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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Workshop

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Video Summary

In “Valuing Diversity in Learners,” Professor Marjorie Hall Haley of George Mason University in Virginia talks about ways of addressing multiple learning styles and levels in a standards-based foreign language classroom. Professor Haley also joins a round-table discussion on effective instructional practices for diverse learners and methods for connecting research to practice. The discussion is moderated by University of Pittsburgh professor Richard Donato, and includes teachers Debra Terry of Springfield, Massachusetts, and Barbara Pope Bennett of Washington, D.C. The video also features excerpts from Ms. Terry’s and Ms. Bennett’s classes, as well as other classes across different grade levels and languages.* The video addresses the following questions:

  • How do you define diversity in learners?
  • What instructional strategies work for diverse learners?
  • How do teachers connect research and theory to practice?

*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.

Watch the Video

Watch the video “Valuing Diversity in Learners,” and take notes as you watch. Consider pausing at the end of each section to answer the questions before moving on to the next section. If you are working in a group, discuss your responses; if you are working alone, reflect on them in your journal.

1. How do you define diversity in learners?

In this section, Professor Haley describes different ways to define diversity. The teachers then describe the learner diversity in their classrooms and share strategies for learning about students’ interests and needs.
  • Surveys and classroom observations were mentioned as techniques for learning about students. What other strategies might a teacher use to learn about students’ backgrounds and learning preferences?
  • In what ways did Ms. Terry use the Spanish heritage of her students to help them learn French? What additional approaches might a teacher use to help students whose heritage language is not the target language?

2. What instructional strategies work for diverse learners?

In this section, the group talks about strategies for accommodating diverse learners in a single classroom. Professor Haley also shares the results of a national research project that looks at the theory of multiple intelligences in foreign and second language classrooms.
  • What strategies do you observe Jane Shuffelton using with the different levels of learners in her Russian classroom? What strategies do you observe Haiyan Fu using with her Chinese language students?
  • What role can grouping play in a classroom of learners with diverse skills and/or learning approaches?
  • What strategies did the teachers in the classroom excerpts use to create a positive learning environment for both the heritage and English language students in their classes?
  • How can teachers help students to value the diversity of their classmates, particularly when the students’ skills or learning styles set them apart from one another? How can teachers provide for students whose skills or learning styles are different from their own, while acknowledging the validity of other learning styles?

3. How do teachers connect research and theory to practice?

In this section, Professor Haley talks about the value of using theory and research to inform practice. The group also discusses the benefit of teachers conducting action research projects to collect evidence on their own teaching practices.
  • How do the teachers’ practices in the excerpted classes reflect an understanding of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theories?
  • What are some benefits of conducting action research projects? Describe potential benefits to the teacher, students, and school. What might be the challenges?