28 October 2016

Is a PIRATE's Life for Me?

I could hear Dave Burgess scolding me every second I wasted that first week. I should have had the map handouts printed and copied, waiting on tables with the necessary number of markers for the activity with nice, neat SMARTboard pages with complete maps (sorry, Uruguay--you weren't in the clipart) and images carefully pre-selected and arranged to represent each country.

Instead: maps were printing as students walked in, I had scissors in hand to separate them as I started the activity, I had to dig around two cabinet drawers to find the big marker box after my explanation, I shuffled countries and photos on the SMARTboard, resizing and regrouping (all but Uruguay), and, frankly, I lost them.

Not a lot has changed since I started this post three years ago, back when I first started reading Teach Like a PIRATE. I mean, I don't do map lessons much anymore, and of course there have been multiple inspiring PIRATE spinoffs in the intervening years that I have not had time to get to (except the picture book--that I've read cover to cover!) But I still scramble as students are walking in and often make my photocopies at lunch, which conveniently breaks up the "learning episodes" for my third period class. Just yesterday I caught myself playing lifeguard instead of swimming with my students. I don't stop and ask all the questions I could or should in my lesson planning, and you will almost never hear me say, "You don't want to miss class tomorrow!"

Yet I have talked my principal into making TLAP required reading for my school--even though I still have not read the original cover to cover.

From the 3/4 of the book I have absorbed and savored and rolled around in my brain, I would say that Sr. Burgess' main message is above all JOY in the classroom: creating opportunities for joy and removing obstacles to joy. The point is that if our students aren't happy with what's going on, and if we aren't happy with what's going on, WE DON'T HAVE TO ACCEPT IT.

I wonder how Teach Like a PIRATE is going to strike my colleagues who are feeling a little resigned. I wonder if they will be turned off by Sr. Burgess' seemingly unending pep and see it as a standard beyond anything they can or want to reach. I mean, it's a LOT of pressure to think that everything that happens in your classroom ultimately comes back to decisions you made--or neglected to make. True though that may be, sometimes, you do just have to let that go--a message I think might be lost in the grand scheme of TLAP.

Still, I would recommend the book again. It asks questions that in all reality I can't ask myself every day or even every week or month. But now I know where to find those questions, say, when I find myself slipping into DEVOLSON and need a way out. Even on days I'm not feeling so seaworthy, Teach Like a PIRATE gives me a way to move forward without blaming students or forces beyond my control.

So can I control every aspect of every lesson ahead of time so I and my students can experience maximum joy every time we enter my classroom? Am I prepared for that kind of PIRATE's life?

No. I am decidedly not prepared for that kind of life. People already think I don't sleep, and I really wouldn't sleep then--or eat or read or breathe.

But can I use Teach Like a PIRATE to feel a little less helpless in the face of failure, to keep my focus on making my class experience better for me and my students?

Aye, that I can.

26 October 2016

Madre del alma or "How did you learn Spanish?"

It's really hard to explain how I learned Spanish without admitting failure.

Oh, I aced all of the college and graduate classes. But a significant factor in my current fluency has always been relationships. The most important relationship in my life that Spanish has made possible is indeed a family relationship, but not in any legal sense. Not anymore.

Mostly I call her Abuela. Sometimes she's my Mexican mother. I still call her suegra occasionally, though I haven't been married to--or even heard from--her son in about seven years.

But explaining what Spanish means to me, how I learned it so well, means at least mentioning my failed marriage, over and over again.

Cooking with Abuela
I once heard Kim Bearden of the Ron Clark Academy speak about her first marriage, and it meant so much to me to hear that an intelligent and inspiring educator like her could survive something like that and speak openly about it. I've also found it's usually easier to be straightforward about my own circumstances. It just takes a while to be clear, as there's no shorthand yet for how my family works.

Armida is not just my friend. She is not just my son's grandmother--though that's how I put it for people who will inevitably wonder why Paolo is brown and Lena is not. Lena could barely understand English, let alone Spanish, when Armida whispered to her that she was the grandmother who loved her most because she had never had a little girl before.

Grandaddy (Charlie's) & Abuela
What's even cooler is neither my mom nor my husband's mom denies her that. In fact, Armida is a beloved guest at my in-laws' house when Paolo requests Granny's spaghetti for his birthday supper. Even Charlie's grandma gets tickled about how Grandaddy blushes when Armida gives him his hug and kiss.

I translate for all of this. And this is how I keep learning Spanish.

I translate when Armida's mother welcomes my family of four into her home and worries that Charlie, AKA "mijo," needs more huevos or chorizo or tortillas de harina every morning for a week. I
Bisabuela y sus bisnietos
translate when Armida's husband wants to tell Lena about the cute pink vest he found for her at Zara for Armida to bring in her annual trip up for Paolo's birthday. I translate my children's reasoning for why they insisted on bringing Abuela and Bisabuela potholders for presents (they like to cook) or when Charlie REALLY wants to express his appreciation for Armida's milanesa or tortas ahogadas.

Paolo is starting to catch on, though. In a few years, I won't be the only one translating.

¡La felicidad de tener una niña por fin!
But how do I explain all of this without straight out saying I'm divorced? How do I explain that we're related but not technically related anymore? There's no title that clarifies that this is the only mother I've had who I could swap clothes with. There's no title, in English or Spanish, for the woman who loves you after all legal bonds are dissolved, who loves your new husband and your new daughter without the slightest reserve.

So when people ask me how I learned Spanish, I can tell them about college classes and grad school. I could tell them about student teaching in Guadalajara and maybe gloss over meeting a guy in Puerto Vallarta over Semana Santa, skip the four years before Paolo was born when I had a Spanish surname.

But when immigration & customs ask where Armida will be staying, she doesn't really have an accurate term to explain who can vouch for her. Neither do I--at least not one that will communicate our connection without telling the whole story.

Until someone comes up with a name for an extra mother who shares blood with your child, who shares love with everyone you love, who always told you how strong and worthy you were through it all--but who didn't raise or give birth to you, your significant other, or even a friend--I don't have a term that will make sense to those who don't already know who she is to me.

For those who do know, though, they know I learned a lot of my Spanish from--and for--my madre del alma.

25 October 2016

Madre del Alma o "¿Cómo aprendiste el español?

Es muy difícil explicar cómo es que aprendí el español sin admitir que he fallado.

Me salieron bien todos los cursos en la universidad y los cursos de mi maestría, sí. Pero un aspecto esencial de mi fluidez actual siempre ha sido las relaciones personales. La relación más importante en mi vida que el español ha facilitado es, de hecho, una relación famliar, pero ya no en un sentido legal.

En general, la llamo Abuela. A veces le digo mi madre mexicana. A veces todavía le digo suegra, aunque no he sido esposa de su hijo--ni escuchado de él--hace siete años o más.

Pero explicar lo que me significa el español, como lo he aprendido al nivel que tengo, requiere a lo menos que mencione mi matrimonio fallido, una y otra vez.

Lena y Abuela cocinando
Escuché una vez a Kim Bearden de la Ron Clark Academy hablar de su primer matrimonio, y me afectó tanto escuchar que una educadora tan inteligente e inspiradora como ella podía sobrevivir algo así y hablar abiertamente de la experiencia. Yo también encontré que se me hace más fácil hablar de una manera directa sobre mis propias circunstancias. Sólo es que tarda un poco para estar claro, porque no hay términos breves para como funciona esta relación tan integral a la función de mi familia.

Armida no es sólo mi amiga. Ella no es sólo la abuela de mi hijo--aunque así lo explico para la gente que siempre tiene que preguntarse por qué Paolo es moreno y Lena no. La verdad es que Lena ni inglés entendía bien, y mucho menos el español, cuando Armida primero le susurró que era ella la abuela que más la amaba porque ella nunca tuvo una hija.

Grandaddy (de Charlie) y Abuela
Lo que me impresiona de como funciona mi familia es que ni mi mamá ni mi suegra le niega a Armida su niña única. De hecho, Armida es una invitada querida en casa de mis suegros cuando Paolo quiere los espaguetis de Granny en su cumpleaños. Hasta a la abuela de Charlie le da risa como se chivea Grandaddy cuando Armida le da su abrazo o besito.

Y yo, yo traduzco todo. Y es así que sigo con mis estudios del castellano.

Bisabuela con los dos bisnietos
Yo traduzco cuando la mamá de Armida nos recibe a los cuatro de mi familia en su casa y se preocupa que Charlie (también conocido como "mijo") necesita más huevos o chorizo o tortillas de harina cada mañana de la semana. Yo traduzco cuando el esposo de Armida quiere decirle a Lena del chaleco tan bonito que le compró en Zara para que Armida lo trajera en su visita anual para el cumpleaños de Paolo. Yo traduzco el razonamiento de mis hijos cuando insisten en llevarles agarraderas como regalos para Abuela y Bisabuela (es que les gusta cocinar) o cuando Charlie NECESITA expresar su agradecimiento para la milanesa de Armida o para sus tortas ahogadas.

Paolo va aprendiendo un poco. En otro año o dos voy a tener ayuda con la traducción.

¡La felicidad de tener una niña por fin!
¿Pero como explico todo esto sin decir plenamente que soy divorciada? ¿Cómo explico que somos relacionadas, pero no en términos técnicos hoy en día? No hay título que clarifica que esta es la única madre que he tenido con quién puedo compartir la ropa. No hay nombre, ni en inglés ni en español, para la muer que te quiere después de la disolución de todos lazos legales, quien quiere a tu nuevo esposo y tu nueva hija sin reserva alguna.

Entonces cuando la gente me pregunta cómo es que aprendí el español, les puedo contar sobre los cursos universitarios. Puedo decirles de mi práctica en Guadalajara y tal vez mencionar el muchacho que conocí en Puerto Vallarta en Semana Santa, omitir los cuatro años antes del nacimiento de Paolo cuando tenía apellido español.

Pero cuando le preguntan a Armida en la aduana dónde se quedará en su visita, ella no tiene un término exacto para explicar quién es que puede responder por ella. Ni yo tampoco--a lo menos no uno que puede comunicar nuestra conexión sin tener que contar la historia entera.

En su visita reciente
Hasta el día que alguien invente un nombre para una madre extra quien comparte sangre con tu hijo, quien comparte el amor con todos que amas, quien siempre te decía que tan fuerte y digna de respeto y cariño eras durante todos los tiempos difíciles--pero quien ni crió ni parió a ti ni a tu esposo ni a un amigo--no tengo término que tiene sentido para los que no conozcan ya quién es ella para mí.

Pero para los que sí saben, saben que aprendí mucho de mi español de--y para--mi madre del alma.

21 October 2016

#TFLA16 Presentation: PBL Building Blocks

What a treat to get to join some of my favorite language educators in Texas! I was called in to talk PBL with TFLA teachers last weekend in both workshop and session format.

In the workshop, we worked on actually getting started on that first PBL unit using resources I collected on a Wix site (I finally caved, @carmenscoggins!)

Note to self: collaborating on Google Slides is tricky from mobile devices. Still, we got some good ideas started, and I'm excited about the pet care and social media topics we discussed! I hope my new Texas amigos will add more to the sites as they get more ideas!

To tell the truth, I think the session went a little smoother than my first-ever workshop, in part because I got to riff with my roomie, the inimitable Amy Lenord of the Language Coaching blog, to prep for the second day.

Both presentations, though, centered on preparing a unit with four steps that can be spiraled, recycled, scrambled, and resorted as needed:

Of course having more structured interaction with Nearpod never hurts either.


One thing my guru Amy advised was to take time to take the temperature of the room. I really liked how the (trick) Nearpod quiz worked for that, but also the responses I got on why PBL is and is perhaps not the best choice for those there.

Here are some of the best responses, with my reactions, in case they help you make more informed decisions about whether PBL is for YOU.

What makes you think PBL might be a good choice for you?

  • It would allow more student choice.
    True--but not the only way to do that.

  • I want students to be engaged during the whole process.
    True, too--but something that must be carefully scaffolded and nurtured as in any context.

  • I think this will help put learning into the hands of my students, or at least feel like they are the ones who are discovering.
    Inquiry-based learning is more lasting, and even with carefully structured input, students can still find their own answers with PBL.

  • I want my students to love the language, I want them to use it on a daily basis and feel comfortable with it.
    This can certainly be accomplished in other ways, but PBL is a pretty solid way to hit all of those if done carefully.

  • Creating a product fosters engagement
    Absolutely--having something tangible to show for your learning make the whole thing seem worthwhile.

  • I am looking to have more meaningful assessments / have more purpose/ meaningful direction in my lessons
    I think this is the biggest advantage to PBL--Real World purpose right now.

What makes you think PBL might not be for you?

  • Not sure were tests grades fit in.
    Ah, the eternal struggle. The truth is tests can still fit in much as they did before--only with PBL, they're stops along the way, not the destination.

  • I am not sure how to use it for teaching grammar.
    The OTHER eternal struggle. As with any communication-based program, PBLL means that grammar fits where it is needed to communicate. It just happens that with PBL, the communication goals are generally aimed at completing and presenting a product.

  • Not knowing how to align with curriculum.
    If you're stuck with a textbook or pacing guide, find the good stuff and really focus on finding a meaningful purpose for that. The rest goes to the chuck-it bucket--because honestly, that's where it ended up for 80% of students anyway, right? PBL lets you be more intentional about what they still remember and can use next year.

  • Can take a lot of planning and time
    Well, amigo, you ain't wrong. That's why I advise starting slow--with ONE unit in ONE class. Make it worthwhile and then make it work. It might not work the first time. Don't sweat it. Reflect, revise (or reject), and try again a different way.

19 October 2016

Agentes Secretos, Assassin's Creed, and My First MovieTalk

I was just innocently searching for videos to give my students a feel for Sainte Chapelle, one of the heroes' destinations in Agentes Secretos, when I happened upon one of their favorite games! (The students'--not the protagonists'...)

Pokemon or no, my babies this year are big into video games, and Assassin's Creed happens to be one of them. It's not necessarily this incarnation of the game, but I'm excited to have a hook, even beyond the book they're already totally into. (Seriously--everything is about guapo/superguapo in our class!)

So I wanted to show them a 360 view of this landmark, but I also wanted to use the target language. What a perfect opportunity for a MovieTalk!

Now there is a lot of...extra..exploration in this video, so I think we'll probably start around 2:30 and play on double speed, so the whole thing should take under 5 minutes.


If I learned nothing else from #iFLT16, I learned that I must be extremely selective with the vocabulary I use in a story or MovieTalk or PQA. So I know I need
  1. a target structure to use over and over and
  2. familiar vocabulary for the rest
The target structure for this one was easy, as va was already next on my list of essential verbs so students could start talking about their product plans. Since I've been highlighting two verbs every unit and keeping a few active vocabulary words on the board for each too, we also have a lot to work with going in!

So based on the video--and the cognates I can establish meaning for just by writing them on the board--here's what I have to work with:

Familiar verbs:
  • es
  • está
  • quiere
  • puede
  • ver
  • bajar
  • subir
  • hay
New vocabulary:
  • puerta
  • ventana
  • asesino
  • lámpara
    de araña

We'll review the familiar words quickly and use some gestures (and doodles for the chandelier) to establish those words, and away we'll go with the questions!


So I scripted some questions for as much as I could think of, working in some yes/no questions with the correct answer last (especially where I might forget the right answer--I'm not even 100% sure they'll know his name is Arno.) I also made it a point to add the timestamp for time sensitive questions. 
  1. ¿Qué videojuego es esto?
    ¿Es Skyrim? ¿Es Assassin's Creed?
  2. ¿Quién es el protagonista? 
    ¿Es Geralt? ¿Es Arno?
  3. ¿Dónde está Arno?
    ¿Está en Barcelona? ¿Está en París?
  4. ¿Qué año es?
    ¿Es 1937? ¿Es 1789?
  5. ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va a un café? ¿Va a un museo? ¿Va a un palacio? ¿Va a una catedral?

  6. (2:50) ¿Cómo va en la catedral?
    ¿Va por la puerta? ¿Va por el balcón?
  7. ¿Qué quiere Arno? ¿Quiere la Lanza del Destino? 
  8. (3:05) ¿Qué puede Arno ver?
    ¿Puede ver la catedral? ¿Puede ver París?
  9. ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va arriba? ¿Va en la catedral?
  10. ¿Qué ve Arno?
    ¿Ve los asesinos? ¿Ve una ventana grande?

  11. (4:00) ¿Adónde va Arno? ¿Va abajo o arriba?
  12.  ¿Cómo va Arno a la ventana?
    ¿Por bajar del balcón? ¿Por subir en la pared?

  13. (5:00) ¿Adónde va Arno? ¿Va por la ventana o por una puerta?
  14. ¿Arno puede ver los asesinos en la puerta?
  15. ¿Sainte Chapelle es una catedral pequeña?

  16. (5:15) ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va al balcón? ¿Va a la lámpara de araña?
  17. ¿Cuántas lámparas usa Arno?
    ¿Tres? ¿Cuatro? ¿Cinco?

  18. (6:00) ¿Qué puede Arno ver?
    ¿Puede ver París? ¿Puede ver la catedral?
  19. ¿Arno va abajo o arriba?

  20. (7:20) ¿Puede ver las columnas?
  21. ¿Cuántas columnas hay?

  22. (8:00) ¿Adónde va Arno?
    ¿Va por la puerta? ¿Va  afuera? ¿Va arriba?
  23. ¿Qué puede Arno ver?
I'm considering going back and adding these questions in as Vibby comments, too, so the (anxiously) visual learners like myself feel a little more grounded as they follow along, but we'll see how it goes!

11 October 2016

#FLANC50 Storify Recaps: Day 2

In which I get some relevant tips on encouraging critical thinking in the target language.

In which I am moved to engage hearts and minds from the beginning and to scaffold experiences to build confidence instead of stress.

In which my amigos respond to my #FLANC50 presentation on portfolios.

10 October 2016

#FLANC50 Storify Recap: Day 1

In which I get some Gamification tips from Sra. Storch

In which I get some Interactive Notebooks tips from Mme. Chvatal

In which I get some insight on Interculturality form Terry Osborn & Sr. Stewart.

In which Sra. Solis inspires everyone to use the news to inspire students!

In which Sra. Schenck, Sra. Reschley, and Sra. Carlson make planning without a textbook as easy as ABC.

08 October 2016

#FLANC50 Presentation: Portfolios for Proficiency

I strongly believe that everyone--teacher, student, artist engineer--needs a record of how awesome they are. When it comes to language, they need a record of what they can DO with the language, in case, you know, they have something to prove when someone has a job or a scholarship or some course credit they can offer.

Those people want to see the best work possible, and they want to be able to grasp what they're looking at--or listening to--even if they don't speak the language themselves. And portfolios based on proficiency give the students the language to need to explain what they can do and how well to even the "alingual" (shout out to Terry Osborn from our #FLANC50 keynote!).

  Portfolios for Proficiency

Flubaroo for Badges

Badges help my students keep up with their progress--and they like them.

But keeping up with badges usually means extra work for me: I've made spreadsheets and rubrics, had students submit evidence to earn badges on Google Sites, Livebinders, and Blogger, with links on ForAllRubrics, Seesaw, and Google Classroom.

I needed to simplify.

So I stopped and considered exactly what it was I needed in order to actually evaluate evidence and get the kids their badges--without any new logins or accounts to create.

Basically I need to...
  • give feedback on each objective,
  • provide suggestions for advancing,
  • award badges when they fulfill all objectives consistently,
  • and make pretty badges.
But in order for that to be possible, I need students to...
  • turn in a portfolio link for evaluation
  • indicate their current level for the given skill
  • connect their evidence with objectives
  • find their feedback for reflection after evaluation
  • and collect their badges for display

The tools

Now, one of the single easiest ways to collect anything from students is a Google Form. They could give me all of the information I needed with a few clicks and some open-ended questions about their evidence, e.g. "Which sample shows that you can recognize words and phrases with the help of visuals?"

AND there's a Google Add-on specifically for grading and offering feedback! I used Flubaroo in my SAT Prep class, but it wasn't something that seemed worthwhile for Spanish when I so rarely use multiple choice anything. But NOW Flubaroo allows you to grade responses by hand AND set how many points they're worth!

And what's more? It allows you to add a column for feedback, which means when you tell Flubaroo to email the grades to all of the kids, they can also get a personalized message on what to fix! So not only does it allow me to send scores straight to the email kids have to check anyway, it also lets me give them suggestions--OR HTML code for embedding a badge!

The badges

I got the idea from Alice Keeler, and making badges in Google Drawings IS pretty simple.

I even got a little fancy so when you mouse over a badge a student has embedded, you can see the objectives they fulfilled!

The embed code's pretty simple and easy to copy and adapt to each level, so I just made a spreadsheet where I can find the right code and just copy it into the Flubaroo feedback column when a kiddo's done good! Here's what it looks like for Novice Mid Writing:
CONGRATULATIONS! You earned the Novice Mid Writing badge! Copy this embed code to your Writing page! ---->>>>> <img src="https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1wC8BLsivGEDSNXKeAVghmQI78xPq8PCqTONYmNerK9E/pub?w=150&h=150" title="NOVICE MID WRITING
1. I can label familiar people, places, and objects in pictures and posters.
2. I can write about myself using learned phrases and memorized expressions.
3. I can write notes about something I HAVE LEARNED using lists, phrases, and memorized expressions."/> 
And they've been using embed codes so much on their blogs already for VoiceThreads, Vibs, and videos, that embedding this kind of badge on their blogs is a piece of cake!

The process

Now. I had a master Google Form that had EVERYTHING on it: Novice Mid Reading through Intermediate High Speaking.

Don't do that.

I ended up having to split the form up by skill so that I could keep the spreadsheets separate and keep grading from getting over-complicated. Also I make a copy of the same skill form each time I take another round of submissions to keep those spreadsheets separate and avoid confusing Flubaroo.

Once you've got the results collected, here's what you do:

  1. Check submissions to make sure they followed instructions. If not, they have to resubmit.
  2. Fill out the form yourself with what you are looking for in the evidence columns, but write KEY in every other slot. (Or you could, you know, just add an extra row and directly at the information)
  3. Sort data by the name column (or email column, because of course you set your form to automatically collect their addresses--or made it a question in the form).
  4. Sort data by class to get everyone from the same class together--preferably in roster order since you already alphabetized by email.

  5. Go to the Add-on tab and enable Flubaroo so you can "Grade Assignment."
  6. Make all questions that aren't for evidence "Identifies student."
  7. Change all evidence questions to "Grade by Hand" and 10 points (for easy percentage calculation).
  8. Pick your KEY row for the key.
  9. Choose "Edit Student Feedback" under the Flubaroo add-on options.
  10. Grade, add comments (and/or badge HTML), and then email results back!

06 October 2016

5 Tips for Low-Stress Interpersonal Assessment

Ah, the affective filter, our old friend. It's not that students can't do what we ask most of the time, but that they have this little barrier that inches higher and higher the more they stress out. The higher the barrier inches, the less language can get through--coming or going.

It may be at it's worst when we're trying to assess interpersonal skills because they're on the spot in a way that all processing really has to be spontaneous. Reading, writing, even listening: you can reconsider what you are thinking before actually committing to an interpretation or expression.

With interpersonal it's all over your face from the beginning.

And I'm recording.

The recording might seem cruel and unusual, but I assure you that it's important for several reasons:

  • They're going to want evidence for their portfolios. They can edit out the confounded silences later, but they're going to need something to start with.
  • Listening to yourself is one of the most valuable forms of reflection. It's one of the toughest, but it really allows you to hear--and see--what you're doing well and what you need to work on when you are editing out those English asides and seconds of blank stares and nervous giggles.
  • Also having a running record of your progress will definitely make you feel better in the end. Even the next week, it's sort of a privilege to look back and cringe at your former self because you've come so far.
So how can we make this beneficial process as painless as possible? I've found a few things have both put my students more at ease AND gotten better results out of all of them.

1. Interview in partners

One-on-one is too intimidating, and talking to three leaves too much time to twiddle, tune out, and generally get lost. I don't recommend just sending partners off to record on their own, as the temptation to script the whole thing is overpowering. Plus if you've got two novices or two intermediates who both get stuck, then who can rescue them and get the conversation back on track?

Also, if there is one other person there suffering communicating with you, you're not alone with Sexton's stare--or the iPad's. Plus you can take hints from what your partner says and build on it and ask and answer questions with someone who's at your level.

2. Help prepare questions ahead of time

I don't let them read the questions during the conversation, and since they're still just trying to break out of novice, a lot of what they say just will be memorized--fact of life. I had them suggest questions they wanted to hear in the interview on a Classroom question, then A) picked out the best examples and B) cleaned them up before C) letting them choose which ones they wanted to practice with.

I offered Classcraft XP for bringing the cards where they wrote their selections back with answers written on the back. When it was their turn to record, they just handed them over to me. But not before I...

3. Give a few minutes to discuss their game plan

When one set was under the gun with me, the next group was in the hall--with their cards if they had them--figuring out what they wanted to do however they wanted to do it. They weren't going to be able to have anything to read, and they would still have to answer a few of my questions that weren't necessarily on anyone's cards, so for our purposes, it's still pretty spontaneous production. Plus it makes them just feel ready.

And after one group finishes, you send another group to send your next set of victims volunteers in for their turn!

4. Offer a trial run before recording

Rather than having the stress of the iPad camera right off the bat, run through one of your questions and one of each of their questions so they can work out those nerves and those little kinks in their questions or responses. Again, it's more about the feeling that it gives them to have that chance than it is about actually getting game-changing assistance.

5. Designate a partner to upload to Seesaw

This person is responsible for making sure the video fits. I've been pretty good about cutting off at 5 minutes, or if they really seem like they have more to say, finding a pause to stop and restart so there are 2 videos to upload. Buuuut it's not foolproof. So leave it up to them to figure out how to get it uploaded to Seesaw and appropriately tagged so that they and their partner have access come portfolio time. Then they can clear the memory and move on!

One more tip I have to make the process a little easier for you, too, is to split the process up over two days, while students are working on reading, listening, and/or writing assessments, as well as some work like, oh, say blog posts that they could do for homework if need be. XP also works great here to get volunteers to go on the first day and spread out the speaking.

Have you found anything else that keeps your kids' affective filters low and their confidence high?