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 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 Favorites

Thank you!

This week’s #vedchat conversation was about appreciation.  Sometimes we all get so caught up in our day to day lives that we don’t focus on what we are grateful for.  It is also happens even less at the end of the year.  Today, I wanted to share some of the many things that I am thankful for this year.

  • I am thankful for my department head and cadre of Latin teachers.  They are always there to bounce ideas around about how we are transitioning to proficiency.  I have learned countless ideas from them, and they are my face-to-face PD that never let me down.  Also, they support me when I make wild declarations like I am dropping my textbook next year and don’t think that I am crazy.
  • I am very thankful for my middle school friends!  They are always there when I need to grab a quick bite to eat after school or with a funny text at the end of a particularly wonderful or rough day.  We are also very alike with educational philosophies, so I enjoy talking shop with them too.  I love chatting with them over coffee each morning.
  • I am thankful for the technology department at my school.  It goes without saying that I am so lucky to work with one of the best technology coordinators ever.  She is always there any time I send an excited email about EdSurge or want to try out Flipgrid.  But our head of technology will answer any question that I want and make Adobe Illustrator seem SO easy.  While I blog about a ton of technology resources, it is truly because I have their support and help.
  • I am thankful to my school for allowing me to create my own blended class.  I can confidently say that my school has completely changed how I teach.  Not only by infusing technology into my classes, but also the ability to use computers all of the time.  They also encourage smart use of technology and not just using technology for technology’s sake.
  • My principal and assistant principal have been great about allowing the foreign language team to experiment with using more IPAs this year.  They have allowed us to eliminate final exams in some of our classes for a final IPA.  Both my students and I are excited!  Also, my principal has been extremely supportive of my professional development this year.  I could not have gone to all of these events without his support which I appreciate immensely.
  • And it ALMOST goes without saying that I am thankful for my students.  They are willing to try anything that I throw at them, and many times, I throw different technologies at them.  They always give me feedback, and they keep me on my toes.  They push me to be a better teacher because I want them to be successful and like Spanish.  I can’t explain the pride that I have in them inside and outside of class, but I am a better person for knowing and learning from them.
  • Outside of school, I am very thankful for all of my edcamp committee members!  I enjoy working with edcampmetrodc every time, and they push our committee to constantly strive to be better.  They are the only reason why I am semi-confident enough to try my hand at a new edcamp.  I am also so thankful to my newest edcamp co-founder for not telling me that I am crazy when I wanted to form edcampciva!  It is definitely a risk, and  I am so excited for it, too.  I truly believe that this will be the future of PD and can be organized by anyone
  • I cannot leave out all of the bloggers who inspire me day in and day out!  They allow me to keep up to date with the latest trends and what works in their classes.  This has pushed me to try new things like presentational speaking which has changed up how I look at different modes!  Also- my Twitter friends on #langchat continue to offer some of the best free professional development every Thursday night/Saturday morning.  They push my beliefs and ask some hard questions.
  • Finally- my family is wonderful and supportive!  My husband just says “langchat” every Thursday night and doesn’t complain when I ask to order takeout many Thursday nights (… or forget to tell him that I finished cooking because I am tweeting!)  He is also excited for me and always lets me try something new.  I obviously couldn’t   My mom and dad will listen to all of my stories about teaching and my students.  My mother-in-law likes every single post that I have on Facebook!

And you!  Thank you for reading my blog!  You make me feel like I am not talking to myself when you comment.  I was terrified to start blogging.  How would I ever measure up to some of the excellent bloggers that already exist?  But in all honesty, everyone has always been generous and nice.  You give me purpose to keep going and keep blogging!  I hope that this post gives you time to reflect about who you are thankful for.

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!

Posted in Favorites, Proficiency

My NOT to do when switching to proficiency

Not to do list

Mistakes, I’ve made a few- according to Queen.  As I have been switching from a more traditional approach to teaching foreign language to teaching towards proficiency, I have definitely grown.  However, here are some “mistakes” that I have made that hopefully you can avoid… or at least learn from my mistakes!

  1. Not switching my grade book categories: Traditional grading allowed me to have tests and quizzes categories.  Now, I would rather have: speaking, reading, writing and listening sections.  This way, I don’t have to jam two parts of an IPA on one day to call it a “test” to distinguish between tests and quizzes.  I just want to be able to call it a “listening assessment” and put it with the other listening assessments.  I believe that this will also hold me accountable to have enough in each category and balance it all.
  2. In an interpersonal assessment, not inserting myself enough: I love have the students talk to each other in an interpersonal assessment.  It pushes my level 2 students to maintain a conversation; however, they do not push the vocabulary level like I do.  They will stick to the same types of questions that their peers can understand.  I need to ask questions to push their understanding and gage what they can understand.
  3. Not really knowing where your students are: I have heard this from numerous people when they switch to proficiency.  You assume that your students have a greater proficiency level than they do.  Once you figure that out, you will be able to develop appropriate assessments and rubrics for your students.
  4. Not reassessing your rubrics: As a department, we designed the rubrics for our IPAs last year.  They served their purpose, and they were a great start.  However, after working with them for a year and further reassessing where our students are, we need to rework them.  However, I would encourage you to give your rubrics a few tries before you change it.  That will help you design a better rubric.  There is no way for you to design a rubric perfectly the first time.
  5. Not shortening my authentic resources to help students: I have recently posted on this, but I have decided especially for novices to delete sections of the text that is not helpful for students.  This will make authentic resources easier for students especially in the beginning levels.  As I switch to teaching level 1 next year, I want to be even more cognizant of the overwhelming nature of authentic resources.
  6. Not NOT having a textbook: I have finally decided that two years after moving in this direction, I am ready to drop the textbook.  I will say that it is easier to shape IPAs around existing textbook units instead of the other way around.  Two years in, I feel that I am using the textbook in small doses that it makes sense to drop it.  I would have been in over my head if I had dropped it sooner.  Also, if you never drop the textbook, that isn’t a problem either.  I think it can become a hot button topic, and you have to do what works for you.  You can find success by adapting a textbook to meet this need.
Posted in Favorites, Uncategorized

Spring 2017: Favorite things!

Spring 2017 Favorites

One blog post that I love to read is a review of the blogger’s favorite things.  I have a few that I have been using recently that I hope you can try too!

  • Google Keep:  This is a great to do list tool.  I normally love checking things off my to do list.  I use it on my laptop and iPad.  If I had space on my phone, I would add it there, too (#mompictureproblems!)
  • Flipgrid:  I have started to incorporate this into my classes, and I love it!  I can record a video and all of my students can respond.  They have 90 seconds to respond.  My students like it, and they do not need an account.  Another great point: it is free to have one board.  On the board, you can create subtopics.
  • Idea: As I wrote on Twitter, I had my students share how they used the target language when they traveled.  Many students were excited to share how they used it.  Two students mentioned that they had to give directions to their Uber driver.  I thought this would be a perfect twist to the usual “directions” unit.
  • Assessment: I finally put together an assessment that I planned two summers ago.  Students read a Yelp review then they also read the menu from the Yelp review.  Finally, they left a Yelp review of their own.  My favorite review was below:FullSizeRender (1)
  • Textbooks: Or lack thereof! I have finally decided to make the plunge and go textbookless next year!  One of my big reasons was I ended up having to find ways to use the textbook instead of not using it.  When the balance tipped for me, I was ready to ditch it.  This is clearly not a decision for everyone, but I am excited to try it.  We will see how that journey goes next year!  Also- my favorite is clearly my PLN who always responded to my requests about what novels to incorporate.

What are your current spring favorites?  I love to add to my list!

Posted in Favorites

Friday Activities before Spring Break: Updated!

Friday Activities before Spring Break

I noticed that many people had been looking for ideas for the Friday before Spring Break, and my post was from 2013!  Plus, who is going to use Fakebook anymore?  The students certainly don’t use it!  Here is an updated list of what you can do before any break:

  • BaileViernes has been sweeping Spanish classes everywhere!  Allison has collected 84 videos that have Spanish music and dancing here.  I tried this one Friday, and it was a lot of fun!
  • At ACTFL, I learned about digital storytelling with Noah Geisel (who also gave credit to his students!)  You can have students reenact scenes from a recent story on Snapchat.  Students download them and then submit them to you.  Or if you have been reading, you can do some book snaps!  This is one of my favorite activities to do with students recently because I always laugh at what they create.
  • Sra Sexton has had her students creating memes, and they are awesome!
  • I have shown telenovelas from Netflix before.  I love them for level 2 because the scenes are short.  They provide a nice stopping point, so I can easily discuss what just happened.  Plus the drama normally makes it easy to follow along.  Also, sometimes my students will watch the WHOLE telenovela without any prompting!  Last year, I think at least 3 of my students watched the whole series and came up to me this year to let me know that it was off Netflix!  You can’t ask for more than that!
  • Also grab a trophy and have students celebrate their accomplishments and set goals for the rest of the year.
  • I saw this tweet from the Central States: use these minute to win it games!  Explain it in the TL and then discuss who could and couldn’t do the task in the TL.
  • I really like the Creative Crossword game found here.
  • Students also love to play games like Kahoot, Quizizz or even do PearDecks (or its similar component- NearPod).

What do you like to do right before break?  Share below!

Posted in Favorites

A little Fiesta Friday to celebrate my wonderful students!

Fiesta Friday to Celebrate My Wonderful Students

As I mentioned on Friday, I decided to plan a little fiesta for my Spanish classes at the end of the second trimester!  I didn’t want to just turn on a video though, so here is how I developed the idea.  First, we did a #baileviernes to El Perdón thanks to Sara-Elizabeth’s post.  (I used to be a dancer, and I loved doing these dances at home with my toddler, too!)  This was more successful in some classes rather than others, but many students recognized the song, so that was good!  This song is also in our Música Marzo bracket.Practicing for Baile Viernes

Earlier in the year, a teacher gave me his old trophy because I was a quick Tweeter. 🙂  I had it sitting on my desk.  This was the perfect opportunity to use it!  I feel like as I continue to improve in my teaching, I keep wanting to get better and improve.  I want to use even more CI, slow down my pacing, utilize each Authentic Resource more instead of finding another one, change up my grading system more etc.  You get the idea.  However, I do not spend time to slow down and reflect how far I have come.  I don’t reflect how much my students have learned and improved this year.  I want them to see how far they have come this year and not just to think about what they cannot do.  To me, Spanish 2 can be the trickiest time to do this because it is a difficult level- the excitement of level 1 has worn off, and they have so much that they want to communicate yet don’t always have the vocabulary to do so.  So to solve all of our problems- each student took a selfie with the trophy (which was called The Right Stuff- that made it even better!)  Then they had to write what they had improved upon this year in the past two trimesters.  I didn’t want them to think about what else they had to do, but what had they accomplished.  Here is a collage of some of their responses.  It made me so proud to think of how far they have come this year!Trophy Selfies

After that, we did a little taste testing!  I bought two different types of Hispanic cookies from our local Hispanic market.  As the students were eating, they filled out this form.  This allowed me to incorporate a few taste testing words in there!  Finally, we continued to watch Miss XV from the beginning of the year.  We hadn’t watch it in awhile, and students enjoyed the break.  I enjoyed planning a little fiesta for them, and I like that they were learning more Spanish and reflecting as well.  How do you celebrate your students?


Posted in Favorites

Best of 2016 posts

Best posts of 2016

It has been another wonderful year!  Each year that I teach, I feel blessed to work with the students that are in my classes.  Although there are some days that leave me banging my head into my desk, they also bring me so much joy.  Since I have transitioned to the Upper School and fully starting to embrace proficiency, I really like where my teaching is heading.  I am feeling more creative than I have in years past.  I am looking forward to continuing down this path in 2017!  Also, a big thank you to YOU for reading, sharing and commenting on my blog!  You motivate me to continue to share what I am doing.  Here are my top 5 posts from this past year:

  1. Quizlet Live is still one of my favorite games to play with students!
  2. My updated summer proficiency pack
  3. A collection of the authentic resources that I have used recently
  4. More ideas for brain breaks in the target language
  5. My plans for my first two days of school

Also, you can check out what was popular in 2015, 2014 and 2013!

Posted in Favorites, Listening

How to change slowly


This year, I made a big change for me, but what may seem like a small change for others.  I ditched the cloze song activity on my exam this year which was my listening section.  I really loved (and still kinda love) the song portion.  It was a bit of fun during the exam as many students would ask me to play it again even if they had all of the answers.  Also, I had students practice the song activities throughout the year, so I felt like it was a cumulative activity.  The majority of my students scored well on this section.  I also had students who would reference this song section in later years.  (One group of girls got really excited when they saw one of the songs on my desk just last week!)  Plus, I thought it was so authentic and better than a traditional listening activity from the book.

But this year, I realized that it wasn’t as authentic or relevant as I want.  It doesn’t always mirror what my students need to know or do as Spanish listeners.  This year, I made the decision to replace it with an EdPuzzle.  An EdPuzzle actually assesses their interpretive listening skills, and I can find a YouTube video of a native speaker.  It also mirrors something they may encounter in the outside world.  (Although they will also hear a Spanish song, they do not need to understand every word.  I still hear  the phrase Starbucks lovers when I listen to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space…)

Although this post may not be as helpful or relevant for others, I hope it will inspire you to make a small change.  Many times, it doesn’t seem like our small changes will amount to a lot, and when you want to make a change, small changes don’t always feel important.  It can be difficult to drop an activity that you love and the kids love.  Also, it can be overwhelming to read blogs or posts on Facebook and think that you will never be there like that teacher.  Just make a small change and start there.