14 March 2016

#CSCTFL16 Takeaways - Why and How Language Learning is Vital for Everyone

You know, if you can't make it to ACTFL, CSCTFL is definitely a solid substitute. So many of the brightest minds in language education were there to talk with and learn from, that I almost couldn't tell it wasn't the national conference! Not that all of us SCOLT, SWCOLT, and PNCFL representatives can make it every year, but it worked out nicely this time.

And it changed my whole outlook on life and language learning.


Friday morning I got to watch a fellow SCOLT amiga do her thing and persuade people to the portfolio side while my SWCOLT amiga liberated a full house from the vocabulary list. And then John DeMado BLEW. MY. MIND.

Can I make a confession? As a language teacher for the past 10 years, I have not, myself, been TOTALLY convinced of the relevance of language instruction for everyone. I mean, I thought it was GOOD, and I thought it was USEFUL. But NECESSARY?

And then DeMado demonstrated how oral language builds THE most important ability to literacy development: GUESSING. And languages are the only discipline with the
to shed light on the process

Friday Afternoon was not only an opportunity to share my own strategies on getting more out of doing less, but to absorb some higher-order thinking strategies from Carol Gaab and some dead-on TL strategies from Carrie Toth before discovering the best essential questions for language instruction I have ever seen from Laura Terrill. AND I think Michelle Kindt finally gave me what I needed to make SSR work!

Perhaps the best part of any conference, though, is after the sessions.

If ever there was any doubt in my mind that what we as language teachers do is 100% VITAL, the discussion--the debate--I was lucky enough to join in with some of my most respected colleagues sealed the deal.

What we offer as language teachers is a RESPECT that is only possible through absorbing and accepting the possibility of endless possible answers to the great questions of life. The ability to not only entertain, but admire other worldviews is something every human should be steeped in from an early age.

History classes can only do so much, but language classes help people live that openness every day.


Saturday was full. And I mean full. There were amazing sessions happening while workshops were whirring and #LangChat was atwitter. Lisa Shepard revealed her IPA secrets, Lisa Lilley and Mira Canion energized everyone, while Mercedes Koch and Ryan Rockaitis made grading make more sense.

While I was #LangChatting, though, there were a few sessions on Saturday that made me feel like I missed out...and I didn't. The tweets were flying, so I still got some great ideas from the dedicated tweechers who were there! I got some great ideas on incorporating the interpersonal and engaging novices (from newly minted #LangChat mod and CSCTFL ToY, Sr. Boulanger!)

In later sessions, I had my tweeps there riding shotgun with me to collect great ideas on circumlocution from one of our #LangChat founders and more great ideas to develop units from Donna Clementi.

The Twitterverse got a little quieter as online homies started heading home, but there was still plenty of good stuff going on, between summer camp setup ideas, story telling, business Spanish, and standards-based grading.

Aside from my outlook-altering epiphanies about the indispensable nature of language learning, here are a few of my takeaways:

  • conduct interpersonal interviews for IPAs in small groups to make students more comfortable and elicit more natural interactions
  • make conversation about listening as much as talking, so debates aren't a fact-off
  • use FVR for 2-3 minutes to start with and "light accountability" like discussing cognates and characters afterward
  • topics aren't themes without essential questions students feel compelled to answer
  • personal stories and gossip are 65% of conversation

What did you take away from CSCTFL--or our tweets?

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