Saturday, November 23, 2013

ACTFL 2013 - My reflections on the Friday sessions

I am at ACTFL in Orlando, Florida this weekend, and it has been such a great experience. Not only have I attended some great sessions, but I was able to meet so many of the people I interact with online in person. It feels like meeting a rock star to have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with Joe Dale, Laura Sexton, Garmet Hillman, Pam Benton, just to name a few. If you are not familiar with these people, who ARE World Language rock stars, you should be. Get on twitter, follow their blogs, read the articles that they have written.

Since I have been doing so much socializing, I haven't been able to get all my thoughts together about the sessions as quickly as usual. However, there have been great sessions at ACTFL and I want to share them with everyone.If you are here, please share any other sessions that you went to because it is so hard to choose which sessions to attend and I want to hear about all of them.

So, this first post will cover the sessions that I attended Friday, and a subsequent post will discuss the Saturday sessions.

Google, mural.ly and Google maps

Mural.ly is a virtual cork board tool, which is similar to Glogster, Padlet, and Wallwisher. Mural.ly directly interfaces with Google, so students can login with their Google emails, and can easily incorporate their Google Docs and YouTube videos into their "board". Students can work collaboratively on their board, and teachers receive notification when students make changes or updates to the board.

In the sessions, a suggested use from this tool was for students to create a photo story visual tour of a city or country. It could include an apartment, furnishings, stores, restaurants, food, etc. Students could then present to the class using only the pictures as their guide. Students could then plot the points that they selected on a Google map, which is also a collaborative project. Then, when the students have added their country/city information on Google Maps, you can import the information into Google Earth and go on a virtual tour of all of the places that students investigated.

There was quite a bit of discussion about how students need to be exposed to more geography in our classes since many schools seem to be eliminating this course, and students still need to acquire this valuable information. In an AATSP session this summer, they also discussed using Google Earth in the classroom, but when I tried to do some things with it,  I found it a little persnickety. I also worry about the bandwidth needed to really make a Google Earth tour work. (This is a big concern at my school.) However. I really think that I need to spend some time figuring out Google Earth and finding ways to incorporate it into the classroom effectively. There is too much great information that students can use both geographical and cultural, to let the tech get in the way.

PBL in the TL

I should begin first by saying this session was led by none other than Laura Sexton (@SraSpanglish for all you Twitter people). Here is the link to the live binder from her presentation. She referenced quite a few things from her blog as well, which is here. If you are not following her blog, you should be!

After a quick explanation of PBL (which is well defined at the BIE website.), we dove right into how to create driving questions for a PBL project. Now, the biggest thing about PBL is that you need to have an issue that students are fired  about and an audience. The audience has always been where I have struggled with it. Who is a good audience for what my Spanish students are doing? There were some great suggestions made, which include: parents, other schools in other countries, other schools in our country, historical societies, competitions, ESL classes, and many more.

There is a ton of information intone Live Binder and her blog, which explains everything much better than I can. I am excited to really continue to investigate and plan some of here PBL projects because I do believe that when the language learning has a purpose, the kids will be much more invested in the outcome.

One of the great pieces of knowledge shared that was not totally PBL was Laura's advice to,her students about how to work on listening comprehension. She suggests to her students that when listening to a selection for the first time, they should just listen and let it wash over them. The second time they should write down any words that they knew from the listening, the the third time, use the words they wrote down to help them determine the meaning of he selection. I really like this method, and I am always on the lookout for new ways to help my students increase their listening comprehension.

20% projects for the World Language classroom

20% projects and/orThe Genius hour are a great way to let students incorporate what they are interested in with the target language. Students are given broad strokes for an explanation, they need to use the target language, talk to native speakers and "save the world". Basically students can do any type of project in any format that interests them. The key, much like in PBL is to have contact with native speakers of the target language.

As the presenters were quick to point out sometimes the students try to contact people in the TL but don't receive a message back. This can be disheartening for the kids, but is a possibility they (and teachers) should be prepared for.

Students use blogging for teachers to be able to monitor their progress. The assessment of these blogs seemed to be secondary, it was just a place for students to be writing in the TL about what they are working on. It also gives teachers a place to give students feedback about their progress.

When students present, the class needs to be taking detailed notes and they are required to ask deep, probing questions about the presentation. These need to be directly related to the content. For assessment of these projects, the presenters had students self assess and then had conferences with the students about how they thought they did. Students should be able to justify why they have given themselves the grade that they did. I think students also need to do a reflection piece for this project detailing what worked, what didn't, and what they could do differently in the future.

One of the presenters had their class work on the project throughout the class, and another gave a set period of time. I am going to implement a 20% project next semester and I want to have a specific day allocated for students to work on these projects. Because my school is on an alternating block schedule, I think I would have Fridays dedicated to working on this project. So, that is one 90 minute class every other week. My plan would be for students to present their projects as they completed them, but they must be done sometime around the beginning on April (depending on testing schedules).

The best of SCOLT - The Flipped Foreign Language Classroom

This was, of course, a presentation I could not pass up. I love to see what other flippers are doing, and it was my chance to meet some other flippers that I had been following on Twitter for a while.

This was a great presentation, and a great illustration of how there is no one right way to flip, teachers have to find what works best for themselves and their students. These three great teachers began their flipped journey by doing a book study of "Flip Your Class" by Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams. They met every week and read and discussed chapters and how they could implement the ideas in the World language classroom.

They decided to incorporate the videos that were already out there and to require that their students use Cornell notes There were some great examples of Cornell notes (which I have to admit, I have heard of, but never seen). My favorite part of these notes is that after students write down whatever the content notes are, they are REQUIRED to write a summary of the notes which includes how they can use what they just learned. I think that is a fantastic idea. I think I may have to wait until next year to incorporate that into my classroom.

The best part of the presentation for me was how these teachers worked together to find ways to make the changes that they thought were needed in their classroom to help their students learn. It is so much easier to do something new if you have a great support group. These ladies have co it used to meet to hash out problems, tech issues, and just give each other much needed support. I a excited to have met them and am glad that now we are in each other's PLN. :)

More about the Saturday sessions later.....

If you were at the conference and attended a great session, please add comments and share!