Saturday, November 20, 2010

ACTFL 2010, Boston

ACTFL stands for the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages.

I had a great time.

I was right that it would be a long day.

Right now my head is exploding with positive pedagogical energy. No notes at the conference but many clear ideas ringing in my head. This was a GREAT day and I must thank my GREAT district for funding it. We did it as cheaply as we could and the payoff will outweigh the cost in the long run. Good for the children, this one!

The target language MUST be experienced IN the target language 90-100% of the time.

The goal for 9-12 (according to ACTFL standards, my NEW favorite standards, sorry Maine Learning Results) is to reach Intermediate High.

From the GWU site:

Intermediate-High speakers are able to converse with ease and confidence when dealing with most routine tasks and social situations of the Intermediate level. They are able to handle successfully many uncomplicated tasks and social situations requiring an exchange of basic information related to work, school, recreation, particular interests and areas of competence, though hesitation and errors may be evident.

Intermediate-High speakers handle the tasks pertaining to the Advanced level, but they are unable to sustain performance at that level over a variety of topics. With some consistency, speakers at the Intermediate High level narrate and describe in major time frames using connected discourse of paragraph length. However, their performance of these Advanced-level tasks will exhibit one or more features of breakdown, such as the failure to maintain the narration or description semantically or syntactically in the appropriate major time frame, the disintegration of connected discourse, the misuse of cohesive devises, a reduction in breadth and appropriateness of vocabulary, the failure to successfully circumlocute, or a significant amount of hesitation.

Intermediate-High speakers can generally be understood by native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives, although the dominant language is still evident (e.g. use of code-switching, false cognates, literal translations, etc.), and gaps in communication may occur.

Think about that.  Students are pretty much destined to commit error.  It's ok.

There is hope.  I am from a very similar educational background as many of my students, and my level is Advance Mid.  Not bad for a kid from rural Maine.

Speakers at the Advanced-Mid level are able to handle with ease and confidence a large number of communicative tasks. They participate actively in most informal and some formal exchanges on a variety of concrete topics relating to work, school, home, and leisure activities, as well as to events of current, public, and personal interest or individual relevance.

Advanced-Mid speakers demonstrate the ability to narrate and describe in all major time frames (past, present, and future) by providing a full account, with good control of aspect, as they adapt flexibly to the demands of the conversation. Narration and description tend to be combined and interwoven to relate relevant and supporting facts in connected, paragraph-length discourse.

Advanced-Mid speakers can handle successfully and with relative ease the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events that occurs within the context of a routine situation or communicative task with which they are otherwise familiar. Communicative strategies such as circumlocution or rephrasing are often employed for this purpose. The speech of Advanced-Mid speakers performing Advanced-level tasks is marked by substantial flow. Their vocabulary is fairly extensive although primarily generic in nature, except in the case of a particular area of specialization or interest. Dominant language discourse structures tend to recede, although discourse may still reflect the oral paragraph structure of their own language rather than that of the target language.

Advanced-Mid speakers contribute to conversations on a variety of familiar topics, dealt with concretely, with much accuracy, clarity and precision, and they convey their intended message without misrepresentation or confusion. They are readily understood by native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives. When called on to perform functions or handle topics associated with the Superior level, the quality and/or quantity of their speech will generally decline.

Advanced-Mid speakers are often able to state an opinion or cite conditions; however, they lack the ability to consistently provide a structured argument in extended discourse. Advanced-Mid speakers may use a number of delaying strategies, resort to narration, description, explanation or anecdote, or simply attempt to avoid the linguistic demands of Superior-level tasks.

Still prone to error!  And I am the teacher.

How to get to Superior? The secret is travel.  More of it is what Maine kids and their teachers need.  Experience is the best teacher.  Frame it through service and it's nearly always win-win.

That is why the conference was so good.  It gave me a chance to hear from real experts, and experience the wisdom of many teachers.  Collective wisdom in one place lends incredible energy.  And now I feel more clarity.  I am moving in the right direction.  I must teach in Spanish and reduce my expectations and help my students reduce their expectations. 

.......might I add, World Language Teachers know how to socialize.  The ACIS event was wonderful, and a lady we were chatting with earlier (out of 6,000 participants, you meet a lot of kindred spirits!) won a trip to Paris!  The view of the city of Boston was incredible on a cold November night.  I was proud to be a native of Massachusetts.  There was so much brainpower in the room that it felt magical to be a language teacher for Maine kids.  Our ideas were fun to share! Sharing is good!


We (my super-colleague Mme. K)  are proud to be part of a cool organization like ACTFL.


This trip  was a good use of public transportation.

We took car, bus, and train to the heart of the city!  Here is our late night happy face routine because we are heading home to God's country, Maine!



Unknown said...

It was really nice to meet both of you in person!!

Amity said...

You as well! Great lunch and sharing of ideas.


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