28 January 2015

Libros para Amiguitos Novice Mid IPA #1

My students are trying to inspire eight-year-olds to read in Spanish, and I'm trying to help my students increase their target language proficiency at the same time. So early in the unit, I wanted to set up a sort of IPA pre-test to establish where they are just starting the semester, so I tried to set up a procedure that would inspire them in their quest to inspire their amiguitos.

Selecting Materials
I really used the best text for interpreting before we got to the IPA as sort of a practice to provide exposure to the AAPPL evaluation system that I would be applying to their IPAs. This infograph has it all, and a great place to start discussion.

Then again, groups will actually need a little more detail and, well, actual books to get their project off the ground. So since la Biblioteca Publica de Soria has been kind enough to catalogue 420 of their Novedades infantil on Pinterest, I thought we'd start there!.

Now I have been carefully referring back to Mme. Shepard's 8 Steps as I create this first IPA, but I have diverged some in the interest of time and simplicity. Plus I want to do one more round of IPA this grading period, and I have a few good videos selected that might help groups evaluate the choices they've made and perhaps make their approach to the problem/Driving Question even more inspiring for our amiguitos.

So my kiddos have been through the process now, and I've made some adjustments according to what I got from them (hint--10 book descriptions is way too many and more than you need to diagnose proficiency levels).

Interpretive Reading

1. List the titles of 5 books from the Pinterest board that you would like to share with your amiguitos.
  • This step allows students to choose from among the 420 pins those that are appropriate for their own level, which pins they CAN understand. It's also kind of a placeholder so they remember which ones they were talking about.
2. List >2 words/phrases/sentences in Spanish you understood from each pin description (>10 total).
  • This step helps ME narrow down what they're talking about so I can match up their interpretations and see if they REALLY understand it or just think they do.
3. Now write all of the words/phrases/sentences you wrote for step 2 in English.
  • Once again, this allows me to see if their interpretation matches up in reality. I'd set #2 and #3 up as a two-column table in the future to give my scrolling finger a break. I bolded words here that did not match the original and commented on words that looked suspicious.
4. Explain in a sentence or two in English why you chose each book (>5 sentences).
  • This helps show if kids are beginning to break into intermediate territory by capturing the main idea and reaffirms how much kids are getting from visuals and prior knowledge. It also connects the IPA back to the PBL purpose.

Interpersonal Speaking
I suggest limiting the recording to 2 or 3 minutes--most groups could show their proficiency in that time. I also allowed up to 2 do-overs in the allotted 20 minutes to try and keep production spontaneous.

1. Take turns listing books from the Pinterest board that you LIKE for your amiguitos.
  • IPAs are even newer to them than they are to me, so I emphasized "essential verbs" that they could use in their questions/responses and let them refer to their previous list and the Pinterest board itself, as well as their Verbos Esenciales cheat sheet.
2. Describe what IS good for your amiguitos about those books.
  • Again, emphasizing familiar words to encouraging what they know. I had to spell out explicitly that they cannot look up anything--it must all come from the pins or their brains. We discussed circumlocution strategies like pointing to the pins or even doodling if need be.
3. Explain what you WANT to do with the book or if you HAVE ideas for other books.
  • This hits the rest of the verbs that I emphasized with our TPRS story, "Libros son buenos" to do a little of that prior knowledge activation, but also to give those breaking into intermediate territory a chance to strut their stuff.

Presentational Writing
Create a survey (>5 questions in Spanish, preferably multiple choice) in Google Forms for your amiguitos to determine which books they would like best. Incorporate titles and descriptions related to the books in different questions.
  • They kept asking how many questions they had to do when I didn't put a number, so 5 seemed reasonable. Even if they had 5 "te gusta" questions, they could still potentially get up to N2 level if they had more complex phrases as multiple choice answers. On the other hand, if they had complex sentences and left the questions open-ended, they could still show almost intermediate proficiency by, say, summarizing the book and their opinion/experience with similar books. We will, however, probably revise them to make sure they're amiguito-friendly and maybe combine different members' versions before actually sending them.
So far, evaluation has been pretty smooth, and the few kids who were dissatisfied with their evaluations have the option of 1) waiting for the next one to balance it out or 2) seeing me before or after school or during our school's special "Academic Hour" on Friday to get a new task (to ensure spontaneity). I think the young ones are satisfied with the grading scale (A=N3 or higher, B=N2, C=N1) and the goal to bump it up a notch each grading period (ie A=N4 second 6 weeks, IL third 6 weeks). 

Me, I'm enjoying giving them credit for what they CAN do.

22 January 2015

#Teach2Teach Question 1: Wiggle Room

My advice for new teachers comes down to two words: Wiggle. Room.

My spiritual guide/idol Amy Lenord has started something with #Teach2teach that all new teachers need: real answers from real veterans. The first question from the padawans is about how we balance teaching and planning.

I gotta agree when Amy says
the quick answer is that this is a constant struggle that every teacher deals with every day of the school year. The longer answer is more connected to each teacher's personality, style, strengths and weaknesses.
Wiggle Room in your obligations
She's totally right. My other amiga/hero/spirit animal, Sara-Elizabeth says to stop over-planning and put your sanity first, but I had the opposite problem when I started, I think. Actually I didn't really know how to put my sanity first, but it wasn't balancing the workload that was killing me--it was suddenly being a Grown Up. I'm more like Amy with "the style and temperament of an artist." I mean, Amy describes choosing "anything remotely creative" over the mundane stuff, and me, I spent a lot of my first year making bookmarks out of poster board, contact paper, post-it tabs, and printed quotes for every kid's birthday, I could have benefited from more actual planning. What I needed was Wiggle Room. I boxed myself in giving birthday presents at all--it's not like I had the same 25 kids all year, much less all day. I needed to take on tasks that didn't unravel if I missed one kid or one day.

Wiggle Room in your units
Some newer PLN amigas, Sra. Wienhold and  Mme Farabaugh recommend planning entire units rather than day-to-day, and I gotta concur. I've tried it both ways and every way in between. You need the way in between--the one with the Wiggle Room. When I went day-to-day, I missed a lot of big picture opportunities and sometimes skimped in places I shouldn't have. When I planned whole units perfectly (there were maybe 2), getting off track started making me a cardiac arrest candidate way too early.

No, I say have an overview, with some specific targets in place from the beginning, and start designating "deliverables" (like my fancy new jargon?) day by day. Flesh it out as you go, and leave room to adjust. You know, Wiggle Room.

Wiggle Room for yourself
Yet another sage that inspires me almost daily, Colleen says
As you evolve as a teacher you will change, grow, alter your outlook. You will probably not be satisfied with how you are doing things now…and will need to spend time planning changes. If/when you do – make sure you do them incrementally.
So remember--Wiggle Room in your obligations, Wiggle Room in your unit plans, and Wiggle Room for YOURSELF. Leave yourself room to grow--and wiggle--and expect change. A local non-world-language amiga sent me this article on reflection, and I think it sums up a sound process for how to do just that for yourself.

21 January 2015

Interpreting the AAPPL Interpretive Rubric (Novice)

I have been hyperconscious of my targets since the SWCOLT presentation at  ACTFL '14. The Benny Hill music with the moving targets really hit home what I had been asking of students with past incarnations of portfolios and learning objectives. So I'm spending extra time to make sure students see where they're going an how to get there, providing models for them to compare to rubrics themselves.

Now they'll have a page in their interactive notebooks of sorted examples of interpretation from their own class matched up with criteria. Here's how.

Last week, I gave students an infograph to analyze and just pick out what they could understand as a sort of practice for IPA procedures for the interpretive phase as well as preparation for our Amiguitos project. They listed the English meaning of any words, phrases, or sentences that they thought they could understand, in addition to listing clues they used, the main idea as they understood it, and supporting details.

I made a Padlet wall of the samples for each class (I started trying to make textboxes in Word, then remembered they're much easier to adjust on this fabulous interactive tool). I also made a SMARTboard page for easy highlighting for me and printed the PNG version for their notebooks. (Look out--you may have to weed out bullet points that mess up your careful arrangement).

I then picked out descriptors for each level from AAPPl's interpretive reading/listening rubric to help the class classify the samples. We focused on determining novice levels 1) because this is the third week of Spanish II, for crying out loud and 2) because the amount of words strung together really isn't what separates Novices from Intermediates, just novices from other novices. We highlighted N1 yellow, N2 orange, N3 pink, and let N4+ speak for itself.

After students highlighted multiple samples for each category, they cut out one they thought best represented each level to paste into their interactive notebooks with descriptors from the rubric.

14 January 2015

Salem Witch Wanted Poster

Since my own co-taught World Studies class in 10th grade, I've wanted to co-teach a class. I haven't had a chance since years ago when a science friend and I invented Bio-English, a summer class to prep for two of the biggest tests in 10th grade. But I happened to have an extra slot this semester for collaboration, and 4th period U.S. History is the biggest class we have at the moment, so my gracious colleague is letting me butt in now and then. I feel like a student teacher again, enthusiasm and all!

This is actually the third lesson I got to prepare (be on the lookout for the Henry VIII dating game and maybe the Pilgrims picture notes), and what with my American Lit background and The Crucible remaining one of my all-time favorite texts to teach, the Salem witch trials seemed a natural fit!

Now we all get excited speculating about what drove those little girls to act possessed, and my compañera has a great video to introduce some of the possibilities. To add to that, I'm pulling in the trailer for the old movie version of the play. One of my goals when it's my turn is to help students make as many visual connections with the events as they can to help process what they read, so if they can get Winona Ryder's crazy face stuck in their head to associate with the scenario, all the better (hence the IMDB link in the activity). 

While this is a history class, of course, Spanglish teacher that I am, I have to tie in a little fiction, because it still conveys some of the truth of the ulterior motives going on in, well, any time of mass hysteria. The trailer really hits on the twin motivations of fear and jealousy behind the witchcraft accusations, and a quick Ctrl+F of character names to find some quotes helps drive home what was really going on.

So I whipped up a quick infograph to lay out roles for a quick wanted poster assignment with links to IMDB, essays, and the script of The Crucible on the role icons to assist with the research for each role (sketch artists and police reporters were combined for groups of four).

Students had about 20 minutes of research and sketch time today, so only 2 groups got done, but I think they got some deeper meaning, don't you?

12 January 2015

Amiguitos: Spanish 2 Storytime Project

¿Cómo podemos inspirar los niños a leer?

I'm teaming up with my buddy a county over to get kids to want to read--especially in Spanish!
Little Free Libraries are all over,
even in Spanish-speaking countries!

It started with a more local librarian amiga working on a Little Free Libraries. I thought maybe we could contribute by scoping out local demographics and helping stock Sra. Crook's Little Free Libraries with Spanish books where needed, but of course we'd have to find the right books!

Then Sra. Willis came to visit, and we got to talking about what our kids could do together, maybe ways to build on the LFL project, maybe getting our kids to talk about then write books together.

I also got to thinking about the annual Foreign Language Festival and how books could work in with maybe the  skit competition or even the poetry and cultural bee portions!

Of course I've had other book-related project ideas along the way, like TPRS Genius Hour and possibly revisiting Abuela and La Isla or even La llaman America.

The right fit
The main thing I want to underscore with this project, though, is choice: choosing the right book (or books), the right angle, the right end product.

So I have several ideas on directions kids could take this project, so long as they are finding a way to inspire their little buddies--and perhaps others--to read. I'll have kiddos choose their direction and thus their groups (that's been working rather well for me), and then let them pick their amiguitos from the intros MY amiga provided! (Super cute, by the way.) Here are some of the possibilities:
  • research and acquire high interest books in Spanish
  • write a picture book about your student (maybe visiting other countries?)
  • create and perform a skit based on your book
  • create book trailers for different books
Common class activities
We started with our TPRS story, "Libros son buenos," and kids are getting a kick out of Bon Qui Qui (unanimous choice between both classes for the main character's name). I think it's really helping reinforce some familiar structures that we'll need in order to discuss reading with our amiguitos.

It looks like we'll probably have to do most of our amiguito "meeting" online despite our proximity, but my students will definitely be interviewing kids about their lives and their interests to either match them with the right books or create the perfect book or find the perfect way to grab their attention. And of course amiguitos will be our guinea pigs and have to test out drafts and rehearsals and book samples!

As we go, I also want to keep up with IPA activities, and I'm thinking perhaps some infographs, Pinterest pins/boards, or Amazon summaries (possibly jigsawed for fascinating discussions). They could write reviews for their presentational step, too! It would also be cool if I could get some tips from some of the Little Free Libraries curators in Colombia, Honduras, or Costa Rica! And of course they could discuss further questions and then write back for the rest of their IPA!

In the meantime, groups would meet daily to prepare to impress their amiguitos.

09 January 2015

Proficiency Portfolios: More AND Less

I know my goal for the year is to focus more on Less, but my portfolio process demands a little bit of both. And so, after hours days weeks of retooling, I am once again overhauling what portfolios look like in my Spanish classes:
  • MORE - proficiency expectations: we're gonna do North Carolina one better
  • LESS - confusing technology: switching from Google Sites to Livebinders for easy upload & sorting
  • MORE - separate pages: no confusion as to how much to include where
  • LESS - evidence per page: if I set up objectives (and maybe interpretations) on one side, Livebinders only leaves room for one upload
  • MORE - logical standards: switching Linguafolio for the less-complicated Can-dos from ACTFL (which, upon preview, last semester's students indicated are WAY easier to follow)
  • LESS - rubric: that is, instead of 4 levels for each objective, with intricate descriptors, there is only each the ACTFL Can-dos with a "Sometimes" and a "Consistently" next to it--the rest doesn't really matter.
  • MORE - progressive expectations: as the semester advances, so do the expectations, kind of like I plan to do with IPAs
I think most of the shifts are pretty self-explanatory, but the proficiency expectations and technology warrant a little further exposition.

More Proficiency
North Carolina says a Spanish I student need only reach Novice Mid level, so that has been the ultimate goal of my portfolios. However, as my good friends and colleagues Sra. Rhodes and Sra. Cottrell have pointed out to me: novices can't do much of anything.

This flies directly in the face of everything I believe about the purpose of education and its bogus segregation from the Real World. Education is not preparation for life: it is life! Our kids are alive, they are people, when they walk into kindergarten the first day, and every day they walk into our classrooms after that. Their world is the Real World, and they should not have to wait to be "grown ups" to be treated as real, to be told what they do matters.

But if novices can't do anything, and it is fallacious to treat school only as a place where students and their experiences are not Real yet, how do we serve novices authentically?

Sra. Rhodes laid it out for me on our ride back from EdCampWNC: Get them out of Novice level as quickly as possible.

So to that end, an A in Spanish II will be a consistent Novice Mid first 6 weeks, but a consistent Novice High the next 6 weeks, and a consistent Intermediate Low by semester's end. They can still get a C the next grading period if they re-do a section that they're still only on "sometimes" and need to redo.

Less Confusing Technology
I liked the flexibility of Google Sites, how it was already tied to accounts students already had, and how I could share the template. However, the unlimited "request for access" messages I had to send to see students' evidence that they hadn't shared finally got to me.

Now Livebinders is yet another account for students to keep track of, but the ability to upload/embed anything without a million access requests is just too good to pass up, since I finally figured out I could make the template and just have students straight-up copy it, rather than going through the whole process of creating, browsing, and choosing.

The only catch is the lack of physical flexibility. It would have been nice to be able to keep all of the Novice Mid Listening evidence on one page, instead of making "Listening 1" and "Listening 2," but the upload procedure doesn't allow it, and you have to pay to have another layer below subtabs. There's also no easy way to copy and paste subtabs in case students need to include more than two samples.

Still, I think it looks pretty good! Take a peek here, maybe make yourself a copy, spruce it up a bit, and give me some tips to improve still further!

07 January 2015

Coro Roulette: Bellringer Modifications for Intermediate Level

The daily chorus bellringer is hands down the most popular activity I have ever done. It's the ideal way to get Spanish language stuck in kids' heads and build skills.

It's also a little lame.

Novices need to learn to follow along with something they read. They need to get a catchy chorus stuck in their head to build confidence and fluency. They need to say something fun over and over--with a beat--to wrap their minds and mouths around new sounds.

Intermediates, not so much.

My Spanish II kids this semester have all had a semester's worth of coros, and while I think it'll be healthy to ease them back in with the familiar structure for the first few weeks, even at the Novice Mid level, they're ready to tackle more challenging tasks--and still rock out, of course.

Some things stay the same
Now I still want these suckers stuck in their head, so the singalong is a must. I can, however, cut out the vocab building and cut back the rote repetition to maybe just one of the three days.

The performance is still key, but needs a little extra oomph to begin moving my novice babies from "parrot" mode to "survivor" mode. I want to stick to just the chorus to keep the catchy factor, but maybe longer choruses. They need to be interpreting broader swaths of text, i.e. sentences and strings of sentences rather than cherry picking words here and there.

Adding interpersonal
So I'm taking a page from Amy Lenord and her post on Teaching Music FOR Communication, which I've been mulling over since last year.

Amy has some great ideas about how to get kids talking about music, comparing and contrasting songs and expressing their opinions. Some ideas she had on what novices could do got me thinking:
NOVICE LOW / MIDS could...
  • listen to the music and describe it*
  • discuss whether or not they like the music and why*
  • state their opinions about it*
  • discuss which song(s) they prefer and why*
  • discuss what they think or thought about the song / video*
  • argue which song / artist is the best and why*
Originally I was thinking they might engage in these lofty discourses at the week's end, but then I got to thinking: what if the communication actually let them choose the direction of the class? What if their opinions counted for something?

And thus the idea of Coro Roulette was born.

Day 1: Options
Goodness knows I have a preponderance of possibilities collected on Pinterest (especially if I keep poking around Spotify and following Sra. Birch), and on top of the semester's worth of coro sheets I have posted on TeachersPayTeachers, I have a dozens of sheets created for songs that I've never even used! So why not let them choose the week's song?

STEP 1: I'll pick 3 song choruses to play, maybe with a common structure, theme, country, or genre, or maybe with a variety. We'll see.

STEP 2: Students will take turns asking me questions (in the TL) about the 3 songs to help decide which song they want to vote for and build their case as to why. They could ask about the artist, genre, country of origin, or even vocabulary.

I really like Amy's idea here, too, of providing them with comparative phrases and song descriptors (I will probably be ripping off the activity sheet on the aforementioned post here).

STEP 3: Students partner up and express which song they like and why, expressing their agreement or disagreement and stating their cases. Hint: they must come to an agreement, because each pair gets one vote!

STEP 4: Vote. Each pair voices a vote for one song, but their vote only gets counted if they give a reason--potentially a unique reason, as I will be writing the reasons on the board.

STEP 5: Suspense. I mean, it's sort of a democratic process, but I'm really more of a benevolent dictator. Plus I'd really like to keep both classes on the same page. ("Less," remember?)

Day 2: The Reveal
It could be any of the songs playing when they walk in, but when class officially starts, that's when the week's song is revealed!

I'll play it one time, have them repeat after me two times, and repeat it to each other a few times, then we'll discuss and summarize together.

Day 3: Show Time
Instead of just getting in front of the class (or the whole cafeteria, or a freshman science class, as some were wont to do last year) to sing or speak, students will have to put their presentational skills (of course they still have to sing) together with their interpretive skills. I'd like to give them some choices on how they can do that, maybe after I've forced them to try each once.

  • Mini music video - they could use Adobe Voice and add an image to represent each line and/or key words, maybe even go all out with the Green Screen app or simply a paper slide video
  • Storyboard - they could illustrate each line of the song, by hand or possibly with cited images
  • Dance moves - they could make up moves that express key words and main ideas
It might even be fun to post a highlight reel to a class YouTube channel--or the school Facebook page!--each week.

05 January 2015

Story Form: Storyasking Preview with Google Forms

I know TPRS and TCI usually rely on auditory input first, but my pre-TCI kids who had Spanish I last year are more comfortable with reading than listening (my fault), so I thought I'd introduce the idea of storyasking visually as one of Spanish II's first day fun stations tomorrow. I know I planned to make stories shorter, but I couldn't resist. (I'm open to ideas for streamlining, hinthint.)

So to introduce the storyasking procedure and--hopefully--to get kids to realize how much they remember/know, I made a Google Form version of the first story with directions on how it'll come together:

I'm thinking of glossing a few words in the introduction, too, just to keep the focus on the familiar.

The first question is for the student to enter their own name (and thus receive credit for brilliant ideas come storyasking time), and then I built the story into the questions, with the actual question as the "help text":

I'm trying to cover a fair amount of familiar linguistic territory to reignite the synapses, but primarily focusing on le gusta, tiene, and su as structures go.

The rest is how the story ends, which will still involve questions to reinforce the focus structures come storyasking story time on Friday. Before I ask the story, though, I'll comb through the suggestions to use as examples when I'm asking the story. When the class chooses a suggestion to go with, I'm thinking fabulous prize.

And in case you wanted to know how the story ends:
Pero no. Cuando Papá abre el libro, la chica empieza a pegar el libro como una pelota. Pega el libro y pega la rodilla de su papá y corre y corre y grita y grita como un grande grupo de fans emocionados.

Papá corre del cuarto con su libro favorite y grita a la mamá --¡No puedo más! ¡Nuestra hija nunca va a leer!

Los papás van a su cuarto para dormir, pero la chica grita y grita y corre y corre y pega todos los objetos en la casa como pelota.

Pero de repente hay silencio en la casa. Los papás miran el cuarto de su hija. No hay chica. Escuchan un sonido en la cocina. Van a la cocina y miran su hija. Tiene un libro. Es un libro de recetas.

La chica mira sus padres. --¡Mamá! ¡Papá! ¡Me gusta este libro! ¡Me gusta mucho!

--¡Ay, hija! ¿Ya te gusta leer?

--No, Mamá, dice la chica y toma una página del libro de recetas. –¡Me gusta comer! Y la chica come la página. --¡Los libros son buenos!

01 January 2015

#OneWord: Less

They say less is more, and it is: more accessible, more manageable, and more effective. 

So my word for 2015 is LESS.

It took me years to accept and embrace this concept when it comes to my teaching. I always wanted to COVER everything. I was not necessarily as obsessive about getting to the imperative by the end of Spanish I, but "covering" was still a goal that I let push me around more than I should have, even when it wasn't just grammar or vocabulary I was trying to cover. 

Here's the secret folks: 


Anything beyond that is vanity, if not entirely in vain. Oh, sure, it's easy for me to say, resting on my non-tested elective class laurels, and I feel for my core-subject brethren. I would make a very poor test teacher at this stage of my career. Then again, two of my most accomplished colleagues at my own school have found great success on stupid tests simply by doing what they know is right for kids and focusing on the essentials--and focusing hard!

But this past year, I've found the fewer vocabulary words I focus on, the more my kids actually use them. I've got a list of 10 verbs that I think will handle pretty much any circumlocution situation a novice might encounter, and they can choose what they need beyond that!

I've also found the fewer projects I try to squeeze in a semester, the more confident my kiddos feel, and the higher quality the outcomes are. Since project presentations aren't my tests anyway, who says I need to do a different one every 6 weeks? So the district divides the semester up that way; as long as I meet my prescribed assessment quotas, I can do what helps the kids.

I've found, too, that the fewer responsibilities I take on, the higher the quality of the work I produce. I'm also guilty of wanting to have a finger in every pie, so I sign up for more workshops and unnecessary assignments than I should. That's not likely to stop, mind you, but the year's word is LESS, right? So only ONE proposal for only ONE conference next fall.

As for home and family, I don't guess that Cub Scouts or violin will be disappearing any time soon, and then there's always the threat of team sports looming on the horizon for one if not both kids. But what I can do is have less stuff. If I can finally get rid of piles and boxes of old clothes and toys, the less will be be more manageable, too.

So what can you make LESS in your life so that what you do is MORE accessible, manageable, and effective?

And what will YOUR word be for 2015?