Art in the World Language Classroom! The Ear of Van Gogh?

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My students never tire of the story of Van Gogh cutting off his ear.  I have created embedded readings in French and Spanish here.  Van Gogh Readings By Lynn Johnston for French and Van Gogh Readings in Spanish by Lynn Johnston.  But besides the story, I can use the art to teach body parts, colors, and shapes.  We can describe people, places, and things. We can express opinions, likes, dislikes, and emotions.  We can read biographies about the artists and debate whether Van Gogh cut off his own ear of was it Paul Gauguin that cut off Van Gogh’s ear? Students can also research and give opinions on how Van Gogh really died.vincent-van-gogh-bandaged

Check out these animated versions of Van Gogh paintings! Follow this link  Van Gogh 3-D  or go to

Students can compare their bedrooms to the room of Van Gogh.  Lesson plans here La-Chambre-de-Van-Gogh in French and here in Spanish El cuarto de Van Gogh. Here a template of his room for a directed color and another for Starry Night.
Van Gogh bedroomGauguin et Van Gogh powerpoint in French and Gauguin y Van Gogh powerpoint in Spanish.  Here are sentences that can be used for dictation, to illustrate, to act out.  They can cut up and race to put them in order.  They could be used for students to practice retelling story.  Paul Gauguin et Vincent Van Gogh- sentences for French and   Paul Gauguin y Vincent van Gogh- sentences for Spanish.

paul guaguin


Take your students to a local museum or go to a virtual museum on-line and have the students select their favorite piece of art or the worst piece of art.  Have them give the name of the work of art and the artist.  Then describe the art and state their opinions and why.  These could also be posted to a class website or google classroom.  this lesson is always engaging and Van Gogh’s ear continues to show up in strange places like in a backpack during our school unit or in a soup in our food unit.





Checkout these Van Gogh resources in French, Spanish , English and other languages from


Tpep Criterion #8: Exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning.

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Criterion number eight is: Exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning. 

The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.  Consider what you do at the school, district, state, and national levels.  Write an article for WAFLT’s Forum, PNCFL’s Lingo, or the Language Educator for ACTFL.  Topics could include a review of a conference, workshop, book or movie.  Teaching tips are always welcome.  Do action research and write about it!


Do presentations at state and regional conferences.  Chair a committee or be a presider for a workshop for a state or regional conference.  Become a board member.  Join your AAT, AATF, AATSP, etc.




Start a book group!  Try Teach Like a Pirate  by Dave Burgess or Do I really have to teach reading? by Cris Tovani.  Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jenson is what we are currently reading at my school.  The Keys Series from ACTFL would also be good books to read, discuss, and share ideas.

To score a four on this criterion the teacher volunteers to participate in school events and district projects making a substantial contribution, and assuming a leadership role in at least one aspect of school or district life.


Work vertically with other colleagues in PLC’s  to establish goals, to develop and implement common high quality measures, and to monitor growth and achievement during the year.  Watch ACTFL webinars together and discuss.


Posters and cards to promote World Language Study from amazon

How do you exhibit collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning?  Share your ideas here! 

Tpep Criterion #7: Communicating and collaborating with parents and the school community

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Criterion number seven is: Communicating and collaborating with parents and the school community.  

The teacher communicates and collaborates with students, families, and all educational stakeholders in an ethical and professional manner to promote student learning. Some teachers use weekly letters, e-mail, class calendars, websites, and on-line grade reporting systems to communicate with parents.   Why not have students develop materials to inform their families of class activities with a newsletter they write?



In addition to keeping parents informed, I look for ways to promote world language in our school and our community.  As an elective teacher, each spring I compete for students to take my class.  I call this “sweeps week.”  Students use their persuasive language skills to make posters called “Why Study a Foreign Language.”  After several YouTube clips, a brainstorm session, and my power point, they are armed with reasons to cover the school with quality posters promoting world language study.  We also cook this week so students are following recipes in the target language to create something delicious. You can smell this all over school and students poke their heads in and ask what class is this? It’s really not fair to the other elective teachers, but it helps to advertise our programs in our schools, feeder schools, and community.  Here’s my presentation and some of the Youtube clips.  Why learn a second language



Look for opportunities to have students perform in the school or community.  My students sing, dance, and read poetry in talent shows at school and festivals at the Seattle Center.  We perform fairy tales, complete with scenery, costumes, and props, the last week of school for other classes that want to come watch. Each year my students read picture books in French and Spanish in the children’s area of Barnes and Noble book store.  This is a fundraiser that involves the community and raises funds for our school.  How do you  incorporate the communities standard and the Tpep requirement of involving families?  Please share your ideas here!

Tpep Criterion #6: Using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning.

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Criterion number six is: Using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning. 

The teacher uses multiple data elements (both formative and summative) to plan, inform, and adjust instruction and evaluate student learning. The teacher uses multiple sources of growth or achievement data from at least two points in time to show evidence of high growth for all or nearly all students.  Assessment is fully integrated into instruction though extensive use of formative assessment techniques.

Almost any assessment instrument can be used for formative or summative purposes, it is how the results are used that determines whether it is formative or summative.  If there is still time for the student to take action and improve learning it is formative assessment.  My favorite analogy is when a cook tastes the food it’s formative assessment and when the guests taste the food it’s summative assessment.

hanging-cooking-utensils-clipart-35277-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Kitchen-Chef-Dog-Holding-A-Spatula-And-Gesturing-After-Tasting-His-FoodMy Favorite No!

Pose a question, have students answer on index cards.

Sort the cards into yes and no piles.

Look at the ones that are wrong and pick out one one to analyze “Your Favorite No”.

Rewrite the problem so students can’t identify the handwriting or to whom the card belongs.

Start with having kids identify what is right about the problem, what do I like about it?

Then focus of what is incorrect and how to improve it.

not yet

According to John Dewey, “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”  Students need opportunities for self-assessment and reflection. This can be down with practice tests, dictations, or other immediate feedback learning activities like the box game, white boards, sentence strips, search and lift or other manipulatives, and exit slips.

Students help develop rubrics with success criteria. is a free site to develop rubrics. This can help students to monitor their own understanding. Encourage students to provide very specific descriptive feedback to each other.  See this in action in the video Autin’s butterfly .

Learners can use Youtube to fill in the gaps in their own learning.  There is boy who was trying to learn how to start a fire with a bow string.  He knew he was doing it wrong so he posted his attempt on Youtube and asked for feed back. Ninty-six people responded, providing very specific feedback like he was using the wrong wood, his foot was on the wrong side, he needed to tighten the string.  I used Youtube to teach myself how to build this blog.  Step by step, every time I needed to know how to add the next element I would consult Youtube. This made me wonder…can my students bridge the gaps in their learning with Youtube on their own?

They can if they are taught how! Anything we can teach ourselves, we can teach someone else how to do.  Student portfolios, digital lockers, or learning logs can help track student’s growth and what gaps need to be filled in.   Distinguished teachers establish appropriate student growth goals in collaboration with students and parents and identify data to monitor, adjust, and evaluate achievement of goals.

Check out my post on Core Practice #6 for more feedback ideas and here is a list with descriptions.The Formative Assessment Techniques ensure 100.  Here are some formative assessment resources from   How do you use student data to improve instruction?  Please comment here!


Tpep Criterion #5: Fostering and managing a safe, positive learning environment.

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Criterion number five is: Fostering and managing a safe, positive learning environment.

The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

This can best be done by examining your routines and procedures.  Check out some of my ideas in this article Using Routines to Maximize Language Acquisition.  Instructional time is maximized because of efficient classroom routines and procedures.  To score a four, students should contribute to the management of instructional groups and transitions and the handling of materials and supplies. In addition, opening and closing routines are well understood and may be initiated by students.

no ingles


Other routines to consider: turning in papers, getting make up work, what do you do when you are done?


make up work


I like this idea I found on Pinterest.  Thinking about making this in French and Spanish.

make up board

Use several methods to form groups so that no student feels left out. Seating charts, partner maps, index cards or other randomization devices help mix it up and manage behavior.  Change groups and partners often so that all students have an opportunity to work together and get to know each other.  Check out the No Yell Bell at for easily regaining attention.

Discipline with dignity.  Management of behavior is subtle and preventative. I like to carry a clipboard and note behavior and productivity on my seating charts.  As soon as they see me pick up my clipboard and start walking around they become more engaged.  Most the time I don’t even need to write anything down, I call this The Clipboard Stroll.

Check out assigning classsroom jobs for students from Ben Slavic’s website.  How do you foster and manage a safe learning environment?  Add your ideas here please!


Tpep Criterion #4: Providing clear and intentional focus on subject matter content and curriculum.

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Criterion number four is: Providing clear and intentional focus on subject matter content and curriculum. 

world readiness standards

The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy, and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.  The distinguished world language teacher demonstrates content area knowledge and connects to other disciplines. Our connection standard has always supported connections to other disciplines. We can support the Common Core State Standards by providing students with more experiences with informational text and modeling and practicing reading strategies.  Have students cite text evidence to back up their inferences and opinions. Compare and Contrast. Reinforce the writing process, especially expository and argumentative writing. Use graphs, math, and story problems.  Check out my common core posts for more ideas on how world language teachers can connect to Common Core State Standards.

venn sp

ACTFL is in the process of establishing collaborative teams of world language educators from across the United States in a project focused on developing learners’ literacy skills. The development of the Languages and Literacy Collaboration Center (LLCC) will provide educators access to a multitude of resources including: webinars, mentoring, a virtual resource portal, and online discussions.  Educators will be able to collaborate around strategies to reinforce and strengthen learners’ literacy skills.

LLCC logo

With this increased focus on literacy skills, the distinguished teacher seizes the opportunity to make connections to cognates and root words. Find opportunities to extend students’ vocabulary in their first language.  I like to point out root word connections to students for example mort meaning death in French is used as mortal, immortal, mortuary, mortician, and even morgage (death grip) extending their vocabulary and root word knowledge in English. Whenever possible, use metaphors and analogies to bring content to life, or even to practice vocabulary.  Have students make analogies with new vocabulary.

El brazo: El codo – La pierna:__?___(La rodilla)

La main: Le Bras- Le pied:___?___  (La jambe)


The teacher displays extensive knowledge of resources, not only through the school and district but also professional organizations and universities and on the internet, for classroom use, for the expansion of his or her own knowledge, and for students.  Create a classroom library of children’s books, scholastic magazines, books on tape. Create list of ebooks, websites, and apps for student use and encourage exploration of these sites for autonomous acquisition. What are your favorite resources?  How do you provide clear and intentional focus on subject matter content and curriculum?  Please share your resources and ideas here!


Tpep Criterion #3: Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs.

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Criterion number three is: Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs. 

The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual, intellectual, and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning. To score a four on the Danielson rubric it states “Teacher actively seeks knowledge of students’ levels of development and their backgrounds, cultures, skills, language proficiency, interests, and special needs from a variety of sources. This information is acquired for individual students.”

This criterion is usually non observable and will probably be discussed in the pre and/or post conference. Consider evidence like sub folders, IEPs, and on-line grading programs like Skyward. Make sure to update sub folders with medical and learning needs periodically.  Document discussions with teachers, counselors, and other professionals into your eval digital locker.


Gather evidence that you are actively seeking knowledge of students’ backgrounds from a variety of sources. Consider giving interest surveys at the beginning of the year to get to know student backgrounds and interests. There are several ready-made interest surveys available from TPRS practitioners on line. Check out the Circling with Balls activity to get to know students at

Personalization is key to engaging students. In my class we have a student greeter each day.  After the greeting the greeter answers questions about themselves in the target language.  This allows us to build on spontaneous events and student interests and get to know the class members better while practicing follow up questions. “Teacher seizes an opportunity to enhance learning, building on a spontaneous event or student interests, or successfully adjusts and differentiates instruction to address individual student misunderstandings.”

comment allez vous

One way to keep students engaged is to provide them with choice in assignments and assessments. Choice boards are one way to provide students with structured choices. A menu type activity also gives kids some choices.  Learning centers are another way to provide choice and individualization.  Check out the station ideas at The Creative Language Classroom.

keep-calm-and-join-study-club-1 (1)

Keep a list of help professionals. Some evaluation tools state that the teacher can cite others in the school and beyond who s/he has contacted for assistance in reaching some students.  Document conversations with others around students of concern, or any student. Consider offering a study club before or after school.  Study club allows for extra time and extra opportunities for retakes. It also helps connect with students and discover things about them that I would not learn in class. The distinguished teacher persists in seeking effective approaches for students who need help, using an extensive repertoire of instructional strategies and soliciting additional resources from the school or club connect

In addition, criterion three requires teachers to establish appropriate student growth goals for subgroups of students not reaching full potential in collaboration with students, parents, and other school staff.  The goals identify multiple, high-quality sources of data to monitor, adjust, and evaluate achievement of goals. Multiple sources of growth or achievement data from at least two points in time show evidence of high growth for all or nearly all students. I have students do a 5 minute timed write on the first day of school.  They write in the target language or list any words they know in the target language or write about themselves in English if they don’t know any of the language yet.  They write again at the end of the first semester and at the end of the year and evaluate their growth.

timed writes

Tpep Criterion #2: Demonstrating effective teaching practices.

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Criterion Number two is:  Demonstrating effective teaching practices.  

The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students. Build higher level thinking questions and metacognition into your lessons. Use Bryce Hedstrom’s New Taxonomy for World Language Teachers for planning lessons and incorporating higher level thinking questions.  In the book The Keys to Planning for Learning by Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill there is a revised Bloom’s taxonomy includes suggestions for digital alternatives.  Teach students to ask higher level questions and to initiate and extend discussions with classmates.  Here are links to documents I created for my students with Bloom’s verbs in french Bloom%27s french  and Spanish.  La Taxonomia de Bloom


Using essential questions can help promote higher level thinking. Some possible essential questions could include. How does water make our lives different?  How can we conserve water? Why can’t all young people go to school?  How will you help an exchange student prepare for school here? How does where we live influence what we eat, do, and wear?  How can we avoid wasting food?  Use the ACTFL themes and essential questions from the novice level and build on them each year.

ACTFL Global Themes as context for language learning:

  • Belonging
  • Challenges
  • Well being
  • Discovery
  • Creativity
  • Identity
  • Exploring Time and Place

The state documents states ‘‘Teachers use a variety or series of question or prompts to challenge students cognitively and advance high level thinking and discourse and promote metacognition.”  To practice metacognition include Thinks Alouds, QARs, KWL’s, mind maps, webs, sentence frames, and prompts. On the rubric to get a 4 it states “Students formulate many questions, initiate topics, and make unsolicited contributions”. Have students create their own higher level questions.  Research suggests that students who use self-developed test questions perform better on exams.

A good strategy to teach students is question answer relationships.  Basically there are four types of questions. Two are directly from the book Right there and Think and Search and two are from the reader’s head, Author and Me and On My Own. With Right there questions, the answer is in the text. With think and search, the answer is in the text but you might need to look in multiple places to put the answer together. With author and me, the answer is not in the text, you have to think about what you know and what the author is saying and put them together, with on my own questions the answer is also not in the text. The reader could have answered the question without reading the text but is related to the topic.



Students can apply this strategy to pictures or works of art to develop good questions.  Practice Image, question, response following the same process.



Check out the chart of this page Image_Questions_Responses_Chart and this website for a better explanation.


Some HOT (Higher Order Thinking) ideas from Carol Gaab at

1. Either or Questions- Students are provided sentences and asked to decide if the sentence is possible or not possible.  Other choices are probable or not probable.  You could also use logical or not logical  or likely to or not likely to.  The point is that students are hearing vocabulary in context and are thinking at a little higher level, but are able to respond with very little forced language. Read sentences from the text that are logical and illogical or probable or not probable and have students react with choral responses, white boards, or thumbs up or down.

2.  Who would say…? this is a fun activity that encourages higher order thinking and is based on statements that a character in a novel might make.  Students must deduce WHO would say something based on context, content and/or verb form. An example from Carol, from the cast of Gilligan’s Island, who would say, “I’m tired of taking orders!” or “That Ginger thinks she’s so beautiful– bla! She’s not THAT pretty!”

Who said…? is a similar game, which does not require a great deal of higher order processing. It is great for young learners and/or slow processors. Students simply recall the story and determine which character made which statements. An example from one of Carol’s novels, in ‘Houdini’, who said, “Disconnect the cable!” or “Can I drive your car?”?

3. There are a variety of ways to implement sequencing or logic activities:

Sentence Strips for group activity, individual, or pair activity. Sentences are written on strips of paper and students need to arrange them in order from first to last. This can be done as a whole class activity with sentences written on tag board and one sentence per class member. It could also be done as a group activity, individual, or pair activity.

Project sentences and have students number written statements in order.

Provide a list of 3 choices and ask which happened first?

Type up sentences from a chapter of a novel and have students cut them apart, mix them up, and put them in a envelope.  When a signal is given, have students race to see who can put the sentences in order first.  

Then use the sentences is another activity from Carol Gaab the action chain.  Embed the target language structures in a logical sequence of events, number and write or project the sentences so everyone can see them. Choose students to act out the sentences, handing them a number corresponding to a sentence they will act out without showing the other students. The other students must match the sentence to the scene that each student acts out. Continue to get more repetition to the language structures by having students determine a logical order for the events. Have actors act out the scene as you ask for details for each event.

4. To get at main idea start by asking which of the following 3 statements best describes the situation?  Promote critical thinking by providing students with three choices and asking which one best describes the situation and why?

Marzano in his book states that summarizing, note making, and comparing and contrasting are high leverage strategies.  Compare and contrast holidays, houses and possessions. Students make Venn diagrams to compare and contrast their room and possessions with another student, or a student from the target culture. I like to show the photos taken by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti.  His project called Toy Stories compiles photos of children from around the world with their prized possessions—their toys.  For food comparisons go to Youtube and check out What The World Eats. To make country comparisons go to  Use two overlapping hula hoops on floor for a twist instead of a paper venn diagram.  Give students index cards with statements to scaffold comparing and contrasting.

To get kids to summarize and synthesize try the Two Word Strategy created by Linda Hoyt. Students stop at the end of a reading selection and reflect on everything they know.  They must think of just two words that reflect their understanding.  Choosing two words is not threatening to most readers. It takes their comprehension beyond recall to a higher level of understanding of the text. click here for form Two_Word_Strategy.

2 words


According to William Glaser we learn 95% of what we teach. Incorporate reciprocal teaching into your plans. Train students to perform roles such as predictor, questioner, summarizer, and clarifier.  Teach protocals or use structures like Team Windows to provide opportunities so  “Students themselves ensure that all voices are heard in the discussion”.



To score a four on this criterion the teacher must assess the effectiveness of the lesson.  The document states that the “teacher makes a thoughtful and accurate assessment of a lesson’s effectiveness and includes specific indicators of effectiveness.”  If the lesson is not effective the teacher offers specific alternative actions with the probable success of different courses of action.  How do you demonstrate effective teaching practices?  Share your comments and ideas below.


Tpep Criterion #1: Centering instruction on high expectations for student achievement.

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Criterion number one is: Centering instruction on high expectations for student achievement. 

The teacher coveys high expectations for student learning. Communicating expectations to students is crucial.  One way this can be done is by posting and reflecting on objectives.  Objectives are stated at the beginning of the chapter in most textbooks.  The I Can statements from Jefferson County Public Schools, in their World Language Assessment Documents, are in a stamp format and student friendly. Linguofolio is also a good place to get I can statements and record evidence for many levels.  On December 31, 2013 ACTFL announced the publication of their Can-Do Statements: Progress Indicators for Language Learners available at


can do


Another way to set high expectations is teaching students to serve as resources for one another.  I introduce this concept the first week of school by giving students packets of 10 weather pictures and 10 weather expressions all mixed up.  They dump them out on cue and race to be the first to match them up correctly.  When the first student gets it correct, I tell them to get up and be my assistant and help me check other students. There are now two of us checking answers and then 3 and so on.   Students are as excited to get to help check each other as they are when they win a prize.  This activity can be used to practice any vocabulary, for sequencing to review a story, to sort descriptions of characters, if you think of others post below.

weather match

Next I pass out red, yellow, and green squares cut out of construction paper clipped together.  When I give an independent activity, they display the green square on top if they know what to do.  If they are a little confused or have a clarifying question they show the yellow square.  If they don’t know what to do or how to get started they display the red square.  I go to help the kids with the red squares.  When a green has finished, I check their work and tell them to go help a yellow. As I continue to help the reds.  As more kids finish we are able to help all the yellow and reds until everyone is successful.  These squares can also be used to hold up answers, give them three choices assigned to a color, have them hold up the color of the answer they pick.


I was in a workshop on how the brain learns by Pat Wolf in the 90’s when she said “Partner A turn to partner B and tell them what we have been discussing for the last 12 minutes.” Both my partner and I were ashamed to admit that we had not been listening all that closely.  You can bet the next time she stopped and said “turn and talk” we were both able to summarize and connect our learning. Remember to stop every 12-15 minutes or less and have students help explain concepts to their classmates.  Under the distinguished category in the state document it says ‘The teacher invites students to explain the content to the class or classmates.”  I think turn and talk is one low tech way to achieve this. turnandtalk

Make sure all students are intellectually engaged.  “Virtually all students are intellectually engaged in challenging content through well-designed learning tasks and suitable scaffolding by the teacher and fully aligned with the instructional outcomes.”  Ideally this happens because the lesson is inherently interesting and compelling, but I teach middle school, and I don’t know about your students but mine don’t always arrive prepared to focus.   To do this I have them sit up, and make eye contact with the speaker.  I have them put away all distractions: Chromebooks, phones, homework from other classes, and reading books.  I frequently have the students gesture and use quick formative assessment techniques to make sure everyone is paying attention.  Remember that engaged does not have to be enthusiastic!

pay attention



I teach students to recognize efforts of their classmates by clapping after the greetings, and skits.  I teach them to use compliments.  For example, after a partner reading student 1 says “you’re a good reader.”  Student 2 says “thanks, I know.”  You can teach students phrases to ask for help.  Student 1 says “Can you tell me how to say this?” Student 2 says “Sure that’s super simple!”  Student 1 says “thanks, you’re really smart!”  Student 2 says “you’re welcome.”  I found a cool handout on Facebook 99 ways to compliment your classmates in French.

The pacing of the lesson provides students the time needed to intellectually engage with and reflect upon their learning and to consolidate their understanding.  Plan reflection time into your lessons.  Graphic organizers are good for recording knowledge at the beginning of a lesson and returning to them to reflect and record new knowledge at the end.  Students could use different colors, draw a line, new column or other method to distinguish old from new.


“The classroom culture is a cognitively vibrant place, characterized by a shared belief in the importance of learning.”  How are you establishing a culture for learning? Are your students helping each other learn? What are your routines for when students have finished their work?  In my room, I encourage silent reading in the target language, working on language related websites, or helping each other.  Students almost always choose to help each other.  Share your comments and ideas below.




Common Core Uncomplicated: Incorporating Math in World Language Instruction

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World Language teachers can connect to math and support Common Core State Standards through graphing, surveying, story problems, and activities to develop fluency.

One way world language teachers can connect to math while providing comprehensible input is through graphing.  I ask students to list their 10 favorite things to do.  I pass out graph paper and ask the first student what is the number one activity on their list.  I then ask the class to raise their hands if they have that activity on their top ten lists.  We then count hands and graph the results for that hobby, making connections between students who like the same things, and go on to the next student to learn their favorite thing to do. We bar graph hobbies, favorite colors, birthdays, favorite foods, future professions, and anything else that allows us to use the target language. Another favorite graphing activity is the twenty four hour pie charts on how they spend their day.
graphing ty


I ask students “Who is the most important person in your life and why?”  I write the question on the board and list possible answers.  I do a whip around and have each student give me an answer as a student tallies the responses on the board.  Students can analyze, organize, discuss or find an interesting way to present the data.  What are some good survey questions? What is your favorite anything is usually a good starting point (team, animal, food, color, class, teacher, current issues). Students can start surveying from day one in the target language with the how are you or Comment ça va? activity from  comment ca va

There are free online survey tools like,,, and my personal favorite  You can teach students how to design a survey, collect information, analyze data, and draw conclusions on-line or on paper. I like to keep survey blank forms on hand. You can give each student a different food or activity and have them survey their classmates’ opinions ranging from I love, I like, I don’t know, I don’t like, or I hate.

Try a group number lift. Arrange students in teams and give them cards with numbers from 0-9.  Call out a number in the target language and students compete to be the first team to hold up the correct answer.  Increase the complexity of the numbers, add operation symbols and give math equations, or story problems.  Math fact relays or white board races help reinforce math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division which improves fluency in math, supporting CCSS while practicing the numbers in the target language.

Another way to connect to math is to create story problems in the target language. There are some good examples of story problems for food and clothing on in Spanish that could be converted to any language.


Exploring the metric system for food quantities, clothing and shoe sizes, figuring mileage and converting money all connect to CCSS.  We do role plays in café skits and the market.  Students use the target language to acquire goods services or information orally or in writing.  Once each year we take over the courtyard outside my room and stage “Le Marché” and “El Mercado”.  Students bring items to sell from home and set up a store or business.  Fake dollars and Euros from Teacher’s Discovery are used and students exchange currencies and buy and sell their goods or services in the target language.  Students speaking English are fined and goods are confiscated.  Students sell croissants at the boulangerie, doughnuts at the patisserie, coffee at a café or soft drinks at l’épicerie.  Students who do not bring a product take a service job like police, banker, custodian and the mayor (me) pays them for their work.

Every day we chart the weather in Fahrenheit and Celsius.  Students can now make the conversion between Fahrenheit and Celsius easily and compete to see who can say it first. Weather reports of Countries or cities in the target language reinforce presentational skills and connect to geography and science.  Students research the five day forecast for a country in the target language.  They prepare a presentation with the high/low temperatures in Celsius &/or Fahrenheit, weather description with graphic, sunrise and sunset with 24 hour clock system.  With only three countries in the world not using the metric system, world language teachers can facilitate the acquisition of this skill daily.


One of our favorite games is a variation of a kid’s counting game called “Buzz.”  Students form a circle and count in the target language but cannot say multiples of a predetermined number; instead they say “buzz.” In the original version students are eliminated until there is a winner, which is fun sometimes however some students want to be eliminated in order to avoid participating.  In Spanish we play a version called “Arroz y Frijoles” adapted from Bryce Hedstrom.  In French I call it “pain et fromage”, it could be peanut butter and jelly in English, use any two words in your target language. Here is a way to play without eliminating students. Divide students into two circles.  Students go around counting aloud one at a time in the target language.  When they hit a multiple of 5 that students says “Arroz” instead of the number. The counting continues with the next number. The object of the game is to get the highest number. The next day, switch to multiples of 7 and have students say: “frijoles”instead of the multiple of 7.  You can then combine and use multiples of 5 and 7 and then a number like 35 is “arroz y frijoles” because it is a multiple of 5 and 7.  You can substitute any number for the multiples and any words for rice and beans. One thing that works well is to have the circles compete against each other.  When someone misses arroz their circle has to start over with the counting.  The person that misses has to go to the other circle but can be absorbed into that circle without them stopping. With this arrangement no one is sitting out, the peer pressure keeps them all trying. Posting the class period and the winning total for each class helps keep motivation going.  With this activity we are not teaching math but reinforcing fluency in math which supports CCSS.Screen-shot-2012-01-18-at-10.20.26-AM (1)Even things as simple as having students change the scores on their papers to a percent and decimal helps according to our math department chairperson.  Common Core does not have to be complicated.  Look for little ways to support math while teaching your target language.