I’m Moving

Thank you to those of you who signed up to follow this blog.

It’s been a long time since I posted anything, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I have concentrated on other aspects of what I am doing, such as building up a business and writing in other venues. For another, I wanted to create a blog that I hosted and reflected a bit better what I want to focus on.

I’m still going to write about my “rambles” both literal and figurative, but I want to focus more on various aspects of teaching and helping teachers.

This site will remain up, at least for a little while, but I will be recycling at least some of its content to the new site as well as writing new posts.

The new site is The Intuitive Language Teacher, and I am inviting you to join me there.

Here is what I have written as an introduction to the new site:

Welcome to The Intuitive Language Teacher, a place for teachers, especially language teachers, who want to change students’ lives.

I’m Robert Harrell. I teach German in a public high school, write books, and travel. For several years, I have used Comprehensible Input in my classes, and now I want to inspire and empower other language teachers to bring an intuitive approach to classroom instruction and be able to explain that approach to others.

The purpose of TILT (The Intuitive Language Teacher) is to share the story of my journeys both figurative and literal as a language teacher, as well as my thoughts for the future.

I write about professional and personal development with the conviction that you don’t have to do things a certain way just because “that’s the way we’ve ‘always’ done it.” There’s usually more than one right way to do something.

I write about my experiences and plans for providing practical as well as theoretical materials for classroom teachers and students with the belief that teaching is one of the most significant things we can do – one of the key ways to create value – and learning a new language provides access to a new way of seeing the world.

I write about my experiences and those of others with the understanding that these experiences inform not only our teaching but the lives of others as they experience them through us.

What you’ll find here:

Professional Development ideas and materials

Comprehensible Input ideas

My experiences writing for students and others and ideas about that

My travel experiences and ideas

My philosophy and musings on life, teaching, and travel

The theme that links these seemingly disparate foci is the idea of teaching intuitively.

While some people think that a person either is intuitive or not, this is not the case. Everyone uses “intuition” as well as “sensing” (to use the terms from psychology) in everyday life.

For example, we are “sensing” when we savor a delicious dessert, see that the traffic signal has turned green, follow a recipe or set of instructions, or memorize a presentation. On the other hand, we are “intuiting” when we “read between the lines” of what a person says or does, contemplate where our decisions now will take us in the future, look at the “big picture”, or “tweak” a procedure and create a new way of doing something.

Intuition draws on experience and knowledge from many different places and brings them together without conscious reasoning. Given the dynamic nature of a classroom, teachers rely on intuition all the time as they make spontaneous decisions during instruction; prepare lesson plans and imagine how they will play out in class; consider the needs of the whole class; and adapt procedures, strategies, and activities to create a new way of engaging students.

This blog will be exploring knowledge and experience from teaching, research, travel, and writing to inform and empower readers to follow their own intuition and defend their decisions to others.

You can follow my blog by RSS, updates in your inbox, or just checking in here at the site. Look for a newsletter (new post) every week.

All writing on this site is provided free of charge with no outside advertising. If you’d like to support what I do, share it with others. I ask only that you give proper credit to your sources, whoever and whatever they may be.

I’ll see you on the Road

 

Martina Bex is really mad — and with good reason!

Martina Bex, author and owner of the website “The Comprehensible Classroom”, published a “rant” today. She expresses the frustration of (nearly) everyone who has published materials or provided free materials for others to use: seeing her materials published by others without attribution or recompense (for purchased materials). Read her article here – https://martinabex.com/2017/01/09/martina-bex-is-really-mad/

As Martina points out, this is infringement of copyright. Not only is it illegal, it is unethical.

The problem is, I believe, exacerbated by the digital age. Computers have made it exceedingly simple to copy and paste from one document to another. There is no cost incurred. At least with hard copies there is the issue of cost of materials and time: time spent re-writing a text, cost of paper, glue, photocopying, etc. Both photocopying and digital copying are infringements of the author’s copyright (copy right –> right to copy).

But, someone might object, how is my purchasing a digital text and giving it to a friend different from buying a book and giving it to a friend? It is precisely this: When I buy a book and give it to my friend, I no longer have access to the book. It is a single book, and when I sell it or give it away, it no longer resides in my possession. But (most) people don’t do this with a digital copy. They may do a “digital transfer”, but what they are really doing is making a copy, something they don’t have the right to do. (Don’t forget, it is copy right — right to copy.) They do not lose their access to the text; they cheat the author.

It is even worse when you then present the author’s work as your own, and you compound the problem if you make money or increase your own reputation by doing it. Now, you have not only stolen the material, but you have lied to others about the source, and you have fraudulently misled others about your qualification.

Every one of us needs to act ethically and model ethical behavior to our students. I wonder how many people who present at conferences using other people’s materials without permission or attribution would fail their students for plagiarism? Wow, now we have added a double standard to our list of unethical behaviors.

I take the moral strictures of the Bible quite seriously, but by any set or moral and ethical standards, this is utterly unacceptable. The “Silver Rule”, often attributed to Confucius, admonishes us: “Do not do to others what you don’t want done to you.” The “Golden Rule”, articulated by Jesus of Nazareth, directs us “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Emmanuel Kant gives us the Categorial Imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” Michael Josephson’s Six Pillars of Character remind us of the same thing.

I’m sure Martina and all published authors agree: When tempted to copy or publish someone else’s materials without permission,
DON’T DO IT!

A Question of Ethics?

It’s 2017!

I’m sure that comes as a complete surprise to many of you. :b)

A few weeks ago, I was on my way to work and wanted to stop to grab something to eat because I hadn’t had time to fix breakfast before I left. I stopped at a Jack in the Box, parked, and tried to enter the restaurant.

The door was locked. Since this was a side door, I thought that they had perhaps failed to open it, so I went to the front door. It, too, was locked. I looked at the opening times and then at my watch. According to the sign, the dining area should have opened at 6:00 am. According to my watch, it was 6:38 am. Nonetheless, the door was locked.

Then I saw two employees inside. One was obviously preparing food, and the other was handling the orders.

I rattled the doors. The employee taking orders pointed to the drive-through.

I pointed to the opening times. The employee pointed to the drive through.

I tapped on the sign with the opening times. The employee pointed to the drive through.

I tapped again on the sign with the opening times. The employee pointed to the drive through, shrugged her shoulders, and made it clear that she was not going to come and open the door.

I left without purchasing anything.

Later, I wrote to Jack in the Box and registered my complaint, citing the time of day, the posted opening times, and the response of the employee.

A few days after that I received an automated reply that asked if I had been contacted by a person about this complaint. I clicked on “No” and was taken to a page that indicated I would hear from someone within a couple of days.

Now, several weeks later, I have still heard nothing from a person at Jack in the Box about this incident.

I will never again eat at a Jack in the Box if I have any other option, including going hungry.

Why this reaction to a “minor inconvenience”? Because it became a matter of honesty to me. I can understand having forgotten to open the door, but when I pointed out the discrepancy between what they said and what they did, they refused to correct the matter, and corporate has done nothing to make me think that this is a concern to them. Thus, I choose not to do business with them.

So what does this have to do with Comprehensible Input, Second Language Acquisition, and Language Teaching?

It reminds me that I need to maintain ethical behavior and integrity in my interactions with students. If I tell students that I will do something, I’d better do it, no matter how inconvenient it may be to me. If my behavior is inconsistent with what I say I value, then my students cannot rely on me or trust me.

Even the little things matter.

Do marketers believe their own hype?

The other morning in my school e-mail, I received the following marketing pitch for an online product:

*****

Hi there,
Homework. It’s a necessary evil of your job that is time consuming to create, and students often despise it.
But homework is critical in measuring student outcomes.
Can you imagine how much peace of mind you’d have if you knew you had curriculum aligned practice questions for all of your AP German assignments?
Well now you can. On [Product], we released our Assignments tool. [Product] provides thousands of aligned practice questions for teachers to use in helping students prepare for the APs. Over a million students have used [Product] to score 13.46% better than the national AP averages.
On [Product], you can set up a classroom and begin assessing your students as early as today. Browse our questions to pick and choose which ones to send to your students. Check out how I create one in under a half minute here for Communication:
> Explore [Product] Now

With a school or classroom license, you will have a practically endless supply of assignment combinations you can create. The best part: we take the hard work off your shoulders so you can focus on what they do best: teaching. Just select the questions you want students to answer and let us do all the grading. Curious to learn the secret? Click here to discover out how you can save hours of time this year.

*****

Normally I simply delete these sorts of e-mails. Today, however, I sent the following reply:

Hi [Marketer],
Thank you for your e-mail. I disagree strongly with your first two statements.
1. Homework is NOT a “necessary evil”. It is not necessary, though it is evil as practiced in schools. See Alfie Kohn’s “The Homework Myth”.
2. Homework is NOT critical in measuring student outcomes. I measure student outcomes by what students do with the language in controlled situations, not instances in which they are able to consult dictionaries, online translations, native speakers, etc.
I already enjoy peace of mind because I work with my students for acquisition, providing them with Comprehensible Input, the sole sufficient prerequisite for acquisition.
I am not interested in complicating my life or the life of my students with yet another system to manage.
Do I know that what I am doing works? Yes. My AP pass rate is more than satisfactory. In fact, last year one of my students passed the AP exam after only three years of German instruction.
Please remove me from your distribution list.

*****

Let me expand on my answer a bit. Perhaps some people find my response a bit harsh. It was blunt, but I do not believe it was harsh. There is a difference.

In his book The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn details not only the lack of positive results from traditional homework as usually practiced in schools but also its detrimental, even harmful, effects on student curiosity, imagination, desire to learn, self esteem, family, and many other facets of the lives of students and their families. A look at the website of this product showed me that its marketing emphasizes easing the burden on teachers; it says nothing about easing the burden on students. As the initial writer noted, students often despise homework. It is a pernicious characteristic of American education that the “cure” for something that fails to accomplish its stated goals, actually harms students, and remains the object of nearly universal loathing is to give more of it. In any other endeavor, this would be castigated for the insanity that it is.

Since when is homework about measuring student outcomes? This as always been the role of assessment. Even the most ardent supporters of giving homework have never maintained that it measures student outcomes. As I noted in my reply, the nature of homework allows students to make use of many tools that would not be permitted in a testing situation and thus negates any attempt to measure “student outcomes”. Yes, a student may score well on the homework assignment, but how did the student achieve that score? Does the score indicate the student’s knowledge of the subject and reasoning abilities or simply the student’s capable use of a network of friends. How can the teacher know if the student did what countless students have done for generations: copy someone else’s homework? The claim that this program is about measuring student outcomes is specious.

My counter claim is that I already have achieved what this program is supposed to give me: peace of mind and student achievement. And I have done it more simply, more cost effectively, and with less stress for both me and my students. Since we know that languages are acquired through Comprehensible Input, unless this product maximizes Comprehensible Input for students (it doesn’t), it serves no purpose in my program and actually dilutes the amount of Comprehensible Input my students receive. While other content areas may or may not benefit from this product – I am not in a position to evaluate that – language instruction does not, at least if the goal is acquisition of the language.

For me, at least, adding a new technological, online program complicates my life rather than simplifying it. Thus I reject the product for its failure to align with and support my teaching.

As teachers we must be ruthless in rejecting whatever does not align with and support best second language instruction practices based on research, experience, and information.

What is your opinion?

Organ or piano?

 

Have you ever considered some of the differences between a piano and an organ?

The piano is a tuned percussion instrument. While I can play melodies and harmonies on the piano, the instrument produces sound by percussion; that is, the hammers strike the strings to set them vibrating. With 188 keys, this is a variation on the kettle or steel drums. The idea is the same: produce sound by striking something. Percussion instruments are those that are played by being struck by an object or the hand.

The organ, on the other hand, produces tones by blowing air across a pipe, similar to the way that you make sound blowing across the top of a Coke® bottle, except that in an organ the air cross the bottom of the pipe rather than the top of the bottle. It is a completely different method of producing sound, and the two instruments have different timbres and uses. (I’m talking about pipe organs, not modern electronic organs.)

organ-1550156_640

So, what does that have to do with the language classroom?

For me, there are a number of connections because I think that classroom teaching and corporate music making have a lot in common. (By “corporate” I don’t mean a business but a group of people working together as a body to accomplish a purpose.) However, my starting point for this post is student choral response.

I don’t know how things go in your classroom, but in my classes I occasionally encounter the following scenario:

My class is creating a story or having a conversation, and I want to make certain everyone understands and is following along. One of the ways I do this is to ask a question about a statement that was just made. The rules of engagement dictate that students respond in a way that shows comprehension or that indicates a need for clarification.

Let’s say I ask a yes-or-no question.  Perhaps we’ve just said, “Bob goes to Mars.” I ask, “Does Bob go to Mars?” The entire class is supposed to show comprehension by answering “yes” or otherwise indicating agreement. Or else students indicate that they don’t understand. Instead, I get perhaps half a dozen students who respond. So I ask the question again. Perhaps ten students reply. I ask again. The same students reply. I ask again. The same students reply but are louder. I ask again. The same students reply and are now nearly shouting. The rest of the students remain unengaged.

At this point I stop class and remind students that I want “Laut wie eine Orgel, nicht wie ein Klavier” (Loud like an organ, not like a piano). If this is the first time I use the phrase, I explain the difference.

lindau-1413014_640

How do I make a piano louder? Remember, as a percussion instrument the piano creates sound by striking strings with a hammer. To make the sound louder, I strike the strings harder by pressing the piano keys harder. The harder I press or strike the keys, the louder the piano sounds. Eventually I may be “pounding” the keys to get a fortissimo or louder. This is what has been happening in the class: the same students have simply been getting louder. But I don’t want that. I want participation by more people, not just the same few people getting louder.

How do I make an organ louder?

I make an organ louder by adding voices. I can hold down a key and make the sound louder or softer by adding or subtracting voices through using the “stops” (knobs, levers, sliders, or buttons) on the organ. There are many different possible voices, from soft flutes through the strings to the reeds and even the Spanish trumpets. Each one has its own distinctive and unique sound.

pipe-organ-669589_640

The full organ – pulling out all the stops, including couplers – can be very loud, but it is because all voices are being heard, not just a few loud ones.

That’s why I want my classes to be loud like an organ, not like a piano. Every voice, every student, needs to make his or her own unique and distinctive contribution to the class’s creation.

Check back later for more on the connection between music and teaching.

Advice to a Tutor: how to help a student in a comprehension-based classroom

Today I received an e-mail from a friend who is a former French teacher. She tutors students who want some extra help. As a retired teacher, she has not kept up with the most recent research in Second Language Acquisition but is currently tutoring  a student whose teacher uses TPRS and other comprehension-based strategies for instruction.  As a tutor, she wants to help the student succeed in the class and support what the teacher is doing. Perhaps my reply will be helpful for someone else as well.

My friend’s e-mails are in italics. My reply is in regular type.

Am tutoring a sophomore at [name of school] who’s having trouble in French II.  Since he is a gd student, he has already mastered his vocab, but he doesn’t seem to know verb conjugations, and that story book he uses includes verbs in past tense, but he says he has not studied past tense. There is no workbook to help me, and the activities associated with the book are pictures for which he writes short phrases (not sentences ), as bubbles used for comic bk dialog. 
I don’t know how to help him succeed. Any suggestions? 
Merci beaucoup ,

Hi,

I’m going to give you a short introduction to Second Language Acquisition theory so you can understand better where the teacher is coming from.
While there are a number of theories about Second Language Acquisition, the one thing that all researchers agree on is that Comprehensible Input (i.e. hearing and reading the language in a way that the learner understands) is the single most important element in acquiring a language (whether first, second, third, or other). One group, including Dr. Stephen Krashen (Professor Emeritus, USC) and Bill VanPatten (Professor, Michigan State University), maintains that Comprehensible Input is the sole sufficient requirement for acquisition.
Even without knowing who the French teacher is, I am certain that he or she is teaching with comprehensible input, and probably using TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) as the primary strategy. Some of the practices entailed in this methodology include the following:
– Focus of class is on interpreting and creating meaning, i.e. communication
– Class is conducted in the target language (with support to ensure comprehension)
– Students do not study the language (i.e. learn about the language) but talk about other things in the language
– Meaningful repetitions of language in comprehensible, interesting (even compelling) contexts provide the primary vehicle for acquisition
– Specific grammar instruction occurs in extremely small segments (i.e. rather than class periods dedicated to learning conjugations, direct and indirect object pronouns, etc., grammar is taught as a „pop-up“ that takes a few seconds for each explanation)
– Grammar explanations are always meaning based (i.e. knowing the terminology is not necessary for acquisition or fluency and takes away from time to hear and read the language, so explanations take the form of „[this] means [this]“).
Perhaps an example would be helpful in clarifying the last two points. The student may already know „je veut“  as „I want“. When the teacher introduces „I would like“, rather than teaching about the subjunctive and loading the students with a lot of extra information about when to use it, etc., the teacher simply gives the meaning: „je voudrait“ means/translates as „I would like“, and then uses it with the students in communication: „Would you like to eat right now? Class, [student] would like to eat. What would he like to eat? Would he like to eat pizza or would he like to eat broccoli? [Student], would you like to eat pizza or would you like to eat broccoli? What would you like to eat?“ The conversation can continue as the teacher finds out about what students would like (to do, to eat, to play, etc.).
You may be asking yourself, but don’t students need to learn grammar? Actually, they are learning grammar because grammar is embedded in language. They simply are not learning the terminology to talk about the language; instead, they are using the language to communicate, and the grammar comes with the language.
Part of our understanding comes from research into the way the brain functions. Cognitive psychology researchers have identified different kinds of memory and different systems for dealing with the knowledge contained in them. Just for the sake of completeness, I’ll mention all of them but focus on only a couple. These various kinds and systems of knowledge and memory have different names, so someone else might use different designations. So, we have
  1. Sensory memory: extremely short lived and constantly replaced by new information as we see, hear, feel, taste, smell new things; helps us navigate the world around us
  2. Working memory (aka short-term memory): short lived and limited in scope
  3. Long-term memory: as the name implies, long term and broad in scope; generally divided into two domains and three systems, which are the focus of what I am talking about
    1. Declarative memory: explicit memory that can be easily verbalized and is divided into
      1. Episodic memory: memory connected to time and place (e.g. your memories of your last vacation)
      2. Semantic memory: memory of facts, dates, etc. – information not necessarily connected to time and place (e.g. mathematic formula, dates in history, rules of grammar)
    2. Procedural memory: implicit memory that is not (easily) verbalized (e.g. being able to play an instrument well – we can talk about fingering, rhythm, reading music, etc., but putting it all together and actually playing is not the sum of this knowledge about the instrument; I could know all about embouchure and fingering on the clarinet, for example, and still not be able to play.)
The three kinds of memory: episodic, semantic, and procedural are parts of different systems of knowledge and memory, and they do not cross over, i.e. declarative memory does not become procedural memory. As I mentioned above, rules of grammar are semantic, or declarative, memory and consciously learned. They are useful when I am doing something, like writing, that lets me think of them and apply them.
In spontaneous interpersonal communication, trying to use these rules generally results in very halting sentences with lots of pauses and taking time to think. This is because fluent language use is really part of the procedural language system; it is implicit, and we have an extremely difficult time verbalizing why we do something – most of the time we simply say, „It sounds right.“ In addition, the rules of grammar often do not fully explain the phenomena of the language, so it is better to manipulate the language by using it before discussing the rules of grammar. For example, we have the famous spelling rule of „i before e except after c or when pronounced like a as in neighbor and weigh“. And then we write a sentence like „This weird foreign guy named Keith Stein forfeited his leisure when he heinously heisted an ancient heifer.“ „Exceptions“ include: sovereign, surfeit, weir, caffeine, protein, either, neither, feisty, keister, and many others.
Consequently, if you are trying to tutor this student on verb conjugations, you are not equipping him to do well in this particular classroom. What he needs is more exposure to the language in a way that he understands. You don’t really need a workbook, just more language. Try to find things that he can understand for him to read and watch. You could ask him to tell you more about the pictures and stories that the class creates and reads. Also, simply carry on conversations with him in French, providing him with any words or forms that cause him to stop – but don’t stop him to correct something that is wrong unless he stops and asks about it. Instead, just keep giving him more comprehensible input (including reformulating his statements with correct French) and answer his questions as they come up. Think about how you would talk to little kids learning English – but just remember that his cognitive abilities are those of a teenager. (How’s that for a nice conundrum?) Shelter the vocabulary, not the grammar.
Hope this helps.
And the reply:
Thanks so much. Your comprehensive answer was very enlightening. I hope that I will be able to help him gain fluency, and that the improved facility will result in improved grades  (his immediate goal, naturally). We will work on conversation !  
I hope this helps others as well.

Thoughts on ACTFL 2016

Dateline: 21 November 2016

As I write this, I am sitting on a Delta airplane on its way to Long Beach, CA. This has been a long travel day, and I have done a number of different things during it: I read Kristy Placido’s book Hasta la Sepultura (a good read, btw); I started Eileen Glisan and Richard Donato’s Enacting the Work of Language Teaching: High-Leverage Teaching Practices (also good but completely different); I took a nap; I successfully made two short connections (one in MSP and one in SLC) in which I literally walked from one airplane to the other and boarded with no waiting [Edit: my bags made all the connections as well; hurrah for Delta!]; and I reflected on the past weekend in Boston at the ACTFL 2017 Convention and Language Exposition.

First, I want to thank Carol Gaab and Fluency Matters (visit at www.fluencymatters.com) for allowing me to work with her and earn my registration in exchange for “sweat equity” (though not much sweat was actually involved, just a lot of interaction with teachers as they came by the booth). I won’t even hold it against her that she scheduled me to work during the Tea with BVP broadcast; someone had to do it, and I had the opportunity to talk to other teachers not only about the books that Carol offers but about contemporary language teaching.

Second, it was great to meet a lot of people in person whom I have known online for years. It was genuinely a pleasure to get to know them personally, even though I was a little taken aback that everyone greeted me with “It’s Robert Harrell!” Grant Boulanger, one of the five finalists for ACTFL Teacher of the Year*, even had everyone applaud me when I walked in slightly late to his session. I felt like a celebrity. Thanks.

*I dislike and will not use the common “acronym” for Teacher of the Year: it sounds like the word for a plaything, and it isn’t even a full acronym because it uses one of the connecting words but omits the other. Nope. Won’t use it. You guys will always be Teacher of the Year to me. Grant Boulanger, Michele Whaley, and Darcy Pippins were all finalists, and one of them should have won – at least in my opinion.

Third, I had the opportunity to see a couple of people who were at the Madrid Campus of St. Louis University with me in the early 2000s. It was nice to re-connect.

Fourth, I enjoyed spending time with like-minded teachers, teachers who are committed to Teaching with Comprehensible Input. Not only between sessions but also in the evening, we were able to spend time together. Two evenings we went out to eat. The first night the group reserved at table for six, and fourteen showed up. The second night the lesson was learned, and a table for fourteen was waiting for us. In addition to good food, we had great company and, of course, talked shop but also found out more about one another. After getting to know them better, I like my colleagues even better than I did before.

Fifth, I had a nice time seeing Boston. Because of scheduling, I arrived in Boston early Thursday morning after a rather short night. Fortunately, the hotel had a room available, and I was able to check in and take a nap. Then I went to the convention center and helped set up the Fluency Matters booth. (In all honesty, I didn’t do much.) After that I took the tourist trolley. I recommend the trolley, but start earlier in the day than I did. Still, I was able to visit Old North Church and then ride the trolley to see Boston (complete with commentary). On Sunday afternoon I walked around a little bit and visited the Boston Harbor Tea and Ships Museum (included in my trolley ticket). It was an interactive tour that re-created some of the events leading up to and following the Boston Tea Party. I also recommend this experience for anyone going to Boston. After the visit, I went to the Barking Clam and had some delicious Boston clam chowder and then walked back to the hotel.

Sixth, the keynote speaker presented us with a lot to think about. Mike Walsh is a “futurist” and asked us to consider what the future looks like from an anthropological rather than technological point of view. No matter how technological the society becomes, humans still need personal contact, and we relate through language. Mike predicted that the need to learn other languages will likely grow in the future, in part because of the need to understand global culture(s), and that teachers will not become obsolete; they will simply need to adapt to how their students learn and access information. His statement that “The algorithmic teacher of the future will combine an insight into the human experience with a flair for computational thinking” provides a lot of food for thought.

Sixth, the sessions that I attended were excellent.

Darcy Pippins, SWCOLT 2016 Teacher of the Year, presented on “How to Teach a Novel”. She reminded us that Input is how we acquire language, reading is one of the primary means of getting input and possibly the best way to increase vocabulary, and culture can be embedded in the reading. Many of the newer readers are excellent in capturing an aspect of the target culture. The session walked us through preparation for reading, by both teacher and students, as well as reading strategies and tools. Darcy also discussed Reader’s Theatre, something that I have done for years, and provided me with new ideas for ways to make this strategy even more engaging. Ideas for post-reading came next, and then Darcy shared some of her favorite readers. Unfortunately for me, she is a Spanish teacher, so there were no German readers on her list.

Kristy Placido, author and Spanish teacher, showed how to use MovieTalk, a strategy developed by Dr. Ashley Hastings as part of the Focal Skills approach to language instruction, with commercials and provided examples that will work in nearly every language because they contain little or no dialogue. She reminded us that the commercials are authentic resources, and the activity provides students with a bridge to reading “authentic resources”. In addition, Kristy provided us with plenty of ideas for other activities and ways to engage students.

Grant Boulanger, CSCTFL 2016 Teacher of the year, led a session on creating a classroom culture that engages students, is safe, and encourages them to communicate in a very real way even before they are able to speak or say more than a word or two. He reminded us that comprehension is the key to success and walked us through some rubrics to help students Prepare, Interact, Engage, and Enhance their language experience.

There were many other excellent sessions, but these were standouts for me.

I’ve already started making plans to attend ACTFL 2017 in Nashville, TN, and am working on a proposal. I’ll let you know what I propose and, once I know, if it is accepted. I encourage other teachers using Comprehensible Input to submit proposals as well. We all can learn from one another.