28 May 2014

Proficiency Portfolio Re-design

You need a portfolio for two reasons: to reflect well and look good.

Selecting work to go into a portfolio is a metacognitive process that requires you to compare what you have actually accomplished with the desired end. I would like students to do this more frequently than the end of each grading period, and I plan to make portfolio updating at least a biweekly process. To this end, I've created a whole page within my newly revamped site template for this reflective process (hint: this should also be a gold mine for Assessment of Student Work "time lapse artifacts" for me to show my fitness as an educator). I want students to see their progress in stages.

On the Reflection page, students will add updates at regular intervals wherein they 1) reflect on what they've accomplished recently with respect to each of the three modes of communication and 2) analyze their progress with respect to their personal goals and their proficiency levels. If they're feeling froggy (and some are downright amphibious in this respect), they could also add what they've learned about culture or language structure since last time.

If I were an employer trying to assess a potential employee's proficiency in Spanish, I would want to see solid examples of what he or she could do, in context, with explanations of what I was seeing in English. I would not want to sift through links for every single example for every single skill.

I would want the portfolio to be easy to navigate, to hit play and have the evidence right there in front of me without having to download or open anything extra (though it might be nice to have the option of opening extras to ensure consistency).

With that in mind, I set up overview pages by sub-mode. Or rather, I set up a listening page with objectives from Novice Low through Intermediate Low (again, I've never taught above Spanish III), and then just copied the corresponding sets of objectives from elinguafolio.org onto pages for each of the other sub-modes. I made an image (as seen above) that basically says "Replace me with one of these cool things!" with the idea that students would now seek to create one or two artifacts that sum up multiple objectives rather than a separate artifact for each objective. I mean, honestly, the best artifacts have always been the ones that combined more objectives than one.

Estudiantes then add the artifact's title, highlight the corresponding objectives, and voila! Non-Linguafolio-literate audiences get what's going on with the artifacts. They can link to more artifacts in, say, their Google Drive or blogs, either to fill in unhighlighted objectives or just, you know, to show off.

Oh, and get this: I'm going to take badges to the next level. Using either ClassBadgesOpenBadges, or ForAllBadges, I think, I'm going to set up badges for students to embed and display at the top of their mode pages for a quick way to show off their achievement levels. (I'll probably use the same rubric, as before, only better because it's on forallrubrics.com). Also, once they earn higher and higher badges, I'll have them move their most advanced artifacts and objectives to the top so their audience can not only see their level at a glance of the badge, but see it in action, too, without scrolling.

Finally, to tie it all together, I set up a little introduction section on the first page (which, truthfully, will overlap with speaking at least), just for students to get used to presenting themselves in Spanish early on, but also to knock some proverbial socks off from square one.

25 May 2014

iPads, Audio, and E-portfolios

Collecting evidence for listening, speaking, and person-to-person is about to get a whole lot easier.We did what we could with student devices and my little (well, huge) Android phone to collect evidence for portfolios this year. Next year, though, I was selected to experiment with a set of iPads in my classroom (my district is awesome!)

Mostly what I hope the iPads will do is facilitate recording, sharing, and posting. It'll involve setting up accounts and protocols, but here are some things I'm thinking about trying.

Integrate recording into discussion protocol
It was tricky when we had to make sure at least one person had a phone that recorded, and it was even trickier figuring out how to get those recorded files to the e-portfolios from those phones at times. With class iPads, we won't have to go to the cafeteria to get signal to send, we can ensure we record with file types that are overall compatible, and as long as the first thing one person in each group does before starting is grab an iPad, each group will have a guaranteed recording.

Designate class videographers
Maybe we'll have a new videographer--or 3--each week in each class so everyone gets the chance to experience recording and uploading to a shared stash of videos. I'll have to practice working accion and pausa into my instructions for their benefit (and mine--wow does the dead space kill me when I'm trying to listen to class videos to find evidence of them understanding). We could even review a little calendar-speak to set up their weeks! Similarly, each individual kid should have at least 2 designees in class who will grab an iPad when they're "on stage" (ie answering questions or presenting) and upload their performance to a designated class stash in the cloud.

Set up a shared stash
Dropbox is a little antsy about sharing and downloading files, and Drive can be a little low-power for uploading and sorting videos. Maybe iCloud would work for the raw videos, but we might want to go a more shareable route with portfolio-ready audio and video. YouTube is off-limits, but SchoolTube or TeacherTube might work--have our own little channels, maybe even let parents see what's going on in class?

Practice editing regularly
Once again, if I have to watch another 10-minute video to get 2 minutes of actual proficiency demonstration, I think I'll flip (and not in the hip 21st century learning way). Having students slice out the down time and speed up their cutting/sorting/creating to show they can follow directions could help them focus on the proficiency goals, encourage self-review and reflection, and generally make my life easier. And for those audio files not recorded with conveniently embeddable Vocaroo files, they could splice together videos with a visual or two easy as pie with the iPads. Goodness knows there are about a bazillion movie editing programs out there for iPads, and this could also mean portfolios end up being a lot more employer-ready, for example, to highlight students' talents.

Update portfolios often
With all of these recording opportunities and options, students will have to review recordings more frequently. Since I'm planning to make Fridays portfolio days at first, while Genius Hour/passion projects are the focus the rest of the week, it might be worthwhile to have kids pick out and reflect on one recording of themselves each week, explain which objectives they demonstrated, and analyze their own proficiency level. This might make a cool weekly blog post so they can see how they grow, too, but I'll have to figure out the embedding. After we branch out from individual projects into class projects, maybe we'll update biweekly or just monthly instead?

21 May 2014

Passion from the Start

What if Spanish class started with students' passions? What if we began with what each of them was individually interested in and build on that to come together for more collaborative projects?

This pats year, I'd been saving the big Genius Hour/Passion Project finale for the last 6 weeks, figuring students would have the practice from the other class projects and gradual build-up to inform their reflection and presentations. But the more I look at their blog posts from this semester, the more I wish we'd started sooner. I also get the feeling that the scaffolding of the GH/PP activities would have helped structure the class projects and lay more solid communicative foundations and vocabulary banks for the young ones to draw from along the way.

At this point, I honestly can't see much reason not to start with the passion projects from day one and make individual projects the first unit. I can, however, see a multitude of advantages...

Personal touch
While I know every student I'll have next year by name already (I don't know how I survived in schools over 250!), I don't know all that much about many of them individually, so I could get to know some of their interests early on, and perhaps work those into class projects like the Colombia supply drive, travel plans, or inventions.

Focus on vocabulary
We could focus on the top 10 verbs and how to choose additional personal vocabulary to reinforce simple expression from the beginning.

I would have students create soundboards (perhaps with the set of iPads I'm getting to play with next year!) early on, using Google Translate to make sure their pronunciation was right for their first self-selected 10-15 words in order to develop understandable pronunciation instead of bad habits (hearing joo-gar over and over in presentations yesterday left my sore from kicking myself for not practicing more and sooner).

And maybe we could have a class soundboard or VoiceThread each week for words that they find that everyone could use, starting with the top 10.When they find a word, they'd have to come up with an image or an action to photograph and add to the class VoiceThread, record themselves pronouncing it, and then the whole class would have to imitate them in recorded comments!

Focus on proficiency skills
I have also been thinking of reserving Fridays for portfolio evidence gathering and reflection instead of Genius Hour at least early on, so students would get in the habit of connecting their activities to specific skills. Plus Genius Hour hits just about every mode at least once by the end, so it could help them get used to what is involved in each mode and scaffold how to manage each, not only locating sources to interpret through reading and  listening, but practicing breaking down at least one of each and establishing protocols early on for interpretation as well as reflective writing and discussion.

Flexible time frame
When students e-mail or tweet or even call their experts, they would actually have time to hear back from them--or try more if they don't get tweets or emails back after, say, six weeks. They'd be able to figure out a lot sooner if their topic was going to be worth it for the long haul (or at least the semester) before it was too late to start over with a new one.

10 May 2014

Why LangCamp?

If you want to know where LangCamp came from, Bethanie (@lovemysummer) has your answers! If you want to know what it's going to be like, allow me to take you on a little flight of fancy, how I imagine it going!

A couple of us will meet up the night before at Curate in downtown Asheville. Bethanie and I will be there, nibbling on tapas, sipping beverages (my two-year-old and six-year-old will, of course, be coloring angelically at the table with Daddy). A tweep or two will walk in and spot us, and we'll wave excitedly and try to figure out real names after addressing each other as SraSpanglish and Lovemysummer, etc. a few times (I'll concentrate really hard not to slip into tweepspeak). We'll dish about our trips and how awesome Asheville is (might have to send the kids back to our room for bedtime before we are thoroughly caught up), maybe a little about plans for the next day before we retire to our respective  accommodations for the evening.

Then bright and early Wednesday morning, about 9:00, we'll start gathering in the meeting room at Brookstone Lodge where we'll put the rest of the faces with Twitter handles--and real names! (Also, I've discovered there's a Krispy Kreme not 10 minutes away, so I figure we'll have at least a dozen glazed!) When everybody's settled and ready to go, Bethanie and I will give you a rundown of plans, including sessions we set up based on the polls we'll have conducted among attendees a few weeks beforehand.

We'll have a couple of breakouts going in two different hour-long sessions before lunch. I imagine a handful of us in one corner with our laptops checking out different sites for e-portfolios and looking at examples some of us have tried. There might be some raucous giggling in another corner where some authentic target language videos are tickling some funny bones in between serious discussions of how best to scaffold their interpretation and connect them to relevant themes. In another corner, all we'll hear is ticking keyboards while some serious assessment contemplation is going into inventing and modifying rubrics for eveverything from formative interpersonal chats to community-based multimedia presentations.

Bethanie will call a stretch break after an hour so (I'll hit the donuts, maybe grab a water bottle to be healthy), and schmooze with some of the smartest people I know. My husband might swing by with the kids, and if there are some more in attendance, they might go do some quiet Lego-ing in the corner or on their own or organize a little outing to downtown Asheville with their non-language-nerd parental units. Then we'll redivide to dabble with some different topics. Me, I hope I'll get to do a little PBL or Genius Hour planning. I might have to float over to the Linguafolio or Standards-Based Learning corner--making up my mind is going to be the hardest part!

And then: SANDWICHES. I'm thinking Jimmy John's with a side of inspiration and war stories.

Then, we'll have one more hour of semi-structured time--maybe a little practice with Kahoot or Evernote for me--before sandbox time!

That's right, we're going to take what we've been working on and go wild. Those cool ideas we got started on earlier in the day, we'll hunker down and make some magic, maybe spread out in little clusters all over the meeting room.

Then a little show-and-tell so everyone can see the awesomeness we've come up with. We'll talk over which breakouts we want to repeat the next day and then have an all-out SMACKDOWN. We'll each share our favorite apps and resources before we wrap up and head out. I'll see what you guys are up to, maybe some authentic Spanish food from Cúrate, and we'll round up young 'uns, spouses, etc. and go unwind! I think I'll have a little dip in the Brookstone Lodge pool with my water babies before bed, too.

Then it's up and at 'em at 9:00 the next day with some more breakouts, probably mostly repeats from the day before so we can keep the awesome coming, but we might have had some revelations that lead us to different sessions. Who knows? (Mystery! Excitement! Spontaneity!) We'll spend an hour in one session, do a do-si-do, and switch partners once before lunch.

And then we sandbox until we drop, collaborating and creating everything we can for the next year before it's time to part ways. Of course we'll share out again. There WILL be hugs. For those who don't have to zip home, we'll probably do a little touring, maybe hit the bouncy houses just across from the lodge at Fun Depot, and MAYBE I'll let Sr. Sexton talk me into taking the kiddos on their first tour of the Biltmore Estate.

More hugs. Maybe a tear or two (of joy). And possibly an exchange of phone numbers or Skype handles to keep the conversation going. I'll probably make my husband drive home, so I'll probably be blogging the whole way back, too.

So my question for you is this: don't you want to come along?

06 May 2014

Authentic Interpretation: Making Maracas

Last year we made piñatas for Día del Niño. This year, we made maracas to accompany our musical performance at the local language festival in April.

Since each student chose a specialty, and the music group finished pretty early, I set them to finding videos to create the musical instruments (with the design group's approval, of course). They uncovered this one:

I took the main part of the instructions (:56-4:30), transcribed it, and made a cloze, taking out key words like botella and adentro and doblamos and putting them in a word bank. 

If my students learn nothing else before they leave my class, they learn that you have to be exposed to a text in your second language at LEAST 3 times before you can say you've interpreted. As always, Phase 1 is basically let it all wash over you and try to get the gist of the context. Phase 2 is read along (if you're feeling like a smarty pants, you might start filling in words the second time around). Before Phase 3, I like to make sure the kiddos cross off words they've used in the word bank so as to focus their attention. Phase 2.5 also involves reading over the whole thing without listening and seeing if you can figure out what kind of words would make sense, and maybe penciling a guess in lightly above the line. Then Phase 3 we listen and fill in words for real. Usually with my novices, there's a Phase 4 that involves stop-and-go listening: pause the video after the end of each sentence with a blank.

Now, this text is still a little complex for the novice, so I take the vocabulary they've been absorbing from the video exposure--and visual reinforcement therein--plus my own botella and tijeras and then walk them through the steps in simplified Spanish. (If time had not been of the essence, I also would have had them write down the steps after they finished following along with me, but we were in a bit of a crunch for various reasons.)

When this was said and done, we had nearly enough maracas for everyone to have a pair. So then we took the next logical step, knowing to teach is to learn again! Based on their proficiency portfolio needs, individuals chose whether they were going to practice their speaking or listening, and then they guided each other through the rest of my rice/duct tape/bottle supply.

And voila!

Our own gorgeous maracas!

Not to mention about ten different North Carolina essential standards in a day and a half of activities:

NL.CLL.2.4 Interpret phrases, commands, simple questions and descriptions that are presented with  accompanying gestures, intonations, and other visual and auditory clues. 
NL.CLL.2.5 Recognize vocabulary and syntax of single words and simple memorized phrases in the target language. 
NL.CMT.2.1 Recognize single words and simple, memorized phrases from media in the language community. 

NL.COD.2.3 Recognize words in groups from other disciplines. 

NL.COD.3.2 Use single words and simple, memorized phrases to name common objects and actions related to other disciplines. 

NM.CLL.2.2 Understand the meaning of memorized words and phrases in sentences
NM.CLL.2.4 Infer conclusions from simple spoken and written passages about familiar topics, using context clues and cognates.

NM.COD.3.2 Use memorized words and phrases to describe common objects and actions related to other 

NM.CMT.2.2 Infer meaning from familiar texts by using visual cues, such as road signs, charts, graphs, etc., that reflect the target culture.