Les amis, I've been wanting to tell you about the ACTFL Conference that took place in San Antonio, Texas, just over a week ago. ACTFL is the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages; their annual conference is oriented towards K-12 teachers of French, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese, German, and Italian. This year's conference was the second largest--there were well over 6,000 teachers in attendance!
This was the second ACTFL conference I've been able to attend, but the last time I attended was more than eight years ago. This time, as a French teacher and early childhood parent, I was looking for two main things:
- Learning resources in French (curriculum, books, games, etc--especially for homeschooling!)
- Information on the best teaching practices for working with early language learners
Most of the resources I found were middle- and high-school oriented textbooks or curriculum for elementary students with no prior French knowledge, but the information I gleaned was fantastic.
Here are my favorite aspects of the conference:
- National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths gave a fascinating keynote address about what she learned from her world travels with her young son and daughter. Her beautiful photographs were enhanced by heart-tugging stories and her encouragement to arrive early, to read voraciously, to listen the needs of others, and to talk with everyone. Here's her brief bio, a video of her speaking at TedX, and her latest collection of photos in book form (which sold out at the conference!).
- Learning more about the Alliance Française network in the U.S.: 71 of the 111 U.S. AF chapters offer French classes, some to toddlers as young as 18 months old. The best news I heard? Members of certain AF locations have access to an online French library called Culturethèque. This online library provides over 400 digital magazines and newspapers and over 1,000 books in French, with plenty of resources for children and parents. I'm lucky to have a very active Alliance Française here in Portland, Oregon, but the nearest AF that offers online Culturethèque access is in Seattle. I can't wait to find out more about membership and access!
I also gleaned:
- Tips for playing with toddlers and preschoolers to promote second language speaking and learning--I'll share these in a separate post soon!
- Tips for staying in the target language as much as possible (over 90% of the time) while teaching
- A stronger understanding of the status of French teaching in the U.S. A representative of the French Embassy in the U.S. stated that the increasing amount of native Spanish speakers in the U.S. is promoting the study of French as a third language.
- An informative presentation on French Heritage Language Communities in the U.S., given by Dr. Fabrice Jaumont. He spent much of the session sharing about the reasons behind the rise of French immersion schools in Utah, New York City, and Louisiana. This was my favorite session of the conference--his information deserves a separate blog post too, but in the meantime you can find his PowerPoint presentation here and related presentations here.
- A tour of the Alamo and a delicious meal at La Frite Begian Bistro in San Antonio. My baby on the way won't remember the Alamo, but at least he or she got to share my delicious moules frites!
Vive le Texas, et vive les conférences des langues!
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