Discussion forums take on a somewhat different flavor in World Languages. In the early stages of learning, students simply do not have the vocabulary to sustain more than relatively short discussion in the target language. We do not forego them, however. We tailor the discussion prompts to the level of fluency the students have acquired. The teacher may want to be somewhat more lenient in grading the conventions of the language if the focus is on thinking and sharing.
The more usual types of discussions are used when English is the discussion language. These topics include culture, the countries where the target language is spoken, history, geography and the people who speak the language. These topics will begin to be expressed in the target language at the higher levels of study.
From the very first week, my discussions include one of the following:
Why did you decide to study French (or Spanish.)
How do you think learning another language is going to help you in the future?
As they progress:
Which sounds are easiest for you and which are the most difficult?
What are your favorites of the words and phrases you have learned until now and why?
At higher levels the first week discussions can be in the target language. Here, again, the teacher must set his or her own rubric for discussions. Is the free-flowing of thought and language the priority or are the conventions of the language or is it a combination of both.
I use the Discussion forum in D2L on a regular basis. We also have discussions in our live classes. The synchronous program has the ability for the teacher to give a poll. Once the discussion has wound down, a polling question can be asked of everyone to see what everyone’s opinion is at the end.
Our discussions are modified Socratic method. A World Language teacher can begin to implement a more pure version of that method as students move into 3rd, 4th, 5th years and AP.
In the Discussion forum I require an initial post by each student and two responses to others’ posts. Each day I can see in each of my courses if there is a new post. I may not respond to every single post, but I respond to as many as I can. It is a great thing to watch the students interact with one another. Some students who hang back in other endeavors in the class really step up here. This is what differentiation is about. It should be happening everywhere in the course.