MisCositas.com index Email us!
Windows and Mirrors: Exploring Best Practices in the Language Classroom

Through viewing examples of teachers and students engaged in excellent language teaching at a variety of levels, educators can explore research- and standards-based best practices and compare them to one's own craft in the language classroom. The examples provide us with both “windows and mirrors”: in the mirrors we will see how our existing teaching reflects best practice, while windows allow us to peek out at new methods and strategies for improving the language learning experience for all learners.

Take a visual tour of best practices by viewing the PowerPoint presentation here. You can download the handout with elements of best practice teaching here.

    best practices
This presentation is built on the framework developed by the NFLC StarTalk Program Observation Protocol and NADSFL Effective Teacher Characteristics. Visit the websites for these organizations for more resources and information about best practices in teaching languages.
1. Instructional Management
  • The teacher teaches from a lesson plan. The lesson plan is based on daily objectives that are specific measurable, observable, realistic, and clear.
  • Lesson and unit objectives focus on what students will be able to do as a result of instruction.
  • The teacher explains the objectives for the lesson.
  • The teacher links the lesson (instruction) to assessment by ensuring that students understand how each part of the lesson is related to the objectives.
  • The teacher uses multiple ways to collect information on student progress toward lesson objectives. 
  • The teacher uses a variety of assessment strategies to modify and improve instruction.
  • The teacher moves efficiently between activities.
  • There are periodic checks for understanding that shape how the lesson proceeds.
  • Activities address different language skills aligned with daily objectives.
  • The length of activities reflects the age of students and their level of engagement.
  • The teacher keeps all students on task.
  • Teacher circulates among students during the instructional time.
2. Differentiation
  • The teacher activates students’ background knowledge.
  • The teacher uses diverse activities to satisfy/accommodate diverse learning types.
  • Materials are adapted to meet a range of student needs.

3. Language Use

  • The teacher demonstrates proficiency in both the target language and English.
  • The teacher makes her/himself understood to students when speaking in target language.
  • The teacher conducts the class in the target language at least 90% of the class period without using English.
  • There is little or no translation from the target language to English or from English to the target language.

4. Meaningful Activities

  • Activities/exercises are meaningful and purposeful.
  • There are extensive opportunities for students to engage in language use. There are many and frequent opportunities for students to use their language skills in meaningful ways.
  • The teacher ensures that all students contribute to classroom interactions.
  • Students carry out real-world tasks.
  • Student/teacher and student/student interactions are meaningful and purposeful. 
  • The teacher begins class or activities with an explanation of their purpose and concludes by asking students to summarize or demonstrate their learning.
  • There is a variety of activities that assist students in accomplishing learning objectives.
  • Content and activities are appropriate and relevant to the age of students.
  • Activities are cognitively engaging and demanding.
  • The teacher monitors for evidence of comprehension (e.g., Responses, eye contact).
  • Student activity includes MULTIPLE student to student interactions as well as teacher to student interactions.
  • The various parts of the lesson are connected to one another in a coherent way. These lesson parts build toward increased ability to understand or express meaning on a given topic or theme.

5. Culture Integration

  • Lesson and unit plans provide evidence that culture is a natural component of language use.
  • The teacher incorporates authentic materials that reflect cultural practices, products, and perspectives.
  • The teacher incorporates tasks that reflect cultural practices, products, and perspectives.
  • Learning activities help students develop skills in cultural observation and analysis.

6. Assessment

  • Assessments are ongoing. Students are assessed formally and informally on how well they are able to meet the objectives of the lesson. Assessments aligned with standards and objectives.
  • The teacher provides options for students to fulfill class expectations.
  • The teacher develops assessments that reflect ALL teaching goals, materials, and what occurs in class, encompassing all skills including intercultural competence/awareness.
  • The teacher collects evidence of student learning beyond using pencil and paper, designing tasks that simulate real-life use of language.
  • Students are encouraged to assess their own progress.

7. Classroom Climate

  • The teacher uses appropriate error correction techniques that do not discourage or embarrass students.
  • The teacher corrects errors in ways that are appropriate to the task.
  • The physical environment is instructional, motivational, and informative.
  • The physical environment includes displays of student work.

8. Materials

  • Materials are current, appropriate, and relevant to the age and interests of the students.
  • Materials are aligned with lesson objectives.
  • Students and teachers are not text-bound during instructional time so that the text is a tool, not the curriculum.
  • Teacher-made materials are professional in appearance, are at the appropriate proficiency level, and lead to improved performance as defined by standards.
  • The teacher uses authentic materials, making them accessible to learners.
  • The teacher uses authentic video, audio, realia, language and culture bearers, target culture communities (including electronic) to provide for real-world language use.
  • Technology, as appropriate and available, is used by students and teachers to facilitate learning and teaching.