May confessions

Guys. I haven’t really been around lately, and I apologize.

At the end of March, my grandmother, who I continue to love with all of my heart, passed away on my birthday. And while I’m coming to terms with that, the rest of the year hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a few days of bereavement leave, and then Easter was here, and then it was May … and, well, you know May. I don’t feel caught up from April yet, and here I am, three days of school left before exams. Whew.

So, as an uplifting rest of this post, I figured I’d contribute my May confessions, if nothing else, to the collective blog world.

  1. There are three days of school left, and basically, as long as my kids are working quietly, I haven’t been pushing them to get assignments done. I usually start the class with “you have 15 minutes to finish X activity” and then 15 minutes go by … then 20 … then 25 … and if they’re working on the activity and still quiet, I’ve been letting them be. They’re overwhelmed, and so am I.
  2. Last week I had a lot going on, and I’m pretty certain that I didn’t consume a single vegetable. If I did, it came frozen on a pre-packaged meal and probably wasn’t a real vegetable. Like the frozen pizza purchased on a whim that had metallic-y tasting spinach on it … but that might have been two weeks ago.
  3. I haven’t done a brain break in my class in awhile, even though I KNOW they need it and I need it. May just brings a rush of so many things that I forget to plan well.
  4. I’ve been using “it’s May” as an excuse for everything. “I don’t have time to grade this, it’s May!” “Everything is crazy, it’s May!” “I probably won’t make it … it’s May!”
    This is fine when I talk to teachers, but when I talk to other adults with non-teaching jobs, they look at me like “why are you reminding me what month it is?” They don’t know the utter chaos that May brings.
  5. When people ask me about my summer plans, I am no longer ashamed to say “getting paid for watching Hulu on my couch.” You don’t know how I need this break!
  6. I have a running list of changes for next year, and I’m SO excited for it, even if I do want to take the whole month of June off. I guess this is the teaching curse!
  7. Since I teach at three middle schools, I’ve been on a rotating schedule of annual DC trips – this means that I don’t have one class while they’re in DC. So I have 4 classes (three days a week) instead of 5. Tuesday was my last day of 5 classes, as my last school left for DC Wednesday. I found myself, Tuesday afternoon, starting to complain about how hard teaching the normal amount of classes is. Come ON, Wendy, it’s your job.
  8. I, much like Allison, have been planning in the morning before my classes start. I only have one new lesson a day, and I’m pretty fast at creating materials. Plus, after school these days, I feel like a glorified vegetable, and getting off of my couch is kind of a chore.
  9. Yesterday for a belated staff appreciation week, one of my schools had free neck/shoulder/arm massages. I got finished with mine about three minutes before my class started and we spent the period with the lights off, windows open, and working quietly, even though that wasn’t the plan before my massage. I blame the cocoa butter they used; everything smelled happy like chocolate!
  10. My 17-18 teaching planner came in the mail this week and I long to fill it with important dates, information, and the like. However, I haven’t updated this year’s planner in weeks …

 

There you have it. I could continue this list with a TON of confessions, but I probably shouldn’t, for my own safety. I’d love to hear your confessions, too; I love reminding everyone (and being reminded) that we’re all human. Last, I’ll leave you a beautiful picture of my new planner haul!

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Feel good Friday

Hey everyone! Sorry to be absent from the blogosphere (do people still say that?) lately … this spring seems to have been a non-stop slew of crazy things.

I used to publish a “joli jeudi” post where I’d share happy moment from each week, and I’ve got a lot to share this week that won’t fit in my precious 140 characters on twitter.

Here are some things my students have been amazing me with lately:

One girl blew me AWAY during a speaking assessment this week! She’s one of those textbook cases of someone who’s motivated to learn a language! During her speaking assessment (about homes), she told me, completely in the TL: “Dans mon jardin, il y a beaucoup des plantes et fleurs avec beaucoup de couleurs … et des grandes …*girl makes a gesture*” 
Me: “je ne comprends pas … les grandes plantes?”
Her: “Oui, les grandes *makes gesture again* … OH! C’est aussi un pose de yoga”
I was able to discover that she meant “trees” and I was blown away by her ability to circumlocute!

My kids are getting so comfortable sharing when they don’t understand a word! The number of “Je ne comprends pas” that I’ve heard lately are through the roof! Today, a girl said, “je ne comprends pas arbre!” and I got to model circumlocution by telling her and the class that “arbres” are “big plants with brown and little green parts.” Noticing her continued confusion, I added, “some trees have oranges and some trees have apples, but some trees have flowers.”  “It’s also a yoga pose,” I added, stealing the trick from the girl from the previous day!

This week I did my first real “grammar-y” lesson that was completely in the TL. As WL teachers, we know this as the point in the year where you try to transfer kids from saying “I like, I like, I like,” to “I _____.” Instead of reverting to English to explain, I just told kids that there’s a difference between your preferences and reality. We talked about the activities that we liked to do, and then I asked them if they do that a lot “in reality.”
I figured this would work because generally, each Monday, I ask my students if they ate, watched Netflix, played sports, etc. over the weekend. I noticed that the majority of my students tell me that they don’t sleep over the weekend, so I used sleep as my first example. “Who likes to sleep?” I asked (in the TL), and almost every student raised their hand. “Okay,” I continued, “and in reality, who sleeps a lot on the weekend?” most of the hands went down. “So your reality is different than your preference?” The same thing usually happens when you ask about reading. The kids seem to get the difference, but I think I’m going to reinforce next week with more reading, and a little formative assessment about “preferences” vs. “reality.”

I’ve also been impressed with how my my students can actually understand in the TL, even if they only give me a novice level response! I’ve gotten so into PQA lately, where questions arise on the spot for different students in different classes, and everyone seems to be engaged, enjoying themselves, and most importantly, comprehending!

 

The moral of this post is that I love giving my students the opportunity to show me what they can do, and I’ll never be surprised that they can blow me away with their abilities.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to get your fill of PD with #langchat’s Saturday sequel, #OFLA17 posts, or #FLENJ17 awesomeness!

La Manie Musicale: year two!

Hey all, sorry to be absent from the blogosphere lately!

I’m just letting everyone know about my (really late!) plan for Manie Musicale. I had a lot of help choosing songs from Megan, who has a great list of songs for her upper levels. I wanted to change some things up from last year, because I’ve used some of last year’s choices in class already. (PS you can see last year’s logistics here)

Here’s my plan of songs for Manie Musicale:

  1. Papaoutai – Stromae VS Est-ce que tu m’aimes – Maître Gims
  2. Comme ci comme ça – Zaz VS Elle me dit – MIKA
  3. Place de la République – Coeur de Pirate VS Là-bas – Baptiste Giabiconi et Marie Mai
  4. US Boy – Jena Lee VS J’ai cherché – Amir
  5. Tombé sous le charme – Christophe Maé VS On danse – M. Pokora
  6. Tout ce que t’es pour moi – The Garlics ft. Amisiac VS Tourner dans le vide – Indila
  7. French Kiss – Black M VS Andalouse – Kendji Girac
  8. Le Sens de la Vie – Tal VS Avenir – Louane

Are you planning on doing Manie Musicale? I’d love to hear your choices and what you plan on doing!

My first Movie Talk

Good morning, world!

I was actually kind of sad to have an ice storm and terrible road condition day off today because yesterday I tried my hand at my first Movie Talk, and I have to say, it was AWESOME! I was really excited to continue those activities today!

Before I tell you about my experience, you can read more about Movie Talk from Martina (who links a few others) and view the Movie Talk resources that I bought from Carrie Toth via TPT here.

So, how was it?

First off, I love that buying this from Carrie gave me a week’s worth of resources without supplementing any of my own! I did need to do the front work of changing it all to French, but hopefully that’s something that you can purchase from Carrie in the future!

Second, I was worried. The clip itself is right around 4 minutes, with about a minute of that being credits. How was I going to make a 3 minute video last for a whole class period? Being the person that I am, I had prepared an extra activity just in case the talk lasted 20 minutes I looked silly. But the first time I did the talk, which was, in my opinion, the worst of the run-throughs, it took 40 glorious minutes. We had just enough time to watch the whole video again with sound, and for me to pass out an exit ticket for students to complete. And each time, the questioning, pausing, and gesturing got better. I asked better questions. I got better responses.

Third, my kids were SO INTO IT. I was worried that they would be completely bored with it, wondering why we’ve been looking at one clip for so long. Around the end of class, they did get a little squirrely. But have you seen this video? The kid throws a completely adorable dog on the floor. And then later, he kicks it. My kids were so emotionally invested, one girl actually cried. And the plot twist ending? My room fell silent and I could see the emotion on my students faces change. It was beautiful.

Four, I am a total ham. I think I get it from my father, but regardless, I was able to capture a lot of students attention with emotions. Together, we were ecstatic when a puppy popped out of a box (I had led them to believe that it couldn’t be a dog), we were intrigued by the dog’s condition, we were devastated at how the boy treats the dog, we watched in wonder as the most adorably animated dog played and ran with no regard for how the boy treated him. And for some of us, our hearts melted when we finally understood why. I don’t know if the talk would have gone as well if the video wasn’t so emotionally charged.

Five, I got a lot of advice before I did this, and I’ll pass on the best nuggets for you: personalize the questions and lean on what students already know. Since I don’t teach structures in the same way that most Movie-talkers do, I has some apprehension. There was a LOT that my students didn’t know, but I could point to the clip, gesture, draw, or write it down. I stuck with what we knew (describing things and people, emotions, activities, like/love/hate, some question words) and leaned on cognates for the rest (une balle, irresistible, entre, ignore, etc) and it went well. The things that weren’t known or cognates I wrote, drew, or gestured. There were a few things that I needed to clarify in English, but that was it. As for the questions? Personalization all the way. “The boy plays video games – do you play video games? What video games? The boy is playing on the sofa – do you play on the sofa? The boy doesn’t like the light when he plays video games – do you play video games with the light?” “Does the boy like the dog? Do you like the dog? Do you prefer cats or dogs? Does the boy prefer cats? Does the boy want to play with the dog? Do you want to play with the dog? Do you have a dog at home? Do you play with your dog?” The possibilities are endless but it stretched what was happening and kept us in the TL for a LONG TIME. Wow.

Some thoughts for my next Movie Talk:

I think next time, I’ll try to place a brain break in the middle for added suspense, and maybe a short run-through of what’s already happened in the clip. I don’t know if that will work, because a) we might run out of time, and b) my students might turn violent if they don’t get to the end!

I need to get better at giving students options that aren’t yes or no. I tried to give the either/or options since my baby novices aren’t great with open ended questions yet.  I asked a few open-ended questions and they went okay. Some even blew my mind with what they could say! I got better as the day went on, but practice makes perfect!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite MovieTalk moments:

One of my classes gets really into everything, they have the best attitudes, and they love to be silly. They were really in tune to the Movie Talk, but also noticed that we were spending a lot of time on it.

One student, upon looking at the clock, “Madame, what are you doing? You said we were watching a short clip. We’ve watched less than a minute of the clip and it’s been 25 minutes real time!” My response? “Je suis magique.”

Another student, who was feeling impatient at all the pausing, kept sighing. My response, “Tu as un problème avec moi?” Him, with confidence: “OUI.” In response, I kept pausing each frame RIGHT before the boy in the video opens the gift. “Madaaaaaaaaaaaaame,” my student shouts, “you’ve paused at least four frames and we are STILL IN THE SAME SECOND OF THE VIDEO.”

I was asking a lot of my students if they preferred cats or dogs. In the lead-up story to this Movie Talk that we did last we, the girl was allergic to all the gifts her boyfriend bought her. I asked a girl, “tu préfères les chiens ou les chats” and she said, “je suis allergique!” I responded, “il y a des chiens hypoallergiques! Tu veux un chien hypoallergique?” The girl nodded, but the class LOST IT. I couldn’t figure out why, so I wrote “hypoallergique” on the board. Turns out, they thought I told her that she was allergic to hippos.” Go figure.

I gave an emoji exit ticket, which asked about two things that students learned that day. One students wrote, “I learned that Madame likes to mess with us and the word for paws is pattes,” as if those two things were similar, concrete examples.

Last week, during the lead-up story, the only gift the girl wasn’t allergic to was a dead fish. Turns out, she has a huge collection of dead fish. In my last class of the day, I asked a student if he preferred cats or dogs. His response, with the straightest face I’ve ever seen? “Je préfère un poisson mort.”

I hope that this inspires you to find, look into, or try a Movie Talk in class! This was my first experience, and I promise that it won’t be my last!

#OneWord2017 – Intentional

It’s no secret that I had a rough 2016 – from beginning to end. I know that I’m not the only one, but it has inspired me to do another #oneword for the year – intentional. I love this #oneword because it speaks to both my personal and professional lives.

The definition of “intentional” is one of those weird ones that uses the word in its own definition, so I’ve broken it down to the root word, intend.

According to dictionary.com, intend means:
1. to have in mind as something to be done or brought about; plan:

We intend to leave in a month.

2. 
to design or mean for a particular purpose, use, recipient, etc.:
a fund intended for emergency use only.
What does this mean for my professional life?

In class:

This year, I want to structure activities for my students that are intentional. I want to know my end goal, and to create meaningful activities that push my students to reach that goal. Too often, I “fill space” with activities that might not have a communicative purpose, might not actually go with the unit at hand, or my tired brain used because I had nothing else.

Out of class:

My students know that I don’t give homework very often. I think this backfires, because when I assign it, they grumble more than normal. However, my choice options have seen great returns! I want to choose out-of-class activities that push my students toward a goal, that activate prior knowledge, or that hook them into the next activity.

Planning:

I plan a week at a time because I don’t know how to do it any other way. This year, I’d like to be intentional about planning a unit at a time – macro-planning at the start, and then micro-planning for at least two weeks at a time, even if those plans shift. I think this will help me to see where we’re headed and not fill my time with meaningless activities that don’t really help us toward a goal.

I cans:

I did so well at the beginning of the year when I planned I cans in tiny chunks, Sara-Elizabeth style. Instead of using the big, “I can say how I am,” I broke it down into “I can say if something is good or bad,” “I can say if someone is happy or sad,” etc. That worked much better than what I have been doing, “I can ask and answer questions about …” – yikes! I want to be intentional about scaffolding I cans for students to measure small progress toward bigger goals!

TL use:

In the first semester of this year, I was AWFUL at TL use. I forgot to just do it, and had some kind of hidden agenda. I need to be intentional about providing ways for both students and teacher to use the TL for a purpose, not just because I feel like I need to. I’ve changed my ideas about input this year (post to come, I hope?) and need to get myself back on track with input-related activities that intentionally help my students use the TL and again, push us towards new proficiency or other goals.

That’s all I’ve thought out for now, but I’m sure that this year, I’ll find out more uses for my #oneword.

I could go on and on and on about how the word intentional relates to my personal life, but I’ll just summarize that it includes building relationships, how I spend my down time, how I structure my days, and what work I take home from school and when.

Are you planning a #oneword to guide your year? I’ve love to hear about it!

Weary

Friends, I am weary. I am worn, and I am exhausted. The Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November is almost over, and whether you believe it exists or not, it has gotten the best of me. I sit here, typing this post with a stack of 90 IPAs that I’ve had for over a week that I haven’t touched. I sit here, with 105 assignments to look over and give feedback on. I sit here, with approximately three school days left until a break that I have needed for a very long time. And man, am I tired.

I failed this week, and I failed hard. But, according to most people’s perspectives, I did all of the “right” things: I introduced new vocabulary in context. I started with input. I gave graphic organizers for students to categorize information. I gave exit tickets. I scaffolded the material in a way that seemed appropriate. I checked for understanding. But, despite those efforts, I failed. I pushed kids to produce language before they were ready. I asked questions for choral responses and got frustrated when individual students didn’t know what words meant. I spoke the target language and misinterpreted that my students were comprehending it. I didn’t give appropriate time to process new vocabulary – vocabulary that came much too fast for my students. I got upset that students didn’t remember all of the words we had learned early this year, even though we reviewed them recently and they had no questions. Yesterday was the culmination of several weeks of impatient, overworked, under-appreciated teaching, and I lost it.

My husband and I are in the process of buying a house. We met last night with our realtor, and on our way out, my realtor reminded me for the millionth time: “Wendy, if you ever want to get into realty, you’ve got a job.” And yesterday, I really wanted to say “yes.” I looked into it, by the way – realty. To get your real estate license in Ohio, you need to complete 120 hours of class before you take the tests. And I laughed. “120 hours,” I thought to myself, “that’s about the amount of time I put into 2 1/2 weeks of teaching!” I want to say that I’m exaggerating, but I honestly don’t think that I am. Last night, as my realtor made that joke that probably had some truth behind it, I felt like I could quit.

We went to dinner, my husband and I, and I remember sighing really loudly and saying, “why do I love teaching when teaching doesn’t love me back?” And I think that I meant that I feel undervalued. I feel under-appreciated. I feel forgotten. And I wonder, with all of the assessing, checking, data collecting, and teaching that I’m supposed to be doing – with all of the immediate and appropriate feedback that I’m supposed to be giving – where’s mine? Where is someone, observing me and saying, “whoa, whoa, whoa, Wendy. You’re giving me a red flag today – let’s back up and try that lesson again!” Where are the people to really help me understand what I’m supposed to be doing each step of the way? Where are the reminders that I can use all of the fancy buzzword activities in my class and still miss the mark?

Last night, my loving, wonderful, amazing, patient husband looked back at me and said, “because you love kids. You love helping them with their lives, and you love seeing them do well.” Man, did he nail it. There are so many frustrations of my job – the never-ending cycle of grading and feedback, the lesson planning that consumes my thoughts from the time I open my eyes until the time I go to bed, the times when I have to call parents and guardians because of behavior, discipline, or worry. I’ve cried way more than once over the stresses of this job, but more than anything, I have joy. I well up with pride when I grade a wonderful assessment, I smile from ear to ear when students try to create with the language, and I spend my time amazed by what students can do with what I’ve taught them. My husband reminded me of why I cannot give up.

In case you’re on the edge of your seat, no, I am not going into realty. What kind of example would I set for my students if I quit every single time I failed in the classroom? What message would I send if I didn’t learn from my mistakes and try to be a better teacher for them? What would it mean if I became bitter from lack of recognition, praise, or aid, and just gave up?

It is so normal to be weary. In the light of social media, it feels like everyone we know only does well, so we don’t show our issues! But Meredith said it best when she said that the “highlight reel does not necessarily highlight real.” While people have been going crazy over my new I cans, I’ve been more disheartened with teaching than almost ever before. I was in a meeting yesterday where I told someone that this has been my best year of teaching, and I meant it, and then I had the worst day of my year by far.

Teachers, we will get a rest soon. We’re almost there. Keep going. We may be weary now, but next week, we’ll have a chance to reset. Stay strong.

“I can” goal stamps

Wow, am I sad that I won’t be at #ACTFL16 – it’s only Monday and I’m already seeing so many great tweets and plans to meet up … I’ll have to be there with you in spirit!

In other news, a lot of people have been asking to see my new document that includes I cans for my unit on family and homes. I can’t take all the credit – I’m always inspired by Megan and Kara’s stamp sheets, and I got a few of my I cans from Melanie and Kara’s work this summer at Camp Musicuentos!

Here’s a few Q and As about these new stamps.

So what are you doing now? Currently, I only stamp about half of the I cans in a unit – those that will require an assessment. Here’s an example of the one I planned on using for this unit before I had a change of mind!

So why are you changing what’s working now? I’ve wanted to do I cans like they do at Jefferson County Public Schools (credit again to Kara and Megan), but it’s always the logistics that get to me. But, I’ve decided that there’s nothing like combatting logistics by just implementing something to see how it goes, as evidenced by last year’s 90% TL experiment! I’ve really been working this year to say the “I can” every day, so that students can see what we’re doing and how it relates to the bigger picture, but I also want them to see them all the unit goals at once. Since I only stamp after assessments with my current stamp sheet, they don’t always see how the little I cans transition into the bigger ones.

How did you do it? So, after a little inspiration from Kara and Megan’s new Adios Textbook! site, I went for it. You guys already know that I’m a sucker for Piktochart, and it didn’t disappoint, again! I really took the time to write the I cans that I wanted, to put them in what I thought was a logical order, and to show students how they will progress, including bigger assessments.

How are you going to check each goal? To be honest, I don’t know. I think I’ll accept them as students can show me, but not during the middle of class. I’ll probably stamp them as I see kids complete them, whether that’s during the performance checks I try to do at the end of class, as kids participate during class time, and/or during some kind of stations, where I can check in with a few kids at a time as we go. I really need to get a self inking stamp so I can do it more spur-of-the-moment.

And what about grades? I’m going to be honest, I don’t know if I plan on grading them. I want kids to master each I can. I want them to see how each I can plays a bigger role in what we’re doing. I want there to be a reason that they complete them. I want them to want to show me what they can do. But I don’t know if grades are the motivator. And if so, do I grade each I can based on how well they did it? Or do I take it for “completion?” Since they need to show me each goal as they’re able to do it, can I set dates to enter them in the gradebook? Or should I really look at them all by the end of the unit, since they’ll be able to redo them as they need? I don’t have these answers. So I’ll update you as I decide!

What are the ACTFL proficiency levels for? I plan on helping kids to track their proficiency across all units, so I imagine that either I (or they? maybe both?) will circle the level that corresponds with their end-of-unit performance!

Anything else? I’m really nervous that I set these in stone, and now I have no room to deviate from that – that’s why there are blanks (thanks, Thomas Sauer, for the tip!) Also, what if the unit drags on and I want to skip a couple, or I realize that they’re not what I really wanted? I guess that will make me better for next year.

Well, if you’ve been with me this long, I should at least give you the full document, no? Here’s what I’ve got going for this unit, I’m honored to hear that inspired so many of you!

I always worry that I don’t vary the wording of these enough. As always, I welcome your feedback!

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