My infographic syllabus!

I know that it’s the beginning of the summer (though July is right around the corner!) and that I should be “relaxing,” but with my new school, moving later this summer, and iFLT in mid-July, I’ve got to get some of the ground work for my classes laid now!

That being said, I jumped on the bandwagon and made an infographic syllabus! Technically, I made an infographic syllabus last year, but I included waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much text on it to have its full appeal. I basically took paragraphs and put them on a colorful background. This is only half of it – it wouldn’t fit on one sheet of paper on its own! It was an okay first attempt:

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Just look at all that text!

Anyway, this year I got a lot of my inspiration from Laura’s interactive infographic syllabus. I’m excited about this because this year, my students will actually be able to interact with the syllabus, as each student will have their own device for use in class.

I made my syllabus with piktochart, a service that lets you create your own infographics, and has a few free templates for you if you’re not an amazing designer. I use the free service, because that works for me, but I do like the look and features of their paid services as well. I will eventually be going the same route as Laura and using ThingLink to make my syllabus interactive, but there’s a few things I’m hoping to solidify before I go through the work to make my first draft interactive, like “will I have a classroom next year?”

I’m excited to share my syllabus with you, and look out a little later in the summer for my interactive version, which I can’t wait to (make and) share with you as well.

This year, I used the same template as last year, updated the colors from my favorites to my new school’s colors, and ditched a lot of the text. Eventually, when I make it interactive, I will have links to the ACTFL proficiency levels, my twitter and instagram teacher accounts, a description for my class materials, and a link to take students to a rubric for the standards-based grading that I will do. There will probably be a few other links than that, but those are the keys I would like to include.

French 1 Syllabus (2)

You should be able to click the image to get a bigger picture. You can also view my syllabus here

What do you think? What is difficult for you to see or understand? Is there something that you think that I should add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Fearless, step 4: Just go for it

Did you forget about my #oneword2015: fearless? To be honest, I almost did.

If you haven’t gathered based on my last several posts, I am moving school districts for the 2015-2016 and I’m really excited about it. I am very sad to leave my students, but really excited about where this opportunity takes my career and my family. This was a definite #fearless choice because I love my students with all of my heart, but knew on the inside that my (old) school was not the place I could spend any more of my teaching career.

That brings me to my new #fearless steps and excitement about new possibilities:

1. #deptofTWO

One of the things that I most excited about is having a second French teacher in the department. We only overlap in teaching one level, but it will still be wonderful to have her insight, ideas, and experience on my side. It seems that we have a similar style, though she is a much more seasoned teacher than I am. With that comes my anxiety that I now get to fuel kids and prep them with the foundation to have someone else as a teacher, who may expect different things. When you’re a #deptofone, you can get by with missing out on a few things because you’ll be teaching these level one students next year, the year after that … and the year after that. Now I have the weight of making sure I get these kids through what matters so they don’t suffer later on. I know this is how normal teachers do it, but still … scary.

2. First year of technology integration

I’m also SO excited about my new school’s 1:1 technology integration and their commitment to blended learning for next year. My high school students will each have a Macbook Air, and my middle school students will each have an iPad. There’s a district version of Schoology, I hear through the grapevine that we’re getting PearDeck, and I’ll have a Mac as my school computer (I love technology, but I really don’t like PCs – bring on the Mac jokes, I can handle them)! This is the real first year of the 1:1 rollout, at least at the high school level, so I couldn’t have found a better time to merge; I won’t be the only one trying, failing, and retrying tech integration this year!

3. Two preps

The next thing that I’m excited about is less preps. Though I’m happy to have experience teaching 4 levels, I’m definitely okay with moving down to two next year … Might I have … free time?! Probably not, with all of that new-fangled technology. But it’s nice to dream.

always thought that I was an AP French teacher. I imagined myself teaching students to write persuasive essays, speaking in complete French, telling jokes that students understood, etc. I remember on my first day of teaching, I determined that I severely disliked French two, French one wasn’t my style, and that French three was clearly my favorite. Two years later, French two may be my favorite, and as long as I can get a handle on speaking 90% TL with them, I also like French one a whole bunch. I’ve actually done a frighteningly bad job with French three and AP French, but then again, I’m my own biggest critic.

4. #Cartlife

As of right now, I don’t have a classroom to call my own next year. I don’t know if that situation will change, but I am assuming that I will be a cart teacher. I will also be traveling to two of the district’s middle schools, a change that I was originally not very excited about. “What are you thinking?!” has run through my head a few times, and potentially yours as you read this, so I will share my positives with you:

I am extremely organized, so cart teaching doesn’t intimidate me. If anything, it forces me to be more prepared so I’m not running around like a crazy person at 7 AM. With less preps, I think that I can handle both a mobile classroom and changing schools. And let’s face it … how many days out of the last two school years (approximately 360 days) have I seen the outside during daylight hours, gotten fresh air during the day, or had the potential to grab a coffee pick-me-up one those particularly rough days? Three, if I’m counting exam days and being lenient on the others? For these reasons, I am very excited about the change. I was initially worried that I was giving up my program, students, and presence in my school to be the teacher version of an intern (coffee runs, anyone?) but I am so excited about these new challenges and can’t wait to share them with you.

I can say, that of all the decisions I’ve made, this is the one that makes me the most hopeful for the future, both personally and professionally. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences and resources with you!

What about you? Are you changing schools, styles or practices for the next school year? I’d love to hear about them, or to hear about your experiences travelling between schools or on a cart.

Yearlong reflection

I’ve been gearing up to write a reflection of this school year, but every time I sit down to think about it, this year is just a jumbled mess in my head.

Things that went well:

Teaching style: This year, I ditched the textbook in favor of a mashup of both Jefferson County and Shelby County‘s curricula. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with 4 levels, so following this was really nice. It was nice to have an end assessment in mind, even if I tweaked it. Most days, I also wished they had actual activities, but that’s a definite pipe dream. I think that the units were interesting, relevant, and generally engaging topics for my students.

Quasi proficiency-based: I didn’t get the integration of this that I would have liked, but I definitely liked trying to incorporate this system. Next year, I need to make sure students know what all the levels are, their goal, and where they currently are. I definitely didn’t mention this as much as I should have, or make sure that students knew its importance. I think that next year I’m going to start with Shelby County’s proficiency pre-unit, or something similar.

Not grading everything: Oh. my. goodness. Do you know how wonderful it is to give students practice that’s not graded? Something that will propel them into the next benchmark/assessment without needed to grade each and every one of them?! It’s amazing. That being said, I need to streamline the feedback for these assessments and be honest with students. Many only wanted to know, “is this for points?” and I need to work on changing those mindsets. For feedback, I’m hoping to use some “stock” feedback that I can check; I hope to reinterpret Amy Lenord’s plus/delta speaking feedback.

Input: This year, I really realized how crucial the input step is. There is one unit in particular where I modeled the vocabulary for students every single day for two weeks and I think it’s the vocabulary they remember the most. They can write it, they understand it when they hear it, they can speak it, and they can interpret it when reading. Next year, I need to find more ways to give written input; I think I’ve got more ideas for oral input, but need to expand what students read.

Things that I need to change:

Feedback: This year I was awful at both a) giving timely feedback and b) giving the right kinds of feedback. Like I said above, I’m hoping to design a feedback form that helps with this kind of thing, and a general rubric (probably several) that I can use that will help me give feedback fast(er).

Refining all skills: In changing my teaching style this year, I concentrated on the speaking and writing (the first two parts I think of when I think proficiency) and I’m the first to admit that the reading and listening portions of my class suffered. I attribute some of this to not having a bank of activities, to being young, and to teaching four levels, but I’m hoping to get more listening and reading activities for next year. I’m hoping to (eventually; I know this one will take time) incorporate a system like Sara-Elizabeth does, where each day is dedicated to a specific mode of communication. That way, I won’t find myself freaking out that it’s been two weeks since we did an interpretive listening activity.

Technology integration: I tried to incorporate technology as much as I could last year, but there were so many limitations that I ran into? We needed Chrome to use this site; I could access a site on my school computer, but it was blocked for students; I tested a site and it worked, but couldn’t handle 24 students accessing it at a time. This year was a mess. There was one situation where I made a listening assessment, the site didn’t work for students, and I had a backup plan (go me!) — and that site didn’t work either. For those students that got it to work, great, but someone had taken all of the headphones (there were 3 pairs out of 30) from the library, so they couldn’t listen even if the site did work. It was my biggest failure this year and next year I need to test more and have better back-up plans.

There are definitely more things that I could put in both columns, but I’m trying to stick to the positives and only a few things that I need to change. I can’t take on the world in a day, that’s one of the ways I hit a bout of burnout last year.

That being said, I want to shout out a few things: I recently celebrated my one year blog anniversary, and my one year dedicated to becoming a better teacher with #langchat on twitter. I wouldn’t be the teacher or the professional I am today without the help and support of #langchat, and there are quite a few teachers I want to thank. I could say a million words of thanks to you all, but I’ll try to keep it short:

Sara-Elizabeth: Thank you for revolutionizing everything I thought I knew, and for being so helpful and supportive in my a journey

Amy: Thanks so much for sharing all that you do and for truly coaching me through your blog and your tweets

Allison: Thank you for sharing your ups and down and reminding us young teachers that even the greats have hard days; I’m inspired by your journey

Laura: Thanks for sharing, caring, and the #blogpostsporfavor. You challenge my thinking in a respectful way, even when I am clearly wrong

Colleen: Thanks for making me feel like wonderful teacher, even on the toughest days, and for inspiring me by your wonderful activities

John: Thanks for all of the collaboration we did this year, and thanks for putting up with my constant tweets and terrible jokes

Lisa: Thank you for your transparency in changing your teaching. not only are you honest about the time that it took you, but you share so much and I can’t tell you how much I respect and admire that

Bethanie: Oh my goodness, thank you so much for sharing everything that you have with me. I would have been lost this year without the ideas and activities that you share and I’m so grateful for that

Melanie: Thanks for your fresh ideas and letting me ask you tons of questions/stealing your blog post ideas. The four prep solidarity was much appreciated

Kirsten: Thanks so much for all of your help and support, in front and behind the scenes, and I’m looking forward to working with you next year!

More changes coming soon – can’t wait to share them with you!

An open letter to my students

(To readers of my blog, this is a letter than I needed to write to my students. We had a very special bond over the last two years and I realize that I may sound like I’m exaggerating how much they liked me as a teacher. I realize that teachers come and go, but I promise that students like this might not.)

To my amazing, wonderful, ridiculous students,

I think that most of you have heard a rumor that I’m leaving FHS. Unfortunately, that rumor is true. I should have told you by the end of the school year, but I made a selfish choice to wait. I couldn’t look into all of your faces and tell you that I wasn’t coming back because I knew that it would disappoint you.

I want to be clear that if there was one solid, concrete reason that I didn’t want to leave, it was because of you all. But a lot of things happened behind the scenes this year that made my decision for me. I didn’t want next year’s AP students to have three different French teachers in four years. I didn’t want to leave before next year’s junior class graduated. But that’s the way that it had to be, and I wish I could express that in a better way.

I didn’t tell you before I left, not only because it was tough, but also because I want you to continue on with French. I don’t want you to stop just because I’m not there, and I don’t want you to give up because you think it won’t be the same. I want you to remember your excitement and enthusiasm for taking French. Teachers come and go, but I hope that I caused at least a few of you to really love the language itself. Past the “quelle tristesse,” the “oh la la,” and the “zut, zut, et zut” I know that you all really have a gift in learning French and that taking it next year can be as fun as you imagine it to be.

Although I am truly sad to be leaving you all, it’s the best move for me. But I want to leave you with the memories that I have, the times that shaped my career as a teacher, and the moments I will never forget, not in a million years.

I remember …

  • Day one of my first year, when I was so intimidated and everyone wanted me to promise a million fêtes for that year
  • Breaking your hearts when I told you no one says “zut, zut, et zut!” in real life
  • Breaking your hearts a second time when I told you no one says “je regrette” either
  • Doing ridiculous textbook exercises and making fun of the art (polygon feet, anyone?)
  • Yelling at the PA when it interrupted me several times in one day
  • The clock song
  • Making the “My favorite’s gouda” motion from She’s the Man every time I wanted to make a point
  • And even sometimes when I didn’t make a point
  • The time that Pierre got a random drug test and he never lived it down
  • The time we played sports with my clipboard because someone asked me, “are we doing something FUN today?”
  • Nicolas and his cat cutouts
  • Bell ringers
  • Andy being the “two liter guy” for fêtes
  • Falling on the floor in mock tears when someone (Madeleine!) denied that “Je suis hyper cool.”
  • The time we contemplated for about 15 minutes what it would be like to drink “jus de pomme de terre”
  • Sitting on the floor in protest of someone talking
  • The time I moved the desks into diagonal rows and everyone told me that this was so different from old Madame’s room
  • The first time we played Kahoot and the music alone nearly caused a few heart attacks
  • The first time you realized that I wouldn’t quiz you on pointless stuff that we didn’t learn
  • Letting you all think that you were “derailing” or “distracting” me when we “aired our grievances.” Really, I could just tell when you all were upset about something and needed to talk it out
  • The day that Zayn left One Direction and how it sucked the life out of some of my classes (I’m only slightly ashamed to include that one)
  • The art analysis speaking test where my French IIIs freaked out about something we had practiced for three weeks in class.
  • The tram-osaurus and related jokes
  • Using Oprah as a scapegoat any time there was a knock at the door
  • Letting Odette cut the strings off of my skirts because she’d freak out if I didn’t
  • Messing up Leon and Lyon when I was making a point for you not to
  • Speaking in a “country” French accent because someone dared me to
  • Publicly making André feel bad when he didn’t sign up for French III … you know I only did it because you were a good sport
  • When Croissant changed his French name to Croissant … and no one can remember what his original French name was
  • The time you tried to convince me to call Jacques “Jacques dos”
  • How many times a day I heard “hola” in response to “BONJOUR!!”
  • How many times a day I heard “oui” or “eh” in response to “ça va?”
  • The times I really saw French clicking in some of your heads; a lot of you wrote me really excellent stuff this year when you stopped freaking out about spelling
  • All of the motions to the body parts that my French IIs learned this year
  • Doing the crab dance
  • Four corners becoming my French Is favorite activity ever
  • Every time someone called an assessment “easy,” as if I would get any enjoyment out of it being the hardest and all of you tanking it
  • Donut day
  • Any time you all took an exam and were astounded that all the stuff from the study guide was on it
  • Days upon days of yelling when someone forgot that their snack had peanuts in it and ate it anyway
  • Those two times that I spilled my coffee in front of the same group of French IIs
  • When we played the super nintendo after the exam
  • Mini rock paper scissors tournaments that you thought were a waste of time, but really gave you a much needed break
  • The wonderful notes, gifts, and hugs that I received over the past two years
  • Every time someone told me that I was their favorite teacher and I had to hold back tears
  • The way some of you were surprised or caught off guard that I was speaking French the whole time during class and you didn’t even notice

Believe me, there are so many more memories that I could add to this list, but please know that I loved being your teacher, and I’m so sad to be leaving you all. If you need anything from me, ever, please let me know and I will be happy to help you in any way that I can.

Once more, please don’t stop taking French just because you’re sad that I’m gone. When I was in high school, I had one French teacher my freshman year, then a really amazing French teacher the two years after that. Then she had to leave. My senior year I was so upset that I didn’t take French at all (AP students, are you listening?!) and it’s a choice that I still regret making to this day. Don’t remember French class because of Madame, but remember how much fun it was and how much you actually know. I believe that all of you will do so well in the coming years, and I would hate to know that so much of your talent would go to waste.

There were a lot of things I wish I could have changed about the last two years, but having you as students was definitely not one of them. I hope that you understand why I made the choice I made.

Au revoir,
Madame

Summer Plans

Whew. This school year has been a heck of a ride. I’ve struggled with lots of things, like burnout, and had some major successes, like hitting 90%+ with my level twos, without them really even realizing it. The year has been full of ups and downs, but I’m really hoping to reenergize and revamp this summer. That includes sharing some things with you on the blog this summer, which I definitely neglected during the stressful parts of the year.

But along with resting, I’ve got a few goals in mind for the summer (inspired by Allison and Melanie’s goals):

Professional:

  • Have a blast at iFLT 15, learning, growing, and sharing with some great people
  • Blog more often, 1-2 times a week, if I can
  • Get intimately acquainted with the I-can statements from ACTFL
  • Develop my units a little bit more – this year was crazy without the textbook and there are things that I’d like to do better
  • Familiarize myself with new technology to use in the classroom, like Explain Everything! and PearDeck or Nearpod (which do you prefer?)
  • Find more #authres that can be integrated into my specifically novice level classes, and more importantly, design great activities to go with them, à la Lisa Shepard and Amy Lenord.
  • Read through the TPRS novels I got at OFLA and pick some I like, maybe to incorporate, if I can
  • Reorganize
  • Purge!!! Hard copies I’ve never reused, bookmarks I never read, random things that as a teacher, I have a tendency to hoard …

Personal:

  • RELAX. I am notoriously bad at relaxing. If you don’t believe this, ask my husband.
  • Pack up/purge my apartment; it’s too small and we have to upgrade
  • Read at least 5 books for fun
  • Start exercising again, like running and yoga
  • Do some serious cooking, baking, and prepping for next school year

I’ll refrain from the rest of my crazy personal goals, but that’s what I want to start with this summer.

What are your summer goals?