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DitchSummit Takeaways!

#ditchsummit Takeaways

I hope you are enjoying your winter break!  These past two weeks, I have been taking part of the free PD online called DitchSummit put on by Matt Miller.  He convened some awesome educators to talk about a variety of topics.  Even though it is for all educators, there are some great takeaways for foreign language teachers in particular.  I appreciate learning how others plan on applying these ideas to their own classes.  Here are some of my favorite takeaways and ways to apply them to your classroom:

  • The first presentation featured Tanya Avrith and Holly Clark.  They mentioned having students log into Socrative, and they can post something upon entering the classroom.  That would be a great way to start a weekend chat on Monday.  It would give some students time to think about what they could discuss- and you can make sure that you honor all students by discussing what they wrote.
  • In day two, Kim Strobel discussed the importance of happiness of teachers.  I believe that this is essential for all teachers to hear.  She also mentioned the importance of brain breaks.  I have done a good job of incorporating more brain breaks in my level 1, but I don’t use them in level 5 as much.  When I did, they really enjoyed it, so this session will be my push to incorporate even more.
  • I mentioned in my past Brillante Viernes post that I really liked the website Retrieval Practice by Pooja Agarwal.  One way to help target vocabulary stick more is that I plan on having students discuss older stories from time to time that we tell in class.  That will continue to help them recall facts and any target vocabulary.  I also like having students brainstorm as many words from different themes that they can remember then comparing their lists.  I plan on doing this the first day back.  This was reinforced by much of the studies that Pooja has researched.  Finally, she mentioned that it is best for students to write down whatever they can remember after they have closed a book without using notes.  I plan on incorporating this strategy with upcoming class novels.
  • Eric Curts mentioned creating an Excel sheet to keep track of characters in novels.  Again, this would be great to do in small groups with a Google Sheets, so they can collaborate together.  I have also enjoyed exploring his blog- and I have already added on some of these Google Chrome extensions.
  • Sarah Thomas was the next day- and she is SO awesome!  She is also a DC Metro native, and I always see her at EdCamps!  She discusses the importance of Twitter.  I completely agree with all of her points, and you should listen to her talk- then join up!
  • I liked Jon Corippo’s idea about putting up a picture and having students generate a list.  Then, these are the words that they have to use in their writing.  This minimizes teacher prep, and it stays novel for the students because you are using a different picture each time.
  • I am intrigued by Michael Matera’s gamification of his classroom.  I want to pick up his book to read more about mini games.  However, I believe that games such as the grid game keep all students engaged because they never knock any team completely out.  I want to continue to learn more about how to apply some of his ideas.
  • Finally, I am excited to think more about genius hour (like Don Wettrick’s session) with my students this trimester.  My Latin teacher friend did a similar project, and the outcome was incredible!  I will write more out when I decide how I will flesh this out in my own class.

Now- you still have a chance to watch all of these videos and gather your own takeaways!  But they are only around until December 31st!  I suggest that you start watching now!  If you have, share in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter your takeaways and how you want to apply these to the foreign language classroom.

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GWATFL presentation, Fall 2017

This Saturday, I am presenting at GWATFL in Washington, DC.  I am presenting on how to prepare students for IPAs.  Initially, I heard a lot about how to design IPAs, but I did not know how to change my actual teaching.  This presentation starts to introduce how I planned for IPAs and what I did in my classes to prepare them.  Let me know if you have any questions!

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EdCampMetroDC Reflections, Fall 2017

Edcampmetrodc takeaways 2017

This was the first year that we hosted a fall version of EdCampMetroDC at Lowell School.  While I was excited, it had been a particularly long week, and it felt like one more thing on my to do list.  However, when I got my coffee and saw Matt Frattali, I knew that it would be amazing as always.  The one thing that I have realized after attending so many is that our EdCampMetroDC has become a community.  It is always wonderful to see new people come, but I also really appreciate people who have consistently come to the edcamps.  I will put it out there that even if you THINK you have something better to do instead of an edcamp or want to sleep a little longer- just go!  Also where else can you mention EdSurge and hear a whooping reply?!

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from EdCampMetroDC (or read the notes here!)

I started with a group discussing blended learning.  I love EdPuzzle to embed videos and insert questions.  I didn’t realize that there was a Chrome Extension to use to save a few steps!  I also like to share that EdPuzzle can be used as a project and STUDENTS can annotate a video that they choose.  This takes away from EdPuzzle always being teacher centered.  Also Amy shared that she would use Hyperdocs after an EdPuzzle.  Depending on how students did, the hyperdocs would send them to different articles or articles with different questions.  I have really been interested in Hyperdocs in foreign language, and I think this was the push to get me to think even more about them.  Also on my docket to check out is weo.

The next session I visited was Genius Hour.  One thought that we discussed was what does a solid, good genius hour project look like.  For example, many times we see that a student has done a lot for charity, and we always hear the example that Google created Gmail during one of these projects.  But what does it look like if I am not going to create Gmail (which I certainly am not going to do… and my students probably won’t either)?  It ended up being a big discussion on Twitter about what work we choose to share on social media.  I have discussed this before on my blog.  As much as I have learned from many Facebook groups, many times, I see “look at what my students have done!”  Typically this is students who have improved significantly or have done amazing things.  I want to see what the average student in your class has done, too.  I can only imagine as a new teacher thinking that my students will NEVER attain this.  I think that we can be more cognizant to say this is what the average student did and some did not do this much.

The last session was about teacher self care.  I think we are all guilty of swinging into working too much at various points of our career.  Lately, I have felt it creeping in for various reasons.  I will say that as happy as I am not using a textbook, it is also stressful for me to make sure that I have enough structure for my students.  One idea that really made sense for me was to make a nightly routine.  I have forced myself to slow down and think about when I can fit my yoga practice in and also include a brain dump as well.  We also discussed focusing on the positive in your teaching and not always think about what you want to improve.  I hope that this continues to help me improve, and I hope that you can share some of your ideas as well.

Finally, it was time for the smackdown!  Sometimes in the smackdown, I hear similar ideas, but this year, there was a lot of excitement from the group and me!  One of my favorite websites to use for printing authentic resources is printfriendly.comMercury reader also does a similar thing, and it is an extension, so you can easily save yourself a few clicks!  Classroom screen looks really neat!  You can add a timer to your screen, directions, a sound level monitor, and drawings.  I haven’t had a chance to really play around with it, but it looks promising.

Well and that wraps up a LONG summary of my edcamp reflections.  I hope that you will soon attend a local edcamp.  I cannot recommend them enough.  Also, if you haven’t gone to an edcamp in awhile, give it a try!


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Professional Development: Day of Event

Day of Event Organization

Previously, I blogged about how to develop an edcamp (or a professional development style of your choosing!)  I wanted to expand on how we worked it the day of the event.  Lynne and I did meet at the school the day before the event to go over everything and make a few signs.

The day of the event, we had breakfast for everyone to eat and mingle before the event.  I checked people in through the Eventbrite app on my iPad as they were arriving.  I will say that sometimes we have had trouble with wifi at schools with various edcamps.  Always make sure that you are able to access wifi during the event.  When people signed in, I gave them a raffle ticket for later.

We also had a “birds of a feather” table set up.  This way, teachers could mingle with fellow teachers who taught the same language.  I have noticed that if we have a lot of tables initially, people will spread out and not mingle.  When you have labeled tables, people talk a lot more!  I definitely had to quiet everyone down to start speaking- which is what we want!

We also had the open schedule up on the board.  This edcamp was a little different from others because we wanted to focus on using comprehensible input.  There were some teachers who have used it extensively and other teachers who have not used it much at all.  Instead of just having everyone add to the board, we had a window for people to share what topics that they wanted to know more about.  Then we had people who felt comfortable discussing those put a sticky note up to informally lead the discussion.  I will say that I was a bit nervous that people would dominate the conversations, but we had some GREAT conversations.

I will say that participation and over-participation is a tricky balance to attain with edcamps; however, even though we had semi designated presenters, everyone really shared evenly.  This was as wonderful of a sharing as I have seen in edcamps before.  At edcampmetrodc, the theme emerged of step up and step back.  This means- if you typically sit quietly, push yourself to step up and share!  Everyone will benefit from your ideas.  Or if you are more like me and share a LOT- step back and make sure that everyone is being heard.  I would encourage more edcamps to adopt this phrase.  Many times, just acknowledging this helps guide the conversations.

Finally, after deciding on the board, we ended up with three sessions per time slot.  This seemed sufficient for our group.  We had five classrooms that we had made sure were available, so we could judge the day of the event.  I believe that this flexibility is really important.  I would say that it is better to have more sessions if you have a larger group.  Since you want everyone to be able to share, smaller groups can be preferable to larger groups.

Lynne and I shared a powerpoint with the following information:

  • who we are
  • what an edcamp is
  • what comprehensible input is
  • how to start a session (along with step up and step back)
  • thank you to our sponsors
  • building logistics (including where bathrooms are!  Don’t forget that!)

Then people could look at the schedule and move to where they wanted to go!  Since we were a bit more “low tech,” I put the schedule online as well as on a poster board.  I moved the poster to the hallway between the sessions, so people could see it between sessions.  During sessions, I could easily take the time to participate which was amazing.  I also would pop around the rooms with about 10 minutes to go to let everyone know how much time was left.  However, all of the sessions seemed to move nicely into the next session.

Finally at the end of the day, we had people share out some of their favorite ideas.  This was where I learned about psycho drama!  Then we had the raffle and meet-up at a local pizza place.  We had a nice group join us there, and it was great to see more people and be able to continue the conversation in an informal manner.  Whew!  Although it seemed daunting to type all of that out, it really was a great day and involved minimal preparation on our behalf… as minimal as planning any conference can be.  Don’t worry if you missed this one, I know that we already are hoping to have another one next year!

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There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season

Sometimes I feel a bit confused.  I really respect the results that I have seen in my students with comprehensible input.  I also have seen them progress so much more this year as we have implemented Integrated Performance Assessments- especially the spoken portions even though that is forced output.  At times, this seems like two opposing views when I go to conferences or read blogs.  But I feel really good about how my students feel in addition to how the class is going.  In the end, that is what I believe that this is what is important- that I am seeing valuable results in my students and that they are enjoying the class.  Also, in the end, I am not sure if you always have to choose one “camp” to belong to.  I have found valuable lessons in learning about IPAs in addition to all of the PD that I have done with comprehensible input.  I feel that you can find YOUR own ground and path to follow.  In the end, I have found that for me there is a season-slash-class-period for CI, there is a season for IPAs, and NOW there is a season for untargeted CI.

Today (and tomorrow), I am working with Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden about one word images and the invisibles.  They practice a lot of untargeted input.  I think that this can be alienating to many people (me included to start!)  However, it means that you don’t ALWAYS have to create a story around three structures.  You can create a story with a basic outline that works and is effective for many teachers.  As unsure as I was about untargeted input, I have become more excited to incorporate elements of this into my classes.

One thing that Ben pointed out that I felt was really valuable.  He said that to start one word images with 5-10 minutes left in class.  A teacher should not feel like they have to fill the WHOLE class with this.  I have never been a teacher who could fill the whole block with a TPRS story, so this felt really do-able for me.  (Also when people don’t finish the story in a whole class period… that was also never me!)  Ben even limits the stories to 20-25 minutes.  This also felt really freeing to me.  He also was a big advocate of making this your own.  You will never do something exactly like another teacher, and you should embrace what you are doing.

I am a visual person, so it helped to see how this worked though the workshop.  As a “class,” we created the one word story with an object.  (We chose glasses.)  After that, we had a few decisions to make: big or small, what color the object is and happy or sad.  Ben and Tina explained that these steps are crucial to help the artist (who is drawing the whole time) craft the object.  They stop after this for a level 1 beginning student.  Later in the year, Ben mentioned to add some other choices- rich or poor, intelligent or stupid, nice or mean etc.  You could come up with other characteristics that you feel are important for your students.  These characteristics help to craft the one word image.  Then at the end of the time, there is a big reveal of the picture that the artist created.  What I loved is that this can be tacked onto any class and be successful!

Since I have not tried this out in a class (yet!), I wanted to direct you to a few blogs who have used it more successfully than I have:

Hopefully, you feel like you could make this work in your own classes!

Posted in conference, Favorites

Professional Development and How to Start Your Own!

PD and how to start your own

Last summer (and this), I was frustrated.  My cousins live in the middle of South Carolina, and both of them had a Spanish teacher who left halfway through the year.  Now, I am aware of the struggles of being a teacher and why teachers leave in the middle of the year.  But, I really want my cousins to have the same wonderful experience that I had of learning a second language.  One of my cousins just did Duolingo for the rest of the year.  I believe that part of the problem is that many teachers feel isolated and that they do not have the support needed.  I realize that I am fortunate to be able to attend so much of the professional development that I do.  I teach at a school that prioritizes professional development and can financially support us.  Plus, living in DC, I am close to three major airports which makes travel cheaper.  In addition, many conferences come to this area.  I realize that this is not the reality for many teachers.  Even the state conference may be too far away.

What could I do- other than move and teach in SC?  I wanted to try to spread free professional development to a different area, but I wasn’t sure where to start.  In the Virginia Comprehensible Input group, Lynne Hendrick mentioned that she wanted to form a meet-up.  This was the perfect hook for me- and she was willing to join forces!  One of my favorite professional development is the edcamp model.  Before, I have listed why I love edcamp so much.  We connected about two months before the event, and we still were able to put it together successfully.  It was pretty much that easy to do!  I wanted to share how we did this, so you can determine how to set up one yourself!

Luckily, Lynne’s school was gracious enough to host the event.  (Also her supervisor was amazingly supportive and excited for the event!)  This way the location was taken care of.  I took care of the electronic part of it.  This was a bit time consuming to start.  If you want to do this, I would recommend perhaps starting this bit of it now over the summer when teachers have more time.  I used WordPress to host our site, but I know that Weebly is supposed to be really easy, too.  (Obviously since I use WordPress for this blog, I knew it the best.)  I registered an email through Google which gave us a separate account to house the information as well as all of the wonderful features with Google.

I wanted to have a few items on the blog to start before we publicized it.  On the blog, I put up a preliminary schedule for people who were not familiar with edcamps.  I put up two short blog posts with mostly links about what an edcamp is and what comprehensible input is.  I also put up some FAQs as well.

I also put the invite up on Eventbrite.  The trickiest part of Eventbrite was trying to come up with a logo.  I do not know a lot about how to edit logos.  I suggest trying to get a student or someone else to help you with this.  (Also, I want to re-do our logo to make it better for next year.)  Since we were putting this together quickly and I wanted to get the information up, I just went with it.  This was a detail that I tried not to get too bogged down with.  Eventbrite was a site that was easy to navigate, and I linked it with our edcamp email, so all of the information went to that email.  Also, it was easy to email all participants a week ahead of time using Eventbrite.

I made a Twitter account as well.  In the end, I love Twitter, but I am not sure how many people saw many of the posts there.  It was relatively easy to maintain though, so you could consider doing so.  I wouldn’t say it was a “must-do” in our case.

After this, we looked for a few “sponsors” for the raffle and breakfast.  Remember that edcamps are not sponsored per se like traditional conferences, but many edcamps reach out to companies for breakfast or a raffle item.  You can contact any company that you work with to see if they are interested.  Also, many companies work with edcamps frequently.  You can look into other edcamp websites to see who they contacted.  I would not worry about going too overboard.  Remember that the teachers are there to connect and get ideas not necessarily for a free breakfast or raffle item.  It is just nice to have these to honor the teachers’ time.

The rest of the time, Lynne and I promoted our event via Facebook groups and Twitter.  We contacted some of the foreign language organizations within our state.  In retrospect, I forgot to contact some of the universities in the area.  (That will be the first thing on my to do list next year!)  We also planned some blog posts about comprehensible input for teachers to reference.

This was most of the “pre” work that we did.  Edutopia ran a whole series talking about how to plan an edcamp as well.  Also edcamp has a wealth of resources on their website.  Next post, I will discuss how we ran the day of especially because this is getting lengthy!  If you are interested in hosting an edcamp, I would love to help you plan or promote it on my blog as well.  I hope that more and more people will continue to plan edcamps to spread their ideas even further!


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Reflection: edcampCIVa!


Whew!  Yesterday was a great day!  We had 33 teachers come who were excited to learn and share more about edcamp and comprehensible input.  Not only that- but we had teachers come from West Virginia and Raleigh, NC all the way to Chesapeake.  Overall, we were all looking to connect with teachers who were on the same path that we are. We covered many topics that I have been tossing around, and it was reassuring to see that many teachers were doing the same thing that I did… and no one had all of the answers! Edcamp CIVa pictures Here are some of my favorite takeaways:

  • Here are my notes from the first discussion on assessment.  One of my favorite takeaways about looking at another teacher’s rubric for writing was that she offers a bonus point for risk taking!  I love that!  While our department does not allow us to exceed 100 points, I believe that it is important to reward risk taking.  I also thought about adding an extra point if I laugh out loud.  With each batch of tests and quizzes, there are usually 2-3 that cause me to laugh out loud with their creativity.  When I am teaching the basics and students are creative enough to have me laughing, that is impressive!!
  • We also discussed percentages for grades and how they break up the grades.  Many teachers are evaluating how to minimize homework grades.  However, many teachers still are not sure.  Although I do believe that a grade should reflect a student’s ability to perform in the language, I am a firm believer that effort is important in real life and our jobs.  Classwork and homework represent the effort that we all place into our jobs.  I do think that I will minimize it to a MUCH smaller percentage than I have before next year.
  • For novel ideas, one teacher mentioned the strategy of SOS.  SOS stands for summary, opinion and statement (to support that opinion).  This seems a simple activity that my students could do in Spanish I especially if I provided some starters to the statements.  It could also be done pre-reading as explained in the link.
  • I have seen many posts about smashdoodles, but it made more sense when Lynne explained it.  (Although I love blogs- it is something about HEARING someone explain some concepts that just makes it stick.)  She has students find five new words to illustrate, then find three important sentences from the chapter as well as offering a few opinions with sentence structures.  For example, have students express what surprised them, bothered them etc.  It would be a nice combination with the SOS idea as well.
  • Also, Lynne shared some insights about the purpose of reading novels that she learned on Teach for June webinars.  She said that the purpose is not for the students to necessarily remember the plot but to be able to learn the words.  One of the most powerful ways to learn the words is via reading.  This was such an important point to reiterate.
  • At the end, we had a little time for our share-a-thon.  One of the teachers who was there had been a German teacher in Chesapeake for many years.  In fact, another teacher’s stepson had him and still spoke German.  Another teacher at edcamp remembered him as a teacher from when he was in school!  It was so nice to see his impact on all of his students.  He was also such an amazing edcamp participant because he was such a quiet leader.  He had been using TPRS for many years, but he would participate evenly and let many others share as well.  Anyway- I digress!  His idea that he shared was called “psycho-drama” that he learned about in the 80s.  You can tell students that you have just gotten an email from the nurse that a virus is going around the school with the water bottles at school.  He said that you can start asking students with water bottles if their throats hurt or any other symptom.  Then you can tell them the symptoms of this “virus.”  It is a great recap of symptoms and body parts.  You can keep going and make it more and more outrageous until the students catch on to the secret.  I loved it!  You could try it with so many different things!  I would love to learn more about it if anyone has learned about this before.

Again- thank you thank you thank you to SO many people!  First of all, thank you to Lynne for coming up with the idea and agreeing to host it with me!  I have learned so much from working with her, and it was amazing that we didn’t meet face to face until a week before the edcamp- the power of Facebook and email.  Thank you to Deep Creek High School for being so accommodating and hosting us!  Thank you to our sponsors including the edcamp foundation, ActivelyLearn, Flipgrid, Nearpod, Teach for June  and the Comprehensible Classroom.  They helped us to provide the breakfast and coffee in addition to having one of the best raffles that I have seen!  Thank you to EVERYONE who made the edcamp what it was.  It is not effective unless there is a group of motivated educators ready to share their ideas, listen to other ideas and give up time in their summer!  I hope that everyone who attended got a lot out of it.  I know that I am a better educator by being able to meet everyone and connect with you.  I hope to continue to work on and grow edcampciva.  I am also going to put together a few posts on how to host your own edcamp if you are interested!


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EdcampCIva logo

My newest labor of love has been that I want to spread good professional development to foreign language teachers everywhere.  But I will start in my hometown of Hampton Roads, Virginia.  I love a good conference just like anyone.  Just this year, I have gone to ACTFL, NECTFL and GWATFL.  I realize that that isn’t in the cards for everyone.  Your school doesn’t support you financially attending or it is not close enough to you.  Even state conferences can be several hours away which is not always possible for everyone.

Enter edcamp!  I love edcamps as I have been working on the edcampMetroDC team for 4 years.  I love edcamps for many reasons.  You only need a few people who want to get together to talk and a school!  And edcamps are free for everyone.  However, the main reason is that the most important part of the room is the room.  Yes- people can start by sharing out what is working for them, but then it becomes a conversation.  It becomes the best teacher’s lounge conversation that we can have.  I love this post about unconferences, and it summarizes so many things that I believe.  In edcamps, you have people who are willing to give up a day on their weekend or summer to become better educators.  You are allowed to have a side conversation with the person next to you instead of just talking to them in those awkward “bond with the person next to you” that people work into their presentations.

Some of my favorite moments during ACTFL was during the unconference put on by Noah Geisel.  I learned how to put Snapchat in my class which I have used regularly from Noah himself- and got to snapchat with Laura Sexton and Kara Jacobs.  I also met a teacher from Maryland that I have been able to stay in touch with via social media who has helped me connect more with teachers in the area.  While I did learn a lot at the sessions I attended, I would venture to say that it was the relationships that I continued or forged that were the best part of the conference.

This summer, I am helping to plan edcampCIVa.  We are getting together in Chesapeake, Virginia on June 27 to discuss comprehensible input and how it works in our classes.  Can you make it?  Sign up here.  Do you know someone in the area?  Forward it to them!  I can’t wait to sit down and spend time discussing a variety of topics with foreign language teachers.  Interested in organizing your own?  Get in touch with me!  Let’s make PD local and affordable for all teachers!

Posted in conference, Favorites

Takeaway from GWATFL: Lead with Languages

Takeaway from GWATFL

I saw ACTFL’s Lead with Languages campaign, I read an initial post and followed them on Facebook and Twitter.  BUT I hadn’t really explored the website.  Erin Whelchel shared the website and campaign with us- and it is amazing!  I wanted to highlight some of my favorite parts of the website that will be most useful for you as a teacher:

  • They highlight SO many languages- from ASL to Turkish.  As this is a new campaign, they also plan on adding more languages as they go.  Each language has a section on why to learn that specific language.  (My favorite is that you can be a rebel to learn Latin now!)  They also have scholarships for that language and videos of students and adults discussing how they use that language.  You could also pick out a video to highlight in the beginning of the year and at back to school night.
  • They also highlight language programs in different colleges and universities with a section for study abroad opportunities and summer programs for students and college students.
  • In addition, the “language and careers” section explains how people have applied their language knowledge to a variety of jobs.  They also include jobs that students can start right after high school.  The website will continue to be live and updated with new information and more job sectors.
  • If you want to become a language teacher, you can check out this page.  It goes over different routes and what is required in each state.  This would also be helpful for military families or any families who move a lot.  I was on my own to get my license in California.  (A side note: why don’t we just accept other states’ licenses?!  We have a teacher shortage, but then we require teachers to go through all of these hoops when they are ALREADY certified!)
  • The advocacy page is full of information to help your language program if it is in danger.  One of the biggest pushes for language is the Seal of Biliteracy.  It gives you information if your state has adopted the program, but your school or district has not.  You can also apply to help be an early adopter!

I hope that you will check out the page and highlight some of these facts with your students and around your school!

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GWATFL Presentation

This Saturday, I am presenting at GWATFL in DC.  This is a variation of my presentation from NECTFL, but I have a longer amount of time.  I have added more information to my slides.  I also added how I now use Flipgrid.  You can check out my presentation here: