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Mary Kempen

Standard 7: Essay on keeping content current
To keep the content of my Spanish classes current each year, I will need to inform myself of
developments in the field of language studies as well as changing student interests. Content in foreign
language classes does not refer to just grammar concepts; content is the information students learn and
about which they communicate their ideas. It may become outdated if the students no longer care to
learn about topics I have chosen. For example, students will not desire to compare the music of Hanson
to the music of a Latin American pop group if Hanson has been out of fashion for so long that the
students have never heard of them. Content may also become outdated if it does not correlate to
changes in best practices in language teaching, changes in state and national standards, or changes in
the cultures taught. Communication with my students and genuine inquiry into their preferences can
help me update the content of my classes with respect to their concerns. Contact with professional
organizations such as the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the American
Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), or the Wisconsin Association of Foreign
Language Teachers (WAFLT) can help me update my teaching with regard to standards and research-
based instruction.
Some of the most useful tools for learning new developments in language teaching are the
reports, journals and magazines published by ACTFL and the AATSP. ACTFLs The Langauge Educator
provides practical ideas to implement in the classroom while its Foreign Language Annals disseminates
new research on language acquisition and language education. The AATSPs Hispania publishes book
and film reviews about Spanish-language works as well as research articles specific to Spanish teaching
and literary criticism. Reading these periodicals can inspire me to try something new in my classes and
choose methods or materials that research may demonstrate to be more effective than my most recent
practices. To find innovations and experiments, such as elementary school bilingual education and
service learning, taking place across the United States, I can read the e-mail briefs that these
organizations send regularly.
Conferences for language teachers are another venue for finding current discoveries. The ACTFL
and AATSP conferences and conventions offer opportunities to discuss the latest research in the field of
language learning with scholars who are performing it as well as learn about the experiences of
language teachers from different states. These conferences also host commercial trade shows where I
can discover what resources are available for purchase such as video subscription services, textbook
series, readers, and study abroad tours. State-wide conferences such as the WAFLT annual conference
and associated workshops can inform me of changes in laws and standards specific to my state that
affect my profession along with ways to adapt my practices to meet new standards.
In addition to the resources suggested by the professional organizations, I may use resources
specific to the contemporary cultures of Spanish-speaking countries to keep my own skills and
curriculum current. I may invest in spending time with volunteering programs abroad during the
summers to gain information to keep my classes curriculum aligned to the standards that require that
my students know the cultures of the peoples who use the language they study. If my students are to
learn language skills they can use in their own professions such as medicine and business, I can best
update my curriculum to meet their needs by participating in programs that will enable me and
potentially my students to visit business and health care settings. I can also maintain my contacts with
my classmates from graduate school and invite them to visit my classes to speak about issues they study
or issues that affect their lives as Hispanics.
Finally, keeping the curriculum current in my classes can best be achieved if I work to
integrate my classes with those taught by other teachers in my school, those taught in elementary or
other grades students pass prior to entering my classes, and those taught in colleges and universities.
Communication with teachers at each of these levels will allow the curriculum to be coherent for the
students as it changes. Teachers will be more open to change if they can provide input in the process of
curriculum revision and if they can voice their concerns. I can provide classes that meet my students
background knowledge and future needs if I establish contact with their previous and potentially future
instructors. Whether we share information about our classes in committee meetings or online forums,
we improve our curriculum when we increase our awareness of each others work.