Shelley and I were speaking with a colleague of ours today after school. While sitting in Shelley's deskless classroom (and having just searched through a tub of stuff animals), our colleague says to us, "It's like Elementary in here!". You betcha!
Students are LOVING their new classroom jobs. Last week I used this Google Slides Presentation and this Job Request Form to explain to them all of the possible in-class jobs. Please feel free to make a copy and edit for your needs! I've gathered jobs from countless experts more knowledgable than I and I can't take credit for these wonderful ideas. I also have removed a few jobs that I didn't think would work for me or my students. The empowerment these jobs have given my students is invigorating and the freedom it has give me to focus on what is important (providing CI) is undeniable. My role as a language facilitator has really taken shape this year and I don't think it would be nearly as successful without this student ownership and responsibility taking place. Let them be creative! It's like elementary class afterall!
Classroom norms have been a game changer. Rules are rules. Procedures are procedures but norms feel different and it's right in the name! NORM- what is a normal occurrence in our classroom. Here are the norms that I've implemented this year and am LOVING. Disclaimer...these are not my original ideas, just what is working for me! Bryce Hedstrom discusses Norm #1 & 2 here.
Norm #1- Classroom passwords
See my brief post on classroom passwords here.
Norm #2- Act of Appreciation
The students love this. This is tied to our end-of-the-hour procedure.
-"Gracias por aprender hoy."
-"Gracias por enseñarnos hoy."
This practice is not only a classroom management strategy but establishing this as a norm reminds my students DAILY that I care about them. That could be the single most important thing that we do, right? My students may not remember what I teach them but they will remember how I made them FEEL!
Norm #3- Listen with the intent to understand.
This year I spent time discussing input with my students. It was a brief but an important conversation. I didn't bore them with a ton of research but every student can tell me the that "input is all the language you receive". Students love to know the WHY. We ask them to be respectful, use Spanish only, listen with your eyes and ears.
These are not revolutionary rules that I'm asking of my students. All teachers want their kids to be respectful. All teachers want their kids to focus, listen, respond when asked to, pay attention to the person that is talking...but in Spanish class it means something different. My students know and can explain to me that English use during class interrupts their INPUT and the FLOW. Now that they understand INPUT and the importance it has on their language acquisition, we get more done, we have more fun and they respect the process!
Norm #4- We read at the beginning of the hour, EVERY DAY.
Self-Directed Reading (AKA FVR) at the beginning of the hour. More to come on this but for now, it's a game changer. If you're considering implementing it, do it. It's worth the time, the research, the investment. Your kids are worth it.
Year 7 is off to a great start.
I'm feeling extremely grateful for all of the great ideas that I gathered over the summer about taking time -I mean really taking time- to establish, practice and reinforce classroom procedures and norms.
Students love to shake your hand. Our classroom passwords are off to a great start- I highly recommend Bryce Hedstrom's book on Passwords. Last year I loved doing this activity with my 6th graders. I debated doing it at the high school this year...really because I was feeling lazy. Am I really going to stand outside and wait for 8 minutes during our extremely long passing time? Couldn't I check my emails during that time? Couldn't I go pee? Couldn't I use that time to breathe? I could but I refuse to. This activity alone is allowing me to learn names faster, smile at each and every student and ironically it's giving me more time- while providing an opportunity to learn rejoinders. Students aren't allowed to enter until I'm ready for them and it's magical. No matter the level, check this activity out if you haven't yet!
Hasta la próxima,
Wow. We're well into the new year and a dear colleague of mine reminded me I never finished blogging about ACTFL! So without further ado,...
Take-away #5: Class Dojo:
I attended a session from Mercedes & Ryan at https://linguatreats.weebly.com/. Their session was called Fifty Shades of Grades. One suggestion they made was to use the website/app Class Dojo. I've known and heard about this resource for a while now but always thought it was more gauged for elementary classrooms. Ryan & Mercedes suggested using Class Dojo in groups in secondary language classrooms. This was just the thing I was looking for to motivate my students to not only speak Spanish in class but also for the absence of English in class. I don't expect my level 2 students to say a lot, I want them focused and getting as much input as possible. By enforcing the 'lack of English' rule it helps the ENTIRE classroom environment: less side-talk, more focus, more input, more acquisition.
Here is how we used Class Dojo during our unit on Animals & Habitats of the World.
1. Getting started: Students sign-up for Class Dojo and joined my class. Class Dojo automatically creates Parent Invite codes for every student or if you go into your class settings you can select that you already have parent permission to use Class Dojo so that students can scan a QR code to join.
2. Form Groups: Once students were in my class they were assigned into groups. I took a lot of time to think about who I wanted to challenge, who would need more help and who wouldn't be comfortable with certain people. It's all about knowing your students, right?
We called these groups their "familias". Prior to using Class Dojo we hadn't been using assigned seats. This was a way for me to switch up seating without them feeling like I was telling them which exact desk they had to sit in. Whenever I walk into a meeting or a conference or even university classes...I am never told which seat I HAVE to sit in. Each "familia" could sit wherever they wanted but they had to sit together because they would be working together for the entire unit.
3. Incentives: I told my students that they would get a little "something, something" when their family got to 10 points AND that when every family got to 10 points the entire class would get a little "something, something". I DID NOT know ahead of time what I was going to give them nor do I recommend telling them exactly what they are going to get. They loved (mostly!) the competitive aspect and they mystery combined.
4. Awarding points: In Class Dojo you can award points (Positive) or remove them (Needs Work). You can define the skills you want your students to be demonstrating so I added "Spanish Only" in the Positive side and "Too much English" in the Needs Work side. Throughout each lesson I added or subtracted points to each group based on how each group was working together, who was participating or volunteering and how much English/Spanish was being spoken.
5. Keeping Track of It All: It's not always easy to remember when to add points and subtract. Since this was my first time using Class Dojo I decided to designate a team leader for each group and I wrote their team number and the leader's name on the whiteboard. Instead of adding the points right into Class Dojo on the spot I used the whiteboard to keep track and input the data at the end of the hour. (BUT SEE BELOW FOR A BETTER IDEA...) I often would end each lesson by showing the class where each "familia" was at as a way to encourage more/better/continuous effort on the next day. Also, if students are logged-in to Class Dojo they can see how their "familia" is doing but even with 1:1 devices several students didn't get into the habit of checking.
6. The Actual Incentive: As I said before, I didn't decide ahead of time what I wanted the incentives to be. When the first "familia" got to 10 points I was in the mood for cookies that day so I bought 2 packs of cookies ($4 total) which would be enough to feed each group eventually. Once they saw the other teams getting cookies it was a hot-race to earn more points.
Eventually we got every "familia" to 10 points...there is always one group that pulls down the rest (am I right?) and takes them a bit longer and a lot more encouraging (am I right or am I right?). I decided to ask the kids what they wanted and they voted for pizza/pot-luck and/or a movie.
What that turned into was an opportunity for me to show them the Netflix Original, Velvet. After showing episode one in class I have students going home and watching more on their own time! Hook them as much as you can! Better classroom management and compelling input at the same time. Win. Win.
7. MOBILE APP!!
I don't know how I didn't check this ahead of time but there is an app for Class Dojo, that is teacher-friendly. You can add and subtract points right from your phone! I didn't use Class Dojo in our most recent unit (it might lose the novelty if you use it all the time) but I'm excited to try out the app with a new semester and a new group of kids.
Hasta la próxima. Gracias por leer.
Brownies with Spinach
My next big take-aways from the ACTFL 2017 conference come to you from Megan and Kara, the amazing ladies behind Creative Language Classroom. See the notes from my presentation here.
Brownies with Spinach; Take-Away #3: Grammar should be bite-sized!
Do you teach grammar? How do you teach grammar? How much of a role does it play in your classes? Grammar, Grammar, Grammar...
I am not a grammarian. I write and I ramble and I proof-read a bit but I am not a grammarian. Just today I had a conversation with a colleague about grammar and I fessed up and said I'm not a grammar person. In my interview for NJSD I told my administrators that grammar takes a back-seat in my classroom...because it does! It doesn't drive my lessons, sometimes as a back-seat passenger it interrupts where I'm going, sometimes it steers me one-way, it distracts me for a moment and sometimes that back-seat passenger falls asleep and doesn't contribute once in a while...however that doesn't make it not important. Grammar is important- in meaningful, bite-sized bits.
This idea of grammar isn't new to me- perhaps it is to you- but what I took from this session and really love is the analogy: Brownies with Spinach. I've definitely tried to hide Spinach in brownies, cookies, etc. so this hit home for me.
Hide grammar in your lessons and incorporate it in small, bite-sized, meaningful chunks (just like you try to hide spinach into the good-stuff)!
As you develop your curriculum and present grammar topics to your students, ask yourself:
"When teaching PRESENT TENSE, are your lessons COMMUNICATIVE & BITE-SIZED? Are students given opportunities in multiple units to master it?"
"When teaching COMPARISONS, are lessons COMMUNICATIVE & BITE-SIZED? Are students given opportunities in multiple units to master it?"
"When teaching QUESTIONS, are lessons COMMUNICATIVE & BITE-SIZED? Are students given opportunities in multiple units to master it?"
"When teaching PAST TENSE, are lessons COMMUNICATIVE & BITE-SIZED? Are students given opportunities in multiple units to master it?"
Take-Away #4: ACTUALLY connect you students to the "real world" aka Native Speakers aka Authentic Resources
I've been thinking a lot lately about innovation. This take-away was merely an example given by Kara and Megan in their Brownies & Spinach presentation but it has had me thinking. How innovative are these ladies!
Kara and Megan discussed different grammar topics throughout their presentation. While discussing the grammar topic Questions Words (I can ask and answer questions about...), they reminded me of the importance to get students speaking and interacting with native-speakers...on a regular basis. HOW MUCH MORE AUTHENTIC CAN YOU GET!?! I have never in my career brought in a native-speaker (student or otherwise) into my class just to practice Spanish. It was a "why have I never done that" kind of moment for me. Do you have native-speakers at your school? In your community? Connect them with your students!
They also reminded me that in terms of Proficiency, you’re never totally prepared to talk to native-speakers. A little or a lot, I 100% get nervous to this day, EVERY TIME, that I speak to a native-speaker. A great reminder and ah-ha moment.
Okay- the real reason I started talking about take-away #4...
In their unit on Street-Art Kara and Megan give the following I-can statement: I can connect with a Hispanic Artist. Remember our grammar topic is asking questions.
Here was their challenge: Connect with a hispanic artist (on Twitter, Facebook, Email, etc.) and the first person to get a real response gets lunch!
Here are some innovative examples of how their kids connected with native-speakers...on their own!
-Messaged a tattoo artist on Twitter
-Messaged a Super-model
-Messaged a Sand-castle artist, responded on Facebook and email!!
Some of the students went on to continue to message the artists (in Spanish!!) just because they wanted to communicate. How freaking cool. How can you bring the native-speakers to them and how can you get them to reach out to native speakers? Food for thought.
Thanks for reflecting with me. <3 Thank you Kara & Megan for an amazing session!
Hasta la próxima,
ACTFL Take-Away #1 & #2
In the midst of selling a house and buying another somehow I actually made it to ACTFL this year! Here are my top 10 take-aways from this years annual conference, starting with Take-Away #1: Adapt the text & #2 You can't assess proficiency if you're not using #authres.
#1. Adapt the Text
Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell from Musicuentos gave a great presentation called "Adapt the task, NOT THE TEXT". Find her slides and more information here. If you've never heard that saying before it comes from the idea that we should be able to use authentic resources for all levels in our classrooms, and we should do just as it is stated, adapt what we're asking our students to do (the task) and we should NOT alter the resource (the text). When you alter the text it becomes "not 100% authentic". However, this is exactly what Sara suggested that we do: ALTER THE TEXT to fit our needs, make it easier to read, and to make it more comprehensible.
I LOVED this session not only because Sara is going against the grain a little on this one but because I felt it was the first session that ACTFL Core Practices and "CI" were really being talked about at the same time. She brought up the elephant in the room (at least for me) and really helped me process why there are two very differing opinions when it comes to Core Practices/Authentic Resources/CI. That's a blog for another time but for now I agree with Sara: adapt the text. Use authentic resources in your classroom and adapt them as needed. Adapt them to make them prettier (formatting, bolding, highlighting, etc). Adapt them when there are errors. Adapt the length! Adapt for new vocabulary. Adapting the text might actually make it a much richer, more valuable resource for you and your students.
#2. You can't assess proficiency if you're not using #authres
This take-away also comes from Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell. I'm not sure I'm going to do this one justice but it is something that really resonated with me last weekend that I want to further understand. Sara gave this example during her session: "The nightly news is authentic text but I don't sit my 8 year old down in front of it."
Using #authres is NOT A HARD AND FAST RULE...going back to Take-Away #1, adapt it as needed HOWEVER...
"YOU CAN NOT ASSESS PROFICIENCY IF IT IS NOT AUTHENTIC."
"A resource has to be AUTHENTIC to assess proficiency. It has to be COMPREHENSIBLE to build proficiency. BOTH = WIN, WIN."
We MUST be incorporating Authentic Resources into our classrooms, curricula and program-wide scope and sequencing. In order to assess proficiency we need to use resources that expose our students to un-comprehensible vocabulary that forces them to use their context clues, discover key words and build their inferencing skills. Authentic Resources do NOT have to be boring or un-comprehensible. Authentic absolutely 100% positively can be compelling, comprehensible and comprehended!
Hasta la próxima,
Recursos auténticos: Using technology to design and implement assessments to fit your thematic units.
How can you maximize student engagement and learning through thematic units and authentic resources? Discover ways to incorporate AP themes throughout your program, learn about our favorite formative and summative assessments and explore ways to find authentic resources using technology.
We're so excited to be presenting together for the third time; WAFLT 2017 is going to be amazing! I'm so excited to hear from Carrie Toth- the keynote speaker for this year!
Below you'll find links to all of the resources that will be referenced throughout our presentation. Don't forget to check out our past presentations on Performance vs Proficiency and Proficiency Writing Prompts.
WAFLT 2017 Presentation Materials:
Link to Google Slides - Also found under "Presentations".
Flip Grid Example by Lauren Richardson
ACTIVITY: WAFLT 2017 Flip Grid
ACTIVITY: Create an EDpuzzle Video
WAFLT 2017 EDpuzzle Videos by AP Theme
Reflection. I hated Spanish class in high school. It wasn't easy for me, I was late to class, my grades were not spectacular and I remember my teacher being so proud of me the day that I remembered the word 'paloma' because those moments when I shined in class were few and far between.
It didn't click. It just didn't click for me. I felt a disconnect between Spanish 1 and Spanish 3 and I forever felt behind my peers. Thankfully my older sister and parents encouraged me to keep studying because "it would be useful in my future".
1. Thank goodness for my supportive family. What do we do for our students that aren't receiving this message at home? Are we telling them this enough in class? Are we showing them it can be fun? Are we engaging students in meaningful conversation in the target language? Or are we teaching in a way that is easier for the teacher?
2. I was recently told by a former principal- "Don't be afraid of being great. And sometimes that means doing the things we don't want to do". I'm not sure if that is exactly how it went but that is what stuck with me. I'd much rather be lying in bed watching the season 6 finale of El Internado- but instead I just spent extra time organizing, planning and now blogging that I hadn't originally planned on doing tonight. Be great. Be the best you can be. Put in the extra time. I guess that meant I had to continue with Spanish in college...anything else felt like giving up. But I repeat, I HATED Spanish class.
College was well, college. I learned quick that I had to declare a degree, they apparently don't like when you're indecisive like me. I chose Spanish and Education (I HATED SPANISH AT THE TIME)...maybe I could work with kids and use Spanish along the way. Sure.
In my college classes I began to feel much more prepared for class. I felt more confident, engaged and successful. Somewhere along the line "it started clicking". Can we identify what changed? Had I just grown up? Matured? SLA research might suggest the input I was receiving all those years actually was paying off. I just didn't know it or feel like it because my teachers were asking me to perform tasks I wasn't ready to complete. Does that mean I shouldn't have my students speaking? ABSOLUTELY NOT. They need to be speaking, reading, listening and writing...but at the appropriate level with meaningful tasks. ACTFL Core Practices deem that the TL should be used 90% of the time within the classroom but I can tell you first hand it does no good if you're just talking at your kids. Make the language meaningful, comprehensible...and just because you understand what you're saying doesn't mean they do. Thankfully I eventually began falling in love with this beautiful language and cultures. Studying abroad didn't hurt in that regard. :)
I knew I wanted to be great when I started teaching. My cooperating teacher told me I did a great job but they all say that, right? I got my first job right out of college, before I even finished my student-teaching experience. I taught in a small, rural community in Wisconsin and grew my program and loved my students. The past two years I taught in southern Wisconsin and now here I am in my third district in six years.
So now what? Here are some of my successes so far this year- be great and don't be afraid to show it...that's what we want from our students, right?
1. I accepted a .2 overload in a new district.
2. I am fulfilling a new leadership position in the state come January!
3. I surveyed my kids yesterday and 77% of my kiddos say that I use Spanish 91%-100% of the time. Yessssss. And 81.4% of my kids said I make class Quite or Extremely interesting! Double Yesssss.
4. I'm attending ACTFL in a few weeks. I CAN'T WAIT.
5. I've started this freaking awesome blog with an amazing colleague and friend.
“I used to walk down the street like I was a fucking star... I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be - and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth.”
― Lady Gaga
So the future. Continue to seek out greatness. Continue to value and treasure teachers that are doing an amazing job and that inspire me every day. Continue to educate, learn and prosper day in and day out. Be the best YOU can be and instill that in my kids. Welcome to The Authentic Spanish Teacher Blog. I hope this didn't get too mushy. Be great.
I recently attended the Comprehensible Midwest Conference in Ripon, WI. The conference was a great event, but it left me questioning my practice using thematic units. I feel like I teach really well using thematic units, and with thematic units I give my students chunks of language (something that has been supported by many of the trainings and professional developments I have done recently - especially by Helena Curtain).
Teachers who use CI are incredibly passionate about what they do and talk about the progress their students make, and how well students are able to produce language. In one of the sessions I attended, the presenter, Dr. Robert Patrick, said that we need to make our classes comprehensible, compelling, and caring. He works to focus on making Latin attainable to his students, and he stressed the importance of input in both listening and reading. One thing he did not stress was that the input be authentic, in fact, he suggested that you find something that is "authentic" and modify it or rewrite it to make it attainable for students. Modify the text not the activity.
I don't agree with this - probably because my background and education has been modify the activity and not the text for the level of the learner. I want my students to be seeing and hearing authentic language (written for native speakers by native speakers as much as possible). I know that this is not always possible, but authenticity is a scale, and we must do our best for the moment/activity and try to do better next time. There are many readers that are written by teachers in the CI movement that are really wonderful and have their place in my classroom because they are really accessible and high interest to my students as well as fit within the theme/unit, but these are not the only texts I use. I believe there must be a balance, and I am still working to figure out what that balance is for me and my classes. I am ever-evolving my teaching practice as I learn, which is what helps to make me a reflective practitioner and a better teacher for my students.
We need to figure out what works for us as educators, as long as it is within the realm of best practice (giving our students lots of input in the target language), and be the best teachers that we can be.
¡Ánimo, mis compañer@s!