22 March 2015

What Kind of Teacher Are You?

I was a third-year teacher when I first set out to describe what kind of teacher I was with this set of 10 sentence starters.

I revisited it again 5 years later, and Timehop reminded me that was 4 years ago today. Each time, I have seen some significant changes, but also some noticeable commonalities. I've met some of those goals I had set for myself, but the main theme is I keep growing and learning and trying new things.
  1. I am a good teacher because I don't settle. I keep looking for more ways to help students experience success and to want to learn.
  2. If I weren't a teacher I would be a writer. For a time I relied on my students to keep me human, but I think I'd be able to balance my curmudgeonliness better now.
  3. My teaching style is loose. This freaks some administrators people out. I have general outlines of plans and expectations for behavior, and I can tolerate a lot (too much?) I'm reigning it in a bit, but I don't think I could be happy being strict.
  4. My classroom is windowless. And not my own. Working at an early college is awesome, but there are downsides to essentially renting space on a college campus.
  5. My lesson plans are two sets of  Google spreadsheets now: one with a semester outline and one with weekly tabs those requisite intricacies like objective alignment and warm-ups.
  6. One of my teaching goals is finding a balance between appropriate expectations for novice language learners and meaningful real-world project-based learning experiences.
  7. The toughest part of teaching is keeping up. You get ahead a little, think you can take a break and then wham! Snow days. Or wham! 68 projects to grade. Or wham! Three 12-hour workdays in a week. And then a virus. That goes through your whole family.
  8. The thing I love most about teaching is creativity. This is the one thing that has not changed in 10 years. I like how I get to write and draw and invent every day, and then my kids crack me up and blow my mind on a daily basis.
  9. A common misconception about teaching is that it's something we do to students rather than something we entice them to participate in.
  10. The most important thing I've learned since I started teaching is seeing students first. I'd heard the platitudes about teaching KIDS not SUBJECTS, and I thought I followed them. Until "Jenny," I was still too caught up in myself to see the source of insults and anger as anything but personal. I am proud to report Jenny is getting all A's and B's her first year of college now, and her son is a bright, happy two-year-old!
Pausing to put into words how I feel about my practice--and myself--has been a useful exercise each time. It's nice having a record of where I'm going and where I've been, too. I also really enjoy it when other teachers chime in and share their experiences, too, because it's another way to see not only ourselves but what we could be for our kids.

So...what kind of teacher are you?

Post your answers in the comments or send me a link!

I'm noticing some common themes of a growth mindset, creativity,  and flexibility in the posts I've seen so far. I love how much we all have in common! I think some of the most enlightening responses from me have been about what we would be doing if we weren't teaching and our classroom setups. 

Check out comments below from Sharin Tebo and Katie Bartlett 
and posts from more great educators!

18 March 2015

What I've learned from IPAs so far

#1 - My kids are amazing. They can do so much with the language in Spanish II!

#2 - My tasks are a little off level-wise. But my kids are amazing anyway.

#3 - AAPPL rubrics are also amazing.

I have been extremely satisfied with my decision to switch to Integrated Performance Assessment format for test grades along with a sliding scale for grading, wherein what it takes increases each 6-week grading period. Using the portfolios as a means to gauge when kids need more practice also appears to be working as well.

Not that it's all been sunshine and roses.

Mea culpa
Now, according to various ACTFL guidelines, your self is pretty much the only topic suitable for novices. However, I'm trying to hurry Spanish II through to intermediate, so they can do meaningful, world-changing things here and now, rather than pretending life doesn't begin until Spanish III. I mean, I'm generally sticking to familiar vocabulary we've used in context multiple times, multiple ways (or at least providing enough choice--among 100s of pins, say--that they can find plenty to recognize).

I mean, I guess I can say that a lot of the writing and discussion I ask them to do falls under "likes and dislikes," but it is possible the interpersonal and presentational tasks I've designed demand Intermediate level production. I do, however, definitely need to scaffold in more practice questioning before IPAs so students aren't just saying "Me gusta ___. Es divertido." and "Sí, me gusta también."(Though I would have thought our new coro roulette procedure would be helping here...I'll have to review conversation videos.) This also indicates to me that I need to more closely align the TPRS stories not so much with the interpreted texts as with what students will need to produce for their answers. Of course it also might be time to do an interpersonal sample/rubric alignment like we did with interpretive.

Also, with the second IPA, time management was an issue. Why should a 1-3 minute video--no bells, no whistles, no editing of any kind--take 30, much less FORTY minutes to record? It worked a lot better when I explicitly explained ahead of time that they get TWO retakes, so the thing should NOT take more than 10 minutes, 15 tops.

Good news and bad news
Most kids' performances are about where I'd expect they'd be on the proficiency scale, though I think a few sold themselves short on the first IPA by not including EVERYTHING they could recognize, but they're catching up now. There are, however, still a couple who make me wonder if it was really in their best interest to pass them on to Spanish II, but at least now I know who to seek out for Academic Hour Fridays and extra help before school, after school, or during that magical time when they have lab during my planning.

There have been a couple of translator incidents. Good news: I can generally tell, and kids have mostly been honest when confronted. A couple of times they were actually able to explain to me how they HAD learned some esoteric words, too! (Hint: Genius Hour.) Also, translator interference may not even really affect their grades in most cases, because I just score what they did on their own (also pretty obvious).

What's more is it's an excellent opportunity for discourse about what will improve their grades, since translatoring obviously won't. In the odd case where the kid doesn't fess up at once, though, it's nice to have a backup to let them try again.  The only bad news, really, is that I have babies that felt the need to use outside assistance in the first place and wasted that time and effort on a dead end.

Mostly, though, the kiddos surprise me with how much they know. We're halfway through Spanish II, and I've got kids pulling legitimate I-2 scores by AAPPL guidelines! (Granted, it was with a technically non-authentic source, but I really do think they're just that good.)

The numbers
The graduated grading system strikes me as very fair so far. The first six weeks, those who get some recognizable Spanish out at all still get a passing grade and thus have a solid start they can build from, as they should when they are getting back into the swing of things. At the same time, they are alerted to the fact that they have extra work to do to keep up. And guess what? At midway, they are!

Some statistics:

  • 100% maintained or improved their demonstrated proficiency level
  • 83% advanced at least one level
  • 45% advanced two or more levels!!
  • 77% are on target to achieve Intermediate by the end of the semester
  • 97% maintained or improved their demonstrated proficiency level
  • 48% advanced at least one level
  • 71% are on target to achieve Intermediate by the end of the semester

  • 100% maintained or improved their demonstrated proficiency level
  • 67% advanced at least one level
  • 96% are on target to achieve Intermediate by the end of the semester
So I have a total of 13 kids to pull out for extra help on Fridays--totally doable. I also have 2 others I still need to double check and make sure they're as awesome as they look on their IPA results.

As for everyone else, it looks like we need to really focus on the interpersonal, so I'm throwing emphasizing certain skills with their Ruletas de coros and Correos de colaboración like, oh, say, asking questions instead of just saying "sí" to everything your partner says.

I'd like to thank the Academy
And by "Academy," I mean ACTFL. I really like the tips that the AAPPL rubrics provide, and though I don't know if the kids actually read that feedback I paste into the comments in Google Classroom or if their parents pay any attention when they get those novel-length suggestions on report cards when their students are struggling, BUT it gives me a MANAGEABLE way to tell kids what to DO about their grade! It keeps the emphasis on moving forward.

I like that very much.

I would, however, like to figure out ways to apply those tips. I might figure out a system opciones that fit with each suggestion for each level of each mode. I might set aside time in class for pull-out sessions connecting the tips to the current PBL project. I might come up with actual lesson-plan-type scenarios for tutoring time instead of being a bum and just kind of hanging out on the side grading but "waiting for questions" while they catch up (see, we've all got some confessions in us, Sra. Wienhold!)

15 March 2015

Free PD: Twitter Takeaways from #CSCTFL15

'Tis the season for awesome regional conferences! As if we didn't learn enough from tweets from #SWCOLT15 & #FLENJ15, #SCOLT15 &  #CLTA15 (even more Free PD from over the years available here), we wrap up this week with the Central States!

Perhaps it is disloyal to my local region, but one of my favorite Facebook feeds is absolutely CSCTFL's--they've got this social media thing DOWN! And who could ask for more than their Pinterest pins? They even pinned the presentations for all of us to share!
Follow CSCTFL's board CSCTFL 2015 Presentations on Pinterest.

Now THAT is professional collegiality.

Since San Diego's a bit further than my 2015-2016 travel dollar can stretch (stretching to another hemisphere and back in June is about all it can handle), I'm hoping to make it to Columbus next year. And who wouldn't? Can you BELIEVE the awesome people you can run into at this conference? I mean, plenty of my #langchat idols and homies were at SWCOLT and SCOLT, but MAN check out some of the tweechers at this one! My inner selfie fiend is MAD with envy.

Good stuff on purpose, proficiency, and interculturality

#Langchat power tweeters bring us important ideas about literacy, culture beyond the 3 Fs and getting kids engaged!

You guys, I think CSCTFL may have saved the best for last, too.

Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell gets down to brass tacks on what novices need, early language learners need love--and great input--too, Mira Canion unleashes the power of purposeful vocabulary, we all take a look in the mirror to adjust our language focus, & Grant Boulanger's fan club grows

I believe that's it for this season! So what's next?

#LANGCAMP of course!

Let's learn together online this summer. Tweet some topics with the #langcamp hashtag and join our Google Community, and we'll start scheduling Hangouts!

13 March 2015

Good Question: Genius Hour Experiment, part 9

They used their key words to pin and google around. They have Pinterest boards with 20 pins and at least 5 sources saved to Diigo embedded and tagged in the class blog.

Now what?

Those lucky teachers who get to set kids loose in their native language to follow their passions generally require kids to pick their driving questions before they begin their research. As I've posted before, our process in the L2 is inherently different. Kiddos need to absorb what's possible in their second language before they try to cure cancer using infographs and websites para niños. The question is: what can they find that's at their level, and THEN what can they do with it?

I wasn't sure exactly how to go about getting to the driving question most effectively: summarize their sources first? throw a bunch of possible questions out there? pick a question and find more sources? group the sources into subcategories?

The only possible solution was to try it myself.

I went back to my own Diigo list in Portuguese (by the way, not happy about losing the free list feature, though I can mostly work around it with well-placed tags). I started opening up links and seeing what I had. Some I had already done some highlighting and paraphrasing, as my little geniuses had last year with their previous topics. Between snow days stealing precious passion time and my resolution to pick up the pace and get to Intermediate ASAP, I decided I want to skip to the top-down, main idea processing, and I wanted to do it with questions.

So I opened up three sources I hadn't previously paraphrased to see if I could do it (ok, I tried it with some paraphrased ones, too, but I didn't peek until after). It took me about 30 minutes to form 3 questions for 3 different sources, including digging up my old vocabulary Google Doc (though the young ones have theirs in convenient webmap form in their interactive notebooks, lucky ducks) as well as constantly pasting my questions into Google Translate to tweak. I discovered by the third article, though, that I could reuse some questions that overlapped articles--which was a good sign for narrowing down my topic to a single driving question!
Projeto 20%: Perguntas: Artesanato e reciclagem on Pinterest | 144 Pins Como posso decorar com materiais reciclados? Como posso fazer moda com materiais rec...
In addition to the questions, though, I made sure to add tags. Tags equal extra main idea distillation, but I also figure they'll come in handy when it comes time to decide on a question to dig into. You can see my Portuguese blog post above, but the questions came down to mostly these five (remember, I'm a novice: be gentle):

  • Como posso decorar com materiais reciclados? 
  • Como posso fazer moda com materiais reciclados? 
  • Quais materiais posso reciclar? 
  • Que posso fazer com diferentes materiais reciclados? 
  • Como posso fazer arte com diferentes materiais reciclados?

Also, I came up with these tags: decoração moda materiais arte

Now, I'm not going to have my angels narrow down their driving questions this week, but rather blog about it separately next week--30 minutes teacher time generally equals up to a full genius Hour in student time, right? BUT, keeping in mind that I'm aiming to tie passion projects into an IPA-ish final exam, I want to go ahead map out how I can demonstrate all 3 modes at least at the Novice High level--if not Intermediate--by semester's end while I formulate my question as well.

And so, looking at my own questions and tags, I can narrow my focus to different materials and how they can be used, decoration projects, or fashion projects. Now last year, I demonstrated how to make "plarn" out of plastic bags, which required a wee bit of interpretive reading, but mostly presentational speaking and writing. This year, I need something that will involve some listening as well and a way to engage my audience in spontaneous conversation, so looking at my choices for topics, I think I might have the best chance of engaging even the guys (who don't speak Portuguese either, but oh well) if I get them talking about even the materials in their houses. Being able to give directions--and ask for them back--is still a handy Novice High skill, so I might incorporate another how-to somehow.

So, in the name of backward design, I had to go ahead and work on my next Portuguese blog post, wherein basically I figured out my main question and specific topics for each of the five sub-modes.

Now, I'm thinking the interpretation will have to take place before final exam day, and to ensure it's spontaneous, I'll use the kiddos' tags and question to find a new video AND a new article or infograph (small classes this semester: I think I can, I think I can). So all they'll have to do the day OF is talk with their audience and show off what they've written. The key then for each genius will be figuring out what they can work into their conversation and what kind of resources they're likely to find--much as we've been doing with their personalized homework this semester!

And tying it together with one Good Question, of course.

11 March 2015

Ganar el trofeo: Novice IPA #3 (inspiración)

I had originally thought I would use the video of the first-place skit my Spanish III class did years ago for interpretive listening:

But listening is tough enough with native speakers whose inflections are always intentional and at least sort of consistent, let alone with a pack of Spanish III students.

Now I may be losing the element of surprise spontaneity, but I went ahead and showed the full video to inspire this year's crop to do something at least equally cool. I knew full well they wouldn't really get what was going on from just listening, so they're actually going to be doing interpretive reading with subtitles on their choice of one of two 2-minute scenes.

I had considered handing over the (polished up) script for interpretation, but it was decidedly lacking in visual context for my poor little novices, and I couldn't see having them bounce back and forth between windows or their screens and a paper copy. So I subtitled the two scenes in the target language! (I figure the choice will let them feel like they're getting away with something and lower their little affective filters.)  I figure the TL subtitles are also a good way to build up their auditory skills before the next IPA based on a México tiene talento video.

Interpretive reading
I will also be providing the full script for each scene in Google Doc form to save rewind/fast forward time. Plus I'd like to have them directly annotate the script using comment features to highlight what they understand. I will also have some main idea questions for each scene since I've got a handful roaming Novice High territory.


MAIN IDEA QUESTIONS (answer as many as you can, with as much detail as you can)
Los reyes católicos
  1. How does the pope feel about the king and queen’s news? Why?
  1. How do the king and queen react to Columbus’ news? Why?
Los artistas más hipster del siglo XX
  1. How do Dalí and Buñuel feel about politics?
  1. What projects are each of the artists working on?

Interpersonal communication

(Oh look the emphasized verbs are the same ones emphasized in our TPRS story! What a coincidence! I do wish I'd worked in a bit about costumes and judges, though...)

What kind of details ARE THERE in this skit that judges LIKE? What details in the script MAKE the skit more fun for everyone? What CAN our class do to MAKE a good skit too?

Presentational writing
(Going the simple route) Compose an email to your classmates explaining ideas you HAVE for how to MAKE a good presentation for the festival. How CAN we use techniques from the History of Spain skit to win?

09 March 2015

Lesson Planning with Google Form Objectives

This one's for my North Carolina peeps with "Essential Standards" to address. Those of you not from NC could also use a form of this process for whichever objectives you're expected to stick in your plans, and in fact, my example includes the ACTFL standards as well as our Essential ones--just to keep me honest.

I got tired of hunting for the write standards to copy and paste for each day of each week, so I decided to make it easy on myself. I took ALLLLL of those objectives I'd been sifting through and made myself a pre-sifted form to reuse each week. Now I just check, check, check then copy and paste my results into my weekly plans! AND there's the added bonus of being able to quickly see areas that might need more attention by checking for holes in my spreadsheet!

Set up your own form

Before getting started on the form itself, I recommend copying and pasting standards into Google Docs to clear formatting. Mine are split up by level and by strands, e.g. Novice Mid Connections to Language and Literacy (CLL), COD (Connections to Other Disciplines), and Communities (CMT), although my ACTFL standards are all just gathered by level on my portfolio template instead of a Doc.

1. Create a Google Form for one level
This way I can target the level of task I want students to be working on. Now in the second 6-weeks of Spanish II, I may even mix it up sometimes--a little Novice Mid, a little Novice High (depending on what badges indicated the class needs for those particular skills.)

Plus when it's time to move up, I just make a copy of this original for each new level I introduce, then change the Mids to Highs and copy and paste the standards over the lower level placeholders.

2. Create a header for each section
I went ahead and separated out the Essential Standards from the ACTFL Can-Dos  and then broke the Essential Standards down with headers for CLL, COD, and CMT.

3. Create a checklist "question" for each mode (plus culture)
Ever noticed how CLL 1, COD 2, and CMT 1 are all interpersonal? They are. The 2s are all interpretive, the 3s presentational, and the 4s culture (more revelations here).

For ACTFL standards, I break it down by Interpretive Listening, Interpretive Reading, Interpersonal Communication, Presentational Speaking, and Presentational Writing.

4. Copy and paste the overarching objective as the question, the individual standards as answers
For the Essential Standards, I actually paste all of the standards for a particular objective as help text and then just put the numbers as the answers for quick notation on my lesson plan forms: I just copy the numbers. I think the ACTFL standards are more useful, though, so I let each standard be its own answer so my principal could actually see what they are instead of just that I'm fulfilling state requirements.

5. View live form and align plans
Now I prefer to plan first with my Alphabet Soup outline and then fill in which objectives fit, maybe maneuvering in-between activities to address some standards I haven't hit yet, but you could also start with the form and build your plans based on what you want to work on that week!


So just so you get the full effect, here's what my Novice High form looks like:

(Like my relaxing header? Also, I put the date in there so I could plan ahead of timestamps...or behind them, if need be.)

And here's what it looks like in my lesson plans (at the top) after I have copied and pasted from my form response spreadsheet (Novice Mid so you get the idea sans snow days):

For more examples, you can see all my weekly lesson plans on my class webpage, and if you are one of my NC tweecher peeps, feel free to DM me your email so I can add you as a collaborator to my form so you can just make your own copy!

08 March 2015

Free PD: Twitter Takeaways #Scolt15 and #CLTA15

I attended #SWCOLT15 and #FLENJ15 in my pajamas last week. This weekend, it was #SCOLT15 and #CLTA15.

#SCOLT15: So much to learn about proficiency, project-based learning, plus connections, comprehensible input, and tech and culture!

Bob Patrick's tips on comprehensible input (with some sidenotes from Thomas Sauer) and Clarissa Adams Fletcher tweets what we need to know about proficiency and how to build it (hint: relationships)

Edee Heard shares secrets to success, Ellen Hart wonders about so-called digital native digital skills, Carmen Agra Deedy's storytelling brings down the house, great tech tools, ToY tips from Nicole Naditz, flipping out, and much more.

Effective discipline with Nancy Valdes, interculturality as tweeted by Linda Egnatz, the most important connections with Juan Carlos Morales, purposeful communication, and never enough PBL

I think a lot of my tweeps were tied up presenting at #CLTA15, but I still got some great pointers about art and acquisition from Don Doehla and Greta Lundgaard and then some stirring questions from Nicole Naditz!

Next week, free PD from #CSCTFL15?

07 March 2015

Alphabet Soup Units, part 1: Entry Events (TLAP + PBL)

Entry Events are the first step in my Alphabet Soup unit model, which combines Project-Based Learning (PBL), Target Language instruction (TL), Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS), Integrated Performance Asessments (IPA), ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL), and Teaching Like a Pirate (TLAP).

This process gives my units a clearer vision of where as well as solid ways to support progress in BOTH students' proficiency AND authentic projects. I will be breaking down each step in the process on my Alphabet Soup page.

The Entry Event step in Buck Institute for Education's PBL model is almost synonymous with Dave Burgess' TLAP "What's in It for Me?" hooks.

Basically you present students with a problem in such a way that they'd buy tickets to see. 

Paul Sandrock counsels in The Keys to Assessing Language Performance from ACTFL that "the assessment mechanism must come as close as possible to that authentic use" (1). So you set up a driving question that makes students want and NEED to pay attention. After all, Dave Burgess reminds us, "If you can't explain why someone should pay attention to what you're saying, maybe you shouldn't be saying it."

Introduce the Audience
The Real-World Application Hook
  • How can I show my students why learning this content is important in the real world?
  • How will they possibly apply this in their life?
  • Can they create something real that will allow them to interact with the world in an authentic way?
For my first Alphabet Soup unit, my cute big kids got Padlets full of cute little kids speaking Spanish and making duck faces that they had to inspire to read in Spanish. High schoolers--my high schoolers at least--will do almost anything to impress little kids. Plus it lowers the affective filter knowing they probably know more than their audience, and it's a great excuse to make my big kids stick to familiar vocabulary--for the little ones, of course.

Hint: if you don't have elementary Spanish programs in your area, try middle school, ELL, or Skype!

Dive into Different Approaches
The Student-Directed Hook
  • How can I provide opportunities for autonomy and choice?
  • Can I allow student interest to dictate our direction and learning while still covering what we need to address?
Sr. Burgess says he tries "to position each lesson so students can personalize the material and apply it to their world." When trying to guide novice language learners, however, their personalization options are limited by their proficiency, so it is especially important to model possibilities for ways students can personalize the material.

I may brainstorm possible solutions with the students (though I'm careful to come in with some possibilities to build on), but stations can be another way to get students to approach the problem from different angles. For example, for my second Alphabet Soup unit, I set up a station for each event of the language competition we'll be competing in to help them decide how they want to bring home the hardware.

After we have our options on the table, I have the young ones split up according to the type of approach they would like to take. For the amiguitos unit, they either went with writing their own book, a book trailer, or curating a list. For the competition, they can focus on the poetry recitation, the skit, the song, or the trivia. Of course I know their groups are not purely PBL-motivated, but PBL is also about Voice and Choice, right? Plus my teacher evaluation rubric tells me I'm supposed to be helping them form their own groups--you know, how the Real World works.

In sum, you need four things to pull off a quality entry event PIRATE style:

  1. a problem kids care about
  2. an audience kids care about
  3. an attention-grabbing introduction to the problem
  4. and scaffolding to make their answers their own

If you've got all of those, you're ready to get started.

Look out for the next Alphabet Soup post on Storytime: TPRS + IPA.

04 March 2015

What's a Novice?

Switching to proficiency-based evaluation, one of my biggest problems was understanding the breakdown of the different levels and what tasks are actually appropriate for each.

Back in the day, I would require paragraphs on Spanish I tests because I thought that's what rigor meant, not because students had demonstrated readiness for that level of complexity. Conversely, I obsessively sheltered those same students from texts with *gasp* the past tense! I was convinced they couldn't ever make meaning from even a picture book with verb endings they didn't know, though research--and parenting toddlers--says that grammar is the least important factor in making meaning. Were it not for Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell of Musicuentos, I might never have even bothered questioning what appropriate expectations and assessments for novices might be.

I've come a long way.

Two ACTFL tools have been instrumental in helping me grasp the progression of proficiency levels:

Now, as a department of one at an early college, I will probably never have students take the actual AAPPL exam: I deal almost exclusively with Novices, simply because that's how their schedules work with college classes. I mean, I'm trying to push my Spanish IIs to Intermediate this semester, but the bulk of my work still has to be with pushing Novices higher, and so it is what it means to be a Novice that I am most interested in breaking down.

Interpretive mode: input
With interpretive tasks, all Novices will probably require repeated exposure to the text. Novice Low may rely more on visuals while Novice Mid and High learn to connect with their prior knowledge of the topic at hand as well as cognates and parts of words (think stems, verb endings, plurals, masculine vs feminine).

Beyond levels of engagement with the context, Novice Low, Mid, and High can basically be divided up as follows:
  • Low  =  words
  • Mid  =  phrases and sentences
  • High  =  main ideas in short passages

Interpersonal and presentational: output
When it comes to interpersonal and presentational communication, Novices are evaluated pretty much exclusively on what "teachers and others who are used to language learners can understand":
  • N1 - "some of what you are saying."
  • N2 - "much of what you are saying."
  • N3 - "most of what you are saying."
  • N4 - "what you are saying most of the time."
Novice Low and Novice Mid focus on talking about yourself whereas Novice High expands to "yourself and your life."

Based on what I can gather from what the ACTFL Can-Do statements in Novice Low and Mid versus Novice High, the difference between yourself and your life breaks down like this:

  • your name, age, and where you live
  • your address, email, phone number
  • your birthday
  • what you are like/look like
  • what you're doing
  • where you're going or went
  • your family members
  • your family members' ages/relation to you/hobbies
  • friends/classmates/coworkers
  • what you eat/learn/do
  • likes and dislikes
  • your classes
  • your daily/weekend activities
  • your house/room/school
  • your town/city/state/country
Your life:
  • family member characteristics
  • directions
  • making plans
  • weather maps
  • events
  • purchases (e.g. meal or ticket)
  • describing family, friends, school, and work
  • telling what you do (school, work weekends)
  • talk about favorite artists/performers
  • describe landmarks/vacations
  • others' likes and dislikes
  • others' activities
  • describing routines
  • weekend and vacation plans
Now Herr Sauer and Sra. Carnes have given voice to a complaint I've had about novice Spanish since my breakup with textbooks: doing what we've always done because we've always done it. Now my own seven-year-old son is finally becoming a budding bilingual, after years of telling me, "Mom, my voice is in ENGLISH." Part of it has to do with a desire to connect with his own Novice Low Abuela, and part of it has to do with relationships and wanting to DO something with the language.

Paolo and Pablo let the moms talk about their schools: the boys wanted to jump right in--literally--and make up pool games to play together. So I can't say I'm 100% on-board with Novice Can-Do statements about weather maps and routines and describing landmarks: Paolo wants to email Pablo about his geode crystals he got for Christmas--where does that fit? Does he need to practice telling how old his sister is and be Novice High before he does it?

I can, however, say that taking the Can-Do Statements and AAPPL rubrics give me a clearer picture about what he can do, even if it's just a few words Mom helps him string together until he gets the hang of phrases (besides no hay and Tú: zombi.)

02 March 2015

Tracking Portfolios, Badges, and IPAs

The first three-ring circus of grades is done for this semester. Three rings, because this was my first attempt at incorporating Integrated Performance Assessments as tests instead of portfolios, and I'm trying to make use of badges in a meaningful way now too.

As you can imagine, though, managing all three rings has been a little tricky. Between remembering to publish badges on ForAllRubrics so kids could actually see them and sorting out who earned what and what they need to do about it, quite frankly, I'm beat.

But it's a good beat. I feel like something worthwhile is happening, is getting done.

It's also a learning curve, and I've had to ask myself some serious questions.

1. Is switching up what makes an A each six weeks really necessary?

I decided that the sliding proficiency/grading scale I worked out here really only worked for IPAs. The portfolios only account for 20% of the grade as "quizzes," whereas IPAs represent 65% as "tests." So, me, I'm satisfied with the integrity of the standards-based/modes-based grade this way.

Color code system and record keeping for
differentiated portfolio goals
Besides, the "quizzes" need to be what guide students' practice as they prepare for spontaneous performance on the IPAs. So if a kid's stuck at a Novice Mid level for listening, by golly, she needs to get a 10/10 on Novice Mid listening before she has to stress about demonstrating Novice High listening. If both portfolio and IPA say she's not there yet, I think it's pretty safe to say she needs more work, so she should work at revising that portfolio section without penalty.

Mind you, we'll still practice Novice High skills in class, but when she's setting personal goals for her homework for the grading period or working on submitting a portfolio section for class, she needs to focus on her personal needs!

The Catch: This means I have to maintain a spreadsheet of portfolio progress--which I have done before--that allows me to track each individual kid's level for each communication mode and what they need to work on next. Not so bad, but I could not do this if I had 90 kids at a time.

2. How do I get kids to reflect on their current proficiency levels to set appropriate goals for the next grading period?

I mean, if you have a badge, you gotta do something with it, right? So on our snow day last Tuesday, I sent my own kiddos to watch cartoons in the other room and recorded my first screencast on Screencastify.

That right there is probably my tenth though. Remember: learning curve.

Still, this way kids have a solid visual for what they are done with and what they need to work on next. If they go to their badge page, they can quickly see which level they should be working on for each skill.

The Catch: if I did not go through and click publish on each and every individual badge, they ain't gonna see nothin'. I had to make myself a student account to really get a feel for it from their end, then log out and log back in a bunch (I didn't feel like downloading another browser). Furthermore, I have to make sure I labeled all of my evaluations of them under Activities on ForAllRubrics as "Teacher Evaluation" so I could quickly sort by activity to find the "official" version (since I'd had them experiment with pledging and peer evaluation and such).

PS: on the badge rundown page I can see as a teacher, it shows me that they earned a badge even if it was students that issued it, so that was slightly confusing. Also, I couldn't make pledges they sent me go away until I scored them on their pledge rubrics, even if I'd scored the same badge rubric separately.

Shouldn't a kid who clearly shows in two different IPAs that he is capable of solid Novice Mid level work get to move on to Novice High?

IPAs are perfect justifications for a bump! 10 out of 10 both times on that section of the IPA? BADGE! If the kid can do it spontaneously two times, I feel safe nudging an 8 or 9 to a 10. It's not quite as easy to justify if their portfolio is abysmal, because then they wouldn't have enough evidence to make their case should employers or college placement folk be lurking about.

Also, if I factor IPAs in to the badge distribution, I can see who really is struggling with the skill and who is perhaps just slacking a bit.

 Green means go is a quick way for me to see who is ready to move on, so I can just leave the portfolio numbers be and color code the score if the IPA says they're ready, but it's also worth making note of whose IPAs indicated they were struggling, so red means I need to stop and pull them aside. (I also made it a point to include the next step suggestions from the AAPPL rubrics on report card comments for those in the red!)

The Catch: it's hard to remember to go through and 1) issue each of these bonus badges and 2) PUBLISH each of the bonus badges so they can add them to their portfolio. Plus there's the spreadsheet to be color coded and updated.