Season 3, Ep 3: An interview with Ashley

Show notes for season 3 are written and compiled by Emily Loughlin

Welcome to Inspired Proficiency and thank you for joining us for episode 3 of season 3. Thank you to our presenting sponsor Wayside Publishing! As always, please tweet any takeaways and inspirations to #inspiredproficiency.

Download the episode here: or listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here or find it wherever you listen to podcasts! 

The third episode of season three is a first for Inspired Proficiency. Host, Ashley Uyaguari is interviewed by Wendy Farabaugh about how she makes her classroom student centered. The variety segment interviews Haydee Arnold Taylor and how she brings STEM into the world language classroom.

Ashley offers visit days throughout the year at her school and the next official one is in September. If you like what you hear during her interview on the show then you can always contact Ashley to visit her school through her website

How is your March going? In Massachusetts it’s the longest month of the school year with no vacations or long weekends. Teacher burnout is real this time of year so make sure to do what you need to do be the best version of you and if that means taking home a little less work, then you should do it. A great episode to revisit is from season 1 with Kristopher Morehead. On episode 3 of season 1 Kristopher Morehead tackles the topic of teacher burnout and it is still as relevant today as it was back in season 1. We need to be the best people we can be for our students. You are not alone so also reach out to your network of other educators to find what you need to succeed.


Wendy Farabaugh teachers French 1 and AP French in Ohio. She participates in #langchat as a moderator on Twitter working behind the scenes to figure out which topics are most interesting to participants. Wendy credits #langchat to helping her stay in the teacher profession and help her find like minded people to connect with.

Q: What does your curriculum look like? Do you have units of study or is it more free form?

Ashley answers the question as a free form type of curriculum and describes the year by tackling the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. The goal for sixth graders is novice mid, seventh grade is novice high, and eighth grade is strong novice high or intermediate mid. She looks at the text types and functions they need to achieve these goals. Grammar, vocab lists, and thematic units are not the jumping off point. The proficiency level is always targeted when practicing and using more open topics to use skills applied to variety of vocabulary. Second year of study focuses more on simple sentences and creating more with the target language. Third year of study focuses more on asking questions and giving students what they need for themselves and survival.

Day to day looks more like a target language discourse community. Students are expressing meaning through their bodies and the language as much as they can. Ashley relates her daily class to an OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview). Personalized questions are used to gather information from students and see what’s happening in students lives. Whatever comes up within the small talk is what is used to jump off from during the rest of the class. It’s an interview because there’s a floor and a ceiling and you go up and down within their proficiency levels to see how hard students can be pushed but then bring them back down to their comfort level. The language they create is not always pretty but they are constantly pushed to their next level.

Games, articles, songs, etc… are sprinkled into the day to day activities. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening occurs every week as well. Everything ties in to leading towards proficiency because Ashley keeps it ALL in Spanish. Ashley loves having teachers come to visitation days so they can see for themselves how it works for her. She loves the free form aspect of it but she knows that it can also be accomplished for people who work within a curriculum. Portfolio assessments are also used to show students how they grow. These are planned assessment pieces for students to reflect and show their growth. English is used as needed for instructions and planning of portfolios.

Q: When did you make the switch? Was it terrifying?

Ashley has done this since 2010 or 2011 after visiting an Organic World Language workshop. She realized that sometimes a unit provides students with great themes and structures to produce about those topics within a theme but can’t necessarily do something as simple as tell you how they are that day. She also focused on acquisition vs. learning and knowing that they’re different. She wanted to focus more on helping students to acquire the language instead of teaching them about the language so they learned about it but couldn’t necessarily communicate with it. Sometimes within a theme we get very stuck within those themes and sometimes we can get bored saying those things and it forces us to limit students when we shouldn’t necessarily have to do that. It could be more authentic when focusing on acquisition and proficiency.

Her journey began with excitement and a little bit of terror. She got rid of her desks and using English within the classroom. Ashley knows other teachers who break down new things they’ve learned and they’ve changed one at at time. Everyone can find success, they just need to know what level they want to start at. Ashley credits excitement as a way to fuel your decisions to make a change in a positive way! Some ways that she uses real life to talk about what’s going on in the kids lives and the world is a great jumping off point if you start with something as simple as the calendar, the seasons, or the time of year. Sometimes teaching with in a unit prevents us from living in the moment and talking about certain things.

Q: What are some strengths and weaknesses to doing curriculum like this?


  • Content is completely adaptable to what is going on or what is important to the students.
  • The topics can be recycled with all three grades. The approach and proficiency level will be different.
  • Great relationships are built with students by connecting with them through the language.


  • Some teachers she’s worked with need more structure. The choice of being able to do ANYTHING is overwhelming to some.
  • Any recommendations for teachers who are still working with units or want to try more of this?
    • Limit the required vocabulary within a unit
      • Allow students to request some vocab they want to say within the unit.
    • Don’t overplan
      • Allow flexibility and plan only a portion of your class
      • Take the leftover time doing something else
        • Talk about the students
        • Talk about the world
        • Maybe not every day? Once a week? A month? Where do you want to try some free form time?
    • Ask students what they want to talk about
      • You still plan your unit but they get to feel more apart of it
    • Connect with like minded educators or visit someone who is trying what you’re interested in
      • Social media is a great tool
      • YouTube especially for watching what’s going on in other classrooms
    • Figure out what you like about this approach and incorporate more of that at your pace

Big Takeaway: Some of the most exciting and interesting vocabulary can come out of bantering with students and getting to know them in the Target Language and wandering from the curriculum.


Haydee Arnold Taylor helps us to bring STEM into the world language classroom. Haydee teaches Spanish for levels 1 and 4 in Missouri and participates in a STEM leader corps within her school. Haydee hopes to present about this topic at the ACTL conference in November. STEM refers to connecting to the different disciplines and using the core classrooms to relate to other classes. It’s not always science, technology, engineering, and math as people usually think.

Using STEM helps students to be engaged and focus on areas they are good at. By using 21st century skills like creativity, collaboration and communication students can use the target language to connect with other content areas. Haydee usually gives her students tasks or challenges with specific materials or specific goals. They have time to discuss, try their idea, implement changes, and create prototypes. Students reflect and make observations about their attempts and use data to inform their next attempts and any modifications they need to make. Haydee might do a more advanced activity with her level four students and they are expected to do as much as they can in the TL. She might also connect a challenge activity with a story related to what they did to provide more support in the TL. Many content areas can enter into the activity and still related to using the TL.

Resources and links mentioned on the show:


Ashley Uyaguari on Twitter @profeashley

Wendy Farabaugh on Twitter @MmeFarab

Haydee Arnold Taylor on Twitter @Sra_Arnold

Other resources:

Season 1 Inspired Proficiency Episode 3 with Kristopher Morehead

Visit Profe Ashley

#langchat on Twitter

ACTL proficiency guidelines

OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) interview


La Maestra Loca

Sarah Breckley


21st century skills

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