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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Workshop

Engaging With Communities Before You Watch

To begin this workshop session, you will tap your prior knowledge and experience and then read current research on the benefits of giving students opportunities to interact with the target language community.

Reflect on Your Experience

Consider the types of experiences your students have had with speakers of the target language both inside and outside the classroom, then answer the following questions. You may want to save your answers in order to reflect on them again at the end of the session.

  1. What opportunities do students have in your school or community to use the target language? Which ones have you been able to incorporate into your lessons?
  1. Have you used technology to enable students to interact with target language communities? If so, how?
  1. What opportunities do students have for field trips or travel abroad programs to places where they can use the target language? What opportunities could you create for your students to expose them to the target language?
  1. What are the benefits of having students use the language outside the classroom? What kinds of challenges have you dealt with while creating community experiences for students?

Examine the Research

Read the article listed below, then answer the following questions.


“Communities of Learners: From New York to Chile”
Part 1 (PDF, 726 K) | Part 2 (PDF, 973 K)
This article describes a unit on Chile conducted in a seventh-grade Spanish class that featured multiple interactions with communities of native speakers, including an email exchange with Chilean students, a visit to a nearby Chilean bakery, and a discussion with a teacher who is originally from Chile.

Hass, Mari, and Margaret Reardon. “Communities of Learners: From New York to Chile.” In Collaborations: Meeting New Goals, New Realities, edited by June K. Phillips, 213-241. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Company, 1997.

Reading Questions

  1. This article illustrates how the concept of communities can provide both content and context for communication. How was community used as the content for the unit? What skills did students develop when community provided the context for communication tasks?
  1. What teaching strategies for effective keypal exchanges are evident in the unit on Chile? What other strategies might you use?
  1. How does using a thematic approach to curriculum support the Communities standards? List some specific themes in your curriculum that could appropriately link to the Communities standards.
  1. How does using language in the community — both through the email exchange and the field trip — further language acquisition? In what ways do the Communities standards allow learners to experience the “power of language”?
  1. If you were to use the project described in this article as inspiration, which activity might you try first? What adjustments would you make for your students and for the language that you teach?


Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.


Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.