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?

10 November 2014

Inventions: Novice PBL Unit Introduction

Last fall, the Civics and Public Speaking teachers popped in my lonely little windowless room with a proposal for a unit for the sophomores--a PBL proposal no less: a proposal to let me in on the action. Public Speaking had done cool things with developing and marketing products in the past, something that tied in perfectly with some economic concepts in Civics. Why not take it to the next level by adding SPANISH? (Plus it didn't hurt that having my class period to work and make presentations would simplify matters immensely.)

The whole unit was a little too off-the-cuff on the Spanish end, what with the surprise invitation and all, but this year I had at least 5 months notice to plot plan! However, I've only got about 3 weeks to execute it all,

Setup: Vocabulary & Problems
First , my little novices need a need, but in order to express that need in the target language, they need the vocabulary to express that need. So we began to establish vocabulary with InfuseLearning: I asked what the did at different times of the day, and they doodled their responses. We started getting into some of the problems with those activities, but things got a little silly after about 3 questions, so we paused.

I saved the responses to each question as PDFs and went back and collected the activities from their collective doodles that seemed the most prevalent and useful and made a list of about 20 activities we could talk about. Then I set up vocabulary notes for their interactive notebooks based on the images--a printout with the sorted morning, afternoon, and "inconvenient" activities
for them to label.

I also created conversation cards so they could talk to each other in small groups (instead of one big, wild one) about which activities needed improvement and how. I figure most inventions are there to make something more:
  • Divertido
  • Atractivo
  • Organizado
  • Limpio
  • Seguro
  • Rapido
OR they are intended to use less:

  • Espacio
  • Dinero
  • Tiempo
  • Energia

We'll come together and brainstorm which activities to focus on, and we'll eventually choose groups based on those preferences.

Comprehensible Input & Output
I have collected a Pinterest board full of inventions for students to explore for "authentic" inspiration. We will likely come back to some of the articles attached later, but at this point, I want to get their wheels turning about what to create themselves. Mostly I want to use the pins as prompts for output, so I've made a collage of my favorites and numbered them.

I'll start them off with a little low-stakes interpersonal, asking which they want (review quiero/quieres) and why (review puede). Then they'll each compose a statement that leads them into what they might do themselves with some classic sentence starters:
  • Me gusta # porque ayuda con…
  • __ necesitan este invento porque es mas...
  • Quiero hacer un invento que...
Then probably the following day, students will take turns sharing their statements, with a few diverse ones I select from the submitted statements in writing spread out to read. Those who are not reading, would then migrate to the person whose ideas attract them most.

I'm also working on my second ever attempt at a TPRS/TCI-style story. Based on their responses on InfuseLearning, it looks like "El mejor invento" is going to have to make homework more fun and convenient. I hope to reinforce a lot of the basic verbs they already know, the activities and the classic problems previously listed, but also get them working with verbs they need to use more, like quieres and hay and hace.

03 November 2014

Word Clouds for Authentic Personalized Vocabulary

Can you tell what this student is interested based on her word cloud?
Word clouds are a great way for students to analyze authentic texts and determine the vocabulary they need to talk about something that interests them. They can also help reinforce basic vocabulary like articles and prepositions, but if used correctly, it can arm even novices to read about, write about, and discuss their passions in the target language!

Of course each student needs to establish some key words for searching early on in the Genius Hour process, words they'll have to look up in a dictionary so they can get started. Having them start with a webmap of English words helps their brains get in the habit of sorting vocabulary semantically, for easy mental filing and access. So when they look up the words, the new vocabulary will be organized visually to help their little brains out.

After students have used their key words to find, oh, 5 good sources on their topic and saved them to Diigo (or Pearltrees or Delicious, or whichever online bookmark tool you prefer), have them choose 3 of the best, to begin with. Me, I kept it to 3 because a couple of my kids had bookmarked a few Portuguese sites and others had actively sought out infographs--images without easy copy-paste-ability that would require beaucoup typing in the TL to be able to turn the vocabulary into word clouds.

Once they've got their sources selected, here's what they can do to make the most of them with word clouds, to harvest useful vocabulary:
  1. Open the first site and copy and paste the whole dang thing (except ads or other irrelevant links and clutter).
  2. Paste the whole dang text into a word cloud generator (this article has a bunch of cool ones I hadn't tried...until I found out Tagxedo didn't work on our Chromebooks...)
  3. Take out little words they know: el, la, de, que, en, etc (great opportunity to reinforce them mentally as they delete them).
  4. Generate your word cloud. Make it fancy, if you want (gotta love the South America option on Tagxedo).
  5. Save the picture or embed code.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 with the other 2 sources.
  7. Choose a total of 5-10 of the biggest words from all 3 word clouds to add to your webmap master list. If they fit with existing webmap bubbles, add them there; if not, make new bubbles.
  8. Add all 3 word clouds to a single blog post and post the 5-10 words you selected underneath.
Word clouds let technology focus students' attention on what they can really use without exhausting mental resources better spent on interpretation and meaning making. Seeing all of those understandable words pop out like that also helps drop ye olde affective filter, I've found too. 

Plus they're pretty.