31 December 2014

7 First Day Fun Stations: Spanish II Edition


First Day Fun Stations were a hit in Spanish I. Next semester, though, I start over with Spanish II. These kids have seen it all before. Not the Fun Stations, perhaps, but they've played with Google Translate, been forced to pick through my cart library, and got a bunch of coros stuck in their head. For better or worse, they pretty much know how I operate, too.

Still, I want to get their heads back in the language game, reignite previously formed synapses and introduce a few changes.

I'm allotting 20 minutes for each activity making sure about half could be done outside of class, and I'm aiming to have no more than 4 at each station at any given time, and since it's better to have extra places to go than to fall short, I'm looking at 2 days for 7 activities:

  1. Action Shots
  2. Karaoke
  3. Sock Talk
  4. Story Form
  5. Skitch Setting
  6. Folio Flashback
  7. Interactive Syllabus

1. Action shots: Reinforce basic verbs (2 iPads/outside class)

I've decided what I really need to do is get kids to focus on what they DO know--ALL the time. For at least the first 6 weeks, I'm going to require students to use at least ONE of these high-frequency verbs in EVERY sentence they write or say:

  1. Hay
  2. Esta
  3. Soy/Eres/Es/Son
  4. Puede
  5. Quiere
  6. Tengo/Tiene
  7. Voy/Va
  8. Necesita
  9. Gusta
  10. Hace
Leslie Davison and Amy Lenord also had some good lists but I want to keep it to 10, and this list isn't necessarily TPRS geared. That being said, if the kiddos still have these all in their noggin, good. If not, by golly, I'm breaking out all of Sexton's Strategies for Vocabulary Retention TM at once and having them come up with an action for each of these (action), snapping a picture of each (visual), so I can put them together in review VoiceThreads and reinforce by having them comment on each other's pictures (connection) and perhaps with some photographic notes in ye olde Interactive Notebooks.


2. Karaoke: Tap into prior knowledge/dust off presentational speaking skills (3 iPads)

The whole point of coros is to wedge some authentic target language earworms in kids' brains before they're released into the wild. I'm putting together clips of the catchiest songs they did last year and loading them onto my iPad (the only one with the GreenScreen app). They'll work in groups of 3, peruse my karaoke playlist (see below), and each pick out a different song they remember. Then they'll take turns recording each other against some green butcher paper to come up with a montage with at least 1 song each.


3. Sock Talk: Revive interpersonal skills with silly voices & join Google Classroom (3 iPads)

I've composed a list of topics students should be able to say something about based on vocabulary from last year's classes (though given the different projects in the fall versus the spring class, they'll probably want to partner accordingly):
  • ¿Qué te gusta hacer cuando no estás en clase?
  • ¿Qué necesitas para cocinar tu comida favorita?
  • ¿Cómo bailas con “La Bamba” o “Danza Kuduro”?
  • ¿Qué materiales necesitan niños para la escuela que TÚ no necesitas?
  • ¿Quiénes son las personas más locas en tu familia y por qué?

Each partner will have to ask and answer at least 3 questions--which CANNOT be written down in advance!--other than the selected topic question. They get to export a 30-second video to YouTube with the free version, so they'll have to think and talk fast! Once they export the links as unlisted YouTube videos, they'll post the links to an Announcement thread on Google Classroom.


4. Story Form: Introduce TPRS and first project (laptops/outside class)

Even though storyasking was kind of a love/hate scenario in Spanish I, I'm working on a Google Form version of a story about a kid who hates to read until she finds one she really likes...to eat. I'll set up the story on the form in segments that end in a sort of choose-your-own-response question so students can 1) start warming up to the storyasking procedure and 2) get some input on the particulars of the story ahead of time. And, you know, maybe dust off their WordReference skills if need be.


5. Skitch Setting: Goal setting (3 ipads)

So I want students to think about their strengths and what they really want to be able to do with the language, and I want them to have fun, and what's more fun for a high schooler than taking selfies? So I'll give them the list of strengths/weaknesses and possible topics/resources from the personal goal reflection page in poster form. They'll snap a picture of themselves--head plus 1 hand. They'll put 4 or 5 strengths ON their heads and then 4 or 5 areas they want to improve their heads in the picture. And finally, they'll put their desired topics/resources in their hand.


6. Folio Flashback: Evaluate personal proficiency level (laptops/outside class)

I told them their portfolios would follow them. I simply copied the portfolio links I had collected on Symbaloo to a new webmix to rearrange and reflect this year's classes. So they'll find their own and take a walk down memory lane. They'll need to search their portfolios for the best example of each of the 4 communication skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing), but before they make their selection, they'll need to ask themselves 2 questions:

  1. Can I still do this?
  2. Does this really show what I can do?

Then they'll have to compare their evidence to the ACTFL proficiency descriptors (also linked individually on the Symbaloo webmix) and fill out a form that will include columns for the skill, the type of evidence (video, photo, audio file, etc.), a descriptive title for the evidence, key words from the ACTFL guidelines that match their evidence, and finally their proficiency level. These forms will fit nicely in the front of their Interactive Notebooks (and potentially be transferred to their e-portfolios, links and all).


7. Interactive Syllabus: You know, The Basics (chromebooks/outside class)

I'm working on combining my "Elements of Spanish Class" infograph into my interactive syllabus into one big complete rundown of what to expect. Of course they still have to have an archaic printed copy, so the information that I'll want them to get from it will mostly be from the links available through the interactive features, like

So what they'll really need--in addition to the syllabus itself--is to make sure they're properly registered for all pertinent pages and to have a little cheat sheet of pages and log-ins to paste in the corner of their Interactive Notebooks. I'll provide colorful paper, perhaps with lines for them to fill in the correct information.


19 December 2014

Top 14 of 2014

In case you haven't seen it, my guide to becoming a 21st Century world language teacher is THE SINGLE MOST POPULAR THING I HAVE EVER POSTED. I collected resources from a lot of the big brains around our little Twitter PLN for this page. It's not a "post" per se, but it's my version of a textbook for people wanting to up their game.

14. Daily Instagram Updates April 24
I had to write my objectives and agenda on the board each day AND I had to post them online. So I just took a picture and set up my site to take pictures of the board from Instagram!

13. Proficiency by the Bikes Aug 14
I borrowed from Srta. Barragan, Kelly Daugherty and Martina Bex to make students aware of where they're heading from the beginning and help them set reasonable goals. I think it helped me even more than it helped them, keeping me honest about what tasks are appropriate for their level.

12. Genius Hour Agenda Overview March 18
I've since revised the sequence of activities and moved the bulk of the process to the beginning of the year instead of the end, but here's how it went down last spring.

11. Make an Interactive Infograph Syllabus Aug 31 563
If I'm going to make a syllabus, I want people to actually look at it and use it. Infographs draw the eye, and you can add resources to it to make the whole thing a one-stop shop for the whole course pretty much.

10.  Setting Independent Language Goals with Students January 19
I presented on homework choice with Sara-Elizabeth and Bethanie at ACTFL14, and this post helped me get the structure together to be more manageable for this year. There are still kinks, but it's working pretty nicely.

9. Why LangCamp? May 10
Alas, LangCamp 2014 never got off the ground, but there's still a chance we could get something together for this summer, right? Picture it: hanging out with the best, smartest, funniest minds in our field and finally really digging into our language teacher plans to take over the world.

8. Start with a Song: Pop Music Motivates Oct 19
I love coros. My kids love coros. If there is one thing they will still have when they have been done with my Spanish class for years, it is coros. Here's how to set it up to make students look forward to Spanish class and to keep Spanish stuck in there head all day for years to come.

7. Genius Hour Agenda, part 1: Setup and Vocabulary January 11
As I said in another ACTFL14 presentation, the key to making Genius Hour work is in the scaffolding, really structuring assignments to build proficiency in topics students love, starting with vocabulary.

6. Strategies for Standards-Based Portfolio Curation January 4
I'm arduously redesigning the portfolio structure yet again, to push leveling up quicker and easier organization (kids hated the approach this year). But standards-based principles remain in place.

5. Why and How You Should Do Stations on Day 1 Aug 18
This is the follow-up to my all-time most popular post. Basically, it's all about setting the tone and positive--yet high--expectations.

4. Three Apps, Three Types of Movie Projects July 14 756
I didn't do as much with Sock Puppets or Green Screen as I'd hoped, and I actually didn't do anything with Voice. Next semester.

3. Proficiency Portfolio Re-Design May 28
Portfolios went better than ever before. But they still took literally days off of my life and frustrated kids. Be on the lookout for the next incarnation--this time with ACTFL I-cans!

2. Your Own Personal Spanish Curriculum Jan 9
Genius Hour, personal goals, and portfolios mean a lot of choice...perhaps too much. But I'm working on it.

1. First Day Fun Stations July 18
While not quite as popular as the 21st century language teacher guide, this is by far the single most popular post I ever did publish. I'm working on how to adapt it for a set of kids I already know on a personal and a Spanish level, but the idea of keeping kids moving trying different things was certainly a hit and really set the tone for what I would be willing to call the most successful semester of my 11-year teaching career

So here's to another year of growing, reflecting, and plotting together, my dear PLN! Happy holidays!

17 December 2014

Love, Hate, and Spanish 1

To compile a list of what worked and what didn't and begin to develop a plan for improvement, I promised to try not to cry myself to sleep when I polled Spanish I about their Top 5 and Worst 5 activities from class this semester. Of course I also swore their responses would not affect their grades either way.

Love/Hate logo adapted from NetKids DeviantArt page
If they liked it, their task was to tell A) how it helped and B) why they enjoyed it. If they didn't like it, they were to A) describe the problem and B) propose a solution.

Now the whole thing probably would have been a lot more useful if the young ones actually HAD stuck to these tasks, but still, I got information I think I can use.

These activities were pretty overwhelmingly in the Top 5 category.
  • Coros
    Pretty much UNANIMOUS favorite (barely anyone could resist putting it in the top 5, no dissenters), students said it helped them "learn some everyday words" and "got my brain on the right track." Now I've got to figure out how to take it to the next level to promote intermediate skills next year.
  • Pinterest (18:6)
    Most liked reinforcing vocabulary, for Genius Hour and Plan Verde, with images and finding more information easily. The main complaints was some topics were hard to find pins for (I'll have to counsel on passion topics better), and some thought it was too easy, which I think I can live with in Spanish I.
  • InfuseLearning (14:1)
    Only one kid admitted they "didn't learn anything" from the vocabulary doodling exercise, but others said "seeing other people's [images] helped the definition really stick."
  • Emergency vocab (14)
    Taken from First Day Fun Stations, kids had a reference for how to ask to go to the bathroom, etc. at the back of their interactive notebooks. They didn't use all of the words, but the reference was handy apparently.
  • Daily language goals (9)
    They may not have hit 90% every day...or very many days at all...but they liked how it made them conscious of their language usage and accomplishments.

Like  No real complaints about these, but not many put them in their Top 5.
  • Socio/monitor cards (4)
    I, too, was pretty pleased with how well these worked. Kids almost sounded natural when they had an English script of what they should ask.
  • Interpersonal Playbook (6:2)
    Some thought it was too easy, but others thought it was a handy reference.
  • Calendar (3)
    A few thought it helped them organize well and communicate expectations with group members. Plus the instructions to set them up were useful for practicing numbers and dates.
  • Presentations (4)
    A handful got a kick out of getting in front of class (Q&A especially helped with "thinking on my feet") and others liked learning from each other.
  • Vocab visuals (3)
    The visual connection was important in different activities, and including them in their passion presentations was especially key for communicating with classmates.
  • Web map (3)
    Some liked making the connections to keep words they "needed throughout the semester on hand."

Mostly just on the Worst 5 lists
  • Tweeting experts (0:15)
    I never got up the guts to do it, so I shouldn't be surprised. I bet WeSpeke would work way better!
  • Collaboration (1:8)
    Last year it seemed to get kids to face their shortcomings. This year, they mostly complained of just getting people upset. Frankly, I think that's a strong indicator of the necessity of the conferences about collaborative skills, but I'll be thinking of another way.
  • Exploratextos (1:11)
    I tried. A few suggested doing a few books together as a class. Maybe we could have a rotation? Order some more after they browse a bit? Maybe some Google Community reader response?
  • Metas/Resultados del dia (4:15)
    Some it organized, most it didn't. I kind of liked the one suggestion for checklists, but I'm not sure how to structure that to help students maximize their time.
  • Portfolios (3:18)
    I showed them what I've been working on for a new template using ACTFL I-cans, and most feel better having less choice in this and were relieved upon seeing the clearer objectives.
  • Diigo (5:16)
    I couldn't have survived grad school without it. Maybe it was the blog publishing. Maybe I did too many steps at once. I think maybe I will have students focus on one resource at a time, highlighting, paraphrasing, summarizing it before moving on.

Some thought they were great. Some just wanted them to stop.
  • Invento project (8:5)
    I'm gonna call this one a keeper. I was intrigued by the idea of scrapping Plan Verde to devote more time to this and passion projects. I mean, really, if my tests are portfolios or IPAs, there's no reason I HAVE to do 3 projects!
  • Glog (3:5)
    I didn't like shellling out $40 to make overly complex soundboards either. I'm contemplating VoiceThread or Prezi as a substitute, although TinyTap might be a useful app to substitute, and if I could convince the powers that be, I'd totally shell out $30 to get MadPad HD on each of my class iPads.
  • Storyasking (4:8)
    Some thoroughly enjoyed Mucha basura and El mejor invento and how they "figured out new words on my own." Others iddn't get the point of all of the repetition. I guess I could try shorter less complex stories.
  • Reportajes (3:3)
    I need to tighten this process where individuals take turn standing up and telling what they have and what's next. I need to make it a quicker, more interactive routine.
  • Personal Goals (11:5)
    Some liked exploring what mattered to them, though there is the passion project for that...Others just liked the easy grade or felt like it was busy work. This one bears a closer look.

07 December 2014

TPRS Genius Hour

The best reason to present at conferences is that people with great ideas come to you. I mean, sure, you get to gather your thoughts on your own work, maybe show off a little, but if you are presenting something, people who are interested in what you're interested have a designated time and place to track you down...even if it is 8 AM on a Sunday.

This is where Cadena Sensei comes in.

Those who have put up with me for any amount of time know I think Genius Hour is one of the secrets to life--or at least to making kids want to learn (which...isn't that what life is anyway?). I've presented on it three times since August alone. However, I'm always looking for new ways to make it--and all of my Spanish instruction--more productive, more accessible for my students. So John came up to me after my Genius Hour session with this idea to use some pre-selected texts as springboards for Genius Hour projects. Of course the English teacher in me starts singing Liiiiterature circlllles! in my head. I wasn't quite sure if this was quite autonomous enough to be "Genius Hour," but I stored the idea and made Cadena Sensei swear to blog about it (still waiting, John. Tweet him and bug him for me, if you want.)

TPRS on the plane
Now I've been snooping around some TPRS books lately, trying to figure out how it could fit in with my students' goals and interests, and I picked up a couple of Kristy Placido's at the TPRS Publishing booth at ACTFL a few weeks ago. By far, my favorites are Noche de oro and Robo en la noche.

I devoured Noche de oro somewhere between San Antonio and Charlotte and suddenly Cadena Sensei's plan clicked. I started listing every topic I could think of that Noche de oro made me think of, every possible tangential topic that could be explored in greater depth, a la Cadena Sensei's plan, that could ever possibly appeal to any of the students I knew I'd have for Spanish II.

I came up with 20 topics in 3 different categories:

For the ecologically minded
  • birds
  • trees
  • ecosystems
  • conservation
  • rain forest
  • beaches
  • mining
  • waterfalls
  • coffee
For the artistically minded
  • Costa Rican chefs
  • heavy metal
  • salsa
  • tattoos
For the socially minded
  • study abroad
  • police corruption
  • government structure
  • desaparecidos
  • blended families
  • teen freedom
  • flirting/dating

And that's just from Noche de oro! If I go with, say, literature circles, letting students choose the text as well (as per Cadena Sensei's suggestion), and add Robo en la noche to the mix, students could also choose from these topics:
  • health care
  • dictatorships
  • Costa Rican military
  • eco tourism
  • ocean/sea life
  • fruit/flora
  • cathedrals
  • weddings
  • breakfast
  • elders
  • widows
  • horses
  • exotic animal trafficking
  • parks
  • Tico cuisine/restaurants
  • cell phones
  • injuries
  • kidnapping
  • judicial system

PLUS there are these Pinterest boards that the autora herself put together too, for both Robo en la noche and Noche de oro.

Putting it together
Now. TELL me there isn't something for everyone there? I mean, I could put names to the topics right now, and I could satisfy just about every kid on my roster. On top of that, since there is the uniting theme of the book, students would all have a common purpose for conversation, and they could bring their respective pieces of the puzzle to jigsaw the whole thing richer!

So here's what I'm envisioning for a new Genius Hour day routine (bearing in mind 20% of the 4-day academic week at my school is not a whole class period):
  1. Tip-off talk: pick a partner and discuss the who/what/when/where/why/how of last week's chapter to refresh (with Sock Puppets?)
  2. Story setup: activity to preview impending chapter (word cloud, headlines, image discussion, videos, etc.)
  3. Story time: read another chapter of the book, pausing for quick writes.
  4. Genius hour: collect, reflect, prepare, or share
  5. Connection blog: explain 2 things you learned on your topic and how those things fit with the story.
And THEN students with different Genius Hour interests would have an excuse to work together on their final product--since all of the topics started on a related note--thus encouraging the young ones to get REALLY creative with their connections for presenting purposes.

05 December 2014

Film & Lit Final Project App Smash

From back channels during film viewing to blogging to daily reader response set up on Google Community, iPads have been a key ingredient in my Film & Literature class, but never moreso than in their final video project. Instead of a final exam, my kiddos are working in groups, taking clips from all of the movies we have seen (and then some, if they're feeling froggy), and combining them into videos either on 1) How to make a terrible movie out of a great book or 2) How to make a great movie out of a terrible book. 

They've written blog posts and essays about the presentation of literary elements like plot, narration, theme, characterization, and setting in the books we've read versus the movies we've watched. They've also written an essay on which is better overall, books or movies. This video will be the culmination and an extension of all of that analysis, where my seniors take the presentation beyond the academic and have a little fun with their final say on what we've done.

They have a week left to put everything together, but this is how the process goes:

Video Prep

Find 5 scenes on YouTube to incorporate in the video.

        Embed 5 videos in a blog post and explain how they will enhance your video.

Collaborate with group members on a shared Google Doc to compose the script for your video.

Quote Incorporation

Take a screenshot of each scene you will use and post a corresponding quote from the books over each image.

Record yourself paraphrasing or quoting one of the characters to make their picture speak on YAKiT Kids.

Video Completion

Copy the YouTube URL for your  video to SaveDeo.online and download to your camera roll.

Upload the video clips and YAKiT clips to Loopster to edit in order and trim.

Record your group's lines in front of green paper with the Camera then combine with video clips in Green Screen.

01 December 2014

End of Year Clearance: 2013 Flashback

December's here, and we're about done with 2014. Me, I've come to look forward to retrospectives like Lee Sensei's and Musicuentos'. I even did my own Top 13 of 2013 last year:

See last year's top 13 posts
Now I'm working on a top 14 of 2014, but a few posts from later in 2013 didn't really gain steam until 2014. So in keeping with end-of-year reflection, here's a few hits from yesteryear. Literally. Last year, about this time:
Google Translate Addiction: Genius Hour experiment, part 6
This is sort of the beginning of my attempt to make peace with Google Translate (I was going to call my blog "Can Your Translator Do This?" at one point). Honestly, it's got a lot of useful features now--INCLUDING a dictionary that lets you decide which is the best meaning of the word. The pronunciation, the Phrasebook...ah, Google Translate, run away with me! And really, as I have been putting myself in my students' position, becoming a novice myself, I find I want to have those tools available to me. My Translate Commandments are due for a tweaking, mind you, but with them we have a sort of star-crossed ceasefire going on for the moment at least.

Skype in the Target Language: Setup
I've been pretty slack with my Skype buddies this semester (HINT: do not propose multiple presentations to multiple conventions), but hopefully we will be able to do some fun stuff next semester with local amiguitos at least. Still, the playbook setup is useful for structuring practice conversations, inauthentic though they be. It gets kids into circumlocution mode and provides a perch for my little parrots.

15 Driving Questions for Novice Spanish
I have a confession. I have tried none of these driving questions. I honestly might not try any of them, though I could see a couple connecting with the crowd I've got coming next semester (man, I love a small school where everybody knows everybody!) I could see them getting into "Is ethnically based bias or prejudice sometimes warranted?" or maybe "To what extent does modern media like MTV, Tr3s, and Latina, magazine accurately reflect Latino culture?" but on the whole, I'd say this group is a lot more scientifically minded than socially minded. But it's nice to have options, because every group is different.

So You Want to Be a WLOE NBCT (Honeybadger)
Finally, if I can save a single soul from the torment and self-doubt that the National Boards process put me through, I am THERE. I am so excited for amigas Courtney and Stephanie and just pretend that through them, I too, got certified the first time 'round...instead of the third. Check this post for pitfalls I fell for so you can avoid them and my twice-cursed fate.

28 November 2014

AAPPL Measures and IPAS

I think tests are stupid. A test can't tell you how well I do my job or live my life--or anything you really need to know about me. Now, I'm really good at taking tests, and if you were to look at various test scores I've accumulated in my life, I daresay you'd be impressed with me. But do you know how much bearing the ACT, SAT, or GRE has had on any of my roles since college or grad school application time? Do you know how much impact that Issues in Teaching Foreign Languages or  Masterpieces of Hispanic Art and Literature exam has had on me as a teacher, mother, wife, or friend--or even as a speaker of Spanish?


I mean, getting an A always gave me a charge, a sense of validation. But getting it from a test? It meant I could play The Game, and, brother, that game that ended when I got that last piece of paper. Now people insist on seeing what I can do, or at least an eye witness account (AKA references) that I am what I appear to be on paper. They'll take my reflections and artifacts of my accomplishments and video of me in action to justify giving me a pay raise, but that test was really kind of a garnish on the whole affair.

No, tests don't mean much in the real world, but I'll tell you what does: performance. Demonstration of your abilities in context. That's why I make my kids put together portfolios, to show exactly what they can do. But there's only so much a portfolio can show as far as what you can produce on demand, without constant teacher intervention and revision.

That's where Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) and the ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Langauges (AAPPL) come in. Together they're a way to see what a kid can do in action, on demand, and a way to communicate how well they do it.

Now I've been thinking about how to fit IPAs in with my Project-Based Learning since LangCamp this past summer. The IPA takes a theme--just like the one that ties together a PBL unit and serves as a basis for the Driving Question--and builds communicative skills from interpretive to interpersonal to presentational. It works pretty much how the PBL process works, between inquiry, collaboration, and presentation. What I've been missing is the distilled, spontaneous form of the assessment for the different modes. Oh, sure, kiddos have been collecting evidence and stockpiling it portfolio style, but it has largely been heavily scaffolded. I need to get kids to the stage where they can produce language without my sentence starters and scripted storyasking and interpersonal playbooks. If I can't, we haven't practiced the skills enough. If they can, they need a chance to prove it in class.

AAPPL Badges
My badges, I confess, have been kind of arbitrarily awarded. The rubric has been consistent, and the standards carefully considered, but they are not necessarily reflective of true proficiency, largely because they've been applied to performances that have been heavily scaffolded. Also, they've been based on a point system that may reflect incomplete mastery of certain skills: maybe you answer all in single words, but by golly you pronounced them right and had a bunch of examples, so you get a badge for earning 85% on Novice Mid Interpersonal.

By applying the AAPPL scoring descriptors to the IPAs aligned with the unit project, students will have a representation of their overall proficiency level, what they can produce anytime anywhere, rather than what they can do after I've coached them through step-by-step. Not only that, but they'll have a recommended strategy for how to get to the next step! That way their badges will represent actual skills rather than random hoops.

Report Card Implications
This means that that 65% category my district makes me set aside for "tests" will be reserved for IPAs instead of portfolios next semester (though portfolio curation will still fall under "quizzes"). This means there will be three to four of these types of grades each six weeks, one for each mode of communication, possibly two different interpretive grades to get the context good and solid.

This means that what an "A" is will change throughout the semester as proficiency expectations increase (kind of like JCPS does...but not so dang TOUGH), maybe something like this for Spanish I interpretation:
Check out the AAPPL Score Descriptions for Interpretive Reading/Listening
Of course this also means that I'll have to be careful about how I space the IPA stages to effectively convey student progress as well, and that is going to take some practice.

Australian Shepherd agility By Pharaoh Hound (Edit of Australian Shepherd agility Flickr.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

26 November 2014

#ACTFL14: Crystallization of Purpose, a Groupie's Paradise, and Selfie Extravaganza

ACTFL 2014 was full of powerful learning and powerful connections. It's not so much that I learned anything new as I felt previous learning reinforced and my resolve to move forward strengthened. Just being around people doing such progressive and pro-active things with their students and their practice overall has helped me believe I, too, can--and develop a plan of attack! So here are my day-by-day takeaways, both from in-person encounters and online creeping.

First off, loved the morning show format for the opening! Even the commercials were great! I did go and explore the AAPPL booth and plan to try it when they roll it out in a month or two. It's like Google Voice assignments with built-in feedback mechanisms!

Also, I confess I was skeptical about a keynote speaker with no outward connection to teaching. The cool part though is that Annie Griffiths' connection is to LEARNING. I cannot emphasize enough the need to take risks as a language learner AND a language teacher, and Griffiths' has got that down pat. What's more she gets the purpose of language beyond its own end, an inspiration for the communication-based classroom. And the level of self-reflection and sympathy--nay, empathy--she brings to her photography and experiences is a perfect model for us educator-types. Especially the patience and the faith in your "subjects": just trusting that opportunity will arise given time, trusting that your efforts will lead somewhere--our profession is just a job without that.

What are we doing in the classroom if we are not building something that will last longer than a semester? I always love Carmen Scoggins' metaphors for learning, and the sustainable living collective may be my favorite yet. It's curious, too, and important to acknowledge the distinctions between our experience and our students' when it comes to what lasts. I love, too, that Carmen emphasizes our roles as educators in the grander scheme of things (the girl gets me!) I love that she makes us look beyond the "disrespect" of someone falling asleep in class. It's our job as responsible adults in these kids' lives to recognize the source of their actions--even when they don't--and not take them personally. Also, some day, I hope to be as with-it as Carmen to get a Wix together for each unit. So far, Google Classroom has gotten me the closest to with-it as I've been, though, so there's that.

Of course someone who makes it to Teacher of the Year status is going to have great ideas. It was also cool to get some sit-down time with old Twitter buds like Clarissa and Noah, too. Some of my favorite ideas include Yo Azama's "Wonder Wall"--a perfect idea to help generate ideas for Genius Hour and to support PBL! (Especially answering their questions with more questions!) I've been wanting to have a karaoke event, too, so my wheels are turning on how to make that happen. I also really love the idea of getting community support for badges so there is a real, immediate, and tangible benefit to developing language skills. I found it helpful too to sit down and talk about how to use the ACTFL I-cans (I am so re-doing my portfolios...probably this weekend!)

Also, shout out to Caleb Bloodworth, paying it forward after enjoying last year's livetweeting. He helped me find a great session--and filled me in on what I missed before I even knew I was missing anything! Important lesson: titles are deceiving. There are so many things we can learn from sessions not geared toward our particular circumstances. Without Caleb to show me this, I would have missed Greg Duncan's session the next day! Also, shout out to Rachel Ash for keeping me in the loop with other cool activities to keep input comprehensible.

The SWCOLT guys take the entertaining and edifying cake for the conference for me. Their videos had me in stitches, and their points not only helped me see learning targets through kids' eyes but also FINALLY helped me see how I could make standards-based grading work within my district policies. Hint: score everything, record only the proficiency information. (This will still take finagling, but I can see how to keep records and show learning separately! Even if it messes up my beautiful TL monitoring system...) I'm also contemplating how to balance portfolio grades and spontaneous demonstration grades...which means I'm probably redoing my syllabus this weekend too. Is it weird that that sounds like fun to me?

I'm also looking forward to trying out WeSpeke. I tinkered a bit before bedtime with my minimal Portuguese skills. More fodder for the syllabus...or personalized adventures?

And finally, Greg Duncan just reminded me of everything that is important in a language class. It's not that I didn't know it, but, kind of like Amy did for me last year with authentic texts for novices, Duncan just kind of crystallized everything for me, cleared my path to make it more visible, more obvious.

OK, I saw the presentation ahead of time, I follow these ladies religiously, and we're kind of homies. But I was STILL learning from them during our session! I'm linking it even though it makes me want to cry blood, but I think it's important to show the journey. She knows it, has known it for years, and if you don't, you should: I am a Musicuentos fangirl. Three years ago I used the word "disciple." We've collaborated many times since then, and seeing her face-to-face for the first time as I left Denny's with my other idols, it was more of a reunion than a groupie fest. The feeling I will take from being at ACTFL 2014 makes me want to sing Peaches and Herb, even though most of the people I've only ever seen on a screen before (though we did pass in the hall last year, right, Amy and Kristy? And, well, Bethanie and Cristy and I are driving distance/edcamp distance from each other!) I should have been starstruck trying to buy a book--or 4--from Carol Gaab and Carrie Toth or walking by Megan Johnston and Kara Parker. But instead, they called me by name and hugged me!

Now that I got that out of the way, it was also cool sitting down with Megan, Kara, and Tom Welch of ACTFL Innovates gave me a chance to refine ideas and look to the future, which is what I LOVE about being other passionate--and brilliant--educators! Like Joe Dale! Now that I have iPads, absorbing his ideas has a whole new dimension. Now if only it didn't take an act of congress to get a $3 app.

Special thanks to people getting up at 8 AM on a Sunday to hang out with me. The takeaway from my session for me is mostly my new connection with Cadena Sensei and our mission to tie Genius Hour to reading (this is where my TPRS purchases may come in!) PS Whoever put the PBL session at the same time as my session is cruel and heartless.

I'm glad I got to squeeze in one last session from my North Carolina compatriots, too, because I finally got some ideas to make some community connections in a community that 1) is not where I live and 2) is not quite as diverse as where I do live (hint: service learning and key word--iglesias).

And as one final parting gift, here's my wall-o-selfies Thinglink, complete with links to people's blogs and profiles!

25 November 2014

Guest Post: Collaborating with #Pasión and Robots

@SraWillis came to visit and check out my class
...and decide if I'm human?
Kelly Willis is a Spanish teacher at Charlotte Latin School who shares my passion for technology, authentic learning, and  for novice learners--only her novices at the lower school are a lot smaller than mine. The cool part is that we're only about an hour's drive from each other, so we have been hatching plots to collaborate since this summer. Sra. Willis finally took the bull by the horns and came to visit my class a few weeks ago, and I asked her to share her reflections on the experience.

Here's what she had to say:

Jumping in
I’m not sure how it happened, but this summer I jumped into the deep space of the Twitter-verse and stumbled onto #langchat.  Initially, I’d only plan to scan a little of the twitter feed, or look for a quick link or post that piqued my interest. Yet, several hours later I’d wonder how and when it got dark out, look over at the pile of laundry still waiting to be folded, and decide my three year old could go digging through the mountain on her own to find her favorite blue Elsa dress the following morning.

I was awed and intimidated by all the information being shared, and I continued to teeter around the edges of Twitter, Google Plus, #langcamp, and Google Hangouts observing, not totally sure if I wanted to contribute to #langchat with all of these amazing teachers who seemed to be doing so much more than me. What if I said something stupid, or too obvious, or not worth the 140 characters taking up space on the Twitter feed? In particular, I wondered who this @SraSpanglish was, and furthermore, when did she eat and sleep? Was she a robot?

I finally got brave enough one night to decide to join a Google Hangout about technology moderated by Sra. Spanglish this summer.  It was starting some time after 9:00PM, but it worked out for me because my daughter was asleep. I figured I’d just audit the conversation, and maybe offer something up to the conversation about how I was using iPads in my elementary Spanish classes.  Mostly, though, I was just planning on watching while I cooked for my husband and myself.

No such luck.

It turns out that only Sra. Spanglish and I were ready to chat at such a late hour. By the end of our hour-long chat about technology, iPads, and apps, I discovered she’s not really a robot, and she teaches right up the road from me! The wheels in my head started to turn….. Fast forward a few months….

Class time
At the end of October, our students were off thanks to parent-teacher conferences, so I found myself with the three days open for professional development and a #genius just up the road. We teachers can easily find a reason to stay in behind in the office for a few work days. We always need to catch up on paperwork, write curriculum, plan lessons, search for resources… The list goes on. However, one of the most helpful things we can do to grow as teachers is to connect with others in our profession, and when given the chance, actually get out there to watch them in action.  

I made a plan with Sra. Spanglish to come out to observe her high school students working on their #pasión projects.   They had already identified a topic of interest to them and written down some key vocabulary words and driving questions they wanted answered, so the work being done on this day involved research and listening comprehension. 

Each student had to complete a search for several videos linked to their #pasión. They had to watch and listen carefully (no subtitles allowed!), write down ten vocabulary words they could understand, and also see if any of this information answered some of those questions they had previously written down about their pasión topics.  When the students protested that they couldn’t understand, Sra. Spanglish just reminded them that this is training their ears, and they don’t have to understand it all.

Despite being a Novice level class, all students were engaged and working diligently, and topics ranged from cosmetology, pop music, and cars to cooking, art, and quinceañeras.

I spent several hours watching Sra. Spanglish guide two different sections of Novice level learners into this day of #pasión, and by lunchtime I came away with these observations:

1. Novice learners are the same, whether they are 7 years old or 17.  

Don’t be afraid to observe another teacher just because he or she teaches students who are not the same age as your students. I laughed when a few of her students looked at me in fear and worried I was going to speak Spanish very quickly to them. My little guys in elementary school do the same.

2. Visiting another teacher in person can help you come away with even the smallest “tricks” and resources for classroom design and management.

I loved the idea of using a “call and response” tactic with lyrics from authentic music to regain students’ attention and focus. I took down the titles of some of the picture books in the front of her class, and couldn’t stop writing down songs from the playlist running in the background while the students worked.

3.   Collaboration doesn’t have to end with just one observation/visit! We’re already talking about a joint project between our students sometime in the near future. 

There is so much to learn from one another, and social media is a tremendous asset to connecting foreign language educators around the world. Yet, if we can get out of our own classrooms and into the classrooms of our peers, we have the chance to see first hand some #genius and #pasión that could leave us inspired. This is true about my visit to Sra. Spanglish’s classes. 

However, after witnessing how she manages the online individual portfolio assessments, projects, rubrics and resources for her students and courses, helps keep thousands of online colleagues connected alongside other super talented professionals, on top of being a mom and wife, I take back some of what I said.

She really is a robot.

PS Our secret collaboration plan involves picture books and possibly little library boxes...and possibly world domination.

21 November 2014

Genius Hour Agenda 4: Prepare

After students have collected a certain amount of information and begun to absorb relevant vocabulary through repeated authentic exposure, they need to start thinking “So what?”

I don’t mean we should turn our precious angels into little nihilists, of course. I mean that input is well and good, but it needs to be processed—and it needs a reason to be processed. We need to train students to ask the right questions and find their own answers, but we can’t stop there, or all of their genius will end up out of gas on the side of a dead end road.

Discussion with classmates and experts and community members—whether in person in real time or online and asynchronous--is a good place to start processing their learning for a larger purpose, to keep the genius alive and circulating. In fact the discussion could be an end within itself in the right context, say a community meeting on preventing Type 2 diabetes or tips for teens in crisis. Novices, however, are not equipped to deal with the discourse required for discussion beyond reviewing their discoveries (Es interesante que…, Otros temas relevantes son…) and planning the next step of the discovering (voy a…, quiero…)

So in my Spanish I and II classes, we build toward a sort of semi-authentic presentation, just for me and their classmates.

Basically they have to involve everyone actively in their passion—in the target language—in under 15 minutes.

This is a tricky thing to do, even in your native language. Presentation Day often becomes Relax-Your-Brain Day, instead of a real day of pasión. So it helps to break down the process of engaging your classmates and build the presentations step-by-step. Please note: I have already forced several of these activities on my students, and some I just thought of and may or may not have time for. You take what you need—what they need.

Focus vocabulary
By now, everyone has collected at least 30 words related to their passion, but there’s no way the class is going to retain even 30 cognates from 25 different presentations. So they have to choose what the class will really need—beyond our high-frequency words—to get what’s going on. I have them narrow it down to 10 words (15 if they’re desperate and have some cognates in there). They need to think about what they need to convey their summary and their instructions to the class. And they need to forget the translator exists except to quick-check for spelling mistakes.

Vocabulary videos
Create a mini-video (think Vine) for each word, where you pronounce it, offer synonyms and circumlocution for the word in Spanish, make gestures, maybe draw a picture. Also, include any numbers that you’re going to use in your presentation. It is not cute to stop your presentation and say “nineteen-ninety-nine” in the middle of an otherwise illustrious target language explanation.

Illustrated vocabulary guide
Create an image with all 10 of your words. Find, doodle, or take a picture that illustrates each word’s meaning, and match up the written words and pictures on the image. Upload the image to ThingLink, and link your mini-videos to each word!

Annotated Bibliography
Give credit where credit’s due, but also pick your direction. You’ve collected, oh, 30-something resources. Which ones are worth using? Which could fit into an interesting presentation and lead into a super-cool activity? Cite the sources you decide on (at least 2 text, 1 video—gotta hone both kinds of interpretation skills) MLA Style and write a sentence about what you can use from each. Hint: your Diigo paraphrasing and summaries are fair game.

As we super-teachers know, pre-teaching is a non-negotiable when you really want someone to understand. So the young ones must decide what basic facts about their topic the class needs to know before they start bossing them around. Also, they probably need some warning about what they’re going to do. Sum it up in a few short sentences, what is loosely known as a “paragraph” in the trade. Hint: your Annotated Bibliography sentences are fair game.

Activity ideas
What can the class do to get everyone moving and either interpreting or producing some target language—or both? What is something they would actually want to do? Give me a list of at least 4 ideas of what you can make your whole class do (affordably), ordered from most awesome/likely to most “if I have to.” We’ll talk about which you should do.

Activity steps
Boss ‘em around. Break down the process into at least 5 steps. Hint: if you can’t break it down into 5 steps, you’re either giving your classmates too much credit or have an activity that is too lame.

Put it all together in something that looks cool. Make you an infograph or a Powtoon; make a spiffy website or go old school with a trifold (please don’t make me watch a Powerpoint unless you absolutely have to). But get the vocabulary + images in there, the summary, the citations, and your instructions. Make it look pretty.

Record yourself attempting to present with a partner. Jot down every word you can’t think of in Spanish that you absolutely NEED so you can look them up to stay in the TL for the big day. Give your partner a few plus-deltas when it’s their turn.

Use your partner’s plus-deltas for you. Look up those words that kept you from keeping 100% in Spanish. Practice saying them. Practice saying them some more. Review your mini-videos while you’re at it.

And then, mes amis, it is time for Presentation Day, or as I like to call it El Día de Máxima Pasión.

19 November 2014

Setting and Tracking Goals: 90% Target Language

One of my classes achieved OVER 90% in the target language during group work today! And all I did was watch!

Well, watch and poke their monsters.

With a Project-Based Learning approach, you have to build in times for small groups to collaborate, and there's not a whole lot of scaffolding you can do a lot of the time, since different groups might have to take the Driving Question in different directions. They also need to set their own goals and discuss their progress with each other, something I cannot direct for every group.

Goal Setting
I can, however, have the whole class set a goal for how much they think they should stick to the target language in their discussions for the day overall. Maybe they'll aim a little lower if we haven't had group discussion time in a while, maybe more if we have been on a TL streak and they've been working with the topic a while. They know that since this is the last 6 weeks of Spanish I, we should at least be approaching 90%.

This goal setting is not only a convenient way to make students mindful of how much they are sticking to the target language, but it really is a great way to have a purposeful conversation with larger numbers. I post the visual you see at the left on the SMARTboard, we reflect on how we did the previous day, and everyone votes for what today's goal should be by saying the number they prefer.

Then they get to work in their groups, and I get to work on ClassDojo.

I set up my classes on ClassDojo with only 2 behaviors:
  1. en español :) 
  2. en inglés >:(
The first day (or even for the trial run discussion on a predetermined topic) I make it a point to pull up their monsters on the SMARTboard and keep poking one after another to give them a thumbs up whenever I hear someone speaking Spanish. In a Spanish I class of under 25 it's pretty easy the first time because, well, there is a lot of dead air while students think. In fact, I had one group--which included a native speaker, I might add--that refused to speak out loud. They reasoned that they weren't speaking English, so their monsters weren't losing points--they just weren't gaining any.

After they get used to the idea of the monstruos, I keep my iPad handy while circulating or conferencing with groups, so I can quickly add español points or subtract inglés points from wherever I am. I have found leaving the monstruos up and leaving the sound on can, indeed, be useful motivation when they have a clear objective, like setting their group's deadlines for various parts of the project.

I'm especially proud today because both of my Spanish I classes beat their 70% goal, even when I was a little ruthless with kiddos who slipped just a little. This bodes well for the rest of this project!

11 November 2014

El mejor invento del mundo: a PBL/TCI story

My first PBL + TPRS/TCI story went over pretty well, so I'm trying it again. We are working on coming up with inventions that could make daily activities better and then marketing them--in two languages--for their Public Speaking class. So I decided the story would be about THE best invention in the world: a homework robot. I had a hard time coming up with a plot, but romance always piques their interest, and of course there has to be a twist at the end.

Peaks and pitfalls
After my first attempt at reinforcing vocabulary as well as listening, reading, and interpersonal skills through focused storytelling, I've found that students are able to call up and use a lot more vocabulary on a daily basis. Not only that, but their listening comprehension and confidence have probably doubled. It may even have improved their speaking, as their Plan Verde presentations went off with nearly 100% target language usage, though this has not been the case in the past.

However, like Mme. Farabaugh, I learned that it's not all instant success just because you tell a story. For starters, they got bored. After the first few repetitions, the story was not quite the hit it was at first. Sure, they would still giggle deviously when they talked about basura del sanitario and animales muertos, but first they would GROAN when they saw the slide with the questions on the board or I'd even SAY "mucha basura."

So THIS time, I tried a little harder to make the story funny, relevant, and repetitive. I think I got more familiar review in too. Also, since it was story time, I made it story time: they sat on the floor at my feet, and a designee recorded variable answers on a poster with a marker for future reference (it was a lot easier, though, since several opted to celebrate Veteran's Day even though the college doesn't). Tomorrow, I'm going to add a surprise by using photos of the people they chose for characters (2nd period went with a country theme instead of a classmate theme) instead of just my regular preset. We'll also only do the storyasking 3 times before reading and retelling to each other--and those will be spread out due to strange schedule thingies going on this week.
The original from
Schellibie's DeviantArt
is much cuter
The story
As always, I'm looking for suggestions on how to improve as a novice TCIer. Once again, I used Sra. Bex's advice, and I underlined details I'd leave up to kids and put the focus structures (HACE and QUIERE) in all caps.

[Luke] es un muchacho. No tiene novia, pero hay una chica muy cómica y bonita en su clase. La chica se llama [Carrie]. [Luke] QUIERE preguntar a [Carrie] <<¿QUIERES ser mi novia?>> pero no puede. 

La mamá de [Luke] dice que no puede tener novia si no HACE su tarea. La mamá de [Luke] dice --Si no tienes tiempo para tarea, no tienes tiempo para novia.

A [Luke]  no le gusta HACER tarea. HACER tarea no es divertido y toma mucho tiempo y energía. [Luke] QUIERE jugar en la computadora y cazar y no HACER la tarea. Pero [Luke] también QUIERE preguntar si [Carrie] QUIERE ser su novia. A  [Carrie] le gusta jugar en la computadora y cazar también y [Luke] QUIERE jugar en la computadora y cazar con ella.

[Luke] tiene una idea. él puede inventar un robot que HACE su tarea. Si hay un robot que HACE su tarea, [Luke] puede tener novia y también puede jugar en la computadora y cazar y no HACER la tarea. [Luke] QUIERE un robot muy organizado y rápido que no necesita mucha energía ni espacio. [Luke] trabaja treinta días para HACER su robot y el robot es perfecto.

¡El robot HACE su tarea y también cocina y cuida animales! La mamá de [Luke] está contenta. [Luke] invita a [Carrie] a su casa: --¿QUIERES ver mi robot? 

[Carrie] dice sí y va a la casa de [Luke]. El robot HACE su tarea, cocina una hamburguesa y cuida todos los animales. A [Carrie] le gusta el robot de [Luke] mucho.

[Luke] pregunta a [Carrie] -- ¿QUIERES ser mi novia?

[Carrie] responde que no, pero [Carrie] pregunta --¿Tu robot tiene novia?

  1. ¿Quién es el muchacho?
  2. ¿Quién es la chica?
  3. ¿Por qué el muchacho no puede tener novia?
  4. ¿Qué necesita el muchacho HACER si QUIERE una novia?
  5. ¿Por qué no HACE su tarea?
  6. ¿Qué QUIERE el muchacho hacer?
  7. ¿Qué QUIERE el muchacho preguntar?
  8. ¿Qué QUIERE inventar el muchacho?
  9. ¿Qué tipo de robot QUIERE el muchacho?
  10. ¿Cuánto tiempo trabaja el muchacho?
  11. ¿Qué HACE el robot?
  12. ¿Qué HACE el muchacho cuando su mamá está contenta?
  13. ¿Qué pregunta el muchacho?
  14. ¿Cómo responde la chica?