Let’s talk about proficiency!

Man, oh man, this is going to be a great year. I’m 4 days in and I can already tell!

This year, I’m focusing on proficiency, and I am running with it. In the first few days, I wanted to make sure that we covered it. I was asked to blog about it – it’s mostly a combination of other people’s ideas, but here it is!

First, one of my back to school stations was the crepe sheet. Students read it in a station, and we talked it over in a small group. After they read it, they needed to describe their favorite movie as a novice low (~5-6 words) and write it on a post-it note. You can have them write the movie name on the back (just make sure it doesn’t peek through!) They read their description to their group, who tried to guess their movie. Then they posted on the wall for other groups to try to guess. I think this activity is especially important because it shows them that even with a few words, they can convey meaning and get an idea across!

The next day, I had students skim the sheet to get an idea of the levels, and followed the basic protocol of this post by Kara at Creative Language Class. I went through the basics of each level, grouped students, and had them describe school at various proficiency levels. I had each group decide what proficiency level their description was and why! I checked in with each group to make sure they were on the right track.
Then, each group shared their description, and all other groups conferred for 15 seconds to decide what level they thought the description was, and why. We talked a few of them out as a class. Then, they told their group what proficiency level they want to be be the end of the year.

After this activity, I asked students to describe what proficiency was. This turned out decent results, but I think in the future, I’ll have them give another analogy like I did last year. I’ll give them the starter “proficiency is like _____ because _____.” I got some great examples last year, and I think it would have helped this year’s students as well.

Once all my students have their school supplies (interactive notebooks this year), we’ll use the goal-setting proficiency path (second one on the page) from Shelby County. I’m not sure how Shelby County use the page, but I plan on having my students circle their goal for the year, and color in the star for each level they hit along the way.

After that, we’ll bring it up as necessary, especially when talking about moving from level to level, and I plan on having them chart their progress towards proficiency throughout the year!

What are you doing this year to talk proficiency with your students?

First week plans 2016

As I sit down after my first two days of school, I find myself wondering how it got here so darn FAST. I feel like it was June yesterday … anyone else? I also planned on sharing my first week plans long before it was actually the week that I started. Such is life, I suppose!

I go into this post on my first plans, thinking about how the research says that you end up being a mix of the 5 people you spend time with the most. I can totally see that I am a mix of all of my favorite world language teachers/bloggers, so I really cannot credit a lot of these ideas as my own.

As a note, I’m only teaching level 1 this year, so these plans are for them!

Thursday, August 18th: (French music ALWAYS playing in the background)

  • Students come in, I greet each person at the door. I will assign seating for this first day; I think it’s important to give students this kind of structure on day one.
  • I think what Sara-Elizabeth posted about the first day story – letting kids see what they can understand on day one is SO CRUCIAL. I’m starting off with this this year. I plan on kids writing a few things they understood on a sticky and posting it for everyone to see.
  • I plan on doing my first days administrative stations from last year. This year’s stations include: syllabus hunt, student info sheets, crepe talk with questions, choosing French names/making namecards, and getting to know each other. As a high school with three feeder middle schools, I think it’s so important to get kids talking to each other as soon as possible. As for French names, I will direct students to listen to the names of their choice on Hear Names – have you heard of it? It’s names pronounced by a native speaker of the language, and I’m in LOVE. That way, I don’t have to pronounce every name, or worry that I’m doing it wrong (am I the only one who feels that way?!)

Friday, August 19th

  • I anticipate that we’ll only have time for 1-2 stations the first day, so I plan on finishing the other 3 today.

Monday, August 22nd

  • Today I’m planning an intro to me. I want the kids to have a second chance (or first, if they missed the first day) to get the comprehension feeling. I’ll have them fill out a quick formative assessments: 3 things I did that helped them understand, 2 things they understood about me, 1 question that they still have.
  • Then, we’ll introduce ourselves around the room, and say something that we like!
  • I plan on getting into proficiency again this day, reviewing the levels and having kids describe school like this. We’ll set our own language goals on the proficiency path, too!

Tuesday, August 23rd

  • Today we’ll start again with names and likes, and I’ll try to make sure everyone gets to know other people’s names (I think this is so important!) I’ll go around, adding in the “il/elle s’appelle” distinction, and giving several options to keep kids on their toes!
  • I’ll probably give a little processing time where kids listen to a few audio samples. At this stage, I imagine it will be something like, “true or false: this person gave their name.”
  • Since this is the second day, I’ll have students tell their name to a few partners and ask “et toi?” as a performance assessment at the end!

Wednesday, August 24th-Friday, August 26th 

  • In Ohio, we do a version of student growth measures that require us to do a pre-test and give the same test as a post-test to measure growth. I’ll be giving my pre-test these days, and I’ve allotted 3 since I need to do a listening, reading, writing, and speaking section. I expect that most of my students will leave the listening, reading, and writing sections blank, but I do need to interview each student individually, even if they can’t respond. This is always such an awkward down-time for students, but I don’t want to cut the speaking portion to make it less awkward at the beginning of the year.
  • While I’m finishing interviews, I plan on doing an activity with cognates, again à la Creative Language Class!

There you go, my first week and a half of class. The fun stuff starts after this!

My new infographic syllabus!

If you’ve been following along with me on twitter, you might know that I was lamenting over not having a classroom to decorate this year. And, I mean, my last classroom was pretty adorable, if I may say so myself. I LOVE the color teal (or aqua, or turquoise) and I love patterns, so I went with that theme for my room at my first school.

So, this year, with no room to decorate (okay, one of my rooms has some decoration, but it’s still up from last year!) I had to go all out on my syllabus. If you saw my sneak peek  on twitter, you’ll know that my syllabus also embraces teal and pattern. I like it much better than my school-color themed choice from last year. (PS, both years I used Piktochart‘s free version to create them – for me, Piktochart is easy to use, easy to get used to, fun to use, and their staff has been wonderful to work with!)

Last year, I had a few syllabus issues:

I realized, too late, that even with my ThingLink tags, my syllabus did not give all the information that I wanted it to. I had to make a second, text-based page with additional info. Not my favorite course of action, as I worked so hard to make the visuals great.

The second issue was for parents. While I made the parents sign the bottom of the syllabus, they never saw the additional links that I added! I want to be as transparent with students and parents as possible, so I knew I needed to fix that. I didn’t want to rely on students to share that additional information (including necessary materials, what the heck proficiency is, and ways to follow me on social media.)

This year, I decide to make the graphics work better for me, to break up the text into sections, and instead of just being there to, well, be an “infographic.” I really love the result! I sacrificed some visual simplicity for it to be exactly what I needed, but I might also have reduced the need for extra links!

Okay, okay, enough typing and onto what you came for!

Here is page 1 of my syllabus:
syllabus-2016-2017 (5)

and here is page 2:

syllabus-2016-2017-pg-2 (4)

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share them with me in the comments or on twitter.

PS: I’ve been asked by a lot of people if they can have an editable version of this sucker. Man, oh man, do I wish it was editable. I’m currently trying to decide if it’s feasible to make an editable version; stayed tuned!

#AuthRes August

Wow. As I’m staring at that word, August, I’m simultaneously freaking out and jumping for joy at the same time. I bet a lot of you teachers feel the same way.

Last week, Sara-Elizabeth of Musicuentos called us to #AuthRes August, where we share some authentic resources for the world language classroom that our students will love this year.

While I am not going to post 70+ resources like Maris did this morning (Spanish teachers, check it OUT!)  I will share a couple that I’m excited to use this year.

What I’m working on this year is starting the year off with a unit about the Olympics, because it’s current, relevant, and hopefully give my students something interesting and engaging to describe! I plan on using some of these resources:

The olympic website in French – this has a list of the results, athletes, and a link to each of the events/sports that are in the olympics – so much better than just learning basketball and football (American!)

FranceTvSport – This is a French based TV station, so it leans a little more toward the French! You can track the medals won by the team, see a calendar of event days/medal ceremonies, and as a bonus, it has the country names in French! A lot of them are cognates, so it will boost confidence at the beginning of the year.

Speaking of events, there hasn’t been an April Fool’s Day (Poisson d’avril!) that my students haven’t been on spring break. Coincidentally, my birthday is March 31st, so there’s never been a birthday where I’ve been in school. This year, April 1 falls on a Saturday, but I’m thinking about amping up my birthday work day with some fun poisson d’avril stuff! This post looks a little advanced for my novices, but maybe we’ll use it.

I don’t know if we’ll get into all this stuff in my level one class this year, but if you’ve just finished the Keys to Planning Book, my bet is that you’ll try to incorporate the “balanced lifestyle” unit – shoot, it’s already in French! Here’s some supplemental resources for that:

  • An infographic about le goûter
  • An example of a petit déj équilibré
  • Anything from the MangerBouger site – seriously, there are guides to each food group, recommendations for eating better at each age group, recipes, seasonal produce to balance your plate (and wallet) – it is totally worth an hour or two of clicking around!

Last year, I used and LOVED this infographic about habitudes alimentaires. We did an IPA style reading, and then surveyed our class about our own eating habits. We made graphs and compared the data that we found. It was a great reinforcement of the question words and answer in context, too!


I hope this has given you some inspiration to use #authres this coming school year! I plan on posting a few more times on the topic, both on my blog and on twitter! We’d love to have you join us by posting on your blog, or on twitter (or even facebook!) with the hashtag #authresaugust! If that’s too big for your tweet, you could use #authres instead (or both, you overachiever, you!)

Like Sara-Elizabeth mentioned in her post, if you don’t have a public place to share your #authres, I would be happy to share your resources for you – French, Spanish, Latin, German, Japanese – it doesn’t matter, I’m just happy to share! You can leave your ideas in the comments, or tweet at me. I promise that if you use the hashtag, it doesn’t matter if you’re a twitter “celebrity” – someone will see it and benefit from it!

While you’re at it, if you need a public place to share those activities that you develop, you can add to the growing list that Sara-Elizabeth started! Choose your language with the tabs at the bottom!

One last thought: I would not be the teacher that I am today (and I still have TONS of room to grow) if other people hadn’t been kind enough to share their resources with me. I get as many ideas from Sara-Elizabeth, Bethanie, Maris, Amy, Melanie, Megan and Kara, Allison, and Carrie‘s Spanish resources as I do from my French teacher friends! So nothing you share is too small, insignificant, or “imperfect” to help someone else out. Let’s do this – together.

Don’t fit the mold

I will start this post by clarifying what you may have already gathered: I do still exist! I’ve been really caught up in taking a load off this summer. This is my first summer where things are “staying the same,” meaning that we’re not moving, I have no big trips planned, I’m not trying to redo everything, and I’m really trying to focus on relaxing and not thinking about school with every waking moment. Conclusion? It’s been going really well.

This summer I’m trying to update my curriculum, from all the tips and tricks I learned at #CampMusicuentos in June. It’s been a little rough, because not only am I reading The Keys to Planning for Learning, but I’m working with basically nothing except the outline of a former textbook. What I mean by that is: I’m not sure if my school has a set curriculum. I mention this, not to shame my school (I really do love it there) or to make myself sound impressive, but because I know there are TONS of young teachers in this position. My first year of teaching could have gone much more smoothly if I would have ASKED for our curriculum before school started. Now that I’m entering my second year at my new school, I’d feel silly asking about curriculum without raising questions like, “what exactly were you doing last year?” (Answer: “my best”)

I finally feel like I’m in a place to do some actual curriculum mapping and planning this summer. You might not feel like you’re in the place. Use an already set curriculum, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that! This brings me around to the point that I’m trying to make here:

Don’t attempt to fit a mold that someone “who knows what they’re doing” laid out for you.

What I mean by that is that there is a FINE line when you’re using someone else’s resources. I am ALL for “not reinventing the wheel,” “working smarter, not harder,” and “sharing is caring.” I am constantly reminded that teachers (especially us young ones) might not have the time, experience, or resources to write curriculum by ourselves. Heck, up until this year, I clung to the Jefferson County Public Schools curriculum tighter than I’ve ever clung to a textbook. But there’s a danger here, and that danger is losing who you are as a teacher.

Case in point: I looked at other teacher’s successes (JCPS/The Creative Language Class, Shelby County, etc) and thought “if they are successful, all I have to do is do exactly what they do, and I will also be successful.” WRONG. Even this school year, I had another French teacher to plan with for the first time. I spent a lot of the year trying to be more like her. Why wouldn’t I want to? She’s got tons of experience, stays relevant, tries new things, and is a good teacher! Of course I would want to emulate her and her practices. In the past, I spent so much time trying to do exactly what JCPS outlined that my teaching suffered. My students suffered. My mental health suffered.

You’re not meant to be someone else, no matter how great they are. I can’t shove myself into a colleague-shaped box. I can’t fit inside the crime scene-style chalk outline of anyone else. I can’t force myself into a curriculum that might not be right for my student population.

Did you know that the JCPS curriculum caught some flak for some of the units that they did? As far as I know, it was a curriculum compromise to include things like the “have a good day” unit. I didn’t know that until this year. I just assumed that they were the be all end all of curriculum! And it’s GOOD, regardless of these facts. Knowing this puts it into perspective that not one element contributes to your success as a teacher. A lot of it rides on you, your personality, your management, and so much more. So this year, my goal is to not lose myself in the quest for “better.”

I hope that your goal, while picking and choosing resources to help further your students towards their targets, is to remember who you are along the way. You were hired by your district for your expertise, your personality, your attitude, and your ability to do your job. Don’t let the promise of success with any one curriculum, method, or style tear you away from the great things that you bring to the table as an individual.

End of year confessions!

First confession: I have not been motivated to blog. I’m going to shift my blame to Thomas Sauer, who told me to “stop writing great blog posts!” But really, I know that it’s because April and May take over and so many things fall to the wayside, including my motivation that way so rampant and prevalent in all that I did back in August.

Inspired by Allison (and Megan, too!) I decided to share my end of the year confessions. This part of the year is hard for all of us, and if there’s anything I want others to get out of my blog, it’s that I’m simply human. I am not a perfect person, teacher, wife, or friend. And though I have a lot of people that “look up” to me (which is terrifying if you knew how specifically imperfect I am), I never want to give the impression that things always work well in my world! This is, admittedly, the first May where I don’t feel like I am drowning in the weight of everything on my to-do list, but I’ve still got a lot to confess!

So here you have it, my end of the year (May, mostly) confessions. I even set up my own hashtag to chronicle how I felt this year. Feel free to use #itsMay for the shenanigans happening in your world! (Turns out a lot of people are using the same hashtag already … let the hilarity ensue!)

  1. I am notorious for loving sleep. The amount of sleep I need to function well is potentially inhuman. A lot of teachers (friends, normal people) make fun of me because I go to bed SO early and I am SO young. I normally sleep for nine hours a night, but last Wednesday, I was caught up on grading, and I went to bed at 5PM. I woke up the next morning at 4AM. Yes friends, I slept for 11 hours. #itsMay
  2. I am mildly “crafty” and since summer is around the corner, I ordered a lot of things online to start some DIY projects when school is out. I may have spent at least one (let’s be honest … two) of my (entire) planning periods tracking my various packages online instead of doing other things.
  3. I don’t show movies. At my last school, you weren’t allowed to show full movies unless they were a written part of the curriculum, and that is still engrained in me. But I showed one at the end of French 2 this year because we had a week left over and I had nothing left in me. It was “Au revoir, les enfants,” and my students loved it, and we were able to talk a lot about it.
  4. As I struggled to make engaging lesson plans, to stay motivated, and to plan well for the end of the year, I daydreamed to planning a really good “May unit” for next year, so that I don’t encounter these problems with motivation, and I can just enact a really good plan. I spent a lot of time thinking of what I should include in that unit, and wasted a lot of time not planning this year’s activities. Oops?
  5. One of my lessons for last week was planned. And it was okay, for the most part. But at 7:05, I thought it was missing something. So, I decided last minute to take my kids to an optional assembly about being or hosting a foreign exchange student. Even though it was relevant to what my class is about, I felt really guilty about taking them.
  6. Just like I go to bed early, I am usually awake about 10 minutes before for my alarm. If I’m not, I usually pop straight out of bed at the first buzz, because I am a textbook example of a morning person. This week, I’ve been snoozing my alarm “just one more time” and trying to get ready for school with 45 less minutes than normal.
  7. The only motivation I’ve had to plan outfits or get dressed is to say, “you can probably wear sandals with that!” Because as most female teachers know, by this point in the year, my flats smell about as wonderful as the trash at my apartment that I haven’t taken out in about a week.
  8. My husband works retail. Thusly, it works out (tragically) that he works on a lot of the nights where I can feel comfortable leaving school at contract time. If he’s not home, I give myself a big #itsMay and dinner consists of PBJ sandwiches or Chicken Fries from the freezer. If I’m feeling particularly motivated, I’ll make chocolate chip pancakes or a giant casserole that will negate the need to make dinner … For the next week.
  9. How do I motivate myself to grade in May, you ask? STICKERS. Every assignment in May gets stickers and/or giant smiley faces. Last week I put a smiley face on an assignment for every new vocabulary word a student used. When I passed them back, one of my girls said, “Madame, were you really happy when you graded these?” Au contraire, ma petite, au contraire!
  10. At the end of each school year, I get really antsy for next school year! I know that I’m supposed to be excited about summer and for the break, but I look forward to having time to rewrite or tweak things that I made this year … even if I don’t get to them!

There you have it, confessions from a teacher at the end of year 3 (eep!) Hope this helps you, made you laugh, or encourages you to keep going in the final lap!

90% TL: just do it!

(Just so we’re clear, I stole the title of this blog post from Thomas Sauer, not Nike.)

Well, it’s spring break here, which means that my French ones have been through 3 1/2 weeks of “only” speaking French in class. I will clarify that before that, they did speak French, but there weren’t explicit rules for how much.

A quick look at logistics:

  • If you’re in the classroom, you’re expected to only be speaking French.
  • If you need to ask a complex question/absolutely have to say something in English, you have to go out into the hallway. (This deters students from trying to speak a lot of English, because, well, they don’t want to walk there.)
  • I tally “points” on my clipboard – if you speak English, you “lose points” (please keep in mind that in my class, participation happens à la “Whose Line” – the points don’t actually matter)
  • If I get a TON of blank stares and I’ve explained something in more than one way, I step into the hall to clarify in English. I try to do this as little as possible.

The first few days were terrifying. Loud, boisterous classes that joked a lot with me had been reduced to silent, staring, straight faced children. A few of my middle schoolers flat out refused to speak in French. I, however, was twice as terrified as they were. I’ve heard it said that the teacher is often what holds a class back from 90% TL in class. And for me, it was SO TRUE. I connect with students because I’m so young, and I’ll admit that a lot of that happens in English. I think, however, that I have transferred some of that to my French “personality.”

Also, I think that it needs to be said that students, parents, admin, colleagues, and stakeholders don’t know what we mean when we say “90% target language.” So many of my students were in a panic mode, “how are we going to know what you’re saying?!?!” they shouted the day before we started. An administrator told a colleague who does this same system, “I thought they’d all be whispering in English when your back was turned, but they didn’t.” They key word is comprehensible.

So, what have I learned since this process started?

  • I can speak in comprehensible French for 100% of class time. I held myself back from trying for too long.
  • Students take pride in speaking French and policing each other. About 3% of each day for some students is spent gasping audibly, pointing, and shouting, “anglais!!”
  • Students pick up the craziest expressions!  Seriously, I never knew that they’d learn all the little “flavoring” things that they have! A lot of my Ss can say little things like, “bless you,” “don’t touch [that/me!],” “I’m kidding,” “excuse you!”and expressions that start with, “may I …?” These are the little things that make me well up with pride, and because I say so often, they’ve picked them up too!
  • Students at the novice level can get their point across with the language they know. Negotiation of meaning, anyone?! Instead of saying, “give me back my paper!” they say, “tu es méchant!” When I asked a student why he didn’t invite me to his musical the previous weekend, he didn’t give me a long-winded answer, he just say, “désolé, Madame!”
  • After the initial shock, students are EXCITED to speak French in class. It’s the times that I hear them whispering to each other in French that I have to hold back tears.
  • Laughter is necessary. Not only am I showing students that it’s okay to be silly sometimes, but also that jokes can happen in French, too. Three of my favorites? 1) If I say, “[Student’s name], tu parles anglais!?!?!?!?” they know that the “acceptable response,” (no matter the language they spoke) is, “Non, Madame!” with a bat of their eyelashes. 2) One of my middle school students looked at me the other day, eyes serious, and said “François a DEUX PETITES-AMIES” with the most urgency that anyone has ever said anything. This has become a running joke that we start the day with, asking who else has two girlfriends/boyfriends. 3) I was inviting students to go places with me, and someone said they’d go to a concert with me. When I went to write it down on my “schedule,” he shouted, “JE BLAGUE.” I was mock devastated, but very excited on the inside.
  • I think that 100% really beat the pre-spring break slump. It left me excited to go to class, excited to see my students, excited to learn with them each day.
  • We were allowed to speak English on part of the day before Spring Break as a “reward” or “vacation” and I had a few students who said that speaking English is weird, and that they were no longer used to my voice in English.

This has been SUCH an exciting process for me, and I am never going back!

But, I think the key part of this process has been student feedback. On our “English vacation,” I had them fill out a Google Form about “All French.” I wanted to include some of their feedback here:

I asked them to answer these questions, which I openly stole from Melanie’s end-of-year survey:

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I was really surprised by these numbers, but since I don’t require names on my feedback surveys, I know there are some students who dislike “all French” that didn’t take the survey.

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These results were about what I expected.

The next question I asked was, “What is one thing that has improved since we started?” It was a required question, and this is some of the feedback I got:

Just seeing all of this self-awareness made me so happy.

When I asked students about something that they would change, a lot of it had to do with English. I’m trying to figure out how to validate their opinions and feedback but not spend one day a week in English …

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(PS: that big, long, introspective answer is from my 11th grader who is also in a very traditional AP German class, because she also mentioned that she’s sad we haven’t learned to conjugate many verbs this year.)

 

So, my advice to you if you’re struggling with, or have been “putting off” 90% TL like I have? Just do it! I think the results will terrify, shock, excite, and transform you. I know they did for me.