March 13, 2019 | #EarlyLang

Content Based World Language Instruction
from March 13, 2019

On March 13, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed the benefits of content-based instruction, strategies to help students access the content, and how to decide what content to teach. They also gave advice on collaborating with students’ other teachers and how to infuse elements of culture in to the content.

Q1: How do you choose what content to teach? Can you give examples?

Several participants mentioned thematic units, especially for the younger learners. The content should be flexible, based in part on what students learn in their other classes and in part on their interests. Choosing content in this way allows students to make connections between the different subject and gives them confidence to use the TL when talking about content. Teachers plan content in areas such as science and the natural world, math concepts, story elements, history and biography–essentially anything that overlaps with learning on their other classes.

Q2: What challenges have you encountered while planning & delivering content-based instruction?

Many of the responses mentioned the difficulty of complex content for students at lower levels of proficiency. they may want to know more and go deeper, but the content isn’t comprehensible to them or there is a lack of materials that they can understand. Incorporating vocabulary that will be used outside the  scope of the lesson is another challenge, why include it if they won’t encounter it again? Finally, pacing is an issue. Different classes may be at different points, making it harder for the language teacher to build onto what they students already know, or they may “spoil” the content teacher’s lesson by introducing something exciting before it was scheduled.

Q3: How can we collaborate with learners’ other teachers to maximize the benefit of content-based #earlylang instruction?

One thing that stands in the way of effective collaboration is the lack of time to do so. Often, collaboration is limited to informal conversations or a few minutes to ask what content is to be covered. Several participants advised to collaborate however possible–with just one colleague to start, with specials teachers, or to find out what visuals and graphic organizers they use and incorporate those into language instruction. Finally, it is imperative to be open to collaboration, to ask questions, and maintain friendly channels of communication.

Q4: What strategies help #earlylang teachers make content-based units comprehensible?

@rrrrrrrrrrrrosa “High-frequency words. Compelling storylines. Meaningful entrances to the text (*not* necessarily personal – not everything is about you!!!)”

@MllesrtaUrso “Try to put yourself into the perspective of one of your students. Ask yourself, “If I were learning this for the first time, what would I find helpful?”

@MundodePepita “Here’s an ex of one of my 3rd grades during our theme on the solar system-really simple facts about the planets, including order

@kaitlin31415 “ Pictures and picture books. I find this is easiest with the youngest learners and gets harder as they get older and the content gets more advanced”

@srtacoulehan“context!! And modeling. And predictable texts. And compelling input. And humor.”

@suarez712002 “teaching in the TL is a non negotiable from there: visuals, background knowledge, realia, manipulatives, As @MundodePepita said KEEP IT SIMPLE!”

Q5:How can we incorporate elements of the target culture into content-based units?

Participants suggested incorporating realia and authentic resources related to the content. For language arts, include authentic stories and songs. In math, teachers can discuss currency. Different weather patterns from countries where the TL is spoken can be included in science. One participant mentioned mapping where fruits and vegetables come from as a great connection piece and conversation starter. Everyone agreed that content based instruction is a means to teach through the language and provide purpose and motivation for the learners.

It’s reflaction (reflection + action) time! What are the benefits of including content-based instruction in a world language class?

Content based instruction gives a sense of purpose and authentic language experiences. Students may feel more confident due to familiarity with content, also. Another benefit comes from collaboration with other teachers, content based education can simultaneously support bilingualism and one’s colleagues.

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, Jenny Delfini (@JL_Delf), and our co-moderator, Mundo de Pepita(@MundodePepita), for helping to guide the conversation. Thanks also to EMC School (@EMCSCHOOL) for sponsoring tonight’s chat.

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