Ten Things I Learned About Language Acquisition in China

China was an incredible experience. It was my first trip to Asia and our kids’ first trip abroad. Our host families were extraordinarily warm and generous, and I was excited to see Chinese culture first hand. But as a self-proclaimed professional language-learner, I have to admit that the biggest thrill was the chance to use the Chinese skills I’d been working on for the past two months or so. And as a language teacher, I firmly believe some of our best professional development comes from the act of continually learning unfamiliar language and culture. There’s no better way to understand students’ minds than to put ourselves in their shoes.Read More »

我学习中文: Why I’m Appreciating CI More Than Ever

I always wanted to learn Chinese. It’s such an interesting language, and the characters are so beautiful. When I was a teenager, I’d go to the new Chinese restaurant in town and ask the owner to teach me Chinese words and characters. He always obliged. I picked up all sorts of books. I studied and studied. And unlike any other language I had ever attempted to learn, I could never remember a single bit of it. I could never keep the characters straight. I could never get the tones right. I could never retain enough in my memory to produce a single meaningful phrase. Worst of all, I never really had anyone to use the language with. Eventually I let go of that dream.Read More »

France 2018

This spring break was an exciting point in my career: my first time ever taking a group of students to France! This was no tourists’ walkthrough of the country, though. We worked hard to organize the trip in such a way that students would be using French as much as possible and experience what it really means to live à la française.Read More »

Four Steps to Better Grammar Instruction

This is a post for traditionalists, CI enthusiasts and everyone in between. Let’s face it: grammar is the little engine that keeps most foreign language curricula moving down the tracks, and regardless of how we keep our locomotives running, mastery of grammar is a skill that influences our students’ ability to express themselves at the level of detail, accuracy and comprehensibility that they want.Read More »

DIY FVR Library

Free voluntary reading can be a great way for students to get the variety of comprehensible input they need to succeed. It’s also a great way to get students reading in the target language, period, so those long passages at higher levels seem much less intimidating.

However, building a FVR library is a huge task. You need a book for every student. You need a variety of books for them to pick from. You need books that are 100% comprehensible at your students’ current level. That’s a tough checklist that can cost tons of time and money.

There’s an easier way, though! It still takes time, but it’s time well spent. It comes at a fraction of the cost compared to buying pre-published readers, and gives you the opportunity to ensure that your library contains stories that your students actually want to read. The DIY FVR library is an idea that I’ve seen tossed around online, and here’s my take on it.Read More »