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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Workshop

Valuing Diversity in Learners Before you Watch

To begin this workshop session, you will tap your prior knowledge and experience and then read current research on working with diverse learners.

Reflect on Your Experience

Consider the instructional strategies that you have used to meet the needs of different kinds of learners, 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. Describe the cultural, linguistic, and/or ethnic diversity in your classroom. How do you draw on this diversity to promote learning?
  1. What learning styles seem to predominate among your students (for example, auditory, visual)? How do you accommodate those learning styles?
  1. If you are familiar with the concepts of the multiple intelligences theory, what steps have you taken to incorporate them in your teaching?
  1. In multilevel classes or ones in which proficiency levels are quite varied, how have you differentiated instruction for the range of performance levels?
  1. Have you taught special needs students in your classroom? If so, how did you respond to the instructional challenges that they posed? In your experience, how can learning disabilities or learning differences affect learning in a foreign language classroom?
  1. What school resources have you found to be helpful when you are faced with making an accommodation that you have not had to make before?

Examine the Research

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


“Understanding Learner-Centered Instruction From the Perspective of Multiple Intelligences” (PDF, 998 K)
This article describes an action research study that identified, documented, and promoted real-world application of the multiple intelligences theory in foreign language and second language classrooms.

Haley, Marjorie Hall. “Understanding Learner-Centered Instruction From the Perspective of Multiple Intelligences.” Foreign Language Annals 34, no. 4 (July/August 2001): 355-367.

“Multiple Realities of the Classroom”
Part 1 (PDF, 654 K) | Part 2 (PDF, 637 K) | Part 3 (PDF, 476 K)
This article describes some of the challenges presented by the different kinds of learners that make up today’s foreign language classrooms and addresses what can be done to accommodate these learners.

Barr-Harrison, Pat, and Cathy P. Daugherty. “Multiple Realities of the Classroom.” In Agents of Change in a Changing Age, edited by Robert M. Terry, 79-105. Northeast Conference Reports. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Co., 2000.

Reading Questions

  1. What difficulties do you foresee in creating an environment in which each student can feel challenged, especially in a class with diverse learning styles, paces, and achievements?
  1. Take the multiple intelligences survey in Appendix B of the Haley article. How accurately does it reflect your own learning preferences? How might this influence your teaching?
  1. What insights did you gain from reading about the multiple intelligences study? What questions do you have about the study or its results?
  1. Which aspects of working with at-risk, special needs, or gifted and talented students are of most concern to you as a language teacher?
  1. If you have heritage language speakers for the language you teach in your class, how would you describe their language competencies?
  1. What additional recommended strategies and resources would you add to Table 2 (pp. 91-92 of the Barr-Harrison article), based on your experiences?
  1. What insights did you gain from how Ms. Garcia and Ms. Brown adapted instruction in the case study on pages 99-102? What would you have done differently?

Assignment: Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.


Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.