Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Unit Design in the World Language Classroom

Unit Design in the World Language Classroom

I'm thrilled to help facilitate a Google Hangout for Langcamp about the Keys to Planning for Learning.  Thank you to Laura Sexton for organizing the group and for offering the opportunity to lead a session.  (Check out her amazing blog here.)  My week will focus on unit design.  In preparation for this hour, I am digging into my own processes and experiences with units.

Understanding by Design

As a student teacher and later intern, I worked in one of the best (in my opinion) world language districts in the country, Glastonbury Public Schools, in Connecticut.  Almost twenty years ago, their curriculum was based on the concept of backwards design and was moving away from textbooks. The world language classroom was seen as a content-area, and essential questions guided daily instruction. 

I started my career by looking at the big picture and the end goals of instruction; there could not have been a better introduction.

Treading Water

My first year of teaching, I went in with big ideas, but, unfortunately, taught day to day. Taking attendance and other feats of management took much time.  After a few months I became a better planner and started organizing blocks of instruction in advance.

Rigorous Units of Instruction

The district where I taught for ten years was also forward-thinking, especially in its approaches to data-driven assessment and professional learning teams.  Around my third year of teaching, school-wide initiatives and goals were connected to unit design.  The structure of common planning made space for individual creativity within a research-based framework. Once or twice a month for a few years, I had the opportunity to work, with a partner, on rigorous units of instruction that leveraged effective teaching practices.   

Designing units took a long time, and even with all that district learning time, I didn't finish as many units as I would have liked.  I did find the process of planning units improved instruction in all of my courses, not just the one that was the focus of PD.

Unit Design: Questions

As I think forward to unit design, here are some of my questions:
  • What is the difference between a curriculum unit and a unit to be taught?  Are they the same?
  • What "themes" should I use for my units?  AP, IB, or the global themes outlined in the Keys to Planning for Learning?
  • How often should I revisit units?  Can my school/district build in monthly time for this type of review and reflection?
  • What language functions should units focus on, and are they spiraled effectively through vertical articulation?
  • What unit topics will interest my students?
I look forward to discussing units with the Langcamp community during our Google Hangout On Air on 7/12!  I hope to see you there.

Want to read more about units or Langbook?

Check out my recent post about ACTFL's iPad app for unit and lesson design or
read about my experiences during the first week of Langcamp's Book Club, about curriculum.


Here are my bookmarks connected to unit design. I hope these help with your own unit planning.
World Language Model Curriculum
From Ohio; has many useful materials for writing curriculum, including sample topic, themes, and essential questions organized by theme and proficiency level.
World Languages: PALS
Fairfax County Schools resource designed to help world language teachers make rubrics for performance assessments.
AAPPL Tasks and Topics
Model Curriculum: World Languages
Curriculum Overview Samples - World Languages | CDE
Unit Samples by Proficiency Levels | Ohio Department of Education
Unit Planning Instruction and Assessment | Ohio Department of Education
Instructional and Authentic Resources | Ohio Department of Education
The Common Core Framework and World Languages: A Wake Up Call for All
Article that ties the CCSS with world language.
The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
IPA examples from CARLA.
Scores | AAPPL Score Descriptors and Strategies
These from ACTFL and AAPPL. Great resource for teachers, to prepare students for success with communication.
OFLA Rubrics for Integrated Performance Assessments
Laura Terrill's Wiki
Includes materials and information from a variety of world language presentations. Includes IPA materials, lessons, sample units, and more.
From the Ohio Foreign Language Association. A great resource for creating integrated performance assessments. Includes resources and a template.
ACTFL Resources Templates and Rubrics
Includes two key PDFS for planning standards-based tasks: Interpretive task template and rubrics for interpretive, presentational, and interpersonal modes.
What is interculturality? - LinguaFolio
A definition of interculturality as part of the Linguafolio Training Modules.
The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA): CoBaLTT Project
Sample world language lessons shared through CARLA.
Alignment of the National Standards for Learning Languages with the Common Core State Standards
This PDF describes how the national standards for learning languages aligns with the Common Core.
NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements | American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages
The Can-Do Statements help learners identify what they need to do to function at a specific level of proficiency. The statements also help educators plan curriculum, units of instruction, and daily lessons to help learners improve their performance and reach a targeted level of proficiency. Through multiple opportunities to show that they "can do" in classroom formative and summative assessment, unit by unit, learners collect the evidence that points toward a specific proficiency level.
ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines
The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are descriptions of what individuals can do with language in terms of speaking, writing, listening, and reading in real-world situations in a spontaneous and non-rehearsed context. For each skill, these guidelines identify five major levels of proficiency: Distinguished, Superior, Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice.
ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners | American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages
The ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners are designed to describe language performance that is the result of explicit instruction in an instructional setting. These new Performance Descriptors reflect how language learners perform whether learning in classrooms, online, through independent project-based learning, or in blended environments.
Instructional and Authentic Resources
World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages | American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages
Download Two-Page Summary of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
Common Core State Standards Initiative | Home
ACTFL 21st Century Skills Map

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