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

Arabic: Teaching Arabic Overview

Provides background on the standards with commentary by teaching experts and clips from the classroom programs.

اضغط هنا للترجمة باللغة العربية

Arabic is facing some of the same challenges as many other languages that are new to being taught in U.S. schools. Do we have educators in place? Is there community interest? Are there going to be resources and materials in place?

– Paul Sandrock, ACTFL

The Rising Demand for Arabic-Language Instruction

With more than 300 million speakers, Arabic is the fifth-most spoken language in the world. Most speakers of Arabic live in the Middle East and North Africa. But there are millions of Muslims throughout the world who use Arabic—the language of the Quran—for religious purposes.

While only a small percentage of Americans speak Arabic, it has become the fastest-growing language in the United States, according to the 2014 Census. The census also revealed that the number of Arabic speakers in the United States rose 29 percent between 2010 and 2014 alone, and that now more than a million Americans speak Arabic at home. Reflecting this surge in popularity, demand for Arabic-language instruction in primary and secondary schools in the United States has risen. More and more students—including those with Arabic or Islamic heritage—are interested in learning about the Arab world, given its centrality in international affairs.

Addressing the Challenges

Teaching Arabic for communicative purposes in K–12 in the United States is a fairly new phenomenon. Research findings support this notion. A 2012–2013 survey of 201 U.S. public and public charter schools by Qatar Foundation International (QFI) revealed that fully 68 percent of Arabic programs had been started in the five years preceding the survey. As with any foreign language new to U.S. schools, there are challenges related to integrating Arabic into K–12 curricula:

  • Community support—While the number of K–12 Arabic programs has been increasing, sustaining this trend may prove difficult, especially in places where misconceptions persist between Arab and non-Arab residents.
  • Availability of qualified teachers—With very few colleges and universities offering degree or certificate teacher-training programs tailored for Arabic, there is a shortage of training and professional development opportunities for Arabic-language teachers. To meet the growth in demand for teachers, many K–12 schools have been recruiting Arabic speakers who may have little or no prior teaching experience.
  • Access to Arabic resources and materials—The lack of standards-based teaching and curriculum materials for Arabic-language programs in American schools puts an undue burden on middle school and high school teachers to create their own materials. Most mainstream Arabic textbooks do not address current cultural trends, do not align with national or state standards, and were not designed for today’s digital classrooms. In fact, many of these come from the Arab world and were not intended for nonnative learners.

Adding Arabic to the Annenberg Learner Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 video library addresses these challenges in the following ways:

  • The videos can help familiarize less-experienced teachers with different approaches and methods for teaching languages in general. They can also provide teachers with knowledge of key concepts regarding the most effective practices for teaching Arabic to nonnative speakers.
  • Questions included throughout the lesson materials activate current knowledge through reflection and help connect the video lesson to one’s own teaching.
  • The selection of Web and print resources shared by the teachers who appear in the videos can further enhance the quality of instruction, helping to convey cultural content, inspire task-based activities, and more.

Equipping teachers with training and tools is critical to the success of any language program. As more Arabic programs succeed, additional schools may be encouraged to build programs of their own. This can be expected to strengthen teaching and learning standards, enhance cultural understanding, and, in turn, help foster community acceptance.

The Teaching Arabic Video Collection

The most important thing for teachers of Arabic who are teaching at K–12 is how to create a learner-centered classroom.

– Mahmoud Al-Batal, University of Texas


About This Collection

This collection of videos illustrates best practices for K–12 Arabic-language instruction. The videos demonstrate what good teaching looks like, highlighting many of the effective practices that real teachers use. The videos provide examples of successful methods and styles used by teachers in classrooms like yours. The seven videos feature teachers from different backgrounds in regions across the country. Elementary, middle, and high school classes are all represented, in both public and public charter schools.

The videos address some of the greatest needs identified by teachers in the areas of differentiated instruction; using a learner-centered approach; and integrating instruction of culture, content, and language. Support materials with each video provide insights into lesson design, prompts to connect video content to your teaching, and resources to help teachers develop their own lessons, classroom activities, and teaching materials for a range of student competency levels.

Teaching Arabic Overview Video

To begin, watch the “Teaching Arabic Overview” video, which includes excerpts from the lesson videos that capture the range of teaching practices shown in the collection. You will also see reflections from teachers, students, and experts in the field that frame the issues faced by Arabic-language programs.


Classroom Videos

After watching the overview video, explore the seven classroom lessons in the Arabic collection.

  • “People Who Help Us” Khamael Alaloom introduces her first-grade class to people who help in the community. This lesson is designed around the School and Global Communities standard and features vocabulary-building activities.
  • “Vegetables We Like” Rita Lahoud’s second-grade students draw pictures of vegetables they like and don’t like and present their work to their classmates. The lesson highlights how the teacher manages a classroom of young learners, keeps students in the target language, and connects art-based lesson content with language goals.
  • “Comparing the Weather” Wael Fawzy’s sixth graders compare the weather in Arab countries with weather where they live. Students practice speaking and writing using Modern Standard Arabic infused with dialects.
  • “How We Spend Our Free Time” Katie Quackenbush’s eighth-grade students practice asking and answering questions using “you” and “I.” The student-led lesson facilitates language production yet allows students of different abilities to work at their own pace.
  • “A Place I Call Home” Manar Mayalah’s high school students learn vocabulary used to describe different features of a house and interview one another about their own dream houses. The lesson features carefully sequenced activities that promote student learning, as well as visual elements that promote cultural learning.
  • “Making Sales Calls” Eric Bartolotti’s high school students practice using basic greetings and expressing likes and dislikes through a role-playing activity. The lesson design facilitates language production and supports students of differing abilities.
  • “Making Plans” Belal Joundeya’s high school students engage in authentic conversations about what they will be doing in the future. Classroom activities emphasize the Interpersonal Communication mode, and the lesson progresses from heavily guided practice to independent practice.

Series Directory

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.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2