Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: July 21, 2017

Brillante Viernes July 21

Happy Friday!  I am back in Virginia Beach this week, and it is wonderful to be at home!  Plus I get more time to be with family, be at the beach and read.  I feel like I have finally had enough time to relax and spend some time with professional development to start to plan for my upcoming year.  Also, I am so proud that my father-in-law contributed to the history on the Navy SEALs Memorial here at the beach.  It has been a wonderful trip so far with family and friends.  There have been a lot of great posts to get us back into the swing of things as well:

  • Madame Shepard has an amazing series on her blog right now on how to design a thematic unit!  Here is her first post, and be sure to check out all of the others as well.
  • This post is full of tips for MovieTalk magic!
  • I was so excited to see Sharon’s take on Goosechase.  I plan on using some of her ideas when I teach Blanca Nieves this year!
  • I haven’t used Poll Everywhere yet, but this post to use Poll Everywhere AND Choose your own adventure stories looks amazing.

Here are some more posts from back in the day:

Posted in Uncategorized, Warm-up activity

Bellringers and I are never getting back together… Like Ever.

Adobe Spark (16)

So earlier this year, I wrote a post about breaking up with my bellringer.  I was nervous about not using it.  It was everything that I had learned was “good pedagogy.”  It was on my teacher observation checklist!  It worked for me… somewhat.  But brain research really wasn’t on my side.  And it was BORING (mostly).  Occasionally, we would start with a interesting game etc, but many times, it was a handout or book activity… that we needed to go over.  So by the time we really started it was far into class.

I realized that I didn’t come back and discuss how it went when we started a Twitter discussion about it.  I ended up keeping a similar schedule from my original blog post.  We would do the special person interview (and later in the year weekend review.)  To keep it fresh, one of my favorite weekend review options was on this blog.  Other days, I would start with Free Voluntary Reading.  To keep some accountability, I would have students find two new words to them to share with a partner.  Or we would do some booksnaps.  I started my level 2s with five minutes of reading then I bumped it up to seven or eight minutes by the end of the year.  In addition, I would either do a song or a MovieTalk as well.  I would also play around with commercials during February and the music mania in March.  I also would mix in some PictureTalk as well.  Because we would typically assess once a week, this would summarize my week of “warm-ups”!

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to take attendance or check homework.  I managed to fit that in later in the class.  I rarely forgot to take attendance.  (Although sometimes I would forget to check homework… but that is probably for the best!  I am changing up my homework this year anyway.  Don’t ask me what, but I won’t have a work book to make students complete.)

I was also worried that students wouldn’t know to “get started” or that there would be discipline problems with them getting started.  I found that they settled down just as much as they did before with a bellringer.  They knew that class was starting and they didn’t act any different than they would have with a bellringer.  I like the same flow of my class.  As I wrote in my previous blog, I think this helped me further back away from the textbook as I wasn’t relying upon a textbook activity for my bellringer.  I believe that it made my class more engaging overall.  I encourage you to try to move away from the bellringer this year!  Also- check out how Laura moved away from bellringers this year and how she started her class.

Posted in conference, Favorites

Professional Development: Day of Event

Day of Event Organization

Previously, I blogged about how to develop an edcamp (or a professional development style of your choosing!)  I wanted to expand on how we worked it the day of the event.  Lynne and I did meet at the school the day before the event to go over everything and make a few signs.

The day of the event, we had breakfast for everyone to eat and mingle before the event.  I checked people in through the Eventbrite app on my iPad as they were arriving.  I will say that sometimes we have had trouble with wifi at schools with various edcamps.  Always make sure that you are able to access wifi during the event.  When people signed in, I gave them a raffle ticket for later.

We also had a “birds of a feather” table set up.  This way, teachers could mingle with fellow teachers who taught the same language.  I have noticed that if we have a lot of tables initially, people will spread out and not mingle.  When you have labeled tables, people talk a lot more!  I definitely had to quiet everyone down to start speaking- which is what we want!

We also had the open schedule up on the board.  This edcamp was a little different from others because we wanted to focus on using comprehensible input.  There were some teachers who have used it extensively and other teachers who have not used it much at all.  Instead of just having everyone add to the board, we had a window for people to share what topics that they wanted to know more about.  Then we had people who felt comfortable discussing those put a sticky note up to informally lead the discussion.  I will say that I was a bit nervous that people would dominate the conversations, but we had some GREAT conversations.

I will say that participation and over-participation is a tricky balance to attain with edcamps; however, even though we had semi designated presenters, everyone really shared evenly.  This was as wonderful of a sharing as I have seen in edcamps before.  At edcampmetrodc, the theme emerged of step up and step back.  This means- if you typically sit quietly, push yourself to step up and share!  Everyone will benefit from your ideas.  Or if you are more like me and share a LOT- step back and make sure that everyone is being heard.  I would encourage more edcamps to adopt this phrase.  Many times, just acknowledging this helps guide the conversations.

Finally, after deciding on the board, we ended up with three sessions per time slot.  This seemed sufficient for our group.  We had five classrooms that we had made sure were available, so we could judge the day of the event.  I believe that this flexibility is really important.  I would say that it is better to have more sessions if you have a larger group.  Since you want everyone to be able to share, smaller groups can be preferable to larger groups.

Lynne and I shared a powerpoint with the following information:

  • who we are
  • what an edcamp is
  • what comprehensible input is
  • how to start a session (along with step up and step back)
  • thank you to our sponsors
  • building logistics (including where bathrooms are!  Don’t forget that!)

Then people could look at the schedule and move to where they wanted to go!  Since we were a bit more “low tech,” I put the schedule online as well as on a poster board.  I moved the poster to the hallway between the sessions, so people could see it between sessions.  During sessions, I could easily take the time to participate which was amazing.  I also would pop around the rooms with about 10 minutes to go to let everyone know how much time was left.  However, all of the sessions seemed to move nicely into the next session.

Finally at the end of the day, we had people share out some of their favorite ideas.  This was where I learned about psycho drama!  Then we had the raffle and meet-up at a local pizza place.  We had a nice group join us there, and it was great to see more people and be able to continue the conversation in an informal manner.  Whew!  Although it seemed daunting to type all of that out, it really was a great day and involved minimal preparation on our behalf… as minimal as planning any conference can be.  Don’t worry if you missed this one, I know that we already are hoping to have another one next year!

Posted in Uncategorized

Part II of CI Liftoff

CI Liftoff Day 2

On the second day of the CI Liftoff workshop, we continued to work on one word images and telling a story with an outline for a story instead of starting with specific targets.  Tina shared a great amount of knowledge, and I am excited to watch more on her YouTube channel.  You should check it out to see even more live examples!  Here are some of my take-aways from the second day:

  • For one word images when you are creating characters, avoid any predetermined character such as Spongebob or Princess Poppy.  (I am watching Trolls for the 50th time this summer it seems…)  They already have personalities, so students wouldn’t be inventing anything.  Tina suggests talking food that is always a hit.
  • I noticed that both Ben and Tina would add a few details as they wrote a story.  This would help make the story more complex and to me helped to keep the story engaging.
  • One of my absolute favorite things that I learned was the role of the videographer!  (Seriously- if you take ONE thing from this post, I think this is the BEST!)  Ben and Tina suggest having someone film all of the recreation of the stories with actors.  It is always their role to record everything.  Then at the end, they put together the video for the class to see at the end of the year.  What a wonderful way to end the year!!!  I am obsessed (and bummed that I didn’t think of it sooner when I seriously had one of the most amazing videographers in my class!)
  • Lynne (from EdCampCIVa!) suggested keeping all of the stories and then having students illustrate them at the end of the year as a form of review of all of the topics.  I thought this idea was wonderful especially for teachers who need to teach topically and align with other textbook teachers.
  • I want to explore more about story listening/telling.  Tina did a wonderful example where she drew on the board while describing what is happening.  She suggests retelling a story that students already know in the beginning in level 1 such as the Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks.  Then, you could expand to non-fiction.  I think that this would incorporate nicely with the news that I like to use in class.
  • Next year, I also want to look into Project GLAD.  Project GLAD is a strategy for ESL students to teach them non-fiction topics.  I think this will incorporate nicely with upper level classes instead of more basic story listening.  (If you use it, let me know other resources to look up!)
  • In addition, Tina suggested some great ideas about upper level FVR.  She mentioned having students take notes on sticky notes to prepare for a scaffolded writing assignment.  I have found that light accountability helps for my FVR (booksnaps or even talking to a partner.)
  • Finally, I learned some great ideas to help students when they get stuck writing: they can use a brand name instead of a word that they don’t know, add a new character to their writing, start describing the weather or personality etc that has been practiced extensively and finally- making sure students can hear the sentence all the way to the end before writing it.

I realize that the whole targeted-untargeted debate still continues.  I enjoyed learning that it was feasible for me to do more untargeted stories and still be successful.  I also think that for me this can be a good addition to my program.  I will continue to update how it goes as my year starts.

Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: July 14, 2017

Brillante Viernes July 14

Whew!  I completely forgot that it was Friday until I was driving home tonight.  I really enjoyed meeting so many teachers in the workshop!  I also have a lot more reading to do this summer as I want to continually wrap my head around everything that I have learned.  With that- here are some of my favorite posts from this week:

  • I made a Spotify playlist then realized that students could only find it if I paid for a subscription.  But this is an awesome way of how to learn language via Spotify!
  • I love Laura’s post about the value of novels written for language learners.
  • I use Google Forms frequently- and these updates to Google Forms are great!
  • Check out this new blog: Puentes to CI- in particular- this post about novels.

Flashback Friday to my old posts:

Posted in conference

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season

Sometimes I feel a bit confused.  I really respect the results that I have seen in my students with comprehensible input.  I also have seen them progress so much more this year as we have implemented Integrated Performance Assessments- especially the spoken portions even though that is forced output.  At times, this seems like two opposing views when I go to conferences or read blogs.  But I feel really good about how my students feel in addition to how the class is going.  In the end, that is what I believe that this is what is important- that I am seeing valuable results in my students and that they are enjoying the class.  Also, in the end, I am not sure if you always have to choose one “camp” to belong to.  I have found valuable lessons in learning about IPAs in addition to all of the PD that I have done with comprehensible input.  I feel that you can find YOUR own ground and path to follow.  In the end, I have found that for me there is a season-slash-class-period for CI, there is a season for IPAs, and NOW there is a season for untargeted CI.

Today (and tomorrow), I am working with Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden about one word images and the invisibles.  They practice a lot of untargeted input.  I think that this can be alienating to many people (me included to start!)  However, it means that you don’t ALWAYS have to create a story around three structures.  You can create a story with a basic outline that works and is effective for many teachers.  As unsure as I was about untargeted input, I have become more excited to incorporate elements of this into my classes.

One thing that Ben pointed out that I felt was really valuable.  He said that to start one word images with 5-10 minutes left in class.  A teacher should not feel like they have to fill the WHOLE class with this.  I have never been a teacher who could fill the whole block with a TPRS story, so this felt really do-able for me.  (Also when people don’t finish the story in a whole class period… that was also never me!)  Ben even limits the stories to 20-25 minutes.  This also felt really freeing to me.  He also was a big advocate of making this your own.  You will never do something exactly like another teacher, and you should embrace what you are doing.

I am a visual person, so it helped to see how this worked though the workshop.  As a “class,” we created the one word story with an object.  (We chose glasses.)  After that, we had a few decisions to make: big or small, what color the object is and happy or sad.  Ben and Tina explained that these steps are crucial to help the artist (who is drawing the whole time) craft the object.  They stop after this for a level 1 beginning student.  Later in the year, Ben mentioned to add some other choices- rich or poor, intelligent or stupid, nice or mean etc.  You could come up with other characteristics that you feel are important for your students.  These characteristics help to craft the one word image.  Then at the end of the time, there is a big reveal of the picture that the artist created.  What I loved is that this can be tacked onto any class and be successful!

Since I have not tried this out in a class (yet!), I wanted to direct you to a few blogs who have used it more successfully than I have:

Hopefully, you feel like you could make this work in your own classes!

Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: July 7, 2017

Brillante Viernes July 7

It’s Friday!  Actually, this morning, I forgot what day it was!  #teachersummerwin Then, I realized that I had to blog for today!  Hope all of you are forgetting what day it is as well.  First, I wanted to share a few PD opportunities if you are local in these areas:

  • On July 22 in Indianapolis, there is a free conference for Comprehensible Input!  Check it out here!
  • On July 24-25, Martina is offering a workshop in upstate New York for comprehensible input.  It is only $50!!!  That is a steal!
  • Next week, I will be at the Summer CI Roadshow with Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden in Maryland.  Check it out here!

If you have another local workshop that I haven’t shared, let me know, and I will add it to subsequent posts.  Onto some of my favorite posts from this week:

  • I am basing much of my curriculum next year on novels.  This post on why to use novels was so timely and is important for everyone to read.
  • Madame Shepard’s posts are always full of ideas for everyone– not just French teachers!
  • Looking for a new Pandora station for the summer or next school year?  Here is a list of 20 Pandora stations!
  • Don’t replace, add is a great mantra to remind yourself for next year.

Here are some of my old posts from previous years:

  • Summer is the perfect time to play around with new technology!  Last year, I found Adobe Spark!
  • A superhero reading activity!
  • Here is a warm-up that I used for the book Piratas y los agentes secretos
  • Although I have modified my practice, here is how I modeled my study guides before tests and quizzes
  • If you use the show telenovela Isa TKM, I have used this song before.
Posted in conference, Favorites

Professional Development and How to Start Your Own!

PD and how to start your own

Last summer (and this), I was frustrated.  My cousins live in the middle of South Carolina, and both of them had a Spanish teacher who left halfway through the year.  Now, I am aware of the struggles of being a teacher and why teachers leave in the middle of the year.  But, I really want my cousins to have the same wonderful experience that I had of learning a second language.  One of my cousins just did Duolingo for the rest of the year.  I believe that part of the problem is that many teachers feel isolated and that they do not have the support needed.  I realize that I am fortunate to be able to attend so much of the professional development that I do.  I teach at a school that prioritizes professional development and can financially support us.  Plus, living in DC, I am close to three major airports which makes travel cheaper.  In addition, many conferences come to this area.  I realize that this is not the reality for many teachers.  Even the state conference may be too far away.

What could I do- other than move and teach in SC?  I wanted to try to spread free professional development to a different area, but I wasn’t sure where to start.  In the Virginia Comprehensible Input group, Lynne Hendrick mentioned that she wanted to form a meet-up.  This was the perfect hook for me- and she was willing to join forces!  One of my favorite professional development is the edcamp model.  Before, I have listed why I love edcamp so much.  We connected about two months before the event, and we still were able to put it together successfully.  It was pretty much that easy to do!  I wanted to share how we did this, so you can determine how to set up one yourself!

Luckily, Lynne’s school was gracious enough to host the event.  (Also her supervisor was amazingly supportive and excited for the event!)  This way the location was taken care of.  I took care of the electronic part of it.  This was a bit time consuming to start.  If you want to do this, I would recommend perhaps starting this bit of it now over the summer when teachers have more time.  I used WordPress to host our site, but I know that Weebly is supposed to be really easy, too.  (Obviously since I use WordPress for this blog, I knew it the best.)  I registered an email through Google which gave us a separate account to house the information as well as all of the wonderful features with Google.

I wanted to have a few items on the blog to start before we publicized it.  On the blog, I put up a preliminary schedule for people who were not familiar with edcamps.  I put up two short blog posts with mostly links about what an edcamp is and what comprehensible input is.  I also put up some FAQs as well.

I also put the invite up on Eventbrite.  The trickiest part of Eventbrite was trying to come up with a logo.  I do not know a lot about how to edit logos.  I suggest trying to get a student or someone else to help you with this.  (Also, I want to re-do our logo to make it better for next year.)  Since we were putting this together quickly and I wanted to get the information up, I just went with it.  This was a detail that I tried not to get too bogged down with.  Eventbrite was a site that was easy to navigate, and I linked it with our edcamp email, so all of the information went to that email.  Also, it was easy to email all participants a week ahead of time using Eventbrite.

I made a Twitter account as well.  In the end, I love Twitter, but I am not sure how many people saw many of the posts there.  It was relatively easy to maintain though, so you could consider doing so.  I wouldn’t say it was a “must-do” in our case.

After this, we looked for a few “sponsors” for the raffle and breakfast.  Remember that edcamps are not sponsored per se like traditional conferences, but many edcamps reach out to companies for breakfast or a raffle item.  You can contact any company that you work with to see if they are interested.  Also, many companies work with edcamps frequently.  You can look into other edcamp websites to see who they contacted.  I would not worry about going too overboard.  Remember that the teachers are there to connect and get ideas not necessarily for a free breakfast or raffle item.  It is just nice to have these to honor the teachers’ time.

The rest of the time, Lynne and I promoted our event via Facebook groups and Twitter.  We contacted some of the foreign language organizations within our state.  In retrospect, I forgot to contact some of the universities in the area.  (That will be the first thing on my to do list next year!)  We also planned some blog posts about comprehensible input for teachers to reference.

This was most of the “pre” work that we did.  Edutopia ran a whole series talking about how to plan an edcamp as well.  Also edcamp has a wealth of resources on their website.  Next post, I will discuss how we ran the day of especially because this is getting lengthy!  If you are interested in hosting an edcamp, I would love to help you plan or promote it on my blog as well.  I hope that more and more people will continue to plan edcamps to spread their ideas even further!


Posted in Brillante Viernes

Brillante Viernes: June 30, 2017

Brillante Viernes June 30

It is time for our weekly Friday round-up together!  I am back from a wonderful time in South Carolina and Virginia.  As much as I love being by the beach, it also feels so nice to be home in Maryland as well.  Many teachers seem knee deep in traveling or conferences, but there are some great posts to read this week:

  • This post is thoughtful as foreign language teachers continue to define what exactly being “intermediate” looks like.
  • I really appreciate the honesty in Señor Fernie’s post about his reflection of his last year and how to recalibrate.
  • Google Forms now allows you to grade question by question to make it easier.  I am enjoying using Google Forms for a lot of feedback recently, and I am impressed with the updates.
  • Also- I really identify with Keith Toda’s post about language camps.  As someone who uses comprehensible input but also uses IPAs, I often feel in between two camps.

Flashback time!

Posted in conference

Reflection: edcampCIVa!


Whew!  Yesterday was a great day!  We had 33 teachers come who were excited to learn and share more about edcamp and comprehensible input.  Not only that- but we had teachers come from West Virginia and Raleigh, NC all the way to Chesapeake.  Overall, we were all looking to connect with teachers who were on the same path that we are. We covered many topics that I have been tossing around, and it was reassuring to see that many teachers were doing the same thing that I did… and no one had all of the answers! Edcamp CIVa pictures Here are some of my favorite takeaways:

  • Here are my notes from the first discussion on assessment.  One of my favorite takeaways about looking at another teacher’s rubric for writing was that she offers a bonus point for risk taking!  I love that!  While our department does not allow us to exceed 100 points, I believe that it is important to reward risk taking.  I also thought about adding an extra point if I laugh out loud.  With each batch of tests and quizzes, there are usually 2-3 that cause me to laugh out loud with their creativity.  When I am teaching the basics and students are creative enough to have me laughing, that is impressive!!
  • We also discussed percentages for grades and how they break up the grades.  Many teachers are evaluating how to minimize homework grades.  However, many teachers still are not sure.  Although I do believe that a grade should reflect a student’s ability to perform in the language, I am a firm believer that effort is important in real life and our jobs.  Classwork and homework represent the effort that we all place into our jobs.  I do think that I will minimize it to a MUCH smaller percentage than I have before next year.
  • For novel ideas, one teacher mentioned the strategy of SOS.  SOS stands for summary, opinion and statement (to support that opinion).  This seems a simple activity that my students could do in Spanish I especially if I provided some starters to the statements.  It could also be done pre-reading as explained in the link.
  • I have seen many posts about smashdoodles, but it made more sense when Lynne explained it.  (Although I love blogs- it is something about HEARING someone explain some concepts that just makes it stick.)  She has students find five new words to illustrate, then find three important sentences from the chapter as well as offering a few opinions with sentence structures.  For example, have students express what surprised them, bothered them etc.  It would be a nice combination with the SOS idea as well.
  • Also, Lynne shared some insights about the purpose of reading novels that she learned on Teach for June webinars.  She said that the purpose is not for the students to necessarily remember the plot but to be able to learn the words.  One of the most powerful ways to learn the words is via reading.  This was such an important point to reiterate.
  • At the end, we had a little time for our share-a-thon.  One of the teachers who was there had been a German teacher in Chesapeake for many years.  In fact, another teacher’s stepson had him and still spoke German.  Another teacher at edcamp remembered him as a teacher from when he was in school!  It was so nice to see his impact on all of his students.  He was also such an amazing edcamp participant because he was such a quiet leader.  He had been using TPRS for many years, but he would participate evenly and let many others share as well.  Anyway- I digress!  His idea that he shared was called “psycho-drama” that he learned about in the 80s.  You can tell students that you have just gotten an email from the nurse that a virus is going around the school with the water bottles at school.  He said that you can start asking students with water bottles if their throats hurt or any other symptom.  Then you can tell them the symptoms of this “virus.”  It is a great recap of symptoms and body parts.  You can keep going and make it more and more outrageous until the students catch on to the secret.  I loved it!  You could try it with so many different things!  I would love to learn more about it if anyone has learned about this before.

Again- thank you thank you thank you to SO many people!  First of all, thank you to Lynne for coming up with the idea and agreeing to host it with me!  I have learned so much from working with her, and it was amazing that we didn’t meet face to face until a week before the edcamp- the power of Facebook and email.  Thank you to Deep Creek High School for being so accommodating and hosting us!  Thank you to our sponsors including the edcamp foundation, ActivelyLearn, Flipgrid, Nearpod, Teach for June  and the Comprehensible Classroom.  They helped us to provide the breakfast and coffee in addition to having one of the best raffles that I have seen!  Thank you to EVERYONE who made the edcamp what it was.  It is not effective unless there is a group of motivated educators ready to share their ideas, listen to other ideas and give up time in their summer!  I hope that everyone who attended got a lot out of it.  I know that I am a better educator by being able to meet everyone and connect with you.  I hope to continue to work on and grow edcampciva.  I am also going to put together a few posts on how to host your own edcamp if you are interested!