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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

This video library illustrates effective instruction and assessment strategies for the teaching of foreign languages in grades K-12.

A video library for K – 12 foreign language teachers; 28 half-hour, 8 approx. ten-minute, and 2 one-hour video programs, library guide, and website.

Teaching Foreign Languages K – 12 is a video library illustrating effective instruction and assessment strategies for teaching foreign languages. The language classrooms shown in this library include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. All classroom videos are subtitled in English and are appropriate for K – 12 teachers of any foreign language. Created in conjunction with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the library includes a 30-minute introduction and 60-minute overviews of ACTFL’s Standards for Foreign Language Learning and new assessment practices, an overview specifically for Arabic teaching, as well as 34 classroom programs. In the classroom programs, teachers from schools across the country model interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of communication throughout a range of grade and competency levels. Concepts of culture, comparisons, connections to students — lives, and the importance of community are also integrated into the lessons. A web site and print guide accompany the video programs, providing a complete professional development experience.

Library Overview

About the Library

The Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 video library captures best practices in foreign language teaching in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms across the U.S. The languages featured in the collection are: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, Spanish.

The library and professional development guide bring to life the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. Illustrating effective instruction and assessment strategies, the series documents 34 teachers and their students in K–12 classrooms around the country as they study nine languages across a range of competency levels.


Here are some examples of what you’ll see:

  • Second-graders express their likes and dislikes for vegetables through drawings in an Arabic lesson that naturally connects with art.
  • Third-graders learn about the seasons and German holidays as they practice basic reading skills and build cultural knowledge in their German class.
  • Eighth-graders explore a traditional Cajun folktale and then try their hand at playing zydeco music in their French class.
  • Tenth-, eleventh-, and twelfth-graders in a multilevel Japanese class create a travel brochure and promotional video to attract visitors to Japan.
  • Twelfth-grade students of Spanish become Latin American artists and debate whether to exhibit their work in Spain in light of that country’s visa requirements.

Lively and provocative, these videos are designed to inspire thoughtful discussion and reflection and provide the opportunity to learn from the successful practices of other teachers.

Library Components

Teaching Foreign Languages K–12: A Library of Classroom Practices includes the following components:

Introduction to the Library
(1 video, 30 minutes)
An overview of the library and its components, and suggestions for using them

Standards and the Five Cs
(1 video, 60 minutes)
An introduction to the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages

Assessment Strategies
(1 video, 60 minutes)
Three case studies featuring foreign language teachers using innovative assessment methods

Classroom Programs
(34 videos, ranging from 6 to 30 minutes each)
Examples of best teaching practices in real foreign language classrooms across the country, subtitled in English

Professional Development Guide
Viewing and discussion guide for the video library, available on the Web and in print

How to Use This Library

Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 can be used for individual or group professional development. You can view the programs here. The web guide was designed to help you get the most out of each video. The guide is also available in print form and downloadable. If you are working in a group, discuss the questions provided in the guide; if you are working alone, write down your responses for later reflection.


Professional Development Guide

To help you get the most out of the videos, each unit of the professional development guide is organized into six parts:


1 Introduction

This section includes a short summary of the videotaped lesson, information about the teacher and students, a list of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages addressed in the lesson, and the key terms relevant to the lesson. Use this information to determine which lessons will best meet your needs.


2 Class Context

This section describes the school community, the teacher’s approach to lesson design, background on the lesson, and where the lesson fits within the course curriculum. This section also identifies the key teaching strategies evident in the lesson. Read this section before viewing the video.


3 Analyze the Video

This section is divided into four parts: Before You Watch, Watch the Video, Reflect on the Video, and Look Closer (or Take a Second Look in the Arabic lessons). Before You Watch poses several questions to activate your current knowledge through reflection, discussion, or both. Watch the Video asks you to take notes on instructional strategies you find interesting, surprising, or especially important as you watch. Reflect on the Video presents questions to structure your review of your notes. Finally, Look Closer/Take a Second Look has you take a second look at specific teaching strategies within the video.


4 Connect to Your Teaching

This section is divided into three parts: Reflect on Your Practice, Watch Other Videos, and Put It Into Practice. Reflect on Your Practice poses questions that help you connect the video lesson to your own teaching. Watch Other Videos recommends additional videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library that illustrate teaching methodologies similar to those you’ve just seen. Put It Into Practice offers ideas on lesson design and activities you can try in your classroom.


5 Standards

This section outlines the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages that correlate to the videotaped lesson.


6 Resources

This section offers Web and print resources related to the lesson, including selected lesson materials seen in the video, curriculum references related to the teacher’s lesson design, and the teacher’s resource recommendations.


Tips for Facilitators

The following facilitator tips can enhance the professional development experience:

  • Review the Web or print guide prior to running a study group or workshop.
  • Print or photocopy the Introduction and Class Context sections of the lesson you will be viewing; have all participants read them prior to viewing the lesson.
  • Use the suggested questions and include other questions that interest you and your colleagues.
  • Allow enough time for participants to respond.

Individual Program Descriptions

Video Summaries

Introduction to the Library
This program provides an overview of the entire library, with suggestions for use in professional development settings.

Standards and the Five Cs
An introduction to and illustration of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, this program shows how teachers can use the Standards to help their students advance in foreign language proficiency.

Assessment Strategies
This program offers a detailed look at assessment in the foreign language classroom. Three case studies feature foreign language teachers using innovative assessment methods such as the Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) model, performance tasks, and backward design. Each of these case studies follows a teacher as she works through the process with her students, from setting guidelines and modeling to giving immediate and helpful feedback on performances.

Classroom Programs
These 34 programs include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish language classrooms. All programs are subtitled in English and can provide insight into strategies and activities for K–12 teachers of any foreign language. The program descriptions below are organized by language. To view the programs by grade level, performance range, the Five Cs, or key teaching strategies, go to the Video Organizer Chart.


Comparing the Weather
Arabic, Grade 6: In this lesson, Wael Fawzy’s students compare weather in the Arab world with weather in Chicago and elsewhere. The lesson combines written activities, which reinforce Modern Standard Arabic, and presentational ones, which can facilitate the use of dialects. Mr. Fawzy has students practice dialects to prepare them for real-life encounters in Arabic-speaking countries.

How We Spend Our Free Time
Arabic I, Grade 8: Katie Quackenbush begins class with a game of musical “hot potato.” Students use the game to practice asking and answering questions using “you” and “I” before polling one another about what they like to do in their free time. Using the recorded data, students make bar graphs that will be used in the next class to compare their free-time activities with those of Saudi Arabian students.

Making Plans
Arabic V/VI, Grades 9–12: Belal Joundeya’s multilevel class develops interpersonal communication skills as students make plans with one another. Through a series of paired and small-group activities, students discuss the possibility of meeting up for activities after school and on the weekend. Before class ends, students exchange emails with a native-speaking “friend” in Lebanon, who invites them to do something later in the day.

Making Sales Calls
Arabic I, Grades 9 and 11: In this lesson, Eric Bartolotti’s students practice using basic greetings and expressing likes and dislikes in a role-playing activity. Students pair up and adopt the roles of telemarketer and customer. Through simulated phone conversations, Mr. Bartolotti can informally assess students’ ability to express targeted functions and structures in spoken language.

People Who Help Us
Arabic, Grade 1: Khamael Alaloom’s class of young, mostly heritage speakers learns about the people whose work helps the community at large. After showing students images of people and their professions, Mrs. Alaloom has students reinforce content learning and communication skills in a series of small- and large-group activities.

A Place I Call Home
Arabic II and III, Grades 9 and 10: Manar Mayalah takes her multilevel class on virtual tours of a traditional and a modern house in the Arab world. Students develop confidence with unit vocabulary through reading and writing activities. They then use what they’ve learned to describe their dream houses, first with a partner and then in front of the class.

Vegetables We Like
Arabic, Grade 2: After introducing vocabulary to her students, Rita Lahoud leads them through an art activity in which students draw pictures of vegetables they like and don’t like. Students discuss their drawings in pairs, and then Miss Lahoud invites groups to present their work to the class.


Communicating About Sports
Mandarin Chinese, Grade 6: In pairs and in small groups, Jie Gao’s students develop interpersonal communication skills as they state their sports likes and dislikes. They practice writing Chinese characters for an ongoing activity — a letter they are composing and sending to students in China. At the end of the lesson, the students create skits to perform for their classmates.

Exploring New Directions
Mandarin Chinese II-IV, Grades 9-12: In this lesson, Haiyan Fu’s multilevel class explores directions — in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the word. While Chinese IV students practice reciting Chinese cultural poems, students in Chinese II and III work on mapping the location of nearby restaurants and providing directions to them.


A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco
French, Grade 8: After preparing her students for new vocabulary, Paris Granville retells a Cajun folktale while students act out the story. Students then create a story map to delve into the different story elements. Ms. Granville introduces zydeco music and the instruments typically used to play it, such as the washboard, accordion, and spoons.

Chicken Pox
French, Kindergarten: Jai Scott’s French immersion class uses the topic of chicken pox, from an Arthur book and a French song, and Total Physical Response (TPR) movements to learn new vocabulary for the parts of the body. The class practices emerging literacy skills to match vocabulary labels to a drawing of a person.

Comparing Communities
French III, Grades 9-12: Ghislaine Tulou’s students work in pairs to discuss aspects of their own community. They also discuss a Canadian community that they had read about, and plan what they would do there if they were to visit it. Through individual and group-centered activities, students learn to express conditional statements about personal preferences.

Family and Home
French, Grade 5: In this two-part lesson, Debra Terry’s students integrate vocabulary about the family by creating an imaginary family tree. Then they develop more complex ideas by describing the location of the family members in different rooms of the home. For homework, students write about activities that take place in each room.

Interpreting La Belle et la Bête
French IV, Grade 11: Michel Pasquier focuses his class on interpreting film, literature, and music, using the traditional tale Beauty and the Beast. The students work in groups to find moral meaning in the 1946 Jean Cocteau classic film, and compare the film to the original story and to a French rap song.

Mapping Planet Earth
French, Grade 2: Stephanie Appel connects her French lessons to content and teaching materials in the general classroom curriculum. She employs TPR and map activities to practice vocabulary for the planets, continents, and oceans.

Performing With Confidence
French IV-V AP, Grades 10-12: This lesson focuses on advanced conversational proficiency with connections to social, political, and pop culture. Yvette Heno’s students play word games, discuss French politics, and stage a mock TV talk show with students portraying celebrities and journalists.

Touring a French City
French, Grade 8: Prior to this lesson, Robin Neuman’s students researched French architecture and constructed a model of a French city on the classroom floor. During the lesson, students take turns role-playing tourists asking for directions and tourist bureau agents giving directions and describing the buildings and the city.


Holidays and Seasons
German, Grade 3: Margita Haberlen’s lesson combines the topics of seasons and German holidays to reinforce basic reading skills, build cultural knowledge, and introduce more abstract thinking. Using a Venn diagram, students compare aspects of Fasching and Halloween.

Sports in Action
German I, Grades 9-11: Denise Tanner guides her students through graduated activities including a TPR vocabulary review of the parts of the body, a grammar segment teaching the German structure gefallen, and a discussion of the German medals won at the 2002 Winter Olympics. As a culminating activity, students act out a TPR story in front of the class.

Sports Stats
German, Grade 5: In Amy Garcia’s German class, students write in journals, listen as classmates share their sports preferences, take a poll on sports likes and dislikes, and record the class results on a graph. Using a chart showing the favorite sports of young Germans, Ms. Garcia makes connections to math by having students analyze statistical data in the chart.


U.S. and Italian Homes
Italian II, Grade 9: In this lesson, Marylee DiGennaro’s students compare American homes with typical dwellings in Italy. The class learns new vocabulary, then practices them during a line dance and a card game. For homework, the students compose letters describing their homes, which they will email to students in Italy.


Daily Routines
Japanese, Grade 5: This lesson focuses on individuals’ daily routines in Japan and in the U.S. Margaret Dyer uses a variety of activities, including TPR, modeling, pairs practice, and student-led charades, to introduce and review new vocabulary and concepts.

Happy New Year!
Japanese II, Grades 10-12: Students learn about some common products and practices of the Japanese New Year’s celebration. Leslie Birkland divides her class into two main groups: One sings New Year’s songs, writes cards, and plays cultural games, while the other splits into smaller groups to discuss New Year’s food and decorations. Then the two main groups switch activities. After the two groups have participated in both sets of activities, the class reconvenes to compare the Japanese New Year’s celebration with those of other cultures.

Promoting Attractions of Japan
Japanese III-IV, Grades 10-12: As part of a larger unit on the geography and culture of Japan, students learn about that country’s major regions and cities and discuss some of its popular tourist destinations. Using timed activities, including a fast-paced Jeopardy-style quiz game, Yo Azama assesses students on recall and recognition. As a culminating project, students create a travel brochure and begin planning a promotional video to attract visitors to Japan.


Music and Manuscripts
Latin II-III, IV AP, Grades 10-12: Lauri Dabbieri’s class explores how Latin manuscripts are interpreted, translated, and created. Latin IV students work independently to translate a passage from Vergil’s Aeneid, while students in Latin II and III are guided through activities in translation and interpretation. Then the whole class works in pairs to create their own versions of illuminated Latin manuscripts.


Russian Cities, Russian Stories
Russian I and IV, Grades 9-12: In this unique, mixed-level class, Jane Shuffelton’s students work on geography skills, story writing, and presentations. Russian IV students are paired with small groups of Russian I students to read a story, gather information, and write their own folktales. Each group shares its tale while the remaining students use their interpretive skills to write down specific information. In a separate activity, Russian IV students debate the role of the leader in Russian history after reading an article about Russian president Vladimir Putin.


Creating Travel Advice
Spanish III, Grade 11: In this lesson, Fran Pettigrew gives her students a letter from a teacher in Chile who plans to bring students to visit the United States. Working with authentic tourist brochures in Spanish and drawing on prior research, student groups plan itineraries for their Chilean counterparts. They prepare to send a follow-up letter to the Chilean teacher, sharing their suggestions.

Food Facts and Stories
Spanish I, Grade 8: Students use math and science skills as they interpret nutritional information in a Spanish-language McDonald’s menu. John Pedini’s lesson integrates authentic materials, makes connections to other academic areas, and develops interpretive and interpersonal communication skills.

Fruits of the Americas
Spanish, Grade 4: Teacher Carina Rodriguez combines visual media and multisensory activities in a vocabulary-building lesson about familiar and unfamiliar fruits. Students learn which country each fruit comes from, try to identify it solely through touch, and taste the fruit to categorize it as sweet or sour.

Hearing Authentic Voices
Spanish, Grade 8: Davita Alston’s class engages in mock phone conversations, brainstorms about how American teenagers occupy their free time, and reviews a video of Spanish-speaking youth discussing their leisure activities. Later, two native Mexican students visit the class and answer questions about how they spend their free time in Mexico.

Interpreting Literature
Spanish III, Grade 11: This lesson centers on the story Dos caras by New Mexico author Sabine Ulibarri. Barbara Pope Bennett guides students as they recount the details and discuss their interpretations of the story and its moral message. Students act out segments of the story and then collaborate in groups to come up with alternate endings. The class also listens to a student’s oral presentation about a local artist.

Interpreting Picasso’s Guernica
Spanish II, Grade 10: In this lesson, students use their interpretive abilities to learn about culture and history through art. The students in Meghan Zingle’s class make initial observations about Picasso’s painting, and then work in pairs to write and present a mock radio announcement about it. After reading about the painting’s background, they discuss the history it represents.

Politics of Art
Spanish V, Grade 12: Lori Langer de Ramirez’s class stages a political debate based on Spain’s visa requirement for Central and South Americans who wish to enter that country. During the debate, students assume the role of Latin American artists whose work they had researched, and weigh the pros and cons of boycotting an invitation to exhibit their work in Spain. After the debate, the class votes on whether to accept the Spanish invitation.

Routes to Culture
Spanish II, Grades 9-10: This culturally rich lesson falls in the middle of a thematic unit about the African presence in Latin America. Pablo Muirhead’s students identify cultural aspects of stories about a fictitious African girl who is taken to Panama and enslaved. Then they work in small groups to incorporate these cultural aspects into skits to be performed by their classmates. The class also practices playing African/Latin American box drums called los cajones.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages

Language and communication are at the heart of the human experience. The United States must educate students who are equipped linguistically and culturally to communicate successfully in a pluralistic American society and abroad. This imperative envisions a future in which ALL students will develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least one other language, modern or classical. Children who come to school from non-English-speaking backgrounds should also have opportunities to develop further proficiencies in their first language.

Statement of Philosophy — World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages


In 1993, four professional organizations (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, American Association of Teachers of French, American Association of Teachers of German, and American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese) began development of national standards for foreign language learning. The organizations appointed a task force, representing a variety of languages, levels of instruction, program models, and geographic regions, to define the content standards — what students should know and be able to do — in foreign language education in grades K–12.

In 1996, with extensive input from the broader professional community, the task force published Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century. The document identifies five goal areas: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities—called the Five Cs. Each goal area contains two to three content standards that describe the knowledge and abilities all students should have by the end of high school. The Standards are designed to inform state and local standards and curriculum frameworks of the recommended approaches and expectations for each school or district. In 1999, with help from seven additional professional organizations, the task force expanded the document to include language-specific standards. This became the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. In 2015, the original Standards were revised to the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. The revisions emphasize how learning world languages supports literacy development and real-world applications.

The classrooms in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library present examples of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages in action. The Introduction page of each lesson’s Web or print guide lists the Standards addressed by that lesson—those that are most evident in the lesson or that students in beginning language classes are taking first steps toward developing. Standards that are only briefly touched upon in a lesson are not listed for that lesson.

To learn more about the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, view “Standards and the Five Cs.” The video provides an introduction to and illustration of the goal areas and Standards, using clips from classrooms in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library. Use the Standards and the Five Cs Web or print guide to inspire group discussion and personal reflection as you view the video.

For purchasing information of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, go to General Resources.


Advanced Placement (AP)
Advanced Placement is a program sponsored by the College Board. The AP program gives students the opportunity to take college-level courses in a high school setting; passing the course exam may earn them college credit or advanced standing. AP courses follow guidelines developed and published by the College Board.
affective filter
The affective filter hypothesis (Dulay, Krashen, and Burt, 1982) describes the need for second-language learning to occur in an environment of low anxiety, to encourage the processing and learning of new information.
Dulay, Heidi, Stephen D. Krashen, and Mariana Burt. Language Two. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1982.
authentic materials
Authentic materials are resources that have been developed specifically for native speakers. These include print, audio, and visual materials.
backward planning
In backward planning, also called backward design, the teacher plans a unit or lesson by first identifying the desired end task or product, then working in reverse to identify the prerequisite learning tasks and benchmark assessments.
character dictation
A character language such as Chinese does not use an alphabet for sound/symbol correspondence, but rather integrates both meaning and pronunciation in its characters. Character dictation can be used to build character recognition and sound/symbol correspondence. The teacher or a student dictates characters to the class to build familiarity with individual characters’ meaning and to practice creating sentences in various contexts.
A form of a language used among people who live in the same geographical area or who share the same social identity. While language instruction traditionally emphasizes a “standard” form of a language, to more effectively communicate linguistically and culturally, instruction should also incorporate dialect elements within the curriculum to reflect the actual/authentic ways in which people communicate day-to-day.
Foreign Language Exploratory Program (FLEX)
This elementary/middle school model introduces learners to one or more languages. The primary focus is an introduction to language learning, awareness of culture, appreciation of language/culture study, and motivation to further language study. Exposure to a single language may take place from one to several days a week over six to nine weeks. FLEX programs are topic oriented with a strong focus on vocabulary. They are not intended to be part of a sequence of instruction; after completing a FLEX program, students go on to a beginning language program. See also Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).
Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES)
This elementary school model organizes instruction around a scope and sequence taught by a qualified foreign language teacher. Its goals include developing language proficiency with an emphasis on oral skills, as well as providing a gradual introduction to literacy, building cultural knowledge, and tying language learning to the content of the early grades’ curriculum. FLES programs vary, especially in the number of meetings per week or minutes per session. See also Foreign Language Exploratory Program (FLEX).
formal assessment
During a formal assessment, all students in a class are evaluated in the same manner. Their examination involves the same content, format (for example, chapter test or oral report), and testing conditions (for example, length of time). Results are reported as a grade or a score and are used to determine individual students’ abilities in a specific area of learning.
Fossilization refers to the linguistic phenomenon in which students internalize “incorrect” or “non-standard” forms of the language to the degree that they become habits of speech not easily corrected.
heritage speaker
A heritage speaker is a student who is exposed to a language other than English at home. Heritage speakers can be categorized based on the prominence and development of the heritage language in the student’s daily life. Some students have full oral fluency and literacy in the home language; others may have full oral fluency but their written literacy was not developed because they were schooled in English. Another group of students — typically third- or fourth-generation — can speak to a limited degree but cannot express themselves on a wide range of topics. Students from any of these categories may also have gaps in knowledge about their cultural heritage. Teachers who have heritage speakers of the target language in their class should assess which proficiencies need to be maintained and which need to be developed further. See also native speaker.
immersion program
In this model, most commonly found in elementary schools, general academic content (the primary educational goal) is taught in the target language, and language proficiency is a parallel outcome. Individual districts design their programs such that English is introduced at a given grade level, with a gradually increasing percentage of time given to English language instruction. Partial immersion programs differ in the amount of time and number of courses taught in English and in the target language.
informal assessment
During an informal assessment, a teacher evaluates students’ progress while they are participating in a learning activity, for example, a small-group discussion. Results are typically used to make decisions about what to do next, namely, whether the students are ready to move on or whether they need more practice with the material.
information gap
Information gap is a questioning technique in which learners respond to a question whose answer is unknown to the questioner. This contrasts with “display questions” that seek obvious responses. Example of an information gap question: What did you buy at the mall? Example of a display question: What color is your sweater?
Used in one of the three Japanese writing systems, kanji are the characters drawn from the Chinese writing system. Approximately 2,000 kanji, many with multiple meanings, are needed to read materials written for adults in Japanese.
kindergarten benchmarks
Kindergarten benchmarks identify what young learners should achieve during kindergarten. They include awareness of body parts, letter and some word recognition, control of tools such as crayons and scissors, and more.
learner-centered classroom
A classroom in which a teacher works with students to develop, implement, and evaluate learning goals based on students’ interests and unique needs. In this way, students have a voice not only in what they learn but also in why, when, how, and with whom they learn it. In a learner-centered classroom, the teacher facilitates rather than instructs, allowing learners greater opportunity to collaborate with peers in the target language.
native speaker
A native speaker considers the target language to be his or her first language. Teachers seek opportunities for students to communicate in person or through technology with native speakers. Students in foreign language classes who are first- or second-generation immigrants and who use the language extensively outside the classroom are also considered native speakers. These students typically maintain the cultural norms of their heritage in certain situations. See also heritage speaker.
negotiation of meaning
In this process, teachers and students try to convey information to one another and reach mutual comprehension through restating, clarifying, and confirming information. The teacher may help students get started or work through a stumbling block using linguistic and other approaches.
performance assessment
During a performance assessment, students demonstrate their ability to use the target language in real-world activities, namely, things that native speakers might do. For example, students might create a newspaper, respond to a want ad, or conduct an interview to learn about a cultural topic. Teachers can evaluate the performance using a rubric and/or assign traditional grades.
performance level
The ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners and the NCSSFL–ACTFL Can-Do Statements (derived from the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012) describe the language outcomes for students in standards-based language programs. The performance levels include Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced. Learners in the Novice range operate primarily with learned and practiced material. Learners in the Intermediate range use language to create with language on familiar topics. While operating primarily at the sentence level, they begin to expand and string sentences together as they build narrative skills. Learners in the Advanced range are able to sustain narration and description in past, present, and future tense and in a range of content areas. See also proficiency level.
proficiency level
Proficiency describes how well a person functions in a language. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages further defines proficiency with a set of guidelines for assessing communicative abilities. The guidelines cover how an individual performs across three criteria: function, content/context, and accuracy. When combined, these criteria determine the student’s communicative ability to be Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, or Superior. See also performance level.
Realia are materials that are highly visual, contextualized, and culturally authentic. Realia can include posters, advertisements, labels, schedules, tickets, placemats, and more.
Role-playing is an activity in which students dramatize characters or pretend that they are in new locations or situations. This activity challenges students by having them use language in new contexts.
Spiraling is the process of teaching a theme or language rule to different levels of learners by creating multiple tasks that are increasingly complex. For example, a lesson on weather can be spiraled as follows: (1) Novice students can describe the weather in short formulaic sentences; (2) Intermediate students can talk about the weather and its effect on their activities, or gather information from broadcasts or newspapers; and (3) Pre-Advanced students can tell a story about a frightening weather-related event or follow a description of weather in a literary piece.
story map
A story map is a graphic organizer that leads students to discover specific elements from a written or oral text. It is built upon common elements such as characters and characteristics, place, plot, resolution, and moral or lesson, or a “who, what, when, where, how, and why” format.
thematic units
Thematic units are designed using content as the organizing principle. Vocabulary, structures, and cultural information are included as they relate to the themes in each unit. For an excellent example of theme-based units, see the Nebraska Foreign Language Education Web site in General Resources.
Total Physical Response (TPR)
Developed by Asher, Kusudo, and de la Torre (1974), TPR is an approach for teaching vocabulary that appeals to learners’ kinesthetic-sensory system. First, the teacher introduces new vocabulary words and establishes their meaning through corresponding actions and gestures. Students mimic the teacher’s actions as they learn the words, and eventually demonstrate comprehension through the actions and gestures. Ultimately, the language is extended to written forms, and students begin to respond verbally. Research evidence attests to the effectiveness of TPR for learning and retaining vocabulary. See also Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS).
Asher, J., J. Kusudo, and R. de la Torre. “Learning a Second Language Through Commands: The Second Field Test.” Modern Language Journal 58 (1974): 24-32.
Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS)
This adaptation of TPR adds the element of storytelling and uses the story narrative or episodic structures to build meaningful comprehension. The technique begins with the teacher telling a story and using actions and gestures to introduce new vocabulary. As students listen to the story, they confirm their understanding by repeating the actions: First they perform the actions for specific events and then recreate the whole story. Once the story is understood, students take over the narrative task, either as a group or individually. See also Total Physical Response (TPR).
Venn diagram
A Venn diagram is a type of graphic organizer consisting of two partially overlapping circles. A Venn diagram helps learners see the similarities and differences between two topics. Each circle represents one topic (for example, “U.S.” and “Target Culture”). Common characteristics are recorded in the overlapping area between the circles. Information unique to each topic is recorded in the area outside the overlap. The Venn diagram is a strong visual support for concrete and abstract comparisons.

General Resources

Web Resources

World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages

Provides options to purchase the Standards in multiple formats

Foreign Language Teaching Forum

Features a collection of Web resources for foreign language teachers

World Languages Lesson Plans

Features lesson plans created for foreign language classes

The Internet Picture Dictionary

An online, multilingual picture dictionary designed for language learners of all ages

Language Exchange Community

An online community that creates opportunities for language exchange among language learners across 115 different languages

Language Resources Directory

Offers links to resources for teaching and learning foreign languages, such as study abroad programs, reference materials, and Web forums

Nebraska Foreign Language Education

Presents the Nebraska Frameworks document, which includes good examples of thematic units

State and Local Foreign Language Standards

Provides links to many state and local foreign language curriculum frameworks


Print Resources

The National Standards Collaborative Board. (2015). World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. 4th ed. Alexandria, VA: Author. To purchase the Standards, go to (or

Brown, H. Douglas. Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson ESL, 2000.

Hadley, Alice Omaggio. Teaching Language in Context. 3rd ed. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 2001.

Lee, James F., and Bill VanPatten. Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 1995.

Shrum, Judith L., and Eileen W. Glisan. Teacher’s Handbook Revised: Contextualized Language Instruction. 2nd ed. Boston: Thomson/Heinle, 2000.


Arabic Resources


A source for Arabic language and Arab culture teaching materials, opportunities, news, and events relevant to both teachers and students

Chinese Resources

Asia Society

Features K–12 resources on the study of Asian societies

Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools

A professional organization Web site that includes resource links and K–12 Standards for Chinese Language Learning

A collection of 40 online Chinese lessons with audio


French Resources

Bonjour de France

An interactive online magazine for French language teachers

A French site that provides information and additional links related to French culture


German Resources

American Association of Teachers of German

Resources for teaching German, plus an extensive list of links

The World Wide Web Virtual Library: German Subject Catalog

A list of German language links organized by topic


Italian Resources

Web Sites of Italian Interest

Provides links to sites of interest for students and teachers of Italian history and culture


Japanese Resources

American Association of Teachers of Japanese

Provides information about Japanese language, literature, and linguistics study, and includes a list of resources for students and educators

Keiko Schneider’s Bookmarks

Features an exhaustive list of resources, including links to online learning tools, Japanese newspapers and media, cultural information, and more


Latin Resources

A Web site for teachers of Latin that includes articles, discussion groups, online resources, and more

Web Resources for Latin and Classics

A list of resources for teaching Latin, Roman and Greek Culture and History, and more


Russian Resources

Language Resources

A list of resources for teachers of Slavic and East European languages


A vast collection of Russian language resources, including thematic learning modules


Spanish Resources

Learn Spanish

Resources and Web links for learning Spanish

Library Credits

Production Credits


Arabic Videos and Website

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Teaching Arabic is a production of WGBH Education for Annenberg Learner and Qatar Foundation International


Copyright 2016 Annenberg Learner and Qatar Foundation International. All rights reserved.


Director, Education

Mike Mayo


Executive Producer

Amy Tonkonogy


Business Manager

Maria Constantinides


Senior Producer

Anna Brooks


Project Manager

Marisa Nopakun


Executive Producer

Amy Tonkonogy




Senior Content Producer

Christopher Riegle


Project Manager

Cassie Irwin



Mike Hamilton



Tim Kinnel


Copy Editor

Diane Frederick



Reema Barkat


Website Advisor

Katy Whiting




Senior Producer

Paul Stern



Heather Riley

Arthur Smith

Meredith Honig



Gregory William Palmer


Associate Producer

Jennifer Didsbury



Rana Abdul-Aziz, Language Coordinator, Tufts University

Mahmoud Al-Batal, Professor of Arabic, University of Texas

Paul Sandrock, Director of Education, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages


Collaborating Partner

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages


Teaching Foreign Languages Website Production


Teaching Foreign Languages K–12: A Library of Classroom Practices is a production of WGBH Interactive and WGBH Educational Productions for Annenberg Media.


Copyright 2003 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved.


Director, Educational Productions

Denise Blumenthal


Executive Producer

Ted Sicker


Curriculum Developer

Anna Brooks


Content Developer

June K. Phillips



Marjorie Hall Haley

Kathleen M. Riordan

Jane Shuffelton



Jay Harlow

Lisa Rosenthal

Christian Wise



Michael McCrary


With the assistance of

Mary Susan Blout

Rebecca Evans

Jill Farinelli

Kate Pullano

Regina Sloutsky

Arthur Smith


The National Standards Collaborative Board. (2015). World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. 4th ed. Alexandria, VA: Author.


Teaching Foreign Languages Video Library Production


Teaching Foreign Languages K–12: A Library of Classroom Practices is produced by WGBH Educational Programming and Outreach for Annenberg Media.


Copyright 2003 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved.


Core Advisors

Martha G. Abbott, Director of High School Instruction and K–12 Curriculum Services

Fairfax County, Virginia Public Schools


June K. Phillips, Dean of Arts and Humanities

Weber State University


Kathleen M. Riordan, Director of Foreign Languages

Springfield, Massachusetts, Public Schools


Adam J. Stryker, Professional Development Specialist

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages


General Advisors

Ruta Couet, Foreign Language Specialist

South Carolina Department of Education


Marjorie Hall Haley, Associate Professor of Graduate Education

George Mason University


Janis Jensen, World Languages Coordinator

New Jersey Department of Education


Yu-Lan Lin, Senior Program Director of World Languages

Boston Public Schools


Paul Sandrock, World Languages Education Consultant

Wisconsin Department of Instruction


Duarte M. Silva, Executive Director

California Foreign Language Project


Collaborating Partner

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages



John Browne

Philip Gay

Anthony Manupelli


Associate Producers

Sara Ferguson

Jayne Sportelli



Vanessa Boris

Dickran H. Manoogian

Chuck Scott


Production Manager

Mary Ellen Gardiner


Post Production Associate Producer

Peter Villa


Production Coordinator

Mary Susan Blout


Production Assistants

Michael Kilmurray

Jill Unger



Bill Charette

Lance A. Douglas

  1. Robin Hirsh

Stephen McCarthy

Larry LeCain

David Rabinovitz

David Brayfield



Chris Bresnahan

Charlie Collias

James Lindsey

Gilles Morin

Charles Dixson

Scott Kinzey

Brendan Davis

Steve Bores

Anne Evans

Anthony Flores

Mary Kaigler-Schaffer

Joe McCartan

Charles Tomaras


Studio Crew

WGBH Productions


Online Editors

Mark Geffen

Glenn Hunsberger

John Sherrer


Sound Mix

John Jenkins

Dan Lesiw


Graphic Design

Gaye Korbet

Bruce Walker


Additional Graphics

The Japan Forum Photo Data Bank


The Japan Foundation

Minna no Kyozai Site

Photo Panel Bank Series

Series IV, No. 002 (© by the Japan Foundation)

Series IV, No. 004 (© by the Japan Foundation)

Series IV, No. 005 (© by the Japan Foundation)

Series IV, No. 006 (© by the Japan Foundation)

Series IV, No. 100 (© by the Japan Foundation)



David Grimes


Additional Music


“A Nos Actes Manqués” a/c: Jean-Jacques Goldman, pub: JRG Editions Musicales, Music Video: dir: Bernard Schmitt, SONY Music Entertainment (France). Words and music from the album Fredericks Goldman Jones (1991).


“Zydeco Sont Pas Sale” from ARHOOLIE CD 301 – Clifton Chenier ( and composed by Clifton Chenier © Tradition Music Co. (BMI) adm. by BUG Music Co.


“Zydeco Boogaloo” – Buckwheat Zydeco, Courtesy of Rounder Records.


“La varicelle,” L’Album de Marie-Soleil. Performed by Suzanne Pinel. 50 mins. Produced by Les éditions Clown Samuel, Inc., 1993. Videocassette.



John Kosian



Jessica Abreu

Maiyim Baron

Renee Beaudot

Beth Curran

Jenny Fourman

Christiane Galvani

Marcia Guedes

Martin Hoffman

Analucia Hutcheson

Lydia Kim

George F. Leslie, Jr.

Amelia Moser

The Multi-Lingual Group

Jack C. Nowicki

Maria Perez

Danielle Pung

Ramon Ramirez

Thibaut Schilt

Frederik L. Schodt

Marina Vesty

Loraine Wang

Bing Zhao



Ilse Andrews

Wanda Boeke

Fritz Chang

Jane Kontrimas

Jane C. Lamb-Ruiz

Ughetta Lubin

Constance Marina, Ph.D.

Amy L. Miller

Stefanie Ramsden


Additional footage courtesy of

© Werner Forman/CORBIS

© Archivo Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS

© Gianni Dagli Orti/CORBIS

© Arte & Immagini srl/CORBIS

© Araldo de Luca/CORBIS

© Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS

© Geoffrey Clements/CORBIS

© Christie’s Images/CORBIS


Office Coordinator

Justin Brown


Business Manager

Maria Constantinides


Executive Producer

Amy Tonkonogy

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2