Frequently Asked Questions About the TEKS for LOTE
What is the role of the TEKS for LOTE?
The TEKS for LOTE give an overall picture of where students should be headed within the various Program Goals. They describe what all students should know and be able to do at certain checkpoints in the PreK-12 sequence. The TEKS for LOTE do not constitute a curriculum; they are content and performance standards that provide districts with guidelines to meet the needs of their students. The TEKS for LOTE set clear performance expectations for novice, intermediate, and advanced language learners. The goal is to develop advanced level proficiency that can be obtained when students successfully complete all the performance expectations in the TEKS for LOTE.
Why are the TEKS for LOTE not described in terms of grade levels?
Since levels of entry into LOTE classrooms are so varied and student progress is not lock-step, the TEKS for LOTE were not based on and should not be viewed as grade level equivalents. The TEKS for LOTE are designed to mirror the ACTFL guidelines for proficiency. In the LOTE acquisition process, students can and will reach different levels of proficiency (novice, intermediate, and advanced) in different time frames at different grade levels. The TEKS for LOTE describe what all students need to do to achieve an advanced level of proficiency and also the factors that will affect progress toward that goal.
What is the role of grammar in proficiency-based instruction?
Knowledge of grammar was once viewed as a primary or isolated goal of language study. Now, the study of grammar is understood as a tool to support the broader goal of learning to communicate by listening, speaking, reading and writing. Decisions regarding the teaching of grammar should be made after careful consideration of various factors affecting language instruction, such as:
- Are the students beginning or advanced?
- What ages are the students?
- Do students have prior knowledge of grammar in other languages?
- Is the language studied a modern or a classical language?
- Are students able to access their grammar knowledge to support communicative skills?
- Do the students themselves perceive that grammar study will be useful to them?
If grammar is to be taught explicitly, the instructional methodology chosen to present grammar should be compatible with communicative language instruction. For some language educators, an appropriate methodology is to present a brief explanation of grammar to students in order to focus their attention on a linguistic structure when it appears in subsequent oral or written material. Some educators recommend taking students through a series of contextualized drills which move from skill-acquiring activities to skill-using activities. For other educators, students are first introduced holistically to an oral or written narrative, then they discuss a grammar point occurring frequently in the narrative. In whatever methodology (or combination of methodologies) teachers choose, grammar instruction is an integral part of total language instruction, not a separate "add-on" piece nor an end in itself.
Decisions regarding the inclusion of grammar in the language curriculum, such as how much grammar, which grammar points, and the teaching method, should be based on the usefulness of grammar in meeting communicative goals at different levels of instruction. As more research is done on the supporting role of grammar in communicative language classrooms, language educators will have additional information to help make these decisions.
What is the place of English in the LOTE classroom?
From the earliest levels of modern language instruction, the LOTE class should use English as a survival tool only. When the overall goal of instruction is development of language proficiency, the LOTE teacher should strive to use only the target language in the classroom. With each level of instruction, as students move up the proficiency ladder, the projects and tasks students are involved in should reflect the language functions being taught. If the functions and tasks match the students' level of proficiency or are beginning to push students into the next level, the students should not feel the need to present projects in English. Sometimes, however, in novice level classes only, teachers and students might use English when learning about cultures or comparing languages and cultures. For the teaching of classical languages, English plays a different role, as students focus more on the interpretive use of language, rather than interpersonal production of it.
Given that Communication is the primary Program Goal of LOTE education, how can teachers make sure there is a balance as they teach to the other four Program Goals (Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, Communities)?
When teachers and program developers keep all the five Program Goals in mind, they are able to create a balanced program of instruction. While all five Programs Goals may not be evident in every single lesson, over the course of a week, a unit, or a quarter, students work on all five areas. When teachers design teaching units, they should determine what segments fit best with what goal(s). If they find a unit that has an overemphasis on one Program Goal, they should adjust the unit and work on items that will bring in one or more of the other Program Goals. It is also important to keep in mind that the goals are not taught or practiced in isolation, rather content or activities may come from Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and/or Communities, with Communication being a constant part of the LOTE instruction.
How can I add Connections and Communities to what I am already doing?
Rather than thinking of Connections and Communities as "add-ons" to the instructional program, consider how they currently exist in the language learning process. For example, when students are studying numbers, art, geography, and culture, these are true connections to the existing curriculum. As the LOTE teacher is teaching reading, the reading process and the material being read can be the connection. Newspaper and magazine articles collected by the students and teacher can bring the community into the school when the classroom is far from places where the language is used. E-mail, the Internet, pen pals, and local celebrations can also make the community an integral part of the classroom.
When can I find time in the elementary school for LOTE?
The question should not focus on what needs to be taken out of the elementary curriculum in order to fit in LOTE instruction, rather it should focus on what content is already in the grade-level curriculum that could appropriately be taught through the LOTE. Elementary schools find time to include LOTE in their instructional program when they adopt content-based, content-enriched, or total and partial immersion programs. LOTE instruction in elementary grades should mesh with existing topics and concepts, rather than deal with unrelated content.
How can my school offer a variety of languages and levels when we don't have the teachers?
Distance learning, language-learning technology, and dual enrollment at colleges and universities all provide a means of offering more LOTE instruction than a school might normally be able to provide.