Posted in Favorites, reflection

Resolution for 2018: Being more effective

Adobe Spark (71)

I write this to say that I am not a guru for organization and being effective- I am far from it.  I am trying to work on my work- life balance, and this is what has worked for me so far.  Throughout the year, I haven’t felt too off balance.  But around the fall, I started getting migraines, and I realized that I was more off balanced than I realized.  It also forced me to take some time for myself to go to some doctor appointments- which is always challenging for a teacher!  Throughout the year, I have made a few changes, and I hope to channel even more changes throughout this year.

First, I started using more Yoga with Adriene videos again.  I love using them because there are some videos that are under 10 minutes and some that are up to 30-40 minutes if I have more time.  It allows me to adjust it to my schedule.  Also, I can change based on how I feel- tired, motivated or energized.

I also wanted to drink more water.  I can never remember to carry around a water bottle or a cup.  However, I can remember to put it by my sink in my bathroom.  This has allowed me to drink more water at the beginning and end of day.  I have also read that I should add some cucumber, mint or lemon to help me drink more water.  Consider that on the to do list for 2018!  I am still not where I want to be, but I am definitely improving.

For this year (2018), I am using timers to become more effective during my down time.  As I have said before, I am not the most organized as far as my desk goes.  I will make checklists which help me, but pretty much, I prioritize what I NEED to do.  Things like organize my desk keep getting added to the list on the following day.  I have decided to add a few minutes to my routine before and after school to help with this.  Since I don’t have too much time before school (and I am mostly making copies and getting coffee #priorities), I am going to set an alarm for 5 minutes to straighten my desk.  Then in the afternoon after teaching, when I don’t have the brain capacity to plan, I will set an alarm for 10 minutes to organize.  It seems like such a small amount of time, but my first attempt was successful.  I had a two hour delay, so I organized for 10 minutes, and my desk was pretty much good to go!  Then at the end of the day, I recycled any papers that I didn’t need- and voila.

I also plan on trying this to keep up with my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  I have had some ideas that I want to develop, but it seems overwhelming to start something in addition to everything else.  During my planning time, I can set a timer for 5 minutes to work on it.  After doing this for awhile, I am getting close to finishing another journal prompts list.  The timer also helps keep me inspired instead of trying to look for creativity.

I have also noticed that when I start accomplishing things, I have a lot of momentum.  My husband notices that I am in the zone.  In addition to trying to accomplish more, I am writing down my to do list each night.  Between setting timers and using lists, it also helps me sleep more most nights (except when I am in the middle of a book!)

Although I feel like sometimes I am too connected to my phone, I try to keep my ringer off.  This started based on practicality because I wouldn’t remember to turn it off when I was in class.  Now, I typically keep my sound off.  This allows me to ignore my phone much easier.  Many times, if I can hear my phone, I will automatically look at it.  When the sound is off, I don’t constantly pick it up.

I hope that some of my tips will help you- and it gives me some more accountability by actually writing it out!  How do you become more effective throughout the day?

Posted in Favorites

Best of 2017 posts!

Best of 2017!

I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season!  I am blessed to have so many people who still read my blog.  It has been great to continue my transition without a textbook, and I am learning a lot- while being gracious with myself about changes.  I think that is one of the most important things that you can do with yourself while teaching.  Be understanding and patient while you are trying new things.  I converted my blog to have introduction posts for new readers.  Let me know what you think about it!  Also- here are some of my most popular posts from 2017:

  • Number 1: I got rid of my bellringers last year, and I still do not use them.  This post explains my transition and why it was good for me to get rid of them.
  • Number 2: I added more authentic resources to my complete list, and there are over 100 now!
  • Number 3: My not to do list when switching to proficiency from a more traditional classroom is here and hopefully you will be able to learn from my mistakes.
  • Number 4: This post highlights my first day of school activities and a goal that I have.
  • Number 5: I have started to put together a collection of noticias each week.  The one from September 24th was the most popular, but I am linking the whole collection here.
  • Finally, I also blog on Path2Proficiency this year!  My most popular post there was how I started developing activities to help for interpretive reading.
Posted in Favorites

Keeping the end in sight

Keeping the end in sight

It can be a rough time of year– DEVOLSON if you follow Love, Teach blog.  It is a time that teachers can get bogged down with smaller details and lose sight of the forest.  I have been there, but this year, I have a larger reminder to see the bigger picture of our language teaching.  Two years ago, I taught Spanish III.  My end goal was for students to enjoy Spanish and feel confident with their abilities.  I had just started to try to teach for proficiency, so I was trying out different ideas.  I still had somewhat of a grammar and vocabulary focus, but I was ever so slightly moving away from traditional tests and quizzes.  At the end of the year, the students completed a final IPA.  All of the sudden, I thought I need to emphasize THESE things!  I should have included THIS more!  Did I progress my students enough through the language?!  As a teacher who had predominantly taught levels 1-3, I frequently did not get to see how much students progressed.

However by the beginning of the next year, I felt confident about one success.  One student was trying to get out of Spanish III before I taught him for various reasons.  But at the end of Spanish III, he decided to take Spanish IV the next year!  I decided that I had convinced at least one student who wanted to quit that he was able to continue in the language that would be a success.  I had to remind myself of my goals for the previous year.

But then there was more! This year, I am teaching Spanish V, and I have one girl from my Spanish III class in my Spanish V class.  I am astounded by her abilities!  She incorporates a great variety of vocabulary in her writing!  She is successfully navigating various tenses.  She participates frequently in class.  Each day that I see her progress, I become more excited about using comprehensible input and teaching for proficiency and this journey.  It can be hard to see the end of the path.  It can be frustrated to lose our old ways and feel like we haven’t covered or taught enough.  It can be tricky at the end of the year when you see SO much more that you could have taught and so much more that you want to teach.

However, it doesn’t have to be always the big things.  I had one student look up David Parejo on Instagram after we listened to his music in class.  I had another mom tell me that after my blended class, her daughter watches a ton of shows in Spanish on Netflix.  I love that students can really get into the culture which is why I got into teaching.

I am here to tell you to keep it up.  Go at the pace that seems to work for your students- not the pace that is dictated by a textbook.  Keep using more comprehensible input to help students succeed.  Use El Internado- or another Spanish-speaking show in class!  (My student didn’t mind that we are rewatching at this point in Spanish V!)  Make students feel confident in the language and with their abilities.  You may not always get to see the end result, but I promise you that you will see the glimmer of what is to come.  In the end, it is worth it and students really will succeed.  What little or big successes have you seen in your program that have motivated you?  This is the perfect time to remember them.

Posted in Favorites, noticias

Noticias and a few of my favorites from the past week

noticias 9 de octubre

Happy Sunday!  I am waking up slowly with a lot of coffee as a result of chaperoning the Homecoming Dance last night.  It is fun to see all of the students dressed up, though.  I wrote a new set of news articles.  I am hoping to complete this on the off weeks of Martina’s El Mundo en Tus Manos.  I HIGHLY suggest that you buy her subscription for all of the other weeks.  This week, I included:

  • Updates on Mexico and Puerto Rico
  • An article on a Bolivian biologist who is working on biodiversity in Gran Chaco
  • Information on Michoacan cuisine
  • A large archeology excavation in Colombia of muisca artifacts
  • Costa Rica’s tie with Honduras to qualify for the World Cup

I would encourage you to have your students look up various aspects to share based on their interests.  Here is the menu that I shared in the article.  You can also visit the website for Gran Chaco in Argentina that has a lot of pictures of the forest and animals.  This website has information on the Muisca culture.  While the text may be too difficult, you could look at the pictures of artifacts with novices.  Also- you can watch the video of the Costa Rican goal here.

Here is the whole newsletter:

9 de octubre 2017 noticias (1)

Also, there are two ideas that I have done this week that are quickly becoming some of my favorite activities.  I LOVE this idea that Arianne explained from Cynthia about using play-doh to recreate scenes from novels or stories before a gallery walk.  I used this while reading Frida and also after two stories from my Spanish I class.

My other favorite new website is Photos for class.  I found this from the website Ditch that Textbook.  It sorts through all of Flickr pictures AND puts the correct citation on it, so you can attribute them correctly.  It is so easy- dare I say even easier than Google Images?!  Hope these ideas help you in the upcoming week!

Posted in conference, Favorites

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!

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!


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!