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  • Word and Actions: Teaching Languages through the Lens of Social Justice by Cassandra Glynn, Pamela Wesely, and Beth Wassell
  • Raquel Oxford
Glynn, Cassandra, Pamela Wesely, and Beth Wassell. Word and Actions: Teaching Languages through the Lens of Social Justice. Alexandria: ACTFL, 2014. Pp. 90. ISBN 978-0-98965-328-2.

The need to address social justice in teacher education and practice is a recurrent call which has grown exponentially in the past decade. While the cry may be loudest from schools in urban areas where socioeconomic status, inequities in distribution of resources, and low academic achievement of students affected by such are widespread, contemplation of social justice perspectives and approaches has impacted teacher education reform in all geographic and content areas. Indeed, Osborn’s seminal 2006 volume entitled Teaching World Languages for Social Justice: A Sourcebook of Principles and Practices was one of the first examinations specifically for language teaching and learning, and to that foundation is added Word and Actions: Teaching Languages through the Lens of Social Justice, Glynn, Wesely, and Wassell’s contribution to facilitate the incorporation of social justice into the world language classroom. The authors present an accessible guide, directed particularly at pre-service and in-service teachers, which includes discussion questions and opportunities for application and reflection. Most chapters begin with “A Glimpse into the Classroom,” fictional vignettes which are based on syntheses of real occurrences the authors have observed or experienced as teachers and teacher educators, and appendices include practical planning templates, assessment rubrics, examples, and resources to create and execute curriculum.

In the initial chapter and by way of introduction, the authors establish the rationale for social justice in world language education by presenting definitions of selected key terms such as [End Page 694] equality, equity, privilege, marginalization, oppression, and dehumanization and aligning their discussion with the frameworks of World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (the updated National Standards) as well as 21st Century Skills. The groundwork is laid to understand social justice within accepted competencies and outcomes for language learners such as global or intercultural communicative competence. The chapter ends with a call to embrace acting on social justice beyond the classroom only, which may be too soon for some readers to do with solely an emergent understanding and practice.

As with any classroom innovation, and especially with sensitive issues of diversity and social justice, it is vital for the teacher to be self aware and prepared to foster a learning community for success. The authors are mindful of this as they encourage teachers who are on this journey to examine their own frames of reference in “Chapter Two: Preparing to Teach with Social Justice.” There is much borrowed and applied from multicultural education and the tenets of culturally responsive teaching, principally appreciating student diversity, background, abilities, and cultural capital. There are multiple activities to accomplish this goal and vibrant recommendations to support students in critical thinking and action.

Often there are not ready-made materials for infusing the world language classroom with social justice themes, so the authors continue mentoring the steps in “Chapter Three: Creating Original Social Justice Units” and “Chapter Four: Adapting Curriculum in Textbooks for Social Justice” to have adaptations appropriate for a teacher’s school community. They propose specifying social justice take-away understandings and adding targeted social justice objectives to language objectives and combined social justice and language objectives. Creating appropriate formative and summative assessments is also emphasized following the model of Integrated Performance Assessment, which includes all three modes of communication. Envisioning adaptations to textbook units and modifications to publisher-supplied assessments is a bonus to teachers who might be overwhelmed with creating entire units on their own or with mandated course materials. The authors follow with additional specifics on implementing the lesson within “Chapter Five: Planning Daily Lessons” with sequencing activities and weaving in assessments.

Just as preparation and planning play critical roles in the curriculum and instruction process, assessment and reflection are considered fundamental to teacher development and evaluating the success of a unit or lesson. In “Chapter Six: Self-Assessment and Reflection,” multiple strategies for both teacher and student are presented. These assessments and reflections are becoming an integral part...


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