29 April 2016

"Secret Posts"

It's true that I have over 200 blog post drafts that may never see the light of day. Some of them, well, they certainly reflect how far I've come. Some are actually pretty good ideas, though I haven't gotten around to developing them.

So I went back in time and collected the titles from 2011-2014 (which still leaves about 100 recent posts that I may or may not resurrect).

Some of them are kind of bitter. Some of them hurt (WHY do I collect students' bad reviews about me?) Some were from grad school reading, some from lessons that went well, some from lessons that never went at all. There was even a four-year-old draft with 10 potential post topics...of which I'd only actually posted one.

I wanted to share these post titles for a few reasons:
  1. Just to share with you, my online amigos, kind of how my brain works.
  2. Maybe someone will see something they've been looking for or that just piques their curiosity and give me the push I need to finish fleshing an idea out.
  3. I mostly hope it'll help someone who's struggling see that someone who may SEEM like they know what they're doing A) didn't always and B) probably just SEEMS that way.

I would love to hear your reactions to the "secret post" titles, if there are any you would like to hear more about (if I can remember what I was thinking at all), or maybe if any give you hope or just give you a giggle.


Ah, to be simple-minded2/6/2011
The difference2/13/2011
#Langchat to try:2/17/2011
7 hours at school on a Sunday3/11/2011
Things I could not have done without my colleagues3/15/2011
Skype about getting serious3/29/2011
Ultimate Goals5/17/2011
My greatest sins as a Spanish teacher5/20/2011
White privilege and teacher education.6/2/2011
I am my students7/28/2011
What I Know About Race8/10/2011
More than I can chew9/20/2011
Reflexive Reflections: A complete P.A.C.E. experience10/24/2011
Let me be clear11/17/2011
National Boards is a humiliating process for language teachers11/20/2011
Weather tweets12/11/2011


Swim team and small ponds2/15/2012
Classroom Skype: Small Group Do's & Don'ts5/17/2012
For next year6/13/2012
Buck Institute: Day 16/25/2012
To bring to the table6/25/2012
Buck Institute: Day 26/28/2012
Buck Institute: Day 37/2/2012
More PBL for Spanish ideas7/16/2012
Suis-je bothered?8/12/2012
Day 1 Checklist8/20/2012
My first Entry Events8/24/2012
Día del Niño9/1/2012
Teaching philosophy9/5/2012
Instrucciones Importantes10/2/2012
Co-Construction Reconstruction10/10/2012
FLANC takeaway10/15/2012
Parent Conferences10/19/2012
Experiencia Afrolatina, Part 2: Colombia11/15/2012


Student blogs in Spanish: what, why, and how1/2/2013
Ultimate Spanish Playlist project1/7/2013
Hit the ground...stretching1/7/2013
SMART rubric2/5/2013
Art Club every day4/19/2013
Exploring new countries, Abuela5/14/2013
Interpersonal Presentations: Interacting while peers present5/23/2013
Create your own version of 100 Mexicanos Dijeron for SMARTboard!5/31/2013
DIY Linguafolio e-portfolio on Google Sites & Blogger6/12/2013
Why Don't Students Like School?7/4/2013
Obstacles to PBL in the World Language Classroom7/14/2013
Feedback for Improvement: Two Personal Examples7/26/2013
Vision: Spanish is where we do things that matter7/26/2013
General Literacy Skills and L28/8/2013
Elements of Dia del Nino project8/22/2013
PBL Troubleshooting: Narrowing the Choices8/28/2013
RAFT for Novice Spanish9/16/2013
Divide and Conquer: Trust Your Students9/26/2013
Top 3 mistakes in "Top 3 mistakes teachers of novices make"10/17/2013
Cooking with Kiddies: Vocabulary We Needed11/14/2013
#ACTFL13 Storify Summaries: Saturday12/7/2013
Creative Writing reflection12/16/2013
Procedures to Keep Genius Hour in the TL12/16/2013
Vocabulary for Any Demonstration12/17/2013
Personal Vocabulary12/21/2013
Group Input12/24/2013


Is a PIRATE's Life for me?1/1/2014
PBL and the Writing Process1/1/2014
Genius Hour Agenda1/9/2014
Study visit at Caldwell Early College High School1/28/2014
#LangChat Methodology Extravaganza: PBL1/30/2014
Lesson Design2/1/2014
Creative Writing, Service Learning2/11/2014
Celebrity Look-Alike2/20/2014
Creative Writing Cures2/22/2014
Genius Hour Agenda 5: Contacts3/6/2014
Dual Language School in Catawba County3/11/2014
Team Compound vs Team Complex3/20/2014
Writers Workshop3/21/2014
Learning Is Learning3/30/2014
Langchat App4/21/2014
Genre Story Starters4/23/2014
School Supply Budget4/30/2014
Keep and Kick5/16/2014
Más americano5/16/2014
Self-Publishing Ebooks for Students5/16/2014
Keep and Kick5/16/2014
Spanish Accomplishments5/19/2014
VIF Professional developmen5/22/2014
Letter to my senator6/1/2014
Unsung Essential Standards, Part 1: Cognates and Loan Words6/11/2014
ASW narratives Spanish III WL.IL.CLL.3.46/16/2014
Genius Hour Problems7/13/2014
Stormboard Templates in the World Language Classroom7/24/2014
8 Years a Failure7/28/2014
Genius Hour for All8/5/2014
Communication-Based Interactive Language Notebook8/7/2014
#TLC14 Genius Hour for All8/8/2014
Stormboard seemed like the perfect tool8/22/2014
Concept Blogs for Film & Literature8/26/2014
Technology and the TL9/10/2014
Reader's Theatre Director's Notes9/10/2014
#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 19: Student reflection9/16/2014
The Last Word: Collaborative Communication Strategy9/17/2014
Storyasking for Project-Based Learning9/21/2014
Going Green Unit: Spanish I/II9/21/2014
Plan Verde: PBL Entry Event + TPRS/TCI9/29/2014
#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 26: Go-to sites10/11/2014
#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 25: Collaboration ideal10/11/2014
#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 29 & 30: I'm still changing10/11/2014
#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 28: Curriculum & Technology10/11/2014
#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 27: Weekends & holidays10/11/2014
Video Back Channels10/14/2014
Storyasking: "Mucha basura" Week 310/14/2014
#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 24 & 23: PBL is life10/20/2014
Keeping PBL Groups in the Target Language10/22/2014
Verbs in a PBL Spanish Class10/30/2014
¡Llame ya! An Inventive Interdisciplinary Project11/3/2014
I AM the Parent11/12/2014
Independent Brain Breaks11/17/2014
Voice Commenting on Google Docs11/17/2014
Personalized Homework Goals11/18/2014
Reframing Frustration11/18/2014
Adapting to ACTFL I-cans11/27/2014
App Smash12/4/2014

25 April 2016

Self-Selected Spanish Homework

I know homework can be a dirty word in this day and age, but with languages, to confine interaction to the classroom is to kill the very purpose for the learning. Languages are not just a secret code confined to certain hours and certain spaces in one certain building. Our classroom is the world now. It's our duty as language educators to open up that world to our students, not just with the language, but with resources and opportunities for observation and reflection.

But it's gotta mean something to our kids. They have to have some say in what they do with the language they're making their own.

Now if you want about a bazillion choices for Spanish homework that I've picked up from pretty much all of my online PLN (mostly Musicuentos and @lovemysummer I think--I blame you, SE & Bethanie), you can start with this page.

If you are my students, though, you do not want a bazillion choices.

You want to know

  1. what is expected of you,
  2. the best way to do it, and 
  3. that it is not going to suck.

Out with the old

I had a grand design, you know. I discovered last year that students really responded well when we sat down after IPAs and discussed their area of weakness, then picked a homework option together. I gotta tell you, that one-on-one reflection time was a beautiful thing. However, I personally do not have the time or energy to keep the process going every three weeks. I suppose I could have just done it every other IPA, but just thinking about fitting it into our early-college-style four-day weeks, I'm already exhausted.

What I needed--and they needed--of course, was less to keep with. And a good, solid reason for what I was going to spend the time keeping up with.

Listening and conversation always seem to be the stressors, so I went ahead and narrowed the field to those two and was going to alternate weekly homework assignments: Sra. Cottrell's "new school supply" conversations and telenovelas. WELL. Turn-in has been steadily dwindling for the conversation recordings, and El Internado spooked my southern Boss Lady into vetoing telenovelas as homework entirely (I'm pretty pumped about the in-class unit, though!)

Enter TELLcollab and my genius tweecher amigo Sr. Jennemann and his hot, hot HotSeat (seriously, he set someone's kitchen afire because they got so caught up watching his wisdom online.)

In with the new

Of course there are untold depths of inspiration in the hour livestream HotSeat video, but my main takeaway was Sr.Jennemann's homework approach:
  • 60 minutes a week for Spanish I, 75 minutes for Spanish III
    (I think I'll start with maybe 30-45 minutes--it is the end of the year for us)
  • 50% can be language skills (grammar, DuoLingo)
  • Make a blog post to record:
    • time for each activity
    • what you learned from each
Self-selected exposure is the name of the game with ProfePJ's system. It's his answer to not enough time for adequate input in class time. Does it matter if the kids write in Spanish or do something aligned with impending portfolio objectives? Heck no! Does it matter if they write in the target language! Totally up to them!

The important thing is the input, says ProfePJ. (And it appears our amiga Amy would agree!)

They need to choose input AND choose how they process it. I mean, they're using their time, right? And by golly, if they feel insecure about their indefinite articles, let them grammar their little geek hearts out...in moderation, of course. Maybe they really do want to improve their listening skills? Who am I to judge if they find some TV show in Spanish--purely by chance--and get hooked? I mean, I'd recommend Spanish subtitles, but, again, it's their time, and they're getting exposure. AND they don't HAVE to have a Netflix account or reach out to strangers who may or may not as if they have a boyfriend.

But, I mean, if that's their preferred means of input, Netflix does have a wide selection, and WeSpeke does have a very effective blocking button.

Sr. Jennemann also emphasizes providing resources for his kiddos, rather than explicit activity suggestions. I mean, they could make 3 different kinds of playlists or Pinterest boards if that's what they want to do. But since they don't really have to do something different every time (and I don't have to keep track of whether or not they'r repeating an activity--because that may well be just what they need, to watch episode 1 of Rubí over and over), why bother stressing about how they choose to interact?

See all 30 resources here!
So I took all of my many collected homework ideas, a handful of Sr. Jennemann's resources, and I made a new resource page for my class webpage, with 30 resource links, broken down by

  • SKILLS and
and slapped on some communciation mode labels where appropriate, and added a tip for each.

For all the assignments from my list that I still like that don't fit with the input-any-which-way model (eg sing a song, write a poem, create an infograph, write an Amazon review or Wikipedia article), my TELLcollab amigo suggested I just need to find a way to incorporate them into class activities instead of leaving them up to the students' selection (and really shouldn't they have me there to help guide production?)

I'm pretty excited about the vlogging idea we discussed at TELLcollab too, so I think I'm going to make that an option the last week before exams--even though they'll only have 2 weeks to reflect on.


Homework doesn't have to be a dirty word. It doesn't have to be dictated to be effective. It doesn't even have to be 90% target language since it's after hours!

What it does have to do is make your students WANT to do it. Don't waste time sentencing students to zeroes for something they see no purpose in.

Help them find a use for the language, a way and a reason to go home and surround themselves with it for a little longer.

You know, maybe a lifetime.

22 April 2016

EPIC Telenovela PBL Unit & Final Exam

Every language teacher should attend an unconference. Better yet, every language teacher should attend an unconference with other language teachers.

First of all, just being around people who are committed to growth--their students' and their own--is just the booster most of us need about this time of year. And those nagging questions you've had about what you're doing and WHY, those niggling areas of insecurity in your own instructional practice: the unconference is your chance to hammer them out (just be sure you're not hammering yourself).

I went into TELLcollab Nashville knowing I wanted to do better with culture and student engagement outside of class. And thanks to TELL's EPIC framework (and @profepj3), I came out with the seeds for a plan to address both!

You can make your own EPIC growth plan with resources at TELLproject.org!

ENVISION your outcomes

I commissioned my daughter to make my vision more visual
At the end of TELLcollab Day 1, we all picked a self-assessment area to focus on. I picked Planning because I knew I have not been nearly intentional enough about drawing attention to culture in my classes this year. In fact, when I had some local colleagues come in and observe, it's what they picked up on as an area of growth for me too.

So here's my objective:

"I will provide opportunities for my students to engage in cultural observation and analysis."

But my ultimate goal? I wanted to make this my last unit for the year AND use it to set up the final "exam" IPA. Conveniently enough, that's also exactly what I need for the last piece of my ASW puzzle this year, too!

PLAN your route to success


I'm sure I will be adding more strategies as I go (I would LOVE more blog response suggestions especially!), but here is what I'm starting with.

  • collect words and sentences from video clips
  • highlight/guess/check interpretation
  • view, react to telenovela clips with Nearpod
  • You can get a copy--with sentence starters!--in my TPT store

    • daily scene summary, prediction & response blogs
    • daily response:
      • Retell from a character’s PoV
      • Advice from a character
      • Advice to a character
      • Telenovela cliche count
      • Character theme song and analysis
    • weekly tic tac toe activities
  • small group & class discussion
  • brilliant ideas from Cristina Zimmerman, Bethanie Drew:
    • ¿Quién lo dijo? (quotes from scene)
    • Language structure PACE
    • Story sequencing
    • Who am I? 20 questions character guessing (Headbanz)
    • Character connections diagram
  • script & create telenovela trailers
I think it might also be fun/beneficial to interview native speakers about telenovelas (WeSpeke or local), but I'm not sure it'll fit in the time we have left.


I'll likely be adding more as I go here, too, but a little googling, a powerhouse PLN, and some adventurous local colegas have gotten me off to a good start:

IMPLEMENT your plan

Implementation is underway, but pending completion of the year, here's what I anticipate it will look like:
  • April 19 - "Caperucita Roja" + Wikipedia preview
  • April 20-21 - Telenovela article & Public Service Announcement IPA
  • April 26 - May 5 - Watch & respond to segments from episodes 1-3
  • May 10 - Telenovela review IPA (reading)
  • May 11 - Telenovela interview or trailer IPA (listening)
  • May 12 - Telenovela trailer script
  • May 13 - Telenovela trailer video editing
  • Exam Day - Telenovela film festival (with Q&A)

COLLECT evidence

Some time in June I'll need to submit evidence for the NCASW that my students can "Identify information about target culture perspectives and practices" better than they could when they started my class.

I think we'll start with the PSA storyboards where they gave 3 reasons you--yes, YOU!--should watch telenovelas. So far their reasons are pretty generic (I told them language teachers love to hear the words "cultura" and "vocabulario" and "aprender"). At the end, their trailers should not only be a lot more detailed--with specific examples either from Cuidado con el ángel or from another show they decide would be better to watch based on the telenovela types they read about and entradas they watch.

If the trailers don't go according to plan, their blogs should also be a rich source of observations and indignation about what happens in the telenovela each day. Their summaries and predictions will certainly fulfill the "observation" part of my EPIC goal, and then pausing to reflect weekly on what they've seen should not only take care of my EPIC goal, but also my ASW objective!