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

Spanish: Creating Travel Advice Class Context

A real challenge to a teacher at this level is to give kids new information and find ways for them to actually incorporate new vocabulary and grammar in their spontaneous production of the language. You really have to create multiple opportunities for kids to use this new material that you’ve given them.

– Fran Pettigrew




Teen Culture

  • Student life
  • Fashion and clothes
  • Entertainment
  • Leisure time

Rights and Responsibilities

  • Home
  • School
  • Community

Future Plans and Choices

  • Education plans
  • Vacation plans
  • Careers and jobs

Environment or Humanities

School Profile

Fran Pettigrew teaches Spanish III at McLean High School in McLean, Virginia. Located four miles from Washington, D.C., the community of over 60,000 includes professionals and U.S. government employees, as well as international businesspeople and government officials. The 1,500-student high school is fairly diverse; 20 percent are Asian, largely from Korea. About 50 languages are spoken by McLean’s international student population, although most students do not need ESOL classes. The school focuses on college preparation and offers Spanish, French, German, and Latin language classes.

Lesson Design

When designing her lessons, Ms. Pettigrew draws upon the Fairfax County Program of Study, a series of themes and topics for each level of language study (see Resources). She also works with the Standards, the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners, and authentic materials to create thematic lessons that match her students’ level of linguistic and cognitive development. At this level, she wants students to communicate in multiple time frames, interpret authentic texts at intermediate or advanced levels, and understand key points and some details when reading or listening to a native speaker.

The Lesson

By the time Ms. Pettigrew’s students began the lesson on creating travel advice, they had practiced talking about their own vacations. They had also researched one of several vacation spots in the U.S. and prepared to discuss their findings with their classmates. This lesson moved students away from thinking about personal experiences and toward more abstract thinking, an important part of Level 3 learning. Students’ final letters to the Chilean teacher served as a written performance record.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Getting Information From Authentic Materials: The teacher provides students with authentic materials from which they draw information that can be used in discussion or in other follow-up activities.
  • Integrating the Communicative Modes: The teacher plans a series of tasks that involve all three Communication standards. Students often begin with an interpretive task that provides new content and new language for interpersonal discussion. The new content and language are then combined in an oral or written presentation.
  • Providing Corrective Feedback: In a process of negotiation, the teacher mediates student learning by verbally or nonverbally helping the student focus on a point of confusion around a language form.
  • Student Grouping: The teacher designs activities that allow students to engage in multiple types of interactions, including working with partners, in small groups, and as a whole class.

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