How to change slowly

small-changes

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.

New EdPuzzle Videos

New EdPuzzle Videos

When I first started to embed questions in videos, I used EdPuzzle.  Then my whole school switched to Zaption, so I put all of my videos in Zaption.  Now, we are back to EdPuzzle.  There are some great features to EdPuzzle that I really like.  It is very easy to grade when you click on quick grade.  Also it does not allow students to change their answer after they have hit submit.  Last year, when my students were doing Zaption practices, they would change their answer to the correct answer.  I assumed that all of my students were really understanding all of the concepts!  I have even used it as a part of the assessments this year.  This allows students to rewatch the parts that they need to rewatch to understand.

Many times with YouTube, a video is removed, or all of the sudden I cannot access it because I do not live in that country.  Also since I have incorporated it into my quiz, I like to have practice EdPuzzles for students to complete.  Here are some of my most recent EdPuzzle activities:

When I am looking for a video, I like to mix things up.  I like to use cartoons, commercials, parts of a TV show or vloggers.  This helps to keep my students engaged.  Many times, I will ask them for one thing that they learned from a section to help them share what they have learned.  Have you discovered any new videos that you are loving recently?

How to start teaching proficiency: Interpretive

How to start teaching proficiency: Interpretive

As I find myself moving more and more into teaching solely based on proficiency with comprehensible input, I feel that many teachers are intimidated to begin the switch.  Many feel that they have to completely get rid of their textbook- then, where do you begin?!  Plus it seems that some proficiency teachers create their own units that would not align with a traditional textbook.  It becomes difficult to even edit those for your own class.  Many teachers have so many preps that it seems overwhelming.  Many teachers work with traditional grammar and vocabulary teachers and do not want to completely rock the boat especially when they are starting!  Also, if you fill your days with a lot of worksheets or conjugation- where do you go from there?  How do you prepare students for proficiency assessments?

I wanted to write a series for you, so you can start to dip your toe into the proficiency waters.  When you have started, I guarantee that you will progress further.  It will become easier to incorporate into your program then you can think about moving away from your program if you would like- or not!  Many times, I think teachers feel that it must be all or nothing. That was never my personality, and I wanted to help you along your way.

First, I found it easier to incorporate interpretive reading or listening into already existing vocabulary quizzes.  I would search for a video clip or a reading, and I would create an interpretive assessment based on it.  (Here are two examples of a reading assessment that I created.  I also have a template to use to listen to commercials for Novice High.)  Since there is already a section for key words, you can add your vocabulary there.  I have also asked students to find five or six vocabulary words that they know from the article.  (I make sure that there are at least seven or more vocabulary.)  I have also added a section such as “describe your own bedroom in Spanish and compare it to the one in the article.”  I realize that is not strictly interpretive, but I am ok with that.  You do not have to include every single item from the IPA list if you are not there yet.  Try adding a few elements from the list.

Once I had decided on what my assessment would be, it allowed me to plan a bit easier.  Many blogs list activities for interpretive reading and listening like Creative Language Class, Amy Lenord, OFLA tech binder, and Laura Sexton.  Even though my interpretive assessments use solely authentic resources, I do not only use authentic resources in class.  In addition to the blogs above that I reference, if I am preparing my students for an interpretive reading activity, I will:

  • Give them a practice with the same types of questions.
  • Use comprehensible readings to increase their understanding of the vocabulary and increase fluency such as these noticias.
  • Use reading guides.
  • Have time for Free Voluntary Reading with my classroom library.
  • Have students complete a webquest style activity on a website in the TL.
  • Play a game such as my review game with interpretive questions on the text.

If I am preparing students for a listening assessment, I will:

I also created a Pinterest board with more interpretive activities to help you.  I do not complete only these activities to the exclusion of speaking and writing that week, but I feel that once I establish my focus for the week, it becomes easier to incorporate more proficiency activities into my planning.  In the comments, add some of your favorite reading or listening proficiency activities that help prepare students!  One of my biggest worries was what I would actually do in class once I moved to more proficiency based assessments.  Take some time this week to think of a unit that you teach where you could add an interpretive quiz and find a good authentic resource to save.  Then you can start wading in the proficiency pool!

Combining authentic resources

Combining Authentic Resources

“Beach strewn with plastic debris.” US Fish and Wildlife Services. (Spet. 2009)

While I enjoy being able to really milk one authentic resource, I also like being able to combine different authentic resources for students on one topic.  I saw a textbook do this successfully, and I liked it.  This will give them a well-rounded view of the theme.  We are discussing the environment in my Spanish III class which is an immense topic.  I want to give my students a few topics to explore in depth.  One topic is the sea of plastic in the oceans.

First, I gave my students an infographic to take general notes.  This gives good graphics and statistics on the information.

Next, my students looked at an article about the main countries that contribute to the island in the Pacific.  This article is pretty dense, so I gave my students some guiding questions.  They are:

  1. ¿Cuáles son los países que tiran la basura en el mar?
  2. ¿Qué tiran las personas?
  3. ¿Cuánto plástico tira la gente de Argentina?
  4. ¿Cuánto plástico estará en el océano en 2025?

Finally, my students completed a Zaption using a video that talked about the sea of plastic.  This gave students more questions to complete to understand the video.

Once my students looked at all three sources, they summarized:

  1. What happens with all of the plastic and where the plastic islands are
  2. Who contributes to the problem
  3. How this problem affects the sea life

Then, students will write questions from each article to have a discussion in class.  This will allow them an interpersonal part of the discussion.  I like the support that these authentic resources give my students while allowing them the opportunity to see new words.

Template for Novice High Interpretive Listening

Interpretive Listening Activity for Commercials

Last week found me scrambling for a good commercial for my Spanish III class the night before.  I didn’t love the one that I found, but I did not want to spend all night trying to find a better one.  I am sure many of you have been down that black hole.  I decided to be pro-active to find more commercials in advance for my unit.  I also wanted to create an interpretive listening activity that could be used for various commercials.  I found a few exciting things!

First, I found this great YouTube site with Commercials from Mexico.  They have monthly commercials.  I found some about food and technology just in the few that I watched.  While you would have to do some combing through the videos, at least you have a place to start.

As I was researching what details to add to my interpretive listening handout, I realize that I should add better post listening activities.  For example, if a student watches a commercial about a certain app, they could say why they would like to use it or not.  Do they have a current app that completes the same task?  Also, you can discuss why certain companies make different products for different countries.  I saw one commercial for a lemonade made by 7-Up.  It is always fascinating the different flavors that each company makes worldwide.

Finally, the handout!  I created a quick prediction activity for students to think about what words they might hear first.  Then they can confirm what words they hear.  Finally, they can write down important words that they hear.  Students can then reflect on if the commercial has enticed them to buy the product and who is the target audience.  Also, based on great interpretive activities that I have found, students will write down what cultural aspects they notice in the commercial.  I can add comprehension questions as well.  Hope this saves you some time and late nights looking for activities and commercials!

interpretive listening novice high

Zaption Experiences

Zaption Analytics

Last year, I fell in love with EdPuzzle.  I decided that instead of relying on journaling, the students would be watching a video for one of their blended days and journaling the other blended day.  This year, our tech coordinator decided that it would be easiest if people stuck to one program.  The program we are using is Zaption.  If you have not used Zaption, it allows you to put videos in a tour and add questions throughout.  Students are able to go back and watch the videos if they need to.

I have to say, I love Zaption, too!  There are a few things that I have noticed with Zaption.  Students can slow down the video.  This is perfect for students who get nervous with authentic resources.  With Zaption, you can choose from an open ended question, a multiple choice question, a drawing, or a numerical question.  You play the video, and when you want to add a question, you drag the type of question you want onto the video screen in Zaption.  DONE!  You can also add a discussion, but I haven’t tried that yet.  It seems promising for a foreign language class.  The analytics are also awesome (especially for my math readers out there!)  Zaption is also easy to embed into a blog or a LMS system.  We use Haiku, and it is great.

I published my videos that I have used to a group.  I am hoping that by doing so, you can see them!  With this link, you should be able to join my group and see the videos.  I am assuming that you probably need to join Zaption.  Do you use Zaption?  Do you have any tips?

Creating more interpretive listening exercises

"Jurassic Park Tyrannosaurus." (Nov. 2011) by Marco Becerra

“Jurassic Park Tyrannosaurus.” (Nov. 2011) by Marco Becerra

Some students listed that listening is still difficult for them, so I wanted to develop different activities on that this summer.  I discovered an old archive of langchat which suggested giving students a written summary of a listening activity to correct.  This is a great activity for beginners!

I also want to further expand on my students’ interests.  I am trying to find sites for different videos other than YouTube.  I found videos from Fandango Cine on the Telemundo site.  Here there is a video about Jurassic Park!  I know that my kids love watching movies, and this is a topic that they can relate to.

First, I would have students write down the five moments as notes as they watch it the first time.  I would then give them the paragraph to correct as they watch.  I think it is important to give students specific tasks while they are working on a listening activity.  This movie is also good because it gives students a reference point that many of them have seen.  I also added questions for them to ask a partner (as I am trying to make my students speak more!)  I included the handout that I am going to give my students.

Revamping some of my listening activities

"Street Art Headphones" Wikimedia Commons by Wegmann

“Street Art Headphones” Wikimedia Commons by Wegmann

As I posted before, at the end of the year, I ask students different reflection questions.  While many times, some students LOVE an activity and others think it is the WORST activity ever, sometimes they match up.  This year, a few of my students wrote that the listening activities were difficult.  Now, I do different listening activities, but they were referring to the textbook activities. (More bells in my head saying get rid of that thing…!)

I decided to focus on that.  As I have mentioned before, I want to use more EdPuzzle activities in my blended class.  I dusted off my reading of Amy’s Ampping up Ancillaries.  One new thing that I want to try next year is start a conversation then stop.  I will have students either say (in class) or write (on assessments) what would come next in the conversation.  I could also do this on VoiceThread.  This also allows students to be creative.

It would be really fun later to assign students a character, and they have to respond how their person would react.  This still allows me to use some of the conversations in the textbook or podcasts online without having to rewrite all of my material.

Spicing up listening activities

Another one of my confessions: I enjoy using the listening activities from the book.  These are not the exclusive activities that I use for listening, but I like them because:

  1. They are pre-made.  I already have a lot of prep.
  2. The vocabulary is repetitive and condensed.
  3. They are quick!  I can cover one to two activities in 10 minutes max.  It is perfect at the end of the block.

However, today I had an AHA! moment as I was reading one of the conversations.  I should spice it up- and easily!  Many times, I try to read with enthusiasm, but what if I added props?  Today, it was a conversation between a doctor and patient.  I could just add a white coat and perhaps a stethoscope to the routine.  It would make it even more engaging for my students, and it would be really easy to execute.  Have you ever added props to the listening activities?  I am excited to try!