Season 3, Ep 2: Creating a Target Language Discourse Community

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

Welcome to Inspired Proficiency and thank you for joining us for episode 2 of season 3. Thank you to our presenting sponsor Wayside Publishing! As always, please tweet any takeaways and inspirations using #inspiredproficiency.

Listen here Or wherever you listen to podcasts! We are on apple podcasts, stitcher & google play.

On the second episode Ashley continues her conversation with Rebecca Blouwolff, the NECTFL 2019 teacher of the year, about high leverage teaching practices. Rebecca teaches 7th and 8th grade French at Wellesley Middle School, a suburb of Boston, MA. Ashley also chats with Jennifer Bilby about her fame among Spanish teachers who use Señor Wooly.

Ashley is offering her 3rd annual 3 day workshop this summer 2019 in Tyngsboro, MA.

8/14 Proficiency and Target Language Strategies

8/15 Assessment and Feedback Practices Through Proficiency Portfolios

8/16 Community Building Themes and Team Challenges in the Target Language


Rebecca has already shared with us about Facilitating Target Language Comprehensibility and today she continues today with Building a Target Language Discourse Community. All her ideas come from reading the book Enacting the Work of Language Instruction: High Leverage Teaching Practices by Glisan & Donato.


Building a Target Language Discourse Community describes talking to your students and getting them to speak to you in the target language. Several strategies involving visual assists to hold kids accountable are discussed to promote target language use. It is a culture that needs to be built and cultivated within the classroom and that takes time.

Building Target Language Discourse Community

  • VisualsStuffed animals presented to remind students they did not have permission to speak English.Students who remain with the stuffed animal at the end of class need to prepare something in the TL for the next class to make up for the English they were speaking.
    • ClothespinsAll kids receive one on the way into class.
      • Students lose their clothespin if speaking English.
      • Rebecca has so much success that students no longer need to grab them because they have been trained to stop using English.

Instead of IRE (initiate, respond, evaluate), teachers should strive for IRF (initiate, respond, feedback) to promote further discussion beyond simple interactions and yes or no questions. Feedback is limited when assessments are fill in the blank verb conjugations not requiring students to communicate information. The focus should be on Tasks  that promote communication between students and provides a purpose for completing it. Teachers should try to be more curious conversation partners instead of evaluators.

Communication has to drive what you’re doing in the classroom. Teachers need to be aware of developmental levels of the students and they need survival phrases and other strategies to help them not revert to English. Feedback is important to learners but if a learner does not ask you to correct them then you should refrain from making corrections in their language until they are naturally curious about it. Corrective feedback can sometimes cause students to stop attempting in the target language and raise their affective filter.

Variety Segment:

2018-19 picAshley also interviews Jennifer Bilby and her new found fame after being in the new song released for Wooly Week. She teaches Spanish at Pequea Valley High School in Lancaster, PA. Jennifer Bilby won Wooly Week 2017 two years ago and has been patiently awaiting her original song written by the genius himself, Señor Wooly. He shared the song with all of those participating in Wooly Week for an engaging week (or two) filled with excitement for students and professional development for teachers. Her favorite part of her original song is the dancing in the limousine.

She also answers some listener questions from Facebook to talk about how her life has changed since the song debuted. Señor Wooly is a great to bring joy and fun to the learning of Spanish with great music and stories. Jennifer also mentions how great Wooly Week was for teachers and even though not everyone could complete all of the activities, they work with ALL stories and you just modify the activities to work with what you are doing. The activities shared during Wooly Week help teachers to pull out all the elements of language from the song and story.

Resources and links mentioned on the show:


Rebecca Blouwolff on Twitter @MmeBlouwolff and her blog

Jennifer Bilby


Enacting the Work of Language Instruction: High Leverage Teaching Practices by Glisan & Donato

While We’re on the Topic by Bill Van Patten (BVP)

Other resources:

Rebecca’s blog post on her 6 hour session on High Leverage Teaching Practices with Dr. Catherine Ritz (on Twitter @ritzforeignlang) and their slides

#langchat on Twitter (What is LangChat?)

TALK rubric

Episode sponsors:

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