Posted in conference, reflection

EdCampCIVa reflections 2019

EdCampCIVa Year 3

I am so happy to report that we had another successful edcamp this year!  It continues to grow, and we were up to 53 people this time!  It has been great to see the same faces year after year, so we can start to really develop a relationship that goes beyond professional development.  And as always- it is exciting to see more people join us.  We ended up with a huge Latin group this year.  I have told many people before that I have learned a lot along with my Latin teacher friends as they have started using CI.

Some people have asked me how to set up an edcamp.  I have blogged about how to set it up here as well as the day of the event.  One change that we made was to push the time back a bit and provide lunch instead of breakfast.  We felt that this allowed people to talk more at lunch because they had already met and would continue conversations from the previous day.  We will continue to plan for this next year.

We started the day with a share out of resources that had helped people transition to using comprehensible input.  I added links and included it here.

My first session that I went to was with elementary teachers!  I was so excited to talk shop with elementary teachers since I will be one next year again!  There were a few ideas that really stuck with me:

  • We discussed using yoga in the pre-K/K classroom and pairing it with animals and animal sounds.  I love yoga, and I can see myself creating a little sequence to do with my students!  Also, I want to create some laminated pictures to use.
  • We also discussed using commercials as the base for a story/lesson.  I always create a unit around the Spanish Christmas lottery commercial, but I have moved away from using commercials in the class.  Mostly because I forget!  Hopefully, I will have time to prepare some lessons this summer, so they are ready to go for the school year.
  • Finally, we looked at some post story assessment.  With younger students, I won’t need to give them formal grades, but I want to see what they understand.  One teacher showed how she gave choices like draw the story, or write what you understand in English or the target language.  I like that with Seesaw, I could also have students retelling it in either the target language or English.

In the next session, we discussed MovieTalk.  Even though I have used MovieTalks before, I love hearing how others use it because I always get new ideas!

  • One teacher shared how she picks out exciting sports clips to highlight.  This would be great for me to use before the Felipe Alou book!
  • Also, if you have had trouble with students paying attention for the whole MovieTalk, you could talk about the clip for a shorter period of time then really focus on the readings.  Also, one teacher writes readings based on the perspective of other characters in the video!  (Genius!)
  • Finally, one teacher suggests getting ideas from videos from what students are watching.  Many times, even if students have watched the video before, they are still excited to watch it again and discuss it in the target language.

In the last session, we discussed ideas to minimize your prep especially when starting out with CI.

  • One teacher shared how she has a class mascot.  If there are early finishers, she has students go out and take pictures of it in various school locations.  Then, as a class, they discuss the pictures.  This is so much fun!
  • We also discussed AnneMarie’s Quick Rubrics for reading and listening pieces.
  • Many of us also discussed the success of Write and Discuss.
  • Finally, I wrote a post here about transitioning to using more CI and some low prep activities.

Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who attended and shared!  It only gets better because of you.  And obviously- the biggest thanks to Lynne Hendrick who plans this every year with me!  She is awesome and her daughters are the best volunteers that anyone could ask for!

Posted in reflection

Reflection: Spanish VI

Spanish VI Reflections

This was my first year of teaching Spanish VI.  As with any class, at the end of the year, I am ready to redo half of it!  I have found with myself as I constantly want to keep improving, I come up with things that I wanted to do different.  But at times, I forget what my original goal was.  Therefore, it is easier to think about how I would improve things for my students, but a lot of good really did happen.  So first, I will start with what I am happy about:

  • I brought a local organization to my class to talk about the current immigration situation going on.  She spoke almost exclusively in Spanish, and my students were proud of themselves that they could understand her.  They also all asked her a question in Spanish.  That made me happy because they realized that she could understand them and respond to them.  I have done the same thing when we tour the National Gallery of Art, but my hope again is to show them that there are other Spanish speakers who are not their teacher that can understand them.
  • We successfully read a novel for adults.  By the end, I felt like it helped students acquire language, and they felt more comfortable reading a book aimed toward native speakers which they will have to do next year.
  • Their projects had mixed results, but one student volunteered at an immigrant research center in our library.  She had to use her Spanish to communicate with them, and she did it!  She had been hesitant to use her Spanish outside of the classroom overall.  The person that she spoke with even complimented her Spanish!
  • We watched Ocho Apellidos Catalanes via Kara Jacobs- and it was a big hit!
  • Overall, I keep seeing students’ development in their Spanish proficiency.  I hear students’ increasing accuracy when they speak in multiple tenses, I see students starting to use more tenses in their writing, and I can see them speaking a bit faster each time.  I consider myself fortunate to teach students for multiple years over multiple levels to truly see their acquisition take place.  It has allowed me to be more trusting in the actual acquisition.  I have also had more and more stories of students feeling comfortable using their Spanish outside the classroom.  This is one of my biggest goals that I continue to have for all of my classes.

Many of these topics were my goals for the year.  I wanted students to find a connection to next year, and I wanted them to continue to feel more confident in their abilities.  So mostly, I am happy with the results.  However, I would want to change a few things.

  • Making the jump from leveled reader to full on adult novel was a bit too high.  I didn’t get to do as many extension activities that I feel like really help cement the vocabulary and topics in my students’ heads with Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  We really had to sprint through to read the whole novel before the end of the year.  (Seniors end two weeks earlier than the rest of the school.)  Someone asked for a more of a transition book.  Martina suggested a YA novel.  That would have done the trick!
  • While some of my students’ year-long projects were great, some weren’t as successful.  I think the difference was how connected they were to the community.  Especially after reading Sara-Elizabeth’s post, I would have them connect their project to the community somehow.  I want them to get out and use their Spanish in some capacity.
  • I also should have made the project due earlier.  When I wait too long with any seniors, senioritis kicks in.  The projects aren’t as good.  If I had students finish this by the end of second trimester, we could have dedicated the third trimester just to the book.

As you reflect, remember to take in account your original goals.  It can be easy to set newer goals based on what your students have done throughout the year, but that isn’t where they were at the beginning.

Posted in Comprehensible Input, No Prep Required, reflection

How to transition to using more comprehensible input

How to transition to using more CI

This week, I used the great TCI locator to meet up with a local teacher who is interested in switching to using CI.  It was extremely beneficial for me, and it was also great to hear concerns of teachers who want to use CI.  One thing that we both noted is how overwhelming it can be!  When I transitioned to using more CI, there was only so much materials and blogs out there.  (Facebook groups weren’t even a thing!)  This was good and bad.  I pretty much had to go to conferences to learn more, but I could start picking things up one by one.  Now, there is information overload- which can be difficult to figure out where to start.

First, I wanted to start by explaining how I made space in my curriculum to use more CI.  If you have been teaching for any amount of time, you know that NO student ever remembers that WHOLE list of vocabulary (over 40 words for each unit!!) that you teach each year.  Also, if you are a non-native speaker like me, there will be a word or two in the vocabulary list that you didn’t know because you never needed to use it during your whole life of speaking Spanish.  (Camping unit and life divisions unit- I AM LOOKING AT YOU!)  Start by pairing down your list.  Students rarely remember el alquiler (rent) or el locutor (radio announcer).  Why do teachers quiz students on it?!  Since other teachers are used to that (and probably are not recycling these terms anyway because they are so low frequency), they won’t notice.  This gives you space to concentrate on useful terms that students actually may use/remember.

If you can get rid of a whole unit (maybe not the first year, but perhaps the second!), then I recommend trying a novel unit instead.  I started to use novels by putting one at the end of the year.  Many novels tie in themes from the year, and it seemed like a nice way to wrap everything up.  Plus, it is a nice change from what you have been doing which can be invigorating at the end of the year.  (Or if you have a review unit, you can replace the review unit with a novel at the beginning of the year!)

My other recommendation is to switch one level at a time.  This is especially easy if you teach multiple levels (AND almost more essential.)  Even though I teach four levels now (which seems crazy!), I made a HUGE switch the one year that I only taught level 2.  Then, last year, I made changes in the two other levels and this year, I have switched two other levels.   This isn’t to say that you can’t do any CI in your other levels.  In fact, I think as you start to switch in one level, you will find that an activity you did in one level can easily be modified and used in another level.  I have found that to be true with my students.  I realize that we haven’t done PearDeck vocabulary much and all of the sudden it is in all of my plans for all of my levels.  It will seem more manageable if you have the goal to start with one level than if you plan on chucking everything out and focusing on all of the levels.

In addition, to talking about how you can make curriculum changes to make space for CI, I wanted to put together a post with links that can help teachers.  My hope is that this list will be low-ish prep or ways to come up with stories if you are feeling uncertain:

  • One way to start using more CI is to incorporate weekend talks.  It is a great way to start Monday morning and low to no prep, so you can enjoy more of your own weekend!  I always start with Martina’s list or  Andrea’s variations.  Bethanie has made these AMAZING placements to help facilitate the discussion.  (And other teachers have translated them into new versions.)  Finally, once you have tried a few of these variations for awhile, I recommend changing it up with this game.  My students love it!
  • If you do have a story script that you can use, I recommend putting it in PearDeck!  This helped me transition greatly!  PearDeck is a technology tool that can be used as an add-on to Google Slides.  In PearDeck, I was able to ask questions, circle and allow brain breaks for drawing.  Each student would participate, and it was engaging.  If you have a story, you can put it in Google slides.  I tend to put 2-3 sentences per slide.  Then you can include comprehension questions and personalization questions within your presentation.  While in the free version, students cannot draw the pictures, PearDeck can allow your students to answer all of your questions including multiple choice and open-ended questions.  You can also see what students are understanding on your end.  While the projection view shows everyone’s answers anonymously, you can go back and view what student said what.  (Or you can open PearDeck on another device such as your phone or iPad.)
  • Although typically MovieTalks are not geared toward a specific theme, you can always find a lot of topics embedded in each video as you are making your transition to use more CI in class.  In each video, I can always discuss:
    • Clothes and color
    • Weather/time
    • Feelings
    • Descriptions
    • House rooms and furniture or city words

I also prefer to structure it more as guided by questions AND then explain what is happening.  This helps me make it more interpersonal.  I give my students a sheet to fill out that accompanies the main words that I am trying to hit from the unit.  I write these on the board as we are discussing the video.  I have found that as long as I plan out the main words that I hope my students to learn, I don’t have to script out as much.  You can see how I did this with Carrot Crazy.  (Kara and Arianne also have a ton of free MovieTalks too!  Many of them you can modify to work with your set of words if needed.)

  • After the MovieTalk, take a few minutes to write up the story.  It should go a bit faster since you have completed it in class, and you don’t have to create the story.  Once you have the story, you can come up with a few low-prep or zero-prep ideas to review it.  You have to keep in mind that your main goal is to have students read the document again and again to get more exposure to the words and story.  Plus, the more you can get out of it, the less prep for you!  You can:
    • change a few details and have students read and correct them.
    • split up the main sentences onto Quizlet and then have students play Quizlet live.  Instead of using it for vocabulary translation, you can write the first half of the sentence on the left and finish the sentence on the right.  (Remember to only come up with obvious splits here.)
    • give the students the story and have each student draw a line from the movie.  Then, scan their drawings and project them and have students guess what line the student was drawing.  (Thanks to my colleagues Evelyn Beckman and Rich Green for sharing this idea during our meet-up as well!)
    • have students go back and highlight all of the people or places.  (Or really highlight anything you think is important!)
    • have students change an ending if they are up for more output.
  • Another thing we discussed was trying to incorporate more CI without having to write all of the stories.  Dreaming Spanish YouTube channel is a godsend!  Pablo does an amazing job of keeping everything comprehensible.  This year in particular, there are new videos constantly- and here are some that would fit your traditional textbook themes- but are way more compelling:

You can have students complete an EdPuzzle with these videos- and they are so popular that many videos have already been made!

  • I think one of the scariest jump is trying to come up with a story with the students as well as the story structure.  While there are many structures to use, it can still feel like a lot of prep.  My colleague Rich also has a great way to avoid this.  You can give students a list of 7 words that you are practicing and have them use 4 in a cartoon.  They can use the words in the caption or the speech bubbles of the people in the cartoon.  Then, you can make any corrections and scan them to discuss.  I really like talking about drawings that students create because circling seems more natural to me.  You have to say- who is it because you don’t know.  You can also ask what they are doing and include clarifying questions.  You can also add more details to match up what you are talking about- like where are they if students didn’t give a background.  If you have a big class, I would only do a few cartoons a day.  That also minimizes your prep of correcting and scanning their work.  Then, after you find a story that really resonates with your students, you can type it out and elaborate more.  While this requires some prep on your end, you don’t have to worry about coming up with a whole story.  Also, you can use stories from other classes.  If you do that, you could also have students compare and contrast the stories.
  • Finally, I have always found inspiration in the news.  On Facebook, I follow news sources like Remezcla and AJ+ Español.  I also intentionally search for news from every Spanish speaking country.  While it takes time to make the news comprehensible for your students, the good news is you will have more culture embedded, and you can adjust it to include more of the vocabulary that you are trying to teach from the textbook.  If you are planning to make the transition, you can start by making a few over the summer.  Then, you don’t have to do as much over the year.  It doesn’t have to be an immediate current event especially if it connects with your students.  Also, most likely it is more current than most of your textbook readings.
  • Another big tip I suggest is going to professional development over the summer!  Mike Peto has once again created a map of all of the CI PD that is available this summer.

I hope this helps teachers, and I would love to hear if you try to incorporate more CI with one or more of these techniques.  I also want to extend a big thank you to Lauren for meeting with me and inspiring me to write this up!!

Posted in Reading, reflection, Unit and Lesson Plans

Fast Food Unit: Intermediate Spanish

Fast Food Unit: Int Spanish

After the news unit, students created a news project.  My colleague is writing up that project, and I will share it here as well.  We had two weeks before the exam period which is lasting almost two weeks.  Our students don’t take an exam (notice my uptick in blogging recently!), so my colleague and I wanted to create a short unit based on one of the news articles.  Since one of the articles discussed Krispy Kreme in Guatemala, we decided to create a unit around the fast food companies in Latin America.

Day 1:

To introduce this unit, I started with stations.  I LOVE stations, and they have become quicker to set up because I designate four stations each time:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Game

The speaking is always just a speaking activity with me.  It gives me a lot of time with small groups and we just have a conversation around the topic.  We discussed which fast food restaurants they liked and what they ate at each one.  For the game station, they completed a Quizizz to review previous food vocabulary.  For the reading section, I had students read the menus of a Burger King restaurant in Guatemala and a McDonald’s restaurant in Mexico.  Students used this Venn Diagram to compare these restaurants with fast food restaurants in the US.  Finally, for the writing section, I gave them the menu from the Pollo Campero restaurant and had them explain what they would want to eat at that restaurant.  I knew that they would all use the same phrases, so I made sure to provide them with others to use like: me da asco, prefiero, comería, and compraría.

Then at the end of class, we did a bracket of which fast foods we like the most.  I find myself going back again and again to the idea of bracketing for input.  It is quick, simple, engaging and zero prep!


This is where I feel like I need to work a bit more.  Right there, I just threw three resources at my students.  Two would have been great- and they could have reflected on it more.  Next time, I would stick with Burger King and Pollo Campero.  Then students could write about what they wanted to eat from either restaurant.  I also like that it allows more choice, and it integrates both the reading and writing even more.  Depending on when I speak to my students, I could also incorporate more of the menus into that as well.  I also didn’t get a chance to include more speaking- but I would like to have them reflect even more with Flipgrid.

Day 2:

The following day, I wanted to get more input for my students.  I decided to start with a few commercials.  However, I wanted to start with a pre-listening activity.  I used this PearDeck with a few screenshots from each commercial.  I asked students to describe what they saw in Spanish.  This activates prior knowledge and prepares them for listening.  The great feature about PearDeck is when my students see the other words that other students write as they are answering the questions as well.  Then they remember other words that they can use.  With the same picture, students then made a prediction on what would be going on in that scene.  Then, at the end, I had students make a prediction of words that they might hear in the commercial based on the images from the two pictures.  I like these techniques because they are easily done with any video.

I grabbed AnneMarie’s simple interpretive listening quiz for an activity for students to do as we watched these commercials.  Students watched the Mega BK stacker and the KFC Commercial Box 5 en 1.  We reviewed what students wrote for their interpretive listening activities.  Then, we used PearDeck Vocabulary to start reviewing more of the words for this unit.

Day 3:

Then, we started to look at longer articles around why people eat fast food.  Students read this article and explained their opinion on the article based on Martina’s Textivate activities.  Then, I had students split up and do a mock debate on whether people should eat fast food occasionally or if they should never eat it.  They had some great conversations about how frequently people should actually eat it.  This activity was great except not as many students participated as I would have liked.  At NECTFL, I learned about the idea of a silent debate where students have a discussion on one piece of paper.  You can give them sentence starters to help them discuss a bigger question and they write notes to each other back and forth with a partner.  In the future, I will do the silent debate before having them discuss the topic aloud.  This will help empower some of the quieter students.

Day 4/5:

At this point, I went to NECTFL.  I gave my students a practice interpretive reading quiz and then an interpretive reading quiz that was pretty similar.  I typically throw on a non-interpretive question with the assessment.  Since we were working on their opinion earlier, I had them explain if they agreed with the article or not in Spanish.  The practice article is here and the practice assessment is here.  I also had a GimKit for them to practice, but they didn’t get to it.

Day 6:

When I got back from the conference, I decided to really focus on one resource and evaluate the products, practices and perspectives of the culture.  I have somewhat understood this for awhile, but this was the first time that I put it into practice.  I really liked Rebecca’s analogy of a product, practice and perspective.

  • The product is a to-go coffee mug that we use in the US.
  • The practice is the fact that we carry our coffee to many places, and drink it on the go.
  • The perspective is how we value being busy in our culture.

I wanted to do the same thing in my own classes.  I decided to use a video– from Ruben’s Hamburguesas.   I set up this video in a MovieTalk way.  At the beginning, students discussed their ideal hamburger.  Then as we watched it, I pointed out important vocabulary.  This video demonstrates one reason why I love using authentic resources.  I used the phrase jitomate since it was used in the commercial since it was out of Mexico.  (A student even used that word on his final written assessment!) Then students compared these products with our own hamburgers in the US.

Day 7/8:

The next day, we had a chance to really delve into the menu.  Students recorded a few menu items on their notes.  Then, students started working on these questions or puedos.  I made sure that some of the questions tied back to the menu that they were working with.  (As I noted in my interpersonal evolution– I am getting better!)  As a class we started talking about practices around the menu.  We talked about the use of the grill and the fact that the sides were typically a bit healthier than our sides in fast food restaurants.

THEN, I pretty much learned my lesson and had students revisit this article and come up with a color, symbol and image that represented the article.  I learned that my students liked to think superficially about the article.  Since the unit was fast food, they wanted to pick colors like red and yellow; however, that wasn’t the purpose of the article.  I liked this activity because it required deeper thinking from my students.  (And the fact that it was zero prep for me was even better!)  We ended up taking two classes to really finish this activity.  Finally, I could see that they would get more out of doing this activity again.  It wasn’t a flash in the pan.  We did a write and discuss to conclude class.

Day 9/10:

Finally, we tackled perspectives.  I explained what a perspective was in general.  Then, students decided on perspectives based on the menu.  (Look at me- finally reusing an authentic resource and getting depth with it.  See also- my list of SO MANY authentic resources I typically use!)  They discussed it within small groups.  Then, I wrote them all on the board and students investigated their perspective online.  While we may make assumptions based on what we see, it is important to investigate it.

Then- we have my best laid plans and what happens when you know that you will have a snow day on the last day of the trimester!  I really wanted to explain more of the perspectives and have the students discuss what they figured out about their perspectives.  (One group thought that the salads were influenced by the US and were surprised to learn that Caesar salad was from Mexico!)  BUT, it was the last day of the trimester, and I wasn’t going to see my students for two weeks due to exams.  However, it forced some good things from me.

At the beginning of class, I wrote the perspective that the students had learned after they had investigated the original perspective.  I left these notes on the board.  Then, I did a mini-assessment.  Students used ALL of their resources to write down three comparisons with the fast food culture in Mexico and the US.  Since my students are in the intermediate level, I want them to start supporting their thoughts instead of just throwing unconnected thoughts at me.  I had them provide a detail from their notes, the article, the menu SOMETHING that supported their comparison.  (This was the idea that I was really happy with… and will probably use it in my upper levels, too!)

Whew!  That was a lot!  But, I was really happy how parts of this unit turned out, and I can’t wait to develop it further next year.  I am also looking forward to having my students continue to think more in the product, perspective and practice as they reflect on culture.  What did my students think?  In their reflections (that they did on their snow day that we ended up getting), some wrote:

  • “This heavily related to our lives.”
  • “It is interesting to see how different their cultures are in different countries.”
  • “It was challenging to debate in class.”
  • “It is very modern and a problem today.”

I hope this can help you if you would like to develop a stand alone unit or you are looking to add some culture to your food unit.

Posted in reflection

Reflection meeting Matt Miller

I was lucky to attend Matt Miller’s keynote address in Virginia Beach- and I do feel that I was blessed to hear him speak.  First, let me say that Matt is an AMAZING speaker. Many teachers bemoan that it is August, but on August 2nd, I could have started teaching the next day, and I would have been happy about it.  (Not that I am complaining about a few extra beach days…!) If you ever have a chance to hear Matt speak, GO! Don’t hesitate at all!

Not only is Matt great because he used to be a Spanish teacher, but he also has all of the stories that all of us do. For example, he remembers parent teacher conferences where the parents always tell you about how they took 3 years of the language and don’t know it.  There was the riveting story about reflexive verbs. I was tweeting a lot of it, but I wish he would have just said “record this part and play it back to yourself over and over again”. Some of my favorite truth bombs included:

  • “Coffee first, then risk taking.”
  • “Try to solve problems and fail at solving them. But don’t give up!  Then, repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat again.”
  • “Find your imperfection, sloppiness and chaos and feel ok with them.”
  • “Expose inadequacy, then model how to deal with inadequacy with your students.”

It was amazing, inspiring, and everything I was expecting and more.  He also expanded on an idea I have been mulling over all summer. Matt discusses how much  risk teachers must take and how scary it can be. This touches on something I have been mulling over all summer.

Overall, I want to become more aware of this as I evolve as a teacher.  Taking risks comes somewhat naturally to me, and I am lucky to have the support of my administration.  I have taught in 4 different schools, and I have always had administrators who support what I have done.  However, this is not how everyone in teaching feels. I believe we need empathy for all teachers- whether or not you perceive them as risk takers.  It can be easy to become frustrated if you feel like other teachers aren’t evolving like you want or not taking the same risks that you are. But that isn’t their reality.  And again, their teaching is not about you.

Recently, I have noticed on social media that some people make comments about what “great teachers” always do.  Sometimes, it is thrown in there that “average teachers” don’t do that. Many people feel positive about this experience.  They think- yeah! Here I am spending my summer developing as a professional. I am a great teacher! But I have to worry about those who aren’t doing whatever great teachers are “supposed” to do.  Do they feel even worse about it? I also worry that the narrative in teachers’ heads eventually becomes “well THOSE teachers aren’t great because they aren’t doing this thing.” That further extends the gap and won’t get anyone anywhere.

Finally, I am concerned about the pressure teachers feel to always be great.  To always be on, always have your best lesson prepared, to always have your classroom Instagram ready!  It is a lot- and it can seem that everyone else is excelling while you aren’t. I believe a lot of teachers on social media are becoming aware of this and making sure to highlight REAL, and not just your highlight reel.  Inevitably some of these messages come along about great teaching, and you can feel even worse.

My hope through all of this is that we stop labeling teachers as great, average, or below average.  If you are a risk-taker like me, have empathy for teachers who aren’t perceived risk-takers. Figure out ways to support and reach them.  If you feel like you are not excelling when everyone else is, remember that isn’t true. Take time for yourself. This will help everyone continue to work and succeed.

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?