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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Workshop

Subjects Matter 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.

Reflect on Your Experience

Consider the types of content-based lessons that you have done with your students, 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 is the content of a foreign language classroom? Why do you think the study of foreign languages has been called a content-free discipline?
  1. What interdisciplinary content have you incorporated in your foreign language curriculum (for example, teaching students in a French class about famous French scientists)? What cross-disciplinary collaborations have you pursued (for example, working with an art teacher to plan a project on the history of Spanish art that students will work on during both their Spanish and their art classes)?
  1. How do you choose the content focus for lessons that address the Connections goal? For instance, who or what determines the content: you, your students, the school curriculum, or a combination of all three? How do you feel about delving into an unfamiliar content area?
  1. Based on your experience, what observations, if any, have you made about how students engage in content-rich activities?

Examine the Research

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


“Making Connections”
Part 1 (PDF, 414 K) Part 2 (PDF, 434 K) Part 3 (PDF, 437 K) Part 4 (PDF, 462 K)
This article addresses the importance of the Connections goal of the National Standards and discusses ways of incorporating content into foreign language instruction.

Met, Myriam. “Making Connections.” In Foreign Language Standards: Linking Research, Theories, and Practices, edited by J. K. Phillips and R. M. Terry, 137-164. Chicago: National Textbook Company (in conjunction with ACTFL), 1999.

Reading Questions

  1. What is the relationship between the Connections goal and each of the other goal areas of the standards: Communication, Cultures, Comparisons, and Communities?
  1. Why has content-based instruction played a larger role in elementary and middle schools than in high schools? What role could content-based instruction play at the high school level? What are the benefits and challenges of content-based instruction at your grade level(s)?
  1. Where on the continuum of content and language integration (Figure 1, p. 144) would you place your classes? Why?
  1. The Cummins model can be helpful in determining what content to teach and when (Figure 2, p. 149). Consider the grade and language level of your students. Give examples of content that would be a) cognitively undemanding, b) cognitively demanding, c) context-reduced, and d) context-embedded. Select one unit you currently teach that may be considered cognitively undemanding or context-reduced. How might you make it more cognitively demanding and/or more context-embedded?
  1. Many consider the Connections standard “Acquiring Information” to be a particularly powerful one for foreign language students. How would you support that claim? What new perspectives or information could students acquire in your classroom that may impact their learning or provide insights useful in other classes?

Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.


Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.