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

Arabic: Making Plans Class Context

The point of the activity is to show them how to negotiate. So it is not just like, “Do you want to go to the restaurant?” “Yes, I want to go to the restaurant.” “Goodbye.” “Goodbye.” That’s not an authentic situation. In an authentic situation, people ask about time, days, and are they busy. After they did this activity, I asked them not just to have two students together, but to have four people agree on things. This is what happens in real life.

– Belal Joundeya




Weather and Seasons; Hobbies and Sports

Food and Beverage; Eating Etiquette

University Majors; Employment and Future Careers

Time and Daily Routine; Free Time and Entertainment

My Future Plans

Personal Detail, Appearance, and Character

Town, Services, and Neighborhood

Middle East Geography

School Profile

Belal Joundeya teaches grades 9–12 Arabic at Lincoln High School in downtown Portland, Oregon, a city with over 600,000 residents. According to the school, minority groups make up approximately 28 percent of the 1,721 students enrolled, and 14 percent of all students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. Noted for its academic climate and rigor, the school’s college preparatory curriculum features a wide array of advanced classes. The school offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme’s curriculum, which includes language acquisition among its six subject groups. In addition to Arabic, which was first offered in 2010, Lincoln offers Mandarin, Spanish, Spanish Immersion, French, German, and American Sign Language. Some students study more than one language.

Lesson Design

Mr. Joundeya uses backward design to plan the curriculum: he identifies anticipated student performance outcomes and creates 8–10 units that cover the learning goals. He then considers how to work in activities developed around the Five C goal areas, with particular emphasis on Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational Communication. Mr. Joundeya typically has students complete reading and writing assignments outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, he wants students to practice authentic conversation. They exchange customary greetings with Mr. Joundeya at the beginning of each class and participate in engaging and motivating activities that emphasize speaking in real-world situations. To preserve the immersion experience, Mr. Joundeya routinely employs nonverbal cues such as images and acting. He makes sure all students are conversing in pairs or small groups at the same time so that no one is left out. He walks around the room, listening for opportunities to add something new for students who quickly demonstrate a lesson objective, and to lend support for struggling students.

Mr. Joundeya implements curriculum through a dynamic set of resources, including textbooks, online materials, and videos. He constantly assesses the usefulness of particular items to determine whether he should continue using them or modify his selection.

The Lesson

This class of 20 students included one heritage speaker, whose parents are from Lebanon. The students were at different levels, many having started Arabic together in middle school, and most having studied for three to four years. Leading up to this class, students had been learning to talk about their daily routines and what they do in their free time. Mr. Joundeya introduced this lesson at this point in the unit so that students could connect the idea of “what they do” to the future tense: “What are you going to do?”

To set students’ expectations of what they will be practicing in class and at home, Mr. Joundeya posts daily goals on the board. For this class, he linked the objectives to the following Can-Do Statements, which are self-assessment checklists used by language learners to assess what they “can do” with language in the different modes of communication:

  • I can talk about my future plans.
  • I can ask others about their plans.
  • I can invite someone to do something in the future.
  • I can read an invitation.
  • I can write a response to an invitation.

The lesson progressed from heavily guided practice to independent practice. The use of choral repetition of target forms (in which students repeat what the teacher says), modeling with a student volunteer, and group work (first in pairs and then in fours) reinforced this strategy. To meet the language goals, students practiced talking about future plans—something they would be doing after school, the following day, on the weekend, or over spring or summer break. Students also had to make or accept an invitation to do something with someone else. During the lesson, Mr. Joundeya made it clear that students should not simply accept or decline an invitation. Rather, they should practice negotiating until they ultimately agreed on a plan. Through practice in engaging with one another as native speakers do in authentic situations, students use language more independently and spontaneously, acquiring language rather than just analyzing or memorizing it.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • 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.
  • Individual/Group Writing: The teacher provides multiple writing experiences that include individual work as well as group writing activities. Both contexts include opportunities for prewriting, drafting, revising, and sharing.
  • Multilevel Group Work: The teacher purposefully mixes students for group tasks, including students with stronger language skills in the mode required for the task and students with weaker language skills, and assigns roles and tasks appropriate to each student’s strengths and level of proficiency. While heritage speakers are incorporated into group work as regular participants who may assist in maintaining the conversation, they are not called upon to act as “walking dictionaries.”
  • Scaffolding: Scaffolding is a method of structuring an instructional task in a way that helps learners gradually advance through the process. Initial portions of the task are designed to be within learners’ competency so that they can complete them on their own. As students’ confidence, skill, and knowledge increase, the teacher provides less and less scaffolding for that task in a gradual release of responsibility.



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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.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2