Home / Honing our Craft: KWL’s Conference

Honing our Craft aims to provide world language educators of all levels with a forum to dissect, discuss, and discover the up-and-coming trends in world language teaching and learning.

Honing our Craft is a hybrid event open to online and in-person participation. 

Our next conference will take place on October 7-8, 2023. So stay tuned for more updates!

2022 Conference: watch the recordings!

The program of our 2022 conference included 3 keynote sessions, 1 round table session, and 9 hands-on workshops. View the detailed conference schedule here.

Participants left with practical takeaways that they were able to implement in their own classrooms and educational environments. We also offered Professional Development Certificates!

Thank you so much to all the educators who attended our conference in October 1st and 2nd! You can watch the sessions again using the password that we sent you after the conference.

Keynote Speakers (HoC 2022)

Kim Potowski

Professor of Linguistics,
University of Illinois at Chicago

Heritage speakers are increasingly common in language classrooms around the U.S., mostly in Spanish but in other languages as well. And they are different in lots of important ways from second language learners. In this talk, we’ll look at some typical profiles of heritage speakers and how are they linguistically, affectively, and academically different from second language students. Once teachers have a sense of the profiles of our heritage speaker students, how should we choose our curricular goals, instructional approaches, and placement procedures to best serve them?  And finally, what are some of the characteristics of heritage language systems, and why is it important for family members and educators to respect our students’ ways of speaking? All of these issues, from separate coursework, to correct placement, and respectful stances that are critical of power imbalances, and that empower students to appreciate and expand their own linguistic repertoires, are central to promoting social justice.

Kim Potowski is Professor of Spanish linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on Spanish in the United States: Who uses it, with whom, and for what purposes? What changes is it undergoing? How does it connect to identity and to promoting social justice? She began directing her campus’ Spanish Heritage Language Program in 2002 and is the founding director of its summer study abroad program in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she spent a year as a Fulbright scholar. Her advocacy for the value of education in two languages for all U.S. children was the focus of her 2013 TEDx talk “No child left monolingual.” She has authored and edited over 12 books including:

  • El español de los Estados Unidos
  • Heritage language teaching: Research and practice
  • Language and identity in a dual immersion school
  • and Conversaciones escritas

Toni Theisen

Thompson School District World Language and Dual Language Specialist

 Now, more than ever, advocacy in support of language education is critical. Language education is an essential component of the nation’s future collaboration and competitiveness. More educators need to be empowered to have bold voices for our field and its needs in order to advocate for continued growth of language programs.

Toni Theisen, the 2013 ACTFL President and the 2009 ACTFL Teacher of the Year, taught French at Loveland High School in Loveland, Colorado for over 40 years.  She is currently the Thompson School District World Language Curriculum Representative and TOSA for the Dual Language Immersion Programs.   Theisen is a National Board Certified Teacher with a M.A. in Foreign Language Teaching and a M. A. in Education of Diverse Learners. She is also a Google Certified teacher.

Very active in the world language profession, Theisen has presented many workshops, keynotes and webinars for national, regional, and state conferences and has authored articles on Multiple Intelligences, Differentiated Instruction, Technology for the World Language learner and strategies that help design proficiency-based curriculum and assessments.  Theisen presented “Activating Communication” as part of the first ACTFL Webinar series.  She works with the California Foreign Teachers’ Association Summer Seminar as part of the instructional team for the STARTALK Teacher Leadership Program.

Theisen has participated on many committees including the revision of the World Languages teacher standards for licensure.  She served on the Colorado World Language Task Force for the 2018 Revision of the Colorado World Language State Standards and she chaired the committee for the development of the Colorado World Languages Academic Standards. She served on the committee for the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards and was the co-chair for the revision committee of the NBPTS Teacher Standards for WLOE. She chaired the ACTFL 21st Century Skills Map committee in collaboration with the Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

Theisen served as President of the Colorado Congress of Foreign Teachers. As an ACTFL Executive Board member, Theisen served as the program chair for two ACTFL conferences.  She was also the Local Chair for the CSC, SWCOLT and CCFLT Joint Conference and the Program Chair for the Central States Conference.

Toni has received many honors including the ACTFL Nelson Brooks Award for the Teaching of Culture, the ACTFL Florence Steiner National Award for Leadership in Foreign Language Education, K-12, the JNCK-NCLIS J. David Edwards Power of Advocacy National Award, The Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the SWCOLT Excellence in Teaching Award, the Genevieve Overman Memorial Service Award from the Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers, and the SWCOLT Honorary Lifetime Member Award.

Claudia Fernández

Clinical Associate Professor & Director, Spanish Basic Language Program,
University of Illinois-Chicago

In this presentation, I will discuss some of the challenges our language teaching profession faces in our goal to help students to be able to use the language for communicative purposes. As our perception moves from focusing on teaching about language to rather tech to use the language, there are still several challenges preventing us from creating the best conditions possible for language use -not practice- in our classrooms. In addition to identifying these challenges, I will offer what I believe can help us to overcome what gets in the way as we strive to provide high quality language education for the 21st century.

Claudia R. Fernández is the Clinical Assistant Professor of Spanish and Director of the Basic Spanish Program at the University of Chicago, Illinois. With more than 20 years of experience as a teacher of Spanish as a second language, her investigation focuses on task based teaching/learning, the acquisition of grammar, and on the use of materials in the classroom. She has presented at national and international conferences, and her work has been published in Hispania, Folio, The Language Educator, Studies in Second Language Acquisition as well as in various chapters of books. She is the cofounder of the group, Spanish Language Pedagogy in Higher Education (Facebook), and of the Symposium on Language Pedagogy in Higher Education, as well as author of the Input Destacado y Adquisición de la Gramática (Arco Books 2016) and co editor of Using Language Learning Materials: Theory and Practice (Cambridge Scholars, in press).

Round Table Discussion (HoC 2022)

"Reflections on post-pandemic education:
Takeaways for future innovations in teaching and learning"


In this 75-minute roundtable discussion, Claudia Fernández (U of Illinois at Chicago), Kim Potowski (University of Illinois at Chicago), Diego Ojeda (Louisville Collegiate School, Louisville, KY),  Kia London (Latin School of Chicago), and Toni Theisen (Loveland HS, Loveland, Colorado) will reflect on the key takeaways from their time spent teaching online during the pandemic.  The panelists will engage in meaningful conversation around how the instructional, emotional and technological lessons learned while teaching online can inform our pedagogy going forward to bring about future innovations in our classrooms. Moderator: Denise Bouras (Northwestern University)


Denise Bouras
Northwestern University

Workshop Sessions (HoC 2022)

Cecile Nedellec

Using Authentic Materials to Create Interpretive Activities at All Levels of Proficiency

Acquisition of interpretive communication skills is best accomplished when teachers lead students in understanding the language, culture, and content available in authentic materials. Current education research supports the teaching of interpretive communication through authentic materials at all levels of proficiency (Shrum, 2015; Glisan and Donato, 2017).


Glisan and Donato (2017) explained, “Authentic texts […] are created for various social and cultural purposes by and for users of the target language.”  The authors added how the word authentic implies that “the text has not been simplified or edited for the purpose of language instruction.”


Teaching with authentic materials allows students to see real-world use of language in everyday situations. The use of authentic materials also helps teachers facilitate the 90%+ target language ration recommended by ACTFL. However, using authentic materials to teach can feel, at times, cumbersome to teachers. Making authentic materials comprehensible at all levels of proficiency to ensure that students are able to develop communication proficiency while building content and cultural knowledge can be arduous.


During this workshop, teachers will explore interpretive communication strategies to scaffold the interpretation of authentic materials in order to facilitate students’ comprehension and meaning making. Participants will discover and practice a couple of applications and techniques that will increase their students’ engagement in developing their reading and listening skills.


Dr. Cécile Nédellec has been teaching French and English at the middle school and high school levels for over 17 years. She earned her PhD in curriculum and instruction from Capella University in July 2015. Her dissertation was on teachers’ perceptions of differentiated instruction. Cécile also works as a program specialist for the Southern Area International Languages Network (SAILN) located at San Diego State University. Cécile is passionate about curriculum development, leading professional development for K-16 teachers, creating engaging activities for her students, and coaching new teachers as they fashion their teaching skills.

Natalia Valencia

Yours, mine, and ours: Community Building in the Language Classroom

As language teachers, we all want our students to thrive, to embrace linguistic and cultural understanding. We hope that our dedication to teaching is reflected back at us in our students’ own commitment to learning. Yet, as we well know, student engagement isn’t always a given. So we ask ourselves: How do we spark, or reinvigorate, intrinsic motivation? How do we fold  everyone into the mix? How do we translate our desire for engagement into a concrete action

plan? In this workshop we will address this challenge through the lens of visible intentionality.

Together, we will discuss strategic ways through which we can build a sense of community in order to foster learning, responsibility, and student success. We will focus on three key points: 1. Permission to make mistakes, 2. Frequent and effective communication, and 3. Collective and individual objectives. We will reflect, share, and reexamine our own practices in the classroom to improve how we connect with our students, how our students connect with each other, and how this impacts the actual learning that takes place in our courses.

Natalia Valencia is an Advanced Lecturer in Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Loyola University Chicago. She coordinates the intermediate-level  conversation and composition course series, and has taught undergraduate courses in Spanish language and literature at all levels. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on using course

design to create integrated classroom experiences for second-language learners. Natalia has an ongoing collaboration with Loyola’s Dual Credit program, Loyola’s Virtual Dual Immersion program and Loyola’s Faculty-led Córdoba Summer Program.

Valentina Morello

The use of songs as a tool to teach culture in the WL classroom

Intercultural Communication Competence has increasingly become one of the most important goals in teaching a language. The focus of teaching over the year shifted from the need to teach grammar knowledge and skills to the ability to use “language in  socially and appropriate way[s]” (Byram, Gribkova, Starkey, 2002) in order to give the learner the opportunity interact with global competence while navigating the multilingual and multicultural world.


In this presentation I argue that music (songs, lyrics, music videos) can be used in the Fl classroom, at all levels,  as a tool to facilitate and imotivate language learning, cultural awareness, and cross cultural competence by emphasizing communication and “calling for learners to use language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationships between products, practices and perspectives”(ACTFL). In this presentation we will be sharing strategies on how to use music in order to foster ICC and implement communication in a language classroom, particularly through the creation of practice activities.

Valentina Morello is a lecturer at the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville and she is completing her PhD at the University of Wisconsin Madison.  She obtained her M.A. in Italian Literature and Culture at Boston College and her M.A in Teaching Italian as a Second language at the University of Padua. The focus of her dissertation is the representation of southern Italy, specifically analyzing the passage from the “southern question” to the “pensiero meridiano” in literature. 

Her interests lie also in the representation of labor in Italian cinema and literature, Second Language acquisition and Trauma Studies.

Britta Kallin

Transgender and Non-Binary Gender Pronouns and Expressions in Foreign Language Classrooms

Students want to learn more about how other languages refer to, respond to, and respect non-binary people. How do we address or refer to those who identify as transgender and non-binary gender in other languages? Intersectionality plays an important role in how we are received as a person. We are never received as just a woman, a man, or non-binary, but how that person is racialized impacts how the person is received. What identity terms do we use and what pronouns and expressions are already available in which languages? Which new pronouns do people use to indicate their non-binary identity? Language is political, hotly contested, always evolving, and deeply personal to all people who choose the terms with which they identify themselves. To show respect and awareness of these complexities, it is important to be attentive to language and to honor and use individuals’ self-referential terms. What do our colleagues and students mean when using “they”, “she/they,” “he/they” or other pronouns? When they are referring to themselves as “transgender,” “trans,” “trans*,” “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” “genderfluid,” “intergender,“ “agender,” “transsexual,” “cisgender,” or “cis”? Students challenge binary systems and constructions of difference. Different societies, cultures, and languages respond differently to these important topics. In German Studies, for example, the collective of scholars and teachers, “Diversity, Decolonization, and the German Curriculum,” has offered space for discussions and guidance on how to use the terminology and include new and old pronouns offered in textbooks and in the foreign language curriculum. Many school districts and colleges offer LGBTQIA* Safe Space, Trans 101, and Ally Training. How can teachers and instructors make best use of teaching units about transgender and non-binary students so we reach the goal of inclusive instruction in the foreign language classroom? 

Britta Kallin received her PhD in German Literature from the University of Cincinnati. She currently serves as Associate Professor of German and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Modern Languages at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA. She has published numerous articles on German and Austrian authors Christa Wolf, Günter Grass, Elfriede Jelinek, Marlene Streeruwitz, and others. Her monograph The Presentation of Racism in Contemporary German and Austrian Plays examines sexism, racism, and nationalism in plays by German and Austrian female authors after 1990. One of her more recent articles, “From the Body in Pain to the Body Transformed: Feminist and Trans Readings of Franz Kafka,” was published in the Journal of Austrian Studies in 2020. Currently, she is working on a book project about contemporary feminist rewritings of fairy tales in German and Austrian literature.

Liliana Paredes &
Sandra Valnes Quammen

‘¿Quiénes somos? / Qui sommes-nous ?’: From collaborative projects to translanguaging in introductory language classes

While the study of languages and cultures can be transformational, students rarely develop a
sense of belonging to a multilingual community, particularly those in introductory language
courses, when the traditional goal of proficiency seems elusive. Translanguaging
pedagogies can help reframe how language learning is understood and enacted. These
innovative pedagogies celebrate multiple languages in the classroom, allow students to
explore their developing multilingual identities, and foster language-learning communities of
practice, while disrupting monolingual ideologies. In this session, we will share a framework
for implementing translanguaging pedagogies in a team-taught introductory Spanish and
French course in which language-specific work is paired with weekly joint sessions designed
to foster language play, multilingual discussion, collaborative tasks, and self-reflection. We
will share an outline of our course design and example activities and student work. This
interactive session will include collaboration among participants as we imagine ways in
which similar translanguaging frameworks can work in other contexts.

Liliana Paredes PhD es profesora de Práctica y directora del Programa de Lengua Española y del Instituto de Español Intensivo de Verano en la Universidad de Duke. En Adquisición su especialidad es el trabajo intercultural en el aula de español, la adquisición de vocabulario, la evaluación y el aprendizaje basado en la experiencia comunitaria. Ha publicado la Edición Anotada de Proyectos (Difusión, 2019) (con Merschel y Munne); Gente Nivel Intermedio (Pearson, 2013) (con Munne) y un volumen sobre innovación en pedagogías de adquisición de segundas lenguas. Como sociolingüista, su interés está en los derechos lingüísticos en las Américas, la migración lingüística, las lenguas en contacto y el lingüicismo. Actualmente, trabaja (en colaboración con las doctoras Myrna Iglesias y Magdalena Mejía, Universidad de las Américas, México) sobre el efecto del aprendizaje colaborativo a través de fronteras y la vinculación de comunidades de práctica por medio de la conversación virtual guiada entre pares.

Sandra Valnes Quammen is a Senior Lecturer of Romance Studies at Duke University, where she directs the French Language Program. She teaches beginning to advanced language learners, with a particular focus on introductory and intermediate levels. Her current research focuses on translingual pedagogies in postsecondary L2 contexts, and on the intersections between language teaching and learning and sustainability.

Reyes Morán & María J. Barros

Developing the Intercultural Communicative Competence of Language Learners

In many institutions, one of the reasons for requiring students to learn a second language is to prepare them for interacting with individuals from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. As language instructors we are faced with the question of how classroom learning experiences can be designed to achieve this goal. We believe that developing the ability to successfully manage interactions and relationships goes far beyond the acquisition of linguistic skills in a L2: it requires cultivating a perspective which recognizes the potential for diverse norms, assumptions and values that have an impact on the ways in which language is used and interpreted. During this workshop, participants will identify their own cultural values, expectations and communication styles; and gain strategies to help develop L2 students’ intercultural communicative competence. Open to educators of any World Language and level.

Reyes Morán is Associate Professor of Instruction and course coordinator in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University (USA). She holds a B.A. in Spanish Philology from the University of Salamanca (Spain), where she started her career as a Spanish teacher in Cursos Internacionales. In 2007 she graduated with an M.A. in Hispanic Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Besides her work as a teacher at Northwestern University, she has collaborated with the Instituto Cervantes both as a language instructor and as a trainer in professional development courses for teachers. Her main research interest lays in content-based instruction applied to higher education, and, in particular, the development of speaking skills in all proficiency levels.  

María J. Barros García is an Associate Professor of Instruction and the Director of the Spanish Language Program at Northwestern University (NU). She earned her MA and PhD in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Granada, Spain. Before her appointment at NU, she taught at the Cervantes Institute of London and Chicago, conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and worked at Knox College and Saint Xavier University. In addition, she is a professor in the Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language Master’s program at the University of Granada. Her main research interests include politeness theory, intercultural pragmatics, and Spanish as a heritage language. 

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