Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: June 23, 2017

Brillante Viernes June 23

Happy Friday!  It is our last day here at Fripp Island, SC.  When we head back, I will be putting on EdCampCIVa on June 27 in Chesapeake, Va.  I am so excited to join many foreign language educators and continue to spread EdCamps.  I believe that this will be the way to spread professional development throughout the country.  (And- if you are in the area- we still have spots available!)  I thought that the blogosphere may take a little break- but there were some great posts this past week!

  • Check out this new blog about CI in the Richmond, Va area!  I really like their post about storylistening and the Invisibles.  I am looking forward to learning more about Ben Slavic’s seminar.
  • This post about a recipe card is an interesting way to start an activity.
  • This year, I know I am going to focus on feedback even more.  This post will definitely help me.
  • A huge EdPuzzle fan myself- I like how this activity was modified using EdPuzzle.

A flashback to previous years:

Posted in Favorites, Reading

Summer Reading: Ditch That Textbook

PD Reading

I am on vacation, but I just finished reading Ditch That Textbook from Matt Miller.  It was a great read!  I enjoy all of his posts on his blog, but I felt like I was able to understand more of his whole philosophy by reading the book.  As I have stated before, I have already decided to ditch my textbook for next year, but if you are on the fence, this is perfect for you.  It cemented my ideas for what to do next year.  It is a perfect balance of research and easy to implement ideas.  I took a few book snaps to highlight some of my favorite parts.  For example, I loved this idea about professional development and how to improve as a teacher:

#ditchbook #booksnaps

I appreciate reading books that further strengthen what I believe in and even challenge some of my beliefs.  It is nice to feel like you are on the same page as others since the classroom can be isolating.

In addition, Matt used to be a Spanish teacher.  I appreciate that he can use that point of view to discuss the changes that he made.  He includes all different types of teaching, and his ideas can apply to different subject matters.  However, I traditionally feel that foreign language is an “add-on” to most books.  It normally involves an out-dated approach that relies too much on whatever their method can be applied to grammar and vocabulary.  Matt is able to describe how he practiced everything in his Spanish class without a long list of vocabulary or the resources from a textbook.  I took away many easy to implement ideas, but this was one of my favorites:

#ditchbook #booksnaps #seesaw

I use Seesaw to have students blog.  I need to start thinking about ways to view their blog as I view mine.  I obviously make cumulative work with my posts, and many bloggers create the top 10 lists.  Why not do the same with students?

I highly recommend that you read this book!  I enjoyed reading it, and I read through it quickly on vacation with a three year old.  Plus, I have many new ideas to help me process the changes that I will make next year sans textbook.

Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: June 16, 2017

Brillante Viernes: June 16

Happy Friday!  I hope everyone is officially on summer break now (or will be by the end of the day!)  I am down in Virginia Beach, and we are headed to South Carolina next week for our annual family trip!  I am pretty excited because I have this book packed away to read.  Also, when I come back to Virginia Beach, I will be working on putting on this edcamp here on June 27!  It’s not too late to join us!  In the meantime, you can catch up on your blog reading:

  • Martina hits the nail on the head about finding your place in the world (and being content there!)
  • As I continue to work on my IPAs, I really appreciated this post by John about interpersonal in the intermediate mode.
  • I recently listened to the Google Teacher Tribe podcast about Google Docs, and this post goes along really well with it!
  • Love these awesome brain breaks in Spanish!

And even more blog posts from me if you missed them the first time around 🙂

  • Here is a reflection on how it went when we replaced the final exam last year with IPAs (hint- we liked it so much, we expanded it even faster this year!)
  • My activities for the song Uno en un millón
  • A reflexive story to include in that unit
  • Casino game– a no prep required game that could cover any topic!
Posted in Favorites, Quick Tip, Technology

Quick tip: EdSurge weekly email


I love a good curated email list!  (I still enjoy getting the Intercom every Monday morning in my email box.)  Toward the end of the year, I started to subscribe to the EdSurge newsletter.  Luckily, I had a free block every Thursday morning.  Each week, I enjoyed sitting down and reading the various articles about educational technology.  Frequently, I would get so excited that I would email one of our edtech coordinators to discuss something that I had read.

I enjoy EdSurge not only because it highlights all of the recent news and developments, but it also tackles issues such as equality in technology and privacy implications with some of the programs.  At the end, they also highlight a tech tool based on teacher feedback.  In short- this has become one of my favorite weekly professional developments!  Add it to your summer to do list to check it out!

Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: June 9, 2017

Brillante Viernes: June 9, 2017

Whew!  All of our students are done today!  We have two more days of meetings, but I finished grades and am almost done packing up.  These past two weekends, I haven’t done any work, and I think it has motivated me more during the week!  I will have my own room next year, and I will only have to move for one class.  How about you?  How is the end of your year shaping up?  Hopefully as you are relaxing, you can check out these posts from last week:

  • Laura is so honest with this post.  I appreciate how she adds how she will modify her videos for next year, but it is a reminder that no teacher is perfect even for us bloggers!
  • Elizabeth has a great idea for a reading cube that will be helpful for me next year as I use a lot of novels.
  • I love these ideas for incorporating art into your classes.  And I am jealous of class field trips to the Getty!  Although, I shouldn’t complain because we do have the NGA.
  • This post is everything!  I really want to work not only on the feedback that I give students, but also what they do with it next year!
  • Speaking of novels, I am excited to use Blanca Nieves next year, and Allison’s post makes me even more excited and gives me a lot of ideas!

Here’s what I have been posting in the beginning of June for the past few years:

Posted in reflection

Reflections from 2016-2017 school year

Reflections 2016-2017

This year, I ditched traditional tests and quizzes for IPAs (Integrated Performance Assessments).  Last year, I played around with some limited IPAs while sticking to the textbook.  I felt freer this year to continue to push the boundaries and expand.  Meredith noted this in her most recent post on Path2Proficiency, but I was more positive.  I could focus on what students COULD do instead of looking for places to take a half point off here or there.  One of my main focuses was if I could understand what my students said and if they could understand what they were hearing or listening.

One big plus was that I felt that students felt freer to express themselves in Spanish whether it was written or spoken.  I had so many students try to speak Spanish outside of class.  I actually had more parents come in and tell me that their students were speaking Spanish outside of class for the first time.  In previous years, it would be the opposite conversation.  I had to explain what I was doing, so their students would speak Spanish because they never wanted to talk outside of class.  I believe that this alone would be a big enough sign that I am on the right path for my students and my teaching.

In addition, as I have continue to work with proficiency, I have noticed that students are increasing the vocabulary that they are using.  They are also starting to organize their writing more and writing more complex sentences.  Before, I only focused on if their writing was grammatically correct and they wrote the given number of sentences.  It didn’t matter if they used the same verb or not.  Although I would use different pictures for students to describe, many times they would fall back on the same vocabulary.  This year, they were able to push themselves to use more vocabulary.

As Wendy posted, I want to start by focusing on things I DID accomplish and check off because it can be easy to focus on what you want to still want to change:

  • I replaced my traditional tests and quizzes with Integrated Performance Assessments.  Last year, we did an IPA as a final for level 3.  This year, we extended it down to level 2.  As I wrote above, my students finally spoke so much more and wrote so much more, too!
  • I felt that due to this change, I was able to give more specific feedback.  Before, I could give feedback on grammar and vocabulary, but now I can give feedback on comprehensibility or level of discourse.
  • I incorporated more speaking assessments into my year than I ever have, and I even had students do a presentation that went well for students and me!
  • I incorporated Billy y las botas graphic novel into my classes.  I felt much more successful this year with Billy than I have been with some novels in past years.
  • Due to my changes with curriculum, I had to evolve my blended class.  Although it can be tricky to do so, I felt it made my class stronger.
  • I found and successfully incorporated both ActivelyLearn and Flipgrid into my classes.  I felt that both technologies enhanced my curriculum.
  • I finally applied to and presented at two conferences!  This has been a big goal of mine, and I am so happy to have accomplished it!  Also, I was super lucky to attend ACTFL, NECTFL and GWATFL this year.  I think this helped me make such big changes this year.
  • I focused a lot on how to teach reading and evolving how I work with authentic reading texts.  I started to utilize each authentic text more at the end of the year instead of just asking a few questions and moving on.
  • I became confident enough with my ability to develop units and curriculum that I have ditched the textbook next year in place of novels and proficiency units!

Changes for next year:

  • At the end of the year, I noticed that my students were still struggling with some listening skills.  I used some of the Language Gym’s microlistening activities.  These seemed to help my students improve their listening.  I plan on using more of these next year.
  • I want to create more overarching units to incorporate even more culture.  I believe that moving away from the textbook will help me to do so.  I also want to make sure that students use information from all of the sections of the IPA and unit.  They didn’t seem to make the connection that it was all connected.  I want to be more deliberate.
  • I still want to work on how students process feedback.  At the end of the year, I gave a Google Form for students to process feedback.  I want to continue to do that as well as work on my effectiveness when I give feedback.
  • I am thinking about how to organize my students now that they will be textbookless.  Perhaps interactive notebooks?  This will be a lot of food for thought over the summer!

Thanks to Wendy for giving me the idea!  It feels amazing to reflect on what I checked off this year!  What did YOU check off this year?

Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: June 2, 2017

Brillante Viernes: June 2

It’s Friday!  For many, it is the first Friday of summer (do those teachers even know what day it is?!)  This was my last day teaching US classes.  I have one more MS class next Monday.  My students have already finished exams, and they are completing feedback today.  I am SO impressed with how many of them did on the IPA.  I can’t wait to finish grading them and analyze the results.  Here are some of my favorite recent posts:

  • I love how Wendy did her reflections!  (Hint! You may be seeing something similar from me this week.)
  • Rebecca posted in Path2Proficiency!  She gave some excellent tips for unit planning.
  • I keep nodding a lot about everything on the Language Gym’s recent posts.  It has me thinking about how I will plan my classes next year.
  • I love these ideas for how to grow as an educator this summer!

Here are some older posts from this week on my blog:

  • It is so easy to create extra Quizizz practices for my students to review for the exam.
  • Reflection from 2015… mostly to say I finally accomplished goal #3!
  • Although I have changed my final exam to an IPA, here was how I differentiated my old exam.
  • I still haven’t found my video, but if you have Cinco Amigas, this is the handout that I used.
Posted in Assessments, Integrated Performance Assessment

How to start using IPAs: an evolution

How to start incorporating IPAs

On a recent #langchat, someone said that they needed more help to use IPAs (Integrated Performance Assessments).  I believe that the best thing to do is to start making slow changes.  While some people may be happy making huge changes, I prefer to change a little bit at a time until I am ready to make bigger jumps.  Below, I will detail how I evolved my assessments to prepare for larger IPAs in the following years.

First, I felt that I could switch a more traditional vocabulary to either interpretive reading or listening.  I could also make this a quiz and put it closer to the beginning of the unit because it was more input based.  Still unsure about where to start?  There were many traditional textbook topics that were easy to find articles or listening: Clothes unit?  How about an article about dressing for work in the winter, a video about summer clothes or an ad from Kohls?  For a novice unit, you could look up the fichas from Superpop magazine including this one for Harry Styles that would be accessible to early novices.  Also, International Day of the Family has some great infographics that would be easy for beginners.  In an upper level class, you could incorporate even more infographics about how to stay healthy.  Teaching a technology unit?  Here is a video with some tips to take a perfect selfie.  (Also- I have sorted many of my authentic resources by subject here.)

Many times, I would apply the grammar topic that was covered that unit in my textbook to an interpersonal speaking activity.  I would have students talk about their winter break when we learned about the preterite tense.  I had students interview each other about their preferences when we were reviewing gustar at the beginning of the year.  Students could also discuss an experience in a restaurant incorporating vocabulary and grammar (preterite).  Ideally, this topic would bridge some of the other topics, but in the beginning, I wasn’t too worried about that.  I just wanted to start incorporating some interpersonal speaking into my assessments.  It is ok to give yourself the liberty to see how it works without it being perfect.

Then at the end, a presentational writing task seemed natural.  It could easily tie up the grammar and vocabulary.  If the class had watched a video on the daily routine of a girl, they could also compare it to their own routine in writing. Or, I showed students an infographic about a trip to Mexico and had them use the future tense to explain to their parents why they should go on this trip and what they will do during the vacation.  I also switched up presentational speaking and presentational writing and had students discuss a former trip to combine both past tenses and city vocabulary.  At the end of the unit, it was easier for me to come up with a more unifying theme.

As I continue to move away from the textbook, I am finding ways to combine these to create an overarching theme for each IPA.  It just seems a lot harder when I am making that transition.  However, I have found success mostly when I move away from the textbook.  For example, I used this as a final IPA as I created a review unit from the beginning of the year.  I hope that this post can serve teachers who want to make the jump but still are unsure.  You can start to implement these small changes into your assessments without having to go full force into IPAs; these helped me to improve my practice to make the jump overall.

Still thinking about how to transition to proficiency?  Here are some of my switching to proficiency posts:

Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: May 26, 2017


Brillante Viernes: May 26Whew!  Memorial Day weekend- and many people are done with school!  We are finishing up our IPAs.  However, some people continue all through most of June!  We have exams the last week which helps.  Above is an acrostic poem from my blended students.  I love the end of the year reflection.  I should frame this because it makes me smile every time!  Enjoy the long weekend- and check out some of these posts:

  • Check out the last installment of Musicuentos Black Box podcast about aptitude.  It is just as great as all of the others and so valuable to teachers.
  • This looks like a fun game to play and a great video to watch!
  • How to stay productive at the end of the year and some ideas of what to start for next year
  • Finally- when the end of the year is long and everyone is frustrated: read this by Laura and remember why teaching is worth it!

Finally- a flashback to previous years in May:

Posted in Assessments, Integrated Performance Assessment

How to help students prepare for a final IPA

How to help students prepare for a final IPA exam

This year, my Spanish 2 students are taking an IPA instead of the final exam.  Our final exam had to be all on paper or in ExamSoft which can be limiting for foreign languages.  If we only use paper, the exam cannot consist of any listening tasks or any speaking tasks.  It all has to be reading or writing… for two hours.  Luckily, our principal has been supportive of our transition to have students take an IPA before the final exam.  Then, students do not have to take a final exam on the scheduled day.

For the final exam, we decided to include both interpretive reading and listening, in addition to interpersonal speaking and presentational writing.  This allows us to include all four modes even though the IPA typically has three sections.  We separate reading and listening on two separate days as well as speaking and writing, so students do not feel rushed with any topic.  The speaking section is the fastest, but again, we want to give them time to complete the writing for the full block.  Our classes are all 50 minutes long.

We had to also decide on different themes that could cover many different topics that we discussed during the year.  In Spanish 3 last year, we used the theme of natural disasters.  In Spanish 2 this year, we are focusing on vacations and trips.  Using a broad topic can help encompass many of the themes that we have been studying all year.  It also helps when you can find a variety of resources to select.  I wouldn’t suggest tying yourself to a specific theme where it is hard to find resources.

For other tips, I suggest PrintFriendly to print any reading authentic resources from the Internet.  Even if you do not need to edit the text itself, it will convert any webpage into a PDF in case the website will change or go away as we found out today!  Luckily, we had saved it already or we would have had to rewrite a WHOLE section!

During interpretive listening, students are using EdPuzzle.  I use EdPuzzle a lot especially for novice and beginning intermediate students.  It allows students to replay videos and pinpoints the part where the answer is located.  For many students, this helps make authentic resources even more comprehensible.  If you are worried that students can access it, you could even have students write their answers down on a piece of paper.

However, how do you help students prepare for the final exam that is cumulative but more about skills than about actual conjugations or vocabulary or a traditional test?  First, I asked my students what sections they wanted to practice the most.  This helps me to narrow down what they feel confident about versus what areas they feel the weakest.  My students said they wanted to practice both listening and speaking.  This helped me narrow down what I wanted to cover with my students.  Here are a few ideas that worked for us:

  • I used some of Gianfranco’s micro-listening practices to help with listening skills.  This helped my students identify sounds much better.  I used a variety of different videos from University of Texas-Austin.  They are short, and I can download them, so students do not see the transcript.  I will continue to use these micro-listening practices even more next year!  Students felt like it was difficult, but they really helped them.
  • Although I love EdPuzzle, there is something to be said about watching a video as a class and highlighting what others’ hear.  I found a similarly themed video to discuss in class.  Students worked individually or with a partner to brainstorm answers on a whiteboard.
  • I passed around sheets of paper with different themes from this year.  Students brainstormed different vocabulary from the year on each sheet.  They would add as many words as they could then trade papers with another group.  They would read that list and add more words to it.  Then at the end, they received a new list and had to incorporate 6-8 words from their list into a new writing on Seesaw.
  • Also the BEST thing that I did was sit down one on one with each student, talk to them about how they are feeling and answer any personalized questions that they have about the upcoming IPA.  EVERY time I do this (which isn’t much!) I think I SHOULD DO THIS ALL THE TIME!  Maybe if I put it down as my goal for next year?!
  • I may do this if I have a chance to on Friday- but I love these vocabulary puzzles!  Our Latin teachers used this to help with their review this year.
  • To practice speaking, I gave them various topics to practice.  With our first day, I had students brainstorm what they wanted to talk about first before they talked.  The second day, we did a mock simulation without any writing or brainstorming.
  • Finally, before our last writing assessment, we looked at the rubric again and students evaluated their own work.  They decided how to improve based on each different section of the rubric.  Once this was done, they looked at students’ work from other classes and evaluated those based on the rubric.
  • In addition, each night I have a different sample that students can choose to complete.  I believe that this reassures some students as they are completing an IPA and gives them more of a guide to work on.

How do you provide extra help and support when reviewing for an IPA exam?