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:

Posted in Assessments, reflection, Speaking

Reflections on my first Interpersonal Bootcamp

Two weeks ago in #langchat, I talked about how I wanted to try more speaking assessments.  I have done one speaking assessment (other than the exam), and it took me to grade.  I procrastinated, and I never wanted to give another speaking assessment again.  (I know, that is not a good reason.)

Then Rebecca mentioned her interpersonal bootcamp!  I loved it!  I was sold, and my students completed it that week.  Here was how the process went:

  • By keeping this goal in mind, it allowed me to plan better speaking activities leading up to the activity.  It gives them a purpose for each activity, and it motivates them to speak Spanish in the classroom even more.
  • While students were taking the speaking activity, other students were completing a short, written presentational assessment.  I liked having the two samples (spoken and written) for one assessment.  It also ensured that my students worked quietly.  Finally, one student reflected that having the speaking part helped him vary his vocabulary in his writing.  I will take that!
  • I didn’t have fake jewels (will have to add that to the next Amazon Prime order!), but we used pink and purple paperclips.  It allowed students to have a reminder of who needed to talk.  Each student had to talk throughout the session.
  • I was able to get quick data, and I did not have to listen to students’ speaking for an extended period of time after class.  I also didn’t have the technical glitches with students’ recordings.  Plus, we were able to complete this activity relatively quickly and had time in class for another activity.

I was also pleased with the feedback:

  • I had plenty of notes, and this allowed me to give feedback to each group and students overall.
  • It did seem to take awhile for me to complete the feedback, but I typed up notes for each group and student.  I decided to give overall notes to the group, so I was not being repetitive and then individual notes to each student.  However, I really did not mind taking the time to give this feedback.  It didn’t seem as tedious as listening to each group THEN trying to give useful feedback.  I also feel that it is much more valuable than circling or highlighting something on a rubric.  See one group’s feedback below:


Reflecting on Interpersonal Bootcamp

In the future, I would want to change a few things:

  • I think I will participate a bit more.  While I did not want to interfere with the process, some groups got off topic then they hadn’t addressed the topic, but they had spoken on their turns.  This way, they can still participate, and I can make sure I have enough data to assess them accurately.
  • I also think that it is one thing to be able to talk to fellow students who use a smaller amount of vocabulary.  As a teacher, I am able to impart more vocabulary and harder questions.
  • I also needed to emphasize the fact of making it an actual conversation.  Only a few groups asked follow-up questions, so it became more of a question and everyone answers process.
  • I would also like to change it up with an EdPuzzle or Zaption video activity while students are speaking.  This would change up the process and also keep students quiet.

Finally, if you are going to start this, I would have done some of the initial things differently:

  • As my students were practicing their speaking, I would have practiced scoring.  I became a lot better as the classes went on.  However, it would have been easier on me if I had practiced earlier.  This would have also provided more notes for myself.
  • I would have emphasized staying on topic.  Many of my students would just ask different questions and then they would drag others off topic.
  • I would also watch what I wrote as a prompt.  I wanted them to talk about any family members that they visited over break, but they discussed how many family members they have in general.  In that case, I also am not sure how clear I was with the “can-do” statements.

With all that being said, overall, I loved it!  I felt that my students did better than I expected.  I planned on completing one this week with my middle school students, but we haven’t been back to school since Thursday!  I will continue to use this assessment throughout the year.  Thanks Rebecca for the great suggestion!

Posted in reflection

Goals for 2015-2016

I am required to write goals at the beginning of the year, but I really enjoy it!  It is important to do this BEFORE the week back to school.  Who in their right mind can successfully write goals as they are attending 80 meetings, setting up their classroom/website and catching up with the school gossip?!  Here are my four goals for this year:

  1. Keep up with my yoga!  I have started doing yoga more frequently with Yoga with Adriene. (Love her!)  I may have to go to bed a little later or wake up a little earlier, but I want to incorporate it more into my routine.
  2. Use FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) in all of my classes.  I have posted about learning more about it at NTPRS.  I will keep it to five minutes in the beginning, but I am excited to use it!
  3. My department is going to use more Integrated Performance Assessments this year.  I am looking forward to developing them for both Spanish II and III.
  4. Finally, I am looking forward to developing my Spanish III curriculum.  I want to make it more comprehensible input (CI) based even though I do have to use a textbook because I am not the only teacher.

What are your goals next year?  I am most excited about FVR!

Posted in conference, reflection

Day 2: And some reflection

Day 2 of the conference was also wonderful!  We started out by talking about feedback for creating an IPA.  Namely, you must think about what meeting and exceeding expectations looks like.  You cannot assess students if you have not established what you want students to attain.

We then talked about how to plan a unit.  I was waiting to put my finger on what my lessons are truly missing.  I kept waiting for something today that I never got.  It took me awhile to figure out what I really wanted, but I finally did.  Here is my revelation from today:

I REALLY need to revamp my speaking activities.

I have tried different things, but many times they are not successful or seem forced.  Here are a variety of things that I have not done successfully:

  • Info Gap activities: They are ok.  Some students complete them successfully, and others just tell their partner in English and have them write it down in Spanish.  That defeats the whole purpose!  If I had to boil it down to the root, students really just don’t care what time Ricardo takes English.
  • Describing pictures: I have done this multiple ways.  I posted pictures around the room, and students moved in groups describing the pictures.  Originally, I believed that it would give students a lot of information to talk about and also guide them.  Some students wrote about this as their least favorite activity.  I thought it was because it was difficult.  I was definitely lying to myself.  It was probably extremely boring.
  • Find Someone Who: While I really liked that students were moving about, most of the time they reverted back to English.  Again, that defeated the purpose of the activity.  Even when I milled around, they would speak Spanish when I was next to them and then switch.
  • Personal Questions: I would write down questions and have students interview different students using these questions.  Many times, students would switch to English.

So there you have it!  My list of failed speaking activities.  Some of them I have mentioned on here.  I will say that I believe that Voicethread has been a wonderful addition, but students are only speaking one way.  I want them to have a conversation!  I also have a mission this summer- find effective speaking activities!  I believe that I will find some of this at NTPRS.  I am also going to scour the internets and find activities that I believe will be successful.  If you have an awesome activity, please share.  I am a woman with a mission!

Posted in conference, Integrated Performance Assessment, reflection

Day 1: Language Learning for the Modern World and the Modern Mind

I am just finishing up day 1 of this conference.  I am so excited to learn more about not only how to create an IPA (Integrated Performance Assessment– you can read more here if you are not familiar with an IPA) but also how to adjust my teaching to make sure that I am teaching correctly (day 2).  I believe that this is the key.  I definitely understand what IPAs are, but I want to make sure that I am supporting my students before I have them complete an IPA.  It is not fair to ASSESS them that way if I am not teaching them this way.

Today, I had some really interesting take away messages though:

  • At St. Andrews, they assess by communicative competence and cultural competence.  Students should know that as the facilitator put it- you cannot order a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in Mexico.  I believe that this puts culture naturally into the curriculum.  You are not just teaching students information to answer a multiple choice question, but you are really giving them great information.
  • Some of the information that I learned revolved around how a student interacts with the text or speaker:
  • When a teacher assesses interpretive assignments, he is only looking at comprehension.  The student does not negotiate meaning with the speaker or writer.
  • In interpersonal assessments, there is negotiation of meaning.  Students work together and asking clarifying questions is encouraged.  When completing an interpersonal assessment, the MS teacher also has students complete this in three times.  They will do a sort of speed dating- with their best friend first then the next two people.  They are able to practice it further and their grade does not solely depend on having a good partner.
  • Finally, presentational does not have a negotiation of meaning either as students are showing what they know individually.
  • When the teachers give feedback during the final exam, they also tell students how they can prepare over the summer for the next level.  The teachers said that students can better articulate what they know and their struggles.

At the end, we created our own IPA.  Mine is a combination of what I have learned online and through other examples.  I created an IPA for a traditional food/restaurant unit:

  • Interpretive: Students read a Yelp review and answer questions about it.  For example: what are the foods that the review mentions?  Would the author recommend eating there?  Why or why not?
  • Interpersonal: Students must be either a waiter or client and mention a problem they have with the service or their food.  The two must interact to solve the problem.  They will then switch roles.
  • Presentational: A student dined at a restaurant last night.  He must write a Yelp review of the place including his recommendation.

So there you have it!  It is a bit of a brain dump from the first day.  As I am working on developing IPAs, I would welcome feedback.  Have you had any AHA moments this summer?

Posted in Listening, reflection

Revamping some of my listening activities

"Street Art Headphones" Wikimedia Commons by Wegmann
“Street Art Headphones” Wikimedia Commons by Wegmann

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

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

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

Posted in Favorites, reflection

End of the year evaluation

This year, my team made an end of the year evaluation for our students.  We were not able to give it to everyone, but I decided to give it to my own classes.  These questions can apply to any subject, and I am really proud of the questions that we created:

  1. Do the homework, tests and quizzes match what is happening in this class?
  2. What skills did you learn?
  3. What skills do you need to learn to be successful in an Upper School class?
  4. What would you do differently to prepare for this class?
  5. What was your favorite part of this class?
  6. How were you prepared for this class?

On my exam, I add a few extra questions for extra credit.  They are:

  1. What was your favorite activity that we did this year?
  2. What was your favorite song that we listened to?
  3. What activity do you feel helped you learn the most Spanish?
  4. What is one activity that you wish you did not have to do this year?

I really enjoy reading the students’ responses.  I prefer to leave it in narrative even though numeric data can be easier to analyze.  Now, we are off to King’s Dominion tomorrow for an end of the year celebration!