29 August 2016

Inquiry and Agentes Secretos

My grand experiment this year will be a semester-long personalized PBL passion project. Everything we do will lead up to the interdisciplinary marketing project that has become a keystone of the sophomore experience at our school.

I have also been really excited about attempting to integrate a TPRS novel this year to tie themes and language together more cohesively. However, I was feeling very muddled about trying to keep up the grade level project collaborations, successful assessments, and reflection, while still tapping into students' individual passions, And THEN adding this new element.

Until I found Mira Canion's TPRS mystery Agentes secretos y el mural de Picasso.

After all, what is a mystery if not a guide to the inquiry process?

We started with their passions and how students want to use Spanish moving forward. It's sort of like the beginning of how I like to break down the Genius Hour process:
  • Collect and reflect
  • Ask and task
  • Prepare and share
As it turns out, the protagonists (whose names are basically my son's first and middle names--lanza del destino indeed!) work through a process that is not dissimilar from these steps.

The steps are, of course, recursive, and even moreso if they are going to be extended throughout the semester. We're going to need to focus long and hard on collecting and reflecting to begin with  to make sure what students ask will even be possible to convert into a task, i.e. a product that they'll be able to market to a Latino audience in the end.

My vision is to use the story of Agentes secretos to help break down and model the inquiry process even further, especially collecting and reflecting, along with the initial phase of asking.

I. Collecting

Chapters 1-3

We meet our heroes and our villains and promptly zero in on the eponymous mural. So we'll spend some time getting to know the characters, but in the inquiry process, the protagonists' search can lead us to...
  1. Where to look
  2. What to look for
Rather than a painting and symbols, though, we'll probably be focused on websites and key words. Then they actually collect some resources to start with, just as the protagonists seek the mural!

II. Connecting

Chapters 4-5

In these chapters, the characters tap into their knowledge of history and landmarks to begin to solve their mystery, establishing...
  1. What you already know
  2. What you need to know and 
  3. How to get there
Collect --> reflect! The characters' journey really breaks down how research relies on building on prior knowledge as well as setting goals.

And then, of course, students can collect some more once they figure out what they need and where to go.

III. Observing

Chapter 6

In this chapter, spies do what spies to best--and of course they're taking notes and trying to draw conclusions. So we're cycling through the collect/reflect process some more:
  1. Pick out key words and phrases from texts
  2. Draw conclusions
This would be a good point to tie in my cultural goals for using authentic texts as windows and expand on the purposes and perspectives they are observing.

IV. Questioning

Chapter 7

In this chapter, one protagonist does a good job demonstrating how to form questions to dig deeper. We're in the initial phase of ask and task here. So here's where my little investigators can get into proposing some driving questions.

V. Reflecting

Chapters 8-9

In these chapters, the enemy agents get bolder! Of course it's important to practice anticipation and troubleshooting, so students will need to take those driving questions and...
  1. Reflect on the types of problems and products that might correspond
  2. Brainstorm possible problems they would have solving those problems
Goodness knows they have limited linguistic resources in Spanish I, which must needs limit their creativity.

VI. Analyzing

Chapters 10-12

In these chapters we see some exciting cultural influences, so now is a good time to go a step further and analyze the cultural relevance and perspectives on the possible problems they've come up with, including...

  1. The cultural impact
  2. Cultural differences in perspectives
  3. Cultural circumstances impacting potential solutions
We will ultimately be trying to share our progress with students in Colombia, Peru, or Argentina as well as local "investors" hopefully.

VII. Defining

Chapters 13-14

Of course as our story draws to its conclusion, so must our pursuit of a problem. Students will have collected, reflected, and asked repeatedly, so they should be ready to decide on an ultimate task--as the protagonists must at story's end.

So far, we're well into Step I of our inquiry and the book. My students are LOVING it! Stay tuned for some more activity ideas as we go!

26 August 2016

Authentic Texts as Windows: Products and Perspectives

When I was in college, interpreting Spanish was like looking through a window. A very thick, very small, very dirty window. I could perceive what I was looking at, but just barely, and with great effort. You know how people used oiled skins to cover windows in medieval times? They might have been more like that.

About grad school time, I was looking through stained glass windows: the view was nicer, but not altogether clear.

I think I've got pretty clear windows now. Maybe they could probably do with some Windex and elbow grease in places--and some blinds that don't go wonky when you try to open them. But I've got a good idea of what I'm looking at now.

It's taken me about 15 years to get to crooked blinds and spotty windows.

My early college kids only get 2 years with me.

So my plan is not to show them windows, but to show them doors--doors with windows. Doors they'll eventually be able to open and walk through one day, should they take a notion.

I would say I've been pretty good about incorporating authentic texts into my class since I figured out what "authentic texts" meant. And when I say "good," I mean I made a conscious effort to use them. It was kind of painful at first--lots of medieval skin windows that were windows into the culture, but really weren't appropriate for novices.

I've since gotten better about the windows I show my students and designing tasks that are, well, reasonable for beginning language learners.

That's why we start first with peepholes instead of full pane sliding doors--simple pop choruses and infographs with plenty of culture to see behind them, but only the smallest textual focal points. Then we can get broader and fancier, eventually building up to large, glamorous doors that are mostly window--but also mostly glazed panels.

Looking through

Reading this summer's #langbook got me thinking about how I could be more intentional about how my students address culture. I had started getting students to focus on products, practices, and perspectives with the telenovela unit, but in Keys to Planning for Learning, Terrill and Clementi emphasize analyzing the relationship among the 3 P's, and I realized that's something my students need to do to be thoughtful, observant, open-minded people.

As I contemplate the research students will be conducting for their semester-long marketing projects, I decided I would like to pause when we are examining authentic texts as a class to discover the answers to some basic questions:
  • Where does this text come from?
  • Who is the author?
  • Who should read it?
  • Why should they read it?
  • Does it represent a typical perspective? 
  • Can we find other texts on the same topic from the same culture?
  • Can we find other texts on the same topic from another culture?
  • What ideas are similar?
  • What is different and why?
This ties in with some of the November Learning training that our district is investing in this year, wherein Dr. November exhorts us to have our students compare perspectives from different sources and to take advantage of Google searches with different country codes. (I confess I'm particularly looking forward to what this looks like with resources on Pokemon Go, what with the local perspectives on Pokestops around the world and all!)

Another step I'm taking to get students to actually look through the peepholes and glazed windows to the culture beyond is through the weekly blogging assignments. Here's what the assignment looks like for Spanish I:

Write a blog post in English describing a product of a Spanish speaking culture with which you have interacted recently. 
1. How the product is similar to products you have observed in your own culture
2. How the product is different from product you have observed in your own culture
3. What practices, or activities from everyday life, are associated with that product
4. What those similarities and differences lead you to believe about the perspectives in the culture, that is what is valued 
Some possible product you may choose to reflect on include:
  • Infographs
  • Music videos
  • Class library selections
  • Personal practice
  • Interest videos

When you are finished, at the label CULTURA and publish the blog post end submit the link to that post on the Classroom assignment.

The first round of posts has been...educational. It's clear we're going to explore what counts as a Product of the target culture as well as how students draw their conclusions about what is typical (apparently Nicky Jam is the ambassador for Latino Attitudes (TM)--seriously, these kids are addicted). So it's going to be important to return to their assertions about Practices and Perspectives and examine them with a critical eye.

Although some of the posts are already doing me proud and showing that some students are able to get a good view even with just a peephole perspective on things like makeup tutorials and teen dramas.

They key to unlock the doors with those peepholes--and eventually windows--is going to involve looking inward as much as outward: setting aside the barrier and examining how much of what they understood was just what they assumed from what they could see on their side of the threshold. 

Here's hoping what they see through the windows inspires them to turn that key.

22 August 2016

New Translator Policy

The linguistic world is a-changing. We all have pretty awesome translators in our pockets--some even say the Babelfish of Hitchhiker's fame is already here! I mean, my students don't have it, and I doubt they will for years to come (I suspect it'll be a luxury item for the duration of my teaching career). But you can bet they've had smart phones that can turn a Spanish sign into English before their very eyes for a year already.

Sra. Stilson touched on why we still need to learn language (or acquire, excuse me)--luxury commodities aside. Because really, translators kind of get in the way when we depend on them to engage in personal relationships and to just enjoy art.

Still, as learning tools, they're pretty hard to beat. So here's the deal I'm making with my Online Spanish III class.

Google Translate is actually pretty cool. Did you know it can help you...
  • choose the right word you're looking for?
  • practice the correct pronunciation for new words?
  • revise your writing for mistakes?
Do you know what else? WordReference is even better! It gives you...
  • context sentences--in English AND Spanish!--to help make sure the way you use it makes sense.
  • notes about regional usage so you can figure out of the word will make sense to everyone.
  • definitions and context for Spanish idioms using the word you're looking for. 
  • forum discussions at the bottom of the page to find answers about specific situational usage (e.g. sports terms.)

Of course you know that Google Translate's not perfect yet, either. Its algorithms haven't fully grasped every nuance of Spanish or English--to say nothing of the 100+ other languages represented. And you will retain nothing if you spend all of your time looking up every single word for an assignment.
So here's what we'll do.
I firmly believe there is a time and a place to use a translator and that it can help you continue growing beyond even your Spanish work this year. And so, that means that 

    1. I WILL allow the use of dictionaries and translators BUT
    2. ONLY to complete certain assignments AND
    3. ONLY IF you follow these guidelines:

Translators and dictionaries are primarily for writing assignments, though there may be some situations in which a quick check for a word or two would be appropriate in a speaking situation. However, these tools are for learning situations only--NOT ASSESSMENTS. 
Assignments for which translator/dictionary usage is acceptable:
  • portfolio revisions
  • blog posts & comments
  • discussion boards
  • infographs
  • diagrams
  • scripts
  • comic strips
  • storyboards
Some assignments may indicate in their instructions that translators/dictionaries should not be used. Please read instructions carefully. But translators and dictionaries will NEVER be permitted for completing Integrated Performance Assessments.
IPAs are designed so I can evaluate what YOU can know and what YOU can do, not what WordReference knows or Google can do. I cannot give you accurate or appropriate feedback if you rely on those tools to complete those assessments.

Now, will students still misuse the translator? Probably. But we'll have a clear agreement ahead of time as to what is acceptable and what is not, a starting point for communicating about the desire to use translators.

So if you think this policy might help you and your kiddos, feel free to reuse the image with them. For online courses, the content page and quiz will be available on the Canvas Commons soon. And in case you need a print copy, I added a free editable .Doc to my TeachersPayTeachers store--quiz and all!

Translators are not the enemy, and dictionaries are useful in moderation. So let's help students figure out how to make these tools work for them instead of against them.

(P.S. Everything else in my TPT store is 20% off today!)

21 August 2016

Getting to Know Online Students in Spanish

I need to know two things about the students who will make up my first ever online class:
  1. Who they are
  2. What they can do
I've only really taught a Spanish III class once before, though I've had 3s mixed in with 2s and one brilliant and motivated independent study student last year. However in all of those cases--and in fact in all of my Spanish II classes for the past 3 years--I've only had students whose previous Spanish teacher was ME.

I knew them and what they could do. And I got to see them face to face every day.

So here's my plan to fill in the blanks.

What can you do?

Interpreting language generally causes less anxiety than producing it, so I thought it'd be a good idea to start with Listening and Reading. Of course I'm hoping, too, that these exercises will prime the pump for the other two skills that will allow me to answer the other big question about my new online amiguitos' true identities.


There is simply no icebreaker for a language class like a good catchy song. If at all possible, go with summer's latest hit. This year? 

I intend to have students create Vibs to demonstrate their understanding for IPAs, so why not introduce Vibby right away? I'll make a little screencast to illustrate just how easy it is--and pray the video is not blocked or that they can find a way around it! Just to be safe, though, I'll have to have a backup EDPuzzle with a downloaded version of the video.

This will just be a "Practice" exercise, of course--one of those things our district requires us to give at least 6 of each grading period to make up 20% of the grade. They do it, they get credit. I will suggest picking out at least a minute's worth so I can get a clear picture of where they are and also emphasize that 1) there will be no penalty for guessing wrong and 2) there will be no reward for using a translator.

Just show me what you can do.


For the reading portion of online IPAs, I think I'll have students use ThingLink, so why not get the young ones familiar with this tool as well? As ever, of course infographs will figure into my course plans big time, so I figured I'd start with an infograph about infographs to get the ball rolling. I'll provide this image with a bit of the blog post around it as well, since, hopefully, a few kids will have made it to intermediate, since they made it to Spanish III.

They'll practice uploading to their own ThingLink accounts and then using different colored tags to indicate straight-up interpretation vs main ideas vs supporting details--again, just showing me what they can do, no pressure. I will suggest that they focus on sentence-length chunks wherever possible, though.

Who are you?

My superiors gave me to understand in my interview for this job that not only were field trips possible, but they were encouraged. It's one of the many reasons I imagine our district has decided to develop their own online courses instead of just going with NC Virtual Public School. The hope is that I'll get to meet with these kiddos once a month face to face. Otherwise I'll just have to collect as much information as I can in writing and via video.


I want them to introduce themselves to me, and I want them to do it in their own handwriting (then upload a picture). For one, I hope this will reduce the temptation to open a Google Translate tab to do the whole thing. For two, I think it's a way to connect a little more personally and encourage more spontaneous production.

In their handwritten introduction, I want them to tell me about

  1. Their daily lives: home, school, work, play
  2. Their life goals: personal and professional (or their best guess for the moment anyway)
  3. Their experience with Spanish: what they've liked, disliked, and want to work up to

Once again, they're showing me what they can do. I'll recommend 3 paragraphs and let them interpret it as they choose/are able.

In addition to this handwritten biografía, they will also need to take part in some good old discussion board discussion to prepare for our meeting (or their videos). We'll be discussing the same topics as they wrote about by hand (plus maybe a little casual table talk), but I want them to anticipate questions they could expect to hear and begin to contemplate how they could answer them.


My plan is to meet with my online amiguitos--IN the target language!--once a month at a local Latino restaurant (I only know of 3 at the moment, not actually being local myself) and hang out en español. There will be two opportunities each month, but also alternative recording assignments, which are really a lot less tasty cool and--until I figure out Canvas video conferences--less interpersonal.

At our first cita, I want to shoot the breeze a bit about the food, about their lives, their goals, and their interests, but some questions I really want to ask are
  • What did you like about Spanish 1 and 2?
  • What was hardest part of past Spanish classes?
  • Why do you want to take Spanish 3 online?
  • How do you use Spanish outside of class?
  • How do you want to use Spanish in the future?
  • Where have you traveled, and why?
  • Where do you want to travel, and why?
On the videos, I'd have them choose about 10 questions--5 about their lives and goals, 5 about their Spanish experience and goals--and both ask and answer them using Adobe Spark (Adobe Voice isn't just for iPads anymore! Rejoice!).

Also at the citas I'd like to have an element of camaraderie not just with me but among my new amiguitos. So as a follow-up (back to the Writing!) I'll have them post an assignment where they tell me who they want to talk to for the next speaking assignment/assessment and indicate that they

  1. can contact this person at least two different ways (phone, social media, email, etc.)
  2. know something about this person's life
  3. know something about this person's experience with Spanish
  4. have a reason that they think this person would be a good partner for them
Then before that next peaking assignment/assessment, I could post the partners, and they could use discussion boards to make their plans to talk!

All in all, I suppose I'm a little nervous about how I will go about developing that sense of connection I'm so used to developing in the same room as the students.

But for now, at least I have a plan to get to know them.

    19 August 2016

    Google Drawing for Interpretation

    I want students to be able to show me what they understand, and I want it to look nice when they do. So I've been putting the text on a Google Drawing and having them add their interpretations straight onto it.

    Why Google Drawing?

    For one Docs won't let me use textboxes. *insert pouty face* However as my amiga pointed out on my first day collage assignment, Slides, too, will allow you to use textboxes and insert images and move stuff around. I can also add comments to textboxes on both (though not individual words like Docs *more pouty face*). So really, it would work fine, too.

    I do, however, prefer Drawing for a few reasons:
    1. I can adjust the size of the background to accommodate different infographs.
    2. It's just one "palette" to keep attention focused in one place.
    3. The end result is downloadable as an image and therefore potentially easier to embed come portfolio time.
    I don't plan on using this approach for my online Spanish III class because hopefully they will know too much for this to work. Of course I'll be assigning more text-heavy readings for them, so that means less room for spreading out textboxes, plus if they can figure out (or attempt) as much as I hope they can, then the whole thing would be covered and impossible for me to read and compare. (For upper levels, keep an eye out for a post on Thinglink for Interpretation!)

    How does it work?

    So I find an infograph I want to use and copy it into a Google Drawing. If I want to get some of a blog post in, I might screenshot it instead of just copying the image. I add a link to the original on the image, too, for citation purposes, although a lot of smart people put their URLs in their images for you now. I then create a textbox and draw an arrow (of course I had to color coordinate with the infograph), and then use CTRL+D (duplicate). A lot.

    I did go ahead and make one of the textboxes an example, too.

    Then I create an assignment in Google Classroom and attach the Drawing, making sure to click "Make a copy for each student." I give them these instructions:
    1. Open the copy of the Google Drawing provided.2. Pick out a segment you think you can understand and move a textbox and arrow to align with that segment.3. Write in English what you think that segment means.4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with as many segments from the infograph as you can.5. Delete any unneeded textboxes and arrows.
    And then they fill it up! One student's looked like this:

    This is one of my shining examples, of course. Some students opted to focus on what was really already English--I suspect they spent less than 5 minutes on it. Therefore, in the future I'll be sure to set aside class time where 1) they get a clear idea of how much time I expect them to use interpreting/guessing and 2) I can peek over shoulders to cheer them on.

    17 August 2016

    Sra. Spanglish Tech Tips: Prism

    Highlighting is perhaps the most basic way for a reader to demonstrate interaction with a text.
    Highlighting is actual physical interaction that does not require readers to produce any new language, just interpret the input. Yet it allows readers to process and organize the input they are observing.

    Color coded highlighting takes the interaction another step further with each color, allowing readers to demonstrate different levels of understanding without ever having to come up with words to express their ideas. It keeps the reader focused on the interpretation without interrupting that process to struggle with putting their understanding into words.

    Prism takes that interaction and makes it social.

    This year I will be teaching my first ever online class and exploring a new level of blended learning as I attempt to develop an English course to help our 13th year early college "super seniors" transition to a full college course load. What luck to find Prism before these classes start!

    How it works

    First you copy and paste a text--any text--into the content box. Note: all font styling and formatting will be lost in the copying, so you may have to get creative if you want to make titles or quotes stand out. I've tried CAPS, angle brackets, and asterisks so far, but it is kind of tedious.

    You paste in the title, the author, the publication date, and a description (where I generally put the URL) in separate fields.

    And then you label the three colors or "facets" with what you want them to mean before sharing the link with students, say, via Classroom or Blackboard or Canvas (hooray for three preps with three different platforms!)

    What it looks like

    To test it out, I took a text I will probably be using for the first unit in my Spanish III class and used the following facet labels:
    • Understand
    • Mostly understand
    • and Clueless

    Here's what I imagine my Spanish III kids might do with the first paragraph:

    I had an amiga do some highlighting too so I could see the "results," and it turns out there are two ways to review them.

    One way, I can get a visualization by font size for each word. This could help me--and students--identify how much they really understand:

    ...as well as vocabulary we should discuss:

    Visualizing by winning facet allows me to see where there is dispute:

    Of course analyzing what is and is not understood just scratches the surface of what students can communicate with the highlighting!

    Possible applications

    Cultural comparison
    For a quick comparison/contrast, you could have students analyze an authentic text with the categories
    • familiar
    • bizarre 
    • different 
    You could also have students give personal reactions to perspectives from the culture:
    • I agree
    • I disagree 
    • I'm indifferent/unsure

    Peer editing
    You--or a student--could share a draft of their work and have peers make content suggestions:
    • Strong point
    • Please clarify
    • Not helpful
    Or you could have them identify issues with mechanics:
    • Sentence structure
    • Spelling
    • Punctuation
    • Conjugation
    • Word order
    • Agreement
    They could even use it to make sure that necessary organizational elements are included:
    • Thesis/topic sentence
    • Supporting research
    • Analysis

    In-depth analysis
    You could also see if students understand the main idea and important points in a text without having them explicitly say either. Perhaps you could give them a quote and highlight a text according to the sections that
    • support the quote
    • contradict the quote
    • neither support nor contradict
    Or you could draw comparisons to other texts:
    • [character] would agree
    • [character] would disagree
    • I'm not sure
    Or even other cultures:
    • person from ___ would agree
    • person from ___ would disagree 
    • I'm not sure

    You could then use any of these visualizations as a basis for discussion in class or in groups, or you could use them just for yourself to decide what you need to reteach before moving on. Either way, Prism gives you data that helps you and your students move forward.

    Can you think of any other categories that might be helpful?

    13 August 2016

    First Day Homework - Collages for conversation

    Engaging discussions in Spanish? On the second day of Spanish ONE?

    How is this possible??

    I'll tell you:

    * clear expectations and support

    * functional chunks

    * Google Apps

    * and three magic words


    We spent most of the first day of class talking about the HOW and WHY of Spanish class, including  my job (BE UNDERSTOOD) and their job (stop me immediately if I'm not). I openly admit that that much was not in the target language--my job IS to be understood, after all, and those kinds of questions are too important to, well, EVERYTHING about the course to hold off until I could make myself understood in the target language.

    HOWEVER, we did spend a significant portion of the class using Spanish, especially the functional chunk language chunk, te gusta. Then at the end, I busted out the magic words. Posters gave us the means to discuss our first essential question in Spanish, and students copied them under matching pictures in their interactive notebooks.

    Then, the assignment.

    I created a Google Drawing and posted it to Google Classroom so each kid got their own copy to adorn (isn't Classroom awesome??)
    Their instructions?
    Insert at least 3 appropriate images that represent what you like to do for each of the actions:
    1) Ver
    2) Leer
    3) Escuchar 
    Make sure the Spanish words are still visible.

    I showed them how to do a quick image search (which can be done IN the Google Drawing and only gives results with the correct permissions! Guess how I found the poster images...) 

    And then it was up to them.

    What they turned in

    1. EVERYONE did it--including 2 kids who were absent! It may be because a collage assignment is super easy. It may be because everyone wants to share what they like to watch, read, and listen to. Or it may be because I'm a big cheater and they all have extra lab (study hall) time until college classes start in another week. But I'll take it.
    2. Several kids in the first class--bright kids--did it wrong. They put "3 appropriate images" but not "for each of the actions." A few others picked images that represented the words themselves instead of what they liked. I mean, they still got connections to the vocabulary I suppose, and that gave a kind of insight into who they are and how they work. I will need clearer instructions.
    3. I am out of touch. I didn't require that they include any other words, so I'm going to have to reverse image search a few of these artists and album covers (bless you, children who put the band logos instead of their pictures!) These will make excellent fodder when we're focusing more on quién though.
    4. I did not require them to cite. I probably should have. I told them these were not for publication so much as conversation starters in class and their own practice. But really, maybe they should be for publication and online conversation starting, right?
    5. This one is my favorite. They mostly did their job, but this chica got artistic!

    And then

    I got to know my kids. I perused the collages during my planning period, making mental notes of trends I noticed and surprises. I mean, I hung out with these kids without having to teach them last year (yay, college lab!), and I got a good feel for their demeanors, but I didn't really, you know, KNOW them. As soon as I figure out who some of these rappers and rock bands are, though, I'm golden. (P.S. I cannot tell you how excited I am that two or three had Golden Girls under VER! Also, I learned in PQA that no one can deny Fresh Prince. No one.)

    I also jotted down some names I thought A) would be familiar and B) provoke a strong response (apparently Once Upon a Time has achieved cult level status in some pockets)...and C) represented a healthy cross-section of class preferences.

    I really like how Lee Sensei calls homework "Next Day Preparation" because that was really actually my stated goal for the assignment: to prepare for class discussion, wherein I got to try my hand at Personalized Question & Answer.

    And the PQA? Was. Awesome.


    I had really intended to do more conscious observation of the trends I noticed while we were discussing, but I just got so excited. EVERY kid stayed engaged for a good twenty minutes in the target language ON DAY TWO OF SPANISH I!! They LOVED groaning when someone didn't like something (or sneaking in a "yay" when they actually supported the distaste). It was easy to pick out who might be fading and bring them right back in.

    And though I was keeping the questions pretty much the same, they totally got when I switched from ¿Te gusta ESCUCHAR Beyoncé o VER Beyoncé? Also, it helped them--AND me--to emphasize that if they just nodded, they were using Spanish already, because they were interpreting my questions and responding.

    11 August 2016

    The Best Worst First Day Ever

    It almost didn't even matter that my SMARTboard speakers wouldn't work and that the broken air conditioning made my room so humid that I was literally slipping and sliding by the end of the day. And working on revisions to my syllabus up until the bell (if we had one) before my first Spanish students walked in actually had little to no effect on my blood pressure!

    See that little speaker under the bulletin board? My husband  got it paired
    to my iPad this morning, and it worked beautifully!!
    Adding to the beauty: my library on the left and my Art Club display
    on the right.
    I promise you, amigos, I am not speaking ironically. In spite of almost physically melting, yesterday truly was an excellent first day of class!

    But if I was sweating buckets in a windowless room with 25 teenagers, I had been a veritable fountain trying to wrap my mind around what a comprehensible AND engaging first day would look like in the weeks since iFLT! I was desperate to do my REAL job, to connect with the kids, to make them feel heard and supported and like they could keep up with the Spanish!

    I had decided I needed to address them directly for this to work, so I scrapped the stations. I also needed to get them INVOLVED A. S. A. P., and fortunately Sra. Whisenhunt gave me just the in I needed with Nicky Jam's new song! (More on that in another post!)

    After we got good and silly with some call & response, I laid it on the line: it's my job to BE UNDERSTOOD, and to make that happen, I will 1) direct your focus, 2) establish meaning, 3) repeat excessively, and 4) check in regularly.

    Then I gathered some crowd pleasers to do a little PQA at Mme. Laine's suggestion (incorporating the choral "AWwwww" I got from iFLT for all "no me gusta" responses).

    Then we collaborated to "decide" which order the class questions should go in using a shared Google Drawing, and wegot our notebook table of contents and our first page started.

    They weren't even freaked that they had homework the first day, with NINE. WHOLE...pictures.

    All in all, I got the responses I wanted, and I feel like I got them to see what I was going for, maybe even a little buy-in--definitely some new Nicky Jam addicts.

    So that's a peek into a day that could have been truly terrible given the circumstances. And here are a couple more peeks while we're at it!

    Since I can't get rid of all of the college's tables, this is as close
    as I dared get to deskless--the mochila table worked pretty well.
    One of my colleagues even ended up copying me!

    Check out all of the meaning establishing I did! Question posters from
    Creative Language Class, a couple of my Essential Verbs, plus some
    posters  I printed before planning to clarify some basics ahead of time, a la
    Linda Li. And just look at all of the meaning establishing I did on the fly!
    Also, I did want to make a note that this first day was also another special first. It is the first day of the first time I have been at the same school for a fifth year since I started 13 years ago!

    08 August 2016

    HOW and WHY? The Most Essential Essential Questions for Spanish I EVER

    Spanish I is going to be one big PBL project this year, all leading up to the answers to the biggest driving question in any novice Spanish class:

    Spanish: HOW and WHY?

    In fact, forget "Spanish I" or even "Novice Spanish:--this is the new title for our students' first official step into language learning at my school.

    I've broken this big driving question down into 5 essential questions to guide each unit along the way. I had been using three distinct questions, primarily because my district breaks semesters down into six-week grading periods, but

    1. the driving questions were too big to handle in a reasonable amount of steps for novices and
    2. my training for teaching online Spanish III course recommended 5-8 units, and I just liked how the progression worked!
    So here are the questions that are going to guide my Spanish I courses this year:

    Subtitle: Metacognition to the Max. This is my excuse to break out the proficiency babies and explicitly talk about modes of communication and what they mean for each kiddo in my classroom. Note the title is not "How do I WANT to use Spanish?" or "How CAN I use Spanish?" My kiddos are going to have to decide what they will actually follow through and KEEP doing with Spanish. 

    So really, we're still starting with passion, but in a way that 1) allows me to introduce self-selected homework and get them well and truly enticed,  2) provides context for students to observe first-hand how input affects their language development, and 3) give me an excuse to show them all the cool things they can do with Spanish! Also, it's an excellent excuse to set up blog portfolios for documentation of their revelations.

    I'm a little obsessed with Pokemon GO! My husband and I literally spend part of our date nights
    taking over gyms now. It's good, clean, silly fun! I also know my students this year are largely avid gamers, so I get to tie in the Classcraft, the DuoLingo, Verba, and whatever games they're playing into awareness of what motivates them and how they can exploit that, not just to learn a language, but to learn anything new!

    Call it Metacognition: The Revenge.

    This question is a little situation-specific (yes, yes, I'm a big cheater who has awesome colleagues who seek me out for collaboration). However, I think it's one that A) lends itself really well to the grander scheme motivation question and B) ties in well with passions. In my opinion, the invention marketing project is easily one of the coolest things we do at my school because of the real-world applications, problem-solving, and interdisciplinariness that go into it. Not only that, but there are some highly comprehensible authentic texts out there.

    Though this unit is not entirely new to my curriculum, the placement is. This will be roundabout the second six weeks--at least a month before students start on the Public Speaking portion of the project. I'm hoping to see some more targeted inventions here. This could also give us some time to get some 3-D printing action in for the product...

    Here is where we begin to bring the passion together with the product with the Spanish-speaking community at large. Everyone will already have explored what resources were available in the target language on topics that interest them with Question #1. They may have even formed some marketing teams as they answered Question #2. 

    Now they'll be able to connect problem-solving, market research, and community, a Spanish-speaking network, to make something cool. Basically, this is where they narrow down their passion and identify a problem to focus on. This was a WAY huge step that we just tried to smoosh into the invention marketing unit without giving it its own designated processing time.

    Honestly, I'm not entirely sure that there will be any PBL-style presentations until this unit. I think most of the essential questions along the way can be answered in IPA format without necessarily seeking an outside audience to share findings with. I think that's a good thing. This way I can focus my attention on collecting community members for our grand Shark Tank proposal at the end and maybe lead up to a reflective-type IPA for the final "exam."

    I have to tell you, I have spent the summer just stewing, with very little idea of where I would be headed this year. But when I got these essential questions talked out with my Pinnacle amigos last week? I knew how AND why I was going to move forward.