Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices
Arabic: Making Sales Calls Class Context
That’s the ideal, that kids are teaching each other. When that happens, it’s awesome.… I’ll put this student who’s good at this subject with this student who’s not so good at this subject. The good student will help teach the lower, lesser-skilled student. They’ll both benefit because the skilled student is teaching and learning through teaching, and the other student is learning from a peer.
– Eric Bartolotti
YEAR AT A GLANCE
The Alphabet; Pronunciation; Introducing Myself
Asking Questions; Singing the Alphabet
Classroom Objects; Who Am I?; Numbers 1–10
Colors; Expressing Wants and Needs
How Many/How Much?; Numbers 20–100
Making Phone Calls; Using Numbers to Describe Distances; Responding to Requests
Describing Objects; What I Like
Schedule of Activities
Eric Bartolotti teaches three Arabic courses at Watertown High School in Watertown, Massachusetts: Arabic I for students with no formal instruction in the language, Arabic II for students who came from a middle school class the previous year, and Arabic III for students with two years of high school Arabic experience. The school is located in a suburb to the west of Boston with about 32,000 residents. Ninety-one percent of Watertown residents are white, 3.9 percent Asian, 2.7 percent Hispanic/Latino, and 1.7 percent African American. The school is more diverse, with about one-quarter of its 700 students identifying as nonwhite. Students speak a number of languages, including English, Arabic, Pashtu, and Urdu. In addition to Arabic, which has been taught at the school for three years, Watertown High offers Italian, Spanish, and Armenian.
Mr. Bartolotti is in his first year of teaching Arabic. His primary focus is to get new learners to speak as much as possible. “In the early stages of learning [a] language, the most important thing is being able to talk…with people,” he says. For authenticity, Mr. Bartolotti emphasizes the use of dialects in his classes. “My decision to focus on colloquial Arabic in the classroom has to do with the fact that I believe that it’s more natural for this environment.” In other words, different registers are appropriate for different tasks. Because many of his students are stronger in reading and writing than speaking and listening, Mr. Bartolotti integrates reading- and writing-based games into class time to build confidence. For his Arabic I class, Mr. Bartolotti organizes the year into topics that help define “major monthly goals” and drafts Can-Do Statements that align with these goals.
He thinks most of his role as a teacher is to provide a structure for the students and keep the atmosphere productive. By his doing this, students know what to expect in class. By structuring activities, Mr. Bartolotti enables students with different backgrounds and strengths to work together. In these situations, students with stronger Arabic language skills, especially those who may have experience speaking Arabic in their families or with friends, can help teach those students with minimal Arabic language skills based only on their experiences in this class. Still, he is cautious about using heritage speakers in this role; he doesn’t want them to feel that helping classmates is a chore, or for the others to feel as though the heritage speakers have an unfair advantage.
To support his teaching, Mr. Bartolotti likes to use authentic music, poetry, or short stories as the basis for his thematic units. “For me, the most important thing in having unit- or theme-based learning is that you bring back the old stuff constantly, but in a way that doesn’t bore the students,” he says. “It’s finding ways of taking what we did and using it differently and finding new situations that they can use it in.”
Students in Mr. Bartolotti’s Arabic I class are primarily of Pakistani and Lebanese heritage. As a whole, his Pakistani students have been exposed to written, but not spoken Arabic, whereas the opposite is true for his Lebanese heritage speakers. In the videotaped lesson, grade 9 and 11 students from Arabic I and II classes came together. There were six religious heritage speakers, two heritage speakers, and two nonheritage speakers. Prior to this class, students had taken a written test on basic greetings and likes and dislikes. This lesson was conceived as a way for the teacher to informally assess students’ ability to express the unit’s targeted functions and structures in spoken language.
Students prepared for this activity the night before, making up a company, logo, and product to sell. Mr. Bartolotti had explained to them what was going to happen in class, and the students knew they would be conducting the speaking activity in the target language. At the beginning of class, Mr. Bartolotti used a projector to review the worksheet that the students would be using and to explain the activity setup. He then demonstrated with a student who is a strong heritage speaker what the class would be doing. Half of the students would be telemarketers and the other half customers. The telemarketer’s job was to politely greet a customer and then inquire as to whether the customer liked the product the telemarketer was selling. The customer responded to the telemarketer’s questions. To introduce a competitive aspect to the activity, Mr. Bartolotti had students grade one another on their performance as telemarketers. The customers used a worksheet to keep track of both their own answers and the telemarketers’ performance.
Telemarketers would work their way down the row of customers, and in this fashion all classmates would get to speak with one another. Mr. Bartolotti listened to make sure that they were on task, completing the curriculum objectives and staying in Arabic as much as possible. Using the collected data, the class decided on a winner for the best telemarketer in the class.
Mr. Bartolotti employs a brief ritual that typically involves music to start and end class. At the end of this lesson, students voted on a song they wanted to sing, and everyone sang it together. Opening and closing each lesson with a song provides structure for the students and a regular opportunity to practice and reinforce high-frequency vocabulary.
Key Teaching Strategies
- Challenging Native Speakers: The teacher adapts instruction for native speakers so that they pursue tasks that recognize and build upon their competencies in the target language while their peers do more basic work.
- Establishing Routines: The teacher establishes clear, expected routines to maximize productive class time, increase student responsibility, and minimize distractions or opportunities for misbehavior. Examples range from consistent procedures to begin the class (from discussing the day, date, and weather for today, yesterday, and tomorrow to having students pair up to craft one comment about a prompt or a visual) to cooperative learning activities for language practice to routines for providing peer feedback.
- Role-Playing: Role-playing is an activity in which students dramatize characters or pretend that they are in new locations or situations. It may or may not have a cultural element. This activity challenges students by having them use language in new contexts.
- 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.
PDF: Telemarketing Activity—Conversation Exercise
Instructions for completing the conversational activity featured in the classroom video, including worksheets for both the telemarketer and the person receiving the call to complete during the conversation.
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.