D a m i á n R o b l e s
I consider learning a second language (L2) a crucial skill to address the current demands of the 21st century globalized world. I view the language classroom as a place that facilitates the L2 learning process by providing learners with the tools to develop the competence needed to communicate in social, contextualized, and meaningful settings. I believe this objective can only be achieved through the implementation of a rich, research-guided instruction grounded in the tenets of multi-modality and performance-based approaches such as the the Multiliteracies framework Learning by Design and ACTFL’s World Readiness Standards for Language Learning.
In a language class guided by the tenets of these approaches, students develop their L2 performance by using the language in the three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational. In addition, learners work with a variety of multimodal, authentic and hybrid texts that expose them to different registers of communication and society norms of the target language studied. Other important components of my instruction are my emphasis on students’ collaborative work, and my focus on their individual interests by considering the diversity of the classroom setting, in terms of learning styles, and multi-intelligences. I also encourage students to be active, autonomous learners that take ownership of their instruction and learning process.
It should be emphasized that my instruction is not teacher-centered, but student-centered: My role as instructor is simply to facilitate the learning process by guiding my students in a process of self-discovery and learning, maximizing their zone of personal development. In order to do so, for example, I introduce students to new information by establishing connections between what they already know and what is new, and I develop activities that promote pair and group work, which facilitates the collaborative construction of knowledge. I also believe that each activity and lesson plan should have clear objectives and instructions which are guided by the course’s curriculum, objectives, and outcomes. My classes are, therefore, characterized by learner’s work with multimodal authentic texts; the use of the target language as a means of communication and instruction; and the implementation of students’ collaborative work on the basis of digital platforms that promote active language use and the co-construction and negotiation of meaning.
Every semester, my goal is to establish a welcoming classroom environment where students feel comfortable producing language without being criticized, and where, instead, they understand that making errors is an opportunity to reflect on language, through both peers’ collaboration and the instructors’ language modeling and guidance. Even though the main objective of my practice is to create opportunities for my students’ active L2 use, grammar learning is also important in my classes. However, the way in which I introduce my students to it also mirrors the tenets of performance-based instruction. Accordingly, I resort to the PACE model for grammar instruction, and, in this way, I contextualize the form on which students are focusing and facilitate learner’s collaborative analysis by means of which they understand new rules, co-constructing language, and reflecting on the connection between form and use. In this way, students can then successfully implement these structural aspects of the language in communicative, contextualized real-world settings.
Finally, I view learning a L2 language as a form of an individual renaissance because it allows oneself to go beyond borders, and to bring together worldviews on the grounds that language and society are one intertwined and unified self. I believe one should regard L2 instruction as the cornerstone that makes this renaissance possible.