29 April 2015

Classcraft in Spanish: Day 1

Today I am awesome.

I have plenty--PLENTY--of days like my amiga Amy describes, but today? Today was not one of them.

Brace yourself for a lot of typing in capitals.

Today easily 90% of the class was in Spanish. Though I only actually caught about 1/3 of them using 90% target language this time, the rest were really busy, and--looking at the Pasión blog today--really successful!

We set up characters for Classcraft yesterday (more on that process in a future post), and I let them know the lay of the land, but today it was for real. I started giving and taking points today--though really I only had to TAKE points for the misión! (It was really pretty cruel to make them name the artist or title for a ruleta song that we didn't rehearse...*evil snicker*) I even ended up absolving one student of her penalty because after one QUICK time lesson before the festival, she remembered how to express time correctly (LA una!!)

But seriously, these kids were ON. TASK. Maybe it's because I said if they got all of the portfolio AND Genius Hour stuff out of the way (due tomorrow and Monday respectively), they could go ahead and knock out tonight's homework during class. In fact, I'm going to make a new 50 XP reward for getting the week's work (portfolios and Pasión AKA Genius Hour) done way early--after I go through and make sure they really followed instructions. I ain't even mad about having to post the next set of assignments early!

Today, kids who have been struggling to break out of Novice Mid proficiency were asking questions--increasingly COMPLEX questions--to get their work done! Several of them were even getting AHEAD on the assignments! YAY PERSONALIZATION!

I also TOTALLY got to do a FOR REAL personalization mini-lesson  ONE HUNDRED PERCENT IN SPANISH for the kids who were having trouble finding relevant infographs for their Pasión. And EVERYONE found what they needed by the end! It was so cool, because I just listened for what multiple people were having trouble doing and called anyone who needed it up to meet me at the front with a laptop! Tomorrow, I'm thinking a Livebinders troubleshooting session. Also, in the future, I'm definitely making joining a mini-lesson worth 30 XP (less than a paso de pasión, but enough to make it worthwhile).

Also, I think Genius Hour may have set one of my students on an international career pathway. After class, he wanted help deciding if he should use Chevy México or Chevy Honduras for a resource, because Chevy México has the same models available we do, but Chevy Honduras offers different models, which are interesting, but not familiar. Who HAS these kinds of conversations in Spanish TWO?? Kids who have found meaningful connections with authentic resources, that's who. (Mind you, it was a conversation in English, but it was also not during class time. He just wanted to keep talking about international Chevy models!)

Remind me of this next week when I'm at school until 5:30 updating Classcraft points for the next day.

(Still worth it.)

27 April 2015

Classcraft in Spanish: Genius Hour Gamification

From here on out, it's all portfolios and passion projects.

We accomplished our two big PBL projects (and took home a few trophies!). Both whole-class projects were time sensitive, so we couldn't start with full-throttle Genius Hour, but these were my Genius Hour guinea pig kids last year, so unlike Spanish I, they already had an idea of what to expect.

So here at the end, we're seeing if we can squeeze one more proficiency level into portfolios and gathering resources to prepare for one last personalized IPA for the final "exam." It's really a very individual process from here on out. I even undid the table pods in favor of sort of a more fluid perpendicular tables design.

Now, I got to see power standards and playlists in action during my recent personalization tour of some impressive schools, and I wanted to take those concepts and sort of automate the playlists gamification style. In light of recent #langchat talks on standards-based grading, I thought adding a game element to the process might make a good alternative to giving grades for the formative parts of the playlist.

Plus it's just something I've wanted to try.

Initial setup
I plotted out how much time I had left in class for the year: about 18 hours.I also figured out what activities I wanted the kiddos to have completed before E-Day--Exam Day--and estimated how long each activity would take. By some miracle, the total ended up being almost exactly 18 hours!

Classcraft is the class gamification platform I've heard the most about. And it's free. I imagine I might have some kids that are too cool for magos, curanderos, and guerreros, but I figure if I let them choose their character and their description (they can choose mujer or hombre and asiático, obscuro (?!?), bronceado, and pálido) and tap into their competitiveness, they might still get a kick out of it. Plus those that are too cool are often too competitive, so that could help.

I had to use a little Google Fu to find the rules page and the hero pact, which I'll have to adapt to my evil purposes anyway (that'll probably be a whole other post), but those along with the.

I have 18 Genius Hour steps, Pasos de Pasión, that I will set up in the Classcraft under the content publications. They'll be set up individually on Google Classroom, since I still have to do that 15% "daily work" grade in my district, and I'll award points in Classcraft for each one completed. I'll probably post my portfolio badge page video for another content publication, but since most of the content this time of year is individual and student-generated and goes on either the passion blog or e-portfolio, I probably won't need to add much more "content."

XP (experience points)
This is where you award points based on task completion so students can level up. When students level up, they can "learn" powers that they can use to get further in the game or enjoy privileges in the non-virtual classroom. I set the bar at 200 points so they could level up several times in the next few weeks--every day if they speak 90% Spanish and complete 2 steps in the process!

Here are the tasks I set up to earn XP (except in English):

  • Update your "Final Self-Evaluation" page   +20XP
  • Update your "Proficiency Badges" page   +20XP
  • Complete a Passion Step   +50XP
  • Submit a REVISED page of your portfolio   +50XP
  • Submit a NEW page of your portfolio   +75XP
  • Speak in only English 90% of class   +100XP

I plan to enter portfolio grades and IPA grades as well, and students will get 5 XP points for 9/10 and 10 XP points for 10/10 on each.

HP (health points)
Students have to keep their characters alive if they want to be able to level up, but I set it up so they lose health these ways:

  • Distracting classmates -10HP
  • Speaking English -10HP
  • Woking on other classes' work  -15HP
  • Playing around on phone or computer (unrelated games)  -20HP
If they lose too much health, the character dies and can be arrived only by a teammate or fulfilling a "sentence." Me, I just made a sentence out of each of the categories of Homework Choices.

AP (action points)
This is where special privileges come in--in the game and in the classroom. You have to decide what you're willing--and able--to allow as rewards. I mean, the college says no food, and I have no windows to open. Also there is absolutely no reason in my class to "win" an "extra 8 minutes" on a test, when kids get as long as they need on IPAs anyway. So I'm thinking maybe some passes that will get the out of revising a portfolio section or doing the personalized homework for the week. I'm also contemplating allowing kids to cross campus to work at the library or even bringing some galletas for the "caza" reward--to be consumed in the cafeteria of course. (This may have to be its own post too.)

You can award Action Points for events, but otherwise I set it up for everyone to just get 5 a day. They have to have a certain number of level-up Power Points to be eligible to use the Action Points and "learn skills" that translate into privileges for themselves and/or their teams, so students have to make requests when they want to use them, and I have to grant them manually. I don't think this should be a problem during all of the independent work--as long as they're requesting in the target language, of course!

According to the Classcraft site, game management should only take about 5 minutes a day, mostly during the daily "Eventos Aleatorios."

There were 80 pre-loaded events, but I only have 13 days to play, so I had a lot of trimming to do. A teacher in the forum also recommended tying all events to some kind of performance, and I think that's probably the best way to take advantage of this system. While the spaghetti western Clint Eastwood challenge sounds really cool, I'm thinking it won't do a whole lot for proficiency or focus, so I switched it to to singing a song in Spanish.

I liked the pre-loaded consequences for a lot of the activities and kept those, but changed the description. I ditched all but three with negative consequences--gotta keep it interesting, right?

Here are the good events:

  • Everyone wins 5 HP if they can name a Latino singer.
  • Everyone that can conjugate a different verb in 5 forms wins 100 XP.
  • All the players win double the AP today and 50 XP if they submit a 1-minute video in which they talk with a partner about their passion.
  • The DJ (teacher) will play a song from the coros. A random player will have to identify the singer OR the song. If the student fails, he/she loses 15 HP; if the student guesses both, he/she wins 250 XP.
  • The player with the least XP has to sing a coro in front of the class.
  • The player with the least XP picks a song for the Game Master to sing.
  • Everyone wins double the XP today if they illustrate 10 vocabulary words from their Passion.
  • Nobody can lose HP today if they submit a 1-minute video in which they talk with a partner about their day and their plans.
  • Everybody wins 5 AP if they write their plans for the coming week.
  • Nobody falls in battle today if they can explain a video of a conversation between other classmates.
Here are the bad events:
  • The player that has the most XP in each group has to dance  "Te mueves tú" or lose 10 HP.
  • All need to reflect on their research in 2 or 3 sentences or they cannot win XP today.
  • The player who has the most AP loses 15 AP if they do not win a round of Verba (snuck that one in there for Sr. Ballestrini & Sra. Matheson).

So wish us luck as we head into the world of Classcraft and gamification this week! I'll let you know how it goes!

24 April 2015

Success and Personalized Homework

I've been assigning students to assign themselves their own weekly homework assignments based on ACTFL Can-Do Statments this year. My goal was for students to get some extra practice with the language, maybe find some enjoyable real-world application, and feel better about their skills, all while creating something they could stick in their portfolios.

However, I've been getting mixed responses, so I decided to look at the data.

Data conclusions
Overall, it looks like those who do their self-assigned homework generally do better on IPAs and demonstrate increasing proficiency as the semester progresses. Those who don't do the homework, though tend to be deficient (at least a level behind expected progress) in at least one area.

Did doing homework make them successful?
Or did being successful make them do homework?
image from Glitch on OpenClpart.org
The changes, though, are generally pretty small, and often limited to one or two communication skills. Plus there are some outliers: students who continue to improve without keeping up with weekly homework and others who do the work but are still behind or barely improving. What improvement I'm seeing could just be my phenomenal in-class lessons.

Or it might just be those kids who are successful anyway.

So is it that students who are successful do the homework OR that students who do the homework are successful?

Is it the chicken or the egg?

The thing is, I want ALL of my students to experience growth and to see a REASON to do it. That's kind of what I'm there for: the how and the why of language learning.

Personalization approaches
I've tried personalized homework a few ways since Sra. Cottrell inspired me to get students to use their time:
The teenage beast is a notoriously fickle
one, but something's gotta work, right?
image from Ossidiana on OpenClipart.org
But every approach always seemed to end up just an extra burden to students. They'd occasionally
stumble on something they enjoyed: I got some kick...butt...music videos with the long-term goals from some of my more creative kiddos, and the kids conversing with coworkers always come in bubbling over with enthusiasm about it the next day. More often than not, though, most kids would just look for the thing they could do quickest.

I know, I know, it's the nature of the beast. Teenagers have other priorities. But there's got to be a way to tap into them.

Maybe I didn't explain it right. Maybe I asked too much in too little time. Maybe there wasn't enough intrinsic incentive.

So instead of the weekly goal last Thursday, I assigned a survey to get to the heart of the disconnect.

Survey suggestions
What I found was that most students did not feel that the work really helped them with IPAs (less than half) OR confidence (about half), though a majority (2/3) felt that it did some good for their portfolios.

What I found strange is some students WANT more grammar. Some students feel really confident after they play DuoLingo a few hundred times. Some CRAVE lists and flash cards. And I mean, if my goal is for them to feel confident and enjoy the language, why the heck not? They should be able to get most of what they need from class anyway.

I think WeSpeke may be a big hit this time with all of the kids who want native speakers to talk to. Several want to do more with music, and I'm cool with that (though I still can't justify the "translate an English song to Spanish" in my mind). I also really like that some of them want to extend their Genius Hour projects and do still more with them outside of class.

The most brilliant idea from the surveys, though, has got to be the conference time.

Next steps
And so I've gone about setting up a homework choices page with all of my past and present homework choices divided up into interest categories:

The pages are a work in progress, but I had students look at their results on ForAllRubrics from the last 6 weeks and complete a survey to get a feel for where they should focus. I started calling them up one by one today to discuss that focus and ¿Qué te gusta? while toggling through the pages for them to choose 3 new goals.

They could pick whatever they wanted, as long as it helped them improve their proficiency, confidence, or enjoyment.

21 April 2015

Festival Day IPA (Bonus novice IPA)

On the one hand, I want students to enjoy the festival experience and to be able to focus on giving a successful performance.

On the other, there are SO many opportunities for meaningful target language interaction when we go to the festival! Why not do some really AUTHENTIC authentic assessment? It felt like such a squandered opportunity last year.

So I've planned an IPA students can complete while we're at the festival, revolving around the whole festival experience. I'll give them a little time to put it all together and finalize the writing portion the next day, too.

IPA Instructions

Interpretive Listening
Record another school's performance*: just for re-listening purposes--NOT to be displayed publicly without permission.

Choose EITHER a song you hadn't heard before or another school's skit to interpret. List phrases and sentences you understand in both English in Spanish and then describe the main idea of the skit or song in English. Give details explaining how you know that's the main idea.

*I will record some examples of each just in case, and we can review the next day.

Interpersonal Communication
Make a friend, discuss the competition. Get to know a little bit about who you're talking to. Then ask them about their festival experience and tell them a little bit about your own.

I compiled a list of suggested topics to bring up that I will hand out for taking notes on the big day, though students will still want to record a 1-3 minute conversation.

Presentational Writing
Write a letter to next year's Spanish class with tips and tricks: what to do and what not to do if you want to win. You can focus on your own category of competition, someone else's, or all of them. Use your own experience, your conversation with your new amigos, and your observations from the performances.

IPA Quick Fixes - After the Fact

Interpretive Listening
I had been a little worried about students getting the context of the skits, what with Julia de Burgos and El Chavo being completely, well, foreign to them last year. I had considered offering an alternative the next day wherein students find a written resource--ie Wikipedia article--to explain what it is they watched and allow an Interpretive Reading alternative, but the contexts for the skits we saw this year were a little confusing, even for me. I mean, I think they could have handled the Chilean Olympic team, but the one about singing and dancing while waiting for the bus threw me a little too.

As for the songs, the audio didn't work all that great in all of them, so I decided to go back to the originals. Because of coros and ruletas, my kids do feel a little more comfortable with native speakers in song, I think, so I made a playlist of the original versions of the new (to them) songs we heard today, and they can choose any song to interpret! (Choice worked really well before.) I will also add the two skits we watched to the options in Classroom, just in case that is their preference.

Since I usually do reading for the first IPA of the grading period, I added still more choice with a catch: you can look up the song's lyrics and do reading for interpretive BUT it will take an I2 on the AAPPL rubrics to get an A rather than I1 (which means the Sie7e song in Spanglish is out).

Interpersonal Communication
Several students were concerned that their videos would not demonstrate the extent of their skills, either because of audio quality or uneven partner matching (we've got plans to team up with our amigos a county or two over before the competition next year!) There's not really a reason to talk about themselves like a novice is supposed to with a bunch of kids they've been stuck side-by-side with for years, but they can talk about their preparations and performance.

As for Presentational Writing, all will proceed as planned, but in light of all of the trophies they brought home, I'll add a Presentational Speaking freebie for all participants!

12 April 2015

Project Conferences: True TL Collaboration

Groups of 10-15 students had positive, productive conversations before break, conversations lasting fifteen minutes or more in the target language.

What's more is the conversations affirmed good feelings among collaborators and kept the conversation positive and the energy controlled and calm.

I had been out sick most of the week before (curse you, tree pollen!) and had gotten some pretty frustrated emails about one group's progress in particular--some in the target language, and some not. By the end of this first conversation after my return, they were a team once again! Why? My money's on the restraint they had to exercise to express themselves in Spanish (they do say we're more reasonable in our second language anyway).

Now, there were some things we didn't get to in the TL in class, and even with lyric and skit rehearsals in Spanish, we were still probably only at 80% target language, but I was squealing with delight internally each time a different student piped up with a "Me gusta también, pero..." and agreement--or eager dissent--rippled around the faces at the table (the eyebrows were awesome--they were DYING to speak Spanish!).

I had an outline for the class discussion--taken, of course, from our Verbos Esenciales list--and allowed students to jot notes to themselves on index cards about what they wanted to say about each.
  • Me gusta
  • Quiero
  • Necesitamos
  • Podemos
Notice we're still starting with the buttering up. Always start with the buttering up. That probably helped as much as the L2 restraint. I think it helped the flow, too, to get some como-se-dices out of the way ahead of time, and with follow-up questions and peer responses, it meant the conversation was still only semi-scripted. Also, there was a little improvisation after one group got all into responding to each other, and we had to sort of skip quiero and conflate necesitamos and podemos.

Responses were required though.

At our Caldwell Early College study visit last year, one of the leaders tracked our big group Paideia discussion with a sort of circle chart, and that was really cool. It was tough even with my tiny classes last year, though, so I opted instead to create a new class on ClassDojo and track students' contributions that way.

Also, my kiddos were willing to contribute for points toward the privilege of changing their monsters: get this many points, and you can describe the kind of monster you want to change to!

I had previously created an extra ClassDojo class for tracking target language usage, so why not create another for group conferences? It allows me to keep behaviors separate from grades (thus helping keep grades closer to reflections actual proficiency) as well as giving me a quick--and familiar--way to monitor participation

10 April 2015

10 Essential Verbs for Novice Spanish

Complete Verbos Esenciales poster set
available on TeachersPayTeachers.com
Ten essential verbs have made all the difference in my students' confidence and target language communication. My students use these verbs to get their point across in questions for me, collaborations with peers, and reflections for themselves.

With these verbs and whatever vocabulary they remember from past units and a few well-placed (possibly made-up) cognates, they can make themselves understood in SO MANY situations!

Now ten is not THE magic number, though it is A magic number. Leslie Davison has the Big 13 and Amy Lenord worked them into Los Trece Grandes, past and present. I would say that any given student has a firm grasp on at least 7 of them, and we have another grading period to go, so I'm pretty satisfied with keeping the list to 10 (not that other verbs don't sneak in as needed.)

Also, while Sra. Davison was coming from a TPRS focus, my list came from more of a PBL angle: what do students need to express their preferences and to make plans? How can they report their findings from their investigation and solicit feedback? Like Sra. Davison, though, I did opt to post the list in third person singular, addressing plurals and first and second person as they come up (because frankly, they're novices, and sympathetic listeners can parse "yo puede").

I have the list posted in a taped-off section of one of my whiteboards (to signal the college folk who use my classroom to leave them there). I also had each student copy the list--Spanish only--onto a colorful slip of paper to tape into the front of their interactive notebooks (along with slips for accent codes for typing and ruleta descriptors).

I have also been preaching the essential verbs since First Day Fun Stations this semester in Spanish II and working them into TPRS stories and PBL collaboration communiques ever since. Since the IPA format is a whole new ball of wax for this crowd, I did kind of encourage peeking at the list on the writing portions of their assessments too, at least the first six weeks or so.

I started advising a few students who were stuck in Novice Low to make flashcards of the verbos esenciales, and they have all managed to break into Novice Mid according to their IPAs within a couple of weeks. Now that I have the posters made, though, I'm considering making them into flash cards for students to practice without L1 interference, maybe with the word on one side then the image and sentences with the word blanked out on the other? Makes me think of Sra. Matheson and the new Verba game! Hmm...

Is the next word puedamos?
(image from Sky Go)
It would probably also be worth having a Conjugation Hand page in ye olde interactive notebook with each of these verbs too, for purposes of semantic/brain organization.

I also would like to do more with coros and ruletas starters to emphasize them, maybe a little game of Don't Forget the Letras in those awkward 3-minute blocks when computers are booting up, shutting down, or shut down too soon.

But mostly, I need them to keep using these words in context: more questions, more emails, more blog posts, more IPAS, and more conversations.

#3 in the Top 5 posts of 2015

08 April 2015

Conjugation Hand - New Twists

I like graphic organizers, especially those that students can always have on hand.

Now I haven't taught a traditional conjugation chart in a few years, but, as Garnet Hillman once told me, the brain craves organization. I've also noticed my students feel more confident if they have memory devices they can check themselves with when they are in doubt--otherwise it's up to Google Translate when the teacher's not handy.

Handy? On hand? Get it?
Good reasons
Now SpanishPlans posted this idea years ago, so this isn't some sudden epiphany of mine. I have, however, been tutoring a student struggling with college Spanish. She's expected to learn--not acquire--conjugations for seven different types of verbs before her second Spanish test ever. Conjugation sadly remains a fact of college life, so it doesn't hurt to give kids hints that will help cope with expectations once they leave our nest, hints like invoking the age old chant of "o as a amos an." (I've seriously used vosotros in exactly two situations in my life: my Spanish church phase during my divorce and understanding that one professor in that one grad school class.)

Also, I can comprehnsibly input until I'm blue in the face, but I feel my specific role as an educator, an "expert," is to draw students' attention to patterns that they might not have picked up on. It's like my husband has done for me with car models: cars have been around me all my life but I didn't ever distinguish among them beyond color and door numbers until he started pointing out different makes and models to me. It's my job as someone who knows the language patterns to highlight them and help the young ones sort them.

Acquisition it ain't, but we know the brain likes connecting to prior knowledge and semantic sorting, and that teenagers are notoriously impatient. I mean, I kept them satisfied with two or three verb forms until midterm, but then they want to express themselves. And as I've admitted, I'm a little demanding with my novices, so the extra organization doesn't hurt until I find a way to be more novice appropriate.

So I have my students draw their hands in their interactive notebooks. As you can see above, 1) the verb goes in the palm (just like SpanishPlans suggests), and 2) you put the chant (o-as-a-amos-an) literally at their fingertips.

Step 3) you practice the different subject gestures. The thumb aims at "this guy" and forefinger points at "you." Now, with my college protegé, I point out the middle finger goes with Usted, which you would use with your boss... For more innocent audiences, maybe emphasize "Tall Man" is the highest up...like your boss. Just touch Tall Man with the other hand. For nosotros, I point to my wedding ring--marriage means US, right? For ustedes/ellos/ellas you hold your teacup finger up like "those people" and point around the room.

Step 4) add the roots. Start with something simple, maybe their choice of something familiar like cantar, hablar, or escuchar.

Step 5) draw another hand--on another page if necessary.

6) Make it an -ER verb. Add new endings to this set of fingertips and fill in a familiar verb (everybody loves comer).

Step 7) draw another hand.

8) This one's -IR. Make it a verb they like--or can pretend to like. Say, escribir or vivir.

9) If they like it, they know what to do:

Queen Bey from PandaWhale
Maybe do a little Beyoncé dance while you explain for -IR verbs this means that we've got -imos instead of -emos.

10) Practice some either on whiteboards, on a bunch of pre-prepared hand cutouts for fabulous garlands of conjugation, or just with partners on their own hands.

11) Call it a day. Practice subject gestures and suffix chanting (perhaps to the tune of "Single Ladies," I don't know) as needed.

At some later date, say when you're about to run out of the building screaming if you see puedamos one more time, introduce a few more hands to show some stem changing, maybe jugar to start with the familiar chant, then a little poder and dormir, and if their minds are really ready to be blown, tener and venir (which require new thumb jewelry).

PS ALL of these were on one college test. Points off for misspelling.

PPS I may or may not have given almost identical tests in the past.

#5 post of 2015

06 April 2015

#CMSPL: 10 Questions and 9 Answers about Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning is not quite what I thought it was. I mean, I get the meaning of the word "personalize," and I'd heard about playlists and pathways at EdcampQC when Jill Thompson first mentioned the program they're piloting in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools--not to mention their inaugural school tour (less than an hour from my home)!

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are blazing a train in personalized learning!
Jill and the #CMSPL crew gave us Personalized Learning Tourists a packed of information with a nifty little notepad before our tour of three schools--two elementary and one middle school--kicked off. I skimmed through and jotted down a bunch of questions.

By the end, I got answers to all but one: Is Personalized Learning feasible for all high school courses? Next school year they'll offer tours with high schools, but Sra. Thompson admits that the shift is probably toughest at this level. Me, I think I'm going to have to ponder what I learned from the elementary and middle schools and start formulating my own vision. After all...

Still, I have a clearer picture of what Personalized Learning means and how to tap into its potential after my experience (and of course obligatory free PD tweets!)

Personalized Learning Q&A

Is one-to-one technology essential to effective Personalized Learning implementation?

  • Chromebooks and iPads were everywhere in these schools. QR codes were as abundant as windows. Was every child using one while we were at the schools? Not every minute. While the technology provided ample access for independent inquiry and allowed for more options on differentiated pathways, I could see ways to work out what's needed, between books and printed assignments and--in my favorite observation--cool magnets and cardboard cars.
How are pathways different from Genius Hour and elementary learning centers?
  • I discovered pathways are actually very specific and constructed directly from power standards, rather than from individual students' passions. Students are provided with choices along the way, either within a playlist of necessary activities or with completely distinct pathways that lead to mastery of the same objectives. Stations may, in fact, be part of the process: students were typically spread out all over the room in different areas, which were sometimes set up with materials for certain activities. However, all students would not all necessarily end up rotating through every station, as with learning centers--only the ones they needed to get to "got it" on their objectives.
Where do mandated course objectives fit in?
  • Sra. Thompson explained teachers' processes of analyzing the Standard Course of Study and selecting "power standards" on which to build units. It's not that other standards are ignored, but the goal is to zero in on the standards that can be turned into driving questions for units. Then other standards can be addressed within those units.
How much flexibility is recommended in pathways?
  • Some teachers provide pathway options based on students learning styles. Some have different pathways for independent learners and those who need more support. Some just have different options at each step of the process (e.g. pretest, learn, practice, create). Here are some examples my colleagues collected!

How is data collected?

  • While I think tests in general are stupid, I was intrigued by the idea of letting kids skip entire units after a pretest. I mean, if the kids can demonstrate they don't need it, why not let them move on? (Besides the potential for skipping beyond the teacher's resources, of course--something the elementary schools are looking into addressing with standards-based grading.) Along the way, however, teachers build checkpoints into their pathways, which may take the form of quizzes or tests or still other types of  assignments requiring students to create something to demonstrate their comprehension.

Are skills and content contextualized within learning experiences?
  • I felt like I saw a lot of worksheets for the practice stages, but Sra. Thompson assured me that while the tasks may have been on paper, they were still creation type assignments. I do recall seeing some graphs being created with beans for example. This is also the first year of implementation for the program, but a future goal is to start developing units in more of a PBL format, which could lead to more integrated purpose among pathway tasks.
How are courses organized in the course schedule?
  • I was intrigued by 90-minute PL time built into the middle school's daily schedule between first and second block. Grade level teacher teams had a lot of autonomy with how they used it, and from what I could tell, it ended up being sort of a combination of what my early college high school has built into our "Flex Fridays" during enrichment time and Academic Hour. In some situations, students might be allowed to continue on their own individual pathways for whichever class they chose while teachers pulled out students they saw struggling. Other times, students might continue working on projects for designated classes.
What strategies promote/ensure success in student-led conferences?
  • At one school, school leaders emphasized constant modeling of the reflection process. Students practice and model the conference process regularly in class and teachers consistently reinforce "three-star reflections" in all classes daily and require students to teach their parents about math or science concepts at least once a week, and parents sign off and comment each week. The school even enlisted some parents to be recorded for model videos of what a good conference looks like.
Where does one start with getting adults on board?
  • As with our kids, start where they are. Draw out the personalized things they are already doing in their classrooms. Principles of andragogy dictate that we start with adult "students'" prior exeperiences and go from there, so point out where your colleagues are already providing choice or pulling out students who need extra attention for more direct instruction.

    And then break out the data--not just test scores, Jill Thompson says, but tardy and referral rates and any other numbers that could illustrate room for improvement. Then show them some of these CMS schools' 60% drops in tardies or referrals.

    Then, when you've got a good handful curious, help scaffold the learning for them as you would for your own students. Provide an environment where they feel safe taking risks. As one principal said, give them "Time, time, time, PD, PD, PD." Work together, train them, and set them up to train others (props to my district for being ahead of the game on this!)


One of the biggest things to realize about Personalized Learning is it's not A method: it's a philosophy. It's a way of thinking about learning. So take a tour with me and my colleagues through Twitter, and see if you think Personalized Learning might be something you want for your kids.

01 April 2015

Ganar el trofeo: Novice IPA #4 (reflexión)

Spanish II can almost taste their trophies! The skit group has been running lines and building props (the campfire looks awesome), and they've started blocking. The music group finally came to a decision pretty much everyone feels happy and confident with (we're going with one song off of Kalimba's latest album; sorry Beyoncé), and they're ready to spend their spring break memorizing.

But before the break, they get one last IPA to see how far their skills have come, what with all of their rehearsals and independent group work.

For the reflective aspect, I'm trying to get them to imagine themselves in the competition, first as the contestant in this video and then when we're actually at the festival. The goal is to get them to examine their strengths and weaknesses, maybe set a few goals here in the home stretch.

What will the judges say?

Interpretive listening
Once again I created an EDPuzzle quiz for the listening portion, using this video from México tiene talento.

I've learned it's also a good idea to provide post-its or paper for students to take notes on too. As much as I lovelovelove EDPuzzle, I kind of wish they could save their answers if they rewatch (copying and pasting to a Google Doc before rewatching has worked for most, though.)

A couple of other things I'm switching up since my first EDPuzzle attempt:
  1. Using a more accessible videoIt's a good thing I did comments on the last one, and I'd do that again if I found a really useful video. But I think I've selected a video with plenty that should be familiar even to novices this time: the familiar talent show context, the Mexican Spanish (as opposed to peninsular), and the overall familiarity and simplicity of the vocabulary are working in their favor.
  2. Using multiple choice to parse vocabulary
    Taking a cue from Mme. Shepard again, I built in some additional questions for 5 of the 7 to see if students could infer the meaning of some different vocabulary. Strictly speaking, it might have been more of a scaffolding step than a means of gauging proficiency, but c'est la vie.

Interpersonal communication
Again, students are using a partner--preferably from their own festival group--to create a 1-3 minute video. Last time, I had to remind students to actually greet each other and do the usual polite things to start a conversation. This time, the emphasis will be on ASKING QUESTIONS. The conversations with "me gusta..." and pensive responses of "sí...sí..." were wearing thin and not advancing their proficiency.

One thing I learned from the last IPA was to emphasize the AAPPL rubric criteria again ahead of time. Or heck, during the IPA too. So I included my summarized version for each mode (see my overall Google Doc here) ON the assignment itself on Google Classroom, as well as a link to the actual AAPPL rubric.
*BE SURE TO ASK YOUR PARTNER'S OPINION BEFORE GIVING YOUR OWN!*ARE the judges positive with the contestant?
Imagine you are Ana Brenda and the judges are talking to you: how do your respond?
Do you LIKE what they say?
Do you LIKE how they say it?
CAN you imagine what the judges are GOING to say to your group if they respond like these judges?
How are you GOING to react if judges ARE positive?
How are you GOING to react if judges ARE negative?

Presentational writing
Again, I learned a lot from previous IPAs, so not only did I include my condensed "quick rubric" in the assignment, but I also copied and pasted the Presentational Writing table from my AAPPL Doc PLUS a link to the original AAPPL rubric into a Google Doc copied to each student via Google Classroom for their individual submissions.
Write a brief acceptance speech (a paragraph or so) for when you or your group wins a prize at the festival. Explain some of the problems from your project and the solutions you have that help you win the prize.