Here is your Polyglot for November, 2013


The Digital Polyglot

A publication of the Inland Empire World Language Association since 1985

November, 2013

Editor - Bethany Thompson
Asst. Editor - Trini Rios


  • IE STARS Kick Off
  • LA STARS at Occidental College
  • Tech Corner: LiveBinders
  • Participation and Grading Participation
  • Spanish Lit Films
  • Student Scholarship Information
  • The Importance of Language Education
  • Dear Poly - Struggling with Common Core

IE STARS Kicks off Fall Training

This year's professional development series is off to a big start. A total of 52 world language teachers began their first day of training on November 2 at Cal State, San Bernardino. They were able to choose from three different workshops. At the end of the day teachers were raving about all that they had learned. Here are a few of the comments from the participants:

  • I really appreciated the specific activities to address the Common Core Standards.
  • I loved the Stand Up activity, the Quick Finger, and the Family Feud.
  • I can't wait until the next day of training.
  • I'm going to use Double Sided Songs right away!
  • I loved the questioning technique.
  • I really appreciated how to introduce vocabulary and grammar in a non-boring way.
  • I really liked the variety of resources: music, videos, and activities that are relevant to students.
  • Keep on being amazing! I always learn soooo much! I never miss these trainings. Thank you!

Day 2 of the IE STARS training will be an observation day where the participants go into classrooms to see these amazing techniques and activities in action.

This training series is under the auspices of the California World Language Project executive offices at Stanford University and the State Department of Education.

If you missed registering for the IE STARS, you can still register for the LA STARS training series at its Los Angeles sister region at Occidental College. For additional information on the LA STARS training series, go to



Eight Different Seminars to Choose From

  1. Tier 1A - Common Core and Standards-Based Practices for Foreign Language Teachers

  2. TIer 1B - Using STORIES to Enhance Common Core and Standards-Based Foreign Language Instruction

  3. Tier 1C - Common Core and Standards-Based Practices for Teachers of Spanish Speakers

  4. Tier 1E - Addressing the Common Core through Authentic Communication in the Standards-Based Classroom
  5. Tier 2A - Beyond the Textbook: Common Core and Standards-Based Instructional Practices (Levels 1-3)
  6. Tier AP Language - Preparing students for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam and the Common Core
  7. Tier AP Literature - Preparing students for the AP Spanish Literature and Culture Exam and the Common Core
  8. Tier 3 - Standards-Based Assessment of Academic Content, Literacy and Common Core Competencies for Foreign Language and Native Speakers

Dates:              Program will be offered on five Saturdays:December 14, 2013, and January 25, February 15, March 22, and April 12.
Times:             8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.               Credit: Four units of credit will be available for an extra fee
Cost:               $695 per participant  (If your school is not able to send you, ask about our scholarships.)  
Location:        Occidental College

Registration forms and program information are available online at .

POSSIBLE FUNDING SOURCES: IDEA, Title I, Title II, Title III, Title V, Title VII, No Child Left Behind Funds, Innovation Funds, Imporving Teacher Quality Enhancement Funds, Charter Schools Funding, Program Improvement Funds, SELPA, Professional Development Funds, and Parent Teacher Organizations. Check with your school for what may be available for you.

If your school cannot send you, we have partial scholarships available.

For additional information contact our office at (323) 259-2949; Fax (323) 341-4894; .


Tech Corner - LiveBinders

Each month we will explore a different aspect of technology that can help you in your classroom.  This month:   LiveBinders is a free site that allows you to organize your information into a digital three-ring binder and share it with the world. 

IEFLA has set up three binders that we will be adding content to every month.

IEFLA’s World Language Binder – for general information that applies to all language teachers including tabs for all of the links to websites featured in the Tech Corner, Common Core, participation and much, much more! 



Participation and Grading Participation

Each month we will focus on a specific aspect of language teaching.  This month it’s participation and how to grade it. 

Grading Participation:  The Issues

  • How to record when students participate
  • How to assess the quality of the participation
  • How to assign a numerical grade to that participation

How to record when a student participates
Teachers tend to fall into one of two camps for recording participation: Teachers who hand something out and teachers who mark on a seating chart.

Hand Something Out - This could be anything--stickers, stickies, fake money, or whatever.  The advantage to this system is that the teacher doesn’t have to be tethered to a seating chart or grading sheet.  The disadvantages are that you have to have a lot of whatever it is, and you have to be able to maneuver in your classroom. With large classes sometimes this is challenging! 

Seating Chart - Many teachers prefer marking on a seating chart, perhaps inserted in a plastic sleeve, when students participate.  This makes it easier to record all behavior in one place (i.e. if a student is chewing gum or being disrespectful, speaking English etc.)  The disadvantage is that you have to carry your seating chart a writing implement around with you.  However, a student who may allege that you’ve forgotten to give something may not know if you’ve forgotten to put a tick next to his/her name.

A variation of the “hand something out” is to have students keep a participation “log” on their desks at all times. The teacher comes by to stamp or otherwise mark participation on that.  This system has the advantage of also allowing the teacher to keep subjective remarks as well as tally points.  A teacher could mark “too much English” or “excellent job” to use when assigning the grade later.

How to assess the quality of the participation 
However you decide to record it, you need to decide what “earns” a participation mark.  What do you want?  Are you just measuring how many times a student raises his hand?  Are you trying to encourage students to speak the target language?  Are you recording the number of times they volunteer?  As teachers we tend to want something that is tangible, countable and defendable when someone questions our grading methods.  Communicate this information clearly to students at the beginning of the year so they know what is expected of them.  Rubrics are invaluable.  For some ideas on participation rubrics, check out the Participation tab in the new IEFLA LiveBinder.  Some teachers even have students self-assess their participation using a self-assessment rubric.  Self-assessment can be a powerful tool in getting students to take ownership of their own learning. 

How to assign a numerical grade to the participation
If you grade using weighted grades, you’ll want to assign a percentage.  These are some factors to consider: How much is it worth to you?  Does your school district have a policy about participation?  Ed Code says that a student’s grade must be based on how they’ve performed and not based on attendance, so how will you handle students who have been absent?  Students clearly can not participate when not in class, but how will you allow them the opportunity to “make-up” those points?  (Extra assignment, speaking to you, current event?) 

Next you’ll need to decide if you want to record this grade daily (a lot of grading!), weekly, monthly, or even quarterly.  Some teachers prefer to mark one grade for the quarter and some prefer to do it weekly.  Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a system that you can keep up with.  You may need to experiment and see what works for you and your teaching load.  Maybe start with a week and, if that is too intensive, try every two weeks until you find the right combination for you.

One way of “counting up” the participation points is to assign a certain number of “times” a student is expected to participate within the grading period.  For example, if you expect a student to volunteer once a day, then at the end of the week she should have five participation points.  A  factor to consider is the size of the class. With a class of 40, a student will have fewer opportunities to participate than with a class of 20.  How often do you expect students to participate?  How will you handle this when you are absent and students don’t have an opportunity to participate?

Another way to “count up” participation is to take a class average over the grading period you have selected and assign a grade based on percentages.  It would work like this: At the end of the grading period (week, month or quarter) determine the class average of participation.  If the average is 20, then a student who had 18 would have an A, a student with 16 a B, and so on.  Some teachers prefer to assign students with 0 a grade of 50% to account for the fact that even if a student didn’t raise his hand, he probably still participated at some level, or a student may have raised her hand many times, but you didn’t call her on her. 

Some teachers prefer a hybrid system where, for example, a student might have a 10-point-a-day (week, month or quarter) grade where eight of those points would be based on a rubric (quality, frequency, attitude) and two of those points would be based on the numerical count.

Getting students to participate can be a chore and, once they do, how do you assess and grade what they’ve done?  Here at IEFLA , we'd love to be able to tell you "do this and all of your problems will be solved," but the reality is most teachers try a variety of different strategies until they settle on something that works with their teaching style and for their students in their school.  Don’t get discouraged if you try something and find that it doesn’t work the way you hoped or doesn't work the “miraculous” way it worked for another teacher.  If it isn’t successful, try something new!


YouTube Clip of the Month - Spanish Lit Films

This month isn’t a clip, but a whole channel of Spanish Lit Films!  As always, preview any videos before showing them to your classes.

Student Scholarship Information

Univision’s "Es El Momento" Scholarship:  Deadline November 18, 2013

Language News

Looking for another way to convince your colleagues of the importance of language education?  “Making the Grade with Language Learning and Cultural Awareness” from the SmartBlog on Education explores why language learning is so important.


Dear Poly

Each month Poly responds to your questions.  Do you have a question for Poly?  Submit your question by filling in the form here.


Dear Poly,

In my district and at my school all I’m hearing about is Common Core, Common Core.  What is the Common Core?  Are there Foreign Language Standards for Common Core?  Am I going to have to change the way I teach?

Confused in Corona


Dear Confused:
The Common Core standards are what everyone is talking about right now, but do not despair.  The good news is that the World Language community is far advanced and has been teaching the “Common Core” for years; with some language leaders saying, “Common Core has come to us.”  For a brief explanation how the Common Core standards are aligned to the National Standards check out the Alignment of Common Core Standards

IEFLA’s Winter Workshop will be about the Common Core, and CLTA’s Annual Conference in San Diego in March will have sessions and workshops designed to help guide teachers through the Common Core. 

Keep your eye open for IEFLA’s Winter Workshop and the CLTA Conference Packet with all of the Workshop and Interest Session Information.  No matter what, register early!  IEFLA’s September workshop on the Common Core sold out!




Do you have a question for Poly?  Submit your question by filling in the form here.


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The Polyglot is a publication of the Inland Empire Foreign Language Association. For questions or comments, contact Bethany Thompson, editor, or Trini Rios, Would you like to help with the Polyglot? Contact Bethany Thompson, editor, at