Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices
Arabic: Comparing the Weather Class Context
I cannot call it learning a language if there is no authentic opportunity for students. If you don’t use what you learn, you’re going to lose it, pretty much. Lots of people learn a language over their life, but they lose it. The reason they lose it is because they never had a chance to connect it to their personal life.
— Wael Fawzy
YEAR AT A GLANCE
Roots and Patterns
More Greetings and Farewells
Who Am I in the Arab World?
Family and Relatives
My Neighbors and Community
Family and Social Traditions
Mr. Fawzy teaches Arabic to students in sixth grade at LaSalle II, a pre-K through 8 magnet school in downtown Chicago, Illinois. LaSalle II started offering Arabic to its students seven years ago. The school accepts students of diverse racial backgrounds from within a six-mile radius around the school based on an application and random lottery. The student population is 39.5 percent Hispanic, 32.1 percent white, 18.0 percent black, 3.6 percent Asian, and 6.8 percent other. Of the 577 students currently enrolled, 36.4 percent are from low-income families, 13.2 percent are diverse learners, and 6.2 percent are English Language Learners. LaSalle is a language academy. Students choose from among Arabic, French, Spanish, or Mandarin as a second language and also study the history and culture of the nations where these languages are spoken. Since language study is the main mission of the school, a content-based FLES model is in place for all languages taught at LaSalle II. Languages are taught four times weekly for grades 1–8 for 45 minutes per class. The 180 total minutes of language instruction exceed the usual format of most FLES models.
Mr. Fawzy uses backward design when planning units and lessons. In developing thematic units, his primary goal is to increase students’ language and cultural awareness and to build upon their prior knowledge. He is attuned to his students’ different learning styles and needs, which he considers the “launching point” of his planning. “It takes me about two to three months to find out the points of interest with every child that I have,” he says. He observes that some students respond better to visual materials than audial ones, while others express their thoughts better in writing than by speaking.
Mr. Fawzy breaks each unit down into lessons that correlate to the main performance outcomes of the unit. “My lessons are always small pieces of my unit and are scaffolded to reach the big picture of my unit.” Unit and lesson objectives serve the Five C goal areas and three modes of communication. He designs a summative assessment for each mode of Communication (Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational) and develops rubrics to measure the performance outcomes. He makes students aware of these outcomes by posting Can-Do Statements at the front of the class at the beginning of each unit.
Mr. Fawzy tries to build into his lessons authentic activities that will be meaningful to students’ lives. To promote target language development, these activities minimize the use of English. Mr. Fawzy builds in at least some writing in each class. While students almost always write in Modern Standard Arabic, he introduces dialect to improve listening and speaking skills beginning in fifth grade. He estimates that the Interpersonal mode and the reading portions of a class outweigh the writing portion by 80 percent to 20 percent.
Mr. Fawzy tries to incorporate the Five Cs into every lesson. While he thinks that Communication, Cultures, and Communities (through authentic visuals and videos in particular) are relatively easy to build in, Comparisons may be more challenging, especially for younger students. However, he admits that students sometimes impress him by making unprompted comparisons between Arabic culture and their own.
Mr. Fawzy has been teaching at LaSalle II for seven years. This year’s sixth-grade class, some of whom he has taught since kindergarten, has no heritage speakers. The lesson is a part of a unit called “Who Am I in the Arab World?” Students gather information and then demonstrate an emerging understanding of an aspect—weather—of the Arab world. The unit’s learning objectives, posted on the wall as “‘I Can’ Performance Outcomes,” read:
- compare the weather in Chicago to that in Egypt and the other Arab countries during the four seasons.
- develop and answer questions using different Arabic dialects.
- identify the temperature in different countries.
Prior to the lesson, each student researched the weather in an Arab country during each of the four seasons. Students also learned a few Arabic words related to the dialect of the country. The lesson emphasized interpersonal and presentational communication, as well as language and cultural practices and perspectives.
To begin class, Mr. Fawzy displayed slides showing details about the four seasons in Chicago and in Egypt. Students practiced asking and answering questions about the weather in each place. For the next activity, students were divided into two groups. A few weeks prior, Mr. Fawzy had asked students to find a picture that showed the weather in Chicago or elsewhere and a second picture that showed the weather in an Arab country in the same season. Students also had to prepare to say something about both pictures, such as naming the month in which the picture was taken and the temperature during that month. Back in class, using a timed round-robin format, each student had one minute to present his or her research to the rest of the group.
After the presentations, students completed a writing activity. Mr. Fawzy gave students a worksheet with eight different pictures related to the weather on it. The students’ job was to label the pictures. In a subsequent class, students would use these short descriptions to develop more complex sentences. “This is how we start from a small thing and then we build on top of it,” says Mr. Fawzy. Finally, Mr. Fawzy had students develop a question based on the topic, trade their question with another student, and then take the question home to read and answer.
During the lesson, students used dialect expressions alongside MSA, which supported one of the main unit objectives. Mr. Fawzy has students practice these dialect expressions, particularly in speaking activities, because it is something they are likely to encounter in an Arabic-speaking country. “I feel it is very important that students have a taste of the dialects,” he says. “If they hear them in the future, they’ll know how to communicate.” Students used expressions from Moroccan, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Gulf-area dialects.
Key Teaching Strategies
- Content-Based Instruction: The teacher promotes language acquisition and/or cultural knowledge through subject matter from a range of disciplines.
- Incorporation of Technology: The teacher uses technology, including school-sanctioned social media, to support or enhance opportunities for practicing the three modes of communication. Technology enables students to engage in more authentic tasks, interact with authentic audiences, and access information from authentic resources. They can do this by writing a blog or posting a podcast; exchanging messages with native speakers online or via video chats; and tapping materials from the target cultures for listening, reading, or viewing.
- Theme-Based Curriculum: The teacher chooses themes as the organizing principle for a series of instructional activities in a unit, providing a meaningful context to explore through all three modes of communication.
- Visual Support for Learning: The teacher uses illustrations, models, or other visual elements to promote conversation and cultural learning.
Session 0 Introduction to the Library
This program provides an overview of the entire library, with suggestions for use in professional development settings
Session 1 Arabic: Teaching Arabic Overview
Provides background on the standards with commentary by teaching experts and clips from the classroom programs.
Session 2 Arabic: People Who Help Us
Arabic Grade 1: Khamael Alaloom introduces her class to people who help in the community and teaches students a new letter of the alphabet. She projects images of community helpers and reviews their names and what they do.
Session 3 Arabic: Vegetables We Like
Arabic Grade 2: Rita Lahoud’s Art and Arabic students draw pictures of vegetables they like and don’t like. Students discuss in pairs what they drew and then present their drawings to the full class.
Session 4 Arabic: Comparing the Weather
Arabic Grade 6: Wael Fawzy’s class learns about the weather in the Arab world and practices speaking and writing using dialects. Mr. Fawzy shows slides of the weather in Chicago and Egypt and asks students about the weather in each place and then has them develop questions of their own.
Session 5 Arabic: How We Spend Our Free Time
Grade 8, Arabic I: In a unit on hobbies, Katie Quackenbush’s novice-level students practice asking and answering questions about what they like to do in their free time. In a small-group activity, students picks a card and asks classmates whether they like doing the activity pictured. Students then poll one another about their free-time activities.
Session 6 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.
Session 7 Arabic: Making Sales Calls
Grades 9 and 11, Arabic I: Eric Bartolotti’s high school class of novice and heritage speakers use basic greetings and express likes and dislikes through a role-playing activity. Students pair off, assuming the roles of telemarketers and prospective customers.
Session 8 Arabic: Making Plans
Grades 9–12, Arabic V/VI: Students converse about what they will be doing in the future, in pairs and expanding to a group of four. Belal Joundeya presents a scenario in which two celebrities negotiate their busy schedules to agree on a dinner date, and then he role plays a similar situation with a student volunteer.
Session 9 Chinese: Communicating About Sports
Chinese I, 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 Chinese students. At the end of the lesson, the students create skits to perform for their classmates.
Session 10 Chinese: Exploring New Directions
Chinese II - IV, grades 9 - 12: In this lesson, Haiyan Fu's multilevel class explores direction - both literally and metaphorically. While Chinese IV students practice reciting Chinese cultural poems, students in Chinese II and III work on mapping the locations of nearby restaurants and providing directions to them.
Session 11 French: A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco
French I, 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 create it, such as the washboard, accordion, and spoons.
Session 12 French: Chicken Pox
French I, 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 by matching vocabulary labels to a drawing of a person.
Session 13 French: 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 if they were to visit. Through individual and group-centered activities, students learn to express conditional statements about personal preferences.
session 14 French: Family and Home
French I, 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 family members in different rooms of the home. For homework, students write about activities that take place in each room.
session 15 French: Interpreting La Belle et la Bete
French IV, grade 11: Michel Pasquier focuses his class on interpreting and adapting film, literature, and music, using the classic tale Beauty and the Beast. The students work in groups to find moral meaning in the 1945 Jean Cocteau classic film and compare the film to the original story and a French rap song.
session 16 French: Mapping Planet Earth
French I, 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.
session 17 French: Performing With Confidence
French IV - V, grades 10 - 12: This lesson focuses on advanced conversation proficiency with connections to social, political, and pop culture. Yvette Heno's students play word games, discuss French politics, and stage a mock press conference with students portraying celebrities and journalists.
session 18 French: Touring a French City
French I, 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.
session 19 German: Holidays and Seasons
German I, 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.
session 20 German: Sports in Action
German I, grades 9 - 11: Denise Tanner guides her students through graduated activities including a TPR vocabulary review 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.
session 21 German: Sports Stats
German I, 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 the data.
session 22 Italian: 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 words, 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.
session 23 Japanese: Daily Routines
Japanese I, grade 5: This lesson focuses on the daily routines of individuals in Japan and the U.S. Margaret Dyer uses a variety of activities including TPR, modeling, paired practice, and student-led charades to introduce and review new vocabulary and concepts.
session 24 Japanese: 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's class splits into two groups: One sings New Year's songs, writes cards, and plays cultural games, while the other discusses New Year's food and decorations. After switching activities, the class reconvenes to compare the Japanese New Year's celebration with those of other cultures.
session 25 Japanese: 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 the major regions and cities and discuss popular tourist destinations. Using timed activities, including a fast-paced Jeopardy-style quiz game, Yo Azama, 2012 ACTFL Teacher of the Year, 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.
session 26 Latin: 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.
session 27 Russian: 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 their 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 Vladimir Putin.
session 28 Spanish: 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 their previous research, student groups plan itineraries for their Chilean counterparts. They prepare to send a follow-up letter to the Chilean teacher sharing their suggestions.
session 29 Spanish: 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.
session 30 Spanish: Fruits of the Americas
Spanish I, grade 4: Teacher Carina Rodriguez combines visual media and multisensory activities in a vocabulary-building lesson about familiar and new fruit. Students learn what country the fruit comes from, try to identify the fruit solely through touch, and taste the fruit to categorize it as sweet or sour.
session 31 Spanish: Hearing Authentic Voices
Spanish I, grade 8: Davita Alston's class engages in mock phone conversations, brainstorms about how American teenagers occupy their time, and reviews a video of Spanish-speaking youths discussing their leisure activities. Later, two native Mexican students visit the class and answer questions about how they spend their free time in Mexico.
session 32 Spanish: Interpreting Literature
Spanish III, grade 11: This lesson centers on the story Dos Caras by the New Mexican 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.
session 33 Spanish: 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.
session 34 Spanish: 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 or not to accept the Spanish invitation.
session 35 Spanish: 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.