Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Motor, a Wedding, and Crossing the Border

Evan made a motor. It was so cool even though it didn’t work. Thomas saved money to send to his former surf instructor in Costa Rica to help pay for his upcoming wedding. Vivian taught us about different types of rice in Central America. Gerson took us through his journey from El Salvador to Colorado earlier this year.

Content for Spanish class this past month was not typical of most Spanish textbooks.

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Wolf’s karate class
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Kaitlin’s Fashion Blog

My students just finished up their 20% Time Projects. As reported in a previous post, this was my second round of projects.  Their results proved inspiring content and rich language for our class this past month.

Students chose passions and interests to investigate by which they were able to improve their Español, connect with others, and save the world.

  • Supporting nutritional organizations in Central America
  • Learning about the Bible in Spanish and reading stories from it to younger children
  • Teaching karate to Spanish Speaking students
  • Playing video games in Spanish with kids around the world
  • Studying fashion and design in Madrid
  • Skiing through Chile
  • Learning about the Spanish Guitar
  • Learning to play a song in Spanish


Student feedback

Wanting to know what my students thought of the project and not wanting to break into English, I sent them in the hall with another student who recorded their feedback in English. Here are a few examples of what they thought of the project.


My Reflection

My students’ oral proficiency in Spanish improved because I was able to provide relevant vocabulary I knew they were going to need prior to their presentations. They didn’t email me back,  it surprised me that,  and I had wanted to do… but changed my mind were common language structures we practiced and practiced before kids presented.  There are even a few more structures I’ll add to my list for next time like I could not find or I realized that Students (me included) also learned specific vocabulary tied to their topic and their interest.  This year’s group was more comfortable with sharing as we discussed and modeled delivery and design. The reading of slides was highly discouraged. I didn’t allow notecards, although a few students did bring up cards which I allowed reading the anxiety on their face. The biggest challenge for them was connecting with others.  Most students picked someone they knew or friends of friends as their connection.  I was hoping for more global connections or more specific communications with people specific to their particular passion. I get it. The concept of reaching out to strangers is difficult and even more so in a second language.  Next time I’ll spend more time on how and why to make global connections.  We’ll practice. I’ll also give more time for student-teacher 1:1 conferences so I can individually help students brainstorm connections with similar passions or interests.  This, however, is a challenge for me as class sizes seem to grow and grow but I think maybe offering online Google Hangout hours could be an option. Lastly, I’ll put a time limit (with a friendly bell) on the sharing.  Maybe something similar to a Pecha Kucha  (or shorter) because with classes of 30, it takes a while.  Some of my students felt comfortable going on and on. They were so darn cute that I didn’t have the heart to cut them off.

What successes have you had with similar type projects?





Sewing would have been the hook…

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I taught a building your PLN (Personal Learning Network) via Twitter course for my school district the week before winter break. I was so excited for the opportunity to share Twitter and my PLN with other teachers in my district. I also had plenty of snacks (always important for after school meetings).  I was ready to make the case for WHY rather than HOW.

Three students arrived. Two of the three seemed to get started right away creating their Personal Learning Networks. However, I had a school counselor in my class that seemed to have more difficulty.  She struggled to sign-up on her iPad and then we had trouble getting Tweetdeck set-up for her on her laptop. Partly my error as I’m not so familiar with PCs. Finally ready for the fun stuff:  finding followers, adding columns of interest and writing a profile. I fell short.  I wasn’t aware of #scchat at the time so finding relevant counseling material was a challenge. And surprisingly, her face didn’t light-up when I said she could actually follow @chrislehmann @willrich45 @angelamaiers and  @alfiekohn. She did mention something about sewing as an interest but I just skipped over her attempt at making the tool  relevant  and tried again with @danpink and @debmeier.  Still nothing.

Class ended. Although the other two participants were quite happy with their new learning, I had the counselor on my mind.  I went home and did a few Twitter searches on sewing.  WOW!  I can barely sew a button but was amazed at all the cool information trending on sewing. I could see adding it to my list of hobbies. Why didn’t I allow her to focus on her passion in class? She would have been hooked.

This experience brought up a few issues in prepping for my next class.

  1. Meet my students where their interests and passions lie when introducing Social Media.  I cannot assume that passion is education. Just because I use Twitter just for “work” doesn’t mean others will or should do the same.
  2. Having a list of the current educational hashtags is crucial.

Lastly, is there a possibility that (in 2014) most educators who are passionate about education are already connected, reading blogs, and use Twitter?  Is there a purpose for teachers uninterested in education in general to develop PLNs?  Or, will a powerful PLN develop an interest in education? Did I learn about so many educational giants via my PLN or vice versa?  What comes first the chicken or the egg?