students do a double circle (Half of the students stand in a circle shape, shoulder to shoulder, facing out; the other half of the class stands in a circle around this inner circle standing shoulder to shoulder facing in—so that each person in the outer circle is facing a person in the inner circle. See the visual and forgive my drawing skills.)


In this formation, the students then practice with a different person from the class, and then I would have them move—outside circle only—two or three students either right or left to practice again, and then, depending on time, perhaps another move around the circle to practice a third time.

My classroom is set up in a semi-circle purposefully to allow space for this double circle formation (which I use for other speaking practice activities, as well.), but there are lots of ways to partners students up to practice—or perhaps you stop after they practice with a partner near them for two minutes. You do what works best for you, your students, your curriculum, and your specific needs and limitations. Just because you don’t do it exactly like I did doesn’t mean that it’s not amazing—and maybe even better than how I do it.

Don’t reinvent the wheel: Keep a list of your PdD as you go in your first year. Make note of which questions worked well and which were a bust. Note which required extra practice, as well, and that can inform how you plan this unit the next year. I also used these questions—or very similar questions—on both my writing quizzes and as part of the speaking portion of the IPA. The students knew that they were likely to see the questions—or similar ones—later on important assessments, so they took the practice time more seriously and it cut down on my prep time in creating the assessments, as well. (two birds, one stone!!)

I love these activities, and I found that they really helped to lay a great foundation of skills for my students—not just within the unit or class, but as Spanish speakers in a world where they can actually walk out the door and use the language. They are short but mighty; even if all I could squeeze into my lesson on Pep Rally day or Fire Drill day were the diario, phrase of the day and questions of the day, then I felt great that my students read authentic Spanish every day and had conversation in Spanish every day. I hope that you will find them to be helpful as well, and if you would like any more information or explanation, please feel free to email me!


Educational Interpreters: filling the gap and breaking bad habits

If you work at a school, how many times have you, or one of your colleagues, been asked to interpret for a non-English speaking family? Or, how many times have you seen a school kid or a kid’s family member interpreting for a teacher or other school staff? Perhaps you have seen it many times, or even you might have experienced it yourself. Probably, you (or someone else) were asked to “translate” in a specific situation when actually you should be asked to “interpret”. I am not referring to a non-English speaker that needs to find the bathroom or the library, or needs to find the children’s classroom. I am referring to parent-teacher conferences, a speech therapy meeting, general school meetings or talks, school announcements or changes; or even having to interpret school letters or notes to parents or family members.

Well, let’s start from the beginning. In case you don’t know there is a difference between translating and interpreting. “The term translation is used in two different ways. First, it refers to the general process of converting a message from one language to another (Bathgate, 1985), and second, it refers to the written form of that process” (González, Vásquez and Mikkelson, 2012). The term interpreting or interpretation means to convert a spoken message from one language to another, so you are also translating when you interpret, but the way to deliver the translation is verbal. “Translators have time to reflect and craft their output, whereas interpreters must instantaneously arrive at a target language equivalent, while at the same time searching for further input” (González, Vásquez and Mikkelson, 2012). When you are asked to verbally translate a written document into another language is called sight translation, and it is considered to be an interpreting modality since you deliver the message verbally.

Having clarified this, it is utterly unfair and unethical that a teacher, children, or a family member is asked to interpret in schools setting just for being declared as bilingual. Bilingual people are not interpreters nor translators.

Let me give you several reasons why I believe this in unfair and unethical: these bilingual people are doing someone else’s job, they are not being remunerated for their effort (and believe me, it is an enormous brain effort), they are placed in a stressful and uncomfortable situation and, most importantly, they are not qualified to do this job. More professionally, this is called a natural or ad hoc interpreter, an untrained person pulled away from other duties to interpret. Since these individuals are not trained or certified interpreters and lack professional experience, they originate consequences: a deterioration of the language and underestimation of the interpreting profession. Also, their mental health might be seriously affected due to the pressure they have to face and, unconsciously, they are condemning the art of interpreting as mere “it’s just a talk”. They do not need and should not cope with such an arduous task. For a bilingual person, doing the job of a professional interpreter can truly become a hideous duty.

Interpreting not only requires being proficiency in two or more languages, it also involves a domain of specific terminology depending on the setting and the use of linguistic and paralinguistic elements. Interpreters need to possess quick reflexes and mental agility, stamina, memory and retention, good cultural awareness, analytical skills, and professionalism among other skills. These abilities take years to develop and master.

Conversely, the fact of not understanding a language is a disability; it is the incapacity of communicating and being understood, it is the condition of being disabled. We can compare it with a deaf or hard of hearing individual, to which the administration provides qualified interpreters in schools or other setting to meet their needs by law. Why can’t we see the same scenario for a non-English speaker in a school setting? Because “it’s just a kid” or “it’s just a family”? Or because it happens at a school, not at a hospital or court. It is not my intention to start an immigration discussion, but if those children go to school here, they and their families deserve the same treatment and rights as those with any other type of disability.

I believe it is time to show some respect for these citizens and for the interpreting profession. Maybe it is time to say “no”. Say “no” when you (or someone else) is asked to interpret for a family member or a teacher, and say that you are not a certified interpreter and some skilled professional should do it instead. These type of situations should be reported to the state department of education, and the state board of education should provide one or more skilled interpreters to schools, especially to those schools with higher numbers of non-English speakers’ enrollments.

Here, however, is where the real problem arises. South Carolina’s demography and population are changing, and there is a huge demand of interpreters, but there are no institutions offering a respected and comprehensive training for educational interpreters to fill this gap in our society. There is quite a lot of existing training for court and medical interpreting but, unfortunately, not much has been done for educational settings. These other professionals could definitely do the job at schools; however, the ideal situation would be to have an interpreter trained specifically for educational settings. School settings would fall under the category of community interpreting.

Since this is our reality, I am committed to provide a solution and transform this situation. I am in the process of obtaining my PhD on educational interpreting, and my dissertation is centered in the lack of educational interpreters and the growing demand in schools. That’s why I am thrilled to share that part of my dissertation involves developing a certification course to train bilinguals interested in the subject matter and in becoming skilled interpreters. I am putting all my effort and endeavors into finishing this process and, therefore, assist schools and LEP individuals in need of an educational interpreter.

Hopefully one day the ad hoc interpreter will vanish in schools settings and will be part of the past. Hopefully one day qualified educational interpreters are as visible and recognized as medical or legal interpreters.

Maria Francisco Montesó

Spanish Instructor at USC Upstate

Certified Translator and Interpreter English<>Spanish


PD-Quick: Making time for personalized professional development

By Heather Giles

The start of a new school year is the ultimate reboot—new students, freshly waxed classrooms, revised instructional units, and a renewed sense of purpose. And, of course, there are also new state, district, or school-level initiatives with their accompanying professional development. While some of these are useful, many have limited relevance for world language teachers. We have all been in that “one-size-fits-all” workshop or training session that does not meet our needs or capture our interest. When it happens, it feels like mind-numbing drudgery that is simply to be endured.

But, consider this: What if we designed our own professional learning, rather than leaving it at the mercy of others? How might we make ourselves stronger and more versatile language teachers? By choosing our learning goals and experiences, we can cultivate and elevate our skills in meaningful ways that feel like adventures rather than chore lists. As you return from summer, refreshed and ready to reconnect with your students and colleagues, consider setting some personal goals for your own professional growth. Here are five easy ideas to jumpstart your personal PD in 30 minutes or less per week during this school year:

  • Reflect on your personal strengths and opportunities for growth.

A great tool for getting started is the Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning (TELL) framework and self-assessments, found at The self-assessments each take around 10 minutes to complete and can help you identify what you are doing well and potential areas for growth or improvement. After you identify an area in which you would like to improve, you can look for resources and strategies to support you in that area, such as… 

  • Seek out new collaborators for your Personal Learning Network (PLN).

Whether you join a professional organization like AATSP or ACTFL, follow an online blog or discussion, or simply chat with a colleague down the hall, you can gain a wealth of ideas from others. Taking part in #langchat on Twitter at least twice a month is one of my goals for this year and has already allowed me to connect and exchange ideas with other language teachers. The World Language Corner app and Global Education Conference are groups with a wide range of members and interest groups for language educators. These professional conversations may prompt you to… 

  • Carve out time for professional reading.

Professional reading does not have to be dry and peppered with pedagogical jargon. Blogs, short articles, and non-education books can provide you with fresh perspectives in an easily digestible format. Sign up for the RSS feed for Edutopia, ACTFL briefs, or other publication to have a selection of articles delivered to your email. It’s easy to read one or two articles per week that catch your attention. Who knows? You may read something that leads you to… 

  • Learn a new skill.

Teaching for language proficiency is as much about HOW we teach as it is about WHAT we teach. Technique does make a difference! Whether you are experimenting with one-to-one technology, flipped instruction, TPRS, gamification, project-based learning, or other approaches, you are bound to acquire new skills. Consider observing or brainstorming with a non-language colleague as you develop and adapt new techniques for your classroom. Interdisciplinary projects between different content areas are wonderful opportunities for students to problem-solve and apply what they are learning in new ways. They also provide for valuable cross-pollination of ideas between teachers, which allows you to… 

  • Share what’s happening in your classroom.

This goal surfaced for me rather unexpectedly, while I was attending a conference this summer. I was talking with a couple of administrators from a career/technical high school about ways to keep learning relevant and authentic for students in our respective areas. One of them asked me, “How do you share what your students are learning and doing with administrators?”  After thinking for a moment, I realized that I don’t share much about our curriculum and instruction because I assume that everybody is already busy handling their own slice of the educational process.

Many of us studied (or perhaps I should say “survived”) language using the audio-lingual method long, long ago in a classroom far, far away. How will someone in a different content area know that today’s language instruction is less about translating sentences and memorizing dialogues and more about managing authentic texts and tasks for real life situations? We must share our craft and our practices. We must consider how the “world-class knowledge and skills” referenced in the recently-launched Profile of the South Carolina Graduate ( ) are utilized and synthesized by all content areas.

In closing, I wish you many successes in the new school year and hope that you find ways to make your professional development manageable and rewarding.


Keeping It Practical, Yet Professional

by Bethany Clark

I recently attended a mentor training program on how to mentor and assist first year teachers. These teachers could be just out of college, ready to start their career, or they could be transferring from a completely different career into teaching. Whatever the situation, first year teachers are going to need some help. What exactly do they need? Pie in the sky? Things that are ideal, but not realistic? No, they need practical, concrete examples for how to better their everyday teaching. Let’s think about how that differs for veteran teachers. Do WE want pie in the sky? Unrealistic expectations? No, we want the same thing – practical ways to help us improve our teaching. And how can that be done? Here are a few simple ways to keep teachers’ interest when conducting professional development workshops and conferences.

  • Keep it simple and get to the point. No teacher wants to spend a full day at a workshop when it could have been completed in two hours. Find speakers who don’t care about “listening to themselves talk.” We get enough of that.
  • Give them something they can walk out and use today. If it takes three separate steps to get to be able to use one tool that may or may not be useful in their classroom, teachers aren’t going to follow through. They don’t have time. If it’s a website and they need to sign up, allow them time to sign up during the conference! Yes, that may take a few extra minutes, but then they already have what they need! Or, if problems arise, they can ask you for help!
  • Think of things you’d enjoy and deliver that same content. If you would be bored to death during your presentation, why would you think your listeners are intrigued? They’re not! Make it something exciting and practical (Think: How to save teachers time grading, contacting parents, disciplining students). All teachers are looking for ways to shorten time at work so they can spend time with their families.
  • Ask for feedback at the end of the workshop. Ask them what they would want to hear about in future conferences. Give them choices. At this point, their brains are fried and they can’t think of anything. Possible choices may include: Canvas (or another technology program they are required to use), Tips for dealing with Classroom Management, Activities that keep students’ interests, etc. Have a written (or online) way to collect this feedback. Verbal feedback will be forgotten.
  • Take into account what feedback they give at the end of your workshop and DO IT for your next workshop. Saying “We ask for feedback from all our teachers,” but never changing anything is not listening. It’s checking off a box to say you “asked for feedback”. Give teachers what they want – it makes them happier and they are more likely to stay in the profession.

Hopefully, these tips can help you the next time you give a presentation. Teachers love new, exciting, and practical ideas that they can incorporate into their classroom immediately. I don’t know of any teacher that doesn’t want to better him or herself each year. If you need help with ideas, ask your colleagues. If they’re not willing to share, ask Google or Pintrest. We always want to improve our practice as much as we can, but we don’t have the time to go searching for ideas on our own. When we are willing to share with one another, we all benefit from it!


Why Teachers of Spanish Matter: Sigma Delta Pi’s 12th Annual S.C. Spanish Teacher of the Year Award

By Mark P. Del Mastro
Founding Director, Sigma Delta Pi’s S.C. Spanish Teacher of the Year
Chair and Professor, Department of Hispanic Studies, College of Charleston

Back in the early 2000s, and after having worked in various ways with many teachers of Spanish across the Palmetto State, I was struck by the lack of an all-inclusive mechanism to recognize those accomplished educators of the Hispanic culture and language who were making noteworthy contributions in our schools and communities.  I therefore started a Lowcountry Spanish Teacher of the Year awards program that included all K-12 schools in the tri-county Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester school districts.  With the immediate success of that local awards program, it was clear that a statewide endeavor was in order, which resulted in the inaugural S.C. Spanish Teacher of the Year Award in the fall of 2004, a project sponsored by The Citadel’s Tau Iota Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, when I was the chapter’s faculty adviser.

However, those first few years of the contest, and despite the success, were met with skepticism by some in the community: upon reaching out to the local press for news coverage, I was asked why such a discipline-specific teacher of the year program was relevant and important.  More specifically, the reporter asked “well, why not have a ‘math teacher of the year’ or ‘ELA teacher of the year’ contest?” To which I immediately replied: because the ongoing demand for teachers of Spanish in S.C. and the nationwide demographics related to Hispanics underscore the critical importance of advocating Spanish education in the state to prepare our children for the realities of contemporary US society.  Yet my argument was not immediately convincing.  It took 5 years for the needed acknowledgment of our program: in 2009, Doug Keel of S.C. Public Radio’s “Speaking of Schools” contacted me with interest to publicize our project, and we have enjoyed his and other’s sustained attention every since.

Fast forward to 2016: now a co-sponsored program between the College of Charleston’s and The Citadel’s chapters of Sigma Delta Pi, our S.C. Spanish Teacher of the Year now enjoys its 12th annual contest, and on November 10 we will crown our 12th annual awardee.  But as always, we rely on you to help us emphasize why teachers of Spanish matter: ensure that our outstanding K-12 educators of Spanish are nominated by the September 14, 2016 deadline.  The official, downloadable nomination form and related details are found  Let’s make our 12th annual contest the most successful yet, and thanks to all our K-12 teachers of Spanish in the Palmetto State for preparing our youth for the world that awaits them.


5 Things I Learned My First Time Taking Kids Abroad

Caitlin Howard, Spanish Teacher at Clover High School

After taking my first group of students abroad for two weeks this summer, I picked up a few pointers that I believe will help other teachers plan as they prepare to take their students abroad!

  1. Animals We are all animal lovers and our high school students are no exception to the rule! However, some caution needs to be exercised when encountering animals abroad.  I witnessed several students pet stray dogs and cats in Europe and didn’t immediately dowse themselves in hand sanitizer.  Sure, we’d all like to believe our furry friends are clean, disease-free, and friendly, but the truth is we just cannot know that.  Pigeons are another crowd pleaser.  Students who are not accustomed to city life will look at pigeons like a rare treat.  Street performers looking to make a buck will try to take advantage of this by asking for a euro in exchange for crumbs that attract the pigeons.  I looked up and my students had pigeons on their hands, arms, and even on their head!  I had to explain pigeons are about as sanitary as sewer rats, not to mention, you can save a euro by simply tossing your own food crumbs.  Horses, too, are found in the city between mounted police, carriage rides, etc.  They are beautiful creatures, but unpredictable when you don’t know their personality.  One of my students stopped to pet a horse and was quickly bit on the arm.  Luckily the bite did not break the skin, but needless to say, I will be having the “don’t pet the animals” talk before my next trip.
  2. Cash Only It’s surprising that in today’s modern world there are still places that are cash only.  There seems to be a higher concentration of these places in Europe.  A couple times I asked if debit/credit cards were accepted and was surprised to hear “no.”  Luckily, I planned ahead and had cash on me.  However, I made the mistake of telling myself I wouldn’t need to take out more cash until I ran out of euros.  The problem was our next trip stops included small towns in southern France where ATMs were not readily available.  I had to ask another adult to cover me until I could pay her back.  Several students ran into the same problem when they couldn’t locate an ATM either.  On my next trip abroad, I will ask all students to hit the ATM before we leave the current city regardless of whether they have remaining euros.
  3. Less is More When it comes to only having a couple days in a big city, there’s a lot to hit and it’s nearly impossible to cover all of it.  That’s why it is important to take your trip itinerary to-do list and divide it into smaller to-do lists.  While some places only require a small amount of time to view the landmark or take in the scenery, I heard several students say they felt rushed and wished for more time at certain places.  So the adults decided to divide and conquer.  For example, the students had the option of spending the afternoon shopping in Paris with one chaperone or going to the famous Angelina’s to sample the chocolate and to Saint Chappell with another chaperone.  The students and adults alike appreciated having more options and more time at the place of their choice.
  4. Tell them what to Eat No matter how many times you tell your students to branch out, you will still see several spend a meal in Europe at a McDonald’s.  In an attempt to have my students make the most of their experience, I will set a “No McDonald’s” rule my next trip.  Since lunch is the meal they are on their own, I’m thinking each day will be like a scavenger hunt where I will assign each group a pre-selected destination for them to find and they will be asked to order one of the many things that city specializes in.  For example, they will be asked to find a restaurant that serves cinghale and sample it while in Florence. Free time at lunch is an opportunity to experience the culture and we hate to see this opportunity wasted!
  5. Survival Skills like a Scout As a former girl scout, I try to always be prepared and this is especially important when taking a group of teenagers to Europe.  For example, the last morning of the trip the line for breakfast was so long that most students had to go without it.  Then, our bus to the airport was extremely late.  The problem with that was it left no time in the airport to purchase snacks.  A crowd of hungry teenagers is enough to startle the masses, but not me.  I had peanuts, granola bars, and chocolate cookies in my purse and these helped keep the “hangry” monster at bay.  I also instructed the students to keep an empty water bottle and refill it after airport security.  Sometimes you have to think like a scout to survive in the wild of traveling abroad with a group of teenagers.


Barnwell’s Award-Winning Students!

Dr. Marcos Protheroe, Barnwell High School

They came, they saw, they won.

Three students earned Spanish awards for Barnwell High. At the Augusta University Spanish Contest, Loren Eubanks took First Place in the spelling bee. She went through several competition rounds and defeated a college student to take the top prize. The contest was open to all academic levels.

Kimani Pelote won First Place in the singing competition. She sang Porque te quiero (Because I Love You). The selection is a love-song parody from the classic 1969 Spanish textbook Usted y yo by Zenia Sacks da Silva. Perlote sang a cappella during the competition.

Johnathan Carrillo received a bronze medal for his high score on the National Spanish Examination (NSE). He competed against more than 160,000 students in grades 6-12 in the United States. The test measures proficiency in grammar, reading, listening, and vocabulary.

Carrillo competed in the “outside experience” category, which is a higher level of competition than the “classroom experience” category reserved for English-dominant students. Carrillo has had some limited exposure to Spanish at home.

During the present spring semester, Carrillo transferred to Bamberg-Ehrhart High School, but he represented Barnwell High on the NSE, since the test is computer-based. The NSE is sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP).

Last year, Carrillo won a silver medal on the NSE.

Perlote, Eubanks, and Carrillo are presently Spanish 2 students. Their teacher, Dr. Marcos Protheroe, has taught at Barnwell High for three years. He holds a doctorate in Spanish American literature from the University of Puerto Rico.

Five Tips to Teaching a Language Online
Trixi DeRosa-Davis

As an online Spanish teacher, I am often asked, “How DO you teach a language online?”

The answer varies from program to program, and it certainly varies from a traditional brick & mortar approach to language learning. Teaching a language online is often more challenging when it comes to interpersonal and sometimes presentational tasks in the language.  However, offering language courses online can be beneficial to students. Many students consider speaking into their computer, rather than standing and speaking in front of a class, to be the greatest benefit of an online language course, but there are other benefits as well.  In some cases, taking a language online might be the only way that a student can take a language if it isn’t offered at their school, or it won’t fit into their schedule.  By offering languages online, we are able to reach more students with greater course offerings.

Here are my top five tips to help you when teaching a language online:

  1. Communication, Communication & Communication!  Clearly communication is important in any online course, but especially in a second language course where students may be trying to learn how to navigate a course as well as learn a second language.  Make sure that directions that are related to the navigation of the course are presented to students in their first language.  Ideally we want to use the target language as much as possible, but students should be given instructions on how to move within  their course in English.  I also suggest that teachers find multiple ways to communicate with their students.  I tell my students that I will communicate with them in any manner they are comfortable, whether that is Skype, email, text message, or emojis. I send out weekly messages in at least 2-3 forms of communication so that students have access to the information in several places.
  2. Be Creative!  Sending out weekly communication to students can get just as boring for the teacher as it does for the student!  I like to use memes to help convey my messages to students, but I always remind my students that my messages are intended as humorous reminders.  Recently I have begun to really make a fool out of myself by changing the lyrics of popular songs and sending them to my students; i.e my version of “Hello” or feel free to check out the others
  3. Create a Community – Get everyone involved!  Whenever possible get parents involved in their student’s learning. Don’t wait until a grade drops or students fall behind to contact parents. Encourage students to get their parents involved with them in learning a new language. Offer suggestions on ways the entire family can get involved in learning the language and culture, such as eating at a restaurant, shopping at an authentic grocery store, or learning a new dance.
  4. Give good feedback!  In an online course, giving good feedback is crucial to student growth.  One of the strengths of online courses is that students do receive some immediate feedback in activities. Make sure that this feedback is well developed and encouraging.  Feedback for assignments should not just include corrections, but explanations of errors.  When applicable, I include a screencast with my feedback or an audio response using or
  5. Add an APP!  Finally, in addition to coursework, suggest that students add an app to their phone that will encourage additional practice of the target language.  Students are much more likely to practice the language in their spare time if they can access it via their phones.

Teaching a language online is extremely challenging, but can be very rewarding for students and teachers, plus it’s a great way to spend time in your pajamas!

Teaching World Languages in Middle School
Samuel Hillard

While some of these ‘tips’ are true to education in general, here I offer my two cents on teaching world languages at the middle school level

  1. Keep the energy up! You have to remember, they are still kids and thrive on energetic and passionate teachers.  Standing at the front of the room and just going on and on will do nothing to inspire learning and creativity in these young minds.
  2. Build relationships.  While this is true for any level, these middle school kids are generally confused and emotional, hormonal drama factories.  I do the best I can to greet each child with a high five, handshake, or a quick ‘pound it’ as they enter, and make a point to learn as much about their lives as I can.
  3. Play Games and competitions!  I’ve found that younger kids enjoy competitions and language games more than older students.  Whether it be playing Kahoot! Or Quizlet Live to review concepts, or writing/speaking competitions, the kids thrive on competition (keep it civil!) and are learning language at the same time.
  4. Stick to the target language.  ACTFL suggests 90% target language use, and this is especially important for younger children.  Their brains are more receptive to language acquisition (I suggest reading up on Chomsky’s Critical Period theories if you are not familiar with them) at the middle school age (compared to high school), meaning they’re much more likely to soak up and retain the language.  After all the main focus of class time is comprehensible input!
  5. Use gestures/act things out! Many times, in order to make myself understood, I’ll use gestures and generally look insane to get the kids laughing, but also understanding what I’m saying without having to dip into English and tarnish the target-language environment that I’ve created in my classroom.