The Long and Winding Road to Language Learning

Deb Cody, teacher, Pueblo City Schools, Pueblo, ColoradoAs a career classroom teacher, I am always on the lookout for things that will challenge and interest my students. These days, it seems technology is the way to go. This current generation has grown up with technology at their fingertips. If you want to know how your latest app works, how to navigate the web or simply get your smartphone to cooperate, ask a kid!

Several years ago, I was given the opportunity to help with the installation of new language labs in my district. This might not seem exciting at first glance, but my district was still using cassette decks. We even had an old reel-to-reel player on our teacher console! Needless to say, I was thrilled at the thought of new 30-station, internet-ready laptop labs. In addition to an overall lab management program, I was able to choose a comprehensive language program to supplement our in-class teaching/learning experiences.

After much research and many virtual presentations, I asked for the Tell Me More, now Rosetta Stone Advantage, language solution. Much to my happy surprise, my district agreed to purchase the product for our 4,000+ language learners. We offer four levels of French, German, Italian and Spanish, so to find a product which was capable of quality in all languages and all levels was truly a gift to us.

For me, the decision came down to (1) how much curriculum is actually embedded in the program, (2) how user-friendly (for both teacher and student) is the program, and (3) how well does the program complement what is happening in the classroom. After looking at the options, this program fit the bill perfectly for me and my district. This is one decision I have never regretted.

Add ingredients and blend:

I feel very passionate about the teacher in the classroom being the most important element of learning. Without a teacher to inspire, model, encourage and guide, there’s no such thing as a living language. Students have to fall in love with a language to have a real desire to continue its study. Who better to personify that language than another human being who loves it? But, sometimes, teachers need help to keep the fire burning.

My lab program has done exactly that for me and my students. A program with high expectations and a wide-variety of activities keeps students engaged in the technological world they’ve become so accustomed to. This program has rigor, and my students always remark on how “perfect” their pronunciation must be for the speaking portions. They’ve found they can’t just “get by” with this program, they have to stay on their toes.

What I like best is the way my classroom lessons, presentations, units, etc. are fully complemented by the program. Whether I’m working on a unit with colors, or the history of France, there’s always something there to help reinforce what’s going on in the classroom.

Challenges and successes:

Early on a challenge arose because our labs are 30 stations and we often have more than 30 students in a class. We had to do some problem solving. Now Rosetta Stone Advantage is web-based and can be logged onto anywhere the internet is available. This definitely helped us out. We can have students work on school computers outside the lab, on tablets and even at home.

My students are talking in the language more than ever. Check this out to see why this is important! Their pronunciation has improved 100 percent. They no longer fear the different accents of actual native speakers. My shy students have a chance to shine in a new way. These are a few of my successes in the last few years.

Professionally, I have an unbiased way to measure student progress and “someone” who helps team-teach my classes. I also have a huge support base from a known and trusted company, with on-going training to keep me on top of changes and improvements to the program.

All in all:

While teaching language is definitely one of the most fun and rewarding disciplines, it can be rough to maintain interest and excitement when faced with all the competition in today’s students’ worlds. We have to keep up with the times and stay current with our technology, to keep from being dated and boring. If you are looking for great technology to ‘assist and enhance’ your teaching, you’re not alone. I feel I found the perfect solution for myself and my district when I discovered a vibrant on-line program to supplement my classroom activities. I would encourage you to do the same.

About the author:

Deb Cody has been a teacher with Pueblo City Schools in Pueblo, Colorado for 30 years. She currently teaches French (full-time) and coordinates the district’s World Language programs as District Liaison. Her passions are her five beautiful grandchildren and traveling.

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