Sunday, February 23, 2014

CCFLT Conference - Colorado State FL Conference

This weekend was our state World Language conference. This conference was special because it was the first one I have attended as a Board Member. I knew it was work to put on a conference, but I hadn't realized just how much. Luckily we have so many fantastic Board Members that the conference came together and was a great success!

The sad part about working the conference is that I was only able to attend bits and pieces of sessions. However, the ones I saw were full of great ideas. This year at the conference we also had presenters share their materials online, so I can share information for lots of great sessions that I couldn't attend!

If you want to check out the presenter materials that were posted, check them out here on LessonPaths. A few of the highlights that I saw are:

  • From Shannon Ruiz, our TOY for 2014, get students running to class. Create a "hot seat". The last students to arrive to class get the "hot seat" where the class can ask them any questions they would like in the TL. I think this might solve some of my habitual tardies, and is a cool way to kick off class in the TL.
  • From Real World Interpersonal Speaking - this was a session I wish I could have spent more time in. They brainstormed interpersonal speaking for various themes. Some of the ones they came up with were - Relationships - gossiping girls, first date. Restaurants - students look at a menu and discuss menu items,what they like, what they don't like. 
  • From Noah Geisel's session some interesting new tech tools. Some I have heard of, like the Aurasma app, and Class Dojo. He also showed some new apps - Kindr is an interesting way to share nice notes, but by far the most interesting for me is Sanderling . This is a new website designed for educators. It is a similar style to Facebook or a blog, but instead of following people, you can follow projects. So for instance, if you are working on plans to read Pobre Ana, you can search for Pobre Ana and see the other projects and assignments other teachers have created. This website is still in its infancy so you may encounter a few bugs, but the creators are very responsive and anxious to make the site a success. 
  • I was also able to have a great conversation with the dynamic presenter and author Mira Canion. She has written a new book called Fiesta Fatal. It is set around a quinceaƱera that goes awry. It is written for level 2 with loads of preterite and imperfect. I snapped up 25 to read after Spring Break with my 2s. I am going to read it with another idea I got from Shannon Ruiz called "Pop up Reading". Students are each given a word from the  most challenging vocabulary from the book (conveniently Mira has included the list in the back of the book) and have to define the word and come up with an action for the word. Then when their word is in the story, the student "pops up" and defines the word and does the action.
  • Jon Valentine was the Keynote Speaker and really did a great job. He spoke about how crucial World language is in creating the workforce of the future and gave some great ideas to help teachers find more support for their programs. For example, call your an appropriate consulate for your language and ask to be partnered with a sister school. Many of the French teachers were surprised to learn that in France, all schools are required to have a sister school. I wonder if it is not the same in other countries? He also suggested finding a local company with a global presence to seek their support and work on opportunities to include how important WL knowledge and international travel is to these companies. He recommended a new ACTFL publication that makes can do statements that align with the proficiency levels. It is called Can Do Statements and is available on the ACTFL website.
Overall it was a great conference and there was an energy throughout the weekend that was inspiring. I loved seeing so many teachers excited about their language and their learning. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Challenging Students - Ideas appreciated

I have been working with a few specific students that are experiencing some different challenges, and I am struggling with the right way to help them. Would love any input or ideas from my great PLN.

Student 1 - This young man is a good student. He always gets his work done and always does his homework. However, he likes to work with a group of students that are some of the higher achievers in the class. The kids in this group are his friends, but he takes a little longer to process information that they do. As a result, he is trying to think through a question or a reading passage and the others in his group shout out the answer and then he just stops thinking and just writes down what they say.

I have spoken to this student one-on-one about this issue. He says he is just dumb (which he is not), and I tell him that he just takes a little longer to process, that doesn't mean he is dumb. I have moved him to other groups with similar, or even slightly lower ability in the hope that he will be forced to think for himself (and heaven forbid, maybe even be a leader instead of a follower). However, this doesn't seem to have had the outcome that I had hoped for.

In our last conversation on Friday, I was discussing his latest test. He had made notes at the top of the page about vocabulary (that were correct) but was unable to use the vocab in his writing (which was the assessment). This young man has said that he thinks he really has a learning disability or something....I am not an expert but I am 99% sure that is not the issue.

What do I do now? Apparently he has this slower processing issue in some of his other classes too. He is getting the material, so it isn't as though he isn't learning. Ideas? How else can I help this kiddo?

Student 2 - So, for as personable as Student 1 is, this young lady is not. Last semester she was getting by because she was working with another student and copying work, not doing her own work. As I look back through her work last semester, I would bet she was cheating on some of the written assessments. She struggled through speaking assessments, and bombed her final exam. She ended up with a low C last semester.

This semester, she and I began by having a chat. I explained to her that she had to do her own work to be successful. She was going to need to study and really practice in order to succeed. She got off to a pretty good start under my very watchful eye. She was doing her own work, and I was not letting her get away with the "I don't know anything" excuse. For the first written assessment, she stared at a blank quiz as I positioned myself near her corner of the room.....for a good 20 minutes. When I had to leave to answer a few other student questions, and to circulate, her test was miraculously complete. When I graded it, she had gotten a C, but I was suspicious.

A little over a week ago, she did a presentation with a partner which was given with a Power Point. She was only able to read the Power Point, and for the way she read it, it could have been in Italian or Greek. It was like she had never seen it before. Although her partner refused to throw her under the bus, I have seen enough of these presentations to know she had no part in writing it.

For the last assessment, I was keeping an eye on her. I had everyone move all of their belongings to the front of the room. I moved kids around to separate them.....and to make sure no one felt picked on, I moved A kids, F kids, etc. I kept my eye on this young lady, and she was doing some weird things with her hands, so at first I thought she had written on them. However, upon more careful looking, I noticed her phone (in the neon case) between her legs. So, when I took it from her I found she was using a translator app (don't get me started!) to translate a question on the quiz.

Now, I really hate when kids cheat. It makes me question myself, the test, the material I am teaching, everything. The only thing I hate more than that is a student that has no (and I mean ZERO) remorse when they are caught. After the test, I spoke to this young lady in the hall and she looked at me and said "Well I have never used my phone before to cheat in your class." Was that supposed to make me feel better?

I actually did something I have not done in a long time....I made her call her dad right there. Seriously she did not even look sorry or remorseful when she spoke to him. We had another conversation about how I would help her anytime, but she had to do her work and initiate the need and desire for extra help. She just continued to say how she hated Spanish and how she needed the class for college. Why don't students get that if they get poor (or failing) grades, it isn't really going to help them get into college?

I did follow up with her dad yesterday. He was upset (much more so than his daughter) and was surprised to hear how much help I had offered and that I had even let his daughter borrow my iPad during her Study Hall to try to help her take notes and get work done. Again, I am at a bit of a loss at what else I can do here. Can I do something to make her want help?

Final Notes
I almost always find a way to reach all of my kiddos and help them be successful, but these two are really a struggle for me this year. I know that they are both more than capable, they just have to get out of their own way........

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Positive Progress - and a great surprise!

The second semester has been off to a great (albeit cold) start both in my Spanish II and III classes. We have done some written assessments and it seems most of my students have finally come to this startling conclusion - If you do your work, practice and study, you will do well! Shocker, I know.

I had decided that rather than pushing my III classes forward, we would go back and review (again) the past tenses. I realized after trying to engage them in conversations about their vacations that they were still really struggling. After much deliberation, I decided it was better to make sure they finally (hopefully) got it before we moved on to the subjunctive.

The tricky part was how to get the students to review and really practice something that they feel like they spent all year last year on. So, I revisited one of my old ideas, the skit/song/game. The students created one of their own skit/song/games to help teach preterite conjugation or the difference between the preterite and imperfect. I got some great results and many of the kids commented on how much they felt that they had learned doing this activity. I realized how many great singers I had in my class. I got lots of great games based on jeopardy, monopoly, and some fun race games where students had to run to conjugate verbs. As usual I have a few students with some great video editing skills that I am pleased to share here.

Obviously I am partial, but I thought they were really good. Even better, when I assessed the students they did really well. I am hoping that this success will carry over to their conversation skills next week!

My great surprise this week was a Senior that I had in Spanish III dropped in during one of my III classes when we were working on circle conversations. She is a student that did not continue on to IV, and since we had an odd number in our conversation, offered to jump in. She was not a super A student when I had her, but we were both happy to see how well she did. She really held her own in the conversation and even initiated some great topics even though she hadn't spoken a word of Spanish in almost a year!

Moments like these make me glad to be a teacher. Some days, like many other teachers, I wonder why I teach and if I am getting through to some of these students at all. I am so thankful that when these feelings come, somehow something happens to reinforce the idea that I am doing a good job. I can only hope that every one that reads this is just as fortunate!