18 July 2014

First Day Fun Stations

The first day will be a day of PIRATE stations this year. After Tuesday's #TLAP chat, I'm all revved up to start the year with choice and activities that get students engaging with the target language from the start. I got some ideas from some whiz-bang kickoffs from colleagues who Teach Like a PIRATE, and I want to try them ALL. I also had some more language-specific ideas myself along the way. And so, due to available resource constraints and general matters of classroom management. and just general greediness on my part, stations seem the way to go. Some may have timed elements, but I'd like to let kiddos go with the flow, as long as they hit all stations.

And I think they will want to hit all of them.

Structures to introduce: Quiero/Me gusta
Tools needed: Phones/iPads
Finished product: Labeled photo
Sandy Otto is a genius. The idea of first-day selfies was bandied about the #TLAP chat, but primarily in the name of "getting to know" kids in the class. I could put a name with a face for 95% of the kids I'll have next year last January. But what I could not tell you is what could motivate them to learn a language. Sure, a goodly number were my Art Club, Creative Writing, or Focus Friday babies already, but let's face it: language is a whole new ball of wax. Setting them loose on my cart 'o authentic resources Day 1 and picking out, say, 7 things they'd want to explore this semester would A) give me a hint as to what makes them tick even before we kick off the pasión, B) suggests how much they think they can--or want to--handle, and C) makes them dig into their options and get a hearty preview. Plus they can get as creative with their selfie presentation as they choose!

Then they could either hashtag them on Instagram or email me with descriptions that include "Quiero leer...porque me gusta..."

Torre de Silencio
Structures to introduce: Necesito
Tools needed: Marshmallows, spaghetti, butcher paper, markers
Finished product: Brainstorm poster
Creativity, innovation: awesome elements to mix into any class. But where does language fit in? They can build their towers, see how tall they can build them, but they must do so in silence. Maybe they'll be able to figure out some gestures to make their points--maybe they'll even figure out they could write notes. But then when they're done, they'll need to add any language they wished they'd had available or any language they snuck in to the class brainstorming poster that says something like "Necesito decir..." at the top. This is way more awesome than my plan for developing an essential class language list from last year--more fun and more engaging. Still, it gives me somewhere to start with a class discussion perhaps later in the week.

Google Translate
Structures to introduce: Soy
Tools needed: Laptops
Finished product: Google Doc with paragraphs in L1 & L2 + new vocab list

It makes sense to get my philosophy on Google Translate out in the open early on, slip in the Commandments. It makes sense to let students see what they can get out of the translator and evaluate its worth rather than pretend it doesn't exist or elevate it to some sacred taboo status. And, you know, I'd kind of like a starting sample of how they write in the L1, just as a base for comparison for my own personal understanding and reference for helping them simplify their expression. So I'll have them describe themselves--something anyone can do without a great deal of research--thus satisfying the adolescent need to talk about "me," giving me--and them--some more essential vocabulary to start with. They'll get to play with the pronunciation feature and figure out some words and structures by comparing. And they'll think they're getting away with something.

Sock Puppets
Structures to introduce: Puedo/sé?
Tools needed: iPads, list of cognates/loan words/basic vocab
Finished product: 30-second videos

What can I say? I'm in love. Plus there is so much Spanish that kids already know (or can easily figure out) coming into Spanish I that they don't even realize they know. Between cognates, loan words, and the most common 100 words, I just want to see what kind of conversation kiddos can cobble together just for laughs. Hopefully it'll establish a risk-taking environment, get a pronunciation baseline, give kids a starting point they know they can improve on, and get some sillies out. Plus I had this idea...
Yes, deleivered. You get the idea.

Thinglink Syllabus
Tools needed: Laptops
Finished product: Comments on syllabus with questions

This one's in English. I link them to the class syllabus infograph on Thinglink and have them poke everything then post their questions. I don't have to read them every word, they know what they need to know, and we can clear up any confusion the next day.

Build Your Own Playlist
Structure to introduce: Me gusta
Tools needed: Desktops
Finished product: Pinterest board

When more than one hard case mentions that they come to class to find out what the week's song is gonna be and you catch others singing the songs in the hall, it seems advantageous to harness the musical angle as soon as possible. Having loosed the young ones to select songs in the past, I think the most effective method for collection was music videos on Pinterest. Accessing Spotify was a pain, and YouTube is so...linear.

14 July 2014

Three Apps, Three Types of Movie Projects

A quality five-minute movie project will suck weeks away from your class time, if done right. Then again, with the right technology--a coupla iPads, apps, and Web 2.0 accounts for example--a decent 30-second video can be churned out in a class period often with just the technology half your kids carry in their pockets.

There are three basic categories of movie project: basic non-edited, edited nonscripted, and scripted edited. that more or less align with different levels of assessment: practice, formative, and summative. The products of these project types are also suited to different audiences: self, teacher/peers, public. Since Christmas came in July, and I now have my very own set of 10 class iPads, I've selected an iPad app to focus on for each movie making level.

Sock Puppets: basic non-edited
It's silly to go through cutting, editing, and fancy bells and whistles for a simple practice level activity that is just meant to get students to briefly apply what they've learned for the day, and Sock Puppets is perhaps the most adorable way to do it.

I cannot thank Bethanie enough for introducing me to this free iPad app that allows you to create 30-second videos with two characters--two socks--talking. They can choose their socks, their backgrounds then record their voices and move the characters around. I believe you can make longer videos with more choices with the paid version, but the basic set more than suits my purposes. I love the simplicity and brevity of the task, and of course as Bethanie would say, how "totes adorbs" the whole thing is: the little chipmunk voices will keep the class giggling in the TL. 

I am excited to use this one for basic end-of-class interpersonal activities: conversational review and application. How much more fun will it be to practice basic greetings with goofy virtual socks with helium voices (instead of their own, in case self-consciousness is an issue)? Plus they'll WANT to listen to themselves, thus sneakily getting them to reflect on their pronunciation and fluency!

Adobe Voice: unscripted edited
A formative assessment might require a little more planning, a little more revision than a simple practice activity, and Adobe Voice is a free, easy way to put together a slightly more polished video.

I owe Jason Mammano for showing me this one--and helping hook me up with some iPads!) Students can combine their own photos or visuals from the app library with their voice in quick, attractive videos--and Voice automatically adds a soundtrack to their story! So students can record and rerecord their lines on the fly without really having to write anything down and still have something beautiful to show for their efforts within the space of a class period!

I can see this app coming in handy for pitches or presentation previews, for groups or individuals to put together what they're thinking of doing before they actually have to do it. Sort of an audiovisual outline, if you will, spitballing cut down to the good stuff in post.

GreenScreen: scripted edited
When students are sending a product out into the world--one that represents them, you, the school--it's got to be good. So it's worth having an app that takes a little more time to do something really cool.

We lucky Pinnacle Leaders in my district got GreenScreen pushed out to all of our iPads gratis, but it's usually $2.99, but really, this is such an involved app, it may be something you only really need on your teacher device. Student groups can do the shooting with student devices but maybe take turns editing on yours having reviewed their video and shared the good ones via AirDrop. (That means there's also an incentive to review and finalize their shots before the deadline!) This app requires a "green screen" or blue screen of your own, and while some taped up green butcher paper would suffice, a nice wrinkle-free green cloth with extra lighting is more ideal to avoid wonky shadows. Heck, if you have a little more decorative autonomy than I, maybe you could talk the boss into letting you paint part of a wall green!

This editing process is pretty involved and requires detailed editing, so of course students would want to have what they say when--even where they move--spelled out ahead of time, then rehearsed, recorded, and probably rerecorded (and probably rererecorded often times). Therefore, this would definitely be for culminating projects at the end of the unit, perhaps for social media campaigns or PSAs. Come to think of it, this could make for a pretty awesome MST3K final project for my Film and Literature class!

08 July 2014

I Teach Adults

"Smiles" by ChrisConnell
Adults will not listen to you just because you're the teacher. Adults expect to know why what you're presenting is worth knowing before they'll engage. Their experiences automatically color their interpretation of and interaction with what you're trying to teach them. They decide what's worth learning and pursue it according to their own internal motivations and purposes.

Are my students adults??

Apparently pedagogy refers to instructing children. I hadn't thought about that. Apparently pedagogy assumes children lack experiences to which they may refer and depend on the instructor to tell them what's worth learning and how to learn it, whereas andragogy caters to learners who can't help but draw connections to their own experiences and who learn so they can do something with their learning.

Archaic academic traditions aside, I'm pretty sure that's what 95% of my teenage students would do given half a chance (see Art Club).

Ostensibly, Dr. Judy Moore's purpose was to demonstrate how not to get a book thrown at you when you are presenting PD for your colleagues. I think she achieved that. But really, all of the techniques we discussed and test drove? They seemed at least as appropriate for my students as they did for my peers.  We've got to tap into students' intrinsic motivation at least as much as a teacher's, and we've got to activate their own experiences to make the learning part of their lives. That's why authentic approaches like Genius Hour and PBL are critical at the high school level.

App-Smashing for Impact

Apps can increase the impact of what you create using all levels of SAMR and Bloom's.
The App Smash is a way to set up a lesson to help students accomplish an overarching goal using a variety of apps (iPad, Chrome, what have you). You can set up the progression yourself, or, if they're already familiar with enough apps, you might have them "smash themselves," as Andrew Thomasson would say, and decide which apps suit what they want to do with it. The apps can inform the process from research to reflection to creation, but the ultimate goal is to put something out there, to create something that will impact someone else.

Backward design is key with the App-smash, emphasizing not the apps that students will ultimately tinker with, but rather the overarching content-based purpose of the lesson, e.g. "compare and contrast the early and modern periodic tables" for chemistry or, say, "convince someone who only speaks Spanish to buy your invention."

I'm intrigued by Mrs. Pepe's concept of Bloom's Taxonomy as a fist, completely sans hierarchy. I disagree with the idea that all aspects of the taxonomy are equal: creating is more complex, more important than simple remembering. I do, however, see a need for free flow among all levels throughout any learning experience, and I can get behind the interlocking puzzle analogy.

I don't know about the need for student reflection on SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition), as it seems to me most valuable as a tool for helping teachers design lessons with maximum impact. Frankly, I don't have time in the Spanish class to explore the ins and outs of technological pedagogy, but I could see them explaining which apps they chose and why or reviewing apps chosen for them.

The App-smash model for lesson structuring, though, is one I think could make the Genius Hour progression a little less overwhelming for the young ones, so I do hope to explore it more.

06 July 2014

Paolo Meets Pablo: A Novice Low Friendship

Tulum was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Until my son made a friend in Mexico who didn't speak English. It was beyond adorable--it was the very definition of precious. They were almost the same age and had almost the same name even, but they only knew bits and pieces of each other's language. I wish I could show you all of their synchronized flips and dives and the smiles that connected them in play, but my camera wasn't handy for most of it. Plus I just liked watching them having so much fun.
Paolo & Pablo's synchronized swimming.
This whole experience (and the fact that both Paolo and Pablo agreed to write each other via mamas' emails) really had me examining where we should be starting with our novices. Coincidentally, Sra. Cottrell was doing much the same thing at almost the exact same time that Paolo and Pablo were practicing cannonballs and holding their breaths during her Camp Musicuentos.

Sra. C.'s unit setups are among the more logical I've seen--and they actually stick to Linguafolio and ACTFL/NCCSFL standards progression. So I compared the Musicuentos novice experience to what I observed with my poor little Novice Low Paolo's interactions with his new amigo. They only got to hang out a few times, so it's safe to say they were mostly within the "How can I make new friends?" unit.

Sra. C. suggests hitting the following topics:
greetings, farewells, numbers 1-20, introductory conversation ('how are you'), basic storytelling verbs exchanging names, asking/expressing age, asking for and answering states of being/emotion, giving personal information (phone number, email address)
What Paolo wanted to know aligned pretty well with those content topics:
  • What's your name?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you want to do?
  • Do you like...?
He did say hola, of course, but he did have Sra. Mom help with the age figuring. He's six, though, so they basically went straight from hola to grin to wild splashing with fewer of the pleasantries we might expect even of adolescent charges, so I think it's fair to include greetings and "how are yous"  and states of being/emotion for our non-six-year-olds or even six-year-olds-who-could-be-more-polite. Also, in theory our kids would want to pick up make friends without passing notes through their moms, so the personal information would make sense too. I know, too, that my students would be just as interested in ages as my soon-to-be-first-grader, so numbers are a must, too. I'm not entirely sure where the storytelling verbs come in, but I can tell you that those non-pool hours Paolo spent watching Disney XD in Spanish led to him launching himself off the side of the pool and saying vuela!

Apart from vuela and the questions Sra. Mom fed him, this is about the extent of the rest of his vocabulary used with Pablo:
  • ¡Mira!
  • ¿Qué?
  • No.
  • Soy
  • Cuidado (there was also a REALLY wild four-year-old the last day)
I know there are several other terms Paolo absorbed during his first trip to Mexico, foremost among them playa and alberca and concha...and tapir (he just really liked the chubby critters). But he didn't really need those with his new friend--just for making demands of Mom and Abuela. If they'd had a little more time, and maybe after Paolo writes back, they could get into things like their favorites and what they did each day, too, I expect.

So I think the basic content put forth in the Camp Musicuentos curruciulm guide for the Novice Low is pretty spot on, but based on what my six-year-old actually used and what I saw him struggling to work around, I have a few ideas on some specific skills  definitely want to equip my other novices with from the beginning (some of which I know Sra. Cottrell does through her TPRS stories and questioning).

One of Paolo's new favorite animal--maybe a tie with horses and sea turtles.
Possibly my proudest moment as a teacher-mom was when Paolo, fascinated by Pablo's little wrist shooter pointed to his own wrist and repeated "¿Qué? ¿Qué?" until Pablo demonstrated. Paolo was using what little vocabulary he had along with gestures to convey his meaning (he's so smart!) This exchange alone told me two skills I want to make sure my students have, in addition to the content vocabulary Sra. C. recommends, from the get-go: Question Formation and Circumlocution.

Now for Question Formation, Paolo had at least the most important interrogative at his disposal, but my poor little gringo needed a few verbs at his disposal. I mean, while he and Pablo had just been cautiously eyeing each other from afar, he had asked me what that boy had on his wrist, so I had the context, but still I thought he was asking the time (duh, Mom). If Paolo had just had "es" in his vocabulary, he'd have been in business that much quicker.

So for my other novices, I need to hit some basic interrogatives and verbs hard (they can gesture, draw, or make up cognates for the first few weeks if need be). Of course I don't want to overload them, and the kinds of answers they would get to "why" might be a little esoteric for their itty baby vocabularies, and they rarely need to know about a time they can't ask for using Qué. Plus I want them to focus on basic sentences, so here are the lists I propose to begin with.
Interrogatives: Qué, Quién, Dónde, Cómo, Cuánto
Verbs: hay, es, son, quiero/quieres, puedo/puedes, tengo/tienes, me gusta/te gusta, creo/crees, ncesito/necesitas, entiendo/entiendes 
Sara-Elizabeth herself has an especially eye-opening podcast on the role of Circumlocution for novices (seriously, download it immediately), and we had a particularly enlightening #LangChat discussion on the topic. Of course, my baby is an especially clever lad, so he picked up on some of the things he should do to make his point (before he discovered via the momvine that Pablo went to a bilingual school and could kind of understand English) pretty quickly, using gestures at least to make his point, but, as suggested in World Language Classroom Resources, we should also teach our novices how to incorporate cognate synonyms, drawing, and opposites to make themselves understood.

With these tools, Paolo would have had an easier time getting Pablo to follow along with his crazy ideas and maybe figuring out more scenarios for engagement. With the same tools, our kids might be able to find some common interests with an international friend (maybe superheroes, maybe not) and find ways to keep the communication going after their poolside or checkout line encounter ends.

The most beautiful thing I have ever seen is my intrepid six-year-old making a friend with only a few words and the joy of sharing a swimming pool. I'd like all of my students to know that joy that I saw in him for themselves, and with just some basic vocabulary and strategies, I think that world will open up to them as it did to Pablo and Paolo.