Transcript of Episode 36 with Rich Madel

Transcript of Ep 36: A Departmental Shift to IPA-based Units with Rich Madel


[background music]

Narrator:  This is “We Teach Languages,” a podcast about language teaching from diverse perspectives of real teachers.

Stacey Margarita Johnson:  I’m Stacey Margarita Johnson, and today on episode 36, Rich Madel talks about how his department shifted their thinking from a textbook‑based curriculum to units all based on IPAs.

Rich, thank you so much for being here with me today.

Rich Madel:  My pleasure, thanks for having me.

Stacey:  Would you mind just giving us a little bit of your background, where you teach and what you work on in the profession, so we can orient ourselves to the story you’re about to tell.

Rich:  I teach in the Colonial School District, right outside of Philadelphia. I teach Spanish, I’m in, I suppose, my ninth year teaching Spanish here. I’m also the chairperson of the Department of World Languages. I’m in my fourth year doing that.

Within the profession at large, I am also an Executive Council member for the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association and I also do some doctor work at St. Joseph University where my research focus is on proficiency-oriented pedagogy and assessment.

Stacey:  The reason why we’re chatting today is because your department has done some pretty interesting transformations as far as what your goals are for your students and how you are assessing those, and we’ll get into some of the details of how you did that.

I was hoping you could get us started by telling us what was it that you wanted students to achieve and just really briefly, what did you implement to help your department meet those goals? We can always unpack that as we go.

Rich:  What we were looking to do was, and I don’t think that we necessarily knew this at the time as explicitly as we do now, but we were really looking to grow proficiency among our students.

The conversation originally started when we were looking at AP scores and looking at how we could strategize to improve AP scores. We realized that our students need communicative ability at that highest level and so we unpacked it in a backward design model from there.

The ultimate result is that we took a look at our entire curriculum, our entire course sequence from 1A to AP and we rebuilt it, we tweaked it. It was under construction for a while and we found ourselves using the framework of the Integrated Performance Assessment to guide us through that process. That’s where we are today.

Stacey:  You mention that you didn’t know back then everything that you know now about how you needed to change. Can you give some specific examples of what the process was like for the department as you went through?

Rich:  What we did together, we first started at a very theoretical level. We first started by introducing ourselves to the Integrated Performance Assessment as a concept. During that period, we spent probably the first half of the year really having philosophical discussions about what the purpose of taking a language is. Having theoretical discussions about what the three modes of communication are and what that looks like in our classroom, how we would go about assessing that. What activities do we use to really build in each one of those modes of communication? From there we were then able to task ourselves with, “Let’s try it. Let’s all pilot a unit that culminates with a full Integrated Performance Assessment.”

We were all able to come back to the table now having that experience and have a very practice‑oriented conversation. We were able to talk about the nuts and bolts of what worked, what didn’t work. How did it affect and impact our instruction? How did it impact our students’ performance in each of those three modes?

Ultimately, we decided that it was something that was beneficial for all of those different stakeholders. We moved forward really just again attacking the entire curriculum.

Stacey:  Those initial pilot IPA units that you guys built. How did you actually build those? Was it each person working on their own to create something for their own class, or did you do it in community?

Rich:  I wanted us all to have that practice‑oriented experience. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to send everybody out on their own and do it. I had some of my colleagues that did feel comfortable just taking a section that he or she was teaching on their own and just go for that.

I had some other colleagues that felt more comfortable working with other colleagues in sections that they shared. They worked together and were able to again split the work that way but also share the experiences in that regard. It depended on how they were going about it. I remember spending a lot of time just being there and guiding. I had already done some pilot work on my own, enough that I felt that it was worth sharing with my department and making this recommendation.

Stacey:  I like that. I do some consulting work with faculty on my campus around technology. I often learned the technology maybe six weeks ago or one semester ago. I’m one iteration ahead. I really like that kind of mentorship because I’m not so far ahead that I’m not still learning. There’s still things I don’t know. I’m still really comfortable with the learning process, but I’m far enough ahead that I have a few more answers. [laughs]

Rich:  Oh, absolutely. Certainly the same thing, I’ve presented on what the IPA is, and I’ve worked with other departments as they introduced themselves to the IPA. There does exist an IPA 101, but I can tell you right now I’m in the IPA 301, I’m in this 401, but I am still absolutely learning and figuring out what works, how it’s manageable for my students, how it’s manageable for me as someone who values my time. [laughs] There’s absolutely growth along the way, no doubt.

Stacey:  So, after you did that initial pilot and everyone decided you wanted to pursue this, I guess you had a practice‑oriented discussion, and then everyone decided they wanted to pursue it for the program. Did you continue that system of people getting to decide for themselves? Because an entire IPA curriculum is just such a huge undertaking. I’m just wondering how you managed it.

Rich:  It is definitely a large undertaking. It’s a large undertaking just working at the unit level definitely. What we did is we divvied up the responsibilities based on the sections that we were teaching. If I had a level three and I felt comfortable going with the level three at the pace that I was working, then I was creating the assessments as we went.

I had other teachers who shared level two, so they worked on that collaboratively. Other teachers at a different level felt OK going at their pace. We were very patient, but we were also very diligent with the work that we were doing.

It took over a year to get to a place where we felt that the entire curriculum reflected not just the assessment shift but also reflected again the pedagogical shift that goes along with working with the Integrated Performance Assessment.

Stacey:  Rich, can you tell me how you build a unit based on an IPA?

Rich:  Yeah, so, previously we had been using a text book that we felt comfortable with. Our unit sequence in a large part followed the scope and sequence of that textbook. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. We didn’t want to create extra work for ourselves, especially when we already had these resources.

What we did is we in essence stayed with the thematic framework of a lot of the units that already existed. We constructed essential questions that we were interested in that we thought would be relevant to the students. We took a backward design process, where again we started with an essential question. We identified the specific proficiency target that we were looking for.

From there what we did is we developed and described a communicative event in which all three modes of communication would be necessary. In developing that communicative scenario, it was really important that we detailed it in such a way that it was real world.

It was something that we could say either, A, our students are existing in this world or, B, it’s something that we’re preparing our students and realistically can say that our students would encounter this situation in the real world. Then from there, it was just a function of saying, “OK, now what are the tasks within each of these three modes that are relevant to these communicative scenario?”

For example, we have a unit where we talk about celebrations from all around the world. In that sense our essential question is, “What are these celebrations like in different countries? What are the products and the practices of these celebrations in different areas of our own target culture?”

We found an article in a local Spanish‑speaking newspaper that really did a great job of introducing the concept of the quinceañera. We use that as our interpretive piece. Part of that article was actually multiple case studies of specific families and how they prepared and celebrated their quinceañera. What we were able to do was just assign students these different case studies as in, “OK, this is the quinceañera that you’re going to go to. You can read that.” And then that really provided the content for our interpersonal conversation. We were able to compare and contrast experiences in these different quinceañeras.

From there, going and culminating within the presentation mode, we were able to give back to this family that invited us to their quinceañera. We were able to share with them a celebration that’s really important to our families. We created a scrapbook where we were able to detail ‑‑ this what we did, this is how we prepared. We were able to wrap in all of these different elements of the unit. You really get to see that integrated piece of the integrated performance assessment work. Each part of the assessment really builds off of the other.

Students really required the content now that they get from each one of those pieces in order to progress through the assessment experience. Now, there’s another aspect to building the unit this way, and that is, once we’ve identified what our assessments are going to be in each one of those modes, we’re then able to extrapolate these Can Do statements.

In order for our students to be successful in the interpretive mode, we need them to be able to do X, Y and Z. In order for them to be successful in this conversation, they need to be able to express X, Y, and Z. For me, I used those Can Do statements as my curriculum. What I’m doing is I’m taking a look at those statements and saying, “How do I need to prepare my students? What are we really doing at a task level in order for them to be successful at that more holistic level, working through the IPA?”

I have some colleagues that they still…because they’re still working within that thematic framework, they still feel comfortable using the textbook and using some resources. In that sense, go for it. I have an entire closet of these textbooks that I no longer use. I’m glad that they can use it, but for some of my other colleagues, myself included, we have just absolutely enjoyed the freedom and the liberation of being able to say, “You know what? That part of that unit, not relevant to these tasks. This vocabulary expression, not relevant to these tasks,” or, “You know what? There’s an expression that isn’t in here that we should be incorporating.” And so I have the liberty to go in there and really mold the unit to fit both the tasks at hand, but also that larger, essential question.

This assessment is really driving everything that we’re doing in the classroom.

I think that’s one of the most powerful aspects of working with the integrated performance assessment, is that washback effect and how it’s impacting my practice and also what my students are doing on a day‑to‑day basis in the classroom.

Stacey:  Yeah, I love that. That’s a wonderful example. I imagine that you’re able to better conceptualize and document what your students are able to do and that they’re able to do more because you’re really focusing on that.

I wonder, overall, how are the teachers and students experiencing the new model? Have there been any difficulties or any successes that maybe you didn’t expect?

Rich:  Yeah, especially coming from where we were, we were working within a performance model, in quotations, but our students prior to this, when we assessed an interpretive mode, it was a pedagogically prepared paragraph that they read and it was five true and false questions or it was a textbook listening sample and five true and false questions.

Some of the experience for our students that want it to be easier, they missed that. I think that’s part of the process, is that when you deal with a more complex assessment model, it demands more.

It demands more from the students in terms of what they are doing, but also it demands more from us as the teachers in terms of the time that it takes to evaluate, the time it takes to craft these assessments to make sure that we’re getting the insight that we’re looking for in terms of our students’ progress.

There’re students that miss that old model, but I do think that there are a lot of students that are walking away from this with so much more confidence. The fact that they are, in fact, ready for the real world. Again, we know that as they’re progressing through our course sequence, we’re absolutely sure that they’re able to succeed in these real‑world scenarios.

Stacey:  That’s awesome. I imagine that for the teachers there was a bit of that, too. It’s just a different feedback model and it can be really overwhelming in the beginning. How did you negotiate the workload for instructors?

Rich:  First and foremost, we worked together to really build a rubric for each of those modes that fit our desires as educators in terms of what did we want to see our students, where were the areas of growth that we really wanted to see. We had been working with Fairfax County’s performances rubrics for years.

We took a look at ACTFL’s IPA rubrics. We looked at Ohio Foreign Language Association’s rubrics, and we took bits and pieces from all of them, and really created expectations that were our own and met our needs. Now that being said, as I was mentioning before, working with a dynamic assessment requires time and that is definitely one of the things that, going into using the IPA, I think that everybody needs to understand is that this is no longer grading a true and false quiz. This is taking a look at students’ performance and aligning it to the standards that we’ve set in our rubrics. It does take some time to gain that comfort and to familiarize yourself with the language and the expectations and the different criteria that you set.

Stacey:  Grading performance with a rubric is a skill, also, so it can…

Rich:  No doubt.

Stacey:  It gets easier with time. [laughs]

Rich:  Absolutely, it does.

Stacey:  All of the investment that you guys have put in for really over a course of years to get to where you are, would you say that it was worth it?

Rich:  I absolutely would. Again, if you look at the publications about the Integrated Performance Assessment, there’s often an element of what they call the washback effect. When the washback effect first appeared in literature some 30 years ago, it was really defined as that idea of the behaviors of both the students and the teachers are influenced by the assessment itself.

In that sense, what I’m seeing my students do on a day‑to‑day basis, I think, is absolutely something that we were not doing before. My practice has changed enormously throughout the process of working with the IPA.

I’ve become so much more reflective of what I’m doing to prepare my students with intercommunicative model, really giving students tools for their communicative toolbox, so to speak, in terms of, “How are you negotiating meaning? What are you doing when in this, in, within this task, if communication breaks down?”

Applauding students for strategies they might not even know are strategies. No longer is it a timed writing sample when they don’t understand what the prompt is. Instead, we’re focusing on the writing process, where we are specifically identifying who is our audience, how are we going to engage with them in the presentational mode when they can’t engage back with you, and crafting a message.

It’s inspired our students to be more reflective when they’re working peer to peer, and they’re editing, and they’re giving feedback. For me, it has been absolutely transformational to my practice, working with the Integrated Performance Assessment, just working within these modes and encouraging communicative competence has been huge.

Again, also integrating these authentic resources has allowed us to have conversations of cultures that we weren’t having before. Talking about the three Ps of culture was not something that we had even done before as a department.

Now, it’s standard. Now, we can’t deal with an authentic resource without dissecting these different components of culture and having that conversation and that comparative analysis.

Stacey:  That’s wonderful. I’ve got to tell you, I’ve gotten a lot out of the conversation. I’m sorry that you live so far away, because I think the next thing I want to do is come visit a few of your classrooms and take some notes. It sounds like you guys are doing tremendous work. Thanks for putting it out there so we can all learn from it.

Rich:  No, my pleasure. I’m so proud of us as a department and the work that we’ve been doing. It is absolutely stretched a lot of us in terms of our own personal growth. Again, seeing now what the students are able to do, and especially in comparison of where our expectations were before, it’s awesome. It is really, really cool.

Stacey:  Thank you so much for being here today. This was a tremendous conversation. I know that a lot of people are going to benefit from it.

Rich:  It was my absolute pleasure. I hope to hear from anybody that has questions or comments, by all means. You can find me on Twitter now, but you can send me an email. I’m here to help and to share all that I have.

[background music]

Stacey:  If you would like to comment or give feedback on the show or be a guest on the show yourself, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, @weteachlang, you can comment on any of the episodes on our website, or you can send a text message or leave a voicemail on our Google Voice number, which is 629‑888‑3398.

If you leave us a voicemail, we may even play your question or comment on the air. Don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues about the show. Thank you so much for listening. Bye‑bye.

We Teach Languages Episode 36: A Departmental Shift to IPA-based Units with Rich Madel

In episode 36, Stacey asks Rich Madel, a secondary Spanish teacher and department chair in Pennsylvania, about how he and his colleagues moved from a textbook-based curriculum to IPA-based units that build on authentic resources using backward design.

Read the transcript for this episode here.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

You can find Rich Madel on Twitter @SrMadel or by email

Resources mentioned on the show…

… Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment by Adair-Hauck, Glisan, and Troyan

The Keys to Assessing Language Performance by Sandrock

…  NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements

Performance Descriptors

Ohio state rubrics

Previous episodes that touch on the IPA and performance assessment

Ep 9 with Claire Knowles

Ep 14 with Lisa Shepard

Ep 18 with Catherine Ousselin

Ep 23 with Paul Sandrock

Ep 34 with Raul Rosales


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We Teach Languages Episode 35: Teaching English and French to English-speaking Students with Laura Parker

In episode 35, Stacey talks with Laura Parker about her experiences teaching both English and French to native English-speaking students. Laura discusses the overlaps between the two types of language teaching and some the challenges that ELA (English Language Arts) teachers face in the US high school context.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

You can find Laura Parker on Twitter @LauraErinParker or on her blog

People mentioned on this episode…

…Stephanie Schenck @SraStephanie

…Lisa Shepard @mmeshep and episode 14

The book We Were Liars and To Kill a Mockingbird were also mentioned.

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Transcript of Episode 31 with Maris Hawkins

Transcript of Episode 31: Blogs, Novels, and Teachers Sharing their Work with Maris Hawkins


[background music]

Stacey Margarita Johnson:  This is “We Teach Languages,” a podcast about language teaching from the diverse perspectives of real teachers.

I’m Stacey Margarita Johnson. Today on episode 31, Maris Hawkins is here to talk about how she uses technology, novels, Teachers Pay Teachers, how her blog works, how she got started in blogging — just a wide‑ranging conversation on a lot of topics.

Thank you so much for being here today, Maris.

Maris Hawkins:  Thanks so much for having me. I’ve been following your podcast since this summer, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Stacey:  I am so glad to hear that. It’s exciting to actually have you on the show. You’re one of the first people who reached out and talked to me on Twitter and said that you were [laughs] listening to this show, so thank you so much.

Maris:  You’re welcome.

Stacey:  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know your blog though, since I met you, probably, in August. I actually recently assigned some of your blog posts to my graduate students in my teaching methods course.

Maris:  Oh wow. Thank you.

Stacey:  [laughs] Awesome. How is it that you teach between 8th and 12th grade? That seems like a big spread.

Maris:  I teach in an independent school. So, what happens was, by last year just being a middle school teacher, I developed my blended class which needs two days online. They have, actually the Latin teacher is their proctor. I watch the Latin students, so to start to mimic what they would do if they were taking an online class but with some guidance and help from an actual teacher being there. After that, I moved to the upper school, and so I still continued to teach my blended class.

In the past, I taught just level two, or I taught level two and three. This year, I transitioned to teach level one so I could teach level one without a textbook. I blended classes level two, and then I’m also developing level five class. I have ended up with a much bigger span of languages and ages. I enjoy it because you can do different things with upper schoolers; they’re more independent. But, yeah, that’s how I ended up with all the different grades.

Stacey:  It seems like a lot, especially since you’re doing a no-textbook class, then planning all the way up to fifth year. [laughs] I can’t imagine teaching that big of a span.

Maris:  One of the best things I did, especially with level five, level one there’s always a lot of materials to find, but level five, I’ve been using a lot of resources from Kara Jacobs. She’s done a lot with culture development.

In all levels, I’ve also done novels which I think also helps to base a curriculum, because you have all that already written and then it’s just supplementing.

That’s another great thing about teaching now, is there are so many blogs that are out there and most of them share their resources. Or you can go on Teachers Pay Teachers, especially when they’re having a sale, pay under $10 to get a great unit that will last a month or so.

Stacey:  One of the, maybe, downfalls of Teachers Pay Teachers is you really have to know that the materials are high quality and they come recommended. Do you have any teachers that you would recommend people looking into if they haven’t gone on that site before?

Maris:  Martina Bex ‑‑ I’ve bought a lot of materials from her ‑‑ Kristy Placido, and Allison Weinhold as well, who does Mis Clases Locas. There’s a lot. Also Kara Jacobs as I mentioned before. The CCC Spanish Store is another…

Stacey:  “Si, si, si” as in S‑I, S‑I, S‑I?

Maris:  No. The letter is CC…It’s, compelling comprehensible cultural connections. That one has been great as well. Those are the ones that as I’ve been making the transition, I’ve used a lot of their materials.

Stacey:  That’s really helpful. I’m really interested in the whole teaching with novels thing. There’s just a lot of momentum behind leveled novels right now. I would love to know what your experience has been with that.

Maris:  When I really started to dig into the culture behind the novels that they have, “Frida Kahlo”, which has all the art and all of that within it, has been a great one. The “Agentes Secretos” is also great. It has Guernica and Spain and the civil war.

All of those have allowed me to start bringing that culture in. When I could bring more culture in, that has been able to make it more engaging for students.

I found, especially when I do a class novel, if I do a somewhat easier novel to read, then all of the students are more engaged because they can understand it. I can also assign them some pages that they can read without me, which I think doing whole class readings, at least for me, became a bit monotonous for the students when they were always just relying on me to read to them.

When we are not reading novels, I’ve started doing a lot of free voluntary reading. That allowed me to have students pick what they wanted to read. Also allowed them to read harder books or easier books. Reading all of that Spanish has been really helpful and great for them.

Stacey:  Do you have any check‑ins with the free voluntary reading?

Maris:  Usually, I’ve done a booksnap where they take a picture. Seesaw is an online journal that they can use to post all their work. That’s one way that all my students can do it or they can take a picture with Snapchat and then add a caption. Some of them will add their bitmojis, add pictures to it, but just to see what they’re doing.

Some other people have started to do a bit more of keeping track of what their students are reading, and I would like to try that. It’s just a fine line between wanting to hold them accountable and not wanting it to be something that they don’t look forward to.

The other thing that I do that keeps it successful is even in my upper levels we’d just read for about seven minutes. I’m hoping to extend it throughout the year, but they haven’t done a lot of just sitting and reading in Spanish. I think as we continue to read and develop more, I think it’s important to start small and then increase the time.

Stacey:  One of the things that I often have wondered, when you are using novels or free voluntary reading, is if you’re in, particularly maybe for the lower grades, where you might have more developing or reluctant readers, for instance in middle school [laughs], I’m wondering how you motivate people who have difficulty with reading or people who find it to be very challenging. How do you motivate them to get involved with free voluntary or novel‑based classroom activities?

Maris:  The book that I’m reading in my middle school class is actually the Senor Wooly graphic novel.

That’s was the book that I started with my Spanish Two last year when I had a lot of those reluctant readers and I hope also that graphic novels in Spanish and other languages too would really take off because when you talk about comprehensible input, you can talk a lot around the pictures and what you’re seeing, and give students more input that way.

As far as words on the page, it’s definitely not as intimidating as some of the novels can be. I found that graphic novels sometimes are a good bridge.

My levels-ones today, I just put out a lot of books and they read for three minutes. It wasn’t intimidating to them. I think they think, “Three minutes, I can do this.” One said, “3 or 30?” I said “Just three. ” You know, getting their feet wet.

I think keeping the time manageable, making sure that the book is almost a little too easy for them, specially the first book that you’re introducing, you can’t go wrong because then they all feel like they can understand it and that they’re successful.

Stacey:  Yeah, that’s great. Great feedback. You’re doing a lot of exiting things in your classes. It’s fun to get a peek into how all of these concepts are playing out for you. One of the things I really wanted to talked to you about today is your blog.

A lot of the things you’ve talked about today, you’ve put those ideas on your blog. You share glimpses into your class room and how those things are really working for you. How did you get started blogging? What made you want to do it? How did you get entry into that world?

Maris:  I started out loving cooking blogs. I enjoyed cooking and that was my entry into the blog world. I also always wanted to write a book, so blogging seems like a good intermediary thing. Although I love to cook, I am not an excellent cook. No one would read [laughter] a blog about my cooking, so the only thing that I really felt like I knew a lot about was blogging about what’s happening in my classroom and being a Spanish teacher, although it’s always intimidating putting yourself out there. You also wonder, “Would anyone even read this? How long do I have to write a blog until someone tweets at me, or makes a comment on it, or my numbers start to jump? How many people have actually read it?”

It can be intimidating to do that, but luckily for me, everyone I found has been very kind. Even if they give me feedback because there’s a typo, or one time I had a picture with some graffiti that wasn’t the best. I was just putting up pictures and not really paying attention. Anyway, someone said, “Just so you know, you might want to take this down.”

Everyone always starts out with, “Thank you so much for what you’re doing.” I’ve gotten so many great ideas. They always start off positive. As far as worrying about people hating what I was doing or hating my blog, it didn’t happen. That definitely helped me continue to blog.

Stacey:  Awesome. How long have you been doing your blog now?

Maris:  I started January 2013.

Stacey:  Oh my gosh. It’s been almost five years.

Maris:  Yes, it’s been a long time. It took me a while before I really started to see more people. As I started sharing more on Facebook and starting doing more on Twitter, then I was able to talk to more people and bloggers and things like that.

Stacey:  If there’s someone listening who has thought about maybe doing a blog and isn’t sure if they should get started or how they should get started, what advice would you give to them?

Maris:  I would say definitely to go ahead and get started and trying to blog because initially not that many people will find it. You can write a couple of posts, and then when you’re ready to share it with everyone, then you can go on Facebook and share it in a Facebook group or go on Twitter and share it there.

You can wait until you feel like you’ve started posting a couple good ideas and then share it with everyone. The other thing that I’ve noticed take off this past year has been Facebook groups. It seems like when I first started teaching, there was a lot of sharing going on via different emails, Yahoo groups, and things like that.

I’ve noticed that’s toned down and people have more moved to sharing on Facebook. I would say if you’re not sure about if you want to blog, you can always share a post or an activity that you’re doing on Facebook as well to get to that same community and go from there.

That’s a way to get your feet wet if you’re not ready to start a whole blog.

Stacey:  I also think just participating in a variety of Facebook groups around language teaching gives you an idea of what topics people are talking about and how you might be able to contribute to the conversation before you go out and start blogging, right?

Maris:  Exactly. I don’t think you necessarily have to have a grand purpose when you start blogging. Just sharing what’s happening in your classroom is a great start. It doesn’t have to be a specific theme or a specific niche that you really want to focus on. You can develop that as you go along.

I am a prolific blogger. I think for me, it helps to reflect on what I’m doing in the classroom, and then it helps me organize because for example, I’m starting the graphic novel again with my middle school students. Last year, I blogged day‑to‑day what I was doing.

This year, I pulled up the same post. I’m changing things up, but it’s a way for me to reflect. I think that’s why I am so prolific. For other people, they don’t have to be worried that they’re not posting enough.

I don’t think you have to post every week, every month. It’s just when you have a good idea, when the mood strikes you. We all go through busy times in our lives. One thing that I use also is Bloglovin. I can just have all of the blogs there and anytime someone shares a new post, it’ll pop up.

Stacey:  Is that an app for your phone?

Maris:  It can be an app. I just also use the web version as well.

Stacey:  Well, this was a wonderful experience for me. I’m going to follow up on so many of the resources that you’ve mentioned, all of the teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers, all of the resources like Seesaw and Snapchat.

[background music]

Stacey:  I’m going to make sure to put links to everything you’ve mentioned in the show notes as well. Thank you for being here today.

Maris:  I enjoyed it.

Stacey:  If you would like to comment or give feedback on the show or be a guest on the show yourself, let us know. You can find us on Twitter @weteachlang. You can comment on any of the episodes on our website or you can send a text message or leave a voicemail on our Google Voice number, which is (629)888‑3398.

If you leave us a voicemail, we may even play your question or comment on the air. Don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues about the show. Thank you so much for listening. Bye‑bye.

We Teach Languages Episode 31: Blogs, Novels, and Teachers Sharing their Work with Maris Hawkins

In episode 31, Stacey chats with Maris Hawkins, a middle and upper school Spanish teacher who has used class novels, graphic novels, and free voluntary reading in her classes, as well as a variety of technologies to make student learning visible. Maris is also a prolific blogger and discusses how we can all share what’s happening in our own classrooms as well as get ideas and resources from other teachers sharing their work.



You can read the transcript of this episode here.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

You can find Maris Hawkins online…

…on Twitter @marishawkins

…on her blog

…or on where she is a contributor

Here are the authors and bloggers mentioned on the episode…

Kara Jacobs

… Martina Bex The Comprehensible Classroom

CCC Spanish Store

Kristy Placido Language Store

Allison Weinhold Mis Clases Locas

Here are some more links of resources mentioned on the show…

Seesaw online portfolio tool

Snapchat social photo sharing/editing tool

Bloglovin for keeping up with blogs

novel for language learners Frida Kahlo

novel for language learners Agentes Secretos

graphic novels from Sr. Wooly


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We Teach Languages Episode 20: Language Supervision and Creating Professional Development Opportunities with Noemi Rodriguez

In episode 20, Caleb Howard interviews Noemi Rodriguez, a language supervisor in New Jersey, about the trends and challenges she has observed both in her position as supervisor and in her work as a language teacher. Noemi also discusses her passion and process for creating professional development opportunities for language teachers.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

You can find Noemi Rodriguez online…

…on Twitter: @SrtaNRodriguez

…on Pinterest: SrtaNRodriguez




…WL Tech Institute:



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We Teach Languages Episode 19: Finding your Professional Community and Staying in the Target Language with Caleb Howard

In episode 19, Stacey talks with Caleb Howard, a K-5 Spanish teacher from New Jersey, about the impact professional development has made in his teaching. After attending his first ACTFL convention in 2012, Caleb reevaluated his target language use with his early language learners and started a blog to help others use 90%+ target language in the classroom.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

Caleb teaches at Dr. William Mennies Elementary School, is the current foreign language teacher of the year for NECTFL and FLENJ, and was a featured speaker at this year’s national conference for the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers. Caleb has published over 100 posts on “Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language,” and his resources have been accessed over 700,000 times. Having grown up in Ecuador, Costa Rica and Queens, NY, Caleb loves to help his students appreciate the beauty of cultural diversity. Ask him about PB&J in Costa Rica or solo indoor dining in La Ceibita, Nicaragua.

You can find Caleb Howard online…

…on Twitter @HolaSrHoward

…by email


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We Teach Languages Episode 18: Technology, Performance, and a Proficiency-Oriented Curriculum with Catherine Ousselin

In episode 18, Stacey interviews Catherine Ousselin, a secondary French teacher and coach from Washington, who discusses specific technologies and classroom practices that she employs in her classroom to motivate students to develop proficiency.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

Scholars and resources mentioned on the show:

Catherine Ousselin is a French teacher from Washington state who holds the distinction of being the 2017 Pacific NW Council for Languages Teacher of the Year.  She is also a finalist for the ACTFL Teacher of the Year honor for 2018 and an avid technologist.

You can find Catherine Ousselin online…

…on Twitter @CatherineKU72 

…on her technology blog

…on her proficiency blog

Resources Catherine mentioned…

the AATF (American Association of Teachers of French)

…the AATF French Teaching Resources wiki where you can find units, lessons, infographics, and more curated resources

…the AATF curated YouTube channel

…the AATF Pinterest account

…Twitter teacher chat #langchat

…EDpuzzle for adding quizzes to videos

…SeeSaw digital portfolio tool


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We Teach Languages Episode 14: Making the Transition to Authentic Resources and Proficiency with Lisa Shepard

In episode 14, Stacey talks with Lisa Shepard, a secondary language teacher who, over the course of her 29-year teaching career, has successfully transitioned from verb conjugations and traditional tests to authentic resources and performance assessments. Lisa shares her own journey as well as practical advice for teachers interested in teaching for proficiency.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

Scholars and resources mentioned on the show:

Lisa Shepard has been teaching for 29 years and has an impressive list of accomplishments. She was chosen as the OH World Language Teacher of the Year in 2016. She earned National Board Certification in 2001 (the 1st year it was available for WL teachers) and successfully renewed in 2011. Her session on Integrated Performance Assessment at the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in March, 2016 was selected as an All-Star Session. Her article”My Experience with Integrated Performance Assessment” appeared in the January, 2016 edition of the AATF National Bulletin and another article and another article, “Four Simple Steps to Creating an IPA” was published by (CASLS) the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon in their Intercom online journal on Aug. 10, 2015.

You can find Lisa Shepard online…

…on Twitter @mmeshep

…on her blog

Resources Lisa mentioned…

…Amy Lenord’s blog about lesson design with authentic resources

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