Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Year, New Classes, So Many New Faces

Wow, I can't believe it has been two months since I have posted. Things are crazy with the start of school, getting my oldest off to college and three preps this year. I am also working on a curriculum job (in my spare time) so I guess my poor blog has been neglected. Never fear, I have some great plans for the blog this year including posting some new videos and how to information.

The new year has brought me many new faces. Our Spanish I teacher retired and the decision was made not to replace her. So, I have larger classes than I have ever had before. I still have my small 4 class, and my 3 classes are about the same size, but I have 3 Spanish II classes that are all between 27-30. Now I know many people have classes even larger, but I haven't seen so many kids in a classroom in a while.

I spent much last week struggling trying to get all of these students logged on to computers, set up new email passwords, explaining the blog and how to get to Moodle (where my videos and assignments are posted). So, this week has been full of watching the students and getting an idea of where they are and what they have retained from previous years. I have done this with some worksheets (cringe), listening and writing activities that they students are working on independently. We also began reading short readers in my 2 and 3 classes. My poor 2 students are having small heart attacks because the pace of my class is much faster than their previous 1 class.

We have worked on reading Piratas (by Mira Canion) in level 2 . In my 2 class, we have read the first 3 (of 10) chapters together taking turns reading. This has given me a chance to see where we stand with reading ability and pronunciation. It is slow going because we read basically a paragraph at a time and then students take turns giving me a one sentence summary of what we just read. I am trying to train the students to read like that themselves rather than trying to translate every word (which is really what they want to do). For some, it is tough going, but the majority seem to be getting it done getting the gist of the plot. After each chapter, they have a 3 column chart that they complete. After we completed chapter 3, I turned them loose on chapters 4-6 to complete on their own or in small groups (no more than 3). At the beginning of next week, I will do a comprehension check and then we will read chapter 7 together and then they will finish the rest on their own. When the book is completed, they will complete project(s) of their choice to achieve the desired amount of points. (I have adapted these from Kristy Placido's).

We are doing a similar process with the level 3s using Robo en la noche (by Kristi Placido). I read the first 2 chapters with them, and then they are on their own to read the rest and complete similar choice board projects. The best part about this book for 3 during this review period is that it is that the full story is written in the present tense and then if you turn the book upside down, is written in the past. So I have the students read half of it in the present and half in the past. It doesn't really interfere with their comprehension and allows them to review the past tenses in context so it comes back to them so much faster. ;)

Adjusting to the flipped class has come easier for some students than others. I do have quite a few 2 students that really struggle with the idea that they have a week to get things on a list done. This week, I had some do everything on the first night for homework, and I had others that didn´t complete their work at all. I am giving them all this week as an adjustment period, so if work was not completed, I am giving them half credit and they can earn the other half back if they show it to me at the beginning of the next class completed. Then, there will be no late work accepted.

I am trying something new with the grading of the classwork, and I am curious to see how it flies. I am only giving grades for the work at the end of the week, and it is one grade. This is different than I have done it before where students got one grade per assignment. I was just finding that I was spending so much time putting grades in for students, and the high amount of points was interfering with the grades coming out in a more appropriate fashion. So, for example, I had students that were C students that were ending up with a B- just because they were completing the class assignments. I want grades to be primarily based on what they are able to do on the formative and summative assessments, not the practice class work.

So, we will be beginning week 3 of school on Tuesday, and I am hoping we can get all the norms really established and settled before Homecoming, which is the week of Sept. 15th. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to do Speed Dating with a class of 30......

Monday, June 30, 2014

FlipCon14 Rehash

It is no secret that this is the conference I have been looking forward to all year. I love the WL conferences, but this is the conference where I feel like my core PLN lives. These are the people that "get" me and how my crazy blonde brain works. It was interesting to hear how many people new to the conference felt the same way. So after meeting people I had only known on Twitter and so many others ready to become facilitators of learning and flipping their class, I wanted to thank everyone for a great conference. I am including links as well as Twitter handles so you can see and follow everyone you find interesting.

But, before I do, I had to share a pic of me and my roomie Crystal Kirch. She is a math teacher (Math, the other foreign language!) who has an awesome blog and I have learned so much from over the years. Funny that we had never met in person, but after 3 years of Twitter, felt like old friends when we were finally together.

Without further ado, here is my rehash of the sessions and ideas that I got from the conference. I encourage others that were at the conference to add their thoughts and ideas as well!
  • First Plenary - After thinking about what my favorite session was for this conference, I decided (for the first time ever!) that the plenary given my Molly Schroder (@followMolly) was it! The title was "Living in Beta". The basic idea behind "Living in Beta" is continually trying new ideas, not waiting until you are sure they are perfect. Then as educators we need to model for our students how to recover from a failure or how to share the success. Google is a great example of this idea. They keep trying new products, willing to have users try them, and in some cases love them. However, often the products are abandoned and newer, better products are offered in their place. I loved the graphic of the Google Graveyard where you can mourn (and place flowers) on the Google product that you loved. As a World Language Teacher, the best part was when Molly discussed Global Impact. This is something we are always stressing at our state WL conference, and it was awesome to hear it brought up at a general ed conference. The big question was, "What projects have you participated in that have had a global reach/impact?" (I am paraphrasing here.) Even in the room with so many innovative educators, many seemed to be thinking, "Wow, I need to do that." Hopefully as this message continues to spread, the value of WL in schools will again be on the rise and we will stop seeing the drastic cuts of WL because we are an "elective". After all, if you want a project with a global reach, wouldn't it be best to be able to speak the language? ;)
  • Automate your Anytime, Anywhere Learning for Students - YouTube Videos, Google Forms and Scripts - This session was dedicated to using digital tools that we access everyday  more effectively. Some of the information was review for me, but it is good to think about to make sure the best tools are being implemented. One of the things discussed that I had never thought about was using playlists to help meet the needs of specific students. YouTube fell away for me since we couldn't use it at school, but now that things have relaxed and we can access YouTube, using playlists will be a great way for me to share additional information with struggling students, or with students as they are working on their projects. You can create a playlist that you can share with the world, or with just one student. It also is a good way to curate all the great material you find on YouTube. 
  • What if, what if, what is - This was another great session given my some of my newer PLN members, Dominique Geocaris (@dgeocaris) and Collin Black (@goteslago). So fun to watch a presentation given by a Science and a Spanish teacher together. For me, the best point they made in their session came at the very beginning- it isn't the video that you show, it is what you do with it. There are so many great resources out there, and rather than dismissing them because we don't immediately see their use for our class, we should take the time to ponder how we can use the video in class. This will help us to continually strive to keep our class fresh  and interesting for our students. They used the example from their session prework, which taught the students how to make a paper airplane. I got so interested, I actually tuned out for a few minutes thinking about how I could use this in class. I was thinking this might be a great way to finally give in and incorporate some math in my classroom. Students could watch the video and then I could have them talk through how to make the paper airplane. It would be a good chance to work on directional words (when flying them too!) and some discussion of angles (which is about all the Geometry I can handle. There was also a good point made about how doing some simple, silly things can make your videos more engaging. For example doing the intro for an earthquake video by shaking the camera - this is something very easily translated with an environment video. Another great idea in our data driven world is not just to poll students at the end of the year about class, but to create and send home a parent survey as well. I often wonder how the parents perceive some of the things we do, and it would be an awesome way to document the success (hopefully) as seen through the eyes of the parents.

One of the things I was fortunate enough to do was to co-moderate the World Language networking session. It was great to see our group at this conference growing. We even had participants from Peru, Morocco, and of course throughout the US. So, if you are looking for some other new flippers in WL, check out these great people on Twitter. @CelTatis, @lainemarsh, @jgaddess (1st time tweeter!), @lynn_shirk, @MrDeLauriRHS, @sraclauser, @dgeocaris, @srhernandez, @yenchungju

I remember the first time I went to this conference in 2010 and there was only me and one other WL teacher. So, although we are a small group in comparison to Math and Science, we have seen some great growth in the flipped class in WL over the past 4 years. 

Of course Aaron Sams and John Bergman did a great job with their plenary, and this year highlighted some great work many of the big names in the flipped class world. Steve Kelly (@bigkxcountry), who is a great friend and Math teacher, Kristin Daniels (@kadaniels) who is a guru at flipped professional development, my wonderful friend and Math teacher Crystal Kirch (@crystalkirch), English teacher April Gudenrath @agudteach), and many more. It is always fascinating to see what is working in other teachers' classrooms.

I was a part of the session for the authors of the Flipping 2.0 book, which if you haven't ordered yet,you should! This was another great chance to field questions from the audience both in person and from the virtual audience with some of my co-authors, Jason Bretzmann (@jbretzmann) awesome History teacher, Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers) and Andrew Thomasson (thomasson_engl) English teachers extraordinaire and THE gurus of co-flipping. Audrey McLaren (@a_mcsquared) queen of the algebros, and many more. 

Additionally there were some great new apps available for us to check out as well.Verso and TouchCast appear to have some great upgrades from things I have seen so far, and I am anxious to continue to explore them and try to utilize them with my students. They are FREE and available on all platforms so check out all that they can do for you and your video creation.

There were so many other great people and ideas that there just isn't room to put them all here! All I can say is if you don't want to miss all the fun, start planning for FlipCon15 in East Lansing, MI next July and you can be a part of it all.

P.S. - One of the most wonderful, special and patient people I have ever met through the flip class network will be moving on to new adventures. Although selfishly, I want her to stay, I wish all of the luck in the world to Kari Arstrom. Hope she loves her new adventure, but still checks in with us every once in a while. It is hard to imagine the flip class world without her! Love you Kari!





Wednesday, June 25, 2014

FlipCon 14 Presentation - Planning for Success

Here is the .pdf of my presentation from FlipCon14 today - Planning for Success. Please feel free to contact me with any questions and/or comments. Twitter @SraWitten and Email hawitten@gmail.com. There are some slides you didn't see, but we covered everything! I enjoyed working with you all today!


Monday, June 23, 2014

True Confessions

As I often do before I present at a conference, I am sitting in my hotel room and gathering my thoughts. I am here outside of Pittsburgh, at the Flipped Class Conference, and trying to decide what questions I want to try to find the answers to in my own classroom. I feel like I have really been neglecting my personal reflections and really want to take this time to recommit to my original ideas and goals from my first Flipped Class Conference 4 years ago:

  • I want my students to increase their fluency in class.
  • I want students to WANT to learn not just the language, but more about the people and culture of the world. 
  • I want to facilitate my students' learning, not dictate it.
  • I want to love my job every day, no matter what other things are going on in my school.
In so many ways, these four things sound so simple, and yet they are often difficult to achieve. I have fallen into the trap of tweaking minimally and not really trying to continually improve my curriculum to adapt to the needs of my students. I work hard for my students, always have, always will. However, I think I need to turn the focus back on their thoughts and ideas. How can I continue to move to the more student centered classroom? How can I help them to love learning and build on their abilities and interests to keep them learning beyond the requirements?

I don't have the answers to these questions.....which is ok. But, I think I haven't been continuing to search for them, which is not ok. 

I am very fortunate to have such a great PLN to turn to for advice and encouragement and so many of them are here with me at this conference. I need to focus not just on the social side of this conference, but try to look at the sessions and speakers through the eyes of the teacher new to flipping trying to find the path that will help students achieve success.

I want to move to more creative assignments, inspired by me, but created by my students. Shall I give more choice boards to show the students their capabilities and help them understand how to express their knowledge on their own? Should I reject all grammar practice and have students instead approach everything from a cultural perspective? Should I model some of my colleagues and find the right way to have online portfolios and true student interaction online?

I sit here tonight full of questions that I have no answers to. It is the search for the answers that helps me see things from my students' eyes and helps me be a better teacher. Join me on this journey.