Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where have I been?

As teachers, we all know that this time of year is a crazy one. To add to my usually insanity- four kids, two dogs, husband, teaching, preparing for vacation - I have been doing webinars and podcast interviews. Therefore, I am woefully behind on my flipped class musings. I have been reading some of the latest blogging....and some is making me crazy....such as the Flip is a Flop. I won't even begin to discuss how much I disagree with the Innovative Educator. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I know what is working for me and my students.

So, look forward to class updates and all of the great things the students have been doing in my classroom. It should come sometime next week as my kids are finishing finals!

While you are waiting, check out the recorded webinar from the Flipped Learning Network last week:

Flipped Learning Webinar Foreign Language

Here is a link to my podcast interview with Troy Cockrum (a great English flipper!)

Flipping foreign language podcast

Hope you all have a great finals and end of the semester!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flipped for Fluency Webinar November 13

Thanks to everyone who attended the Flipped for Fluency webinar courtesy of on November 13. As promised, here is the link to that webinar. If you missed it live, please check it out. I would love any feedback you could give me in the form below.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cultural activities across the levels

This time of year is the worst for teachers. Students have realized that their grades are not what they should be and are in full panic mode, and parents are on alert as well. The holiday season is also around the corner, and even though Christmas decorations have been up in stores for weeks, I am not ready for the work that comes with the holidays! With all of this going on, it is easy to focus on the negative and the frustrations in the classroom, but I am doing my best to focus on the positives.

This past week was a crazy one, with our fairy tale unit ending. As I have mentioned before, I have been working on a cross-level project between the Spanish 1's and Spanish 3's. I have felt that we spend so much time focusing on the harder vocabulary and more difficult conversations that the upper level students forget how to say some of the most basic things...the conversations that would be most important if they were in a foreign country.

So, the idea behind this project was to have the upper level kids create stores and sell to the lower levels. We planned and wrote assignment sheets and talked about vocabulary. I let my students choose what type of store to have, because as I have mentioned before, I firmly believe we need to give students choices whenever possible. Here is a copy of our assignment sheet. (I also put a copy in the Helpful Docs tab.) We also gave the kids a handout to practice key phrases, and add phrases of their own that they thought necessary.

The students created all types of stores, including music, movie, cafe, clothing, and a party store. I was so proud of my students. They stayed in the target language, even when the principal tried to talk to them in English. They were so generous, giving juice, soda, cookies, party favors, etc. to the lower level students. Since we were using Monopoly money, I had assured students they would get all of their items back.

Now, my PreAp class is during a time when there is no Spanish I, so we tried something  little different. We did a "Tourist Day" between Germany and Spain with the German III students. In this project, some of the students set up stores, and other students were tour guides. The tour guides were in charge of teaching key phrases and helping their groups at the stores. The stores were based on what a tourist would need: a hotel, souvenir shop, tour/ticket office, and cafe. The students then took turns leading the tours and shops.

The kids were excited about this and it went very well. The students learned a few new phrases in a new language. They were also exposed to situations where they didn't understand what someone was saying, or how to respond and had to figure out how to get what they wanted. It was a great communication exercise for all of the students.

I was liberal with the assessment scores. I felt that if they were communicating in the target language during the duration of the activity (about an hour), and they helped the lower level students communicate as well, that was A work.

For me, it was a good week. Students did tons of communicating and had a great time. Hopefully this will be an annual tradition and something the students can look forward to. Now all I have to do is figure out how to do it again in the Spring. I think I will put my students on it! They have the best ideas.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Increase your World Language PLN today!

There are many things that make being a World Language teacher difficult, but I think the hardest part is a feeling of isolation. Often, World Language departments in schools are small, and like-minded collaboration is difficult. Additionally, there is little professional development for us at the school level. When schools have professional development, we often don't fit in. We aren't a core class, but we don't fit in with most electives either. So, for professional development, we head to local conferences as well as national conferences like ACTFL in the hopes of learning new techniques, gathering new materials and meeting new contacts to help us improve our classes.

Thankfully, we also have the magic of technology to allow us to find our own professional development. So, it is time to get out there and find your PLN (personal learning network) and get some great ideas to improve your class!

Blogs are great ways to learn new things. Best of all, they enable us to learn from the successes and mistakes of others to save us valuable time. I have a long list of blogs that I read (ok, sometimes I skim). The ideas on these blogs can save us hours of searching and writing our own plans. The teachers that write these blogs are always open to sharing ideas, making them a very valuable resource. (If you are a blogger, or know a great WL blog, please add it on the form at the end of this post!) Check out the list so far!

Social media is another way to find great resources and other WL teachers to collaborate with. I know many people shudder at the thought of Twitter, I was always the same way. However, I have found that just with my small amount of activity, I have met some other great teachers, found some great resources and participated in some wonderful chats. If you are ready to give it a try, here are some great people to follow:


Great conversations happen quickly on Twitter. Here are some I like to try to participate in:

#flipchat is every Monday at 8EST
#edtech is every Sunday at 8EST
#langchat is every Thursday at 8EST

And of course, there are many webinars available. I have one on November 13, you can register here. I am also co-presenting in December 5th with French middle school teacher Ellen Dill, and you can register here. If you are interested in Project Based Learning, check out this one. You can find a webinar on just about anything if you look. Although I think it is best to do them live so you can ask questions, most are recorded so you can watch them when your schedule allows.

So, now that the weather is turning cooler (it snowed this week in Denver!) cuddle up to your computer and learn something new today!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Conquering the challenges

The last few weeks have been busy weeks in my classroom. Here is a quick recap:

Unit 1, Challenges in Teen Life proficiency assessment (culminating project for the unit - found in important docs) was a mixed bag. In many ways it was a success because the students all worked together to create a project in the target language. They worked over the course of the unit, but the last two weeks were the most intense. It was great to see the students working together, watching other commercials in the target language and creating posters, PowerPoints and videos.

As with most big projects, I realized at the end that I need to explain a few things better. I told them to create "campaigns" for the teen problem, such as "Don't Drink and Drive". However from many I got something that more closely resembled a report on drunk driving. Clearly I need to include a "slogan" portion of the assignment and we should watch examples of these types of commercials before they begin working. Sometimes, explanation just isn't enough. Overall, they were good, and they chose great teen issues and learned tons of Spanish. Next year, I just need to help them a little more with what I am envisioning. I need to give them choices, but still show more examples of what I think it should look like.

On to Unit 2, Fairy Tales and Legends! This is always a popular unit. Again, since the Spanish 2 teacher gave overviews of some of the elements I teach in 3, I still have some students that don't want to do the video instruction, because they "know" the concepts. However, this time I changed the way I did the grammar. It is in three small parts over the course of 3 class days. So, I have had the opportunity to catch those not taking notes, fix problems with irregulars, and then the students have still had another opportunity to practice the work again.We have our first Benchmark Assessment on Monday/Tuesday, and I am hoping that this will help them to do better.

Since last week was Homecoming Week, I had given the kids short Fairy Tale skits to work on in groups, learn and then present. I make the kids memorize their lines, bring costumes, props, etc. They grumble, and some just can't do the memorization, but the skits are loads of fun, and the students really enjoy doing them and watching the other groups. It is one of the activities I never had class time to fit in, that now I can enjoy with my students.

Here are some samples of the posters I received. (Imagine them as billboards!)

Here is a link to a great video that another group of  students did.

Flipped Class progress - I still feel as though this year's classes are not getting as much out of the flip as we did last year. I am adding more fun activities to help them practice, for example we did Scattegories and Speed Dating. However, I am still having trouble getting the students to open up and interact with each other and me. Too many are content to be in their own zone and try to never say a word. I have to change this....but how?? I have been thinking about it for a few weeks, and think I have finally come up with some ideas.

First, I am going move away from the word of the day for a while and give them a speaking prompt of the day. They will need to have at least five minute conversation in pairs at the beginning of every class period. I am going to make each group record their conversation on a hand held recorder. I don't know that I will listen to them all the time (or at all), but it is my experience that if the students think I am recording it they will take it more seriously. I can usually get a good feel for the conversations as I am walking around the room. As far as I am concerned, if they are in the target language and trying, that is good enough for me.

Second, in the next unit, I am moving away from the short stories and going to introduce the readers. My focus here is going to be for students not to translate every word, but to read a few lines, a paragraph, or a section, and then in their group do a quick conversation to make sure they are keeping up with the story. I want to create some type of reading log to have them keep track of this. (Not sure yet exactly what this will look like.) Last year, we began with level 2 readers, and for many of the students, they were too hard. This year, we are beginning with the level 1 readers for the majority of the students. I will start the higher level students in some of the level 2 books. (I love reading because it is so easy to differentiate!) As we have been reading the short stories, I have been talking to the students about  how they felt about each of the stories, and the reading groups are almost forming themselves.

Third, we are finishing the planning of the cross-level shopping project. The upper level students will create "booths" in the plaza, and the level 1 students will "shop". One of my biggest worries for some of the upper level students is that they get so caught up in some of the more advanced vocabulary and grammar structures, that they forget how to do the simple things, like ask how much something costs. I am also hoping that these types of projects will help encourage students to continue learning the language because they will know some of the fun things that go on in the other levels and look forward to them.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Are you a World Language Blogger?

We learn best from our reflections, as all you bloggers out there know. However, we can avoid mistakes and learn from the successes of others too. I want to compile a list of World Language bloggers out there in one convenient place so we can all learn together!

If you are a blogger, please fill out the form below. I will post results on the blog.

Mistakes and old - Reflections on Week 6

This week has been an interesting one. Students have been finishing up required work in class and their culminating projects are due next Thursday and Friday, so they have been finishing those up as well. We should have ended this week with the second benchmark assessment quiz in my level 3 classes.....but we didn't.

Why you ask? Well, I am still not doing a good enough job getting students watching videos and getting work done. I remember that the first unit is a hard one because it is the first time they are expected to learn new material in the flipped classroom. Where did I go wrong? I am not completely sure. At the beginning of the unit, the students watched the videos, did they work (well, most of them). For the second grammatical concept, they all pretty much decided they didn't need to watch the video. The concept is reflexive verbs, and yes, the students have seen some of this before. However, I told them all that there was new information in the videos that they needed to know. Why aren't they listening?

I am concerned that if I can't find a solution to this problem quickly there is going to be more trouble in the future. The teacher that did all of the level 2 last year decided that in addition to teaching his required curriculum, he would teach most of mine as well. I am not sure why. (For you Spanish teachers, this is what he covered in level 2: additional stem changers in the present, preterite, imperfect, the present and past perfect, future, conditional, present subjunctive, in addition to all the vocabulary and smaller grammatical concepts normally covered in level 2.) The result is, I have classes full of students that know a little bit of all of these tenses, are unsure when to use what, and are unsure of conjugations. So, I am going to have to cover these all again in some manner. So, I have to convince students that even if they have seen a concept before, if I am giving it to them again, there is a reason. For example, with the reflexives, I gave them some new verbs that change meaning depending on whether or not they were reflexive.

Now, if you have read previous posts, you know, I believe that if kids haven't done the work and you give them the break and push quizzes back, you are setting  bad precedent. However, when I realized that 80% of my students did not watch the video in all of the classes, I was shocked. I had many who were confused that we were supposed to have an assessment. Well, what was a teacher to do? I could have given the assessment and then spent the weekend grading failing quizzes, only to have to grade many of them again when we did the retake. This sounded like a bad idea (especially since I am behind in grading this week already.) So, I took a look at the schedule and decided I could push the assessment back a day without wrecking other deadlines.

What mistakes do I know I have made?
1.  The grammar practice assignments should be due earlier. In planning I was thinking that giving them more time gave them more flexibility and as long as they had it done prior to the assessment, that was fine. Clearly, that idea isn't working.
2. Even though I found in my notes from last year that we needed to do more fun vocabulary and grammar practice prior to quizzing, somehow, it didn't happen. The students need that to reinforce and continue working with the vocabulary to be more successful on the assessments.
3. A mini-speaking assessment was scheduled during the class period that many of the students were working on the grammar practice. This meant that I was working one-on-one with kids and not able to roam the room and notice that they weren't getting it done correctly the first time - before they finished everything.
4. By not correcting everything as they were going, many students had the entire practice sheet done incorrectly, which resulted in a)I spent forever checking them giving students less time to fix their mistakes in class and b) there were one or two in each class I didn't get to check at all.

Instead of the assessment, I had students write a quick skit with reflexives and vocabulary in groups of three. Then the groups rotated and performed the skits for another small group. It was an informal practice, but it got them to practice the verbs they needed to and reinforce the grammar rules and vocabulary that they needed for the assessment.

As I am finalizing the plan for the Fairy Tale unit, next week, I am going to go back and double check to make sure I am avoiding these mistakes in the next unit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I am still the teacher! - Reflections on Week 5

The last two weeks have been full of changes. The students, who in the beginning were afraid to talk to me, are now opening up more and asking more questions. I still, of course, have quiet students, but the majority of them are realizing that they need to ask me questions.

Many students quickly decided that they liked being able to email me when they have questions. I was shocked however, when I was receiving emails from students that asked if I could help them in class!!! I am constantly moving through the class, as always, looking over shoulders and offering help and suggestions. The idea that a student thought they needed to ask me via email to help them in class was very disturbing. Especially since, you guessed it, he is a student that when I offer to help him in class says "I've got it."

After talking to the student, and thinking about it, I decided that maybe I still did not do good enough job explaining about the flipped classroom. Or, maybe it is something that needs to be consistently brought up and explained in class. Many students are slowly realizing that I am not a babysitter, I am still their teacher. I can offer help and suggestions. Yes, this is a self-paced class, but I am here to help you every step of the way.

For me, I think I may have began the year well, taking it slowly and reinforcing how things work, but as a little time went on, slipped into my pattern......which was great last year when the kids totally got it. However, these students still need reinforcement and reminding about the process. Additionally, since I knew many of my students last year from lower level classes, the relationship piece was already in place. This year, I have to show them how the new system works while establishing relationships.

We are in full project mode in my class, which has been great. Students are getting that they can run ideas by me, ask me to double check scripts and count on me to answer tough questions for them. I am hopeful that as the project due date nears, this will continue and will help us build the relationship that I want to have with them. I want to be their mentor, their guide, and their student. I want to teach them what I know and have them teach me new things as well. I want to continue to get to know each one of them as individuals so they are comfortable coming to me.

I am excited about these projects as I try to implement project based learning more firmly in my class. Giving the students so much freedom of choice is a little nerve racking (for them and me), but they seem to really be getting into the work. I love that these students listen to me that they should not write rough drafts in English and then translate them....they are in Spanish, right from the beginning.

This group might be my best one yet. And I, as their teacher, can't wait to see it!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flipping for Fluency Webinar Follow Up

First, I wanted to begin by thanking Taylor Pettis and for hosting the webinar on Tuesday. I think that the webinar went really well and hope that all of the participants got what they were looking for from it. I know some people were looking for more information about assessment and video creation, but I followed the poll from the blog to create the content. They have asked me to do another webinar, and maybe I will be able to focus more on those topics then.

I know there was some time confusion since the time was CST, and there were some of you interested that just couldn't make the webinar. Good news! Here is the link to the recorded webinar.

***I have just added some documents discussed in the webinar under the "Helpful Documents" tab above. This includes our unit planning document, and the assignments and project for Unit 1 - Challenges in Teen Life I use in my level 3 classes.

I am always interested in feedback, so if you attended the webinar live or if you view the recorded version, please fill out the following survey.

Thanks so much for you time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Listening Training

Sorry I haven't updated in a while, but it is hard to keep up with the family, class, and the blog. I will try to do better going forward.

We are two weeks into Unit 1. The students are finally understanding the process of the class, (although I did have a student ask me yesterday if class was going to be like this every day). Now, students are learning not about the flip, but about working to my expectations. Since I allow students to work at their own pace through the material, they can do activities when it works for them, and as many times as necessary.

Nowhere is this as apparent as the listening activities. Listening is an area where students struggle. It is something I struggle with as a teacher. How do I help the students progress and improve their listening without them getting discouraged?  I have spent much of the last two days explaining to students that they have to "train" to listen. Just like a kid isn't going to become a star football player without practice, they aren't going to become good listeners without practice.

Today students are working on a listening where two girls are describing their daily routines to each other. It is a slightly longer listening, about 2 minutes, and a little faster than what we have done before. So many of the students listened two or three times, threw their hands up, and just wrote whatever on the comprehension worksheet. As I was checking work, many of them were shocked that I wouldn't give them credit unless they went back and tried again.

It just reminds me of why I love the flip. In previous years, we would listen two, maybe three times, and their either got it or they didn't. I never really got a good handle on who understood what, and some were lost forever. Now, they are able to take a listening, listen to it in little chunks, discuss it with their classmates, and then move on. Obviously listening to conversations fifteen words at a time isn't ideal, but baby steps must come before they can run!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flipped for Fluency Webinar Update

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the webinar, scheduled for September 18th was sold out yesterday. Luckily, my friends at were able to add 20 more seats. So, if you haven't registered yet, now is the time!

I have received almost 70 responses to my survey for content for the webinar. By popular demand, I will be focusing on classroom structure and lesson planning. I will try to incorporate some assessment, but might have to just post a video to the blog to cover this topic. If you have any specific concerns, please feel free to email me, and I will do my best to address them. I have written to many people looking to implement the flip right away, and I am happy to answer any questions or concerns.

I am looking forward to "seeing" you in September!


****UPDATE - As of 8/30 the webinar is totally sold out and we can't add any more seats. Hopefully we can do another one in the near future!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The first week with Flip 201

There is nothing like the first week of school. It is a time when everything seems possible. All the students are capable of receiving A's and learning all that we can teach. The students all have a fresh start and have the ability to continue on a great path or change directions to get on the path to learning.

I love the beginning of the school year, and not just because I can talk to children other than my 2 year old twins. I love looking at my new students, getting to know each of them as individuals, and seeing how all of the plans I have made over the summer are received by the students.

Of course, as we teachers know, another interesting thing about the beginning of the school year is how something that was so easily explained last year is totally confusing the next. For example, this week, many of the students seem confused by the assignment sheet. (A sample is on important docs tab.) I explained it to the group, I explained it individually to many of the students, but the students are still confused. Even in looking back at notes from last year, I don't remember this being as big of an issue. So, I am faced with a few choices: 1)In addition to the current assignment sheet, give a cheat sheet in date order, 2)Change the current assignment sheet, 3)Keep the assignment sheet the same and keep giving them the "what's due tomorrow" list on the board.

The problem is, I really like my assignment sheet. I like the students to be able to make their own plan and keep up with the due dates on their own. I enjoy helping them make the plan to stay on track. I think that learning how to tackle the assignments and completing them in a way that works best for each student is an important part of the life lessons that the students get from the flipped classroom.

So, what to do? I think I am going to continue just giving the students the "What's due next class" reminder for the remainder of the review unit. When I begin the first "real" unit, (after Labor Day) I am going to give them the blank spreadsheet and go over with them how they can make a plan for the unit. Hopefully the more that the students work with the spreadsheet, the easier it will be to understand.

Otherwise, I think the students are settling in nicely. They began giving their "Who am I?" present review projects, and so far I have been pleased with the results. They are doing a good job about not reading (of course I did tell them they would get a 0 if they read!) I am going to be doing baseline speaking assessments with the students Wednesday and Thursday and am excited about being able to do a better job of tracking student progress throughout the year.

Back to school night is Monday, and although I would love to have some classroom pictures with the students, it is probably not going to happen. The first week just went by so fast. I think I am going to send home a newsletter to parents with something I put together toward the end of September. This way parents can see the flip (and their students) in action.

Now for week 2.....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tomorrow is the first day of 180 days of flipping!

I can't believe that the summer has flown by so fast. I have made it through 3 days of professional development and now anxiously await the arrival of my students tomorrow. It never fails, I am as nervous and excited as the students that come into my classroom. I have been fortunate enough to get my own room this year, so I have been working hard to get it set up in a way that I think will help the students enjoy their learning environment.

Here are some pictures from my new room! It is hard to get in one photo. I tried to set up some places for students to work alone, in small groups, and in larger groups. I also have a futon and interesting plastic chairs for reading and conversation. I am planning on mandating that the futon is for reading in my 3 classes since I am sure they will try to just "hang out" there.

After much consideration, I have decided to implement Moodle, but really only as a basic website. I am not utilizing any of its more advanced features this year. I am going to use for student journaling. It is not too difficult to setup, and easy for students to respond to my prompts and to each other. After seeing that they have a quick, easy way to add accents I was sold on this as my program for the year. I don't want the students to have any excuses not to have those accents!

I am also excited about using to keep an online student portfolio. I can easily add non-digital student work, speaking assessments and videos to each student's portfolio. This is really important because in Colorado, as in many other states, we are beginning the implementation of new teacher evaluations and so much of it centers on being able to demonstrate student progress. Not to mention, I am really looking forward to be able to see and hear the progression of my students and be able to share it with students and parents.

Can't wait to get started. I am looking forward to being able to post some student reactions and comments along with my thoughts and ideas.

Happy Back to School!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Demonstrating Proficiency using PBL and the ACTFL scale

This year, my focus is going to be having the students demonstrate proficiency. I am moving away from the old written tests. I want my students to demonstrate their proficiency with new and old skills and concepts. I know, many of you may be saying "Duh", and although I have known this is the way to go, only recently have I found a way that I think will really be effective. I working to utilize Project Based Learning. If you are unfamiliar with this, check out this recorded webinar. It is a fantastic explanation of PBL.

In order to demonstrate not only proficiency, but movement on the ACTFL scale, I am also beginning the year with a baseline speaking assessment. I am going to do a baseline written assessment at the end of the review/beginning of Unit 1. I am hoping that these assessments will not only help determine students progress as we move through the year, but help me to identify common gaps in learning so that I can address them quickly.

My assessment plan for the beginning of the year
Students will be given videos to review previously learned grammar points. They will then do quick written practice and then demonstrate their proficiency with basic grammar and vocabulary through projects of their choice. I am giving them a question to answer, and they can demonstrate their proficiency in any way they choose. The first one is shown below. I asking for a 1-2 minute presentation from my regular Spanish 3 class, 2-3 in PreAp and 3-4 in level 4. My thought is to begin these PBL projects small so the students don't get overwhelmed. The project for Unit 1 is more involved and complex. I am also giving students three of these projects in the first 2 weeks - Present, Past, and Future.

As students are working on these assignments, I will be administering individual benchmark speaking assessments. I will be using a rubric that I was discussed in the Creative Language Class blog. They did a great series on assessing on the ACTFL scale and if you haven't read it, you should check it out. The challenge in this benchmark assessment is to find a way to do determine student abilities without demoralizing them. I am using a prompt that I found on the Creative Language Class blog which is as follows:

Your class has been working with students in Barcelona, Spain and you have shared lots of information about your daily lives with them. It’s time to find out more about what students’ lives are like in Spain so you have to interview a student there to find out what his/her daily life is like. Since your partner may not remember what you said about your daily life, be prepared to answer any questions he/she might have about your daily life. You may want to find out:

What your partner does daily at home, school, and/or work;
What your partner does most every week at home, school, and/or work;
Anything else you would like to learn about daily life in Spain.

Remember to greet your partner and thank your partner for his/her time. And don’t forget, your partner will probably ask you questions about your life as well.

After much consideration and searching the net, I decided this was a good benchmark for level 3 because the students should have enough knowledge to answer the questions coming into the class, and there is room for the students to show growth as we progress through the review and Unit 1. For me, I need to give the same assessment to be able to determine growth accurately. I will be assessing the students with this prompt after Unit 1, Challenges in Teen Life. With the new vocabulary students learn in that unit, as well as the continuous language use in class, I am expecting to see a big increase in abilities. My best guess is that students will score Novice Low - Novice Mid on the benchmark assessment. I hope they will be at Novice High when I reassess in October.

My goal for the students in level 3 is to be able to be consistently at Intermediate Low, and level 4 to be at Intermediate High in all activities by the end of the year. I am hopeful that with the tools from ACTFL* I will be able to accurately assess not only where students are, but be able to show them the areas where they need to improve.

I realize that approaching assessment in this way will be a big change for the students, but I am hoping that they will quickly embrace it. I think it is so much better for students to demonstrate their knowledge using these tools and projects then be stuck staring at huge tests. Since school starts on August 20th, I don't have long to wait to see how these new changes are received.

*I am adding the Performance Assessment Rubric from the Creative Language Class blog to the Helpful Class Documents tab.

**Many of my students have not done conversation and listening in a meaningful way in level 2, which is why I believe that they are going to begin low on the ACTFL scale. (I hope they prove me wrong!)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

With change comes objections

Flipping your classroom is a daunting task. It is not easy, takes a big time investment from the teacher up front, and requires patience when it is being implemented for the first time. You may encounter resistance from students, parents, administrators and your peer teachers.  You will experience technical difficulties - both your own and your students. Kids will not magically start doing their homework, nor will they all become fluent language speakers.

So, with all the issues, why would anyone bother flipping their class? The answer for me is easy...because the traditional way of teaching was not working for me or my students. I was spending so much time lecturing and "leading" class, that many students could get good grades without truly learning the material. I had other groups of students that could keep their head down and be quiet, make their "C" and also not really learn much. Then of course there was the third group (albeit small) that just ignored me as much as possible and barely made it through class. This was not acceptable to me and I knew I had to find another way. (see earlier posts for my AP story and thematic units.)

Here is my attempt to answer the common objections:
  1. Students won't do the homework. Honestly, this is completely true. Students that continually refuse to do homework in a traditional classroom probably aren't going to do homework in a flipped class. For me, a big difference is that they don't have to do homework. They can plan to watch the videos in class. In fact, I encourage some of my "homework slackers" to do it that way.
  2. I will lose my relationship with my students. From my experience last year, and talking to other teachers that have flipped, the complete opposite is true. Since I am not being a "sage on the stage", I am able to work with students individually and actually have better relationships with them now than I did before the flip. When a student was having a problem with content, or a personal problem, I was able to detect it quickly and help the students work through the issues.
  3. Parents and students will object. Whenever we try new things in the classroom, the one thing we can be sure of is that some parents and students will object. The key is to try to predict the objections and be ready for them. Start the year by explaining the changes you are making and why you are making them. Everyone fears change. Many parents fear change for the sake of change, especially in education. (As a parent myself, I can attest to this!) Make sure you can justify changes that you are making in the classroom BEFORE you make them. Last year, I had only one student at fall conferences who tried to convince her mother that I wasn't teaching and that is why her grade wasn't where it should be. I had many parents tell me how much they loved the lectures via video because it really helped their student.
  4. Peer teachers aren't supportive. I am so fortunate that in my small school with three other foreign language teachers, I always receive support from my fellow teachers. Although I am the only one flipping, I have never heard any of them be negative about this decision. I know that many other teachers are not so lucky. I believe that it goes back to the fear of change. If our peers have been teaching the same way for years and are comfortable, it is difficult to contemplate changing their methods. I think some teachers fear that if the flipped class works for some teachers that they will be forced to make the change in their classroom if they want to or not.
  5. Putting lectures on videos won't improve learning. Actually, this is something I totally agree with. However, what many people misunderstand about the flipped classroom is that the videos are a small part of the process. What improves learning is what happens in the classroom once the teacher becomes a facilitator and the students take the lead in the learning process. I have been blown away by not only what my students could achieve at the end of last year, but their motivation was even more exciting. So many times, even my good students think of Spanish is something they have to "get through". Last year was the first time I had many students really start to love the language and be excited about class. That to me is the indicator of true success.
My advice to you if you are considering some type of flipped classroom is to be ready for objections, make sure you are making changes for the right reasons, and then to stay the course. Listen to criticism and learn from it. Get support and advice wherever you can find it...if not at your school, then elsewhere in your district or your state. Work on an online PLN and follow other's blogs, Twitter chats and websites. Continue learning, adapting and striving to be the best teacher you can be....that is true success.

Thanks Karla for inspiring this post! Keep commenting!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Path to Success in Spanish Graphic

I am playing around with creating some graphics to post in my classroom next year, as well as some of the cool online graphic tools. I really want to have some things that I can point to in my room to remind students that learning a language is not always easy, or doing things the right way is really worth it. I created the visual using Word, and the roll over definitions on

I think this is close, but as always, value comments and/or suggestions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Flipping for Fluency - The Webinar!

I received word today from my friends at confirming the date, September 18th at 7EST, for a foreign language flipped class webinar. This is something I have been working on since the Flipped Class Conference in Chicago, and I am glad that it is coming together. Register here!

I know that there are many language teachers interested in (and already) flipping their classrooms. I have many ideas for things that I think would be great in the presentation, but I really want to hear from you about what you would like to see in the webinar. Please fill out the following form and let me know what your interests are so that I can best meet your expectations.

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Flipping for Fluency...the first weeks of school

I want to get the blog focus back to the classroom, and that is easy to do because it is all I have been working on for the past 2 weeks. I have been reworking videos, writing PBL assignments, and creating better parent communication.

My new focus for grammar videos is a quick intro and then a story, or some other catchy way to show students how to implement the new concepts. I have been working with a variety of sources to make this happen.

I made a cute video for the future tense with GoAnimate, which will be published soon, but in order to push it out to YouTube I have to pay a small fee, so I am trying to do a couple at once so I can only pay once (or get it all done in the 30 day free trial!). This was cool because I typed the script and chose character voices. This was awesome because I could actually choose Hispanic speakers, so it makes it more like a real listening exercise! I am going to use it that way and have students answer questions and hypothesize in the future about possible outcomes.

Yesterday, I finished a video that I am planning to send to the parents of my students this year. It is using PowToon, which is still in the Beta, but looks really cool. Flipped for Fluency parent video was easy to put together once I decided what to say! I am going to send this out with my parent letter about a week before school starts. A word of caution though..have your script together before you start playing or you will be working on it forever! (I fell into the trap I always warn my student about when using cool technology!)

I have written some PBL exercises for my Mini Review Unit, which is the first two weeks of school. I am covering present, past, and future. I cut down the worksheets to just some quick conjugation worksheets to get the kids thinking in Spanish again. Then they will work on the PBL projects which are a combination of solo and group work. The Present Assignment Sheet outlines a "getting to know you" presentation. I do think that this is going to be a much more effective way to let the kids demonstrate their proficiency. Hence, I have decided to call them Proficiency Demonstrations. In the 6 regular units of study, these will replace my Unit Assessments from last year.

When creating the PBL assignments, I have tried to leave as many choices as possible open for the students. This is probably more apparent in the one I wrote for Unit 1 Proficiency Demonstration. I gave some guidance by giving them steps to consider, but left the topic and method of presentation up to them. I also decided to cut the vocabulary list down to the bare minimum 54 words for a 5 week unit. I decided that the students will have to discover many words pertinent to their topic on their own, so they did not need an exhaustive list from me.

I am looking at my assessing strategies and going to make some big changes to improve for next year. I need to get more things straight in my own head before I can commit them to the blog though.

On another note, I am going to be working with Sofia to have a Foreign Language Flipped Webinar in the middle of September. I will blog, post and tweet the details when I have them!

Friday, July 6, 2012

So you want to flip? Great resources to get you started!

In response to a number of emails I have received about getting started with the flip, I wanted to try to group some great resources all in one place so that you fledgling flippers (is there no end to the possibilities with alliteration?) have a good place to start. It takes valuable time to find the right resources, so hopefully this will save everyone time and give you the information that you need. This is a more in detail look at portions of my earlier post Steps for a successful flipped class.

Where do I find more information? Use resources like on my MentorMob Playlist or use a powerful search engine Mashpedia to find available resources. Increase (or get) a personal learning network (PLN) of educators with similar interests in goals. Check out Twitter and look at #flipclass, #flippedclass, #langchat, #edchat. Don't be afraid to follow the rock stars you find there! Publications like Tech & Learning or eSchoolNews. You can receive free subscriptions to both, and they are full of great resources and articles. If you are looking for a mini-class on flipping, check out the new Flipped Class Certification program which is a fantastic place to get the basics on flipping.

What do you use to make your videos? I use Camtasia 8 which isn't free, but has great tools that some of the free resources don't. For me, I have to have the editing capability, adjusting audio levels, have an easy way to include the webcam into my presentations, and it is super easy to create the videos in a variety of ways (including offline options) for all my students. With this new version, I can include captioning and quizzing which I am very excited to try. You can try it for free for 30 days with the link above. If you must use a free software (which I get, I am a poor teacher too!) try some of these: Jing, Screencast-o-matic, or if you are a Mac person, try using iMovie.

Where do you post your videos? I post my videos in a couple of places to try to avoid any technology issues. I do post to YouTube, even though it is currently blocked at my school, because I found students found my videos easily using their smart phones and the YouTube app (when they are using their 3G). I also post to Screencast and to Sofia because students can access both places at school easily.

What content do you offer through videos? I teach all of my grammar concepts via video. I also have students practice vocabulary with videos as well as have listening and culture videos for students to watch. I give the students practice exercises that are basic comprehension, and in class we have discussions and/or do activities to demonstrate comprehension of the material. I am revising my videos from last year and publishing links to some of them here on my blog. Check out the first, Zapatos Nuevos.

On another note, as you move through the process, I encourage you to start your own blog. Even if you don't share it (but you should), it is really a necessary part of the process to take time to reflect on what has worked, what didn't, and most importantly you can see where you need to make adjustments for next year.

As always, comment or email me with questions and I will do everything I can to help you!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Off to a great start in 2012 - Reflections on #flipclass chat from 7/2

First, if you are not a Twitter person, you might want to become one just to participate (or follow along) with the #flipclass chat every Monday at 8EST. Even if you can't make the chat, you can read the archive and get some great ideas. I am not big on Twitter, but this is a great resource.

The focus of the chat this week was getting the next school year off differently (and better) than last year. For new flippers, a great way to get started is a great letter for parents/students explaining the flipped class. Last year, I emailed one to every student and parent and then sent it home on the first day. Check mine out here. One of the great ideas from the chat was to create not just a letter, but a video to share with parents so they get a good feel for how the system works. I am going to have to add that to my To Do list for the summer.

Another idea from the chat was to use newsletters to send home to parents to keep them apprised of how class is going. I like the idea of doing this as a video created by the students so they can show their parents something they have learned in the target language. Think of how hard they will work to create this if they know I am sending it to parents! As a parent, I would be pretty impressed to get something like this from my kids teachers. This also addresses a problem I have been having with the Project Based Learning idea - having an audience. I am envisioning the students having to create a visual to go along with their speaking (skit, picture, PP slide) to help parents understand the meaning of what they are saying. The more I think about it, the more possibilities I see.

The topic of Back to School night came up, and the group started discussing the possibilities of flipping it. Of course, I was the one that saw this as a possible escape from this evening (but seriously, I teach mostly Juniors and Seniors, and hardly any of those parents come anyway!) However, in all seriousness, this is another opportunity to send home a video of what is going on in class. (I would be creating this one.) Since the flipped class looks so different from the traditional class, it would be a great window for parents to see it in action. I am thinking I would show the video on Back to School night and then email it to all the parents afterward. This idea works nicely with my goal this year of documenting students working in class through pictures and video. Just to be safe, I am going to add a line to my syllabus that informs parents that their students may be photographed and/or filmed in class which will be shared in the education community. (CYA, but a necessary evil.)

I am looking forward to experimenting with the new Camtasia 8 and trying out the closed captioning on videos. I can see endless possibilities for this. This could enable me to use video clips that I know are a little advanced and help the students with some captions to assist in teaching listening, which is always a goal. It would also be a great way to use a grammar video at various levels. For example, a video on the present tense in Spanish I would be spoken in Spanish, but have the captions in English. However, that same video in a Spanish III class would not have the captions. I have to do more investigating into this. It may be something for the Flipped Class 301!

Hope you all have a great 4th! Here in Colorado we will be without any fireworks since we are in so much fire danger. We still have 11 wildfires burning!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flipping Spanish 201 - Let's Begin

As promised, I spent all of naptime working on the new style of video. Unfortunately, the twins took a shorter than normal nap, so it still needs quite a bit of work. I have identified some issues, but thought I would share it with my friends anyway. Any and all feedback is appreciated. Here is my revised video for por and para. Zapatos Nuevos   (Hopefully this one has addressed all the silly issues mistakes I made trying to rush! Thanks to all for the feedback!)

I have a basic outline of the new structure for my class, and wanted to share. (Remember I have 90 minute classes every other day). My goal is to incorporate: a different country during each unit of study, daily life conversation and listening practice, as well as daily (maybe weekly) journaling.

  1. Word of the Day
    1. I have seen this in quite a few AP posts, and don't see why I can't get this going in III and PreAP. I will give the word, definition, synonym and antonym. I want students to make a (good) sentence and identify any other words that they know that are similar (i.e. an adjective form, noun form, etc.).
  2. Vocabulary (Skits?)
    1. Task every student with coming up with a good sentence for 5 vocabulary words. Have students (in predetermined groups of 4 or 5) choose the best one. Then have the students with the best sentences "perform" a skit with the sentences put together....or something like that.
  3. Conversation of the day
    1. Question of the day
      1. Based on a daily life topic
      2. Based on a cultural topic - possibly current event, and then relate it to US
  4. Individual/Group Work - Listening, Reading , Practice Exercises, working on projects, etc.
  5. Ongoing Speaking Assessments
    1. I am basing these on the class conversations
    2. One formal assessment per student per unit (at least)
  6. Google Voice - Yes, I am continuing this.
    1. Weekly voicemails on a variety of unit and life topics that students need to listen and respond to.
  7. Journaling
    1. I am going to give topics here, especially first semester. I will probably include some free choice. I am going to use Moodle for this, especially since I just found out about how to use accents in Moodle.*See note below for details.
    2. I am looking for practice writing and continual improvement. I am not really planning on grading every one of these.....probably will at the beginning though to keep kids on track.
  8. Random Presentations
    1. This is a big push for me this year. I want students to be able to be in front of the class and talk in Spanish. I am planning on starting small, with 30 second "describe the picture" and moving up from there.
    2. I can't stand listening to kids READ when they present. I WILL NOT stand for it anymore. If they WILL NOT PRACTICE, I will MAKE THEM PRACTICE!!!!  ;)
I am thinking that sounds like a pretty full class! Can't wait for feedback!

*From one of my new best friends from the Flipped Class Conference, Tammy Stevens at eclass4learning. If you haven't done so already, check them out! They have some cool Moodle ideas as well as some great webinars coming up!

Special Characters in Moodle:
On a PC:
You can type special numeric codes when holding down the "alt" key. You can see the codes by using the character code program by going to All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Character Map. On a Mac this link gives info. on how to do it

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reflections on FlipCon12

The Flipped Class Conference is over, and I have been home for a few days and have read through my notes and the notes, tweets and blogs of others. I am still reflecting on much of the information, but overall think the conference was a great success. I loved meeting all the foreign language flippers and potential flippers that came to the conference and attended virtually. Technology is awesome when we can stay connected even after the conference to continue to question and share ideas. I still have to work my way though all of the sessions via video since there was no way for me to attend them all. There are so many great ideas and presenters in other content areas and I can always find a gold nugget in every presentation.

My own presentation was interesting because I focused heavily on the "how" to put it into practice in your classroom. Because I am such a perfectionist, I did change my presentation from day 1 to day 2 and think it was better the second time around. The problem is there is just so much I wanted to convey that it was hard to keep on track with my prepared presentation. Just as in class, if someone asks a good question, a teacher can lose what they were going to say next. Next time, I am going to take a page from Jon and Aaron's book (haha!) and do slides with a guiding statement and pictures. (On a personal note, the feedback hasn't been compiled and sent yet, so if any of you saw the presentation and thought improvement was needed, or you were looking for something more/different, please comment and/or email me so I can continue to improve!) If you weren't able to see the presentation, I think this slide should convice anyone to flip in foreign language.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was to never stop improving how I incorporate the flipped class model in MY class. With that in mind, I have rewritten the format for my units (ok, I have only done one unit so far!), how I offer the practice of vocabulary and grammar, a realistic way for how I can include different countries perspectives in my class, and even how I make and present my videos. I am so excited about the changes, I am just unsure where I am going to find the time to implement them all. It of course means that I have to go back to my classroom to delve into all my resources to be able to effectively implement my new master plan.

I am planning on recording my new, Flipped Class 201 video for por vs. para tomorrow, and I will post a new (working) outline of my approach to the class as well. I am still working out how this new project based practice will align with my Benchmark Assessments, but I still have a about six weeks to figure it out!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flipped Conference Day 2 - TedEd and Bergman and Sams Plenary

Today was the final day of the Flipped Class Conference, and I approached it with excitement and nervousness. The day began with my recording for TedEd. It was cool to see how they record everything and be a part of that process. Unfortunately they aren't ready to do any TedEd videos with foreign language, but they wanted to have the recording on file for when they are ready. However, as with all things, I gained some valuable ideas for the creation of my new videos. I am going to create "stories" to demonstrate my grammar concepts. I think it is going to be time intensive, but I think that the payoff will be great. I am going to start posting my new videos to Sofia, which is a great site that I discovered through Crystal Kirch and they were sponsors of the Flipped Class Conference. They are doing some great things on their site, and although the language offerings are thin now, I am hoping that with all the new language flippers they will grow.

The plenary given by Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams was, of course, the highlight of the day. They had so many great points, and I know that there will be so many comments out their about their presentation. In my opinion, there are two things that really stood out about their presentation. First, their message (which they say frequently) which is that their is no "right" way to incorporate the flip in the classroom. Teachers need to think about their students, curriculum, teaching styles and environment and decide how the flipped classroom best fits their needs. The flip is NOT a cure for all of the issues in education today, but it is a move in the right direction. The best way they showed this was the empty didn't have a step-by-step for putting the flip in a classroom....a powerful "lack" of a slide.

The second was when they talked about the Flipped Class 101. I think this is the most important thing for new flippers to remember. When you start, it is ok to have easy, basic videos. It is ok to use some worksheets while you are figuring out to do with all the new class time. What is not ok is to stop there. Teachers have to continue to improve not only the videos, but the types of assignments and assessments that you give your students. Making a big change like a flip is hard, and you aren't going to perfect it in one year. The only thought I have to add is for new flippers to write their story. Whether it be a public blog or a private notebook. Keep track of what you are doing, what works, and all those "next year, I am doing it this way" ideas. We continue to expect more from our students, and we need to continue to expect more from ourselves.

With that said, I am ready to accept the challenge of Flipped Class 201! Who's with me?

Flipped Class Conference Day 1 Sessions -Moodle and Research

I was able to go to two sessions on Tuesday, and they were both fantastic! Joe Liaw did a presentation on Moodle and Ellen Dill on her research with the flipped class in her French Classes.

Moodle is a great resource for organizing videos, resources and assignments as well as an online assessing tool. In the past, I have always felt that Moodle was a resource for Math and Science teachers because of the ease of creating online testing for their content area. Before attending the conference I was already learning more about Moodle and wondering if it was a viable solution for the language class too.

While listening to Joe's presentation, I am convinced that Moodle is the direction that I am moving in for next year. I want to not only have a place to house my videos and documents, but give the students an opportunity to take practice quizzes and even do some basic checks for understanding and  comprehension in an online format. I also want to give students the opportunity to complete more practice assignments online (without paper and terrible handwriting!). Additionally, Moodle has the capability to do online blogging and I really want to get students writing everyday. I am so glad that I have Joe as a resource to ask questions about Moodle when I need it. Joe has also shared some Moodle resources just for language teachers which I will post about after the conference.

For my final session I went to see Ellen Dill. I was very interested to see the research that she was able to compile about the success of the flipped classroom. I have so many people ask me about "proving" that my students are more successful and because I restructured my curriculum as well as moving to the flip, I really can't do that. Ellen had some great ideas and great feedback from her students. It was awesome to see the graphs and numbers that proved what I already know....flipping the language classroom works!

The best part of the conference is not really the sessions, but being able to network with the other flippers and future flippers. If there is one thing I have learned as a language flipper is that I need to be ready to look outside my content area to find ideas and nuggets of information because there aren't so many of us out there (or here in Chicago). However I will say that the language flippers and future flippers that I have met here have tons of ideas and enthusiasm! Can't wait for tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Flipped Conference 2012 - Keynote thoughts

Early start today with presenter meeting at 8:15! Although I was really curious about Brian Bennett's keynote today, I have to admit it was hard to concentrate because I was getting nervous about my own presentation. The Flipped Conference 2011 didn't have any foreign language speakers, so I really wanted to be able to give all the foreign language teachers great tools and inspiration to start their flipped journey. Brian's keynote made some great points, some which are difficult for we, as teachers to accept.

For example, he addressed students that finish their required work for his class and then did work for other classes. I know that this is an issue that many of us struggle with. I agree with him that if a student has finished their work, they should be able to work on something from another class. His comparison was "if you, as an adult finished creating a presentation ahead of the deadline, would you continue to work on it?" When you think about it that way, it seems cruel not to allow students to do something else when they finished. The only question I have is, " How will administration respond to students doing math in my Spanish class? " So far, my administration hasn't brought it up, but it might raise eyebrows if I was observed and students were doing other homework. (Honestly, it doesn't happen too often in my class.)

Brian also had some interesting ways of choosing groups. He had a grid with words and students picked the words they thought went together based on the word Pluto. Science people chose "Mars, Mercury, Venus", I picked "Mickey, Minnie and Donald". (Clearly I have been hanging out with the kids too long!) But, it was a cool new idea for choosing groups.

He also discussed assessments and giving choices to students when taking assessments. He has created "choice boxes" to help students pick projects, but students can pick their own way of demonstrating knowledge. This is something that I am doing for unit assessments, but I wonder if it could work for the Benchmark Assessments (Vocab and grammar) as well.

That is what I love about this conference and my flipped PLN (personal learning network). Everyone has great nuggets of information no matter what your content area. All you have to do is stay open to the possibilities.

Flipped class conference day 1

Today was all about learning to use SnagIt and Camtasia. Camtasia has a new version, which has some cool new features, but is going to involve some practice. I worked with Ryan Eash of TechSmith. He is a the "man" behind all of the tutorials for Camtasia, and he definately knows his stuff.

It was an intense, busy day. I am looking forward to spending more time with the computer when I get home to learn all of the new upgrades. The one that I am especially fascinted with is the Quizzing feature. In Camtasia 7, I couldn't get it to work, but in Cam8, as long as I post to Screencast these will work. I really want to incorporate more online comprehension checks to cut down on "paper" work that my students do. I am committed to moving to PBL (Project Based Learning) and I need more class time to make it work. (Funny, huh? No matter how much time there is in class, it never seems to be enough.)

Sadly, I didn't connect with any foreign language teachers until the reception at MentorMob after the conference. I was able to finally meet Ellen Dill, who is a middle school French teacher that is also presenting at the conference.

Going to the Cubs/Sox game was a great end to the day...I love extending my PLN over baseball and brats! Can't wait for tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flipped Class Conference and TedEd

It is almost time for the Flipped Class Conference, and I know it has been a while since I have posted, but I have been frantically trying to perfect my presentation and get ready. (I also took about a week off from any talk of school - what a treat!) I have submitted a lesson for TedEd, and am interested to see how they view my submission. If you haven't checked out their new site, do it now! My lesson was on por vs. para and it would be great to see some foreign language videos included in their library, so even if mine isn't chosen, I hope they appear soon.

I have been continuing to learn over the summer, and encourage you all to do the same. I attended a great webinar yesterday hosted by Crystal Kirch, a great math teacher in California. Don't discount information based on content area, you never know what will spark an idea for your classroom. She gave me some inspiration to finish my presentation for Chicago (again!) I joined some new flip groups in Edmodo (Flip Share - 0ywjwj and Flipping your Classroom - x8hx3w).
On that note, hopefully many of you are attending the conference; if not in person, then virtually. From what I hear, there will be as many virtual attendees as attendees in person. Please let me know if there are any specific questions you have that I can address. Email me, post to the blog, or I am on Twitter at @SraWitten.

I am still brainstorming all my ideas to incorporate PBL in the classroom next year and have a long post coming about those once I get them organized. Thanks to the PBL group in Edmodo for helping me work through some of my questions about this new idea. I am going to increase the time in the target language next year and I know this is a great way to do it!

I have so much more that I want to add to the blog and have more plans for videos about flipping, some student feedback from this year, and my post-conference notes from Chicago. More to come after the conference next week!

p.s. - I can't believe I am going to hit 5000 views to the blog this week! Thanks to all of you that read!

Monday, May 21, 2012

How I began my flipped class

After many questions and much prompting (and frankly some jealousy over some other teachers' videos), I have made a video about my how I came to the flipped classroom. It is nothing super fancy, but hopefully it answers many of the questions about how a foreign language teacher decided to start flipping.

My flipped class story

Here is the AP thematic document I refer to for those who have not seen it. This is from the AP College Board course framework for the Spanish Language exam.

5 W's of flipping video

I am working diligently with my wonderful friend and colleague, Randa Kelton, to finalize our professional development session for Thursday. I don't want to give away too much, but I thought I would share this video given I have given (with an appropriate intro and conclusion) as "homework" prior to my flipped class presentations to cover the basics.

Alternate Link:
I am also working on the presentation for the Flipped Class Conference in Chicago in June. (Sold out, but streaming is still available!)

Student Culture Presentations

The culture projects were an interesting experience.  Students could choose their own topics, and I had a wide range - everything from Dali to the Spanish Space Program to local cuisine and fashion.  I had the opportunity to learn many cool things from my students, which was a pleasant change! I had many students that were very excited about their presentations and worked hard for hours and hours on getting them just right. Unfortunately, I had some (not too many) on the other end of the spectrum that didn't follow the assignment directions and/or murdered the language that I love because although their project was well researched, they didn't practice it. I also had too many students that just READ which makes me crazy.

So, I have decided not to do this as a final project for next year. I am going to do it again, just not for the exam. I have also decided that one of my main focuses for next year is going to be teaching my students HOW to present. (I have ideas cooking on that...more to come later in the summer.)

However, since I have never really shared student work before, I wanted to share some of my favorites. Although the language may not be perfect, there is huge growth and effort in each of these presentations.

Animals of the Amazon - This was done by a student that went from "I can't say anything in Spanish" to a peer tutor! She was so excited about her research that she asked if she could add the English subtitles.

Alternate Link:

Guitar Music of Spain - This video is great (if you discount the Lady Gaga wig). After the video, he did a presentation about the origin and music of Flamenco. I wish it was on the video as well!

Alternate Link:
Honduras Tourism Video - One of my "super smarties" that really struggled with the move to the flipped classroom. It was hard for her to go from being good at "the game of school" to actually being good in the class of Spanish.

Alternate Link:
Mexican Fashion - I had a couple of fashion presentations, all of which were really good. I had quite a few projects using this online book tool.

Just to reiterate how much I love the flipped class.....the kids got to allocate their time in class, so many had quite a bit of class time to work on their presentations and ask me questions about the programs and content. Without the flip, this probably would have had to be a total "at home" project.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spanish Resources for the flip and beyond!

In an effort to help the other Spanish teachers out there looking for more information about the flipped class, I have put together some resources for the flip and online news, listening, and other goodies. The flipped information is for all languages, but most of the resources are for Spanish. Please share more if you have some great ones!

Thanks to my new virtual friend Emilia Carrillo for the idea of putting stuff together! We are working on more specifically geared towards foreign language flippers, so stay tuned!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Teaching Listening Follow Up

So in my earlier post Is it possible to teach listening? I talked about some problems I was having with my students listening, and more importantly my teaching of listening.

So, I went back to the two listenings and gave the students the scripts from the listenings to follow along with while we listened. As we did each one, when we got to the questions, I encouraged the students to feel free to change their answer if they felt it was now incorrect. The first listening was very short, about a minute and a half. There were really no unknown words in the listening. In the listening the narrator talked about how fast paced life was now and how she just longed for the slow life. This was the listening that had one of the answers as "we should return to prehistoric times." After a gave the students the answers, we went over them, and I was amazed that there were still about 40% that still had that answer chosen. (Now that is in my regular 3 classes. In my PreAP, they all had it correct.) When I talked to them about it, I even had some students try to argue with me and pointed in the script to where is said that. They totally missed the "no" in the sentence. Out of the three questions in this listening, most had 2 out of 3 correct.

In the second listening, which is about 2 and a half minutes, a guy is looking for something talking to a friend and she is commenting on how dark and disorganized his place was. They talk about the problem, he explains the problem, and then the friend offers to come over and help him organize. Now in this listening , there is a small amount of new vocabulary. Between that and the longer length, I did not expect the students to do quite as well. However, after following the same process as above, I was very surprised that the majority only got 2 of five questions correct.

I am hoping that you Spanish (or any other foreign language teachers out there) might be able to help. I am not sure what else to try. Clearly, it is too late for me to make changes this year, but I want to improve for next year. How can I better present the listenings? How can I best utilize my time in the flipped class to help the students improve this vital skill?

Tech Forum

I was watching the TechForum event in Chicago and couldn't believe when Allison Drew mentioned my blog. She had a great overview of Spanish in the flip at the middle school level and you should check it out.

Watching these presentations I realize I am running out of time to interview my students about their feelings about the flipped classroom this year. I do have them completing an end of the year survey to compile some data about how things have gone this year.

Interestingly, I heard that a teacher in my building was complaining that my kids never do anything and are always sitting around talking, on the computer, or "goofing off". I was a little hurt by that, but after thinking about it, I guess could be how it looks to an outsider. Now, I am not going to say that every kid is on task every minute, but are they really in a traditional classroom? However, if you tiptoed behind any group 90% of the time, they would be talking about an assignment, a project, and asking and/or answering questions.

Many in my school seem to be taking sides on the flipped classroom as administration has supported some of the Math teachers moving to a flipped model. It is scary to think about changing your whole way of teaching, and there are so many misconceptions about the flipped class. Hopefully, the detractors will begin to see the positives of the flipped class as it continues to grow in the school. ;)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Steps for a successful flipped class

With the influx of new tools and press for the flipped classroom, there is so much information both good and bad about the flipped classroom. I find myself comparing all of the criticism of the flipped classroom to the Harry Potter books when they came out. So many people and various groups complained about the books, but were basing their opinions on what they had heard about ...they had never actually read the book. It is impossible to judge the flipped classroom by reading an article or a few blog posts. In my opinion, these are the steps a teacher does when flipping a class, in order of importance!
  1. Research - Do all you can to find out about flipped classrooms. Think outside the box. Don't just rely on looking in your content area. You never know where you are going to find good ideas.
  2. Train - Go to the Flipped Class Conference, find webinars, find someone flipping in your area.
  3. Plan - Plan how you want students to complete assigned work. Decide if you are looking at a basic flipped structure, or if you are going to go for a mastery system.
  4. Create Objectives - Create objectives for every unit of study, making sure they meet the standards. Make sure that they are measurable and achieve the overall goal of your class. Constantly ask yourself, "What do they need to know at the end of the unit, semester, class."
  5. Evaluate your assignments -  Make sure that every assignment you give is meaningful, thought-provoking, and on target with your objectives. Make sure assignments have a tie-in to the bigger picture and there are higher level thinking questions. Expect kids to make connections. 
  6. Evaluate your assessments - Create good assessments with a variety of types of assessing. Use written, spoken and presentational assessments. The best advice for an assessment? Make sure your students can't put your question in a search engine and immediately get the right answer.
  7. Plan - With every unit, plan a combination of activities that will reach a variety of learning styles. Have a combination of group and solo work. Every unit should give students a chance to
  8. Videos - Create videos of your lectures that are meaningful and SHORT. Remember that students on average will take 3-4 times as long to watch the video as it is long. Students will check out if the video is too long, just like they check out in class. apply what they have learned in a "real" situation.
  9. Technology - Use technology, but make use it appropriately for your class. There are many great tools out there, but not all of them are effective classroom tools. Find 2 or 3 you like and stick with them.Allow students to use technology in class. Determine "acceptable use" practices and consequences in advance. Have a back-up plan for technology problems.
  10. Set class policies - Decide if students must watch videos outside of class and how you will check to ensure that they do. Set collaboration parameters. (i.e. - how big of a group can work together). Determine where groups can work. (Can students only be in the classroom, can they work in the hall?)
I wish I could say I did all of these before I started, but I did do most of them. Notice that making videos is far down the list, and planning and evaluating are on the list twice. If these steps (even most of them) are done by the teacher, the results are amazing. Students are more engaged, take more responsibility for their learning, and (on the whole) have a better grasp of the information presented. I want to meet the educator that can argue with that!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sydney TeachMeet Presentation

Wanted to send thanks to everyone at the Sydney TeachMeet yesterday. Although I am sure I talked for longer than my seven minutes, I got some great feedback and there are some future flippers down under! I look forward to hearing from all the new and old language flippers. The best ideas are those that are shared!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Is it possible to teach listening?

One of my main reasons for flipping my classroom was to have more time to work on listening comprehension with my students. We have done tons more listening, with CDs, videos, movies and Google Voice. My students have improved their listening skills close to 30% more than my students last year. Much of that has to do with how much more practice these students are getting, and I am doing a better job choosing level appropriate listening selections.

However, there are still so many struggles. For our latest listenings, we did two selections that accompany the story, Rosa, that we read. This is nice because now the students are familiar with quite a bit of new vocabulary found in the selections. This is a tougher listening, and does require the students to understand the listening, not just listen for key words. Although on the whole the students did well, I was amazed by one of the questions where the students obviously grabbed on to a phrase they heard rather than use their brains. The question asks something along the lines of "what did the narrator want to do with technology". Most of my kids chose the answer "return to prehistoric times" when the answer was really "slow down the speed to be able to enjoy life". When the first two or three I checked had that answer, I chuckled a little, but when I realized it was the majority of them, I started thinking about how to fix the issue.

Now, if I had come up with an answer, I would have quickly sold it to the highest bidder. I did look back through my notes from past CCFLT and ACTFL conferences and tried to find some possible solutions. One presenter that I saw about a year ago discussed how we teach everything, but throw the students in the deep end when it comes to listening. I thought I had been doing a better job, but realized that I am focusing so much on the listening, that maybe I forgot about the THINKING! I encourage my AP students to think about the answers they are choosing and do they make any sense. I obviously forgot to teach that lesson with my 3's. Reverting to prehistoric times is not what any person in their right mind would want to do, so they should have been able to eliminate that answer right away.

So, the big question, what to do now? I decided I am going to give them the answers again and look at just the answers. Which ones seem to make no sense? Is there an answer (or two) that seem to go together and are closely related? Is there an answer that seems very far fetched or implausible?

Then we are going to do the listening again and see what answers they choose. (They did the listening the first time about 2 weeks ago, so I doubt they will remember their answers!) Hopefully they will do a better job. We might also look at the transcript and listen to it again to see where things are going wrong.

Listening is in my mind, the MOST important part of communication, why is there so little time dedicated to HOW to teach this most valuable skill? Maybe because it is so very hard to teach......ideas? .....suggestions?