March 05, 2020 | Bulldog Blog
5 Ways to Further Encourage World Language Proficiency in the Classroom and Beyond

Written by Upper Campus Spanish Teacher, Mrs. Elena Giudice 

February marked Languages Advocacy Month across the U.S., an important month for the Palm Beach Day Academy World Languages Department, a team dedicated to helping cure “monolingualism” in today’s youngest generation. While various language experts fight for legislature that affects all of us, teachers at PBDA have taken things into their own hands to help our students become lifelong language advocates.

For avid etymologists, advocate comes from the Latin word advocare meaning to “add” a “voice” (in support of a person or cause). What better way to “add” a “voice” than by creating purposeful opportunities for students to develop and show growth in oral proficiency on a daily basis?  

Whether it is a morning school assembly or a devoted week like our recent World Language Week, there are ways we can continue to build awareness of and advocacy for strong languages in the classroom and beyond. 

Lead #langchat sessions 

If there’s one thing students love, it’s facts! To shake things up a bit, we use infographics as visuals for our #langchats and created a slide and a Kahoot, an online game-based learning platform that allows students to answer quiz-type questions and gain points. In grades 4-9 at PBDA, we use both of these resources with varied approaches to trigger curiosity. High on our agenda is always connectedness, empathy, and some brain research. 

A little competition is a great thing 

Research your local World Language Fair or competition and register early to create excitement among students. This year, we had 18 students participate in the Palm Beach World Language Fair at FAU. Personally, my favorite event is always the impromptu presentation on familiar topics, and it’s a valuable activity that can easily be adapted to create mock competitions in the classroom. In fact, students have enjoyed impromptus and poetry declamations so much that we now save Fridays for an on-going in-class competition. Competing in this year’s Fair externally proved to be fun, rewarding, and in the spirit of connecting with young learners and appreciating all cultures and languages.

Connect with other disciplines

World Languages Week at Palm Beach Day Academy

The more we connect with other areas, the more we open doors for students to understand the value of studying languages. And while creating opportunities does demand energy, sometimes they fall right into our laps! For our World Language Department, it so happened that Federico Uribe, a Colombian artist based in Miami, was exhibiting his work of art “The Plastic Coral Reef” at the nearby Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens the same week we had our World Language Week. His work correlates perfectly with our school’s ongoing PBDA Coral Project and our focus on environmentalism. As follow-up to the outing, we’re now working with students to craft language so they can better explain in their second language: “Here are details on the PBDA Coral Project and why this is important to our community”. 

Invite in inspiring guests 

Palm Beach private school

Language is a tool for communicating, so no matter the field, a guest is always welcome. During World Language Week, we invited in Candiché, a local Venezuelan artist, to lead hands-on workshops for students in her native language of Spanish. Candiché spoke about her life and her artistic development as she showed us her techniques using chemicals and sunlight. Each student made a sample art piece. Candiché’s artwork intersects with art, science, photography, entrepreneurship, botany, geography, and history, so there were bountiful takeaways from her visit.

What’s a party without cake? 

Food is at the heart of culture, and culture and language go hand in hand, so therefore we can assuredly say that food and language can’t be separated either. If possible, look beyond the cliché. With our school being located in southern Florida, we have access to authentic local Cuban bakeries and are able to offer a variety of Cuban delights besides the better known and loved goodies. In my past schools, students have researched authentic recipes and discussed options and menus with the head chef to offer a well-thought-out nonstereotypical lunch. 

While every week is World Language Week in our classrooms, the dedicated five days provides us with a unique opportunity to look at each language with a new lens, and celebrate the impact each has on us. When the emphasis of a program is oral proficiency, students will be the start of a non-stoppable chain reaction, and the strongest advocates of world language.