Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Workshop
View & Analyze the Video
In “Subjects Matter,” Patsy Lightbown, Professor Emeritus of Concordia University in Montreal, addresses the balance between form and content in a content-based language classroom. Professor Lightbown also joins a round-table discussion on effective ways of planning for content-based instruction, moderated by University of Pittsburgh professor Richard Donato, and including teachers Jai Scott of Columbus, Ohio, and Yo Azama of Salinas, California. The video also features excerpts from Mr. Scott’s and Mr. Azama’s classes, as well as other classes across different grade levels and languages.* The video addresses the following questions:
- What is the content of language instruction?
- How is language transparent or opaque?
- When do you focus students on form?
*The classroom excerpts featured in this video are from the Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 video library. To learn more about the featured lessons, go to the Library Videos Chart.
Watching the Video
1. What is the content of language instruction?
- In the classroom excerpts, how did the teachers present content? What kinds of tools or resources did they use to help students understand the content?
- The classroom excerpts included examples of students in beginner-level language courses talking about the solar system, chicken pox, and the circulatory system. How does the vocabulary for these lessons compare with the typical vocabulary in a beginning foreign language course? In what ways is this vocabulary passive and/or active for students? What might be the benefits and challenges of incorporating this type of vocabulary into language instruction?
- Professor Lightbown suggests that a thematic approach is a good way to introduce more content into classes. What do you think are the advantages of this approach?
2. How is language transparent or opaque?
- How do you decide when to make language transparent during an activity and when to make it opaque? How do you determine when to focus on form, when to focus on meaning, and when to transition between the two during activities?
- In the video excerpts, what did you observe about teachers focusing on form? Were they able to do so without losing meaning? How?
- In the video excerpts, what observations did you make about how students dealt with content during activities? How did they tackle language forms?
- How might a teacher choose what content to teach? What influence does form have on the choice of materials?
- What factors help a teacher decide when to correct an error explicitly? How does a student’s proficiency level influence error correction?
4.1 Before you Watch
To begin this workshop session, you will tap your prior knowledge and experience and then read current research on content-based language instruction.
Overview 0 Overview
This six-minute video introduces you to the Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 Workshop series and provides you with a virtual tour of the Web guide. Watch the video to familiarize yourself with what you will be doing as a participant in the workshop, or to launch a study group using the workshop.
workshop 1 Meaningful Interpretation
This session looks at how the interpretation of texts (including documents, paintings, movies, audio recordings, and more) can go beyond literal comprehension and tap into students' background knowledge while fostering critical-thinking skills.
workshop 2 Person to Person
Focusing on interpersonal communication, session participants discuss how students use language to make themselves understood and to understand others. The session also explores how different teaching approaches encourage or discourage meaningful student interaction.
workshop 3 Delivering the Message
Looking at the presentational mode of communication, this session shows how students and teachers consider a variety of audiences as they create and deliver written presentations.
workshop 4 Subjects Matter
Foreign language teachers promote language learning within the context of other curriculum areas, such as geography, science, and language arts. A look at the research helps teachers address the balance between grammatical form and content in the language classroom.
workshop 5 Rooted in Culture
This session looks at the ways teachers can investigate cultural products and practices with their students and how this will help the students develop a deeper sense of the cultural perspective.
workshop 6 Valuing Diversity in Learners
Students come to the language classroom with a range of literacy and language skills, as well as varying cultural backgrounds and experiences. This session looks at how teachers can help students individually progress, as well as use students' unique skills to contribute to the growth of the class as a whole.
workshop 7 Planning for Assessment
Assessment can be embedded in relevant, meaningful, and authentic performance tasks throughout the year, as well as in culminating activities. The session also addresses the value of ongoing feedback to learners.