Sunday, September 29, 2013

Flipped Out September - Assessment time for Spanish II

This month rivals April for how fast it goes. I really want to be posting more often, especially about my Spanish II class, but finding the time has been a real challenge! We completed the review unit in Spanish II, and are almost to the halfway point in our first unit - Where I live. The kids are starting to really understand the system, but so many are struggling with basics that they should have learned in Spanish I. We spent four weeks reviewing conjugation and vocabulary while working on listening, speaking and reading skills. I had decided not to give them a formal assessment for this review, and now I think that might have been a mistake. There seems to be so much that I feel like they should know that they do not, and now I am left trying to figure out how to solve this.

To preface, I just gave my first Benchmark Assessment, which is a short assessment which tests vocab and grammar. It is designed to see how the students are progressing on their way to the Summative Unit Assessment. First, I was surprised how many are such poor test takers. The vocabulary section was fill in the blank sentences, and they had a word bank. Now, this is very different from the Spanish I ¨kill and drill¨ daily quizzes that they are accustomed to. So, I anticipated some issues. However, what is wrong with students that leave half of the section blank when they have words to choose from? It is very frustrating.

Now, in these sentences, they are expected to conjugate the verbs correctly, make adjectives agree, etc. Is this too much to expect from a Spanish II student? I expect this from my Spanish III students, but I think that if they students are ever going to learn how to choose the right vocabulary and use it appropriately, they have to be held accountable somehow. Unfortunately, this accountability comes in the form of grades. I wish I knew some other way to make students see why it is important. Now, they don´t lose much credit, just 1/2 a point on a 2 point question.

Their lack of studying well always leads to other conversations with students, like how to study. It is amazing how many students feel that just staring at a vocabulary list for ten or fifteen minutes is studying. And for me, what else do I need to do to help them ¨get¨ the vocabulary? They do some written practice, listening practice with the words, reading with some of the words, Google Voice prompts for speaking with the works, and online journals where they need to use some of the vocabulary. At what point does it become their responsibility? Should we be doing more bell-ringers with the words? I want them to be successful, but I also think that it is their responsibility to learn vocabulary. Still searching for new and better ideas to help my students succeed. Ideas welcome.....

Monday, September 2, 2013

Loving Flipping 2.0!

So, I wouldn't be me without a quick note about how excited I am to finally hold Flipping 2.0 in my hand. I had such a rough week this week, and I have to say getting those books in the mail was the highlight of my week. I know I have been working on this project for a while, but it honestly did not feel real until I held the book in my hand. I feel so privileged to have been asked to participate in this great book and I am so happy to count all of the authors as not just members of my PLN, but friends as well.

I hadn't mentioned to the majority of my co-workers that I was working on this book, and I loved the look on my principals face when I showed it to him. I am not usually a big seeker of the "gold star", but I have to admit in this case I was really looking for it and was quite pleased when I got it. I would love to say that I have read the entire thing, but with all of my new responsibilities at school this year (Junior Class sponsor, Student Council) and the fact that this week is my wedding anniversary, it hasn't happened.

I am looking forward to reading it all, and I am pretty sure it will happen this week! Yay! If you are looking to purchase your copy, you can click on the link on the right. Don't miss out on this great resource for everyone that is flipping or thinking about flipping their class.

Flipping out with 31 Spanish II students

Although I have been flipping my classes for a while, this is the first time I have flipped a Spanish II class. Admittedly, I was nervous because there is a big difference between giving Juniors and Seniors freedom in class and giving Sophomores freedom. The first two weeks of class have certainly been challenging. My plan has been to spend three weeks doing review and assessing to establish where all of the students are on the proficiency scale. We are doing lots of reading of a simple novel to not only help me assess the students, but give them the opportunity to see more grammar and vocabulary in context since I knew that many of them did little or no reading in Spanish I. The reading also has the added benefit of being a "tech free" activity, so any issues with technology in the first weeks would have minimal impact.

After the review unit, I want to have a conversation with the Spanish II students to see what their feelings are about the flip and what changes I can make so that the class has the best flow and highest, achievable expectations. Many of my Spanish II students had experienced the flipped classroom in their Algebra I class last year. Depending on which teacher they had, they seem to be either very receptive to the idea of flipping Spanish, or completely opposed to it. After addressing some concerns and explaining that the video watching was less "intense" than in the Math and Science classes at the school, the kids were more willing. However, I thought one thing I wouldn't have to worry about too much was the access to Moodle, which is where we house the videos and assignments. However, I couldn't have been more wrong. The tech team decided that since some students might not remember their passwords, they would reset everyone's passwords and make them start from scratch. I don't know how it worked for other teachers, but even taking class time to go over how to do it, repeating usernames and passwords numerous times, and asking at the end of every class if everyone had access did not keep me from problems. As I was checking work on Friday, I had two separate students telling me they couldn't do their work since they didn't have access to Moodle. I was not a happy teacher.

With some of the tech issues, I gave students more time on the assignments for the first week. As I began checking work on Friday, many were surprised that they would be receiving 0's for work not completed (even though it was on the syllabus and clearly explained). This caused lots of focused working in class, which I hope will continue from now on. In the end, very few 0's were actually given out. I think one of the biggest struggles for all of the students in a flipped class is the autonomy that they have in class. I had thought that by giving the students the basic overview and then monitoring them as they worked, the class flow should be apparent, but clearly I needed to give more direction.

One of the problems is that the class is large, so it is nearly impossible to be on top of every kid at all times. I was really surprised by how much more difficult it was to find the one-on-one time with all of the students, especially last week. I thought I had been doing a good job, but if I didn't know that two students weren't on Moodle and not getting that work done, I clearly need to step up my game.

Next week, now that I have a better idea of the levels of the students and which students clearly cannot work together well, I am going to structure some groups to better enable students to focus on work rather than other "distractions". I wish I knew them all a bit better before I jumped into this, but I think that with the large class and the "excitable" nature of my Sophomores, this will make for a better flowing class next week and in the future.

The bottom line is the flipped class is tougher with a larger class and with Sophomores, but I think with some tweaking and a few more limits the class will run well.