Not everyone is cut out to learn another language

I’ve thought it myself.  I’ve had slow processing students who I gave up on.  I have been so star-struck by the fastest (and atypical) processors that I began to judge what a student should be able to do based on their performance….  But I’m reformed.  Not only CAN every student learn language, they should…..

If we are honest with ourselves, teaching in a way that prepares language students for the AP exam is creating an environment that focuses on the highest performers.  We want a nation of bilinguals, a generation that values language study, and a focus on proficiency over perfection and yet we exclude those who need additional scaffolding…

This week at iFLT 14 was proof that there are hundreds of teachers out there trying to create a language learning environment that allows the superstars to shine while providing needed repetition for the average and slower processors.  TCI is a lot of things: comprehensible, compelling, creative… but most importantly it is comprehensive… it includes everyone. 

Take aways:

  • Fastest processors will acquire the most complex parts of the lesson while the slowest will acquire only the core structures.
  • Authentic (by native for native) resources are a wonderful addition to the class in many cases but as we did in our pre-literate kindergarten years, we must offer a wide variety of reading material so that our classes are not geared only toward the atypical student.
  • Incorporating a culture of service learning is an excellent way to give students the opportunity to connect classroom content to the cultures they’re studying.
  • Reading is fundamental in language classrooms.  Just as we read for pleasure, our language students should read for pleasure.  No reading (that has been edited by native speakers) is a bad reading! Authentic is great but material written for language learners is key to providing a classroom that is friendly to all learners. 
  • From backward planned lessons, to cultural units, to 20% projects, if we keep the tenets of TCI in mind (even when we are implementing other methodologies): teaching to the eyes (, going slowly, asking lots of questions, we are going to have successful students.
  • We have to honor who we are!  Some teachers pull off silly, crazy, and funny while others are reserved and easy-going.  Katya Paukova’s Russian class taught our beginners that you can be super mild-mannered and classy and teach people to speak, read, and understand Russian in 3 hours!

Already looking forward to iFLT 15… Or HOPEFULLY another TPRS Publishing Multicultural Conference (#bringitback #clubmed) where other teachers can come watch master teachers demo language class.  It’s the best PD around, start a penny jar just for this!!!


Meme stolen from Martina Bex… Good work, MB!!!

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas","Bananas", "Sostenible", and "Papálotl" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at

One thought

  1. So true that we need a nation of bilinguals and not just a small few who are ready for an AP exam! Thank you Carrie for such an accurate perspective!

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