STARTALK-Endorsed Principles for Effective Teaching & Learning

The STARTALK-endorsed Principles describe characteristics of highly effective language teaching and learning. An ideal learning experience is framed by a standards-based and thematically organized curriculum that integrates culture, content and language. Learners work with authentic, age-appropriate texts in a learner-centered environment as they engage in real-world performance tasks that allow them to use the target language beyond the classroom.

Implementing a Standards-Based and Thematically Organized Curriculum

  • The thematic unit is standards-based. The content is cognitively engaging and relevant to the learner.
  • Every unit assesses a student’s increasing ability to use language for real-world purposes.
  • Each lesson supports the goals of the unit by having clearly stated learning targets that indicate what students will know and be able to do by the end of the lesson.
  • Lesson design is research based and learning experiences are sequenced in ways that allow for maximum student learning.
  • Grammar is not the focus of the course, unit, or lesson. The teacher teaches grammar as a tool for communication, avoiding meaningless rote drills and ensuring that all practice requires attention to meaning.

Facilitating a Learner-Centered Classroom

Example    At-A-Glance PDF
  • The teacher acts as a partner with students in the learning process, providing input and modeling output, guiding and enabling cognitive processing, facilitating collaborative practice, and giving feedback to develop independent student language performance.
  • The teacher engages learners in cognitively challenging real-world tasks. Examples
  • The teacher provides multiple opportunities for learners to collaborate in pair and small group activities while interpreting and expressing ideas about topics of interest to them. There is frequent student-to-student interaction.
  • The teacher makes instructional decisions based on learner’s performance and allows for ongoing feedback from a variety of sources to improve learner’s performance.

Using the Target Language and Providing Comprehensible Input for Instruction

  • The teacher uses the target language at least 90 percent of the time. Examples
  • The teacher demonstrates and models to make input comprehensible. Students learn vocabulary from using it in language-rich contexts such as stories, hands-on experiences, picture descriptions, or subject-matter content. Examples
  • The teacher uses a variety of strategies to make language comprehensible, monitors student comprehension, and makes adjustments as necessary. Examples
  • The teacher avoids the use of translation by using verbal and non-verbal strategies and also avoids eliciting translation from students.

Integrating Culture, Content, and Language in a World Language Classroom

Example    At-A-Glance PDF
  • Learners acquire cultural knowledge and insights as they consider and reflect on the relationships among the products, practices and perspectives of the cultures being studied.
  • Content-related instruction allows learners to make meaningful connections to the world around them. Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines and the world while using the target language.
  • Learning experiences are designed to allow students to use language as they work with the content and cultural topics of the unit.
  • Learners engage in meaningful and purposeful communication. They communicate. They know how, when and why to say what to whom.

Adapting and Using Age-Appropriate Authentic Materials

  • The teacher uses authentic materials and designs tasks appropriate to the language proficiency and age level of the learners.
  • The teacher uses a variety of authentic print and non-print materials.

Conducting Performance-Based Assessment

  • The teacher uses formative checks for learning during lessons to adjust instruction as needed and to provide timely feedback to learners.
  • Learners know how well they are doing with regard to specific learning goals and they know what they can do to improve their performance.
  • Learners have the ability to assess their own learning.
  • Learners engage in summative real-world performance tasks to demonstrate how well they have met the performance goals of the unit.

The bulleted lists of characteristics provide guidance for reflecting on observed lessons. They focus exclusively on world language-specific behaviors, and do not include critical but more generic characteristics of effective instruction (e.g., time management and engaging all learners). The complete list Starting With the End in Mind: Planning and Evaluating Highly Successful World Language Programs (R. Couet, G. Duncan, J. Eddy, M. Met, M. Smith, M. Still, & A. Tollefson, 2008) is available from Pearson Education.