Don’t Reinvent the Wheel!

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel, Add Rims!:
Using the SAMR Model
in the World Language Classroom

By Rob Glass (Kent Island HS, Queen Anne’s County)

As many schools continue to become one-to-one schools, or at least begin to increase the availability of laptop carts and computer lab use, many educators are becoming overwhelmed. The feeling that they need to completely redo their curriculum, figuring out a way to make sure the students are using laptops every day, and the pressure from administration and parents to prove the laptops are worth having can put a strain on even the most seasoned veteran!

However, after a year’s experience in a newly one-to-one school, I can assure you of a few things. First off, the parents and administration are there to be supportive, and the students are learning the ropes just as much as you are, and no, not every activity must be done on a laptop. And most importantly, there’s no need to completely throw away your old lesson plans and start from scratch! Using the SAMR model, I will show you how to take an old trick for all language teachers, the oral presentation, and turn it into a new, updated activity.

What is SAMR?

SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. It’s a model that challenges teachers to think about their use of technology in the classroom, and how it’s being utilized, whether to merely enhance a lesson or to take your lesson into a new dimension. Here’s a video that gives a good breakdown.

Notice how in the video, the same task, writing an essay, is being done at all 4 levels, but SAMR allows us to think of how to enhance the method while maintaining the task of writing an essay. The great thing about SAMR is that teachers of all technology proficiencies should feel comfortable at some level, and the more skills you acquire, the higher up the chart you are able to move.

How Can I Use This in a World Language Classroom?

I’m now going to give you an example of using SAMR that is fun, engaging, and focuses on the Presentational Mode  (ACTFL Standard 1.3). In this task, students will be expected to present a speech about themselves, including the following information…

  • Where they’re from
  • What they look like
  • What their personality is like
  • Their age

In the old methods, a student would either present this in front of the class, or talk one on one with the teacher. I’m now going to enhance this task using all 4 segments of the SAMR model.


Instead of speaking in front of the class, students record their speech on the computer, and then e-mail it to the teacher.

At this stage, nothing new has been done, except it will be easier for the teacher to go back and listen later. Regardless, there is an enhanced convenience factor of a saved speech, and having all student speeches saved in one place. Likewise, it is a time-saver because all students are able to speak at once instead of going one after another.


The student has the same task, but must record himself speaking after hearing a recorded question or prompt that was given to them digitally by the teacher.

Students are still essentially completing the same task, but are now given the ability to listen to a recorded voice beforehand that is not the teacher’s. This method will also give students a better idea of what to expect during the AP exam.  Another possible augmentation is to give students the ability to use headphones and listen to the recording in private, instead of the teacher playing it for the entire class. This will make some students feel more comfortable when speaking.


Each student is given a random name or number to name their recorded file. The student records his dialogue and uploads it with this anonymous title to a dropbox. Students are able to manipulate or change their voice using audio programs to make it more challenging (which could possibly qualify as a redefinition!). The class is then tasked with listening to other students describe themselves and trying to guess who each student is.

Now we have entered the sweet spot of the SAMR model, where we are beginning to do new tasks that build on the old tasks. Students are still doing the original task of speaking about themselves, but students they are also practicing their listening skills by listening to other students. This would not have been possible to do anonymously in the past, and adds an extra layer to the activity. An extension to this activity would be to have students write a paragraph about the class as a whole, such as “Many students are blonde. Five 5 students are 15 years old, etc.” This would have been hard to do just from listening to several presentations in a row in the past, but now students can go at their own pace.

R- Redefinition

Students use apps such as Songify or AutoRap (both available in iTunes or Google Play) to turn their speeches into songs. Students then upload their songs to a dropbox, and other students listen to the songs and write a paragraph describing the student based on the song.

We’ve done it! Here’s where things have really changed. Recording 30 individual songs, or really any songs at all, would’ve been impossible in the past. Now with a few free apps, students can add vocal effects, backbeats, and other really engaging and exciting effects to their speech. You’ve truly taken the activity to a new level, and even though it’s the exact same task as it was in the past, students are now more productive and actively engaged in the language.

As you’ve seen in these four  examples, there’s no need to start over from scratch-the way it sounds when you first hear your school is going one-to-one. Instead, think about how you can take something pre-existing and punch it up a bit so it’s tech-ready. Some of the best resources for SAMR ideas and lists of apps and websites to consider how to SAMRize your classroom can be found at: