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

View & Analyze the Video

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

Before You Watch
Respond to the following questions:

  • How do you coordinate your curriculum with timely events, such as holidays, from the target culture?
  • How have you incorporated current events into your teaching? Which events fit in with the focus of your lessons, and which events interrupted your lesson plans (for example, breaking news)?
  • What are the challenges and benefits of doing group work with large classes?
  • How do you get the heritage speakers in your class to contribute their cultural expertise?

Watch the Video

As you watch “Happy New Year!,” take notes on Ms. Birkland’s instructional strategies, particularly how she organizes the group activities and integrates multiple cultural perspectives into discussions. Write down what you find interesting, surprising, or especially important about the teaching and learning in this lesson.

Reflect on the Video
Review your notes, and then respond to the following questions:

  • How do the opening and closing routines contribute to the classroom environment?
  • How does Ms. Birkland acknowledge the cultural diversity of her students in the lesson?
  • After exploring cultural practices and products in their respective groups, what cultural perspectives do students begin to explore in the class discussion? What additional perspectives might they begin to appreciate as they reflect further on these activities?

Look Closer

Video Segment: Becoming an Expert

You’ll find this segment approximately 13 minutes after the video starts. Watch for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Half of the class works in groups to acquire new information about four Japanese New Year’s customs. They look at a photo, read a description, and discuss the similarities and differences between the Japanese customs and those of the U.S. and other countries.

  • How do the students in this group balance reading the new material and interacting with one another? What role does each student take?
  • What content have the students acquired in the group setting?
  • What kind of assistance does Ms. Birkland offer?

Video Segment: Sharing Information

You’ll find this segment approximately 17 minutes after the video starts. Watch for about 5 minutes.

Students jigsaw into new groups, each of whose members are knowledgeable about a different aspect of the New Year’s celebration, and share their expertise with one another.

  • In the first group, how are the students communicating as they share information. When are they negotiating meaning?
  • How would you judge the success of this group’s information exchange? Have the students learned something new about the four topics?
  • Compare the second group’s interactions to those of the first group. What assistance does Ms. Birkland provide to the second group?

Video Segment: Gaining Cultural Perspectives

You’ll find this segment approximately 22 minutes after the video starts. Watch for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

Several students share the products of their cultural activities, such as New Year’s cards. Then the class discusses in English the cultural aspects of the Japanese New Year, and compares them with New Year’s customs in other cultures represented by the backgrounds of the students in the class.

  • How do the cultural activities provide experiential cultural learning?
  • How does the response of the first student (in the gray and black sweater) show that he is gaining a cultural perspective?
  • How is the student who talks about mochi beginning to develop a cultural perspective?
  • When Ms. Birkland asks about the significance of black beans and rice in Cuba, what does the student response indicate?

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