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

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.

CLASSROOM AT A GLANCE

Teacher

Jane Shuffelton


Language

Russian I and IV


Grades

9-12


School

Brighton High School, Rochester, New York


Lesson Date

March 6


Class Size

20


Schedule

45 minutes; modular schedule*

In this lesson, Russian I and Russian IV students meet to discuss Russian geography and the origins of Russian city names. Working in mixed-level groups, they read and interpret a story derived from their geography lesson. They conclude by creating and then presenting their own stories to the class. In a separate activity, Russian IV students debate the role of the leader in Russian history after reading an article about Vladimir Putin.

Video Summary

In this lesson, Russian I and Russian IV students meet to discuss Russian geography and the origins of Russian city names. Working in mixed-level groups, they read and interpret a story derived from their geography lesson. They conclude by creating and then presenting their own stories to the class. In a separate activity, Russian IV students debate the role of the leader in Russian history after reading an article about Vladimir Putin.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational

Cultures: Products

Connections: Making Connections

Comparisons: Language, Cultural

*Russian I meets four times every six days: three times by themselves and one time with Russian IV. Russian IV meets three times every six days: two times by themselves and one time with Russian I.

Glossary

authentic materials
Authentic materials are resources that have been developed specifically for native speakers. These include print, audio, and visual materials.

heritage speaker
A heritage speaker is a student who is exposed to a language other than English at home. Heritage speakers can be categorized based on the prominence and development of the heritage language in the student’s daily life. Some students have full oral fluency and literacy in the home language; others may have full oral fluency but their written literacy was not developed because they were schooled in English. Another group of students — typically third- or fourth-generation — can speak to a limited degree but cannot express themselves on a wide range of topics. Students from any of these categories may also have gaps in knowledge about their cultural heritage. Teachers who have heritage speakers of the target language in their class should assess which proficiencies need to be maintained and which need to be developed further.

native speaker
A native speaker considers the target language to be his or her first language. Teachers seek opportunities for students to communicate in person or through technology with native speakers. Students in foreign language classes who are first- or second-generation immigrants and who use the language extensively outside the classroom are also considered native speakers. These students typically maintain the cultural norms of their heritage in certain situations. See also heritage speaker.

proficiency level
Proficiency describes how well a person functions in a language. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages further defines proficiency with a set of guidelines for assessing communicative abilities. The guidelines cover how an individual performs across three criteria: function, content/context, and accuracy. When combined, these criteria determine the student’s communicative ability to be Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, or Superior. See also performance level.

thematic units
Thematic units are designed using content as the organizing principle. Vocabulary, structures, and cultural information are included as they relate to the themes in each unit. For an excellent example of theme-based units, see the Nebraska Foreign Language Education Web site in General Resources.

Connecting to Your Teaching

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

  • Do you teach dual-level courses? If so, what are some of the strategies you’ve developed to teach them? If not, how might you plan for such a class?
  • What are some characteristics of “reading to write” activities?
  • How might you incorporate cultural information into a communicative lesson?
  • How do you foster a positive learning environment in a class that includes a mix of traditional learners, heritage speakers, and native speakers?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Introduce geography and history into language activities. Names of countries, cities, provinces, and more can be expanded into cultural minilessons. For example, in her combined class, Ms. Shuffelton included an activity that taught the beginners city names and locations, while the more advanced students conversed about historical references in city names. The focus on regions also brought out the various backgrounds of her native speakers. Ms. Shuffelton’s students read and wrote stories using these locations. By having students work with “place,” you expand their language into the larger world.
  • Provide students with a writing sample to analyze for content and outline for form. This approach, common in language arts classes, can be especially helpful for students writing in a second language because it provides parameters that focus the writing. Then, when they begin to write, students can use the writing sample and outline as a model for their own text. Ms. Shuffelton’s students read a folktale and identified its key people, places, and events. Then they outlined a list of key people, places, and events to include in their own folktales. Poetry that has a set format, such as the haiku or cinquaine, also allows students to be expressive without reaching far beyond their language competency.
  • Select articles or readings that will inspire lively debate. For lower-/mid-level learners, reading an article in the target language will help them acquire the necessary vocabulary to express their viewpoints. However, strong heritage/native speakers or students with a high level of proficiency can read an article in English and discuss it in the target language. Ms. Shuffelton gave her Russian IV students (all native/heritage speakers) a New York Times article about Vladimir Putin mandating exercise for better health. Students discussed in Russian whether a leader can order a lifestyle change in today’s Russia. You can adapt this activity by giving students two articles on the same issue (one in English and one in the target language) and having them compare the different cultural perspectives of the authors.

Standards

World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:


Communication
Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpersonal Communication

Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.

Interpretive Communication

Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.

Presentational Communication

Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.


Cultures

Interact with cultural competence and understanding

Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the products and perspectives of the cultures studied.


Connections
Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations

Making Connections

Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively.

Comparisons
Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence

Language Comparisons

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.

Cultural Comparisons

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.

Resources

Lesson Materials
Read-to-Write Activity: Student Work (PDF, 55 K)
Sample worksheet completed by a student during the read-to-write group activity (Includes English translation)

Travel Story (PDF, 21 K)
Instructions that students used to write and present an original folktale

Curriculum References
New York State Education Department: World Languages

Jane Shuffelton’s Additional Resources

Web Resources:
Bucknell University’s Russian Studies Materials
An annotated list of links to Web sites about Russian culture, government, religion, and more

CIA — The World Factbook — Russia
A general overview of Russia’s history, economy, and political system, including population statistics and economic indicators

Olympiada of Spoken Russian
Information about the national competition for high school students of Russian, including contest rules and preparatory materials

Russnet
A vast collection of Russian-language resources, including thematic learning modules

Series Directory

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

Credits

Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2

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