23 April 2017

Seesaw Insight: Casting Call Selfies

Two of my favorite Seesaw features are drawing and labels. Combine them with comments and student selfies, and you can have a quick and easy casting call!

The casting call can be used to demonstrate a variety of communicative skills:

  • interpretating character descriptions
  • summarizing interpreted facts
  • presenting biographical information

I myself have used it with Agentes Secretos and with research for the Spanish 2 skit on the difference between Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day.

Here's how it works.

First let me take a selfie

I have some kids the plead to use their favorite Facebook profile pic. I might allow it if I'm feeling generous (or rushed), but there is something to be said for using facial expression and body language to present information. When students had to "audition" for the different characters in Agentes Secretos, they had to pick two different characters (you know, to increase their chances of getting cast). So of course Paula would never pose like Luis--their personalities are described completely differently! Also, you might have some props, like, say, a Halloween wig, that convey the character's differing physical attributes.

So they first had to take and upload their selfies to Seesaw.


I don't have a bald cap, so to convey that they were portraying Miguel Hidalgo, of course Spanish 2 had to draw over their own hairstyles to get the full effect. They colored themselves a little bald spot and some wild white hair, maybe with a cross or a collar to get across the professional identity of el padre de la Revolución. Those auditioning for the role of Paula often drew little hearts, either over her head or her eyes (Es muy romántica, Paula.)

Step three: say something

I hadn't discovered labels last semester, so I just had those "auditioning" for roles in Agentes Secretos add a caption where they said who they were and described "themselves," thus switching the descriptions in the novel from third person to first AND practicing the novice's best friend, the yo form. For Padre Hidalgo and Presidente Juarez, I had them just add some labels indicating the year and even they were associated with.

Más four-te

Voice comments: they let kids create speaking evidence without A) look beautiful for the duration of a video and B) create some crazy avatar or fill up your Google Voice email. Also super easy to embed in portfolios with the Seesaw share function!

In retrospect, I should have had the characters say one of their lines from the novel. The historical characters, though, explained who they were and why they were important (yay, past tense!...IF they were ready) AND said when their event took place out loud (SO sick of kids in Spanish 2 and 3 automatically shifting back to English when they see a number over 100).

A new French teacher amiga at the FLANC Share Fest yesterday ALSO had the brilliant idea to use this for a low-prep living museum like she saw at her daughter's school! Imagine the Degas ballerinas and Gaugin islanders! The Picasso-fied portraits and descriptions! The talking Frida selfies! The Botero families or narco scenes?

Who else do you think might need to make an appearance in your class Seesaw feed?

21 April 2017

#SCOLT17 CI Struggles and Solutions

I've been on a bit of a CI roller coaster since iFLT last summer. I kicked off the year with some kickin' PQA that kids really seemed to get into, a little of the ol' "persona especial"--which they got into less--but which still had some positive effects.

Then I was a kind of adrift.

That's actually a pretty consistent pattern with me--starting off like gangbusters, thinking I've got it, then trying to coast just a little too long, and inevitably hitting midterm chaos.

Midterm chaos last semester involved actual tears that I'm starting to think traumatized me even more than the students during IPAs. Aside from revamping interpersonal assessment, my first impulse was to scrap the invention marketing project altogether: it was simply too much for novices!

But then SCOLT happened, and I got a set of fresh CI spectacles.

SCOLT introduced me to Hot Seat session obsession last year and this year really captured the uncon-within-the-conference session with their Disney-like "Fast Pass" sessions. I was lucky enough to join one with the South Carolina Teacher of the Year (and my #langchat amiga), Keith Toda, and Bob Patrick (CI dream team, right??)

Among the revelations in that session were:
  1. infomercial movie talks
  2. possible collaboration with Sra. Giles (#CarolinaBorderDreamTeam)

So my plan for next year is to find some infomercials to movietalk through for input, instead of relying strictly on the "authentic" (read: translated) advertisements I'd tried in the past. Also, bouncing ideas off of my upper level (but lower state) amiga so our kiddos can test out their ideas on each other along the way perhaps.

On the subject of #langchat amigos, Sr. Fernie's non-uncon-conference session also helped shed a little light on one of my other CI struggles: storyasking. I had developed a marketing story last year, but it didn't have the flexibility, the OOMPH that I was looking for.

Really, what it comes down to, it seems, is having a basic premise that the kids can mold. Protagonist needs something, what? (I could steer them toward some common problems I'd had them brainstorm/blog about before...) Protagonist can't find the something in 2 or 3 tries. Then protagonist finds the something. Yay!

But the secret? The secret apparently is that there's not much freedom in the first one. You gotta build up to that. You stick to the need-then-three-tries formula, but the first story is yours. THEN they retell and THEN they can add variations.

Sr. Fernie also had some other cool input ideas that I think would also oomph the invention marketing unit, like mad libs and describing a picture (like movietalks but much less...move-y). I also like the idea of students listing words to describe a picture themselves, then turning that into a story (how much fun would this be with wacky inventions??)

So SCOLT wasn't exactly a Space Mountain emotional input roller coaster like iFLT, but it filled in some essential input pieces to perhaps keep me cruising along a little longer, without the big emotional midterm dip.

The jungle cruise was probably my favorite ride at Disney anyway.

14 April 2017

15 Facebook Pages for Spanish #AuthRes

OK, our kids are probably too cool for Facebook now. Moms--and grandmas (and dads and grandpas)--and teachers have taken over.

It's ours!!!

OK, not totally. But there are so many resources for us there, we should definitely be taking advantage. Of course there are awesome groups for advice and networking. A few of my favorites are
(Hint: you'll probably want to adjust your notifications for these groups, as they are ACTIVE.)

But you know what I am loving more and more every day? The steady flow of authentic resource access just pouring into my feed every day! I mean, isn't it amazing how your monolingual amigos regularly share videos and posts in Portuguese and Hungarian and Korean and your target language regularly? Proof positive we are a global society. So now when my amigos post something in Spanish, I like the page they got it from too, and BAM a whole other floodgate.

(Caution: I have been burned by some otherwise inappropriate pages with posts that also include "language" and...questionable...topics and have had to unfollow. Oh, who am I kidding? I knew what I was getting into with a page called "Mujeres cabronas", and I not-so-secretly love "language." I do consider keeping the...questionable...ones for my own L2 upkeep, but sometimes they just do things to my feed that spoil the experience for me, so they have to go.)

So I thought I would collect and share some of my favorite pages for #authres so you could have access to the multiple goldmines I enjoy daily!

1. Solovino

This is the BEST. Adorable animals + real social issues in context in Mexico. What's not to love? You can't go wrong with animals.

2. Mis Animales

More animals, more videos, more articles, from everywhere.  Most of the videos are more for interpretive reading than listening, though.

3. Pictoline

"News and Information in epic images." WEB COMICS AND INFOGRAPHS IN SPANISH. This makes me so happy I could cry.

4. 101 Lugares Increíbles

Articles and pictures to tantalize the traveler's spirit

5. Bioguia

All things Earth: more my cup of tea than my students', but ONE DAY I will get them interested.

6. VixPop

Gifs, memes, infopics, article: cute, popular stuff--you name it. Are these translations mostly? Probably. Are translations authentic? Kinda. The question makes for interesting discussion. It's still by the target culture for the target culture, right? Interesting perspectives on what's worth translating too.

7. Cultura Colectiva

EVERYTHING. This site has EVERYTHING. Videos, articles, infographs, on any topic possible--yes, some inappropriate. It's not usually as Big C Culture as this, but when it is, it is glorious.

They also have a noticias page that is a little more...elevated? Although still approximately Buzzfeed level elevated.

8. Genial

Speaking of EVERYTHING, this site has it all. All of those popular little how-to tutorials? Random puppy memes, quizzes, and tips about relationships and internet safety and "what your eyes say about your health"? ALL here in Spanish.

9. EsTrending

Super latino news/gossip source

10. AJ+ Español

Super international news source. Also translations? Probably.

11. La mente es maravillosa

How about some psychological health tips in the form of articles and infopics?

12. Hechos A Mano

LOVE the creativity here--plus some of these videos actually have some Spanish listening!

13. Para los curiosos

Fun trivia videos and posts, gifs and memes

14. No Lo Creo

Click. Bait. Central. I mean, if it works in English, why not in Spanish?

15. Retreando Mix

It's like a rite of passage in adolescence to "discover" what your parents were into, right? And who doesn't get a giggle out of 80s or 90s style nowadays? Why not from the target culture?

Using them in class

Never do I recommend setting kiddos loose on a Facebook Page--too much uncertainty (Sra. Hawkins advises picking out the best stuff, and I'm with her). But pick a post and have the kiddos react!
  • discuss results of the quizzes in small groups or as a class
  • they can create--or find--a response meme or infopic
  • have them react to information with their own 1-2 minute vlog summaries and opinions
  • post a comment screenshot on Seesaw or Classroom and have them post replies
  • make a Pinterest board or Google Keep list to collect further resources on a topic
  • have them contact the author and ask some questions!
Do you guys remember when we had to hope our kids would go for bilingual picture books or translated documents from the DMV to get authentic resources in our classroom? That or rely on the ads we collected on our last sojourn overseas--possibly from 5 years ago?

Authentic resources are everywhere now, and when we find the right pages, we can just watch them flow in. The internet is ours!

11 April 2017

Everything Came Together Today!

So throwing a bunch of ideas into Common Curriculum and then sorting them out as I went, it worked super well today! I managed to connect grammar, music, and project goals as if I weren't kind of mentally checked out before Spring Break Part 2 already.

I could have been a little more conscious of hitting all three communication modes, but I still really like how everything came together like I had some sort of master plan today, from well-timed audio repairs to Sr. Wooly trial subscriptions kicking in to even a canceled festival that we had been building up to literally all semester.

It all worked. But not only by coincidence.

Laying the groundwork

Lesson planning can be super fun. That feeling you get when a plan comes together? But it can also be an uphill hike in oppressive heat when you forgot your map. Sometimes I just can't make myself plan. Just thinking about the level of detail I need to achieve anything approximating "success," it just hurts and makes me want to wear pajamas all day.

So I just have to start with what I know, lay it all out.

I knew 1) I had to wrap up past activities and 2) I had to set up the next unit so we'd have enough time--and motivation--to really get into it. So I started by laying out the calendar of all of the days remaining (26!!!) to give myself perspective (something I've kind of been avoiding, truth be told).

I forgot my computer Friday and
had to use PAPER, like an ANIMAL!
Then I googled around for a bit, seeing if I could find some kind of article or infograph to connect the number of weeks we had left with the magical number of weeks I had in my head to change a habit (I found something perhaps even better.)

Then I just had to write out exactly what I expected kiddos to do (Hay que hacer progreso todos los días) and how I expected them to show it. I jotted a few notes about what I wanted to see in daily progress blogs, what they would submit each day to establish a weekly routine, and how I might totally and completely exploit the wonders of Google Keep that I just discovered.

Then I started listing functional chunks students would need to accomplish the tasks above. And then I chunked the chunks. Basically it boiled down to expressions with "que", object pronouns (e.g. te ayuda, ¿Cómo te fue?), and present perfect.

And then? Then I just made a bunch of entries in the Monday column on the week's Common Curriculum, including things like
  • reflection activities for previous blog posts (vocabulary and personal practice)
  • Sr. Wooly songs that made me giggle uncontrollably (and had que idioms)
  • titles for grammar note pages kiddos would need (see functional chunk chunks above)

The leadup

So my IT amigo was fixing my LED screen audio when I walked in on Monday. I was so excited to have SOUND again, that I just pulled up the next song on the playlist to enjoy and interpret a bit. It was "Diferente"--automatic excuse to introduce hay que.

The plan had been to have students pull up past blogs, make some personal practice recommendations for each other with a blog post assignment called "¡Tienes que ver esto!" wherein they will tag classmates who have to see a show or song or article they found. They also grouped their top 25 most useful vocabulary words in semantic groups and made them pretty with Adobe Spark posts and started writing some original vocabulary sentences.  Not too shabby for wrap-up.

I did make them watch "Guapo," just because that video has been cracking me up since grad school (I blame teacher humor and @SraStephanie). I was testing the waters. PS, it worked best when I made them put up computers before we watched it and put Spanish subtitles on.

How it came together


Today, we started with "Guapo." What can I say, it puts me in a good mood? Computers down, subtitles on, pausing here and there to interpret. Now Sr. Wooldridge advised me to let them absorb that a week first, but I'm not the patient sort. Plus I wanted to get straight to the "accessing prior knowledge" and had them flip to page 9 in their cuadernos to collect the new "ías" and "abas" in the video--and then add their first irregular.

SPOILER: Wooly was right about the sequel to "Guapo" being even more popular. Not only has it replaced "Ya está muerto" as my son's favorite, but it made a few kids who were really not into "Guapo" very happy. It made the ones who were into it cry out in overdramatic grief. Also, I found a new bond with the kiddos giggling uncontrollably like I do when I watch it.

It was glorious.

So the hay que in the Lasso song Monday was pure luck;  the tienes que in the blog assignment was by design. Guess what was in the Wooly songs? Pienso que and creen que. Oh yeah. SO on a roll for the structures we'll need to discuss self improvement!! So I cut up some little yellow paper pieceds (almost forgot 4th period), and we made a little web map in their notes for "que" expressions and added sabes que, for when we need to share some strategies or other facts to inform progress on the self-improvement.

And then, to lead into choosing the change they want to make, I had kiddos briefly reflect with a Google Classroom question on a good change that has happened in their lives. Not only does it give a little taste of the present perfect to come tomorrow, but it ALSO is set up to imitate the structure of the chorus of my son's new favorite song!!!

At the end, I let them decide who they thought they should work with and explain their reasons--in Spanish--in a conversation with each group while everyone else wrapped up the blog review from yesterday.

So what's it mean?

Dave Burgess got "unbelievably fired up" when a colleague told him,  "It's easy for you. You're creative."

Lest there were any colleagues out there who thought any of this was ever easy for me? Well, let this be a lesson to you. Because this wasn't easy, and it wasn't really just a few days of work coming together. It's been a mere fourteen years for me.

It wasn't just the last several days that came together. And everything is not going to stay together.

But for today it was. Or at least felt like it for a few hours.

04 April 2017

Small Group Speaking Assessment

The level of confidence I saw in the final round of assessments last semester--after the tearful season mid-semester--it completely convinced me that this is how I want to assess going forward:

  • with small groups
  • with prepared cues

  • with student choice


Students have 2 days to A) choose a relevant topic from a list I provide and B) prepare a sort of 10-slide ignite/pecha kucha presentation from a template posted to Classroom. To give you an idea of possible topics, here are this week's from Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 online:

Spanish 2
  • Props 
  • Costumes
  • Stage directions
  • Musical instruments
  • Flags (we studied some as part of their costumes)
  • The judges' criteria
  • Suggestions for actors/singers

Spanish 3 online
  • The worst part about traveling to another country
  • The best part about traveling to another country
  • Why you want to visit your country (and maybe not others)
  • How to prepare for travel abroad
  • How NOT to have fun in another country
  • Why you will never go to [Spanish-speaking country]
  • Tastiest/strangest foods in your country (or others)
  • Most exciting/boring activities to do in your country

They can use NO words on the slides WHATSOEVER except on the title slide and "Obras Citadas" at the end. If they pick an image with words, they have to cover those suckers up! Mostly it's because they distract me while they're presenting, and the whole point of the slides at all is just to jog their memory about what they want to say--not actually tell them what to say.

I do encourage them, however, to write out exactly what they want to say--in Spanish--in the presenters' notes. If they get it in the first day (and I'm not prepping for one conference or another) I might even offer explicit slide-by-slide feedback. If they want to memorize this word for word, bully. I'm mostly focused on what they're saying in their Q&A--and their classmates'--afterward anyway.

On my end, I've set my room up in little presentation pods like so:

I've got the wheely chairs in the center for presenters, and then everyone else--including me, can focus from the outside. Ideally I would be able to have 5 kiddos per group, since that seems to be the happy medium for being able to ask enough questions without having to ask a question every single time. However, my little windowless room does not have that kind of wiggle room. I may experiment later with little 2-table triangles if I can fit them, though.

I have been tinkering with a response tracking sheet for myself that looks like this:

Honestly, though, I just grab a pack of index cards and put names at the top in "voluntario o víctima" order--different colors for different groups if I'm thinking ahead.

On The Big Day, I pull up my easy AAPPL rubrics to show them what it will take to get 100% that day, emphasizing verbs, questions, and responses primarily. (It also comes in handy having it in my sightline if I'm having trouble deciding where a student falls.)


The real beauty of this setup is that I almost NEVER have to talk. I put start my stopwatch, so I can gently stop them around 2 minutes (or 3 if I'm feeling generous and not rushed), both with their presentation and their Q&A immediately following. That's about 5 minutes per person.

Yes, it takes me at least 2 hours/days, this time during listening and writing assessment (which, by the way, was nice, because everyone else having headphones on while they talked helped assuage the old self-consciousness for presenters).

While my stopwatch is going, I'm furiously noting the different verbs I hear (more verbs=more kinds of sentences I figure, so possibly the difference between N3 and N4 or N4 and I1 for example). I also jot down and underline glaring errors just to start to collect ideas on what we need to review when assessment is over (spoilers: DEFINITELY definite articles this time around--mostly because they're all intermediate or darn close).

I jot down the questions they ask on one side (to determine intermediate status) and answers on the other (because these are really the sentences I'm concerned with, as they're the spontaneous ones). Since many are edging into I2/I3 territory, I indent under questions or responses when they have a follow-up remark/question too.

And to score, I typically write down two possible AAPPL scores and then mark one out when I've heard enough and possibly reviewed the notes on my card.

And that's it! That's how I get my kids talking about suggestions for the language festival and how they really feel about the date changes, as well as their preferred backup plans, along with their zodiac compatibility with Alvaro Soler and the odd history of flags or castanets.

And no tears!

03 April 2017

The Company You Keep: A love letter to #FLENJ17


I'm not a girl who needs to be wined and dined to feel loved--elegant sushi certainly doesn't hurt, of course. Plush hotel toilets accommodations aren't what bring me back either.

It is the sheer quality of people you let me be around for a weekend.

Now don't get me wrong, my SCOLT amigos and I have something that can never be severed. They are old, true friends I can always count on, and they are what keeps me going most of the time. I'm not saying what I feel for you is any less enduring, but us "southerners," we have history.

That being said, FLENJ, this past weekend was MAGICAL.

It started as soon as I hit the hotel, and immediately fell into one of those conversations about the direction of language education and our profession that gives you hope for the future and revives your passion for sharing, with one of the unquestionable leaders in the field--and finalists for ACTFL Teacher of the Year no less!

The next evening, I stayed up way later than I should have discussing the true meaning of comprehensible input, with another leader and ACTFL finalist who is also the guy who not only helped me create input that made my students feel confident in their listening abilities, but who also made me feel confident about communicating comprehensibly with them daily.

I got to talk families, philosophy, accordions and soap making with some of the most creative and dedicated people I've had the pleasure to #langchat or Hangout with ever. (PS do you REALIZE how many of us have  two kids ages 4-9? It's creepy cool.)

What's more, is I got to gather other educators who love learning and sharing as much as I do in my workshops and plug into their brilliant ideas.

And THEN I got to gather around OTHER brilliant educators and feed off of their experience and ingenuity as well! I've got quite a few ideas to pilot before next year!

Awesome ideas from Arianne Dowd of Discovering CI, Noemi Rodriguez (via Casey McCullough) and Ericka Collado 

And you guys, I salsa danced with Sr. Wooly.

I gotta say, though, I think the FLENJ president, Amanda, was better.

And the selfies! Now they didn't know about my secret unpublished pickmeup posts when we smooshed into the frame together, but I got physical evidence of the moments when I got to share space with people whose words of support I have carefully collected, because there are times that I really need those words from these bright and caring people, low points in my teacher life that I need them to not hate myself.

FLENJ, you have a lot of amazing people doing amazing things within your organization, and you invited even MORE amazing leaders in to really stack the deck.

And you let me be there for it. You brought me in to the awesomeness.

And for that, I love you more than words can say.

Con amor eterno,
Sra. Spanglish