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

Arabic: A Place I Call Home

Grades 9 and 10, Arabic II/III: In a lesson rich with music and visuals, students learn vocabulary to describe the rooms and exterior features of modern and traditional houses in Arab countries. Manar Mayalah introduces the lesson with a song about a “dear little house,” then shows videos of a traditional house in Syria and a modern house in Lebanon.



Manar Mayalah


Arabic II and III


9 and 10


Granada Hills Charter School, Los Angeles, California

Lesson Date

March 10

Class Size

22 (filmed with 12)


55 minutes daily

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Video Summary

In this lesson, students learn vocabulary used to describe the rooms and exterior features of houses, including their own dream houses. Ms. Mayalah introduces the day’s lesson by playing music for the class in which Lebanese singer SabaaH sings about her “dear little house.” After reviewing the class agenda with the students, Ms. Mayalah shows videos of a traditional house in Syria and Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram’s modern house in Lebanon, and introduces vocabulary to describe the features of each house. Next, students work in pairs to complete a sentence-strip activity, choosing whether a written description describes the traditional house or the modern one. Students use worksheets to write descriptions of their own dream houses and interview one another about their dream houses. They then present their descriptions orally and without using their notes to the entire class.


Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Presentational

Cultures: Products

Comparisons: Cultural


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.

Realia are materials that are highly visual, contextualized, and culturally authentic. Realia can include posters, advertisements, labels, schedules, tickets, placemats, and more.

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.

Connecting to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice

As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • What strategies can you employ to ensure maximum comprehensible input in the target language during class?
  • What kind of vocabulary learning activities do you use to take students from word-level discourse to producing sentence- and paragraph-level discourse?
  • Do you teach dual-level classes? How can you use a common thematic focus to engage all learners in various activities across all three modes of communication, mixing students of both levels? Then, how do you plan so all learners are being challenged to use and understand language that stretches them to the level they are trying to reach? What are some strategies you might use to plan for such a course?

Watch Other Videos

Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

  • U.S. and Italian Homes (Italian) illustrates a sequence of activities that builds vocabulary and prepares students for real-life situations.
  • Touring a French City (French) illustrates how the teacher organizes activities that promote cultural knowledge.
  • Hearing Authentic Voices (Spanish) shows students interacting with the products of a culture.

Put It Into Practice

Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • For homework, have students draw and label their house with appropriate vocabulary words to use throughout the unit as a study tool. In class, students work in pairs: one student describes his or her house without showing the partner the drawing, while the partner draws what is being described. After they finish, the students compare the two drawings using the target language. Then partners swap roles and repeat the activity.
  • Have students read authentic apartment ads or house-for-sale listings and write their own ad. Students could then do a role-play activity in pairs in which one person is looking for a house and the other is a realtor who is showing the apartments or houses. This is also a great opportunity for a cultural discussion about how people go about renting or buying a house in different cultures. For Arabic classrooms: highlight the role of the bawwaab (doorman) or simsaar (realtor) in finding a place to live, and show students authentic clips of the bawwaab or simsaar in popular culture and film. You may also ask students to compare ads from different parts of an Arab city or ads from across the Arab world. What similarities and differences do the students notice?
  • Have students make a final film or multimedia presentation in which they describe both a traditional house of their culture and a traditional house from an Arab country, and then compare the two.
  • An Arab foreign exchange student has just arrived at your house and will reside with you for the summer. Give him or her a tour of where he or she will be staying, noting any differences in furnishings or other features from what the student may be used to. For this activity, students may use either their real house or a typical house in your region.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpersonal Communication

Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.

Presentational Communication

Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.

Interact with cultural competence and understanding

Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the products and perspectives of the cultures studied.

Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence

Cultural Comparisons

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.


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Your Dream House (PDF)
A worksheet used to accompany the speaking and writing activity in which students discuss with a partner and then draw their dream house

“Damascus’s Beauty”
A YouTube video showing the interior of a traditional house in Damascus

“Nancy Ajram’s House in Lebanon”
A YouTube video showing the interior and exterior of singer Nancy Ajram’s house in Lebanon

Sentence Strip Activity (PDF)
Comparison questions and sentence strips used in the matching activity

Manar Mayalah’s Additional Resources
Web Resources:

Aswaat cArabiyya
Listening materials for the various levels of proficiency

Reading materials on a wide variety of themes, including Arab countries and cities, and famous writers throughout Arab history

Series Directory

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


Teaching Foreign Languages K–12: Teaching Arabic © 2016 Annenberg Learner and Qatar Foundation International. All rights reserved.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2