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.
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.
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.
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.
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.