Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Let's talk World Language flipping

Are you interested in flipping your World Language class and have lots of questions? Are you already flipping your class and would like to connect with other World Language teachers that are also flipping? Mark your calendars for the first #fliplang chat on Wednesday, July 31 at 8EST. Please complete the following form to help us tailor the chat to best meet your needs and expectations.

Don't have a Twitter account? Have you never participated in a chat on Twitter? Don't worry it is very easy! I had never used Twitter before when I started participating in chats. If you do not have an account with Twitter, create one. People and companies are identified by the @ symbol before their name. For example, I am @SraWitten. There are no spaces in the user names. To find someone on Twitter, just go to the search box and enter either their real name or user name if you know it. Then when you are sure you have the right person, click on the follow button. Now, every time that person posts to Twitter, you will see what they say.

To follow a conversation, you use hashtags. Hashtags are the number sign followed by a phrase, with no spaces. So, to follow our chat, you would use #fliplang hashtag. Keep this in mind when responding because you are only allowed 140 characters.

When you are participating in the chat, the moderator usually begins by asking everyone to introduce themselves with their subject area, grade level and where you are. Then questions are asked by the moderators to start the and keep the conversation going. Questions are usually numbered in the Q1, Q2 format and answers would begin with A1, A2. This helps to keep things organized and make the chat a little easier to follow. It is not necessary to reply to a specific person about the general questions.

Hopefully this helps those of you that have never participated in a chat. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me, or ask questions here and I will respond to you.

We are looking forward to this and can't wait to see you on July 31st.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Reflections & AATSP recap from 6/10 & 6/11 sessions

Sadly the AATSP 2013 Conference is now over. I am sitting in the lobby of my hotel enjoying a margarita and reflecting on the great sessions I attended, and maybe even better, the connections I made with other teachers. The conference was wonderful and challenging for me. I was not prepared for most of the presentations to be in Spanish, and all the great conversational Spanish. I have to admit, by the time the Spanish part of my brain kicked in, the conference was practically over.

My biggest complaint for the conference is not a complaint about the conference at all, but an admonishment to myself for being so lax this summer. How can I expect m students to practice over the summer, or at least do a little listening and reading over the summer if I am not doing the same? Yes, I am reading an Isabelle Allende novel in Spanish, but other than a little "Dora the Explorer" Spanish to m three year old twins, I hadn't spoken Spanish since the third week of May. This is something that needs to change. So, I am asking my Spanish speaking friends out there to help me. When you write, send me emails in Spanish. If you talk to me, make it be in Spanish. Sure, I may have to think a bit more before I speak, but wild that really be a bad thing? ;)

Now to the sessions.

I did take it easy on the 10th to gear up for my presentation. I had planned on the AP session, but sadly, I found that I was so exhausted, I just couldn't get there at 8am. I was pleased with how my presentation went and had many good questions from those in attendance. I also found that I was now known, not as the "flipping woman", but "that woman with the blog". Strange to think that my musings here are how people think of me. (I must be more careful about what I write!)

At the end of the day, I attended a session I was happy to find as a last minute edition to the program - STEM in the language classroom. This is something I was very excited about because with. The new Colorado teaching evaluation, I need to find ways to incorporate Math in my classroom. (Yes, it terrifies me!)  the session had a small but mighty audience and we were presented with lots of ideas for incorporating Science and technology in the class as well as some Math. As often happens in these sessions, my fellow attendees had some fantastic ideas as well. Here is a list of ideas and websites from the session:

  • Puzzle of the day - Math word problems translated (possibly taken directly for lower level may classes)
  • Temperature conversions- use in conjunction with weather and clothes. (Explaining temperature to a foreign exchange students with proper attire.)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar book - incorporate life cycle of butterfly
  • Magic school bus - I had forgotten about these, which are often very scientific in nature - not sure about this for high school, but elementary or middle could use this
  • Using current scientific happenings - volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, etc. in various countries
  • Planets with days of the week - planets are aligned with days
  • El Niño/La Niña - weather cycles which originate with Ecuadorian fisherman  
  • Correlation between space station and houses - different parts of the space station owned by different countries - The space station idea is really cool because it can also include time, clothes, body parts... Check out
  • Incorporating constellations and astrology in superstition unit with horoscopes, calendars, etc.
  • Globe Program which has resources for data reporting and experiments for things around the world. 
  • Nighttime lights of the world shows the world map as it is seen at night with lights. This map is a great way to talk about culture - why are there no lights in some places? Why are some lights highly concentrated? Which  countries have the most lights? How does electricity, or lack of it, effect the life of the people into those places? These are all great higher level thinking questions.
Basically, once I really started putting my mind to it, there are many ways to incorporate STEM in he language classroom the best point made was that we need to try to surprise our kids and help the. Think about some of the basic content on more unusual and fun ways. Why not teach body parts and clothes with an astronaut?

Flipping Spanish your way - Good presentation by Ruth Valle, a college and high school teacher from Tennessee. She highlighted many video tools such as Jing, as well as the iPad apps Show Me and Markup. 

I then attended the Bridging the Gap session about writing in the target language. much of the information, although obvious, is good to hear periodically. We must work with our students on HOW to write. Students need to be reminded to stay away from complicated techniques they use in English. we as teachers also need to remember that many of our students struggle with writing in English, so how can we expect them to excel in the target language? Two highlights from her presentation were 1) to always keep in mind what you want to convey and 2) how you want your audience to react. This is great advice for video creation to help keep on track and focused.

My favorite idea from this session was making reverse outlines. Although the presenters suggested this as a tool for learning how to create an effective outline, I was thinking that this could be a good technique for an interpretive activity. It would show if students can choose the main idea and supporting points from an article. It was also suggested that students should not be given any content to read which would take them longer than ten minutes. This would be difficult in 4 and AP, but I see the value in this for the lower levels because when authentic reading takes longer than that, the students tend to get frustrated and want to give up.

The last two sessions for the day were the most exciting for me. First, there was a session on Incorporating Proverbial Language. I loved the ideas for using proverbs to help teach vocabulary and grammar points. My favorite idea was to teach a few proverbs to the students and then have them write a story where the proverb was the moral to the story. This would really help me include more authentic language and culture in my Fairy Tale unit. I am thinking that I will teach two proverbs a week during that unit and then have students choose one when creating their own story. First, I will need to acquire a few more proverbs myself! (Here is a site with some good ones!) It was suggested that for teaching purposes, short and simple proverbs are used. Some of the longer ones get very difficult for students to remember and use correctly. In my AP class I think this would be very helpful for them on the exam where utilizing colloquial language where appropriate can help to boost scores.

The final session of the conference was my personal favorite - Interpreting Art in Spanish. This session brought me back to my college days where I spent many hours learning about art in the Prado Museum. I teach an art unit in Spanish IV, and this session was a good refresher for many of the terms and easy ways to explain art in Spanish. **On another note, in the depths of my basement this summer I also found my books from the Prado which are written in Spanish and will be a great resource for my students during the art unit. ** The presenter has a "museum day" where students dress and pose like various famous works of art for students to discuss similarities and differences to the real piece. This idea may be a great addition to my art unit and I may include this as a choice for the final assessment.

I enjoyed all the sessions, and wished I could have attended more sessions. I was sad that I was unable to attend the first day of the conference, but it is difficult to be away from home for too long with four children. If anyone else has thoughts on these sessions or others from the conference, please share them!

If you are looking for more information about flipping in the language class, check out the new book Flipping 2.0. Ordering information is available at the top of the blog on the right!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Flipped for Fluency AATSP Presentation 6/10/13

To all my new friends in San Antonio-

Here is the link to the presentation from today. ***Since it is a big file, I got a message saying some people may experience difficulty downloading the presentation I am adding links to the Power Point and videos separately. If you still have trouble, please let me know.

Parent Video

Por and Para

Vocabulary Video

Argentina Airlines Commercial

Gang Stigmata Video

Power Point

If there is any other information that I talked about today that you would like a copy of, check the "Helpful Documents" tab. If it is not there, contact me and I will send you a copy.

Please also check out the new book "Flipping 2.0" by following the link to the right. This new book focused on the flipped class in specific content areas including a chapter I wrote which focuses on the world language classroom. Pre-ordering is going on now and the book should ship in mid-August.

I really enjoyed all the great questions and conversations during and after the session. Please come find me if you have more questions or want to chat. After the conference you can always reach me via email, Twitter or the blog.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

AATSP June 9th Recap -3 Modes and Tablas de Noticias

Even after flight delays and very little sleep, I was excited to start attending sessions at the AATSP conference.There are so many offerings that are different than sessions I see offered at my state conference. I began with a session by Maritza Sloan from Plano, TX about the Three Modes of Communication and how to connect them to everyday learning.

She began with the Pecha Kucha. This is 20 pictures that students talk about for 20 seconds. The time goes by very fast (we tried it in the session), and is a great practice for the interpersonal portion of the AP exam. I am thinking about including this as a warm-up or closing activity for class. I did a few quick searches online and found photos quickly to use in this activity for a variety of topics. I like this picture which could be used to help explain the concept to students. Because the photos go by so fast, even if there is one the students are stuck on, it moves on quickly, so students stay focused on the conversation.

Think, Pair, Share
She had some great examples of using Think, Pair, Share. Although this is not a new idea, I liked how she broke it down to make it work in different situations in class. 
  • What I think
  • What you think
  • What the group thinks
I am looking forward to using this to help students make more cultural comparisons as well as a review for students after reading short texts or listening passages. I think that if I give this task to the students in a more formal manner, such as in a chart, it may help keep class conversations more focused and on track. 

Sloan also suggested using this in conjunction with a Quick Write. Students are given a question and then have 1-3 minutes to write on the theme. Students can then use the Think, Pair, Share to compare their ideas and improve them and then be able to participate more actively in a class discussion about the topic. Some suggested question starters were:
  • ¿De qué manera......?
  • ¿Cómo podría...?
  • ¿Qué influencias...?
  • ¿Cuál sería la mejor forma....?
An interesting point that she made was that we shouldn´t give students selections longer than 10 minutes to read. I think that this is a great idea, especially when pushing the students to read more challenging selections in level 4 and AP. Shorter readings will keep students from becoming too frustrated with the text and less likely to give up.

Word Charts
She also gives her students word charts where she gives students challenging words they will need when completing activities only in Spanish. She divides the words into verbs, nouns, etc. The class then works together to define recognizable words, identify root words that lead to being able to define the vocabulary. This can then lead to a pre-reading activity where students can use the vocabulary to hypothesize titles and themes in the reading. 

Presentational Ideas
Photostories and Online Posters
A few of the presentational ideas suggested were creating a photostory presentation, with Glogster or another online poster program (I think students could even do it with Power Point or a Poster). Students are given a question, such as ¨How do climate changes affect the poverty stricken in Honduras?¨ (Just made that question up--not in presentation.) Students could then decide their answer and create a series of pictures to help them present their point. So a photostory for this question could be pictures of arid fields, empty shelves, hungry children, empty pots and dishes, etc. Although students would need to do prep, this would be a great way to increase presentational skills without notes, reading from slides, etc.

Let´s Fight About It
I also liked her idea ¨Let´s fight about it¨. Students are given an easy situation and they get five minutes to come up with a scenario that they present to the class. The given example was a husband and wife-the husband comes home and forgets to buy the milk like his wife had asked him. This is great because they are ¨real¨ conversations and the students can participate at various levels. The presentations are two minutes long and are excellent to help students practice ¨spontaneous¨conversations. 

My favorite quote from Sloan´s session was ¨Vocabulary is the gas that makes the conversation go.¨ This is a great way to approach vocabulary acquisition and I think is something my students can relate do so they better understand why we are doing some of these activities.

The second session I attended was Tablas de Noticias presented by Parthena Draggett. I am pretty sure that she may be my favorite person in the whole world right now. She does a fantastic project with the students where students work on finding resources and doing interpretive work on their own for homework. They are required to find numerous sources with different types of content for interpretation (videos, songs, articles, stories, podcasts, etc.) for each theme. Her handouts for students included the essential questions as well as more specific breakdowns of the types of information in each category. Check out this document here. Students are required to complete the chart on the assignment sheet (here) 

Although the assignment is written for AP, it is certainly doable in levels 3 and 4. Students are required to do 1 per semester in 3, 2 per semester in level 4, and one per month in AP. This is also a great summer homework assignment for AP, and I always have a hard time finding good summer homework assignments for AP. Draggett grades this homework as formative, and uses the information from them to spark pair and group conversations and activities. She evaluates the work for completion and gets ideas for conversations to encourage based on the information that they students have found. 

For example, with the new vocabulary, she has students make flash cards and teach their partner the new word, including using it in a sentence. The students then switch places so each person in the pair is learning the new vocab.Then, as a class (in conversation circle type format) all the students in the class can teach each other the new words. This is fantastic because since the students are using the words repetitively and in context, it helps them truly learn the new words. 

She also writes the themes on the board and has students group the vocabulary from the worksheet in the appropriate theme´s column. I love this idea, and it reinforces the idea of having an online dictionary that the students can have access to when they want to review vocabulary learned in class. (Now all I have to do is figure out how to create this.....).

She also discussed using this assignment as a jumping off point for deeper cultural discussions. I know in my class, I focus on making comparisons between various countries and the US, but I need to do a better job of having students compare the cultures of different Hispanic countries. 

The final session for the day was from Joe Roberts, The Language Classroom Upside Down. Joe is someone I have interacted with online via Twitter and I was very pleased to meet him in person. He did a great job of giving the basic overview of the flipped classroom and some ideas for how he incorporates this into his high school and college classes. There was not too much new for me, but I enjoyed his presentation and watching him interact with the participants.

Wednesday is a full day, including my presentation at 12CST. I am looking forward to it and to continuing to learn from the other knowledgeable teachers here at the conference. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Finding the Sweet Spot

In preparing for my presentation at AATSP in San Antonio on Wednesday, I have been exploring some new visuals as well as thinking about how best to start my presentation. I have found that presenting is just like teaching. No matter how many first days, first impressions I have made successfully, I am always nervous in those first moments. So, I am always looking for the right way to start so I can look at the audience and know I am making that connection.

I began by thinking about my classes and all of the things that have worked and all of my students that have been so successful not only in Spanish, but in other classes at high school and some now in college. Giving the students control of their learning empowers them to continue learning and exploring long after they leave my class. I am always excited by how many continue with their Spanish after leaving my class.

How do I convey the changes that the flip has made in my classroom and with my students to people watching a 75 minute presentation? I want to convey how my students struggle at first-unsure of the new structure and unable to manage their own time. How difficult it is for me sometimes to realize that the students look to me less and less and time goes on. I know that this is the goal...that it is good for them to be making the choices and learning on their own, but it is hard sometimes. I love watching my students grow and mature before my eyes, and I am so thankful that I found the flipped class, because it has not only made me a better teacher, but my students better learners.

I created this Venn diagram to show the "sweet spot" which we all hope to achieve with our students.


The "sweet spot" is of course where all three circles meet. There needs to be a balance of choice, practice and content knowledge for our students to be able to effectively. My class is not always in the middle..sometimes it is more practice and choice and less content knowledge. It can be hard to push the students to use harder grammatical structures and tougher vocabulary. But how are they going to truly learn if they are not practicing that content on an ongoing, continual basis. Other times, I feel as though my class is content knowledge and practice. Although they are using things in context and getting the repetition they need to be able to put the content in their long term memory, the students aren't having any fun, and I believe that when their hearts are not in it, no matter how meaningful the work is, they won't truly learn it.

It is a delicate balance, and one I am closer to now than ever before. There are some days when I can just "feel" that we are there, but unfortunately there are many more where I know we are not. Can every day be a "sweet spot" day in class? Is it possible to always merge the three? I am not sure, but I know it is something I need to strive for just as much as being in Spanish 90% during class.

Back to my original can I convey all of this to people new to flipping? Is it even possible? I know that when I began, all I could think of was how to make videos and what to do with the additional class time. Do teachers need to just begin with that and progress on to more challenging tasks as time goes on? Is it too overwhelming to try to convey all the more complex and rewarding parts of the flipped class?

I believe I will start at the beginning and then move on from there. If anyone wants to have their mind blown with all the possibilities on the journey to the "sweet spot", it may need to be done over margaritas on a patio somewhere! ;)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reviewing the past and looking forward to the future

This week I celebrated my birthday. I have always found that birthdays are a great time to look back over the past year and reflect on what I have accomplished and look forward to the new challenges that the new year brings. (I never seem to have the time for this reflection at New Year's!) I also just wanted to take a moment to thank my family for all the love and support that they have given me over the past year. I have been so busy with teaching, blogging, presenting, interviews, and writing, and I could never get it all done without a fantastic family standing with me supporting me all the way.

Over the last year, I have done four webinars with the help of Sophia and the Flipped Learning Network. I have been interviewed for three articles as well as an interview for a podcast with Troy Cockrum with the Flipped Learning Network. I did a presentation for my school district about the flipped classroom and another presentation for my state foreign language conference (CCFLT). I have also been elected to the Board of CCFLT. I have also been fortunate enough to have great conversations with many teachers not just from across the country, but around the world about the flipped class. These teachers have provided valuable insight, suggestions, and a sounding board that enables me to keep my sanity! (My husband likes it too because I have other people to talk to about the flip besides him!) I am also very excited about the new Flipping 2.0 book which is available for pre-order now! Being able to contribute to this great book with so many Flipped Class celebrities has made me feel awesome!

Although all of that has been wonderful, for me, the best part of last year was the success that my students felt in my classroom throughout the year. So many of my students did things that they never thought they could and surpassed not only their own expectations, but mine as well. There were still some things that did not go as planned, and as always, there are changes that I am making for the next year. However, I believe that if I ever stop thinking that I need to evaluate and make changes to the curriculum, it is probably time to find something else to do!

I have been fortunate to be accepted to speak and the AATSP and the ACTFL conferences this year as well as helping to organize/present a Flipped Class PD at CU in Boulder. I am also going hoping to present again at the CCFLT state conference as well as the Flipped Class Conference in Mars, Pennsylvania.

Looking towards next year in the classroom, I am working on moving all of my thematic units to a more "Essential Question" approach. I love the idea of focusing on interpretive, interpersonal and presentational aspects for each unit. Some of my units are already using this method (unintentionally) but I want them all to be incorporating all of these elements. I am also (this was a goal from last year) working on incorporating more PBL in my classroom. I am doing a bit of this, but I struggle with how and where to have the students present the work in the "real world". I am hoping that as I present and attend AATSP next week I will have some more great ideas. Nothing gets my creative juices flowing like a good conference!

In particular I need to work on my Spanish IV curriculum. In the past I have been a little looser with this class and moved from topic to topic as the students showed interest, but since my class has grown to 17 this year, I need to have a slightly more formal structure while still allowing the students to explore their interests and continue to increase their conversational skills. My planned units are Technology, Environment, Short Stories, Superstitions, Current Events, Ancient Cultures and Art. I am adding Technology to the Spanish IV curriculum because I did not get to it last year in 3, and I think it fits better in 4. I am adding the Ancient Cultures unit because I have already had some students show some interest in the theme, and I am thinking about a unit in conjunction with Math about Mayan math and culture. After going through the new state teacher evaluation this year, I am exploring ways I can cover some Math in the class without having to actually teach tons of math. (Scary stuff!)

In Spanish III, I am doing some tweaking and moving the Environment unit down from IV. After seeing what many other teachers are doing, I think it makes more sense in the lower level. I am also working on a collaboration project with Math for this class as well. I am still working with Steve Kelly and Zach Cresswell, but so far I am thinking about a statistical comparison of US culture with a Hispanic country (student choice) culture.

Although it is only July, I have so much to do and I am so excited about the new school year. I only managed to take about a week or two off from thinking about school, but I think I am ready to jump back in and see what cool things I can come up with to make this year the best yet. Stay tuned!

PS - If you will be at AATSP in San Antonio, let me know! I am looking forward to meeting lots of you face-to-face. Contact me here, email, or via Twitter at @SraWitten. I will be posting about the sessions I attend at the conference for those who can't be there next week.