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Introduction

French as a foreign language in the collegiate setting presents itself with unique

opportunities and challenges. More and more college classrooms are increasingly

diverse which demands that college instructors be ever informed in how to

appropriately address students ever growing needs. Therefore, proper care must be

had in crafting relatable, challenging, yet stimulating lessons. However, in order to

craft such lessons, it is necessary to have an appropriate epistemology which is

comprised of useful theories. This essay will examine these themes in the context of a

checkpoint A classroom in which I acted as T.A.

The needs of Students

Understanding the learning needs of ones students is vital if one is to be an

effective educator. However, due to the national privacy standards of FERPA, it is

nearly impossible to have prior knowledge of students learning disabilities.

Thankfully, educators at SUNY Plattsburgh receive some indication, although

somewhat vicariously, of a potential learning need via communication to the instructor

that certain students need to go to the Learning Center to take exams or that they

receive extra time. Even so, this leaves the instructor to do the majority of investigative

observations which is nearly impossible in large class sizes. I was able to observe and

address the needs of my students through careful and thorough conversation with my

mentor and independent study supervisor. It was through that experience I learned the

necessity in consulting the advice of those more experienced so as to appropriately

understand the steps to take in order to effectively address the needs of students.
Effective Lesson Plan Development

Developing effective lessons requires careful attention in the construction of

lesson plans. In order to do this, one must first have a thorough understanding of the

content in which one teaches. Next, an effective teaching strategy which I found useful

is the top-down approach. This method requires the instructor to denote what the

students should be able to accomplish at the end of the lesson with able to statements.

The goals in which the students are purported to meet should be based upon ACTFL,

university, and state standards. In addition, it is imperative to create goals which are

measurable and are level appropriate. The classes I taught were in a Checkpoint A

classroom, therefore I used ACTFLs 5 CS and ACTFLs level appropriate World

Readiness standards to inform lesson development. It is through the understanding of

material, realistic, measurable goals, and standards that need to be crafted together in

order to create an effective lesson plan. However, it is through the effective execution of

a lesson plan that true learning can take hold and have learners flourish.

Addressing Culture in the Collegiate Setting

The instruction of a college classroom is perhaps one of the most diverse

educational settings one can come across. Therefore, it is important as ever to execute

lessons in accordance with the wide range of diversity encountered in these settings.

Not only does one deal with many different learning styles and multiple intelligences,

but differing cultures, ages, experiences, and beliefs as well. Thankfully, in the language

classroom, one of the main focuses is the teaching of culture(s) that is/are associated

with the target language which means that comparisons between cultures are
emphasized and understood. This further implies that the educator is able to facilitate

cultural discussions in a way that diffuses cultural understandings, but also is receptive

of cultural differences.

The class in which I taught and assisted was a prime example of a diverse group

of people. There were many countries, cultures, and experiences represented. Therefore,

it was through the establishment of rapport between students that cultural information

was best diffused. Often times, students would ask questions pertaining to the

francophone world and I would then compare it to American culture. If the student

came from a different culture, I would ask them further questions so that I could make

the best comparison between the two cultures. However, due to the nature of the

curriculum, the majority of cultural learning occurred outside the classroom in

homework readings. In my opinion, I would have liked to address more cultural points

because I strongly believe that cultural understanding is a vital part of our ever

globalized society. Therefore, in the future, I intend to incorporate cultural elements in

every lesson I teach.

Educational Theory and Applications

Educational theory is an important tool that assists the educator in

understanding how people learn and why they do. The main theories in which I use to

inform my teaching include those from Vygotsky, Swain, Krashen, and Ehrman. I use

Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) social interaction theory, in

particular, to ensure that I model and scaffold my lessons accordingly to the

appropriate fluency level. In the case of Swain, I use her output hypothesis to ensure
that I use comprehensible output. In the class I was involved with, the comprehensible

output that I used included many cognates between English and French, gestures, and

visual representations. The next theorist that I use is Krashen; honestly, I only really

like his affective filter hypothesis because I have personal experience with it and I

have observed time and time again the amount of emotional and social hurdles

students need to have reduced in order to feel comfortable to speak in the target

language. Last but not least, is Joe Ehrman who wrote the book InSideOut Coaching

which emphasizes the importance of building legitimate rapport with students. It is

through the application of these theories that I have refined and further developed my

educational epistemology.

Further Professional Implications

From my experiences as a T.A., I have advanced in my professional growth. This

is because I have been able to apply what I have learned in my various educational and

methods classes in real life situations. To be honest, I was very nervous the first few,

full lessons I taught, but as I became more comfortable with the process, instructing the

classes became easier and easier. In fact, I was sincerely challenged at times in how to

effectively teach my class. Sometimes I felt as if I was not getting through to my class

and failing as a teacher. In fact, I did have some personal attacks from some of my

students, but I learned that these experiences would help me deal with other similar

issues in the future when I am a fulltime educator. Furthermore, I learned how to think

on my feet while teaching. This skill is invaluable as there were several times that a

certain activity was not working and it needed to be adjusted on the fly. In addition, I
learned how to better communicate with students so as to make sure that they

understand material and assignments. I am also thankful to how my language skills

have further improved because I am better able to circumlocute in French. This is is an

invaluable skill as it helps tremendously to express meaning to students, but also allows

the ability to remain in the target language. Overall, the educational and professional

value of a hands-on experience such as this, is invaluable.

Conclusion

The college classroom experience is one of the most unique and diverse settings

in modern education. Therefore, in order to be an effective educator, one must be able

to hone their skills appropriately at any given time. Furthermore, students should be

the primary focus of instruction. Thus, it is necessary that students needs are

understood and met as best as possible. Since the modern college classroom is diverse,

it is imperative that teachers of language and culture keep diversity at the forefront of

their instruction. It is likely that approaches to education will keep evolving, but the

most important thing for a teacher to do is to remain true to their students to give them

the invaluable skills that are derived from applied knowledge.