As we all begin to prep for our return to our classrooms, one of theearly lessons in the year I look forward to is having the conversation with students about why languages matter and why it is important to learn about other cultures and communities. To me, this is a pivotal portion of my work as a teacher advocate; it is these students that will be the future policy makers and parents that will have massive influence on the future of education. Thus, anything we can do to instill in our students the necessity of language learning and cultural understanding in o
ur modern world is indispensable advocacy on our part.
I teach 2nd through 12th grade, so in my classroom this conversation looks slightly different and more in depth at each level. However, there has been one tool that I have consistently found to help me facilitate the conversation with students about why it is important to learn languages and what are the benefits. That tool is the annual WAFLT postcard contest. This low-tech, easy to implement contest has become a staple in my classroom and a concrete way to facilitate discussion with students on the importance of language. No matter what level I am working with, we start the lesson with a conversation on why we are studying
a language. I then introduce the contest theme for that year (found at waflt.org/public-relations/postcard-contest/ along with all the release forms and requirements) and then students brainstorm in small groups about how the theme fits what we just talked about. From there, they each get their own postcard to design for the contest. After I have collected all entries, I call in a couple of other teachers to help me select the ones I will send off to WAFLT (you are allowed 10 per teacher per contest category). In each class I announce who has moved on to “State level” to much student celebration. This has become such a staple in my classroom that students have started asking about it often and making sure we are still doing the contest. Integrating this contest into my classroom has helped me talk about such an important but often abstract topic with students in all grades.
WAFLT also offers a more high-tech version of this contest – the WAFLT video contest. Based on the same theme as the postcard contest, the video contest asks students to collaboratively work together to create a 2-minute video promoting language learning and showing its benefits. Over the years, we have seen many hilarious and interesting entries displayed during lunch at the WAFLT Fall Conference with students showing off their video skills while promoting our discipline. This aspect of the competition gives creative and tech savvy students an opportunity to use their skills and shine. Students have an opportunity to show off their imaginations and will create a video that will become a resource for you to use with other students in the future. More information and rules on this contest can be found at waflt.org/public-relations/video-contest/.
For 2018, the theme of both contests is “Languages – Explore a World of Opportunities!” I highly encourage all WAFLT members to take part in one of these contests to guide the discussion on the necessity of language learning and to help create language advocates out of our students.