Friday, November 29, 2013

ACTFL13 Saturday Sessions

As promised, here are my reflections on the Saturday sessions. Sadly, I had so much fun hanging out with Garnet Hillman and Laura Sexton on Friday, that I did not get to the early session. (I also was up late tweaking my presentation, because as you know, I am a control freak!)

Tech Tools and PLN

So, I confess, I don't even know the exact name of Joe Dale's session. I was so excited to,get to be in one of his sessions personally, that somehow I missed it. He is a total rock star of tech in the WL classroom, and his presentation, although a little overwhelming, left me with tons of new resources to check out, new ways to expand my PLN, and even some factual justification for tech in the WL classroom. If you ever get a chance to see him, don't miss it. Until then, the link to his presentation is here.

So, with so much great information and great tech  tools, here are the ones that totally resonated with me.

  • SAMR and TPAC - I had heard of SAMR before, but TPAC was totally new. Basically these two acronyms are the justification of using tech, not just for tech sake in the classroom. There are some catchy videos (linked in Joe's presentation) that explain it far better than I could When I did my own Google search, I found many more. The best part of these were that they helped teachers really think about the tech that they are bringing into their classroom while helping them justify the need to administrators.
  • Apps for multiple intelligences - Never before had I seen such a fantastic breakdown of iPad apps. These are a great way to open up the conversations with students about how they learn best, and finding tools that appeal to them. Also check out Kathy Schrock's take on Blooms with apps here. Just an amazing resource, especially if you are lucky enough to have a classroom with iPads.
  • Quad Blogging - As someone who is on the lookout for more real world authentic conversations and audiences for my students, this one got me really excited. You sign up to be matched with three other classrooms that are blogging. Then, there is a four week cycle of blogging. Each class blogs one week, and then reads and responds the other three weeks to the other students in the other classrooms. I am thinking that this might be a great way to incorporate that audience that I need for my PBL projects on the TL. 
  • Boxoftricks.net - so, you are looking for some new tech tools to use in your classroom? Look no further. This site is full of tested websites for classroom application.
  • #mfltwitterati - I consider myself fairly savvy about the chats that happen on Twitter for World Language, and what hashtags to follow, but I was completely in the dark about this one. I think I had seen it, but had no idea what it meant. This hashtag is used by WL teachers in the UK, and really around the world to share ideas, find other teachers with common interests, and just basically support each other. Joe wrote a great article about it for The Guardian. Start searching for it to see what is going on, and when you are sharing something awesome, so it globally with this hashtag. (If you are not on Twitter yet, you really need to be! It is where all the "cool" kids are!)
Yes, this is only the very tip of the iceberg of Joe's presentation, so you really should check it out for yourself. If you have questions, he is very responsive on Twitter @JoeDale. 

Digital Storytelling

This was a session that was not quite what I had expected. There were quite a few samples of student projects given, but in Chinese and French, so I was unable to get as much as I would have liked to. However, I did come away with one great project idea. Students should create a photo story of a day in their life in the target language. This is a great idea and I can see how it can be easily adapted to any level. It also provided students with the freedom in assignments that I really like (and the students like) so that students can feel free to really use their interests to learn the target language. 

The suggestion was made at this session to really have students check in with teachers prior to the completion of the final project. I would agree, and think that students should turn in the script for the presentation prior to putting it all together to help ensure students are staying in track. 

One of the things I like most about this project is that there isn't a ton of tech required for it. Students can create a simple Power Point, or they can use some of the more complex tools available.this way students can't use a lack of tech knowledge as an excuse for not turning in a quality project. I think it would also be a great project to use as an introduction to a student in another class..wherever that might be.

Let's Build a City

This session was recommended to me, and I am so glad I attended it. This session described a project where students create a city as a class. In my Spanish II class, I had students create a house and then we created a town map together, but I love the idea of an actual 3D city even more.

Students learn about the layout of cities in the TL country and then make a plan for a city with each student creating a building from a shoe box. It gives students the opportunity to really look at a city and to think about why cities are laid out the way they are. For example, in French cities, the cathedral is the center of the city, and in most European cities, streets are not in NS and EW rows, but at differing angles. Unlike the project I did where students created an American town, this project encourages them to learn about the culture of another city and then apply their knowledge in the project.

Students are given a list of possible buildings to choose from, and the presenters had students in multiple classes create one large city. Once the city is created, they can then do activities together to practice commands, directions and vocabulary in a more "real" setting. The suggestion was made that students can practice with a car on the end of a yardstick, or put the buildings on tables in rows so that it was easier for the students to work with the city without turning into Godzilla and squashing the city.

The presenters also use QR codes which linked to audio files in which oral directions were recorded so that students could work on their listening skills and figure out starting and end points of directions. The teachers also provided some written exercises that were similar to the oral so that students could do some practice on their own first. It is a great project, and one that works really well in the flip for students to work collaboratively and teachers can be available for questions and assessments. I love projects that are student led!

They kept a chart where students would mark off when they had completed activities, such as the listening practice, reading practice, building creation. They also created some "extra" activities for students that completed early, such as creating a town Monopoly, town t-shirts, etc.I can't wait to implement this next year.

Flipped for Fluency

My presentation was on Saturday as well. It was wonderful to see so many people interested in the session. It was packed with people in the aisles, along the walls and crowded in the back. It was fun to present to such a great audience, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone that attended. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, or just to chat. If you missed it, there is a link in the Upcoming Presentations tab under ACTFL.

Final Thoughts

So many good sessions were at ACTFL, but my favorite part is always the collaboration and sharing of ideas that happens between sessions. I wish there was some way to increase that type of collaboration, and it is something I am thinking about for our state Spring Conference at CCFLT.

Getting to meet so many people that have been reading my blog, attending my webinars, or interacting with me on Twitter was so wonderful. I want to thank everyone again for making the effort to connect with me, and those that I had the chance to have some good chats with.

I am thinking about doing some Google Hangouts to discuss the flipped class or any other WL class topics in the new year. If you are interested, please let me know. In the meantime, I will hopefully see everyone at the #fliplang chat on Wednesday, December 18th at 8pm EST.

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!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Ah Ha Week

The last week of October always is a big week in my classes. We are at the halfway point in the semester, students really understand what my expectations are, and they understand what they need to do in order to be successful in class. I like to refer to this week as the Ah Ha week.

This year has been very different from my previous years, and I have found that although fewer students object to the flipped class, more and more of them are trying to "manipulate" the system to make things easier for themselves. Both of my Spanish III classes keep trying to convince me that Google Translate is ok, they don't need to use a dictionary. It is so frustrating, and I hate constantly arguing with them. So many are determined not to try to use their brains, but to look up answers to everything that we are doing, even though I know that they can do it on their own.

But this is the week where the students are finally realizing that that doesn't work for them. They are receiving points for daily work, but if they didn't use their OWN brain- if they copied, translated, or looked up everything, this is the week where they finally realize that it isn't working for them. I can't tell you how many of my students during the first week of November have said to me,"Maybe I should watch the video, take my own notes, and do my own work." Shocker! When they do this, they do a better job with assessments, discussions, etc.

The real question is, why does it take so long? Are students so accustomed to using these cruthches at the lower levels that they just can't let them go, even with lots of encouragement? What can I do as a teacher to help?

First, I believe that even though I hate assessing students a lot at the beginning of the school year, I think it needs to be done. I think students can't give up the "crutches" because they are afraid of failure. At every level, students need to be challenged, but also be able to be successful. Too late this year, I realized that the only listening practice my level three students got last year was through music. Now, don't get me wrong, songs are great learning tools, but they can't replace practice listening to native speakers having real conversations. I also learned that the teacher who taught level two last year (who is no longer at my school) artificially inflated grades so students are confused why their grade is not as high as last year,and this is also a cause of their reaching for those crutches.

So, I am rethinking what is going on in class. I have reassessed my goals for my students, and realized that they need to receive more practice and more interactive activities where they can feel some success so I can continue to challenge them......and they will try and succeed......without the crutches.