A Model for Teaching World Languages in a Hybrid Classroom
With some students in the room and some at home, how can teachers continue to focus on building speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in the target language?
In this non-traditional school year, even veteran teachers are experiencing flashbacks to their first days in the classroom. An eerie sense of déjà vu has taken over as teachers have started back at what seems like square one. We’re all newly navigating our hybrid or remote schedules, and have tried our best to make them work under unprecedented circumstances.
In my situation, adapting to a hybrid schedule of instruction took a great deal of brainstorming and revamping. I knew that teaching a language this year would be unlike anything I’d done before, and I also knew I had no choice but to get creative—doing what I’d always done in the classroom was no longer an option.
Because I would see all of my students in different formats and in a different order each week, I knew I needed to essentially create lessons that were all intertwined and interconnected. Hence, I started to plan activities that tapped into the interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes to hone students’ speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills. I simultaneously focused on technology tools that facilitated this approach.
A Plan for Hybrid Teaching
For each four-day cycle, I see the students in one in-person class and one synchronous virtual class, and provide one asynchronous task to be completed independently. Each class section completes this rotation in a different order, so all of my lessons typically focus on the same topic.
As a result, the concepts are reinforced in different ways. For example, this is what I did when teaching my level 1 students how to give descriptions in the target language:
- In the in-person class, I taught an interactive lesson using Google Slides and guided notes with breaks for question-and-answer and turn-and-talk techniques, to tap into the interpretive and interpersonal modes.
- In the synchronous virtual class, I used a Pear Deck interactive presentation to have students respond in the presentational mode.
- For the asynchronous task, I assigned an Edpuzzle video in which students listened and responded to questions in the target language, to practice the interpretive mode.
Similarly, when teaching a unit about family structure and relationships to my level 4 students, one of my four-day cycles looked like this:
- In the in-person class, I taught a communication-based lesson in which students spontaneously conversed with one another and then collectively listened to an audio clip related to the concept, followed by a whole-class discussion, to tap into all three modes.
- In the synchronous virtual class, I had students read an article in groups, with post-reading activities using Google Meet breakout rooms.
- As an asynchronous task, I assigned a Flipgrid video in which students recorded a two-minute cultural comparison presentation.
During my in-person classes, I strive to make the most of the time in which I physically see my students. I provide as much comprehensible input as possible by sticking to maximum target language use. For my level 1 students, this requires the use of images, gestures, and word walls. Likewise, I aim to have authentic interactions with my students while they are physically in front of me; this is crucial in order to build relationships. I tie in question-and-answer techniques and have students turn and talk with one another—while staying socially distanced—to build a sense of community.
In the synchronous virtual class sessions, I guide the lesson and provide extensive modeling, but build in time for independent or group work. Lecturing for the full period is draining for everyone. Hence, for my more mature, intermediate-level students, Google Meet breakout rooms offer a lot of flexibility and allow for seamless collaboration. For my level 1 students, after I provide step-by-step directions and modeling, I like to provide a 10- or 15-minute independent activity for students to complete. I then can check in with the full class once time is up.
The asynchronous task should be one in which students are able to use the language independently. Tools like Flipgrid and Edpuzzle make this easy. It is of the utmost importance not to use a brand-new technology tool for an asynchronous task—if I were interested in having my students work with a new tool, we would explore it together and really learn to use it well before I would ask them to use it on their own, to avoid confusion and frustration. We’re very used to Google Meets now—we spent a fair amount of time getting familiar with it early on this year.
Although teaching a language in a hybrid format has required me to rethink and replan my units, I now feel equipped to provide instruction in a multitude of ways. I had never before taught virtually, and this year has allowed me to develop a new skill and to reignite my sense of creativity. I think most teachers would agree that teaching in a hybrid or remote model is simply not the same as being with all of our students in one room. We all miss how it used to be, but until life can go back to normal, we need to make the best of the current situation and focus on the positive moments.