30 October 2015

Help a School: a novice/intermediate IPA

My goal with the second IPA of a unit is to help students reflect on their final product and how they want it to turn out. Drawing inspiration from Sra. Toth and Sra. Placido's Kiva videos, I've already planted the seed for students to try to convince others to carry on our work with La Laja. Here (by searching for "ayuda escuela" in YouTube) I have found another school in a situation not too different from our friends'.

So I'm having them take this new school's situation and break it down storyboard style as practice before we make our own inspiration videos. And I'm also test driving some ideas I got from #FLANC15 last week.

Interpretive Listening

Of course I'm not giving my baby parrots a video over seven minutes, so I vibbied it down under 3 minutes, picking out the easiest and most relevant sections. I was thinking I'd use EDPuzzle, but there were several swaths of video that I'd rather just skip PLUS this way the full video is still available for heritage speakers to do their thing!

Here's the Vib:

As I did with the Peruvian playground videos, I included some guiding questions to help students tune in to important parts and make connections with what they were hearing. This time, however, they can potentially perceive a main idea, but I've noticed it's important to explicitly instruct the young ones to "Include supporting details from the video" so they can move up the intermediate scale if they happen to be ready.

Interpersonal Conversation

So I apparently have an extra anxious and/or perfectionist set of (perfectly precious) kiddos this semester. They are intent on scripting their "spontaneous" conversations for IPAs. Having just spent an hour or so this past weekend learning at the feet of Sra. Stephanie (and crew) once more after our grad school days, I decided to give her way a try and save us all some technology sharing and uploading headaches--as well as the temptation to script discussion.

So we're trying the individual teacher interviews, and let me tell you, it is tough.

Now maybe it was this tough before, but it was just for them. Now I have to suffer too! Here are just a few of my tribulations so far:

  • need every minute of the class period to get through interviews, but they can't talk about the video until they have, you know, WATCHED the video and KIND of made sense of it (this is where a decent-sized heritage speaker population can come in handy).
  • plan to limit to three minutes when you know you can squeeze another performance level out of them if you can just keep pushing
  • they have no questions for me, so breaking out of Novice Mid is a beast, meaning...
  • ...I had to reformulate the context premise two or three times and...
  • ...my handy Google Form was obsolete about halfway through second period.

I started off with a prompt card with these questions in English on it:
What do the children in this school in Honduras need for a good education to be possible? How can people help this school?
And a prompt Google Form for me.
  • ¿Qué necesitan los niños en esta escuela?
  • ¿Cuántos libros/cuadernos/balones tienen?
  • ¿Les gusta la escuela o vacaciones más?
  • ¿Cómo pueden otras personas ayudar a estos niños?
  • ¿Cómo es esta escuela similar a/diferente de La Laja?
The prompt card evolved first to
You are talking to a person who is considering helping the students in the school. What can I do? Find out if I CAN help and HOW.
and then
Should we help this school? Is it possible? Is it a good idea? Do you WANT to?
By the end of Day 1, my questions looked more like:

  • ¿Te gusta el video/la escuela en el video? ¿Por qué?
  • ¿Qué necesitan los niños en esta escuela?
  • ¿Cómo puede nuestra clase ayudar a estos niños? ¿Es buena idea ayudar esta escuela?
  • ¿Tienes preguntas para mí/los estudiantes/los profesores/los visitantes a la escuela?

But at least I'm getting a reasonably accurate picture, and they're getting pretty immediate feedback, right?  Plus they have me to hold their iPads for them to record for once, and they don't have to worry about their partner turning in their video first.

And shoot, why not go ahead and use the quiet time to get the video planning--maybe even excecution--started?

Presentational Writing

I think we might give Seesaw another try, especially since I liked how creating the infographs on paper turned out on the last IPA. I think the visuals helped some convey their points and organize their thoughts, so I thought a storyboard might be a more appropriate way to set up the assignment than a straightforward script. Also, I made a quickie example so they can see how it works:

I printed a page with 8 blocks for doodles on each side of the page, including boxes within each block where they would put SPANISH subtitles (if they want them) and lines below where they can write the spoken dialogue. Most seemed to agree that this would be an easier way to organize a video plan than just a script. So here's their assignment:
Create a storyboard for a video to convince other people to help this school in Honduras. What does the school need? How can others help the school? Why do they need to help? 
They can take as many pages as they need, and even color--or, heck, CREATE A VIDEO, since it looks like the interview wait may take a while.

@SraStephanie and @ErinRae0399 promise that the on-deck process will get smoother with practice. I'll let you know if I can get the interviews done in under a week.

28 October 2015

#FLANC2015 Power up and Engage!

Designed by Nanami Miyazaki
I'm pretty sure I attended at least 4.5 of the Top 10 presentations at FLANC this weekend. Not to brag, but 3.5 were presented by my own personal tweeps. And I'm pretty sure that at least two or three of the rest of the Top 10 were also former grad school classmates, ACTFL roomies, and/or PLN amigos. Not to mention the Teacher of the Year, of course.

We're totally a big deal, here in NC.

At any rate, being among like-minded brilliant people always fills my brain as well as my happiness bucket, and I would like to let my brain/bucket overflow to fill other brain/buckets.

Day 1

Despite some initial hashtag dismay, the day was filled with love and learning. Mara Cobe reminded us to look beyond the tip of the cultural iceberg (with Klingons no less!) and Yo Azama inspired us to find our inner artists and the real inner discovery that comes with language learning. Also, Rosalyn Rhodes is a sneaky, sneaky--but super exciting--ToY! Carrot Carrie Hinson made a SMASHING, bursting-at-the-seams debut as a FLANC presenter AND attendee with super cool interactive notebook ideas (which I have every intention of stealing--keyword: lapbooks)! I picked up a few brain-based tips, and caught the tail end of a presentation I know will help get my students to intermediate ASAP from the triple threat team of Stephanie Schenck, Erin Carlson, and Jennifer Resch. Seriously, if those ladies don't land in the top 10 at least once for this FLANC year, there is something wrong with the world.

I'm especially excited about helping students expand on their ideas with affirmative/negative (I like __ but I don't like__), me/someone else (I am __ but Britney is __), and answer and add (I am going to the ___ AND I am ALSO going to ___).

Day 2
My first day back, I already broke out two strategies I learned Day 2. So many of the strategies from the "improv" session I attended seemed so OBVIOUS, but I had NEVER thought to use them for those lost seven minutes every day while we pack up Chromebooks! (I'll let you know if the alphabet vocab brainstorm paid off after I get this round of IPAs graded!) Also, @SraStephanie, @ErinRae0399, and @FreshResch13 were at it again, as I tried to replicate their greatness with on-deck IPA interviews (hint: it takes practice...and a lot of time. But at least they're not scripting their conversations.) I also may have discovered a secret poetical bridge between my Mejor Yo plans and my estranged Afrolatino unit. To say nothing of the inspiration from one Karen Tharrington to empower students to give up grades and embrace learning. Not only that, but my local amiga and I got some GREAT tips for the NCASW that we promptly made plans to share with the rest of our GCS colleagues this week.

I must say, too, that there are few things more refreshing in life that sitting down in a circle on the floor with your little conference box lunches with a passel of #LangChat ladies and just shooting the breeze. Also, everyone should have a Kathy Griffith in their corner--and sitting next to them to mutter cool ideas to during presentations.

It was such a joy to be surrounded by such linguistically-focused passion once more! I'll keep monitoring the tweetstreams for online PD until SCOLT in February and then CSCTFL in March when I get to be among my people again!

18 October 2015

Sra. Spanglish Tech Tips: Seesaw

Goodness knows I've done some experimenting with portfolio platforms. I'm pretty satisfied with the VoiceThread option at the moment, but when my Pinnacle amigo, @jkylewood demonstrated Seesaw (that's web.seesaw.me NOT seesaw.com, by the way) after #langchat amiga @alenord had already been talking it up, I saw something broader than portfolios.

Now I can wax poetic on how portfolios are intended to represent an individual's abilities to The World, efficiently and attractively--that is largely the reason I don't see Seesaw as a portfolio tool. I mean, sure it collects the kids' work in one handy place more simply and swiftly than even--dare I say it--Google Classroom, and it lets you sort it. But at the moment, it's pretty much just for me to see...and maybe their classmates and parents (though I have been invited to "stay tuned").

Here are some reasons you probably want to try Seesaw, too, even if you, like me, are married to the idea of published portfolios


You can turn in just about ANYTHING in TWO CLICKS once you've got kids signed up for your Seesaw class. Photos, files, text notes, links, and even DRAWINGS. And there are FOLDERS, awesome, awesome folders. Now I can have students sort their files by the skill (reading/listening/speaking/writing) and/or assignment (coros, IPAs). And I can even peruse my calendar and go back to any date there were submissions and cruise through all of the class submissions for the day!

Maybe the Chromebooks need glasses?
Now you can make it so students can see each other's responses (for inspiration) or so they can't see them, in which case you can project them from your account for all to see if you decide you do want to share.

Also with Seesaw, no more nameless work: I had one kiddo turn in an excellent infograph last week...but no name. Fortunately, she'd snapped a picture of it and uploaded it under her name so I could match the paper to the photo! (We're still in experimental phase, so I went ahead and took it up both ways--which is good, because the Chromebook pictures were way fuzzy a lot of the time.) Of course this is true of Google Classroom, too, but the folders are a little harder to navigate in Classroom and/or Drive, and the upload function is way more streamlined on Seesaw.


First of all, I wish I could populate my classes myself. I get the attraction of the fifteen-minute code, and it did work fine for my classes for the most part. I just like having the rosters preloaded to save class time and to skip the dependence on students following an extra set of instructions.

I also wish I could select a bunch of submissions and add them all to a folder at once. It would probably half my sorting time if I could do that instead of clicking on each submission to add it to its folder(s) one at a time.

It would probably also half my IPA time on the interpersonal section if there was just a video capability. I mean, yeah, kids can post links if they use an online recording app, but iPad cameras are generally just the most straightforward way to go. But the posting videos to Classroom takes FOREVER, especially with partners sharing. In Seesaw, you can just tag all the students in the video!


So with all of this speedy posting of various media, I've started brainstorming a few things I can use Seesaw to do, either as a more efficient form of a previous activity or as something new and even more exciting.
  • Collect action shots for new vocabulary -- Sexton's Strategy for Vocabulary Retention #2 is ACTIONS, so I like to have students come up with actions for new words they might need in
    their active vocabulary. Now I got up the gumption to download a bunch of photos I had kids email me and then to assemble them into a review VoiceThread. One time. I've also just shunted them to a designated Google Drive folder and "flipped" through them there for review after the fact. But with Seesaw I can just go to the class feed and review not tomorrow, not in a week when I sort through them all, but then and there!
  • Make personalized "flash cards" -- Nearpod has filled the void InfuseLearning left for establishing personalized vocabulary without resorting to L1 translations. BUT getting those images back to kids has been a bit of a pain. Having the files there for easy download is going to make the Student Interests page SO MUCH EASIER to assemble! AND with each answer to a vocabulary-generating question, students will be creating images that apply to THEM DIRECTLY, so they'll be able to simply "flip" back through the images and quiz themselves--a la LangBook Make It Stick!
  • Share cool lyric videos -- I'm planning on mixing my coro roulette process with Bethanie Drew's Manía Musical to keep my baby parrots moving up the proficiency scale beyond simple, well, parroting. So to make sure everyone still gets to perform, they could all create an Adobe Voice video and submit the link! Instant music video fest!
  • Classcraft missions -- whether they were sharing music video finds or the funniest Verba responses, it'd be a quick way to collect everyone's contributions for The Awarding Of The Points.
  • Passion "blogging"-- I decided to forego the passion blogs this semester--individual and whole class. However, we're going to be collecting some contact information, and I want to see some actual links. The search terms, names, contact types, and even locations will go nicely on their reflection page for "Buscar expertos," but the link not so much. Plus I'd much rather click to check than type in a gazillion shortened links (much less print out a gazillion QR codes). Pins were fine for infographs, but we're branching beyond the merely visual into the "using prior knowledge" realm, meaning there might not even be anything TO pin on some sites!
  • Story building - I wonder if we could use the notes to do one of those stories where one person writes a sentence, then the next person adds?
  • Peer editing - I'm CONSTANTLY telling my SAT class to "combine and condense," so maybe I could throw up a note with something requiring said combination and condensation and have them post their suggestions--much like how we've been doing with Nearpod.
  • Co-construction - It's been quite a while since I've used the PACE grammar method, but I'm seeing a need for drawing attention to a few rules. I could post some examples and have them post what they notice with notes.
I'm sure there are two million other way to use it beyond portfolios and my paltry brain drizzles. What else can you do with instant posting of doodles, links, files, notes, or photos?

16 October 2015

Connector Words Chant to Get to Novice High

So my students were getting stuck at Novice Mid. Their writing has been so simple and repetitive, plus they're getting a lot of simple little words confused when they're interpreting.

Of course they've seen and heard these words in context in multiple different infographs and our TPRS story, at least a few dozen of times each. But these words are tricky because they're short and not 100% one-to-one translation-wise.

I decided that I was going to set up something to include in their interactive notebooks, but what? I made a list of words that I had been asked about frequently and that I could see they clearly could have used in their project blog posts and/or IPAs and just started staring at them, figuring out how to make them stick.

And then...And then they started rhyming.

Rhyming's good, rhyming works, I thought. It'll give them a quick way to call up that word they're trying to think of. But that's not enough...

If the vocabulary needs to stick, we need Sexton's Strategies for Vocabulary Retention. My kids have enough actions to keep straight with their Essential Verbs as is, but I could certainly add some context connections and some images, no?

So I whipped up the simple infograph you see here to introduce the song, with a visual block for each verse. But this is not what is going into their notebooks. Instead, we're going to have the chorus at the top and a few cloze blocks--ready to be matched with images--sprouting around it (now available on TeachersPayTeachers with Powerpoint for practicing the chant!!).

In addition to the notebook page, we'll do some Nearpod practice with the fill-in-the-blank function for each verse and probably some doodle responses where kids can come up with their OWN visual representation for each verse. THEN we can use the STUDENT images to make MORE connections by flashing them flashcard style to recall the verses with the words used in context! And THEN they can practice writing some DIFFERENT sentences!

I'll let you know how it goes next week.

13 October 2015

Fall Conference Frenzy! #KWLA15, #edcampWL, #IWLA15

Don't you wish you could go to ALL of them? I mean, you'd miss your kids after a couple, but you'd get a rare chance to be around your #langchat tweeps--people who really get you! In the flesh! But even if you could handle all the travel, you know neither the school budget--nor your own--could last past number two.

Still, if you can't be there, at least you have a loving PLN who will still pass on great ideas for you via Twitter!

#KWLA15 and ACTFL ToY @NicoleNaditz reminded me to think Big Picture in all I do with my classes. After the Comprehensible Input sessions, I've still got exploring Movie Talks on my pedagogical bucket list and some more ideas on how to find accessible authentic texts for my kiddos. @SECottrell and @tmsaue1 are also starting to help reshape my lesson landscape to better match the paths of the brain.

I have ALWAYS wanted to go to an edcamp just for language teachers, but the 13-hour car ride to #edcampWL was a little more than I was ready for. Even if I didn't get to see my amigos, I still got some tips on engaging the local community an sticking to the target language, plus a few techy tips.

#IWLA15 was the language teacher twittersphere Shangri-La if the tweets are to be believed! Two days of non-stop inspiration. My fellow Laura Catherine, @SenoraLauraCG, and had about a zillion musical ideas to steal, and @SraWienhold had about a zillion more! @Profeklein had some really cool ways to engage students with stories. The ever effervescent @SenorG reminded us how important language is in the real world, and how our classes must BE the real world before @SraDentlinger shared ways we can actually connect with the world--the whole world--through social media.


Once again, Comprehensible Input was the name of the game on Day 2 and @SenorG gave us some ideas to hook students with culture while @km_york showed us how to hook them with relationships and relevance.

I hear #TFLA15 is coming up soon and not to be missed. Myself, I'm getting pumped for FLANC in a couple of weeks, where I'll be presenting Less Is More. I'm counting on my tweeting amigos to keep me in the know for ACTFL, though, because I just couldn't swing San Diego this year.

So keep tweeting, amigos!

08 October 2015

School Comparisons: a novice Spanish IPA

The goal for this IPA is not just to measure performance, but also to find the right resource to inspire my students to inspire others.

Here's how.

Finding the right infograph

I can find SO MANY AUTHENTIC INFOGRAPHS that my students can understand halfway through their first semester of Spanish! What I have a hard time finding is something that really allows them to flex their proficiency/performance muscles.
Find this infograph and more on my
school infographs Pinterest board

For example, my kids would feel SUPER confident if I gave them this infograph to interpret.

I'd say they easily know 90% of those words and could probably figure out another 5% at least. However. We decided back when we began discussing proficiency week 1 that they should be aiming for Novice High performance the second six weeks of the semester. Even if they interpreted 100% of that infograph, they would still only be at N2 MAX on the AAPPL scales--not a sentence in sight!

Then there's this infograph:

Find this infograph and more on my Útiles escolares Pinterest board
Plenty of words my kiddos could pick out, sentences galore, and my heritage speakers--who have to demonstrate at least intermediate proficiency--could probably get some fascinating cultural insights about how school and school supplies are viewed in Colombia (which, incidentally, is where the supplies we are collecting for our current project will be headed!)

However, I'm also looking for sentences my novices have a prayer to piece together to get to N4 or at least N3. Lots of cognates and familiar words, but I'm still not so sure my little novices could grasp enough to string together any complete sentences here.

I want them to push themselves, but I also want them to have a chance to succeed! And really, even the numbers don't help because of the intricacy of the vocabulary and the cultural background necessary to grasp the difference between different types of stores.

So I kept digging through my Pinterest boards to find something that was both easy enough and hard enough--for novices AND native speakers. And I found this.

Infograph from wwwhat's new

Interpretive Reading

There was a time that past tense paralyzed me, and I thought that my Spanish I and II students could never handle a verb form they hadn't thoroughly studied beforehand. But here I am slipping in the imperfect tense with full confidence they will be able to use what they know about antes and tiene to fill in some gaps!

What's more is the infograph is housed within a brief blog post that will allow my heritage speakers to expand on their interpretation and demonstrate intermediate skills!

Because this is an interpretive reading exercise, I will use pretty much the same format as with the activities IPA earlier in the semester.

Interpersonal Conversation

The goal for this "school" unit is ultimately to help a struggling school in Colombia with some of their material needs. Therefore the conversation will revolve around not so much what was versus what is as it will around what is versus what will be--with the help of our planned shipments.
Find a partner and RECORD A 1-3 MINUTE DISCUSSION IN SPANISH about what school activities are like at La Laja--or at least what you imagine they are like based on what you know about the resources available to them. 
Find out from your partner how he/she WANTS to help the students at La Laja and how school activities CAN change if his/her plan works. 

Presentational Writing

Going over the Classroom Question reactions after each IPA really helps me get a bead on what needs to happen with the IPA structure to make the kiddos feel more confident on the next one. Coming up with stuff to talk about was still a bit of an issue after the last IPA, but coming up with stuff to write about was problematic for even more of my baby parrots. FORTUNATELY, a recent Saturday Sequel #LangChat gave me the PERFECT communicative endgame for this whole unit: a call to action

See, we have a blog to record our progress on the project, but if all goes well, maybe we can use it to inspire others to help out too! So rather than the capstone of the project being the shipment itself, it would be an invitation to others to carry on what's been started!

So they will sketch a draft for their own comparison infograph (paper seems like a good idea for expediency...plus there has been a little Google T******** temptation going on). BUT instead of comparing antes and ahora, they will compare what the kids at La Laja can do now and what they are GOING to be able to do when our class sends them supplies!
On a piece of paper, sketch a draft of your OWN comparison infograph to inspire others to help schools like La Laja. (NOTE: artistic talent is not part of the grade--but I should be able to get an idea of what you're going for). Instead of comparing the past and the present, compare La Laja NOW with what La Laja is GOING to be like after they receive the shipments from our class. 
 I may also have the young ones try out Seesaw to submit photos of their sketches if there's time--that way we can quickly pick out the ideas we want to develop to help spread the word!

04 October 2015

Interactive Notebook Page: School Supplies

Ayudando Ando sent me a list of over 50 things that the rural mountain school they sponsored needs:

Of course we couldn't get all 50+ things on the list (much less ship them). But we could use that list as a starting point for our project. And as a perfect excuse for authentic interpretation.

So I printed copies of the supply list to be included in students' interactive notebooks, and it takes up basically the whole page. This is not a problem though, because there will be no translation (or t********** as I like to call it) in our interactive notebooks at all this year. I mean, yes, we have English, say on the Performance and Proficiency page. However, research shows that L2 to L1 connections are some of the weakest ways to store new L2 vocabulary.

Therefore, we're falling back on two of Sexton's Strategies for Vocabulary Retention: Connections and Visuals to learn the vocabulary needed to discuss what we'll send--or won't send--to Colombia.


We all know that new information must be linked to prior knowledge in order to stick in our brains. So sorting the original list into what we should and should not send requires my little language learners to use what they know about the qualities of these items.

It also helps to go over a few no-nos before they begin sorting:

This way we can discuss whether something es buena idea or es mala idea WITH reasons in the target language (that are mostly cognates), thus making still MORE connections.

You can have them complete this quietly on their own, discuss in small groups, or go over familiar vocabulary together as a class. As they do so, they sort the new vocabulary by highlighting:

Highlight all of the vocabulary that you recognize from the list in either yellow or orange:
  • yellow = you recognize the vocabulary and think it would be a GOOD idea to ship to Colombia
  • orange = you recognize the vocabulary and think it would be a BAD idea to ship to Colombia
Then after you look up the remaining words, highlight the rest in pink or green:
  • pink = word you looked up that's a good idea
  • green = word you looked up that's a bad idea

But how will they be looking up these unknown words? Even WordReference would be L2-L1, and therefore less than ideal...


Here's where Google Classroom, Google Images, and Google Drawings come in handy. The following assignment gets posted to Classroom:
Pick 15 of the remaining words to look up that you think might be GOOD items to send to Colombia--but you are NOT using Google T******** or WordReference this time! 
Use images.google.com to search the vocabulary!  
Compile the 15 words you find into a Google Drawing collage.
Then when the collages are completed, small groups use their collages to negotiate what is buena or mala for final pink/green highlighting, using the no-nos to frame their discussion! Connections galore!


Finally, after each student has been able to form his or her own connections with the vocabulary, I give them my condensed list of recommendations for what we can send. I narrow the list down to 25 items and then split them into six groups (clothing, fun, student, teacher, classroom, school) with no more than six items in each for them to copy onto the blank facing page--still with no L1!

After this stage, they get to split up and specialize: what do you want to work on to send to Colombia? So the groups that want to collect ropa donations can leave cartulina in their passive vocabulary and focus on getting zapatos into active vocabulary.