28 March 2014

My Daughter IS a Princess

"If I have daughters, I'm going to encourage them to play 'President' and 'Activist,' and not 'Princess." @NicholasFerroni

I tried to get my son to play princess when he was little. His cousins actually got him to wear a dress and a crown once. My heart drooped a little the day he decided he was not a princess, but a king and that he was "hamsome," not pretty. Only girls are pretty,  he said with disdain.

A lot of parents these days--and many When-I-Have-Kids Crusaders --are so obsessed with prepping their daughters and potential daughters for taking the male world by storm that they are missing something at least as important and perpetuating the belief that "girly" equals inferior. What's more, through their insistence on "empowerment," they could well be missing who their daughters want to be, who they really are.

I remember pretending to just pass through the Barbie aisle as a kid, not letting my dad catch me pining for girly toys. Instead I began cultivating my lifelong love affair with Ninja Turtles. I tried to like baseball cards for a season, too, and dabbled in comic books when my little brother started spending his allowance on them. At Christmas, even the slightest question about plants or batteries would get me my own little mini hydroponic greenhouse or electronics set to to tinker with, yet I felt wrong actually requesting a play makeup kit. It's not that making things tweet and light up wasn't intriguing (though I was disappointed when my hydroponic lettuce looked like leaves instead of a nice green sphere). It's that failure to reject stereotypically girly things felt like a full-blown character flaw.

Still, even through the first year of parenthood, I, too, believed I could mold my offspring into the harbingers of a perfectly egalitarian society. To be perfectly honest, I still kind of do--just not in the same overt ways I had once envisioned. I got my first inkling of how little those visions meant when my son started potty training.

It was not until my daughter came along, however, that I began to grasp my role in their preparation for the future.

Paolo, my oldest, was always a pretty mellow baby, though extremely sensitive. At Wee Lambs, he was known as Paolo-Good-Baby. Even in the womb, he didn't make much fuss, just occasionally pushing a foot outward to be massaged. But just turn him to face away from you when he had done something wrong as a toddler, and the world ended.
Lena, on the other hand, was wild before she was born. Paolo liked to rub my belly to make her "rambunctious," but he was also the best at calming her kicking sprees. My youngest has always been a woman of extremes.

And she has always been a girly girl.

As an infant, she'd reach for shiny pendants and rings--not to gum them or hurl them about as her brother had--but to examine and admire them. Granted, when she was a baby, she hated ALL clothes, but at age two there are few things she enjoys more than a pretty dress with matching shoes and jewelry.

I can never get Lena to wrestle and play tigers. She'd much rather cuddle and pamper her many babies. If she doesn't happen to have babies with her, something else becomes a baby: Thor looks especially cute tucked in for nap time.

This is not to say that my daughter does not enjoy playing battle with plastic katanas and nunchakas as much as my son--it's a family affair, after all. And so far Lena has been a blue cyclops and Leonardo for Halloween; she still asks to put her shell on. Also, her favorite show is not CGI fairies or fashion dolls, but Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

You know who does love Tinkerbell, though, and The Littlest Petshop, where even the cartoon animals wear excessive makeup?

I'll give you a hint: he's very hamsome.

What I don't understand is why anyone would want to beat the whimsy out of a little girl's play. I, too, am delighted by the outpouring of internet support for little boys with nail polish or pony lunchboxes. But why is my daughter not supposed to play princess? Why should any child become a little adult when he or she plays? Why should she engage in traditionally male role playing to the exclusion of the traditional female? Mix up the dress-up toys! Mix the pink Legos in with the other colors! Then boys AND girls can choose for themselves.

My mother was an animal scientist who went into the ministry in her forties. After she spent half her life breaking down barriers for women, her only daughter went into a field that has been dominated by women since before her mother was born. But here's the thing: "women's work" has value too. As a woman and a teacher, it seems to me society's sneering attitude toward teaching is a perfect reflection of our culture's view of women: if it's girly, it's not good. It's inferior. It's unworthy.

It's wrong.

Lena didn't get much choice in her Halloween costumes before she turned 2 (seriously--one of us had to be Leonardo, and Paolo and I had claimed Michaelangelo and Raphael). But would it be so bad if she wanted to be Cinderella for a night this year? The internet would turn itself inside out to defend Paolo's right to be Snow White if he wanted (I might too). So why should Lena have any fewer options? Because she's supposed to a take over the White House--if not the world--before she's three?

I will defend to the death my son's right to enjoy Horseland , hair gel, and all things purple. And if my daughter wants to play princess, she will play princess. Her brother's trains are not superior or his superheroes gender neutral--though he still must share them.

We don't have to read about women warriors for my daughter's sake. My son needs them at least as much as she does, and probably identifies with them better than his sister. Both of my children--all of our children--need to grow up respecting each other's preferences and their differences as much as their similarities.

Equality is not eliminating girliness or even flipping the roles.

Equality means both of my kids can be pretty.
Via @amyrbrown

23 March 2014

Governor's Teacher Network Application

I believe in changing the system from the inside. I disagree with almost everything North Carolina's General Assembly has done to education this past year, but nothing will change for the kids I care about unless those of us in the trenches step up to fix it. And believe it or not, 450 of us are being offered the opportunity to do exactly that.

Teachers selected for the Governor's Teacher Network will not have the power to replace the lost teachers' assistants or abolish developmentally inappropriate testing, but they will work to plan professional development and instructional resources to share with all of our states' teachers. I figure this is my best chance to keep Common Core from being used as a weapon against teachers and children and maybe even to make something productive of it.

For professional development, I have to say I favor a sandbox model (here's something new--now go play with it!), so it's probably wiser for me to apply for the instructional resource side. Plus get this: "based on the current pool of state-level resources, applications addressing Advanced Placement, Arts Education, CTE, ESL, Exceptional Children, STEM, and World Languages are strongly encouraged."

What I really want to do is help facilitate a complete shift away from schooling, from "learning" that is artificial, impermanent, and irrelevant. I'd like to toss the textbooks, but I know Pearson's going to be the one pushing out the whole project, so I could at least try to make sure the textbooks are used responsibly, and that grammar doesn't get to drive the whole language ship anymore.

This could be my chance to advance the cause for project-based learning, portfolios, and 21st century skills like inquiry, communication, and collaboration! I could help make it easier for everyone to incorporate authentic learning all the time!

But I'd have to get selected first.

So for my application, I'm going to need an outline of units I'll create, including...

  1. Alignment with NC Standard Course of Study objectives
  2. The value of the resources for teachers

Then I need to prepare 2 example lesson plans to be evaluated based on the NC Summary Rubric (which, actually, I find pretty thorough and forward-thinking, Pearson or no). I especially like the "deeper learning" criterion, meaning lessons should
[require] at least 3 of the deeper learning skills (as identified), and offer a range of cognitive demand that is appropriate and supportive of the material, with appropriate scaffolding and direction provided.
The "deeper learning skills" are also exactly the kind of things I'd want to promote with such a project myself, too!

  • think critically
  • solve complex problems
  • work collaboratively
  • communicate effectively
  • learn how to learn
  • reason abstractly
  • construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  • apply discrete knowledge and skills to real world situations
  • construct, use, or analyze models

Yep, those are exactly what SHOULD be happening!

I also need to make sure my lessons include

  • quality assessments
  • technological interactivity
  • varied of practice activities

All of this while making sure everything needed for the lesson would be accessible via HomeBase, regardless of technology access or local population (not everyone has a Centro Latino, for example).

So these are some lessons I'm thinking might entice the powers that be to let me on board:

and maybe #SOSVenezuela, though I fear it may be a little too dated even by semester's end.

I'd also like to make sure to throw in some of these strategies as part of the lesson plans, you know to show a little range, "deeper learning," and basic apply-to-any-unit tactics.


I will not sit idly by while public education is dismantled, and I would dearly love to be a significant part of the efforts to repair and rebuild it. If you want to see NC succeed, maybe you should consider applying for the Governor's Teacher Network too!

18 March 2014

Genius Hour Agenda Overview


In my Spanish classes, Genius Hour starts off as a weekly exploration of individual student interests in the target language, where I guide students through different resources and strategies for resource analysis. The purpose is still discovery and exploration, pursuing individual student passions, but I've found that if I simply say, "Go wild! Just do it in Spanish and write something by the end!" their little gears screech to a halt. So I spend each Friday showing them ways to explore something they already love, just in Spanish. I mean, honestly, if they knew where to start and how to proceed, I'd be obsolete.

After the first discussion, though, the project morphs into a more independent, daily endeavor, in preparation for sharing a lesson on their topic with the class. Having established basic vocabulary for students' respective topics through a variety of authentic input contexts, we will shift to a more interpersonal and presentational output-based focus. Students will still select and interpret relevant resources, but instead of JUST collecting information, they will start discussing and writing about what they know.

The tasks I have planned are broken up on our Trello board (pictured above) by purpose, but below is the actual chronological order I anticipate following through the end of the semester. Each item on the list should take no more than one class period, and some should take less, especially after repeated practice, as with reflection, discussion, and vocabulary updates. 

For each task, students are adding something to the class blog and labeling it with their names (actually tagging the post with their first names), meaning they--and I--can get to previous work any time they need. In the beginning, actual "blog posts" are pretty rare, because we're too busy embedding Pinterest boards, Storify stories of tweets, and Diigo lists to reflect some simple interpretation.

The idea is to get them familiar with certain curation tools and building semantic, contextual connections--including visuals--with vocabulary for their individual themes through interpretation. Then they can start applying what they find to interpersonal exchanges and presentational writing and speaking.

So here's how I envision it going down:
  1. Topic translator practice: observe the difference between "translator Spanish" and novice Spanish.
  2. Vocabulary Google Doc: plan topical key words to begin the search (I have them post this list as an actual blog post copied from the Doc so they can see how it changes.)
  3. Pinterest board: collect 20 relevant pins in Spanish, at least 10 of which link to a site with more Spanish; embed in a blog post.
  4. Retweets: retweet 10 relevant tweets in Spanish, collect them on Storify, and embed in a blog post.
  5. Diigo list: Google, bookmark to Diigo, select, export!
  6. Vocabulary update, grouping: add 10 words from the curated resources, group them by meaning in groups of no more than 7 words (copy and paste to blog post for posterity).
  7. Diigo highlights, paraphrasing: here the writing begins--return to Diigo sources, find significant sentences, highlight, put them in your own words in Spanish, select, export!
  8. Reflection #1: choose 1 of 9 sentence starters to reflect on what you've found; Spanish I writes 30 words; Spanish II/III write 50.
  9. Phrasebook Google Sheet: save the words and phrases you had to look up to the Google Translate phrasebook, export to Google Drive, and share with me!
  10. Resource word cloud: pick your 3 best resources (links from Pinterest, Twitter, Diigo) with over 100 words and copy and paste them into a word cloud site--embed!
  11. Soundboard Glog: record yourself saying words from the Google Doc, upload, add to a glog to make a soundboard for rehearsal; embed!
  12. Discussion #1: you may choose to record a discussion (about your topic or your partner's) or comment on blogging partners' reflection posts (you have been assigned partners who have topics related to yours); embed the recording or link to posts commented on.
  13. Twitter follows, introduction tweet: find 10 Twitter accounts that tweet on your topic, and follow them. Send out an introduction tweet to each explaining your topic and who you are; Storify and embed.
  14. Question tweets: frame 5 questions you want to know more about (< 140 characters) that you can tweet to people who respond to your introductions. (Regular blog post.)
  15. Google Doc/soundboard update: find 5-10 new words in your sources (Pinterest, Twitter, Diigo, Phrasebook) that you will need for your presentation. Add them to your Glog soundboard and Google Doc in appropriate groups, rearranging groups if necessary--screenshot the revised Glog.
  16. Reflection #2, Phrasebook update, Discussion #2: (see #8 and #12--do not repeat prompts!--and copy new phrases to the shared spreadsheet)
  17. Contact Key Words: find words for types of businesses, job titles, clubs, college majors, and courses for people interested in your topic (regular blog post).
  18. Contact Google search: find e-mail addresses, social media profiles, or phone numbers for at least 5 people that could answer questions you have about your topic in Spanish (regular blog post).
  19. Email introduction: compose a paragraph explaining to your contacts who you are and why you are writing to them (regular blog post).
  20. Email questions: expand on your question tweets to compose a full paragraph asking for contacts' assistance in a polite way--make sure to close politely too! (regular blog post)
  21. Google Doc/soundboard update: (see #15)
  22. Reflection #3, Phrasebook update, Discussion #3: see #8 and #12--do not repeat prompts!--and copy new phrases to the shared spreadsheet)
  23. Video/podcast search: search ivoox.com and/or YouTube (or Google other video sites) for 3 videos and/or podcasts on your topic; bookmark them with Diigo: embed.
  24. Diigo summaries: choose 2 written sources (at least 200 words) and 2 spoken sources (at least 1 minute) to summarize in your own words in Spanish; embed.
  25. Citation list: choose at least 4 sources--written or spoken--to work into your presentation for class and use EasyBib or CitationMachine to make an MLA style Works Cited post of them (regular blog post).
  26. Activity idea: write a paragraph describing an activity the class could do to interact with your topic in Spanish and get a deeper understanding of it (regular blog post).
  27. Reflection #4, Discussion #4: see #8 and #12--do not repeat prompts!--and copy new phrases to the shared spreadsheet)
  28. Google Doc/soundboard update: (see #15--be sure to include vocabulary you'd need to explain/do your activity)
  29. Activity instructions: make a step-by-step guide for yourself and for classmates to participate in your activity (regular blog post).
  30. Background summary: write one paragraph in Spanish to introduce basic information the class would need to know to understand your topic (e.g. history, processes, purposes)
  31. Presentation visual: combine your vocabulary, activity, background, and citations into a cohesive visual representation (trifold, video, powerpoint *shudder*, scrapbook, poster, model, website) and link or embed.
  32. Presentation rehearsal, feedback: use your visual to do a preliminary run-through for your blog partners to get and give feedback--post partners' comments and your plans to address them.
  33. Presentation revision: use blog partners' comments to make changes to your visuals and/or presentation.
Advanced or motivated students can cruise through this and repeat activities that they found helpful or enjoyable. Struggling students can take it at their own pace and still have a thorough project by the end.

So far, it's been pretty easy to track individual students' progress this way and keep them moving forward. Several are frustrated by the number of sites that get thrown at them week after week, but I can also see them becoming more comfortable with them, too, and seeing how they could use them for other purposes.

It's a process I'll continue to hone (I especially feel like there's something missing in the presentation planning stage), but the more I break it down, the more personalized--and personal--the experience becomes!

12 March 2014

Everyone's a Comedian

My kids in Creative Writing this semester, they're pretty hilarious, but they lack the polish of a professional stand-up. So rather than a mystery or romance story, we're working on stand-up routines this week.

We started with Jerry Seinfeld's Pop Tart joke process, mostly because I was searching YouTube for "how to write stand-up," and it was near the top. It's also pretty concise and emphasizes word choice, idea generating, and the necessity of revision.

I also got a lot of great ideas from Jerry Corley's How to Write Comedy video on YouTube, but both the length and subject matter made me decide not to just show the video. (Let's just say that his topical example is Tiger Woods.) But I got the idea for this lesson for students which, truth be told, has felt like work rather than just fun time, as oone might expect of a unit on stand-up,  but I feel like it's a kind of work they need, and the struggle is necessary to growth.

Topical Jokes--Current Events
  1. Pull up CNN.com and pick a topic from the CNN Trends bar. (If they're all tending toward dry or tragic, click the CNN Trends tab.)
  2. Write the topic at the top of a clean page and make two columns.
  3. Choose 2 completely different categories that relate to your topics (e.g. for Tiger Woods, golf and...how about the Pope? Think "old man" and Catholic.)
  4. Brainstorm at least 10 ideas related to your topic--how ever loosely--for each column.
  5. Then pick one idea from each column that you could tie together in a funny way.
  6. Connect them as a joke.
Observation Jokes--Families
I also let them pick their favorite comedians to use as their models, but they only get to watch a video each day if everyone gets their jokes written for the day.

Kevin Hart was a pretty unanimous choice, and after I figured out how to add "clean" to my YouTube search, I stumbled on Creative Writing gold:
This video is the perfect example of observation jokes, everyday absurdities, plus masterful transitions. We carefully identified and analyzed the transitions in this bit, first noting the times, then going back and writing down exactly what he said, because, frankly, I know they have a general understanding of what transition means, but they needed real, effective models to see and dissect how they work in practice, in the hands of a prprofessional. 

So this time, we focused on telling something funny about a family member, à la Sr. Hart. I threw in some tips about funny words and being specific and let them write.

The idea, then, was to transition between the first day's topical jokes (which were, indeed, Pope jokes it turns out) and the family ones, but most of the class either A) didn't like what they come up with or B) actually came up with nothing. So we tried different CNN trends, and everyone could pick their own topic this time, and we went around the class circle naming the topics and identifying two possible categories before attempting the 10 brainstormed words in each category. The weird thing was they were geniuses at coming up with ideas for each other, but they froze when they put pen to paper themselves, so we'll be doing a lot more talking it out.

I'd really love to do an open mic with them, but it's funny how unfunny these funny kids are when put on the spot. However, if we work through a few more jokes together, I think the practice organizing and transitioning will turn the class clowns into first-class comics.

If you're looking for ideas on writing comedy, check out some of these sites I found, too. Do a little mixing and matching and see if you can come up with more funny business!

11 March 2014

Comprehensible Current Events: #SOSVenezuela


Since my mixed Spanish II/III class decided to write their competition skit about the situation in Venezuela, I have been collecting tweet to update them each day from #SOSVenezuela. I just take a little five-minute cross-section from the day, sort it into major topics for the day, and I walk them through interpreting the tweets and images. These are the stories I've shown them so far (please forgive how hastily cobbled together they are):

On the one hand it is nice short contextualized authentic reading that even my monolingual principal can catch onto within 5 minutes of walking in. On the other hand my girls are still feel frustrated, and if they're feeling frustration, the frustration is real.

My plan comes in two parts: review and preview--in that order.

First, I review my previous Storify stories and pick out the following information:
  • relevant vocabulary
  • representative images
  • powerful statements/questions
  • hashtags
Then we will combine and recombine them at stations of their choosing (we may take a few days):
  1. Group vocabulary by topic (either selected from the list or student-made labels): They pick out as many words as they know and stick them to a class poster, adding to each other's groups. Native speakers and Spanish III will have to hit this station last, but it's a good place for the novices to start
  2. Cloze tweets: I'll take the vocabulary out of select tweets; they can fill in the blanks (word bank included)
  3. Video hashtags: I'll get some red, yellow, and blue butcher paper for a backdrop, and each will pick 3 hashtags from the stories to read dramatically on video (perhaps to be edited and posted on Vine or YouTube?)
  4. Hashtag tweeting: choose 3 different hashtags to apply and use the vocabulary provided (and any high-frequency verbs, familiar words needed) to tweet from class accounts relevant updates on at least 3 recent events
  5. Pancartas: combine vocabulary and hashtags to create your own protest signs
  6. Photo matching: pick a hashtag, a statement/question, and 5 vocabulary words to go with each picture (Padlet? Prezi?)
  7. Infograph tweet: chose one of our infographs (that we collected on Diigo) to tweet with one of the hashtags provided, and invent one of your own
  8. Statement illustration: recreate an image image (drawing? with a partner?) that captures the sentiment from the question/statement
  9. Photo gallery walk: students use post-its (or Padlet if I get the lab?) to ask questions related to each of the pictures, answer at least one classmate on each.
  10. Skit slips: slip color-coded vocabulary (red), statements (blue), and hashtags (dark yellow) into the script we've started with initials so we can award a winner in each category
  11. Sum it up: write a paragraph in Spanish explaining the overall problems in Venezuela right now.
Then, the preview. After reviewing previous stories, we'll need to catch up once more. So I'll make a Storify, but this time I'll warm them up first:
  1. Collect a list of familiar/relevant vocabulary (from review list) so students can make bingo cards related to the tweets (and see how much they DO know).
  2. Make a word cloud of the day's tweets.
  3. Make a key word list of new relevant vocabulary, but give it to them in English to have students find the way to say it in Spanish (props to Bethanie for turning me on to THIS authentic resource demystifying process!)
  4. Tuitero/tweet matching: much like the important words and phrases section, I'll have some important topics picked out and the twitter names of people in the day's story so they'll have to figure out who was talking about which topic.
Then at the end, we can put together a brief forecast for Venezuela (Hay mucha protesta/violencia/censura/escasez con chance de encarcelamiento/libertad/justicia/barricadas) based on the day's tweets.

I would also like to have more processing of the tweets. I did sort of start to rope in Sra. Lenord's Questions Workshop with a heaping helping of Thomas Soth's timed picture improv activity with limited success before. I'd like to bring that back, and build up to questions and answers, a la Amy's Interpersonal Blitz. I think I'd like to build up to a debate about what the biggest problem is, too, as we finish up our script.

So I'm hoping more reinforcement, more preparation, more analysis will lower some of the sturdier affective filters and allow those who get it to apply their understanding in purposeful ways. I want my kiddos to understand the access to the world they have with just some key vocabulary, and I want them to feel like they can not only interpret but also create with the language and actually join that world they're accessing and add their voices for justice.

Otherwise, it's just another skit based on a high-tech textbook.
Photo via @punkboyinsf

06 March 2014

Singing for their Supper: Specialization and Group Interaction

We'll celebrate at the Mexican restaurant after the language festival whether or not we take home a trophy like last time. However, if we're going to go, we're going to go big, and we're going to put on a performance we can all be proud of.

Once the class narrowed down our choices to two songs, once again, I let students choose their specialties. I liked how that worked for grouping on our last project, but there are a few things I would do differently 1) because of the distinct nature of this project, and 2) because I am older and wiser than a month ago.

So these are the jobs I think we'll need to fill in order to impress the judges at the festival:
  • Lyrics
  • Choreography
  • Design
  • Music & tech
  • Directors
The Lyrics group will be responsible for going through our selected songs, picking out key vocabulary to teach the class to help them understand the song, deciding which lines to keep and which to replace with their own wording (nothing in the rules said they had to be unaltered songs), making sure the class understand what they're saying and how to say it, a la pronunciation coaches. 

Choreography will be responsible for learning, inventing, and adapting dances, teaching the class the steps--in Spanish--and rehearsing small groups and coordinating the performance.

Designers will decide what everyone's wearing, props to enhance the performance, and how to obtain or create them. This may or may not include the bow tied with dancers' feet in the original Bamba from Veracruz.

Music and tech will be our DJs, mixing the two songs (They chose "La Bamba" and "Danza Kuduro" by Don Omar, which...wow. Quite the selection, but it is going to be good I know.) They'll need to do a lot of coordinating with Lyrics and Choreography and will probably have to decide how many and who sings each part as well as organizing as much instrumentation as possible and rehearsing (I know MY heart would skip a beat of the first thing I heard was a Ritchie Valens riff on a real live guitar).

 


Directors will need to be the keepers of the vision and the go-betweens for all other groups. They will get final approval (before mine of course) on decisions from each group. They'll keep tabs on progress for group goals and overall performance coordination, making sure we have everything ready in time to put the show together and make it awesome by April 16th.

Aside from the roles being completely different for the project, I'd also like to restructure accountability measures. Previously, I had groups post daily updates on Schoology--the day's goals at the beginning of class and the day's results at the end. This was not bad, but it wasn't enough. It gave me a rough idea of what went on during class that day, but what it didn't give was A) insight into individual students' roles or B) a structure that encouraged target language usage in between.

And so, drawing inspiration from Sra. Lenord's Questions Workshop, I've decided that questioning is the key. Much like Amy's workshop and her Interpersonal Blitz, I gave students topics--music, dance, design, and lyrics, as it happens--and had them write as many questions as they could in one minute related to each topic. Now I've collected their questions, picked out the ones I, as all-wise supervisor, thought could be useful, and cleaned them up a bit. These are their models they can use to start with, if they so choose, before they start coming up with their own questions off the top of their heads.

Each day, however, each student will be responsible for turning in one of these:
They're half-sheets that have slots for 4 questions, so I figure for every 10 minutes they get to work independently, they should ask a question and get a response. They'll not only have to figure out how to phrase their questions, but who would know the answers--then get them!

We had a little test run today with about 1/3 of the class (today was supposed to be spring break--long story), and they discovered even with the "cleaned up" questions, it was tough getting classmates to understand them. In other words, there was no shortage of repetition, and they worked on using some very, very basic circumlocution like gesturing and coming up with synonymous cognates (e.g. cambiar, modificar, transformar). They reinforced relevant vocabulary, exercised interpersonal skills, AND got information they needed to proceed with the project!

I feel like I'm getting closer to establishing the procedures necessary for keeping PBL in the TL, but we'll see how this new routine pans out.

05 March 2014

Collaboration Conferences in the TL

Download the rubric free at TPT!
When some of the strongest personalities in the class end up in the same group--by choice or by chance, discussing their contributions to the project can be touchy, or even explosive. But it doesn't have to be.

In fact, I've had just such a group tell me they enjoyed the experience. And it's not because they got to hear how wonderful they were for the millionth time. They heard some hard truths, but they were also heard, too.

Step 1: Introduce the rubric
My rubric is in Spanish and is, dare I say, some pretty solid comprehensible input. It is a patchwork of BIE collaboration expectations and my school's collaborative rubric condensed and simplified into as many cognates and familiar structures as possible. Students highlight the cognates, and we make up motions for other words like trabajar and then nunca, poco, a veces, mucho, and siempre. Once they get what each standard  means, we can all pretty much agree that they're traits we want in our group members (e.g. listens to others, offers good ideas and participates).

Step 2: Work together
I have them set goals on Schoology and report on their progress for a few days before we come back to the rubric. We have to have something to really talk about, right?

Step 3: Group conference (lite)
At the beginning of Spanish I, I tell them I'll speak Spanish to them, but aside from nunca, poco, a veces, mucho, and siempre, they can respond to my questions (ripped straight from the rubric or simply "¿Por qué?" or "¿Por ejemplo?") in English. This way we can establish the procedure and the reflective practice. I gather the whole group, starting with a volunteer or victim, and ask the group members where the volunteer/victim stands on each standard one by one. The one in the hot seat gets to contribute their own assessment of their performance last for each standard, and I, in all my sagacity, make a call based on what I hear and have seen as to where that person falls for each, poking the appropriate answer on my new handy dandy Google form.

Step 4: Catch and release
Students go back to work for another few days while I finish conferences with other groups with a clearer picture of how they need to improve. Time permitting, I come back to them before the end of the project to give them a chance to put into practice what they've learned about themselves and their compatriots. Time not permitting, this gets pushed to the next project time, but either way, they get another chance to prove themselves.

Step 5: Award badges
I whipped up a few collaboration badges on Schoology: Responsabilidad Personal, Participante Activo, and Amigo Amable. The rubric is divided into 3 sections, so if anyone got "siempre" on everything in one section, they got a badge (only 5 kids got badges this first time--and those were the amigo ones). It's a way to recognize accomplishment without tying it to a grade and also giving them something to strive for the next time. Eventually, I may add other 21st century skills, but it's a start.

Step 6: Evaluation review & goal setting
After recognizing the badged among them, I'll have them take a look back at their collaboration ratings. They've had a little time to try again, so they need to pick out their strengths and weaknesses to discuss with their groups. They'll pick out their strengths--where their siempres and muchos are--and tell their groups what they will continue to do--promise them, if you will. In response, their compañeros will either agree (gracias, muy bien) or question them (¿No necesitas...más?) Then they'll share two weaknesses, what they will do more, and compañeros can agree or question their choices, maybe convince them to focus on a different collaborative goal. I think I'll even have them make little cards with their two weakness promises as reminders.

Step 7: Re-release + promise checks
After they make their group promises, they will go back to work with their amigos, and then, at the end of each session, I think I'll have them AND their compañeros check off if they've fulfilled their promises that day--just a quick check, plus, or no check.

Step 8: Group conference (for REAL)
Then, the groups check themselves off on the rubrics once more and meet with me to discuss their findings. We will still talk in terms of nunca, poco, a veces, mucho, and siempre, but we'll also add mejor and peor, más and menos to relate to progress.

Step 9: Wash, rinse, repeat.
The theory goes that if we repeat this process with each of the three units, each student will leave at semester's end a little better prepared for true 21st century collaboration.