The American Council of Foreign Languages’ World Readiness Standards for learning a foreign language, or the 5 Cs, help guide teachers in teaching a foreign language. However, they aren’t always the easiest to incorporate into the classroom.
A recent report found that of the five standards, teachers felt there were less readily available opportunities to hit the Communities and Communications standards. Additionally, teachers struggled to provide opportunities for students to communicate with others via technology and assess students’ ability to interact with target-language communities.
We get it. We understand. Finding meaningful ways to incorporate technology into the classroom, especially to build substantive relationships, can be really difficult. Technology is oftentimes impersonal, distracting, and without fail, seems to crash when you need it most. Connecting with real-life communities is hard during normal times, let alone during a pandemic!
At Project Olas, we use technology and personal, motherly relationships to hit all five of the ACTFL standards.
Project Olas is an online language-learning platform that connects Spanish learners with mothers living in Zona 3 of Guatemala City, Guatemala. These "Olas moms" live in the communities surrounding the Guatemala City Garbage Dump. Students connect with their Olas mom over WhatsApp and engage in hour-long conversational Spanish lessons that can be completed one-on-one or as a class. Project Olas proceeds go to benefit Olas moms. It’s a win-win!
Through lessons, students develop meaningful connections with their Olas moms. The Olas moms are, well, motherly. They are kind, patient, and caring. They want their students to succeed. They also want to get to know their students on a deeper level. With multiple lessons, students and moms are able to build repertoire and become friends. Conversations are casual and allow for meaningful relationships to form.
How we meet ACTFL’s standards:
Communication: Project Olas helps students comfortably develop Spanish communication skills. Lessons are conducted entirely in Spanish (many of the moms don’t even speak English), so students must learn to express their thoughts without using English as a crutch.
Culture: In conversations with Olas moms, students are encouraged to talk about their home culture. This creates a natural conversation about Guatemalan culture. Students talk about what Guatemalan life is like, how holidays are celebrated (and how that is often different than the way we celebrate in the US), and can ask questions about the specifics they are interested in. Additionally, Olas moms can help add to pre-existing lesson plans that involve literature, film, or cultural studies by providing real-life cultural context.
Connections: At Project Olas, we believe that students should think of Spanish as more than just a 9 a.m. class. It’s so important for students to relate Spanish to other areas of their lives and think of the language as an opportunity to connect with new people, places, and broaden their current endeavors.
"Language comparison skills will naturally develop"
Comparisons: Students are exposed to someone living a life so different from their own, yet also more similar than they may expect. In lessons, students are encouraged to take a deeper dive into Guatemalan culture and look at how it is both so different and so similar. And, since they’re doing this all in Spanish, language comparison skills will naturally develop.
Communities: Project Olas helps globalize students’ Spanish education. Suddenly, class is no longer contained by a classroom or geographical space, but can travel across international borders. Additionally, in lessons, students have the freedom to focus on the subjects they want to learn more about, creating more enriching and purposeful learning.
Want to learn more? We’d love to talk with you about what it would look like to introduce Project Olas in your classroom! Check us out at projectolas.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Curious about the report we mentioned? Here’s the link: https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/publications/standards/NationalStandards2011.pdf
Written by Ally Osterberg, a member of the Project Olas Team.