29 February 2016

Language Festival Competition: Two Projects, One Plan

The problem I have had with the the Language Festival unit in the past is keeping it communication-based and in the target language.

I mean, sure, we can win first place at a competition based exclusively on the presentational mode if we discuss and plan and research in English. And we can double our hardware take with some superficial planning routines built in like we did last year. But most of the planning still seemed to happen in the L1.

The problem I have in planning the communication is producing two completely different end-products but maintaining some semblance of coordination, some common language and procedures to synchronize progress as much as possible.

So how can I keep two projects on the same plan?

All together

The first thing the kiddos have got to do is decide: Will they act or sing?

Right now, early Google Classroom Question results are skewing heavily toward the song. But we are NOT going down without a skit! So I think I need to whet their whistles to facilitate the decision-making process.

Last year I used a subtitled video of the skit my first class to win first place put together for an IPA. To tell the truth, though, the vocabulary is a little above my little Spanish 2s' level, So I considered doing the same for our crowd-pleaser on Latin American monster stories from last year. However, the language is too simple for this year's group to be able to earn Intermediate--which is the goal this grading period.
¡El Chupacabra ataca!

So instead, I whipped up a little Nearpod for students to respond to both of last year's prize-winning performances, plus a fill-in-the-blank cloze activity with last year's skit script so we can work on a scene per day.

They'll need a little vocabulary about how to prepare a performance, so I picked out some words from a WikiHow article on exactly that, translated the judging criteria for our competition, and aligned them where I could. Then I scrambled up the criteria for the kiddos to sort and came up with six sentence starters for steps each group would have to take.

Group decisions

Then come the competition-specific decisions: what will the song be? What will the skit topic be?

Guitars beat kazoos any day though.
Because of our extensive work with coros this year and last, we don't need sampling stations to select our song. Right now it's between "Conexión espiritual", "Yo no fui", and "Te mueves tú" on the Classroom Question--with the right instruments, we could maybe even make it a medley (never underestimate the power of the kazoo).

As for the skit topic, another Classroom Question indicated most rather liked the superheroes idea I got from @alenord during a #langchat not too long ago. We still need a cultural angle, though. (Capitán Latinoamérica auditions? Cocinar con héroes?) We only got honorable mention when they tried to pick something topical that didn't really capture them, so it'll have to be good.

I want the whole class to have input, though, before we split up. When the group picks a song you hate, it dampens the joy of the experience. Best to go in with eyes wide open.


After much mental tossing and turning, I came up with six steps both groups could share, only with slight variations:

  1. Select (song or topic)
  2. Split up (by verse or scene)
  3. Interpret (lyrics or cultural information--research)
  4. Plan (your scene or your choreography)

5 and 6, though, are completely the same:

5. Collect/create props & costumes
6. Rehearse--alone, in groups, and all together

I will also still want to do a few whole-group activities, like a TPRS story and laying out our calendar. After the first rehearsal, a coaching vocabulary session will be the key to giving performance feedback without resorting to the L1. Plus we will probably have to have group progress discussions once a week, wherein I pull out scene/verse groups one by one to talk with me (a la Sra. Rhodes) while others rehearse.

Then they should have everything they need to succeed in the target language.

Now not only will each group have a solid plan to put on the best performance possible come festival time, but they will also be able to increase in their interpretive and interpersonal proficiency as they do so.


25 February 2016

#SCOLT16 New Levels, No Limits

SCOLT halfway made up for missing ACTFL this year. I got to bask in the presence of various PLN amigos, new and old, and I got an infusion of good old-fashioned professional enthusiasm.

Here are some highlights of my first ever SCOLT experience.

Day 1 of #SCOLT16

I caught up with grad school amigos, met @Mr_Fernie (before his presentation took the internet by storm), stole more PBL ideas, did some session hopping, grilled @tmsaue1, finally figured out movie talks, and then found more ways to bring the Real World to my classroom.

The types of projects laid out "Project-Based Learning for Novice Mid-High Middle School" were not exactly what I'd call PBL, since Sra. Bronstein herself said they were done at home and "add-on" assignments. Also the topics were less authentic than I had hoped for. However, there were some clear points on why we need PBL:
  • tapping into kids' natural egocentrism
  • planning for movement
  • breaking down big tasks into small steps with plenty of feedback and revision time
The Hot Seat was the next big revelation for me, and not just because grilling Herr Sauer is a fun role reversal. I've got some ideas to actually work on helping my local colleagues transition to proficiency-based instruction:

  • don't explain what proficiency-based learning is about--have students and parents explain
  • start with building proficiency-based assessments--agreeing where you want students to end up
  • start with a few volunteer teachers to pilot the shift--even if they're "the wrong ones"
  • start with Level I instead of pulling a Common Core and switching everything at once
  • you can't worry about "cheating" students who don't get proficiency-based during the transition
Now MovieTalks were basically what I expected them to be, but it was worth sitting down and seeing real live (well, recorded) examples and getting walked through the process and questions answered. Prepping a movie talk is pretty similar to the process for prepping a TPRS-style story, except instead of spending your brain cells figuring out how to get kiddos to giggle, you might spend time googling around for the perfect video for your kiddos.

Some tips to remember:

  • The only thing that REALLY matters when selecting a clip is finding one that captures your kids. The video is not the input--just the excuse for you to provide some around a theme.
  • Limit yourself to about four focus structures max for a one-day movie talk--allow for ample recycling.
  • Script the questions that will go along with the video, just like you would for storyasking.
  • Build in prediction questions to engage the brains.
  • MovieTalk activities need not lead to another assessment, but consider waiting for the next day for a writing/speaking assessment about the video.
  • MovieTalks should be another way to make kids feel like they're getting away with something (even though they're using the TL._

Day 2 of # SCOLT 16

I rocked out with FLANC amigos to música urbana, presented with #langchat amiga @kltharri, prepared to take my district by storm with TELL techniques, "cut up" with various teachers of the year, and work on loving feedback with @lovemysummer.

But first, our presentation.

Karen and I presented on how to stick to using the target language with novices, from finding authentic texts to using essential verbs to creating comprehensible input stories.

We also test drove our own hashtag, #novL2too, for a presentation back channel and offered treats for tweets, mostly to grow our own PLN, but also to keep people engaged and let them experiment and share. Check out what our audience came up with!

(PS you can really blow your audience's mind by having a few tweets scheduled to roll out throughout with Tweetdeck.)

You can see more than our beautiful #langchat shirts and slides if you click "View as  slideshow."

Here's how the rest of the day went:

I had hoped to discover new artists in the Música Urbana session, but it was mostly a chance to enjoy familiar music with amigos. PS I totally would  have included videos of @JenniferSolisJ singing, but apparently Storify believes in autoplay. It was a bit much. And I did discover Joey Montana from Panama and Jaliil Lopez.

In Don't Just TELL Me, Show Me! I got a firmer grasp on what exactly I was supposed to do with TELL documents and how to start (and got to see @profepj3, if only on video). So here's my plan

  • Start with checks for understanding (possibly starting with the model classroom visit I've arranged with a few local colleagues next month).
  • Collect testimony--or special guest appearances--from my students (and maybe parents--especially now that they can see students' Seesaws?)
  • Set up a monthly meeting with colleagues to go through STARtalk modules one at a time (special thanks to @SraLewisEspanol and @SenoraDominguez for that brainwave! Gotta love turn and talk time!)
Perhaps providing a bunch of punchy teachers with scissors after fabulous international truck lunches was not the most prudent maneuver, but we sure did Know when to fold 'em--after a few attempts. The foldables themselves weren't that revolutionary: mostly quick little flaps with question-and-answer type setups. But a few of the activities struck my fancy:
  • Students create their own bingo boards with activities on them. They then take turns with a partner inviting each other to do different activities (speed friending, anyone?) and try to get their partner to accept four in a row (the foldable was just different ways to say yes/no).
  • Create a trifold with three flaps on the top, three flaps on the bottom and set up a scenario with questions on top, answers, then responses (like my interpersonal playbook but EASIER!)
  • Context tic-tac-toe: students create sentences using a specified concept (possessive adjectives, preterite tense, what have you) but leave that word out in each sentence. Then they TRADE, and whoever can fill in 3 right first wins!
  • Presentation foldable: just 16 squares to track each presenter's name and a compliment (not unlike a suggestion from the PBL session--and just in time for Inspiration Celebrations to end the self-improvement unit!)
And finally, the presentation I had been waiting for: Fortifying with Feedback from my amiga and sometime roomie @lovemysummer. She'd tried to break her feedback form down for me before, but I think I was finally able to process the separate parts and how I can combine them with my beloved AAPPL rubrics (stay tuned). Still, grades were due Monday, and I kept thinking how un-Howard-Stern-like I was being in my feedback. I've vowed to do better on next week's IPAs. 

So there you have it: half my ACTFL tradeoff accounted for. The other half I'll make up for in a few weeks at CSCTFL in Ohio!

23 February 2016

IPA: Self-Improvement and Motivation

I went the semi-scripted route for this IPA: native speakers responding to familiar-ish questions crafted with my burgeoning intermediates in mind.

Basically I wanted to see how they would do with someone other than me, but without unleashing the full force of videos like those that frustrated them so in the Pinterest/reflection blog phase of the project.

Put the request out in the universe, and the universe shall answer. The universe or your PLN.

Sra. Plett volunteered her students to answer 4 questions each about time management, saving money, and exercise for my students. What the videos lacked in professional audio quality, I think they made up for in familiar vocabulary and relevant subject matter.

But none of this would have been possible without a few stunning technology revelations.

Did you know you could SHARE Seesaw classes? Like add another teacher!
Sra. Plett just uploaded the videos to a Seesaw class and just shared it with me! Super cool, right?? I will say that the video quality for downloads from Seesaw is not the greatest, which caused some consternation for struggling students on my end. But this way no student privacy was violated, and there's an established pipeline for future collaboration! (Sra. Plett says the Joven Voz series may have to become a thing!)

Did you know you can send videos straight from WeVideo TO CLASSROOM?
didn't, mind you. But I could have. Stored that nugget for future reference as I cobbled together a few shorter videos (the dangers of enlisting native speakers in a school with bells for your semi-scripted videos) to upload to EDPuzzle.

Did you know you could IMPORT your students FROM CLASSROOM to EDPuzzle?
Gone are the days of begging the superheroes behind EDPuzzle to set up my class for me the Sunday before the IPA. Just click, click, done! No extra sign-ups for students!

EDPuzzle vs Vibby vs school firewalls
I went with EDPuzzle this time because of issues with YouTube last time. The kids really would have preferred to use Vibby, but the videos I uploaded were mostly "restricted" on YouTube (videos of teachers talking about school stuff? In Spanish??? SO dangerous.) I considered offering a Vibbing, but I was not about to risk what happened with the personalized final exam videos last semester. Plus I have NO way of checking what will be restricted on Chromebooks for students--short of taking class time to have one check EACH video. I mean, I log in with my teacher account, and, you know, there are some perks to being the teacher--like watching your own videos with impunity.

It turns out that was a good idea, because even the one video I had EDPuzzled from YouTube was restricted. I found a workaround with the 6 desktops in my room for the 6 students who needed that video first period, then downloaded and uploaded that video to EDPuzzle too, and all was well.

I think the interpersonal also went a little better (sick days aside), #1 because of adjustment to the IPA process and #2 because I'm getting a little closer to a legitimate two-way discussion. Also, I did feed them the topics in advance again.

Be prepared to EXPLAIN
  • problems you have had with your project
  • how the ideas IN THE VIDEO can help you
  • strategies you have used
  • new solutions you can use
  • future plans and goals for self-improvement
Be prepared to ASK about
  • suggestions for your problems
  • MY problems with self-improvement (pretend to care)
  • strategies I have tried or can try

The presentational writing was another video storyboard, a la school inspiration video (only this time a "change" inspiration video). The sick day wrought a little havoc here, because there were some mighty suspicious imperative constructions popping up in my absence, BUT that's also the peril of having the exact topic the day before you write: time to cram and memorize a translated phrase or two.

Still, my kiddos had some cute ideas with this prompt:
Create a storyboard for a video using your experiences and research to inspire other people to make a change in their lives.

What problems can they have? What strategies can they use to solve them? 
Use the blocks to quickly sketch what image you want to appear in each block. Use the boxes for any written text (IN SPANISH) you want to appear in the video, and the lines below each block for anything you want someone to say out loud.

And now they're working on adding to and revising their video plans as we speak. We'll have a showing this Thursday!

We had a brief celebration of everyone meeting their weekly goal not too long ago. Just a little time to go hang out in the college cafe at the end of class, NBD. But I got to converse with a few of the kiddos about their progress. Several were very glad they had started the project, and they had made some discoveries and changes they wouldn't have otherwise. One student, whose parents hail from Mexico, said she thought the project was "sent by God just in time" because she needed some money. And who knew? Her parents actually had some tips on how to save money, not just scoldings to save it! My one Spanish III independent study kiddo has dropped some serious weight and started a complete lifestyle change--only because she had to for class originally!

I'm looking forward to what the research and records and advice from other students in Oklahoma all lead to. And maybe if this self-improvement project doesn't go much beyond the video turned in this week, at least they'll know how to find motivation.

Even with amigos across the country.

19 February 2016

Grammar Error Collage

Correcting errors is not really a priority for me as a Spanish teacher or an English teacher anymore. Drawing attention to patterns of errors, though? That is my job.

So I've found a colorful way to help students see the pattern and then do something about it.

I first tried this collage with comma errors in my SAT Prep class essays, but really any type of recurring error will do. With this last round of IPAs, I decided we need to look more closely at conjugation errors. If my little parrots were ever going to break out of novicehood into Intermediate Land, they'd have to actually use a couple of verb forms correctly so they were actually producing, you know, actual sentences.


Red = AR verbs, green = ER, blue = IR
Previously, we had done the conjugation hand in their interactive notebooks--only regular verbs and singular forms, mind you, so there was room for mastery without overload.

We had also practiced yo vs.  forms with a quick conversation game where both partners got a list of our top 12 verbs for the project in both forms. They object was to try to be the first to use both forms of each verb in a conversation about their self-improvement project. Interestingly enough, those forms weren't nearly the problem that the usted/él/ella form was on the IPAs.

Still, repeated errors on the IPAs--mostly just not even trying to conjugate--led me to believe they needed to practice fixing their own problems. So I collected a set of sentences with errors from each class to make a Google Drawing collage for them to manipulate.

Error Collage Creation Steps

1. Collect sentences with similar errors from a recent assignment (verb forms, comma usage, fragments, adjective agreement--you name it.)

2. Clean up the sentences so that students can focus on one error at a time. I also like to change names "to protect the innocent"--to Latino pop star names.

3. Create at least 10 textboxes on a Google Drawing and paste a different collected error sentence into each (preferably getting a range from different students).

Note: this activity could as easily be done with printed sentences and colored pencils or highlighters, but I like to keep my assignments together on Google Classroom, and (interactive notebooks aside), I'm striving to be as paperless as possible.

3. Assign the Google Drawing on Classroom with a copy for each student and a color code for types of errors:

Rojo = forma yo
Verde = forma tú
Morado = forma usted/él/ella

or for an English class

Red = needs a comma
Green = too many commas
Purple = move the comma

4. Refer students to notes on the grammatical issue. For the commas, there were plenty of online sources. For verbs, the hands in their notebooks worked fine. It was also useful for them to be able to manipulate the hands and connect the endings to their in-context purpose.

5. Students color code according to what they think is wrong with them. This makes it REALLY easy for you to see if they can even identify the problem or not as you are wandering, so you can help people with colors out of place--or unchanged colors.

6. Once they've successfully identified the problems, then they attempt to fix them. For Spanish, I just had them rewrite the problematic verb. For English, I had them rewrite the whole sentences separately.

7. Go over a successful example together as a class, and let students update their collages.


Afterwards we went straight into a conversation activity to practice using all 3 verb forms in a conversation about the self-improvement project. Each kid got two slips with each pronoun on it and had to use them in either questions or answers.

This was not a good step.

Instead, I recommend having them first write something low-stakes using all 3 forms--probably a comic strip about someone experiencing a self-improvement need similar to their own.  Then they could share their products, perhaps via Seesaw, commenting on their favorites.

THEN I might have them do a chain type of activity in small groups, where they once again use the high-frequency verbs (perhaps referring them to page 6 of their notebooks) so partner #1 can ask a question with the form then person #2 can answer with the yo and él/ella forms before turning to person #3 and starting over with a question in tú form.

For example:
1) ¿Tienes problemas con dinero? 
2) Yo no tengo problemas con dinero, pero Chayanne tiene problemas.

THEN I might have them try the conversation game. It was pretty intense tense without the extra frontloading to put them at ease.

In the end, it's all about putting the pieces back together once students have figured out how each piece fits. Help them see the problem pattern, but then help them practice the preferred pattern. It won't work until they see both patterns for themselves.

15 February 2016

Group Pinterest Homework and Lifelong Learning

Was there lifelong learning before Pinterest?

Yes, of course, there was lifelong learning since Time Immemorial. But it took a special kind of dedication and commitment before pinning, didn't it? A certain amount of patience for poring over possibly relevant print materials, a certain mobility to even get to a library.

Now I can learn through the wee hours of the morning without so much as stepping in a slipper.

So if pinning is something that keeps me learning as an adult, perhaps it is a skill to cultivate in our classes--a worthy homework assignment even. Call it Curating Resources or Authentic Text Collection if you like, but a few keywords in the target language plus a few clicks, and you've got all-new #authres ripe for the interpretive picking.

With Pinterest, students can practice using the language to get what they need.

That is why I've assigned weekly pinning for the "Mejor Yo" unit. Each student pins one text resource in Spanish and one video in Spanish to their group board (Más activo, Más dinero, or Más tiempo).

Why a group board? They're researching a shared self-improvement interest, but why not just have students pin to their own boards and submit links to Classroom or Seesaw?

Simple: variety, collaboration, and accountability.

True, students could check out each other's boards if the links were posted on Seesaw, BUT it would not be as easy to see all of the pins at once. AND it's likely that there would be beaucoup repeats that way. So if someone was struggling to find a pin that she could actually interpret for a reflection blog post the next day, she might have to spend quadruple the time poking around classmates' links...or the internet in general.

When it comes to interpreting authentic texts, I want students to feel comfortable. I want options.

I mean honestly, if you're struggling to read or listen to a text you barely understand--whatever the language--you want to be able to throw it out and try something else, right? Figuring out When to Try Something Else is an EXTREMELY important skill for ANY kind of learning. This way students get to practice that process--a process absolutely essential to language learning especially--before they're off in the world alone.

But they will have to choose--one text and one video. And they'll have to pick what they can out of it and explain what it can do for their goal. But that's a separate assignment. The search is its own reward.

So how do you grade a group Pinterest board?

It's a relatively quick two-step process where I pull up the boards in one window and my gradebook in another (shout out to Tab Scissors!). It goes like this

1. Do a quick scan to look for duplicates. Add a comment to the most recent of the duplicates: "Already pinned." I take off a couple of points because they are diminishing their team's resource pool and, for all I know, are just riding on their classmate's coattails without doing the actual research. (Although if they just went through their own board and repinned, I would be able to see who they got it from.)

2. Do a Ctrl F search on the board for the first student's name . Yellow bars will appear on the right scroll bar, and her name will be highlighted in orange for the instance of her name you're currently on) and yellow for all of the others. Make sure you are scrolled to the top yellow bars to see her most recent work.

Pinterest grading tips and tricks

I have my students submit 2 pins a week, so it may be tricky to tell which are old and which are new. The yellow lines help, but also, if you scroll all the way down before you search you can make sure the search encompasses the whole board (they don't always all pop up on the first search--especially if you don't capitalize perfectly). That way, you can see the total number of pins she has submitted next to her name in the search bar.

CAUTION: You may have to search their name more than once to get the correct number. I do NOT know why.

You can see how many days ago the assignment was submitted by clicking on each pin, but it's tricky if they did it in the middle of the night and you're grading at noon--it looks late. I think it's a good idea to have them submit the links to their specific pins on Classroom for a definitive time stamp, though it is another step.

So what do your students want to know about? What can they share about? What do they need? And how can they bring that together on Pinterest?

11 February 2016

The Tyranny of Sick Days

My four-year-old must have thrown up fifteen times between 10:30PM and 3:30AM. Her daddy had her all cleaned up and her bed stripped by the time I came out of my Nyquil coma after the first round. You see, last week, her brother had brought a monster cold home from second grade and thought it was funny when he got snot on me while we were playing.

Now she's only thrown up twice since last night, but I can't hear and may or may not run out of Dayquil before I drip on a student's paper again.

You see, we can't leave tests for a substitute, and even if an IPA doesn't count as a test per se, who's going to do the conversation section with the students? Nothing like some good old-fashioned face-to-face with 2/3 of the class when you can only breathe through your mouth.

Now, my husband has maybe a few meetings a week tops that he can't miss and just has to power through. I have three 90-minute meetings every day, Monday-Thursday, and then non-stop meetings on Fridays when we have field trips and Academic Hour and clubs. So he got to sleep in and stay home after our baby girl's brief return to newborn sleeping habits--the day after a 12-hour work day for me. Whereas I? I have 1,001 decisions to make before I can even think about calling a sub when she has one more round of pukies at 5AM.

I suppose I could go back to the old IPA setup and have students converse with partners instead of with me. They could even call into Google Voice if need be, since iPads and Chromebooks are only to be used under the direct supervision of bona fide school faculty. I mean, they might do all right that way. But if the 1/3 that conversed with me the day before my surrender to the viral infestation ends up performing better on that "test" because they had me to help--or the 2/3 without does better because I wasn't there to make them nervous or cough on them--then I have another week's worth of make-ups to sort out.

Still, I suppose it's better than trying to get them to talk about a video they watched yesterday next Monday--or Tuesday, if the weather proves as ominous as students and weathermen would have us believe. I mean, I could build in some re-watch time for that 2/3, but then what do I do with the other 1/3?

And don't get me started on the portfolios that would have to be pushed back into grading crunch time.

A homework day is also a no-go with mobile devices and this week's work being all pinning, blogging, and vibbing. They can't very well hop on WeSpeke either. Backed myself into a 21st century corner, didn't I?

There is that completely innocuous vocab/grammar/writing tic-tac-toe board I've had in the emergency file the last two years, but thinking of what losing this weekend to grade would do down the line...I'm sicker thinking about it.

Then I flash back to Tuesday afternoon when I reminded my math colleague having fever chills not to push her body too far by staying and grading late. "You'll just stay sick--or get sicker."

Then my English and science colleagues storm my room.

"You're not thinking about what's important," they say, all but pushing me out the door.

But the conversations! The weather! The grading!

"We'll split up planning and watch them put the iPads and Chromebooks back," they say. "We don't want your germs anyway."

"Go.  Home."

Sick days can be even  more oppressive than sickness for teachers. But with a solid support system, they can't keep you down. Stomach bugs? Colds? The flu? Those can keep you down. Don't give what power you have left to Sick Days.

If you don't have a team who has your back when it comes to the bacterial battlefield, you need to find one. Maybe it's a family member who's not afraid of a little four-year-old vomit. It might be some friends who can cover in those rare instances when your immune system does not come through for you. It might be a solid sub--or set of subs--who knows how your class works and how to take care of business (even if they're not exactly fluent in your language). Heck, it might be a good Pinterest board of quick printouts and students who hate to see you hurting.

With the right army on your side, you can fight back against the tyranny of Sick Days.

Just do your fighting in your pajamas.

07 February 2016

What's in a Seesaw (and What's Not?)

I'm not using Google Classroom quite as much as I did last year. Uploading videos and submitting shared work have been big hassles. Also scrolling through and finding previous assignments to add to portfolios? It's been a bit time consuming.

Seesaw, however, solves those problems. Gone are the days of waiting for a video to process on Google Drive before you can share it with your team or even just watch it. No more figuring out whether you have to add the file, add a link to the file, or comment with the link on a Google Classroom assignment that you worked on with a partner.

And if students need examples to post to their VoiceThread portfolios? They can just check the class folder! And if I want them to submit their own work before inspecting examples, I simply hold off on checking the little green check mark saying their approved until all work for that assignment is submitted! What's more, I can even post the best videos, portfolios, or writing sample photos to a class Seesaw blog to hold up as examples for students AND parents!

Students' portfolios, however, are still Google Sites/VoiceThread hybrids. I think it's just a little more polished for display and reflection purposes. However, most of the samples that end up in the portfolios are also in Seesaw folders, just in their pre-revision, pre-reflection forms.

So what are some of the things sitting in my students' Seesaw folders right now?
  • First-day review station videos (GreenScreen karaoke and AdobeVoice story summaries)
  • Links to their new e-portfolios
  • Images they can use for e-portfolio title pages throughout the semester
  • Links to their individual blogs for the "Mejor yo" unit
  • Links to each Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking Voicethread for each student
  • Introduction videos for conversation buddies in other schools
  • Folders full of conversation videos for each song students have discussed
  • A screenshot of a blanked out activity infograph everyone can copy and mark up
  • Photos of their "Escribe en Cinco" notebook pages
  • Photos of clean copies (pre-Sexton-highlighting) of their IPA writing
This means...

  1. Everyone can enjoy each other's fun videos without necessarily taking class time to broadcast them.
  2. I can always find each student's portfolio, whether or not it's turned in for that week's update or linked in the pledge--and so can they!
  3. The portfolio process is streamlined for the rest of the semester (just download and upload!)
  4. I can always find their blogs for checking posts--and their teammates can always find them for commenting!
  5. If they had embedding problems with their VoiceThreads in their Google Sites, I can check the original source, and maybe even fix it for them!
  6. They could upload quickly, and I could (make Sr. Sexton) download quickly to share with our penpals!!
  7. They can edit out the blank space and make one or two solid conversation videos with their best questions and answers (bonus! speaking reflection!)
  8. They can mark up the image to show their labeling skills (thought the image quality was  higher with Nearpod--just harder to distribute).
  9. Their portfolios have their writing in their own handwriting for extra authenticity--and none of mine, for extra professional neatness.

However, there are still a few things you will not find in my Seesaw feed or theirs:

  • grades, scores, or proficiency levels
  • specific comments and feedback
  • survey questions for reflection or class business
  • assignment descriptions, rubrics, or reminders
  • videos that last more than 5 minutes
Classroom is still my favorite for disseminating information. Students (and my principal) get emailed updates for each grade, assignment, question, and announcement with Classroom, and I have a quick way to see who's submitted work, and who needs a little reminder. Plus they have a little more space to play with, say, if their teacher keeps them talking for 5 minutes and 11 seconds during the IPA.

But for basic sample collection of just about any sort? Seesaw has saved me and my students a lot of time already this semester.

02 February 2016

Spanish Portfolios and VoiceThread Commenting [VoiceThread]

My latest template for student e-portfolios has been working pretty well this year. The students last semester definitely saw the value in it, and this semester's group seems pretty relieved at how easy it is so far, especially since pretty much all of the setup was taken care of the first week or so. 

I've been scoring the first round of Reading VoiceThreads, and I'm reminded of how useful the commenting--and private reply--features are in this process. VoiceThread recently asked me to share just how the commenting features come into play in the students' portfolios in a blog post. Here's an excerpt:

E-portfolios help my students watch themselves grow, and VoiceThread allows them to demonstrate that growth in their reading and writing as well as their speaking and listening— something you just can’t do on paper. Portfolios, unlike tests or quizzes, also help me evaluate not just the depth, but also the breadth of each student’s Spanish abilities.
Everyone else needs to see what these young people accomplish, too. My students start off as baby parrots who can only repeat what I say, but by the end of Spanish I, they’re analyzing documents on Latino demographics and marketing their own inventions to Spanish speakers! I’d say that’s worth showing off. With VoiceThread, not only can Mom and Dad see their Spanish feats, but future employers or college professors responsible for placement and/or credit waivers can see actual samples of their writing in the target language as well as video of their actual recitations, conversations, and presentations.  
But what if my students make a mistake? Like a really big mistake, one that results in zero college credit or a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” after the interview?

Read more about how comments help with not just feedback, but with demonstrating communicative skills on the VoiceThread blog.