21 October 2016

#TFLA16 Presentation: PBL Building Blocks

What a treat to get to join some of my favorite language educators in Texas! I was called in to talk PBL with TFLA teachers last weekend in both workshop and session format.

In the workshop, we worked on actually getting started on that first PBL unit using resources I collected on a Wix site (I finally caved, @carmenscoggins!)

Note to self: collaborating on Google Slides is tricky from mobile devices. Still, we got some good ideas started, and I'm excited about the pet care and social media topics we discussed! I hope my new Texas amigos will add more to the sites as they get more ideas!

To tell the truth, I think the session went a little smoother than my first-ever workshop, in part because I got to riff with my roomie, the inimitable Amy Lenord of the Language Coaching blog, to prep for the second day.

Both presentations, though, centered on preparing a unit with four steps that can be spiraled, recycled, scrambled, and resorted as needed:

Of course having more structured interaction with Nearpod never hurts either.


One thing my guru Amy advised was to take time to take the temperature of the room. I really liked how the (trick) Nearpod quiz worked for that, but also the responses I got on why PBL is and is perhaps not the best choice for those there.

Here are some of the best responses, with my reactions, in case they help you make more informed decisions about whether PBL is for YOU.

What makes you think PBL might be a good choice for you?

  • It would allow more student choice.
    True--but not the only way to do that.

  • I want students to be engaged during the whole process.
    True, too--but something that must be carefully scaffolded and nurtured as in any context.

  • I think this will help put learning into the hands of my students, or at least feel like they are the ones who are discovering.
    Inquiry-based learning is more lasting, and even with carefully structured input, students can still find their own answers with PBL.

  • I want my students to love the language, I want them to use it on a daily basis and feel comfortable with it.
    This can certainly be accomplished in other ways, but PBL is a pretty solid way to hit all of those if done carefully.

  • Creating a product fosters engagement
    Absolutely--having something tangible to show for your learning make the whole thing seem worthwhile.

  • I am looking to have more meaningful assessments / have more purpose/ meaningful direction in my lessons
    I think this is the biggest advantage to PBL--Real World purpose right now.

What makes you think PBL might not be for you?

  • Not sure were tests grades fit in.
    Ah, the eternal struggle. The truth is tests can still fit in much as they did before--only with PBL, they're stops along the way, not the destination.

  • I am not sure how to use it for teaching grammar.
    The OTHER eternal struggle. As with any communication-based program, PBLL means that grammar fits where it is needed to communicate. It just happens that with PBL, the communication goals are generally aimed at completing and presenting a product.

  • Not knowing how to align with curriculum.
    If you're stuck with a textbook or pacing guide, find the good stuff and really focus on finding a meaningful purpose for that. The rest goes to the chuck-it bucket--because honestly, that's where it ended up for 80% of students anyway, right? PBL lets you be more intentional about what they still remember and can use next year.

  • Can take a lot of planning and time
    Well, amigo, you ain't wrong. That's why I advise starting slow--with ONE unit in ONE class. Make it worthwhile and then make it work. It might not work the first time. Don't sweat it. Reflect, revise (or reject), and try again a different way.

19 October 2016

Agentes Secretos, Assassin's Creed, and My First MovieTalk

I was just innocently searching for videos to give my students a feel for Sainte Chapelle, one of the heroes' destinations in Agentes Secretos, when I happened upon one of their favorite games! (The students'--not the protagonists'...)

Pokemon or no, my babies this year are big into video games, and Assassin's Creed happens to be one of them. It's not necessarily this incarnation of the game, but I'm excited to have a hook, even beyond the book they're already totally into. (Seriously--everything is about guapo/superguapo in our class!)

So I wanted to show them a 360 view of this landmark, but I also wanted to use the target language. What a perfect opportunity for a MovieTalk!

Now there is a lot of...extra..exploration in this video, so I think we'll probably start around 2:30 and play on double speed, so the whole thing should take under 5 minutes.


If I learned nothing else from #iFLT16, I learned that I must be extremely selective with the vocabulary I use in a story or MovieTalk or PQA. So I know I need
  1. a target structure to use over and over and
  2. familiar vocabulary for the rest
The target structure for this one was easy, as va was already next on my list of essential verbs so students could start talking about their product plans. Since I've been highlighting two verbs every unit and keeping a few active vocabulary words on the board for each too, we also have a lot to work with going in!

So based on the video--and the cognates I can establish meaning for just by writing them on the board--here's what I have to work with:

Familiar verbs:
  • es
  • está
  • quiere
  • puede
  • ver
  • bajar
  • subir
  • hay
New vocabulary:
  • puerta
  • ventana
  • asesino
  • lámpara
    de araña

We'll review the familiar words quickly and use some gestures (and doodles for the chandelier) to establish those words, and away we'll go with the questions!


So I scripted some questions for as much as I could think of, working in some yes/no questions with the correct answer last (especially where I might forget the right answer--I'm not even 100% sure they'll know his name is Arno.) I also made it a point to add the timestamp for time sensitive questions. 
  1. ¿Qué videojuego es esto?
    ¿Es Skyrim? ¿Es Assassin's Creed?
  2. ¿Quién es el protagonista? 
    ¿Es Geralt? ¿Es Arno?
  3. ¿Dónde está Arno?
    ¿Está en Barcelona? ¿Está en París?
  4. ¿Qué año es?
    ¿Es 1937? ¿Es 1789?
  5. ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va a un café? ¿Va a un museo? ¿Va a un palacio? ¿Va a una catedral?

  6. (2:50) ¿Cómo va en la catedral?
    ¿Va por la puerta? ¿Va por el balcón?
  7. ¿Qué quiere Arno? ¿Quiere la Lanza del Destino? 
  8. (3:05) ¿Qué puede Arno ver?
    ¿Puede ver la catedral? ¿Puede ver París?
  9. ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va arriba? ¿Va en la catedral?
  10. ¿Qué ve Arno?
    ¿Ve los asesinos? ¿Ve una ventana grande?

  11. (4:00) ¿Adónde va Arno? ¿Va abajo o arriba?
  12.  ¿Cómo va Arno a la ventana?
    ¿Por bajar del balcón? ¿Por subir en la pared?

  13. (5:00) ¿Adónde va Arno? ¿Va por la ventana o por una puerta?
  14. ¿Arno puede ver los asesinos en la puerta?
  15. ¿Sainte Chapelle es una catedral pequeña?

  16. (5:15) ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va al balcón? ¿Va a la lámpara de araña?
  17. ¿Cuántas lámparas usa Arno?
    ¿Tres? ¿Cuatro? ¿Cinco?

  18. (6:00) ¿Qué puede Arno ver?
    ¿Puede ver París? ¿Puede ver la catedral?
  19. ¿Arno va abajo o arriba?

  20. (7:20) ¿Puede ver las columnas?
  21. ¿Cuántas columnas hay?

  22. (8:00) ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va por la puerta? ¿Va  afuera? ¿Va arriba?
  23. ¿Qué puede Arno ver?
I'm considering going back and adding these questions in as Vibby comments, too, so the (anxiously) visual learners like myself feel a little more grounded as they follow along, but we'll see how it goes!