First week plans: a tentative look

I guess I’m going to jump on the bandwagon here and share my plans for the first week of school. At my school, we’ll be starting on a Thursday, with the first week being only 2 days. I plan to do some fun beginning of the year type activities on those first two days and then use the next week to introduce my students to proficiency. Here’s what I’m thinking for level 1, with obvious room for crazy first week modifications:

Thursday (first day of school):

  • Assigned seating for Ss, having them make name cards for use during the year.
  • Introductions: I’ll be modeling “Je m’appelle Madame, comment tu t’appelles?” all the way around the room, with potential time for a competition if possible.
  • Stations?: I’d love to do some kind of stations on these first two days, but I will be the first to admit that I’m TERRIBLE with stations. Hopefully all Ss will have their devices (laptop or iPad) by these days. My ideas on stations are:
    • 1) A “webquest” where students view my interactive syllabus (and maybe answer some questions?)
    • 2) Instagram – I’m thinking of having students use their devices to upload an Instagram picture with a frame, à la Sra. Wienhold. Not sure where to upload them to, or what else to have at this station. Maybe I could have the kids follow me on instagram here too.
    • 3) Creating a French class twitter account, and following celebrities that they know and might not know, and my class twitter account; I’m also thinking of taking suggestions for a class hashtag
    • 4) App download: there are a few apps that I want students to have on their devices, and I know it might take a little bit of time, so I’m thinking this could work well as a station. If they don’t finish, I plan on having a list of apps that I want accessible. For my HS Ss with laptops, they’ll be signing up for a few accounts.
    • 5) Student info surveys – I plan on having these up on Google Forms, à la Sra. Stilson

Friday (second day of school) — still up in the air

  • Introductions, again: last year I used this likes and names activity by Creative Language Class and I think that it went really well
  • Intro to Madame: I’m not sure yet if I’ll create a Prezi, like Sra. Wienhold, or have students ask me any questions that they have. Last year, I had students ask me the same questions that were on their student info surveys
  • Stations: I’d love to continue stations today, maybe adding one if necessary?

Monday (third day of school)

  • Review introductions and likes
  • Introduce proficiency levels – Taco sheet from Musicuentos, maybe with Creative Language Class cards … I want to split students into groups with a proficiency level, and have them describe a movie together to the rest of the class.
  • I’d like groups of students to define what proficiency means to them, but need a better framework to make it happen – maybe I’ll show them the bicycle analogy (by Laura Sexton, who borrowed from Srta. Barragán, who borrowed from Martina Bex and Kelly Daugherty) and have them create their own (examples: walking to marathon running, playing guitar chords to playing crazy guitar solos?)

Tuesday (fourth day of school)

  • Proficiency matching: I’d like to take the movie descriptions that all of my classes made yesterday, and have students work in groups or pairs to match them with the correct prof. level and guess what movie it was. I’d love an online platform for this, so that I don’t have to print and cut a million descriptions. Do you have any suggestions?
  • Need another activity here; still not sure

Wednesday (fifth day of school)

  • Proficiency videos: I plan on using ACTFL’s English videos with either EdPuzzle or EduCanon to give students an interactive way to watch the videos and understand what the speakers are trying to communicate. I hope to not only have pop up questions, but also have students guess the proficiency level that each speaker is.
  • Goal setting for 1st semester: where do students hope to be by the end of first semester? How can I help them get there? How can our class help them get there? What will they do to get there?

From there, I think that I’ll start with real content, maybe I’ll do some work with cognates first? I’m not entirely sure, as everything is a work in progress, and will be until I meet my Ss and decide what’s working and not working for them! Keep checking for updates to this page as I solidify ideas!

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iFLT 15 overview

I have to start off with a bit of “reader discretion advised:” I’m not a solid believer in all of the logistics of TPRS. I think that as a method, it has pros and cons, and I went to this conference not being a “believer” in all of it. From explicit translation to an overabundance of PQA, I find myself in the same camp that Sara-Elizabeth was in last year in her “what I hate about TPRS” post. I also agree with what she says in its partner post, “what I love about TPRS.” I also think that it’s important to read Carol Gaab’s rebuttal to those posts.

Now that I’ve asked you to read three blog posts before finishing mine, I’d like to give an overview of my time at iFLT 15, organized by Carol Gaab and Grant Boulanger and sponsored by TPRS publishing.

WOW. This conference was the most amazing thing that I’ve done in my (short) teaching career. Here’s why:

1. Everyone was CI-centered. Whether participants were new to TPRS, old friends, or not so sure that TPRS was the way they wanted to go (it wasn’t just me!), everyone was on board with CI. That’s so amazing to me, as at previous conferences, or with colleagues, they want to make a list of “reasons this wouldn’t work for me.” Instead, participants were eager to hear about strategies they could put to use in their classrooms ASAP, and no one seemed to be there as a burden or obligation to a school.

2. Hands-on learning. What I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m actually a really good kinesthetic learner. I learn routes by driving them, I learn routines by practicing them, and I learned things in school by doing gestures (I still need the gestures I learned in 6th grade to tell the difference between longitude and latitude!) Couple that with me saying it out loud, and I will remember it forever. At IFLT, the beginning teachers were paired with language coaches to help you through things like storyasking, circling, and PQA. That practice was invaluable to me, as someone who just needs to get up and try things out.

3. Learning from the experts. In the mornings, we got a chance to watch really great TPRS teachers teach not us, but actual students. Some of them were brand new to language, but I also got to see relationships between Grant Boulanger and his Spanish 2s who he already knew. I was ridiculously impressed with both the amount that students learned if they were new, and the relationships that TPRS forged while still using the target language.

4. The networking was insane. Sometimes, 300 teachers at a conference can be rather trying, but the amount of teachers who were excited, positive, and ready to learn was overwhelming. It was great to talk to people from all over at various stages in their careers (w/ and w/o TPRS), and to network with the big names. I got to finally meet Kristy Placido, missed out on meeting Martina Bex and Stephen Krashen, also got to talk with Grant Boulanger, Bryce Hedstrom, Ben Slavic, Diana Noonan, and was excited to continue growing and learning with Carrie Toth and Carol Gaab.

5. I learned RUSSIAN. In the beginning session, we had a demo of Russian each day, and I left the conference confident in my ability to retell the story we had worked with. IN RUSSIAN. That was the biggest “wow” factor for me, where I was really confident that TPRS works, and I was so excited to share with my friends and family that I could understand Russian – this is what real students will feel like too, if we make the language accessible, fun, and exciting for them! I can’t explain enough how much that improved my view of TPRS.

My last takeaway is that I loved sharing via twitter. There were not many people tweeting at IFLT, and I guess I felt like I needed to pick up the slack. If you follow me on twitter, you might have even called my tweets “excessive.” But, by tweeting all of my conference notes, I could connect with everyone who missed out on a session to attend a different one, AND with people at home who couldn’t make it to IFLT. When I started teaching, no one shared with me. I felt alone, and was tired of reinventing wheels that I knew others had already invented. So, by sharing the learning at IFLT, I was excited to connect others with the learning I was doing. By the end of the conference, people recognized me as “the girl from twitter” and a couple people said, “Wendy, right?” or “Is this you?” while holding up my twitter profile on their device. I’m glad that I could connect so many people to the learning, and we found that few people were tweeting because not a whole lot of them were ON twitter. I’m hoping to see a ton more #langchat faces this fall.

So that’s my quick overview of #IFLT15, where I learned that TPRS is not explicit translation, like I thought that it was, and I learned about the real power of stories, reading, and caring learning environments. I’ll be posting again soon about the sessions I attended, too.

Two rivets for change

Have you ever heard of the two rivet rule? I hadn’t until recently during a devotional that I had been reading, and I think that the idea is fascinating.

Apparently, when the Golden Gate Bridge was built in San Francisco, the engineers thought that it would withstand earthquakes. Unfortunately, that was a lofty dream, with the bridge being so close to the San Andreas Fault line. Eventually, the bridge needed to be retro-fitted to withstand earthquakes, and the task needed to be completed with the bridge still functional. I can’t imagine the daunting task of changing a bridge while it was still a main source of transportation. So, they put in place something called the “two rivet rule,” where they decided that in order for the bridge to be used during this process, only two of the 1,000,000+ rivets that were in the structure could be removed at a time.

Imagine the time it took to change this
Imagine the time it took to change this …
Now, the idea of this has sparked a lot of people to think about what that means for change. Most blogs and articles I’ve read that talk about this process recommend that we follow the “two rivet rule” when making change in our own lives. Sure, you could take a look at your life (or specifically your teaching life) and decide that x, y, and z (and maybe a whole lot more) need to change to make you a better teacher. But in order to not fall apart, cause chaos, or burn out, two changes at one time is plenty. And think of how much faster you can get to the other changes that you want to make if you’re not buried under the rubble that 16 changes have caused in your life or classroom. The moral is that life goes on when changes are being made. You can’t halt all other progress just because you want to overhaul something in your life or classroom. 

That being said, there are a lot of things that I want to change to become a better teacher. But as last year and a lot of advice from great teachers taught me, you can’t take on everything at once. So this year, with so many changes involving location, classes, schools, etc. I’ve decided to tackle only two changes at the start of my school year. Once those two changes have become ingrained into my teaching and my classroom, then I’ll tackle a few others that are on the eventual list.

My two changes for this school year are:

1. Standards-based grading with a focus on proficiency. This is a policy that the other French teacher in my department uses, and for consistency and a focus on growth for my students, I’ll be taking on this same (or a similar) grading scale.

2. Meaningful and timely feedback for students. This is one that I’ve decided on after changing out with a few other hopeful changes. But, at the beginning of the year, it’s so much easier to stay on top of feedback and “grading” because I’m not weighed down by … well … other feedback and grading that I haven’t given yet. If I can start out strong at the beginning of the year, I hope that this will create a habit that I can continue, while making other, harder or more intensive changes later on in the year.

What changes are you hoping for this school year? Are you looking at two or more? I’d love to hear your thoughts.