This semester, I took on a new role: World Language Department Chair. One of my biggest goals in this role is working actively to promote our language classes. In the past we’ve never had to work very hard; students signed up to take French and Spanish, even though it has never been a graduation requirement in my state, because “Colleges want to see language classes on your transcript.” Unfortunately, with a explosion of new electives offered at my school, and a new required “Freshman Seminar” class, students now have more class options to choose from and fewer opportunities to take language classes. Our little department can can stand by and watch our classes shrivel up and blow away or we’ve got to shift our mindset and “sell” our program to our potential customers. We have chosen Option B and if you’re in the same boat, here are some of the things we’re doing:
Wooing the 8th graders
There are two middle schools that feed into our high school. One offers Spanish to 8th graders, the other cut their language program last year. (I was first heartbroken, then raging mad, now just sadly resigned to the fact.) We knew our first campaign would be targeted at the new Little Darlings that would join us next year.
World Language Commercial:
Our French Teacher in the past has gone to the middle schools at lunch to drum up excitement for the French program, and we considered that angle, but time constraints before their registration made it impossible. Instead, we made a commercial, showcasing all the awesome things we do in our French and Spanish classes. It was a compilation of pictures and video clips, contributed by the whole department, highlighting Baile Viernes, our World Cup Soccer Tournament, games we play, Special Guests , trips and field trips, and of course, the tasty foods we eat! Interspersed between the fun, were the reasons to take a language class…you know, things like, “Many Universities require 2 or more years of language study” and “Employers prefer to hire bilingual employees”. Both middle school graciously agreed to show our commercial during their advisory period, the week before our Elective Showcase. At our school, Freshman Seminar teachers also played the commercial for all Freshman… we got a lot of bang for our buck with this one!
I’d love to show it to you…but I don’t put my Little Darlings’ faces on the internet. Here are a few screen shots to give you an idea, just hum Alvaro Soler’s and Maitre Gim’s Lo Mismo to get the maximum effect:
Our school organizes an evening where 8th graders and their parents are invited to the high school to explore their elective options. We went all out!
Since our language classes are in a land far, far away (Literally: our portables are like a 1/4 mile hike from the front office, no joke!), I put a promotional Llama at the front door, bribing the kiddos to make the trek.
There was a PhotoBooth with our department hashtag:
Of course Mexican candies to sample: (Bribery is not below me!)
The front board showcased class artifacts: timed writings, pen pal letters, One Word Image illustrations, photos, published narratives, novelas, and notes written by our current students, encouraging the 8th graders to take Spanish.
At another station, we had letters for parents, explaining our department’s philosophy and demonstrating how our language classes are probably much different than their high school language experience. Feel free to make a copy and edit it, if you’d like to use it at your school! And we had a neat handout for students, created with Canva by my ever-so-talented colleague Amy:
Finally, on the screen was our Word Language Commercial, playing on loop. Luckily I love the song Lo Mismo. Told you, lots of bang for our buck! And many students commented, “I saw this last week in advisory!” Score!
For the showcase night, I recruited a few National Honor Society Spanish students to help man the stations and talk up our program and my colleague Barbara and I were free to chat with parents and meet students. All in all, it was a lovely night!
I took Amy’s sweet handout and modified it for our school’s February Newsletter. Free publicity! Why not?!
As a department, we strategically sent students to other levels to answer questions and give a student’s perspective. A few Spanish 4 students went to the Spanish 3 classes. Spanish 3 students visited the Spanish 2 classes, and Spanish 2 kiddos stopped by the Spanish 1 classes. We found that it worked best for the teacher to ask questions of the “guest speakers”, rather than putting them on the spot with “tell us about Spanish 4”. After the teachers asked questions like, “What do you like most about Spanish X?”, “What’s the homework load like in Spanish X?” “Why did you choose to take Spanish X?”, we opened up the floor for student questions, then we sent our visitors back to class.
So… did any of it work?! I wish I could give you cold, hard stats, like our enrollment increased by x% for next year, but I have no idea. We’re still waiting for our numbers and class allocations and all those things that I didn’t really worry about too much before wearing the Department Chair hat. But it feels good to know we worked hard to “sell” our program, and we’ll keep working hard to build a department where students are acquiring language, feeling successful, and learning about themselves and this great big world we call home!
I would love to hear how you promote your program! How do you highlight all the fabulous things that are happening in your classes?! Next year we’re going to have to go even bigger, and I’d love to hear your ideas!