Posted in conference, reflection

edcampciva 2018 Reflections

EdCampCIVa Reflections

It has been so exciting to see how edcampciva is growing!  I am so grateful to Lynne for taking on this venture with me.  We made some changes this year to help facilitate the sessions.  We added beginner sessions to flesh out what CI is and to give beginners some ideas.  While edcamp sessions are typically not pre planned, we felt that there are many teachers who don’t know much about CI.  We wanted to give them time and ideas to allow them to be successful when they go back to the classroom in the fall.  (If you missed it, I shared how I started with CI and some ideas for reading.)

We also had people traveling from the Eastern Shore, Maryland and South Carolina!  We wanted to give them more of a full day.  We added on edcamp after hours which was just time for people to compare notes about what they learned and share even more ideas in a smaller setting.  This worked really well until we had a hiccup with ordering lunch.  I was surprised at how many people wanted to stick around and hang out!  I would encourage other planners to think about something like this as well.  In order to facilitate this next year, we are going to switch from having a breakfast to lunch.  We believe that this will allow people to stay as long as they like.

If you are interested in setting up an edcamp, you can check out my posts on how to set it up and what is needed for the day of the event.  Plus, you can reach out to me, and I would be more than happy to discuss/explain anything to you!  Lynne has posted it before, but it is a relatively easy way to set up a pretty robust conference and easy to get going.  (In fact, the week before, I was in South Carolina!)

I really love the edcamp model because to me, it sends the most important message that everyone has something to share and add to a conversation.  It doesn’t matter how much or little CI you have used, you have a LOT to contribute.  Each teacher has a voice, and it doesn’t matter if you have a blog, have 10,000 followers on Twitter or if you don’t use social media at ALL.  You have something valuable to add to every conversation.  Plus, each teacher has problems.  I was explaining how sometimes I have trouble with consistency and accountability (or not to have accountability for FVR.)  Lynne shared how she had to commit to FVR every day in order to use it.  (I plan on doing something similar next year.)  Another teacher mentioned how she had used a rating system after students read a book.  I have decided for next year to do that.

Here are some more of my takeaways from our unconference:

  • On my reading guide example, I am going to add a third column to have students quote the Spanish where they found the answer.  This is something that I always like doing, but I always forget to do.  (Not anymore!)
  • Also, I am going to add this book to my Amazon cart to read soon!
  • Erin from Richmond discussed with us how she tells stories while drawing with a pre-determined script.  I have tried this successfully this past year, and I appreciated being able to reflect on it with her.  One thing that Erin explained was that she is a soft-spoken teacher.  This technique helps her to continue to give CI without having the craziness that class suggested stories can do.  I appreciate that this method has allowed her (and others) to find a way to give amazing CI without having to be crazy, energetic and tell stories all the time. (A popular CI myth)
  • We also discussed how it can be difficult to have students to attend to what you are saying when you are telling stories for an extended period of time (even 10 minutes).  While brain breaks help, some students still struggle.  One way to check for comprehension is to ask students to respond in L2 or L1 what you just said.
  • Erin and other teachers also noted that they too will offer the idea of having students draw or take “notes” if that helps them pay attention.  While it does not necessarily help with acquisition, if students struggle to pay attention, they will not acquire much.  Erin also said that she will use the drawings to discuss after.  This reminds me a little of Martina Bex’s collaborative mural (which I love).
  • I also liked the idea to really simplify the story down to 5-10 minutes then make the longer story an embedded reading.
  • As a post listening activity, one teacher said that she will have students write down everything that they can remember in English.  Then you can have students compare notes.  This will help students in case they didn’t understand one point or missed any ideas.

Thank you again to everyone who came out!  We are already planning for next year, and I will share out the date and information when we get closer!

Posted in conference, reflection

GWATFL Spring 2018 Reflections

Reflections on Gwatfl

This weekend was amazing!  I learned so many great ideas from GWATFL!  I published a lot of my take aways on Twitter, but I wanted to take time to share even more here as well.

First, if you haven’t seen John DeMado, I highly recommend it!  His keynote was awesome.  He discussed how we cannot continue to teach for mastery and expect proficiency.  DeMado says that we as teachers must really study applied linguistics; however, this is typically not a required class in our field.  He also notes that many teachers spend too much time working on grammar, so then, we resort to giving long vocabulary lists.  Then, this vocabulary is never acquired, so students cannot continue to work on their proficiency.  He also compared teaching for mastery to being an editor.  Editor’s jobs are to find what is incorrect and fix it immediately.  This hinders proficiency and doesn’t help students.  DeMado continued on to discuss the purpose of grammar which is to avoid miscommunication instead of creating communication.  He also notes that accuracy is a by product of acquisition.  Therefore, we cannot push accuracy- and as DeMado states- who are we to change how language is acquired?  (Really, go and listen to him any chance that you get!  It really affirms the shift that we are undergoing in foreign language!)

The first session was tricky because I pretty much wanted to be at ALL of the sessions, but I had to decide to make my time in each useful.  First, I went to technology in the WL classroom  (presentation in the link) with Karlie Hale, Margaret Sisler and Sarah Travis.  One thing that I want to try is to put plans on Google Slides then share it with the students.  That will help students who are absent as well.  Also, I loved the idea of writing letters to people in various positions and actually sending them!  I hopped over to Kristine’s session on bitmojis and booksnaps.  (You can read more here!)  While I have tried booksnaps before, I hadn’t used Google Slides before.  I liked this change because my students can use GIFs.  (And we all know how much I LOVE a good GIF!)  She also mentioned using booksnaps but doing song snaps or show snaps if you are watching a show in class.  I love this idea!  Finally, she mentions that on Fridays, she will post twitter chats for her AP classes.  You can check out her discussion on her school account here.  Next year, I am going to have a Spanish 6 class with just seniors and it is blended, so I am definitely going to do this for some blended days!

The last session I went to was with Jessie Yuan to look at a framework to assess student growth in interpersonal speaking.  I always learn a lot every time I hear someone new talk about proficiency.  Something else resonates with me.  In a Center for Applied Linguistics study, they found that it took about 630-720 hours in the target language for 6% of students to reach intermediate mid in speaking.  Due to the messy nature of proficiency (and the messiness of the “mid” level), Jessie decided to have the following categories: “novice low, almost novice mid, novice mid, almost novice high and novice high.”  She did the same thing with intermediate.  This way, students don’t feel like the whole time they just stayed at novice or intermediate mid when they have often made progress.

She also had us complete a close reading of the rubrics.  I plan on doing this next year more, and I want to do this also with my students before their final IPA.  We would look for different reoccurring words.  We also discussed what the term phrase means.  Students can be in novice levels, speaking in phrases, but if they are all memorized or repeated and they are not creating with the language, they are still in the novice range.  Another AHA moment for me was when she mentioned that even though with intermediate low and students are speaking in sentences, their sentences can be rearranged and the meaning can be maintained.  Therefore, students have   Also, I really liked that when Jessie does the interview with students, she allows them to draw or act out words when they need help.  I believe that this helps students if they become too overwhelmed.  I reflected a lot on my students’ progress as well as our rubrics that I am using with my students.

I highly recommend going to GWATFL next year if you are near the DC area (or want to take a trip here!)

Posted in reflection

Dust off your goals and reflect today!

Reflect on your goals

If you are like me, you write down your goals at the beginning of the year, remember some of them, plod along and then look at them at the end of the year to see what you did and didn’t do when it is time to send in your reflection.  All of my past goals reflections on my blog have been at the end of May. I cannot try anything new by that point! However, I am trying to dust them off a bit earlier this year. Spring Break for us falls at the end of March. That gives me a solid two months to try to improve upon one of the goals that I have set for myself.  Also, spring break is renewing and gives me the push I need to finish the year strong. So- take the time to dust off your goals and see how you are doing and what you can improve upon. Here are my goals that I set, a progress report and a few incidental goals that I have found upon the way:

This was the first year that I dropped the textbook.  I was worried that students and parents would be worried that they didn’t have a resource.  I continued to make Quizlet sets to help students feel secure that they had a reference point.  I also mapped out their assessments and continued to provide study guides. I believe that this continues to help students feel grounded without a textbook.  In a few years, I may not need to do this, but I believe that it is currently effective. I haven’t heard too many complaints to date, so it seems like I am on the right path here.

My second goal I feel I have fallen a little short on up to this point.  While I still occasionally have students reflect on my feedback, I want to incorporate this more throughout the rest of the year.  I did have my level 5 students reflect on their goals this year, but I want to be purposeful. When we return from break, I want to start with Rebecca’s post to address are we getting anywhere.  I teach a lot of seniors for the first time this year, and I want to give them tangible goals that they can still accomplish something for the last month and a half. (They end earlier than we do.)  I think this will help ward off the senioritis that is starting to creep in.

My third goal has been to work with Flipgrid (as I wrote it in my goal #2018yearofflipgrid- yes I do try to use hashtags in real life when I can.)  I am really pleased with how my universal grids have started to take off! It took me awhile to get a pace, but I think I will create a new topic once a month.  I hope that this gives teachers and students enough time to engage in each grid. (So- good news! I can check this one off!)

My last goal was for professional development, and I will meet by the end of the year.  While I am continuing to plan a larger edcamp for comprehensible input in Chesapeake, Va, I wanted to develop something for Maryland.  I have planned a meet-up for Maryland at my school this coming May 5.  (Interested? Reach out to me or join the Facebook group: Maryland Comprehensible Input Teachers!)  I am hoping to make this a bit more regularly since I live in Maryland. Many CI teachers meet throughout the country, and I am hoping to develop this in the DC Metro area.

However, there are goals that pop up throughout the year that may become more important than my initial goals.  Starting in fall, I have become more cognizant to put myself first. I have mentioned this before, but I love Yoga with Adriene.  I have also found Brett Larkin Yoga this winter.  I have made it much more of a priority to do a video even if it is just 7 minutes.  (Also yoga in bed?!  Yes, please.)  This has helped me sleep better.  While I am not doing this every day, I am trying to fit it in a few times a week.  When I feel like I am losing my patience, I realize at times that I haven’t done enough yoga.  I make time that night to practice.

I also started the year strong with setting an alarm to get work done.  I don’t do this every day like when I started, but I have definitely started to organize my desk at least twice a week using a timer.  Also, Google Keep keeps me on track like no one’s business!  (Even if I have had call about my contacts on there for two or three weeks!)  As I have told SO many people, I am also addicted to Ink and Volt’s make Sunday night your power night.  I feel like it has kept me more organized and makes my Mondays easier.  This has helped me organize and prioritize my life.

What are some goals that you have met?  What are some that you can implement by the end of the year?  Do you have any new goals that have popped up this year?

Posted in reflection

Why I blog- and how you can too!

Why I blog

Recently, I have become more self-reflective about why I blog.  My principal has been reflecting a great deal, and this has made me think about what and why I am doing things.  (Also check out his three posts recently!  They are amazing!)  At a recent faculty meeting, I was presenting on why and how I blog.  I decided to share it here as well.  Although- you may want to grab a cup of coffee or tea- it is a long one!

I started out by being obsessed with blogs.  I remember one day finding my very first blog which was a Year in Slow Cooking.  I think I read all of her posts that year, and that allowed me to find other bloggers- A Pioneer Woman, How Sweet Eats etc.  Soon, I was hooked!  Then Pinterest came into view, and I found even more blogs- especially foreign language ones like Creative Language Class, Musicuentos and PBL in the TL (which originally was Sra Spanglish Rides Again! #flashback)  I was realistic about my abilities- while I thought for awhile about making a cooking blog, I realized that was unrealistic.  (I did have a name picked out which was something about olives.)  Actually, I did make a short lived blog about my life as a Navy wife in Athens, Georgia!  Finally, I decided to jump in and make a foreign language teaching blog.

It was definitely a bit stressful to decide to make the jump!  While I felt that I had ideas to contribute, they weren’t as well thought out as Sara-Elizabeth or ground breaking as some of the proficiency work that Megan and Kara were doing.  I didn’t feel like I had a specific angle like PBL just like Sra. Spanglish.  But, I just started posting- which is what I suggest everyone can do.  You don’t have to have a specific lens or something that you feel will shake the foreign language teaching world.  I felt that some of my ideas would help someone teaching foreign language or Spanish, and that was enough for me.

I was also nervous that people would comment on how my ideas weren’t good enough or my blogpost worthy enough.  Coming from the world of big time bloggers in the cooking world, it can be brutal.  I remember every time I used to get a comment (not THAT frequently) holding my breath thinking- would this comment crush me??  But honestly, it didn’t happen.  Most comments were extremely helpful or positive.

To ease myself into the blog world when I started blogging, I didn’t share it through social media.  I wanted to make sure that I would stick with it, and I felt that if I waited until I had a few posts that people would be more willing to come back to my blog.  At the time, there wasn’t the same promotion that exists today such as all of the Facebook groups.  I could use Twitter or Pinterest- but that also required people to be following me to see my blog.  However, especially when I started (and even now), I believe as teacher bloggers we shouldn’t worry about stats and views.  It can be a somewhat motivating feature, but views can be fickle.  Sometimes I think everyone will really like a post that doesn’t catch on.  Other times, I throw a post together and later get a notification that my views are high.  If you are worrying too much about that, it will be even harder and stressful to blog.  Therefore, you need your “why” of blogging.

I blog because it helps me reflect.  I have a beautiful planner full of my ideas with Flair pens and stickers.  But I do not frequently go back and write down what worked and what didn’t.  When I write about my lesson plans on my blog however, I write what I would have changed.  This reminds myself, and I can refer to my notes when I have the same plan for the next year.  I will frequently do this when I share my lesson plans.  Also, other teacher bloggers noted on Twitter that just the act of describing an activity forces you to reflect on why you used the activity or changed the activity.  I have to reflect on why I am sharing this with the world.  I typically summarize why I planned to use each activity.  I also get the same benefit if I don’t end up finishing or publishing a post.  Therefore, you do not have to always polish every blog post if you don’t have time.

I also blog because it helps me collaborate with other teachers.  One of my favorite examples was Goosechase.  I found this tool, and I used it in class with directions.  Again, I was able to reflect on what I had learned and explain how to set it up for teachers who had not used it.  Then Arianne used it for novels– and it hit me that this was an even better way to use Goosechase.  Sharon then added her ideas as well which allowed me to modify some of her prompts for the scavenger hunt when I was planning mine.  These three ideas lead me to be able to utilize the program even better- and I use a lot of their prompts when I use Goosechase now.  This to me truly is one of the biggest benefits of blogging- I can refine my own teaching because others use my ideas and make them better and bigger than I could have ever imagined.

So- has all of this gotten you motivated to blog?  (I hope so!)  Here are some of my tips for beginning bloggers:

  1. Read blogs or perhaps Facebook groups.  Find out what people are talking about and what they want to know.  If you see someone’s idea and modify it, you can share it on your blog!  Again, that is how we all grow and become better as educators.  You can also use questions that you see popping up repeatedly as a place to begin to write.
  2. You don’t have to have a specific purpose of blogging to start.  You don’t have to be the resources guru or the IPA person; you can find your way as you go.  Start blogging and eventually your persona will come out!
  3. You can post a few things before you publicize it.  You can write some drafts, sit on them and then hit publish.  (My longer posts are like this for me!)
  4. There are plenty of platforms to use- WordPress (like I do), Weebly, Blogger.  You can see a comparison of the platforms here.
  5. Think about starting a group blog!  You don’t have to go about it alone.  If you are nervous, you can also share some posts with colleagues to get feedback.  Or you could publish a guest post on a blog or a lengthy idea to a Facebook group.  These ideas all give you the same sense of reflection and feedback as well.
  6. Don’t feel the pressure to blog every week.  Some people do- and that is awesome.  Others publish once a month, and they have some amazing ideas.  Blogging should be helpful and enjoyable and not a chore.

Whew!  Over 1200 words later- thanks for sticking with me!  I hope this will inspire you to reflect via Twitter, Facebook groups or on your own blog.  Also, if you start a blog, share it with me, and I can share it here as well!

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 reflection

Appreciate your own progress

Adobe Spark (19)

I really wanted to title this post: You do you*, but I felt that my last slogan title may have been too click baity.  I didn’t want ALL of my titles to be misleading or become too reliant on the pop culture (which I love.)  Without much more ado, I want to encourage you to recognize what is possible within your own teaching while appreciating your progress… with some caveats!

There are a lot of trends in world language teaching.  Many teachers are ditching textbooks, ditching homework, ditching desks, ditching bellringers, ditching traditional assessments, and the list goes on.  You cannot do all of this and stay sane!  If you had told me when I started teaching that I would be ditching textbooks and bellringers, I wouldn’t have believed you.  But even as I continue to evolve as a teacher, I do not see myself going deskless… at least not any time soon.  Technology is a big part of my class, and it is annoying to use a computer without a desk.  Right now, it isn’t in the cards for me.

However, I felt the same way when I read Sara-Elizabeth’s post about primacy and recency- which eventually lead to my ditching of bellringers.  She posted it a good three years before I decided to switch how I ran my classroom.  I stuck with bellringers, and they worked for me… until I reached a point that they weren’t working for me.  If you still love bellringers and they work for you, keep them!  I promise that I do not think of anyone as a bad teacher if they have a bellringer at the beginning of their class- I doubt anyone does!  All I ask (and my asterisk here) is that you consider the alternative.  Maybe a month, three months (or in my case three years), it will make sense for you.  That is what reading blogs does for me.  It gives me a way to look at others’ classrooms, reflect and decide how it works for me.

I could wax poetic about some of the other things I didn’t think I would do: Twitter (I always forgot to use #langchat on my first few Thursday night chats), or even teach a blended class (I don’t think I knew what that meant and did not like the online classes that I saw) etc, but I think you know your own list of ideas that you didn’t think you would ever do.  As I said before, you have to do what makes YOU and YOUR STUDENTS comfortable… with a few additions.  I believe that there are a few tenets that all teachers should follow to truly be reflective practitioners:

  • Connect to someone!  It doesn’t have to be through Twitter or blogs (although if you are reading mine, I assume that you believe in PD via blogs!)  Connect through Facebook.  I have ended up with some great ideas through the recent Facebook groups that I have joined.  Or- meet up with another teacher for coffee in your building.  Talk to a teacher that doesn’t teach world languages.  Meet up with someone else in your district or another local district.  The point is to get out and talk to someone else about FL teaching or best teaching practices in general.
  • Reflect on what you are doing.  You may not reflect every day, but reflect more often than is required by your school.  After you finish each unit perhaps, think about what works and what doesn’t work.  Think of at least one small tweak that you could change for the next year.
  • Even though you don’t have to make HUGE changes, use your reflections to try a small change (my personal favorite!)  Try ditching the bellringer once or twice in a week to see what happens.  Try throwing away part of the textbook unit that you hate to teach before throwing out the whole book.  (Camping unit, I am looking at you still!  Also- all that airport vocabulary… no one needs to memorize the word in Spanish for oxygen mask.)  Try Free Voluntary Reading for five minutes at the beginning of class with some of Mike Peto’s tips.  If you always try structured input, give one word images a try a few times.  For me, this is how bigger changes happen.  Two years ago, I managed to use an interpersonal bootcamp twice.  Last year, I used it much more because it was successful the previous times.
  • When you do make changes, make sure you change it because it isn’t working for you and your students and make sure you base it in research.  You are the teacher, and you are the expert on your classes.  You can see what is working for you and what isn’t.  Make sure that your changes are based on research based practices.  I love blogs such as Sara-Elizabeth’s and Gianfranco’s blog which base much of their study on research.

Most teachers do this!  They connect with other teachers, reflect and make small changes based on research.  After that- you do you!  If the textbook still works for you or you are not in a place to tackle that beast, don’t!  If you are like me, and you are pretty happy to keep your desks/tables, keep them in place!  As long as you continue to connect and make small changes, the rest will fall into place.  Too many teachers try too much and then revert back to their comfort zone or give up on teaching.  I believe that you can have a balance and still find your way.  I hope that my blog helps you find your way without feeling like you must teach or be like me.  My ultimate goal is to let you know what worked for me, what I have learned and things I am pondering.


Posted in reflection

Reflections from 2016-2017 school year

Reflections 2016-2017

This year, I ditched traditional tests and quizzes for IPAs (Integrated Performance Assessments).  Last year, I played around with some limited IPAs while sticking to the textbook.  I felt freer this year to continue to push the boundaries and expand.  Meredith noted this in her most recent post on Path2Proficiency, but I was more positive.  I could focus on what students COULD do instead of looking for places to take a half point off here or there.  One of my main focuses was if I could understand what my students said and if they could understand what they were hearing or listening.

One big plus was that I felt that students felt freer to express themselves in Spanish whether it was written or spoken.  I had so many students try to speak Spanish outside of class.  I actually had more parents come in and tell me that their students were speaking Spanish outside of class for the first time.  In previous years, it would be the opposite conversation.  I had to explain what I was doing, so their students would speak Spanish because they never wanted to talk outside of class.  I believe that this alone would be a big enough sign that I am on the right path for my students and my teaching.

In addition, as I have continue to work with proficiency, I have noticed that students are increasing the vocabulary that they are using.  They are also starting to organize their writing more and writing more complex sentences.  Before, I only focused on if their writing was grammatically correct and they wrote the given number of sentences.  It didn’t matter if they used the same verb or not.  Although I would use different pictures for students to describe, many times they would fall back on the same vocabulary.  This year, they were able to push themselves to use more vocabulary.

As Wendy posted, I want to start by focusing on things I DID accomplish and check off because it can be easy to focus on what you want to still want to change:

  • I replaced my traditional tests and quizzes with Integrated Performance Assessments.  Last year, we did an IPA as a final for level 3.  This year, we extended it down to level 2.  As I wrote above, my students finally spoke so much more and wrote so much more, too!
  • I felt that due to this change, I was able to give more specific feedback.  Before, I could give feedback on grammar and vocabulary, but now I can give feedback on comprehensibility or level of discourse.
  • I incorporated more speaking assessments into my year than I ever have, and I even had students do a presentation that went well for students and me!
  • I incorporated Billy y las botas graphic novel into my classes.  I felt much more successful this year with Billy than I have been with some novels in past years.
  • Due to my changes with curriculum, I had to evolve my blended class.  Although it can be tricky to do so, I felt it made my class stronger.
  • I found and successfully incorporated both ActivelyLearn and Flipgrid into my classes.  I felt that both technologies enhanced my curriculum.
  • I finally applied to and presented at two conferences!  This has been a big goal of mine, and I am so happy to have accomplished it!  Also, I was super lucky to attend ACTFL, NECTFL and GWATFL this year.  I think this helped me make such big changes this year.
  • I focused a lot on how to teach reading and evolving how I work with authentic reading texts.  I started to utilize each authentic text more at the end of the year instead of just asking a few questions and moving on.
  • I became confident enough with my ability to develop units and curriculum that I have ditched the textbook next year in place of novels and proficiency units!

Changes for next year:

  • At the end of the year, I noticed that my students were still struggling with some listening skills.  I used some of the Language Gym’s microlistening activities.  These seemed to help my students improve their listening.  I plan on using more of these next year.
  • I want to create more overarching units to incorporate even more culture.  I believe that moving away from the textbook will help me to do so.  I also want to make sure that students use information from all of the sections of the IPA and unit.  They didn’t seem to make the connection that it was all connected.  I want to be more deliberate.
  • I still want to work on how students process feedback.  At the end of the year, I gave a Google Form for students to process feedback.  I want to continue to do that as well as work on my effectiveness when I give feedback.
  • I am thinking about how to organize my students now that they will be textbookless.  Perhaps interactive notebooks?  This will be a lot of food for thought over the summer!

Thanks to Wendy for giving me the idea!  It feels amazing to reflect on what I checked off this year!  What did YOU check off this year?

Posted in reflection

When homework is not the problem

When homework isn't the problem

One thing that I have thought about since DitchSummit is about the role of homework after Alice Keeler‘s talk.  I still have some reservations about ditching homework entirely.  I believe that it does provide a repeated exposure to the words in the target language that can help students.  In addition, all of our students can use the internet for their homework, so I can have a practice with feedback via Quizizz or EdPuzzle.  I also try to write out thoughtful study guides that prepare students for the test or quiz.

However, one thing that really stuck out to me was that Alice said essentially that many times we blame homework on why students aren’t doing well, but that is not the reason that they are not doing well.  Well, that was me.  I would frequently say that if a student wasn’t doing well it was because they weren’t doing the homework.  While there was somewhat of a correlation especially for study guides, this wasn’t the exact reason.  I decided to take homework off the table while reflecting on why students weren’t doing well.

This year, I have realized that some students who struggle have been relying upon Google Translate (or SpanishDict) too much.  While I frequently discourage it and I will tell students not to use it, I can tell when students rely upon it.  They are not really decoding any parts of the reading or sentence if they are using Google Translate instead of figuring out the one word that they needed and use WordReference or Quizlet.  Whereas, it is obvious when students translate from English to Spanish, it isn’t as obvious when students translate from Spanish to English.  They can typically make any linguistic or meaning jumps that are needed.

I have thought about how to combat this.  Although I hate using the extra paper, I am going to print off the Quizlet lists.  Then, I can tell students just to use the lists.  I am also going to implement a SraSpanglish (Laura) rule of capitalizing any word that you look up in writing.  I am going to continue to play around with having students highlight any phrase from the reading that they look up.  Hopefully this will help them to become cognizant of the amount they look up or need to look up.

How do you combat the reliance on Google Translate?  Any other tools to add to my kit?

Posted in Assessments, Integrated Performance Assessment, reflection

The evolution of my interpretive reading tasks

As I am becoming more of a proficiency based teacher, I have been evaluating my interpretive reading tasks.  (Sometimes along this path, I feel that as I learn more information, the amount of information that I do not know increases!)  When I first read about the interpretive reading tasks, I assumed that they were just comprehension questions on an infographic (especially because I was working with novice students.)  Occasionally, I would include a question about the main topic.  It was pretty easy, and I thought, “Way to go self!  You made an interpretive reading assignment!”  However, I started to realize that interpretive tasks go WAY beyond this.  I investigated a little further and found the following list of questions to include on an interpretive reading assessment.

From ACTFL, I learned that they add on many different questions.  In addition to specific key word identification and the main idea, this book suggests adding true/false items and having students correct false statements.  They also have students indicate where they found this information within the text.  The article also adds questions on how the text was organized, phrases that allow students to guess meaning from the text, and on inferences based on the text overall.  Finally, the interpretive section on this assessment also includes perspectives from the author and the culture and an opportunity for students to reflect on this information.  Also, I found Courtney’s stations example which really clicked with me.  I always need to see a good example to go along with something I am reading.

Whew!  That introduced a lot of questions that I wasn’t including!  (Also, all of those good infographics that I spent hours combing to find were getting a very superficial glance by my students!)  I am still developing my IPAs overall, but I feel that my interpretive reading section is definitely getting stronger, and it is challenging more of my students.  Also, I always like to point out to people that I am a human behind this blog, and I am not perfect!  I am always trying to improve.  Hopefully these ideas will help you as you develop your own IPAs, or you can at least feel that you are not as alone as you are developing how you are teaching.

Posted in Art, reflection

Take an art tour!

Take your students to an art gallery

Whew!  We just got back from taking an art tour of the National Gallery of Art in DC.  It was great!  They have guided tours open to the public that they conduct in Spanish.  (They also have scheduled tours in French, Mandarin, Russian, German, Japanese and Italian!)  I have a group of really dedicated and enthusiastic students in my Middle School Spanish II class.  I decided that they were ready for a real tour.  That didn’t mean that I was nervous- what if they tuned out because they didn’t understand any of it?  What if they didn’t enjoy listening about the art?

I should have known better!  They were all excited about what they could understand!  They all reported that they understood a lot more than they thought they would.  My students realized that they had to really focus to understand, but they could understand it.  Many would ask me for clarification of words that they frequently heard but did not know. However, the students all felt like they learned either about art or more Spanish.  After the first talk as we were walking to the next, the students were all chatting about what parts they understood.  It was meaningful because it was authentic.  They realized that they could take an art tour in another country and understand what was going on.  Having the art there was also beneficial as students could see what the docent talked about.  It can be nerve-wracking to go out of your comfort zone and do something like this- but you will never know until you do!  As a teacher, sometimes you have to take on part of the risk for your students.  You should look for art tours at the local museum to see if they are offered in Spanish.  If you do not have a local art museum that gives tours in Spanish, here is a list of YouTube sites in Spanish: