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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#langchat sessions at ACTFL!

In the event that you’re reading this hoping to see me at ACTFL, sadly I will not be attending. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t help out my fellow tweeps who will be representing #langchat while in Boston!

Here’s a list of langchatters who will be presenting at ACTFL – be sure to stop by and meet them, attend their sessions, or share the name with a friend!

Friday, November 17th:

1:15 PM – #authres in FLES – by @SraWillis and @MaryJoAdams1

1:30 PM – Chat it up – engaging students in twitter chats for proficiency – by @kmcneese and @RhulsHuls

2:30 PM – Using target language: it’s not just about what you say but how you say it! – assisted by @profepj3

3:45: Party Like it’s MMXVI: The Fun and the Fruit of 21st Century Latin Teaching – by @IndwellingLang

3:45 PM: Canela: A Movie Unit for Spanish 1 by @karacjacobs

5:00 PM – Detour Ahead! Overcoming road blocks to staying in the target language – by @profepj3

Saturday, November 18th:

8:00 AM- part of the impACTFL voices series: Pathways to Proficiency – by @profepj3 and @SECottrell

5:15 PM Textbook as AID: Adapt, Incorporate, Ditch – by @SECottrell

Sunday, November 19th:

8:00 AM – Yes we can! The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-do Statements with Early Language Learners – by @Nathanlutz

8:00 AM Interpersonal Speaking Boot Camp: Live-Graded Power Stations by @MmeBlouwolff

Why I #FridayFeedback

Looks like I’ve got to clean out the cobwebs forming in the corners of my blog for this one.

Do you get feedback from your students? Do you get feedback from your students and actually read it? Do you get feedback from your students, actually read it, and then use it to inform your teaching? I know, it’s really hard to do. I’m sometimes a mix of all three, but I’ve really been trying to be better.

There’s a ton of research that shows that choice is a motivator for students, so I love little opportunities to get them to tell me what they like in class. I also love hearing their opinions, because while 50% of students tell me that they loved the most exciting thing we did that week, the other 50% tell me that they like the activities that I thought were “boring.” They like the activities that weren’t as engaging, but helped them with little aspects, made them feel confident, or got them out of their chairs for a few minutes of a day that seemed long and dull otherwise. It reminds me that even when I don’t think a lesson went over well, my students got something out of it, even if it’s only a few of them. It also helps me plan activities for the next week of class, with students’ ideas fresh in my mind.

That’s why I use Friday Feedback – coined by Creative Language Class and shared with me by Allison Wienhold. At the end of each Friday, we wrap up a few minutes early, I remind students of the activities we completed this week, and they write about their favorite one and tell me why. I love reading the “why” parts. I’m going to share a few of my favorite ones from last Friday with you:

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I hope you feel inspired to get feedback from your students! I’d love to hear how it goes!

Exemplars for learning

Man, this is such a simple idea, but it really helped my students this year!

Earlier this year, I went to a 3-day personalized and blended learning conference hosted at my school. I was really impressed with the keynote speaker, a middle school social studies teacher who does amazing things in his classroom. Bill Ferriter shared so many GREAT ways to have students self and peer assess, as well as looking at exemplars of different types of activities to show students what you expect.

Let me pause here and say something wonderfully simple that I’ve been skipping over for years – students should look at exemplars that will help them understand your expectations. DUH.

How many of you have used the ACTFL IPA interpretive template? How many of you are frustrated by students not writing what you expected, or worse – leaving sections blank?! I mean, COME ON, the answers are actually in the text! Or, when asked to guess, they leave me a giant, “Idk!”

In my department, instead of the, “main idea,” section of the template, we ask for the “purpose” of the text, and the “audience,” both asking for specific textual examples. Last year, I had such an issue with students writing about the purpose and the audience – students were always writing, “for me to learn French.” I realized this year that even though I explained my expectations globally, I had only given individual feedback to students who had the same errors across the board.

This year, I decided that was no more! I used Bill’s template for high/low exemplars to communicate my expectations. (It looks like Bill’s link is broken, but I will share one from the conference here.)

First, I had my students complete an IPA-style set of questions in class. They finished for homework if necessary. The next day, we went through the answers for the key word section, and I told them how many I expect them to get correctly to meet expectations. Then, we looked over the guessing meaning from context section. I explained that as long as they guessed something that was vaguely as many words as the phrase, and they gave a reason that wasn’t, “because I thought so,” I would let them count it as “meeting expectations.” (I gave individual feedback after they turned them in!)

Next, we looked at the purpose section. I told them that a good purpose statement:

  • states an appropriate purpose
  • gives an explanation of the purpose (details)
  • cites evidence from the text

Then, we read two purpose statement that I created (but will replace with student examples for the future!) and completed the feedback grid. We evaluated if the two statements did each of the three things listed above. They also answer those questions about the purpose statements that they wrote for homework.

After they completed the grid, they shared their answers with a partner that they trusted, and talked about why. They also said how their purpose statement fared. We then had a few minutes to revise our purpose statements so I could give students individual feedback.

What did I learn? When we completed our first mini-IPA, students had AMAZING statements and they cited evidence from the text. It was beautifully amazing and I was beaming with pride as I graded them. We were reading 3 different “je me présente” (I present myself) posts to an online forum for teens.

Just look at this one, written by an eighth grader:

What is the purpose of this text? “The purpose of this text is that 3 people are describing themselves on a website, maybe for their followers to get to know them better, or to introduce themselves to a different user.”

How do you know that? Sandy (a user) tells about her interest, like rap music. Whiteberry (a user) introduces herself and tells her age (15). Doriane uses words that describe herself. (unique and tall)

And look at this one, written by a high school student:

What is the purpose of this text? “The purpose of the text was for people to give a description of themselves to others on their profile.”

How do you know that? “I know because the profiles are set up like a social media account and they are giving smalls facts about themselves. One person wrote, “J’adore la musique,” which means “I love music,” so they were describing things that they like to others.

WOW. I am so impressed by these, and excited to see how they go in the future. Next up, we’ll be looking at exemplars of an “audience” statement, because I’m so impressed by the results of this activity.

Resource time:

In case you missed them, or just scrolled past my explanation to look for resources (don’t worry, I’m guilty of this ALL THE TIME,) here they are:

As always, if you have questions or suggestions, I welcome them. I openly admit that writing IPAs is sometimes a struggle for me.

First week reflections 2016

Wow. This year has been amazing and I’ve only been in the classroom for 7 school days!

I wanted to reflect on the pluses and deltas of my first week, as some of you are starting your school year soon, and as a place for me to share what’s going well for me!

Pluses:

Saying the I can statement every day!
Last year, I gleaned some wisdom from Thomas Sauer: it’s okay to plan the 90% TL we use, but it’s also really important to plan the 10% L1 use. While, I’ll admit, my class is not currently 90% TL, I’ve been using the first few minutes to go over the I can each day, and a check up or formative performance assessment each day for students to tell me how they feel about each I can. I think it’s had a really positive effect for my students – they can tell that they’re learning, and they get excited to give me a “I can” rating on their “thumb-ometer” (from a thumbs down to a thumbs up and anywhere in between! I stole this from a friend of mine who teaches middle school – thanks, Jess!) You could also use “fist to five” but I find that the variations on the thumb-ometer are more discrete to share, and tell me more than the difference between 4 and 5.

Saving a reflection space in my planner
Maybe you’ve heard that I prefer paper planning to online planning. I love technology, I am a millennial, and so much of my life is tied to the internet, but planning is NOT, or I scramble each morning to remember what I planned for each day. I have a Plum Paper Planner for the second year and I LOVE it – since I’m teaching 1 prep this year, I saved two boxes for a reflection of the lesson. I give the pluses, minuses, and obvious changes for next year. I love this short reflection each day!

Brain Breaks!
Gosh, I love the brain breaks I’ve been stealing from around the internet. Most of them come from Sara-Elizabeth, but Martina has a great list as well! It’s really nice to reset in the middle of the class before moving on to the next input stage. On a feedback form today, one of my students said he loved the brain breaks because it “relieves him” from one activity to another. Since that’s the point, I am glad that they see it that way.

Primacy/recency
My (short) teaching career has always started with bell ringers. Kids come in, sit down, and start whatever activity I have … orrrrrrrr they try to play games on their MacBook/iPad and tell me that they’ve done the work “in their head.” Since I start the class, there’s no wrangling kids who are trying to play “Slither,” pushing kids to finish quickly, or wondering what to do when 10 kids have finished and 15 haven’t. I will say that I started off terrified of starting the class with input, and I still get a little nervous, but it’s been going really well. I’m excited to expand input with songs and readings soon!
For a breakdown of what I’ve been doing:
(Say I can = no more than 1-2 minutes!) –> input activity –> processing activity –> administrative activity, if necessary –> brain break –> input #2 –> interactive activity/formative PBA

All of my classrooms
If you didn’t know, I teach in 4 buildings this year. I love all of my classrooms, not because of the furniture, infrastructure, or space, but because that’s where my students and I interact. I’m not shy about picking a favorite classroom, though. I have the amazing opportunity to teach in one of the model classrooms at the high school this year and I love every single thing about it. It really starts my day off on an exciting note. (The picture on the blog title is also one of my classrooms; I love it too!)

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Friday feedback
Last year I stole the idea from Allison (who stole from CLC, I think!) to get feedback from students on Fridays … but I never actually got around to implementing it. Such is life! I did it today for the first time, and I loved it. It gave me insight – not just to the popularity of activities (I can usually judge that by the excitement level) but also by the reason why, which is so important. These were two of my favorite examples from today:

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I could give a million more “pluses,” but I will save you the excessive exclamation points (or maybe not?)

Deltas:

Last class
My last class of the day is 15 students. This makes me simultaneously jump for joy and weep. I love the class size, but maaaaaaaaaaan, do we get through everything about 10 minutes faster than my other classes! I’m trying to use my own daily reflection to really make sure that we have the best lesson possible, but I’ve gotta figure out how to have equitable activities in this one!

TL use
I still don’t know how to hit the ground running with starting the year well. You might think that I have it all figured out because of the wild popularity of my 90% TL post last year, but I don’t. I’m still getting my bearings on that, but hope to switch my own TL use to 90% next week.

I guess another delta is that I don’t have more deltas! Whoops. I’m sure I’ll think of some along the way – nothing I do is perfect!

I’d love to hear about what’s working in your class so far this year!

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?