Tag Archives: WL

What kind of noise does your final exam make?

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It’s that time of year when our library is buzzing with the sound of scantrons being graded. The vast majority of my colleagues still use multiple choice testing as their final exam. It’s been over 10 years since I have used that ancient machine. That being said, my finals are not always perfect and they certainly are not quick to grade. With 30 plus kids in a class, six classes, and grades due the next morning, I understand why a teacher may chose the scantron option.

Still determined there is a better way, I’m constantly searching for a summative assessment that demonstrates proficiency and won’t keep me in PowerSchool all night.

This year, based on my learning from COETAIL and a conversation with another DP Spanish teacher on the need for more culture, I came up with Pecha Kucha Cultura as our final oral assessment. Students gave a mini Pecha Kucha style talk on a topic related to culture from a Spanish- Speaking country.

The result: the sound of applause.

The goal: students would…

  • Explore a new cultural topic (historical figure, tradition, food, geographical feature, piece of art, etc.)
  • Learn about presenting Pechu Kucha style
  • Apply CRAP design principles to their presentation  (I recommend Design Secrets Revealed)
  • Interpret new information
  • Present new information in español to a small audience

To prep the lesson, I composed a list of cultural topics. I then put three topics on a card. I had 25 unique cards.

On the designated final day (we had a 2-hour block), students:

  1. Chose a card randomly.
  2. Investigated the three topics on the card and chose their favorite.
  3. Created a Pechu Kucha style presentation (10 slides,  20 seconds a slide, 3 minutes and 20 seconds in total) They had about 60 minutes.
  4. Presented their cultural topic to a small group of three or four students.
  5. Accepted applause and praise from their peers.

We didn’t have time to figure out how to set their presentations to advance automatically after 20 seconds so each group had a designated timer. That person advanced the slide every 20 seconds. It was endearing to see how timers supported their presenters by either cheating forward or holding their finger until after a thought was completed.

Reflection:

I’ve never seen my students so engaged in learning the last day of school.  Each of them worked hard on their Spanish, content and design.  And yes, as my colleague suggested, our World Language Department needs to focus more on Culture (Standards 2.1 and 2.2). In brainstorming cultural products and practices I realized how many of these cultural treasures were new to my class. I’ve already shared the list with my entire department and we have a plan for next year:) Students enjoyed the activity as well.  On my final course evaluation, a couple of comments included Pecha Kucha Cultura as one of the activities that helped them learn most this year.  I chose not to give the topics to my students until the last day.  I was unsure of this decision, but in the end, I think it was best as our kids are so slammed this time of year and the fact that they could not work on it the night before was probably a blessing for many of them. Plus, this assessment was more representative of spontaneous discourse than a memorized speech that would have happened if students had had time to prepare. The only change I would make in the future is possibly videoing the talks. Because they presented in groups I wasn’t able to hear each student’s complete talk or assess them “officially”. Maybe that’s OK. I would like, however, for them to have had a copy of their talk so I think recording it would have been good.

We stress the importance of teaching from bell-to-bell. I feel like Pecha Kucha Cultura allowed for learning up until my students physically walked (a few ran this year) out of my classroom for the year.

What were your final exams like this year? Any changes you would make?

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.

 

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?

Tech Integration: “I know it when I see it.”

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What does technology integration look like in your classroom?

This is the question posed to us in Course 4. I’m attempting to answer it with an example from my class.

A few years ago I had a 5th grade student, Cass, who wanted to teach others Spanish. Her level of Spanish was amazing and I suggested she teach an online mini course, not having any idea what that could really look like. Cass decided to give it a go and created a Google form seeking potential students and/or classes. I sent out her form via Twitter to spread the word. When someone responded she instantly shared the news with me.

cas email

A Spanish teacher in Florida wanted her to teach her 6th graders.  Cass composed an email to the teacher in Florida. She cc’d me in on the conversation but the letter came from her. They chose a date. The Florida teacher then sent Cass the material she wanted her to “cover”.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, Cass shared with me the list of 40 plus words present in the traditional end-of-chapter pages.   I was sad, yet not surprised, this teacher was still using such a traditional textbook/approach, but that’s another post.  Cass and I decided 40 words weren’t practical for one lesson and chose six important verbs from the list.

Cass prepared her lesson. She asked for the names of a few students in the actual class and learned that the class would be visiting the Dali Museum in the near future. She created a lesson that integrated the students in Florida and the new vocabulary with an imaginary story of the theft of an important piece of art at the Dali Museum. She created flashcards with images to use in her lesson. She practiced in front of our class and received valuable feedback from her classmates.

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She also came to my 1st grade class and practiced the lesson in front of a bunch of eager 6-year-olds. We then Skyped a friend of mine in Costa Rica who was learning Spanish so she could practice the lesson once more over Skype.

The big day arrived. Cass was ready and excited. I was a little nervous.

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Ready to teach va (goes).

The lesson started fabulously but almost immediately the video feed in Florida went out and Cass couldn’t see the class.  She could hear them but she couldn’t see them. Fortunately, they could still see and hear her so the lesson continued.  She was slightly rattled but continued like a pro. I would not have remained so poised. Reminds me of last night’s episode of The Voice where the contestant continued singing after her mic went out. Cassidy finished her lesson in about 25 minutes and we were both thrilled. The teacher thanked her and then wanted her students to thank her as well. We quickly created an Edmodo group for an easy location to continue the conversation. Each student in Florida wrote a post to Cass thanking her and sharing their new learning.

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Although it was time for lunch and recess, Cassidy stayed in and personally answered each reply.

This lesson represents for me true integration of technology (or redefinition) according to the SAMR framework.

The funny thing…

My biggest take-away with her lesson had nothing to do with technology. It was when the Florida teacher commented to me that she thought it was quite interesting (I believe she meant interesting in good way) that Cassidy made the lesson personal and chose to teach the vocabulary in the context of a story.

This brings me to the TPACK model of technology integration which has always been a bit complicated for me in the past.  As transformative as the technology can and should be, pedagogy and often content trump the technology for me every time.  Even moving up the SAMR scale won’t be truly transformative if content and pedagogy aren’t addressed in the learning.

Hopefully Cassidy’s lesson inspired another WL teacher to possibly look differently at her pedagogy and content.  Then again, the inspiration would never have happened without the amazing possibilities that the technology affords us today.

Could effective technology integration be like Justice Potter’s definition of pornography, “you just know it when you see it” but cannot define it?

Digital Storytelling in the WL Classroom

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”   ~ Indian Proverb

Storytelling has been a major component of my World Language classroom for many years. New vocabulary and grammatical structures are embedded into stories co-created by myself and the class. Students are the actors: a king, a talking tortilla, an octopus or possibly Shakira.  Stories are an effective vehicle for providing compelling, repetitive and personal comprehensible input.  Because language is acquired through comprehensible input, I have found storytelling effective for both helping students acquire high levels of Spanish as well as creating a close-knit community of risk-taking language learners. 

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I have used the traditional paper/pencil/crayon storyboards for years. Quick and easy for assessing Listening Comprehension (Interpretive Mode) and practicing retells (Presentational Mood) but many kids (often the older ones) find drawing difficult.

Digital storytelling is incredibly more powerful in terms of building language proficiency. Digital tools today enable my students to capture our class stories, create their own and easily share them with a wider audience on my website or their blog. The ability to easily work with audio, text, images and now video is amazing!

Here are a few examples of students creating digital stories.

iMovie (above)

Zooburst

Storykit

Go Animate

Voicethread

Course Three inspired me to create a digital story (with iMovie) based on our most current class story. Kim was correct in stating the amount of time required to make an actual video. Embarrassingly, it took me about 10 hours to complete mine and it is no masterpiece. I created it primarily on the plane with no wifi and wanted to experiment with the different features. I’m grateful otherwise I’m sure I would have spent double the time looking for images of Juanes and music from Marc Anthony. I tried, instead, to focus on providing repetitive language and asking a few simple questions to prompt students while viewing.

My only caution, as a language teacher, in using Digital Storytelling is the potential amount of time spent (in class) creating digital stories.  Although most tools are quite easy, there still is a learning curve and I find my students move back to English when learning how to use the tool or program. I’m trying to teach language such as What do I do next? or How did you do that?  to mitigate them moving into English. Also, students and teachers can spend too much time looking for the perfect background, color or image.  I say too much time only because class time is limited and searching for the perfect color of blue will not increase a student’s proficiency in the language. That being said, giving time lines to finish stories and encouraging out-of-class creation are two strategies that have worked for me.

Limiting the tools you teach students is alright, too. There are so many options to create digital stories. New tweets everyday, with long lists, appear in my stream.  It is not always about having lots of different tools to tell your story but having a few that work well for you and your class. That way, you are spending more time leveraging the power of the tool, rather than learning a new one. Sometimes I send kids home with a list of choices and they report back as to the best ones.  Ideally, I’d love it if my students came in to my class already having had practice with a fews tools, as they do with a pencil or pen.

Please share examples of digital storytelling in your language classes. I’d love to see them.

Infographics: Hitting all modes of communication

Sport habits in Spain

by yolsclemente.

Infographics, like the one above, are a fantastic way to present information in a visually appealing fashion and provide (thanks to the images and organization) authentic material that is more accessible to our second or third language learners. In addition to our students consuming/interpreting meaning from these authentic sources (WL Standard 1.2), they provide us another tool for producing/presenting/creating in the target language (WL Standard 1.3).

Here are a few ideas for teachers and students where the use of an infographic could be of value. 

  • The classic Who am I? Novice Level assignment
  • Music, cultural or historical presentations
  • Syllabus, exam or assignment make-over
  • Why learn another language?–Advocacy campaign
  • Book talks or novel reviews (themes, new vocab, characters, culture, etc.)
  • Passion Project-students pick something of interest
  • DP Themes: Health, Leisure, Technology,  Global Issues, and Cultural Diversity
  • Visual of the class story

My students and I have had the best luck with both

Piktochart Logo.

I’ve heard great things about Visual.ly but have’t been able to figure out (user error, I’m sure) how to personally create my own.

Infographics are not meant to be printed. Maybe that’s not accurate but a reality in my school with no color printer and the drive to reduce paper consumption. And, they look just awesome on the screen. My student, Luisa, asked proudly if she could put hers on her blog so others could see it. That’s a good sign.

I’m looking forward to experimenting with adding a QR Code that links to questions, audio, video, etc. This will provide the opportunity for interpersonal communication (WL Standard 1.1) with additional authentic listening.

Here is a site with lots of infographics for Spanish. Pinterest has some fabulous examples as well.

Lastly, encourage your students to use infographics and visual data in their other classes. Although it may appear that everyone is doing it (I’m talking to my COETAIL colleagues); they are not. 

Good luck.  I’d love to see some fun examples in your WL classrooms hitting all the modes of communication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colors of Chichicastenango as a writing prompt?

 

I used these ten images to inspire my students during an in-class writing assignment this morning.  Students wrote original stories using new vocabulary and cultural elements from Guatemala.

We have been reading the novel Esperanza and just finished viewing the classic El Norte movie. The novel is fantastic but has limited images and the Oscar-winning film, produced in 1985, certainly did not do justice in showing the amazing color, fabric and scenery of Guatemala.

Although we have interacted with images of Guatemala like the famous Chichicastenango market during this unit, I thought a visual writing prompt might inspire students to be more creative in writing their stories.

Most students found the images helpful in some way.

Here is their feedback (translated back to English).

The images on the screen…

Helped me think.

Helped me add details to my story.

Gave me inspiration.

Gave me a specific setting for my story.

Gave me some ideas as to  where to begin.

Reminded me of specific events in Guatemala.

Helped create an image in my head.

Maybe not at the Modification or Redefinition stage of the SAMR Model of technology integration but  the feedback above is compelling enough for me to keep adding  images in new and unique ways to help my student acquire Spanish,  feel more successful, stay engaged with content and become more passionate about different cultures.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

Round Two: 20% Projects in the World Language Classroom

First project turned in. Love how she spells Veinte.
First project turned in. Love how she spells Veinte.

Two years ago I first experimented with 20% Time in my DP I Spanish class.  I had just read Angela Maiers’ A Passion-Driven Classroom, we had just finished a KIVA Loan project, and being a long-time A Whole New Mind fan, I decided to give it a go. I was not clear with my expectations but I did give my students 4 guidelines. 

2011 Guidelines

  1. Explore your passion.
  2. Solve a problem.
  3. Connect with another person.
  4. Improve your Spanish.

Thankfully, my students hung in there and did the best they could with little guidance from me in terms of format and grading. It was quite messy but the results were amazing!  One day in December a student handed me a folder and said, “I’m turing in my Proyecto de Veinte Por Ciento”. The look on the other students’ faces was incredulous. Was it due they all asked? I quickly recovered from the shock myself and said something like, “it’s due when you think it’s due” and took her folder with a smile.  I wanted to model for my other students that this is the true essence of 20% time. Of course I never would have expected a student to turn something in without it being  DUE.  We made it through the year and many of the projects were outstanding. Some better than others and I’m sure some students would have preferred I had just told them what to do. We also struggled through failure which seemed to be a new concept for my students. 

A few of our favorites:

  • Using a blog to make online cookbooks in Spanish and share with students across the school.
  • Teaching local Spanish-speaking elementary students, in español, how to play Volleyball.
  • Meeting, virtually, students from Honduras to prep for a Service Learning Project taking place in Honduras and then sharing her findings.
  • Connecting with relatives and friends in Argentina to make special foods (alfajores) to sell for National Spanish Honour Society.
  • Digging deeper into a topic studied in a TOK class and then sharing her thinking with the class.
  • Asking the class to make Holiday cards (in Spanish) and donate a few bucks, then buying and wrapping gifts, and then helping deliver the cards/gifts to local Spanish-Speaking students with little financial resources.
  • Researching the perfect place (Chile o España) to spend a GAP year after high school and then sharing the results with us. She chose Chile and actually went.

I’m back at it again, two years later.  I thought the learning was so powerful that I submitted to present at ACTFL this coming November.  My proposal was accepted and I’ll now have two rounds of projects to share with other World Language Teachers. I started last week with my DP Spanish I class. Here are the first changes * in the process this round.

2013 Guidelines 

  1. Explore a passion you are interested in LEARNING* more about.
  2. Improve your Spanish.
  3. Connect with other people.
  4. Save the world in the process.*

Side note: Expect to fail a few times in the process.

I’m looking forward to sharing publicly how this round of 20% Time goes for me and my students. Please feel free to share any experience you have with giving your students 20% Time in your classes.