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World Language Classroom Teaching Ideas

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Vielleicht die wichtigste Entdeckung jemals ist das Zeitalter des Universums. Nur 380.000 Jahre nach dem Urknall, so berechnete Max Planck, stammt das erste Licht der Welt. Auf dieser Grundlage konnten wir feststellen, dass das Universum 13,8 Milliarden Jahre alt sei, plus oder minus 0,05 Milliarden Jahren.
Alter des Universums (Urknall) - etwa 13,8 milliarden Jahre her
Mikrowellenstrahlung aus der Zeit - etwa 380.000 Jahre nach dem Urknall
Entstehung von Leben auf Erde - 3,8 Milliarden Jahre her
Uranus Umlaufzeit 84,33 Jahre = 30.801 Tage = 1.848.060 Stunden = 110.883.600 Sekunden
0,38 Jahre = 138,8 Tage = 8.328 Stunden = 499.680 Sekunden
3,8 Jahre = 1.388 Tage = 83.280 Stunden = 4.996.800 Sekunden
38 Jahre = 13.880 Tage = 832.800 Stunden = 49.968.000 Sekunden
83,008 Jahre = 30.318 Tage

1 liter = 33,8 oz. (USA)
1 liter = 33,8 oz. (USA)
1,13 liter = 38 oz. (USA)
1.083 liter = 38,1 oz. (GB)
3,8 liter = 1,00 gallon
30,30 liter = 8,00 gallon
-18.33 grad Celsius = -1 grad Fahrenheit
1 grad Celsius = 33,8 grad Fahrenheit
3.33 grad Celsius = 38 grad Fahrenheit
38 grad Celsius = 100 grad Fahrenheit
Masse118 oz. (GB) = 113 oz. (USA)
108 gram = 3,8 oz. (GB)
1,38 kilo = 3,038 pfund
8,31 kilo = 18,3 pfund
38 kilo = 83,8 pfund
83 kilo = 183 pfund
Geschwindigkeit (max)83,138 M/St = 133,8 Km/St
Energie0,318 Kalorien (Lebensmittel) = 1.330 Joule
103,138 Kilowatt = 138,310 Pferdestärken (USA)

Fläche8,183 Quadratmeter = 88,081 Quadratfuß
MenschWährung1 Euro (NL) = 1,38 US Dollar (beste jemals)

3 miles/gallon = 13,89 km/liter
78,38 miles/gallon = 33 km/liter

Länge1 meter = 3.3 Fuß (feet)
33.833 meter = 111 Fuß
118.3 meter = 388.1 Fuß
3 centimeter = 1,18 Zoll (inches)
3,81 centimeter = 1,5 Zoll
8,081818... centimeter = 3,181818... Zoll

138 list of recurring numbers

Age of the universe

  • about 13.8 billion years

Age of Universe (Big Bang/Urknall). Perhaps the most important discovery of the Planck observatory was the reception of microwave radiation. The device received light from only 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Using this data we now know that the universe itself is 13.8 billion years old, plus or minus 0.05 billion years – that is more than 100 million years older than was always assumed.

Microwave radiation relates back to:

  • about 380,000 years after Big Bang

When life happened on earth:

  • 3.8 billion years ago

Uranus cycle around the sun

84.33 years = 30,801 days = 1,848,060 hours = 110,883,600 seconds

38 years = 13,880 days = 832,800 hours = 49,968,000 seconds

Years left after 2x38 years

8.3 years = 3.031 days

0.38 years = 138.8 days = 8,328 hours = 499,680 seconds

3.8 years = 1,388 days = 83,280 hours = 4,996,800 seconds

83.008 years = 30,318 days = 1,819,080 hours = 109,144,800 seconds

⅜ = 38 %

1 liter = 33.8 oz. (USA)

1 gallon = 3.8 liter

83.138 miles/hour = 133.8 kilometer/hour

Lightspeed = 3 x 108 m/s

0.318 calories (food) = 1,330 Joule

103.138 kilowatt = 138.310 horsepower (USA)

Surface (biggest house ever lived in)

8.183 square meter = 88.081 square feet

1 Euro = 1.38 US Dollar (in 2009 when I first came to US)

-18.33 degrees Celsius = -1 degrees Fahrenheit

1 degrees Celsius = 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit

1 degrees Celsius = 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit

3.33 degrees Celsius = 38 degrees Fahrenheit

3.38 degrees Celsius = 38.08 degrees Fahrenheit

3.8 degrees Celsius = 38.80 degrees Fahrenheit

38 degrees Celsius = 100 degrees Fahrenheit

38.33 degrees Celsius = 101 degrees Fahrenheit

38.89 degrees Celsius = 102 degrees Fahrenheit

321 degrees Kelvin = 118.13 degrees Fahrenheit

118 oz. (GB) = 113 oz. (USA)

108 gram = 3.8 oz. (GB)

1 liter = 33.8 oz. (USA)

1,13 liter = 38 oz. (USA)

1.083 liter = 38.1 oz. (GB)

3.8 liter = 1.00 gallon

30.30 liter = 8.00 gallon

1.38 kilogram = 3.038 pound

8.31 kilogram = 18.3 pound

38 kilogram = 83.8 pound

33 miles/gallon = 13.89 kilometer/liter

78.38 miles/gallon = 33 kilometer/liter

2 Amsterdam EL = 138 cm

1 meter = 3.3 feet

33.833 meter = 111 feet

118.3 meter = 388.1 feet

3 centimeter (1 centimeter =1/100 meter) = 1.18 inches

3.81 centimeter = 1.5 inches

83.8 centimeter = 33 inches

8.081818... centimeter = 3.181818... inches

A clear link is establish between this chapter (Mastering ESL/EFL Methods, chapter I) and the last one (Strategies for teaching English learners, chapter 10) in this workshop, when the authors emphasize that "educators must be fully aware of the influence that a CLD student's biography, especially his or her culture, has on his or her preferred learning processes, language use, and performance potential in the classroom". Central to the book (it now turns out) stand the Prism Model with its four dimensions. After some extra reading I am starting to see how important this model has become for teacher who want to do right to CLD students by also minding the cognitive development in L1 of the child. I would now consider the cognitive dimension the more central one, while the other three are surrounding ones. Having this model as a thoroughly cognitive one now makes much more sense to me. The social and cultural processes cannot be central since cognitive development could happen regardless of which exact social and cultural processes. This latter term could better be called 'L1+L2 social and cultural development' since this development involves a specific adaptation to the new environment a CLD student operates (develops) in. I would like to hear what other students think of this proposed change to the model.

The chapter further neatly hammers out the facets of social acculturation, specified for schooling. It would furthermore be very interesting to relate these facets more clearly to stage of linguistic and academic development.

In my department we use graphic organizers to have students categorize their thinking and I welcome this handy overview to get more inspiration. I have seen how organizers help students make sense of material and build connections where they didn't see any before. As some have said here, the danger is that very soon organizers because too overwhelming if they aren't very straightforward. A danger of not offering several different organizers for students to pick from is that he teacher thinks that the person being taught is his/her handiwork: students are free, i.e. self-referential beings, until their independence at graduation or later. With that in mind I always give students the option of creating their own organizer instead of the one(s) I am providing. 

The human interaction organizer, for example, is not immediately clear to me, however it does depict the communication process itself as taking place independent of the persons. I believe this is correct, as in: communication always goes in unexpected directions, essentially following a logic inherent to communication itself, and especially in language classes, this could free students from a preoccupation with themselves. So only if there is enormous gain involved in understanding how an organizer works it is worth risking some initial confusion.

Presence of Media in Classrooms

On Monday I will hold a presentation on the benefits of having on-hand media for the language-learning high school student. On-hand, because they are not hidden any longer, as they were last year, usually in the form of smart phones. Now, they are visible and useful, but to what degree exactly?

To answer this broad question I suggest taking an approach that covers the most important aspects of our life: time, place and people. Time learning the target language is spent outside of the classroom, while classroom time might be spent on crunching a lot of work into sparse minutes. Classroom activities had been assisted by overhead and then projectors, but now are individualized since students use their own device on which they also check emails and do other personal stuff. The Chromebook takes over the place of learning to an unforeseen degree (an estimated 40% and over) of a student’s average class period attention. People are more often inside the Chromebook than surrounding a student physically. The sheer number of people inside the Chromebook makes it easy to discard the 20-some students physically present.

Let’s look a bit closer, though. What happens in the student’s head? What happens to his thoughts? Perhaps it is safe to say that students will either prioritize social life (parents, friends, he-said-she-said, sports, dates, parties, etc.) or stuff (games, sports, cars, house, degrees, money in general, etc.). There are those who prioritize storytelling but usually high-schoolers are too young to have developed a strong sense of this more ephemeral aspect.

Once a student reaches his or her senior year, it will be easier to reflect on what they have learned in high school so far. They will then discover that they have spent too much time on either thinking about social life, or about stuff. We call this reflection important, because it takes anyone toward the storytelling phase: what is my life going to look like, and more importantly, is the answer to that still fully under my control? From that point on the student will find amazement in any of the eight grand societal systems.

Wait, but how is this important for our initial question, does on-hand technology enhance learning for language learners in high school? Well, the answer can now be easily given: as long as a student is helped in his process of self-reflection, it will benefit him or her. I think it is entirely possible that students will start to reflect on their life/career purpose earlier on, and therefore can attain a deeper kind of reflection. If such reflection does not take place, and the hand-on device becomes the distraction everyone fears it will be, the results may be devastating. One thing is clear: if a student has to figure this out on his own, he will fail. He has to be guided.

For this reason I wrote the book 138: Shortcut To Beyond, which explains why such a guide is so important, and views the entrance of a different role of technology from an autobiographical (better: autoethographic) viewpoint. The book lays down a simple overview of society, carefully carves out its limits, and its freedom within those limits. That approach will go a lot longer way than the haphazard one, where single apps are shown to be beneficial for the opportunities they provide.

Case at hand: Flipgrid. Flipgrid has students respond to a prompt through video. Students and teacher can then provide feedback through video and writing. It can be said to create community instantly, since a single teacher prompt has students watch at least 10 other students’ entries and provide feedback to 2, while receiving feedback from at least 1 other student. It does not create new ways of expression although it certainly is new to students who don’t like their face in video. Exposure to target language is increased by viewing other students’ videos. However, other than the teacher speaking near-native in the prompt, there is no exposure to native or authentic language. It is also very laborious for a teacher to provide feedback to every student separately, depending on the limitations for student output built into the prompt (i.e. if the output is simple, it would be less laborious to listen to each student’s entry). The best thing is that student have fun adding funny accessories to their screen capture of the video. This fun is related to students being able to ‘dress up in drag’ and being provided with options for stylization, i.e. being someone else for a while. This part is important since any platform that revolves around profiles has largely been successful for this same option.

My principal always says

"do what's right for kids". In that light, it makes a lot of sense to teach skills that students can apply to other things, too. Foreign language teachers often see kids make mistakes in writing because they don't know how to do it correctly in their first language. The focus should lie on getting them on a high academic level in L1, which can then be use to transfer knowledge to L2. Foreign language classes can then become far more like sidekicks of ELA and not try to do their own thing, with their own approach. With regard to instructional activities, teacher should simply do anything to make their classes engaging, which often starts with finding material that entices themselves. This requires teachers themselves to read widely and become really good readers. As reading becomes a more important skill that makes you stand out and get jobs easily, it is important to use as many instructional methods as possible. My favorite is the point-of-view guide, as it relates to reading widely and knowing many different perspectives on as many topics.

A top reader reads at speeds of above 1000 words per minute (wpm) with near 85% comprehension, but they only represent 1% of readers. Average readers are the majority and only reach around 200 wpm with a typical comprehension of 60%. The average reader is five times slower than the good reader. Things are even worse if we consider reading efficiency as well as speed. Reading efficiency is reading speed weighted by comprehension rate and it amounts to 200 x 60% or 120 efficient words per minute (ewpm) for the average reader and to 1000 x 85% or 850 ewpm for top readers. Thus, an efficiency ratio of seven divides these two categories. (see http://www.readingsoft.com/)

Reading can only be made more popular if it is made into an adventure, a program that can be actively explored. Writing can be seen as empowering readers to create and construct more out of what's there. Their writing should then connect to what everyone else is writing inside and outside the class, on topics that matter. If the student can successfully be made part of a wider discussion on important topics, that forms a stepping stone for getting them to read and write more on their way to becoming responsible citizens.

  • Essential communication skills

This article points out the 5 most important feats of anyone in the business world: 

-delivery (command attention by being brief and cutting out "you know" and "like")

-tackle confusion head on (voice concern at the start or people will end up on a different page)

-pay attention (underestimated)

-active engagement (show genuine interest, watch your body language)

-the conviction principle (Bill McGowan - stop downplaying yourself in front of your boss)

I can only imagine a student incorporating these skills in the classroom. It would at once become an environment for exponential professional growth. But they are still kids so you cannot expect them to be professionals yet. It is more like students have to be shown that these are skills that are worthwhile getting under your belt.

  • Importance of background knowledge

This is a chapter from a book called Overcoming Textbook Fatigue. The chapter is claims that background knowledge is the glue that makes learning stick. I like how the article point out that a detail like knowing the suffrage either engages the viewer or will be unable to 'read' the photo and thus feel bored. I feel that also in the classroom it comes down to such details and thus it matters a lot that we choose our 'hooks' in a way all students have prior knowledge and not just 5 smart ones. Improved in my mind is easy if you just take 3 minutes out to ponder on whether or not your students will be familiar with a concept you are trying to teach, or not.

  • Effectiveness of graphic organizers in vocabulary and concept development 

This article from K12 Professional Learning Board

discusses why it is good to use graphic organizers in the classroom. It says it makes teaching simpler and more enjoyable. If that is not enough this article states that teachers should use graphic organizers to come to the rescue of students, who are sometimes challenged by inaccessible text. Graphic organizers can be defined as "diagrammatic illustrations used to organize and highlight content information and or vocabulary" (Lovitt 1994). I think organization guiding the rightly timed highlights are the key to any successful concept and vocabulary teaching.

The organization principle works because it breaks a broad topic such as folk literature up in easily graspable pieces. This process is commonly referred to as analysis. It helps students to more easily remember the pieces and thus talk about or give examples for elements of folk literature. It is a big step towards making students functional personalities in a society that depends on people producing language. If you are silently pondering without sharing (still waters...) you cannot be functional in society. However, I see a split where it comes to thinking deeply and thinking analytically. This is why I disagree when the commentator claims that it helps children think more deeply about this topic. The second time depth is used by the narrator makes a lot more sense. Students are challenged to connect to seemingly unrelated objects (fractions and roller coasters). Because the connection of both lies outside of ordinary experience of everyday life students will be confused at first, but then possibly see applications of one in the other. The initial confusion throws them off so they metaphorically stare at an abyss of meaning. This staring improves the brains capacity for remembrance because it is a somewhat unpleasant experience. When I was in high school my German teacher would always open all windows in midwinter saying we remember better when we're uncomfortable. Although I don't open windows midwinter, I do like the idea of throwing my students off a bit.

—- "When I was in high school my German teacher would always open all windows in midwinter saying we remember better when we're uncomfortable" Oh my. No wonder Germans get a bad reputation! Krashen would disagree. Too much discomfort and the affective filter goes up and no learning happens. I would say, when students are laughing, they are learning. Strong emotion helps to strengthen a mental connection.

I believe good readers read widely and therefore see there is all kinds of writing, not just boring ones. Therefore, they will try to write like their favorite writer - if they get a chance to or feel like they get a chance to. Maybe there is often no room for this, since many subjects do require a kind of pre-professional (aka boring) kind of writing. I found this quote by Christine Casanave and Miguel Sosa (2008:92) amazing when I read it, and it relates directly to my subject of foreign language teaching:

"[A] second language student, bored by textbook exercises, longs to be challenged by something more interesting, which almost always means something more difficult and more interactive and almost always something outside the conventional school setting. ... But if she is doing this in her L2, she must hold to a belief that may make her fearful at first--she must believe that she does not have to wait until her language is error-free in order to transform her experiences and complex thoughts into lines of words. The lines do not need to be long. The grammar does not need to be perfect. ... She also needs to be convinced that there is a receptive audience consisting of other people who are interested in what she has to say".

Especially in foreign language teaching, only the success in getting the message across - 'hitting the ball over the net' - should count, and students can be as creative as they want or can with that - so that it becomes more of a game and takes the stress out of the situation.

The composing process

has to do with self-knowledge and knowing when you need what to successfully continue on. In this article by Krashen the composing process is the knowledge a writer has about balancing planning, drafting and revising his/her writing. Much of his argument stresses that you have to plan and you have to write without editing too much, and only do the editing at the very end.

Furthermore, a writer has to work hard to get his conscious mind full of material. Preferably, the writer runs into an impasse and has to take a break and relax to leave the rest of the work (ideas) up to the unconscious. It is also very good to write regularly as opposed to haphazardly forced or under stress, because regular writers produce more ideas per page.

In my own writing, I haven't looked up many self-help writing materials, which undoubtedly all would have recommended having a system. Krashen's article concurs with this approach. The professional approach of "now I am going to write this and later I am going to write that" and "now I am going to write, while later I am going to do something else" has never appealed to me. At same time, I have tended to reread a lot of what I had written.

Most notably, knowledge of the composing process includes knowledge of organization, and none other will make a writer into a smarter person, as Krashen points out. The structure of the approach will force a writer to go back to what was written and how it was written and every time that happens, the mind will reinforce the arguments made by finding more alleyways to support them. A smarter person, then, can also be defined as someone who has more ways to back up claims made.


Krashen, S. (2014). The Composing Process. Research Journal: Ecolint Institute of Teaching and Learning.,2, 20-30. Retrieved June 16, 2017, 

I had a great experience

this semester with one of my German II classes when reading through their first book. Because it is important for them to hear the language I tend to read aloud for them, for a part, and have them read the rest for homework by themselves. This class, however, found it fascinating to try and make the sounds, and they enthusiastically repeated sounds when I stepped in and corrected some not quite well-pronounced words they read. Although methods like popcorn and reading aloud to them sound ancient, they can sometimes be used for 10 or 15 minutes to diversify class periods. I really like the solution of just sitting down with them to see what they prefer - something I don't do enough with kids, yet. My ultimate goal was to make them see how much knowledge of German they already possess that they can read an entire book by themselves, and I'll take whatever I can to get them to that experience.

A few years ago

I adopted the register of a few famous sociologist when thinking scientifically about culture. A very useful benefit was that culture suddenly did have a concrete meaning, since high culture is an argument about taste (Bourdieu 1979), and low culture an argument about morals. Culture is part of the "operation bootstrap" by which social systems emerge as independent from organic and environmental conditions (Parsons 1977, p. 179).

"Luhmann (1995a) takes great care to describe it as a "historical notion", invented in the 18th century, when culture lost the genetive which it had in ancient times. Culture with the Greeks and Romans had been an expression of care, attention, and worship, as is documented in phrases like cultura animi, as Cicero's name for philosophy, or cultura dolorum as an expression for the Christian faith. Culture now became an independent sphere of decisively "intellectual" comparisons of human behaviour in different times and regions (Luhmann 1995b; Luhmann 1996a). Culture emerged as the result of the possibility of describing as "interesting" what until then just had been of use or not, be it something beautiful, just, true, lovable, economical, or the opposite" (in: Dirk Baecker, The Meaning of Culture).

Chapter 10 of Strategies for Teaching English Learners (Lynn Diaz-Rico)

introduces culture in the common fuzzy way, but then defines it further as first and foremost a value system, almost as though willfully reversing history.

To give an example of fuzziness, in the chapter it says that "the culture that students bring from the home is the foundation for their learning" and that no student is culturally deprived. Cultural deprivation can only occur when someone looks at culture from a 'high culture' perspective, whereas the chapter pushes for culture from a 'low culture' perspective, in which all cultures ought to be treated and taught culturally responsively. The fuzziness comes in where someone is a 'cultural traditionalist' when he puts ornaments on the Christmas tree every year, and loves to color Easter eggs and carve jack o'lanterns. Whatever happened to the words artsy and crafty?

Regardless of this somewhat incoherent critical discussion I think that with a little more precision in what is meant by culture it will be easier to engage students in a meaningful discussion or reflection about what they bring into the classroom.

“Higher mental functions are not simply a continuation of elementary functions and are not their mechanical combination, but a qualitatively new mental formation that develops according to completely special laws and is subject to completely different patterns" (Vygotsky, 1998, p. 34). "In the thinking of the adolescent, not only completely new complex synthetic forms that the three-year-old does not know arise, but even those elementary, primitive forms that the child of three has acquired are restructured on new bases during the transitional age" (ibid., p. 37).

Writing to inform, describe process, compare, give opinion or persuade is a great way to provide a shortcut to the teaching of all purposes of writing. Language teachers will often ask students to give their opinion (and compare/contrast), since this mode builds easy ways to participating in meaningful discussion. The other four seem of a higher order, although opinions can also include higher order thinking. The thought is, that simply giving your opinion lowers the barrier for learners of a foreign language to participate. However, aren't we setting our expectations too low if that is the case. Of course, we want students to have experiences of success in the language and not fail, but that notion may still be too much tied to expressing oneself without grammatical errors. Stepping away from that notion would mean to purely focus on whether a student can make her-/himself clear using the language. It then becomes about a teacher's ability to still understand what a student means based on his earlier experiences with non-native writers in that language. I believe this way of not minding perfect expression opens up ways for students to engage in informational, processual and persuasive writing in the target language, which would give students more options and may increase engagement.

The organization principle in CODE (connect, organize, deeply process, exercise)

works because it breaks a broad topic, such as folk literature, up in easily graspable pieces. This process is commonly referred to as analysis. It helps students to more easily remember the pieces and thus talk about or give examples for elements of folk literature. It is a big step towards making students functional personalities in a society that depends on people producing language. If you are silently pondering without sharing (still waters...) you cannot be functional in society. However, I see a split where it comes to thinking deeply and thinking analytically. This is why I disagree when the commentator claims that it helps children think more deeply about this topic. In fact, this is why people who are not from the States might say that depth is not taught at all in the US. The old adagio - that you don't know something unless you can teach it to someone else - is only right if depth indeed depends on verbal production. But of course this is not the case. When I have students unable to produce coherent speech on a topic I never think or say that 'they are not there yet', and always simply attribute it to their character. I also think that Americans often underestimate their body language as hiding some negative stuff under the hood. For example, students pick up really easily on body language expresses an attempt to hide tiredness, boredom and anger.

The second time depth is used by the narrator makes a lot more sense. Students are challenged to connect to seemingly unrelated objects (fractions and roller coasters). Because the connection of both lies outside of ordinary experience of everyday life students will be confused at first, but then possibly see applications of one in the other. The initial confusion throws them off so they metaphorically stare into an abyss of meaning. This staring improves the brains capacity for remembrance because it is an unpleasant experience. When I was in high school my German teacher would always open all windows in mid-winter saying we remember better when we're uncomfortable. It turns out he was more than right.