The Remote Proficiency-Based Classroom

Like in much of the world, many of the public schools across Virginia are embarking upon a few weeks of unforeseen online teaching. Beyond trying to manage the corona virus panic, it can be very intimidating to try to figure out how to teach a proficiency-based language class remotely when the entire point of our instruction is to get kids engaged and speaking to one another. For that reason, I wanted to gather some ideas and strategies for getting students producing in the interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes online.

Before I dive in with some specific strategies and activities you can use, I encourage you to check out Maris’s post about teaching online that comes from her experience in a blended learning classroom. She has a lot of information about useful (and free!) technology tools, and some general tips and guidelines that I’ve also found to be true during my experience teaching in a technology-heavy environment. The most salient points for me from her post are:

  • Be specific with your instructions: As with any lesson, the difference between a great lesson and a disaster lesson all comes down to clear communication of your expectations. Which leads us to our next point…
  • A great rubric is essential: I am a huge fan of adapting the single-point rubric for proficiency, and providing a very well-outlined checklist of the exact components you’re looking for in the assignment.
  • Require proof by production: In Maris’s words, “don’t watch a video and be done.” Have students prove they engaged with the video by demanding they produce language in response in a very specific way (more on that in my next post). If you’re having them engage in online practice tools like Quizlet or DuoLingo, make sure you demand that screenshot proving they actually did the work.
  • Don’t lower your standards for engagement: If you aren’t a worksheet teacher in class, you don’t have to be a worksheet teacher online. There are tons of practice websites you can give them access to if you want them to drill verbs, but before you go too far down that route, know that there are options for helping your students to really engage with the language beyond the “online worksheet.”
  • Take baby steps with new tech tools: I completely agree with Maris that now would be a very difficult time to start using something like Peardeck or Seesaw. Students are going to have enough reasons to throw their hands up in the air and say that this remote learning thing is totally pointless. You don’t want them to become discouraged from engaging with your material because they’re intimidated by a new technology platform, especially if you aren’t going to be there the next day to go through it with them. Try to take baby steps with new technology when you can.

With those tips in mind to ground us, let’s dive in with strategies for getting students engaged in our three modes of proficiency. Up first: Interpretive.

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