With close to 7,000 attendees from all over the US, this year’s World Languages Expo (the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages –ACTFL– annual conference) was a huge success.
The Expo is THE place to be if you want to take the pulse of our profession. There are many things I could talk about, but for briefness sake I will share just 3 things:
1. The “Communities” standards rock!
I loved ACTFL President Eileen Glisan’s statement that the “Communities” goal areas were “perhaps the most visionary of the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.” [If you don’t know what the national standards or the 5 C’s are, click here to go to ACTFL’s website and click on the “Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Executive Summary” link]
Finally! If you have followed my work at all, you know that I strongly believe that the Communities standards should be moved up the ladder from the bottom to the top. Also, if I had my way, next to the Communities standards there would be a new “C” for “Child.” In my opinion, in the case of young children we should start with the here-and-now of our children and their communities instead of pushing them too quickly into remote cultural topics. A young child will only use the target language if it has immediate applications in his everyday life.
If you don’t see the significance of the Communities standards, let me explain that creating opportunities to use the target language beyond the classroom has a direct impact on motivation, practice, and ultimate level of proficiency acquired.
At ACTFL, there were several special focus sessions dedicated to teaching with Communities in mind, sending a strong message that languages are best learned when used with communities beyond the classroom.
What do I believe is the best language learning ‘community’ for young children? Families! It makes a great difference to get parents engaged early.
2. Ever heard about “high leverage teaching practices”? No? Then keep reading because this is a fantastic project
I confess one thing: I had never heard the term “high leverage teaching practices.” Neither had the majority of the attendees at the Assembly of Delegates, composed by representatives of the 50 states as well as other entities (I went with my state organization, Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey).
Apparently, the term comes from the teaching of mathematics, and it refers to the competencies that all aspiring teacher candidates should acquire in order to become effective teachers of world languages (think of “If I can’t do this, then I won’t accomplish anything” type of practices). Eileen Glisan further explained that these are practices that:
- Are powerful in advancing student learning
- Can be unpacked and taught
- Are unlikely to be learned well only through experience
- Can be assessed
- Can be justified to teacher candidates as being meaningful and useful for becoming skilled practitioners
The question for us was then, “if you were going to choose one competency, what would this be?” At our table we came up with ‘staying in the target language,’ and this turned out to be the most popular response that day.
ACTFL announced that during the next year it will conduct research aimed at identifying some of those high-leverage teaching practices in our field, which I think is a great idea!
On a related note, attendees to the Assembly of Delegates received a copy of the new report The Teachers We Need: Transforming World Language Education in the United States. Click here to go to the National Foreign Language Center and download a copy of The Teachers We Need: Transforming World Language Education in the United States.
3. Collecting data is key
At the Assembly of Delegates, Marty Abbott (ACTFL’s Director of Education) presented the latest data on foreign language enrollment in K-12 public schools. [Click here to go to the ACTFL website and purchase the report Foreign Language Enrollments in K-12 Public Schools: Are Students Prepared for a Global Society?]
So, what are the numbers? (Again, this information is for public schools and K-12 only)
- During the years 2004-05 18% of American K-12 students were enrolled in world languages.
- During the years 2007-08 the number had risen to 18.5 %, however the number of elementary programs had decreased and the number of secondary programs increased.
Agh! What do you think about those numbers? And what about the fact that many elementary programs are being eliminated as we speak due to the economic crisis? Are we preparing our children for a global society when even today most programs start in high school? (And if you don’t know this, as far as language education is concerned high school is way too late for most students!)
At least there were some good news: the Department of Education is trying to implement a consistent process to collect data from the 50 states. The more people know about the state of crisis of our children’s global future the more chances we’ll have of finding good, innovative solutions.
So these were a few interesting things I learned at the Expo. I’d love to know what you learned. Please share in the comments area!
- December 13 & 14, 2010. 27th Annual National Parent Conference, NHSA (National Head Start Association). Virginia Beach, VA. Presenters: Ana Lomba, Ana Lomba Early Languages LLC, and Karen Nemeth, Language Castle LLC. Title: “Parents Partnering with Teachers to Support Success in Home Language and English Development.” To register, click here. [Nota: esta presentación también será ofrecida en español]
- February 16-18, 2011. 40th Anniversary and Annual Conference, NABE (National Association for Bilingual Education). New Orleans, LA. Presenters: Ana Lomba, Ana Lomba Early Languages LLC, and Karen Nemeth, Language Castle LLC. Title: “Re-Imagining Bilingual Education for Preschool: New Technology Strategies for Teachers, Children, and Parents.” To register, click here.
- March 9th, 2011. Free online webinar sponsored by The Investigator Club. 2pm Eastern Time (New York Time). Presenter: Ana Lomba, Ana Lomba Early Languages LLC. Title: “How Toddlers and Preschoolers Learn Languages: Tips and Activities for Today’s Multilingual Classrooms and Homes.” To register, click here.
- March 19th, 2011. Spring Conference, FLENJ (Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey). Somerset, NJ. Presenters: Ana Lomba, Ana Lomba Early Languages LLC, and Karen Nemeth, Language Castle LLC. Title: “Teaching Languages to Toddlers & Preschoolers.” To register, clickhere. [Registration information pending as of 12/1/10]
- May 6th and 7th, 2011. Annual Conference, DVAEYC (Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children). Philadelphia, PA.Presenters: Ana Lomba, Ana Lomba Early Languages LLC, and Karen Nemeth, Language Castle LLC. Title: “New Approaches to Linguistic Diversity: Using Technology to Meet the Needs of Each Individual Child.” To register, click here. [Registration information pending as of 12/1/10]
Ana Lomba is changing the way people think about and interact with young children learning languages. Her Parents’ Choice award-winning books, lively songs, games, stories, and mobile applications are quickly becoming favorites with teachers and parents who want to nurture young children’ inborn language abilities. Key to the success of Ana’s break-through method is a focus on the family as the ideal environment for early language learning – even her signature curriculum for language programs is built with parents in mind. Ana has taught toddler, preschool, elementary school, and college-level Spanish courses, and held leadership positions with some of the most influential language organizations in the US, including ACTFL, NNELL and FLENJ. After graduating with a law degree from Spain, her native country, Ana pursued graduate studies at Binghamton University, Princeton University, and NYU.