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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: 

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Collaborate with me this spring in DC!

Spring Conferences in DC

I wanted to update you on a few conferences that I will be participating in this spring!  My first one will be EdCamp Metro DC in the KIPP-DC Shaw Campus.  If you have never been to an EdCamp, they are for everyone involved in education.  In addition, you decide the topics!  It is also free to attend.  I have been helping to put on EdCamp Metro DC for many years now.  I always take away a few good ideas to implement in my classes.  In addition, I get to network with many other teachers in the area.

The second is the Greater Washington Association of Teachers of Foreign Language Spring Immersion day.  I will be presenting on the tech tools for the proficiency classroom.  This is a longer presentation from what I presented about in NECTFL.  Hope you can attend one of these, and we can meet in real life!

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Summer Professional Development: 2017

Summer Professional Development 2017

Last year, I put together a list of professional development ideas for you to do over the summer.  I wanted to create a new list for you to consider attending- especially when I am on a conference high after NECTFL!

  • AATSP has their national conference this year in Chicago from July 6-9.  It is their 99th conference!  I attended this conference in DC, and I enjoyed it and learned a lot from the presenters.
  • NTPRS is back at San Antonio from July 17-21.  I went there many years ago and learned a lot especially from the elementary strand when I was teaching Lower School.  I went back when I was teaching Middle School and Upper School and also learned a ton of information.  You can read all of my notes to see what a valuable conference this was.  If you cannot make it to NTPRS, TPRS Books has workshops all around the country over the summer.
  • iFLT is in Denver from July 11-14.  This has always been on my list to attend.  Laura attended and posted a lot on her blog about this conference.
  • TELL Collab is also an awesome conference in Austin from July 24-26.  It is a participant driven conference.  Here are Amy’s notes on the conference!
  • We had Sara-Elizabeth visit our school, and we learned so much (and switched to more proficiency based teaching).  She has two BaseCamp Musicuentos: June 15-16 in Louisville, Kentucky and July 10-11 in Warwick, Rhode Island.  She will also offer the Brave Little Tailor July 31-August 1 in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • I learned about LILL  (Leadership Initiative for Language Learning) at the ACTFL conference this year, and many people gave it high marks.  It is June 27-29 in Skokie, IL which is close to Chicago.
  • CARLA institutes also have summer programs.  Some are held at the University of Minnesota, but they have some online as well, so you can complete them from any location.
  • AIM Language Learning has a 2.5 day Summer Institute for French, Spanish and Mandarin teachers that will be July 5-7, 2017 in Niagara area, Ontario, Canada.  It looks fascinating!
  • Connecticut Teaching for Proficiency Institute looks phenomenal with Thomas Sauer!  It will be held June 26-27 in Stonington, CT.

Also, there are a lot of amazing non foreign language related professional developments to attend.

  • ISTE (an instructional technology conference) is being held in San Antonio from June 25-28.  This is on my list of conferences that I really want to attend.  Many colleagues have been and enjoyed this conference.  One of my teacher friends posted about her experience last year at ISTE.
  • Also, if you are near Maine, you can go to a conference with Richard of Free Tech 4 Teachers about BYOD.  I learn so much from his blog that I am sure you would get a lot out of a face to face conference.
  • I was just looking at this awesome CUE Rockstar PD in California!  I would sign up today because it looks amazing, and it is in Vista where I had my first teaching job; however, we are on our family vacation that week.  If you sign up, let me know how it is!
  • I have been to an art teacher institute at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Va.  I loved it and loved all of that extra time in the museum.  We even got to go behind the scenes and see where they store the art that isn’t on display.  Here are some other art institutes, but I would encourage you to check your local art museum.  The Smithsonian American Art museum has a teaching Humanities through the Arts institute. The NGA has a summer institute on Renaissance art.  Many teachers from my school attended the National Portrait Gallery‘s learning to look institute and learned a lot- one ended up becoming a docent!
  • EdCamps are free and held all throughout the year!  Last year, the department of education in Maryland hosted subject specific edcamps.  I loved the EdCamp Maryland WL, and I met a lot of local teachers which is also fun.
  • I loved Ditch Summit over the winter break.  Check out Matt Miller’s (Ditch That Textbook and former Spanish teacher) list of presentations at the end of his blog posts.  Some may be near you!
  • I just saw these workshops from the EdTech team.  They got really good reviews, and there are locations in many states.

What did I miss?  Message me, and I will add your PD to the list.

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NECTFL Recap Day 2


You can find the first part of my recap here.  Saturday started bright and early!

  • My first session was with ACTFL TOY Katrina Griffin.  She had some easy, quick ideas to incorporate into my classes.  After an interpretive reading activity, she has students create a headline, three summarizing facts, a slogan and a picture or two.  She also will ask questions and have students vote via legos.  I love this for novice learners!  Then she has students create their own infographic.  Infographics do not have to be flashy- you can have students draw their infographic!  Also, she mentioned doing see think wonder with a reading or topic.
  • I watched my colleagues Andrea Martin and Kate Ramella present on Spanish 4 and AP.  I really like that they have a separate cultural rubric when that is used.  They have also used Google Slides to have students collaborate on presentations.  Kate created a slide with each topic and a student’s name to fill out.  Also, I never seem to have the right programs to create a word cloud.  They recommended Tagul which allows you to rank words in importance to make those words bigger.
  • My last presentation on Saturday was by Lori Langer de Ramirez about the proficiency puzzle.  She always gives a lot of food for thought.  One thing that she emphasizes when switching to a proficiency is to constantly say “PROFICIENT” instead of fluent.  This helps administration and parents make the switch.  Also, she talked about the differences between the European model of levels and ours.  This chart helps explain it (especially if you have found something awesome on Pinterest and have NO clue if B2 is appropriate for your students).
  • On a side note, I saw some awesome tweets from others during this presentation!  Here are a few that were my favorites!  Do two truths and a lie about an infographic (and one I did today)!
  • If you don’t follow, Jim Ventosa on Twitter you should!  He has the best sketch notes!  In his notes, a presenter has students poll about an infographic concept then compare the in class poll to the results on the infographic.

Hope you can take something away to use in your class!  I can’t emphasize how wonderful of a weekend it was.

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NECTFL conference recap: day 1

NECTFL Day 1 recap

Whew!  NYC did not make it easy for me to get in and out of via plane this weekend.  I had two delayed flights, but luckily they were direct.  I also got to meet some awesome FL teachers, see some familiar faces and spend time with my family and one of my best friends from studying abroad.  I had not attended a regional conference before, and it was really manageable, and I learned a lot.  I highly recommend this conference!  Also, thank you thank you thank you to everyone who stopped by my table at the techlab!  I was so nervous at first at the thought of having 10 minutes, and I am not sure I took a breath during the first two sessions.  The other ones were better, so I appreciate your patience with me.

Without further babbling, here are some of my favorite ideas and links from NECTFL day one!

  • I started out learning about how to integrate more interpersonal communication with Glennysha Jorado-Moran and Sylvia Guensch.  One thing that they said that really resonated me was how accepting we are of how toddlers talk, but we expect much more accuracy from our students when they are really learning in some of the same ways as first language learners.  This really cemented to me a lot of my feelings about proficiency development.  They also emphasized how to constantly recycle the question words because many times communication fails when students do not understand these words.  Finally, a tweeter mentioned the charades app to help with circumlocution in addition to the heads up app and to practice interpersonal skills.
  • The next session had teachers from the Penn Charter School who made the switch from traditional textbook teaching to a proficiency based curriculum.  The presenters were David Brightbill and Sarah Aguilar-Francis.  They talked about the process when they switched from proficiency.  One of the things that they mentioned was how much we expect from level one when teachers switch from traditional grammar based tests to proficiency based tests.  In this case, I think they mean that we can expect students to get 100% when we teach traditionally.  They can conjugate/memorize all of the correct verbs or vocabulary.  However, we cannot expect this knowledge to transfer when we switch to proficiency.  Just because a student can fill out a verb conjugation chart doesn’t mean that they will always write perfectly or speak perfectly.  To me, this is really important for teachers to realize.  Finally, one of the awesome authentic resources they mentioned for the Spanish house unit is segundamano.
  • My last session of the day was about how to prevent students from relying on online translators by Amanda Robustelli-Price.  There were a lot of good ideas that I had not thought of initially.  One idea is to allow students to use Word Reference and give them a specific number of words that they can look up before an assignment.  I really like that this takes away the ambiguity from an assignment.  As a teacher, I can see students who use online translators excessively; however, students may not see that or realize that they are relying on a translator while their neighbor is only looking up 3-4 words per section.  When I make my expectations clearer, I can help my students improve.  I also like the idea of a pre-writing strategy called list group label.  Finally, many people (including the presenter!) noted that they will provide key words that you want students to use on a writing practice.  This is such an easy and obvious scaffold, but I didn’t think of it.  Yes, they have Quizlet or their vocabulary lists, but many times they will ignore Quizlet and use their go to reference… the online translator!  This will help them not automatically reference the translator.

Here is a picture from my session of presenting!

NECTFL techlab presentation

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ACTFL Takeaways Day 2

ACTFL Takeaways Day 2

On the second day, I started off bright and early listening to Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, Paul Jennerman and Lori Langer De Ramirez.  They talked about what started them on the path to proficiency and what kept them going.  Each talk was phenomenal!  Also, you can see Paul and Lori’s talks on Facebook Live at the Musicuentos Facebook.  Sara-Elizabeth talked about how at times we look at how to keep kids in a language class until the higher levels in foreign language, but how do we keep them wanting to learning and practicing the foreign language?  It is inspiring me to connect students with more Spanish-speakers.  Paul talked about how to help kids along their journey as well.  His favorite quote was that we need to allow students to show what they can do while still allowing them to steer back to what is comfortable for them.  Lori reinforced that we need to find the hook and joy for our students.  Here is my storify tweets from this session.

After this, I met up with the #langchat live tweet up!  As I said in the last post, it is so helpful to see everyone face to face and take some time to talk.  It was interesting to hear different class set ups, and Laura diligently tweeted out some of our live side notes!

My next session was Kicking Back with a Cool IPA.  This was an amazing session, and all of the girls who presented it were so much fun.  Some of my takeaways were to make sure that my IPA isn’t too narrow so students can excel.  I need to think of ways to allow students to go beyond my prompt.  Also they talked about how the IPA should let each kid shine.  Finally, they said that you cannot “cannonball” into an IPA- you cannot teach traditionally and assess with an IPA.  Some of their suggestions include using a daily reading.  Again, I really liked using the idea of asking shorter questions each day and stretching out the authentic resource.  They also suggested using two questions of the day.  I like that this shortens some of my speaking activities to make sure that students are speaking each day.  Here is my storify from this session with some slides, too!

At the end of the day, I hung out at an uncon!  I met a ton of great people, and finally got to see Kara Jacobs in person.  We explored how Noah Geisel uses Snapchat.  He does not actually interact with kids on Snapchat, but he has them use it as a quick photo editor.  He will have kids take a picture on it and write a caption in Spanish.  He will also have students use it as a video editor because they can only record 10 seconds.  If you have kids create a 3 snaps it is a 30 second video and, they will be limited to what you can create, and you don’t have to sit through edits and outtakes at the end of the video.  They can also download the snaps, so they do not have to send it to their friends.  You do not have to interact with your students at all via Snapchat to have them use it in class!  (Side note: My colleague also told me that Snapchat has a QR reader, so you could use it that way too!)

Thank you, thank you to everyone that I got to meet, listen to and be inspired by!  It was by far my favorite ACTFL that I attended!  (Also, I am so happy that it is only a two day work week… that was exhausting!)

Here I have created a list of all of the other blog posts about ACTFL, and I will update them as I see more!

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ACTFL Friday Recap

ACTFL Takeaways from Day 1

I am coming back today from one of the best ACTFLs that I have attended.  It isn’t because I didn’t get a lot of ideas before, but it is truly because I followed Thomas Sauer’s creating your conference path.  As I further move into IPAs, I really wanted to get more information about how to continue to refine them.  Laura Sexton noted how you start teaching with IPAs, but it takes a few years before you actually get it.  Even though there are so many sessions that I wanted to see, this allowed me to focus and I feel that I have a better plan on where I am moving as a teacher instead of just a few cool ideas or tech tools to implement.

Also, I took the time to hang out with some of my langchat people.  At the langchat hang out, we all said that there were some sessions that we really wanted to see.  I mean Creative Language Class was presenting!  But in the end, we all took the time to sit down and connect face to face (and virtually with our fave Wendy!)  While it is valuable to hear from others, how many times do I get to really hang out, talk, and connect with some of these people who I have learned so much from on langchat.  I also took some time to hang out at the unconference, learned how to use Snapchat and met a fellow Marylander!  So as much as we are there for the sessions, we are also there to hang out with teachers because as Thomas stated “there is no other professional rush, then hanging out with teachers.”  Since I have been addicted to my Twitter account this whole weekend, I will add #sotrue!

Without further ado, here are my takeaways from the first day.  With Creative Language Class, I learned how to make simple changes to incorporate more culture into my lesson plans.  They modified a can do statement of “I can name 10 colors” to “I can describe the uniforms of a World Cup game.”  With my students, I am guilty of believing that because I use authentic resources, music and videos that I am showing them culture.  While there is some truth in that, I could do so much more.  In addition on videos, Megan and Kara add a little box for students to say the culture that they observed.  They give them topics: food, clothes, education, government etc and students have to describe a piece of culture that they saw in the TL and give an opinion about it.  This is such a small adjustment to a video assignment, but it would actually lead to more engagement and learning about the culture.

Also, they shared a way to get students talking.  They give the students statements or tweets in the target language.  Students can rate with 1 star for they do not agree, 2 stars for they sort of agree and 3 stars for they agree 100%.  Then they can discuss with a partner which statements they agree on or do not agree on.  I really love this because then students are focusing more on the speaking instead of writing.  Here is my Storify for more quotes and slides from the presentation.

One of the next sessions that continued my path was with John Cadena on how to scaffold an authentic resource for multiple levels; however, it really should have been called when I realized that I needed to get so much more use out of my authentic resources and not find 20 for each unit.  I loved so many pre-reading strategies that were mentioned.  We discussed not using the whole authentic resource each time.  You do not have to use the full video or article!  (I mentioned Print Friendly again as my favorite was to edit Authentic Resources from web resources!)  Also, he said one of my favorite takeaways how preloading information about an authentic resource isn’t cheating!  That is what we need to do to be successful with our students.

The first idea was to take out the image from the article or a screenshot of the video that you will be showing.  Students can write what they see, what they think will happen/the topic of the authentic resource and what they wonder.  You can also show them the title of the resource to help their predictions.  This will activate prior knowledge.  Then, the first time through the authentic resource students will only be looking to verify their prediction.  The next time through, students can answer questions about the text or video.

This also reminds me of my favorite activity from Nancy Doda.  You give students true or false statements about the article, then students predict if the statement is true or false before even reading the article.  When they read the article the first time, they confirm if their answer is correct.  We did this as teachers, and it really increased our engagement.  It didn’t really matter if your original answers were right or wrong because you really didn’t have any information to go on… but you really wanted to confirm your answers!

Finally, we learned about trailer sentences.  You can cut out main sentences from the video or the article/infographic and show them to students.  Then, students can fill in the vocabulary word that you are targeting into the trailer sentence.  This helps students understand the main reading when they get to it, and many will recognize the sentence as well.  Here is the Storify with more information from the session.

Whew!  This was long!  Hopefully it will help you solidify and understand some of my takeaways!  Feel free to ask me to clarify or give some input as to how you do these things as well.