I’ve seen and heard of a lot of great things WL teachers are doing in their own classrooms, but what really gets my attention is when I hear about great things happening throughout a WL departmentTeachers need space to teach and connect with students in their own way, but when a group of teachers are moving in the same direction and can nail down common goals for learning… that’s when we really WOW our admin, parents, and community.

I found a neat example from Bozeman High School (Montana) world language teachers. They have a tradition of putting on a “World Language Winter Celebration.” Students sing traditional songs they learned in their different language classes, and try popular holiday snacks from around the world.The city newspaper even caught wind of it and wrote up a neat article about it (read about it here). I love this quote…

I don’t know what each of their classes looked like before this event, but I bet it was fun! They narrowed in on a few things – songs, snacks, and decorations – as common goals and each teacher investigated them with their classes in their own way. Then (and here’s the big thing) they shared what they were doing! I hear people talking about advocating for our language programs, but in order to get support, people need to know what we are doing. Maybe the Bozeman newspaper found out about the celebration or maybe a teacher sent in the story – either way… the community got to hear about students using languages and learning about the world!

Here’s how you can come together as a department this month and show your program’s value:

1.) Choose a few common areas of focus as a department.

Songs, Festivals, Decorations, Sweets, Traditional meals, Events, Characters… you’ll be able to find lots of authentic resources to learn from as you investigate the target culture!

2.) Decide on a few level appropriate “can do” statements to support the learning.

Novice (any language) examples:

I can give basic information about alfajores/madeleines/Lebkuchen/杏仁餅. (what, where, when)

I can understand opinions (positive/negative) about alfajores/madeleines/Lebkuchen/杏仁餅.

Intermediate (any language) examples:

I can describe different varieties of tamales/bûche de noël/schneeballen/nian gao.

I can participate in a conversation with native speakers about traditional holiday foods.

I can compare traditional dishes from (target culture) with what I normally eat.

3.) Plan a time for a “Winter Celebration” and share what you are doing! 

Don’t leave this up to one person; divide and conquer… (Even better, get students to help!)

Who’s super-organized? Have them reserve a large room to plan the event and get permission for the department.

Do you have a creative writer in your department? Let them write up a short article for the school website or parent newsletter.

Who’s the social butterfly? Ask them to invite your principal, school secretary, special needs students, your favorite lunch lady, etc!

Someone have a phone? Have them take pictures/videos

Got a tech-savvy teacher? See if they can edit those pics/videos into a short promo for your program showing students enjoying foods, using the target language, and connecting with culture!

Who likes reflection? Ask them to write up a few questions to get students reflecting on what they learned about the world through this event.

Has your school or district done something similar? Any tips for the rest of us? How did you involve the community?

Bozeman – are you still doing this? Can I come, please?

I know finals are a reality and require some focus this time of year, but consider saving a little time to come together to celebrate language and culture! I think that learning + experiences + sharing will stick with our students longer than any final exam.