Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Re-energizing resources

Every once in a while, I actually get a chance to sit and read some of the great blog posts that come across my computer. There have been some really good ones lately and I thought I would share.

  1. Any post that talks about ways to boost class conversation is always a winner with me. I think that there are some great reasons to focus on memorization in the class, and incorporating more advanced phrases is at the top of the list for me. Check this one out!
  2. I am always looking for ways to work on how to better assess student communication without inhibiting their growth. Luckily, even though I can't ever seem to get to #langchat on Thursdays (or Saturday mornings) there is a great recap available. Here is the recap of the most recent chat about assessing student communication. 
  3. On a slightly different note, I love being challenged to make sure my students are not just engaged, but learning. That is why I love posts like this one. If we are not continually evaluating ourselves, it is easy to fall into the "of course it is working trap".
  4. The Free Tech for Teachers blog is one I always turn to when I am looking for more/better resources. This post is a great reminder about the wonderful tool we have in Google Earth. As I discussed in an earlier post, we are the teachers that really bring the world to our students, and Google Earth is a great way to do this. If you have never tried Google Earth, it can be a little daunting. Check out this site full of advice and tutorials. 
  5. While checking out Free Tech for Teachers, I found this great video resource for World Language teachers. 

Hope this inspire you to check out some new resources over Spring Break to re-energize for the end of the year!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My SWCOLT takeaway

Colorado was fortunate to host our regional SWCOLT conference at the end of February. Since it was hosted by my state language board, CCFLT, I was working the majority of the time. It was fantastic to see so many colleagues (I finally got to meet Amy Lenord and Don Doehla in person), see some interesting vendors and pop in on many sessions. I was fortunate to pop in to many sessions, but never got to see a session in its entirety. So, I have many things I want to explore further. I want to learn more about PBL from Don Doehla and have to find time to dedicate to reviewing his presentation. I want to learn more about OWL (they were having so much fun in that session!). There were tons of other great sessions that I was so sad to have missed out on.

But, there was one clear awesome moment for me. I had sneaked into the Avalanche room (a session where five people give 10 minute presentations and participants rotate) to check out what I could tweet about. A few minutes later, Amy Lenord came in and we began talking. We talked about the types of sessions that conferences offer and how there seems to be a lack of sessions for more experienced and frequent conference going teachers. So, this had me asking the question, What types of sessions do experienced teachers want to see? What kind of professional development can conferences offer teachers that are familiar with comprehensible input, trying to stay 90% in the TL and Can-do goals? What do I want to learn?

It is a harder question than I had originally thought it would be. How can I take what I am doing to the next level was the answer that we had come up with. I want some specific "how to" training that will show me how to better show my students not just the language, but the cultural aspects of the language. I want to be able to take comprehensible input, train the students how to derive information from it and then be able to find comprehensible input of their own. I want to be able to begin with giving my students the input and move to them finding their own input that interests them and then teaching it to all of us. Isn't that going to be more meaningful for everyone? Can't we teach vocabulary and point out grammar structures using this method? Would it give students the desire to learn, not just get through the class?

Share with me....what do you wish you could see at your conference? Comments appreciated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Making the best of less class time - 20% time!

This last week has been a struggle for me, as I am sure it has been for many of you (or will be soon). This has been a week of standardized testing. This has turned into a completely lost week for me since 9th, 10th and 11th graders are all testing. Between kids that took the test, opted out, and just stayed home, my classes have looked like a ghost town. In hindsight I realize I should have taken this time to work individually with the students that were there (5 out of 29 in my Sp 2 classes). However, since I had missed so much of the week prior because of the SWCOLT conference and grades are due on Friday, I chose giving the kids a study hall and have been grading like my pen is on fire.

The testing has been challenging this year, and I am sure it will be a whole new ballgame when we have to do it again (yes, again) the first week in May. However, I will have a better plan when that happens. I always do my choice projects in Spanish 3 at the end of the year, but I am working on a plan for a similar project for my Spanish 2 classes as well. This way, no matter who is in class, they can be working on something for class. 

In Spanish 3, the choices are wide open for the end of the year project. They can choose anything that they want to learn more about. I believe that in Spanish 2 those students will need a bit more structure. So, I am thinking about letting them choose to expand on any topic that we have covered this year. That will give them families/friends and communities, celebrations, travel and health. These are all topics that we have covered the basics of, but there is so much to learn. 

Once the topic is chosen, Sp 3 is required to find two audio selections, two readings and write two letters as they research. Then the create a presentation for the class which includes something the students watching can do to interact with the topic. But again, I think that is quite a bit to expect from the Sp 2 students. Maybe I need to conference with each student about their topic choice and help steer them in the right direction as far as resources? Can I require my high achieving students to have more resources than the lower achieving students? Will I still require the audience participation portion of the presentation? I am trying to juggle what I would like to see with what the students can do and the amount of time they will have. 

I would love some advice from anyone who does a 20% project. (Next year, I am doing this differently and we will work on it on Fridays throughout the semester.) 

As always I will keep posting.....

PS - My PLN is the best! Check out this great idea for student created finals from Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell - this is exactly what I was hoping for. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

We are the medium

(This is a post I started a month ago, but only now am finishing.)

Last night, I was helping to facilitate a webinar with the inspiring Laura Sexton, who is a leader in the use of project based learning (PBL) in the target language. I have seen Laura present before at ACTFL, and always look at her blog for ideas and inspiration, so I wasn't really expecting a big Ah-ha moment last night. But, I was wrong.

Laura said something that really resonated with me. We (WL teachers) are the medium for our students viewing the world. Without WL education, students rarely see and experience the culture of other countries beyond their own towns. How powerful is that???

There is so much focus on target language use and comprehensible input that I know sometimes I miss the bigger picture. I am not a just a teacher of the Spanish language. I fell in love with Spanish so many years ago, not because I can conjugate verbs or know the difference between the preterite and the imperfect. I fell in love with the Spanish speaking world....and that led me to travel to many other countries to discover a love of other cultures as well. This is what I want to do, I don't want to just teach Spanish, I want to open the world for my students.

Exposing students to culture is sometimes very easy. I plan trips to Costa Rica, Peru, etc and the small number of students that accompany me get a real picture of the world outside the US. All of my students know that almost every Hispanic movie has a sad ending. :( However, I think to really open up the world for our students we have to open the door for them, teach them something they can relate to in another country. Then, we need to encourage them to take what they learn as a stepping stone to learning more.

Students have to have time and the freedom to make some choices in their learning. That is when learning truly becomes their own and has the added benefit of wanting to continue their Spanish (or other language) learning to continue to learn more about the world around them. So, when you hear people talk about 20% projects, Project Based Learning, or other methodology, remember our job is to facilitate the learning. Just teaching is depriving our students of so much life has to offer.