Monthly Archives: May 2014

Course 5 Projects Ideas

So many options

I’m teaching one (higher level) Spanish course next fall. It’s a new course. I’ll have two sections of about 20 students in each section. The rest of my job allocation will be dedicated to coaching teachers and helping run our district’s K-12 Dual Language program. Here are a few ideas I have in mind. I’m thinking redefinition.

**Electronic Portfolios for Dual Language students entering 9th grade and/or Electronic Portfolios for entering DL Kindergarten students.

  • Use Google Sites to create a skeleton for them.
  • Help students chose important entries to mark important milestone
  • Help all teachers see the importance of students reflecting on their work over the course of many years.

**Create/or Participate in a Global Collaborative Project with my Spanish Course.

  • Students connect with students from primarily Spanish speaking countries to improve language proficiency, gain insight into culture, to build relationships and become effective global citizens.
  • Students could solve an authentic problem.  This is always more challenging than I think. I often have SAVE THE WORLD as one of the guidelines on our projects but haven’t ever dedicated the time necessary to SAVE the WORLD.
  • Give students 4 or 5 choices of a semi-structured project so it’s more manageable for me to help them and they’ll have classmates with whom they can collaborate.
  • This could be a semester long 20% project for each student.
  • Access to technology will be a challenge.  Maybe I could attempt to run a BYOD mini program for my students. I could probably get 50% to participate. I would have more success if I had some other teachers/classes in the building on board.
  • Send kids to a Flat-classroom Conference.
  • Have students present during the Global Education Conference under the Student Strand.
  • Have students blog (and comment) regularly as a way to communicate, connect, document and share their global projects.
  • Tie their project to the three novels they will read. Share the content created with other Spanish teachers reading the same novels.
  • I have ordered Flattening Classroom and Engaging Minds to help me create this course.

**Help our HS school with a 1:1 Roll-out plan. Just typing this out made me cross it off the list. It’s a huge job but not for Course Five. 

**Use technology smartly to improve language learning in all Dual Language Classrooms K-12.

  • Create flipped content that can provide repetitive, creative, compelling comprehensible input for students.
  • Help teachers build their PLNs.
  • Help teachers and students include more digital storytelling into their classes.
  • Help teachers create positive digital footprints for themselves and their students.

**Becoming a much more prolific blogger and sharer of educational practices with a larger audience. 

  • I’ll be working with six new Spanish teachers to our district and need effectively communicate with them all.
  • How can I help them assimilate to our country and help them be effective teachers?
  • Can technology help improve the conversations, classes, materials, technology, etc. that I’ll be sharing with them?
  • What technology structures should I be thinking about putting in place to help these new teachers?
  • I’m also attending and presenting at a few WL conferences and could be sharing best practice, reflecting and connecting with more WL educators.

I’m looking forward to flushing these ideas out over the summer and coming up with something that will best represent my learning in this class. With one week of class left to go before summer break, I’m excited about the possibilities for next fall. That’s always a good sign. 

Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan in July.





I’d FLIP tortillas in my classroom

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Flipped Instruction in World Language Classrooms is a hot topic these days.  It’s been on the Moretprs listserve a lot this month and was the main topic of discussion of #langchat two weeks ago.

Traditional Flipping–Flipped instruction is when the teacher provides material (usually videos) of new concepts and students watch/learn at their own pace at home. Back in class, students work on what was originally called “homework” and solve problems. The role of the teacher is reversed; more of a facilitator in-class and a traditional lecturer at home (via the video).

World Language Flipping–This makes sense (and may seem transformational) for the majority of language teachers who still insist on teaching their students the difference between ser and estar and drilling the rules for using the preterite. In their case, I guess it makes sense to teach the rules outside of class and then use the language during class time. This approach may also reduce the packets and worksheets commonly given as homework.

For me though, the concept of flip means you are still teaching or providing the same content but mainly changing the order. I teach for acquisition and knowing the rules unfortunately doesn’t lead to the ability to use the language.  Students need to hear and read repetitive compelling comprehensible input (CI) in order to gain proficiency in the language. There is no need to flip the isolated grammar instruction.  It does’t lead to kids that can spontaneously ask questions,  tell stories, share opinions, and argue a point. I’d vote for flipping it out of curriculum all together.

The vast majority of WL Classrooms (that I have seen) that are “flipping” their lessons are merely providing grammar lessons of some sort for students to view at home. This type of instruction (flipped or not) gives the original concept of flipping a bad name just like poor use of technology does the same for technology integration. 

Just like many pedagogical approaches, flipping has come to mean lots of things to different people in different content areas. I believe many teachers are having success at providing alternative learning experiences. I remember when our school adopted the IB POI.  The concept of inquiry teaching was new to many teachers and IB got the credit for helping teachers move more toward inquiry.  I think, perhaps, the flipped approach in WL will help teachers think about what learning activities do and don’t lead to language proficiency.

My first flip 

When my students (learning Spanish) were in 2nd grade I wanted to create additional CI opportunities for them out-of-class. I knew packets and worksheets wouldn’t suffice. Much of our in-class time was dedicated to creating personal stories but I knew my students needed more repetitions and more practice with our language structures. Luckily, I was awarded a grant for iPods. Inspired by Juan Tejada, I started creating enhanced podcuentos**. These were little mini stories (cuentos) I created (often with students during recess) for students to view outside of class with the hopes of providing more engaging CI. Although the plan had been to use the videos out-of-class, they proved to be a stellar additional piece of in-class content. Because the videos were personal, funny and comprehensible, kids watched them over and over again–increasing their language proficiency without even knowing it.

**I realize the files on the link above don’t work. I just thought it was fun to find them on the web. Our site and presence in the iTunes store fell apart when mobile me went down. I’m inspired to find these files and get them posted to share.

What I flip today

  • Output activities. Google voice. Screencasts. Voicethread.
  • Tons more input activities. Sound Cloud versions of our class stories. Videos. Commercials. Raps. Songs. Telenovelas.
  • Reading.
  • Sharing successful language learning with parents.
  • Differentiated content.
  • Anything in English that is worth seeing/hearing/reading.
  • Full-length movies related to culture.
  • Creation of Digital Stories. Out-of-class is a good time to learn tools.
  • 20% Google Passion Projects.
  • Connecting with Native Speakers.
  • Authentic interactions in the community (Safeway has a nice self-checkout in Spanish).
  • Online chats via Edmodo or Today’s Meet.

Many of the “flipped” activities above can also take place in-class.  Advantages are that I can help facilitate the activity, all students will experience it, and we can build on (as a class) these experiences.

Lastly, the idea of flipping is closely aligned with homework. I believe in purposeful homework but have drastically reduced the amount I give to HS students. I don’t plan to increase the volume of out-of-class work just because I’m calling it flipped. I do plan to be deliberate with both my in-class and out-of-class learning experiences, hoping to increase their proficiency.

I’d love to hear about your CI-based flipped lessons and/or resources.


Global Projects: Dream or Reality?

Sara and Turner working on their collaborative stories with their amigos en Costa Rica.

The excitement and possibilities of global projects makes me want to teach 5th grade. ( I currently teach HS Spanish.) My dream would be to turn my entire class into a global collaboration project. I would surely have to fly under the radar as 5th grade teachers in my public school have a few things on their plate. Common Core, Lucy Calkins, Benchmark reading program,  Everyday Math, NWEA testing (3 times a year), Units of Study, PYP Planners, a new Health curriculum, CMASS testing and DRA testing (3 times a day) to name a few.

I’d like to think I could make it work. We’d have an amazing year learning with and from people from all over the world. We’d all become more effective global citizens.

For the moment, I’ll be living my dream within my Spanish courses.

Connecting with students in other places has always been a part of our curriculum. Typical of most language teachers, I suppose. The excitement of different shaped envelopes arriving with cool looking stamps from pen pals in Mexico or Africa or Spain was (and still is) a big deal.

Recently, technology has made these conversations and connections a whole lot easier. I remember the first Skype conversation we had with a teacher from Turkey almost six years ago. I had first stayed up late to chat with her class and then she did the same with mine a week later. I was teaching English as an Additional Language at the time and both our classes learned a lot from each other.  I used to keep track of where and with whom we had these conversations on a wiki. I wish I had kept up with it over the years. Moving our connections to our blog and class wiki was more efficient for my fourth grade students. They connected with a class in Costa Rica and shared thoughts on politics, uniforms, music and school life.  The highlight was their collaborative stories and authentic conversations.

A few years later, there seems to be many more options for global projects. Kim’s step-by-step post is helpful in getting started. I’m looking forward to connecting my students even more this next year and hopefully have them solve authentic problems in the process.

Here are a list of specific projects and/or resources if you’d like to jump in.

I’ll be sharing the above links with the teachers in my buildings, hoping they see the importance of teaching their students to be global citizens and sincerely hoping they can fit it in under the amazing pressures of standardized curriculum and assessments.



Flipping Cinco de Mayo

Image by Visit Lubbock

Our course work on Flipped Instruction this past week reminded me of a lesson  we just completed on Cinco de Mayo. It’s not directly related to the traditional concept of flipping your classroom but it got my thinking.

I typically don’t spend a lot of time on Cinco de Mayo, but it’s good to be sure my students don’t go on believing it’s Mexico’s Independence.

I planned to spend just one class period on the event.  So…

1-I gave the students an overview of why the holiday is important here in the USA and why (not so much) in México.

2-We learned a few new words they were going to need to access a reading on the topic.

3-Students then read about La Batalla de Puebla in teams of two or three.

4-Each student summarized the reading (in writing) in their own words.

5-I taught them about why and how to give an Elevator Pitch in case they came across an American who wasn’t familiar with the meaning of the holiday even after having attended a Cinco de Mayo party the night before.

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6-Students gave Elevator Pitches (in Elevators constructed by kids) as to the significance of Cinco de Mayo. They were awesome given the short amount of time I gave them to practice.

7-Lastly, we went outside and played a game of soccer against the French Class. My Spanish class played with 8 players and the French class with 12 to represent the approximate ratio of Mexican to French soldiers.

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Fortunately, not having to re-write history, my underdog Spanish class won the battle/match. ¡Bravo!

Sound good? Nope. I had two students ask me (en español at least) why the French had so many players. Oops…

My reflection- Of course I needed to have done a better job and checking for understanding along the way.  More importantly, I should have flipped the order of the instruction. I guarantee had we played the match first and kids saw and felt the difference in the two teams, there would have been understanding for all students. Plus, the reading and listening activities would have been more meaningful to my students with more background knowledge.  Why do we often wait util the end of a lesson for students to experience the most important aspect of the learning when we could have flipped the instruction (in our rooms) for higher levels of success?