Paul Ibsen, Asst. Head for Finance and Management at Providence Day School in Charlotte sent me a digital news clipping and it is worth a read, or forward it to your Foreign Language Chair. As those of you who followed my EdJourney know, a number of schools have found highly engaging ways to move foreign language study away from the drill and kill of language labs, memorizing dialogues, and grammar quizzes. Schools around the country are challenging their foreign language teachers to create opportunities for student ownership, public sharing, creating rather than consuming, and practical, real-world conversation. I reported on schools, including St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Potomac, MD and Hutchison in Memphis that have abandoned traditional written assessments in foreign language in favor of conversations between student and teacher, and these schools report improvement in their language results.
The article Paul shared is about a Spanish language play written acted, and produced by a class from PDS. Here are some highlight quotes; you can read the full article here in the online version of the Charlotte Observer.
The actors attend Barron’s Spanish CCT class, as in “composition, conversation and theater.” He compares the traditional “hear and repeat” style of language instruction to “a tennis lesson where the pro stands on one side of the net and hits all the balls,” he says. “You have to hit the ball yourself.” So he makes sure they do.
“We invented characters and worked up plot lines,” says senior Alexis Ferrette, who plays Mexican gymnast Fe (Faith). “At first, I had to figure out what the (dialogue) meant: What is Fe trying to say? What are her feelings? Now I think like her, and the emotions come naturally to me when I’m speaking lines in Spanish.”
Gregor also notes he and his cast mates have “come out of their comfort zones.” Barron believes that’s a good thing.
“Learning a language is a fundamentally messy process,” he says. “You have to make the mistakes and know that it’s OK. to make them.
“I don’t pretend to be putting on Broadway plays, but my kids surprised me last year,” he says. “They were excited, motivated, proud of something they wanted to share with the public. Logistically, getting other schools involved would be brutal – but it would be a blast.”
Thanks, Paul and PDS for sharing. How does your school engage students like this in foreign language classes?