Joli jeudi #9

This is a quick “joli jeudi” post from parent teacher conferences while I don’t have a parent waiting.

Happy things happening this week:

  • Go formative and Class Kick: My tech tools of this week have been GoFormative, for quick formative checks – you can watch student work and give them feedback in the moment – LOVE it for reading and describing, reading and drawing, etc. You can even add other kinds of content – check it out! And I used a similar tool – Class Kick (iPad only) for my middle school students with iPads – works the same way, but students can also “raise their hand” from their device, and you get a notification that they need help – REALLY great for shy students, or those who don’t like raising their hand out loud. You can use screenshots, videos, and audio as questions, and give students instant feedback by drawing or giving stickers and points (my middle schoolers LOVE the stickers) – overall, a great tech week!
  • Nearpod District: Today I got an email that my Nearpod account has been upgraded to the District edition; HOORAY. Can’t wait to utilize this in class à la Sra Spanglish
  • Great parent feedback: I’ve heard a few times this evening, “[my student] loves your class!” and man, that warms my heart and speaks to my soul! I love great parent conferences, and hearing their perspective on their students!

What was great for you this week? I can’t wait to hear about it!

Quoi de neuf?

I was planning a post to update what I’ve been working on in my classes, and of course, Melanie got there first. We’re always on the same wavelength.

Truth is, I’ve been so concerned with this year’s changes, that I haven’t been focusing on the language. Rather than 90% French, we’ve been spending class in 90% English with some French on the side. Over the weekend, something “clicked” and I feel refreshed and energized about speaking the language! I need to engage kids with culture – every day! I need to develop activities that keep kids in the target language!

I watched the Musicuentos Black Box podcast on staying in the TL; and Senor Fernie mentions that we should have a bank of activities with simple directions that so that students know what to do in the TL.

I’ve also noticed that my classroom lacks of mass amount of culture. At the high school, we’re not really supposed to put up posters or other aids, so I’ve been fighting with how to get culture embedded. A million thanks to Kara and Megan over at The Creative Language Class, because I’ve been using all of their tips and tricks to embed culture into the each lesson.

So what exactly AM I doing in class?:

  • Using simple directions, modeling, and cognates to start activities. Sometimes I leave out unnecessary words. Today, prepping for a gallery walk-style activity, I said, “chaque personne, huit post-its,” and said the names of several students: “Mae: huit post-its,” “Erin, 8 post its.” My sentences didn’t have verbs, but we’ll get there. I was overwhelmed by how much students understood in the TL during several activities this week.
  • LEADING with culture! Kara and Megan at CLC have really inspired me to inject culture into every day. With a little help from their ideas, I’ve created a French version of their novice listening form, and of their cultural aspects sheet. You can look out for both of these in their Mercado soon (I’ll let you know when they’re up.) EDIT: 11/3/15 The cultural aspects sheet in French is now up in their Mercado!
  • I’ve started a YouTube playlist of videos that can inject culture into my lessons – I hope to gain a few each week and build up to having one for each day, if possible. They can serve as mini brain breaks, but we can do an activity after watching them twice, which will bring everything together. You can view my YouTube playlist here. This is another inspiration from Kara and Megan – check out all of their posts on using YouTube in class!
  • I’m working on some activities to share soon, so please hold out for a little longer! I’ve decided that I need to stop holding back and share what’s working, even if I don’t think it’s great or innovative. To hold you over, here’s an activity where I’m having students find the names for sports in French. I left the top left blank so that you can give your own directions. Sports tweets

Thanks for bearing with me as I change around what I’m doing around here! What’s going on in your class? I’d love to hear about it!

Sage vs. Coach

I’d like to openly blog about one of the current “hot topics” in education. I, personally and professionally, am an advocate for this topic. I changed schools to one where they’re moving to this type of teaching, and I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of. I’m just not actually very good at it.

The topic, of course, that I’m referring to is the “coaching” of your students, rather than being the “sage on the stage.” I love the idea of not being the only means of instruction for my students, and that they can spend about 10 minutes with me, where we set the tone for the day. Then, they can spend 4/5 of their time working collaboratively or independently, creating things that they couldn’t if I was in the front of the room expecting them to take notes all the time. If I start with my list of pros, I think that this not only makes students responsible for their learning, but also readies them for college, where even if the instruction is direct, a lot of what they’re doing will be in groups or independent of class time. I also think that this goes hand-in-hand with TL use. If I set the tone or teach a mini-lesson in the TL, they can work on that skill, also in the TL, and we’ve hit 80 or 90% without it all coming from me. I can survey the room, help individual students, and really coach them through the process without having all the answers.

The cons here are threefold: 1) I do not set up perfectly great activities (shocking, I know), 2) I don’t know what structures and words students need to know to do all of this effectively in the TL, and 3) Students need input before they can produce output; where is this coming from, if I’m only spending 10 minutes with them? I will borderline blaspheme here and say that I would probably be really great at this if I taught my subject in all English. If I were an English, math, science, or history teacher, I think that I could ace it. But trying to teach students IN the language and not ABOUT the language leaves me floundering at the ways to do this effectively, especially with level 1.

Actually, if I were to pinpoint the problem here, it’s that my activities are rarely up to snuff. With my 10 minutes, I can introduce something new, personalize it for students, circle (though not in the true TPRS form, so I’ll say instead:) question students individually for them to get more input, but then I send them off on their own to … do what? Tell each other that they have green eyes? Say that they like to watch Netflix everyday? Ask a new partner their age? This isn’t what I had in mind when I imagined students creating, collaborating, and using the TL. So, what gives? How do I get students (in levels one and two) doing all of the wonderful things I’ve heard about via the internet? Does it stem from bad curriculum? Awful lessons? My general inexperience?

The truth is, I don’t know. And I’ve come to grips with the fact that it’s a journey, and it takes time, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting results now. At this point in my very short teaching career, I’m still “borrowing” ideas from others just to make it through a week or to extend a concept. The times when I can create something innovative and collaborative is actually pretty rare.

Here’s what I’ve had students do this year that kept us in the TL without me being the sole source of input, allowing me to coach them if needed:

  • Greetings: this year with greetings, I printed off the “small flashcards” from a set on Quizlet, made copies, and handed them out to students. I taught groups of students how to say their particular greeting or goodbye, and then set them up in two circles depending on if they had a goodbye or greeting. They greeted/goodbye-d their partner while holding out the paper with the French/English on it. This way, students could read the English for themselves without saying it. We went around, and then after a few rotations, we taught our partner how to say our phrase and switched papers with them. Verdict: my students actually learned multiple hellos and goodbyes better than every before. This activity is a keeper for me.
  • Numbers: #sorrynotsorry, but I HATE teaching numbers, especially with no context. NO ONE COUNTS STUFF IN THE TL WITH THEIR FRIENDS. I really think that students need to right them and decide how numbers sound FOR them. Doing this as a whole class is a terrible activity. This year, I had students listen to a youtube video where a woman said the number, the spelling appeared on screen, and I had them write down the spelling AND what it sounded like. Since they were watching a video, they could stop, pause, listen again, and count with her if needed. Then, when we began to USE those numbers (phone numbers, mostly,) students had enough input to really feel comfortable saying them. Verdict: We did this 3 times, with numbers up to 40. Students really seemed to grasp numbers, and we practiced a lot together, listening to ourselves and others – I will definitely keep doing this activity.
  • Screencast: For “flipped” homework, I had students watch a video that reviewed likes and questions from level one. They came the next day to class, where they put the knowledge into practice. Verdict: I was at PD on the day that they “came back” to class, and a lot of students did the subsequent activities in English 😦 — next time I will make sure to be there on the “deepening understanding” day.
  • Vocabulary building: On the first day of my “who am I?” unit in level 1, some students had a few activities to finish from the old unit first. As a self-paced lesson, I had students look at a word cloud of description words [most are cognates – thanks for the wonderful idea, Bethanie (PS, check out her big boy sheet for descriptions!)] and highlight words that described them, a good friend, and a bad friend. Then, I gave each student a slip of paper with a new vocabulary word and a number. The number was associated with a communal Google slide, where students put their word and a picture of their word. I used this Slide presentation to introduce the new vocabulary, and students got really excited to see their slide! Verdict: love everything about this. Will do for multiple units in the future.
  • Stations: We’re on a building wide goal in my school to include stations (station rotation) at least once a week by the end of the school year. This, to me, seems a little excessive, but I will do it because I see the value in it, even if I do a TON of work for them. I’ve been following the Creative language class template of stations – where is station is a mode. I usually also include a “teacher” station where small groups speak the TL with me in some way – really gives me a snapshot of what students know and can do. Verdict: I need more practice with these, but overall, I see the benefit for students to be actively hitting all modes in one class.

For me, it’s not actually all about giving up control. I’d be fine giving up the control if I knew what to do for my students to stay in the TL and produce good stuff.

What do you do to be a coach instead of a sage? What do you think of the practices? I’d love to hear your suggestions, advice, successes, failures, and anything else you’d love to share.

Joli jeudi #8

Even though my Thursday was too jam-packed to post, it’s been another great week here! This is the great stuff that happened this week:

  • Test proctoring: I know that this seems like a weird thing to include in my list of positives, but I was able to spend that time making short lists (while actively monitoring, don’t worry!), spend a large chunk of time without my device (I need more opportunities like this. Seriously, it was GREAT), and think about lessons.
  • Being caught up: For the first time in my teaching career (this year, two full years, and student teaching) I am CAUGHT UP ON GRADING and the quarter ends next week! I’ve got a few kids to hunt down for retakes, but other than that, I’m doing well. This helped me breathe easier during the test I proctored; I didn’t feel like I was wasting time that I could be grading, etc.
  • A long weekend: Fall is the best time for long weekends. So crisp, so great. I’m hoping to comb through the #TFLA15, #ICTFL15, and #TCIMAINE15 tweets to inspire myself this weekend!
  • Staff camaraderie: The middle schools in our district are participating in a staff softball tournament next week and one of the middle schools practiced today. I usually don’t participate in staff things, but I’m definitely trying to be more visible this year.
  • French exchange student: We have an exchange student from France at the high school this year, and at French Club, she talked to us about her life, discounted stereotypes (and confirmed a few) of France/the French, and answered any questions that our students had. She was super excited and we were happy to have her!

What’s going on for you this week?

Joli jeudi #6 and #7

Whew. Has it been a week. Last week I dropped the ball on joli jeudi, but have no fear! I did have quite the joli week, I was just a little too busy to blog about it. I’ll make up for that here.

This week has been a rough one – DEVOLSON (if you don’t know what that is, read about it here — it’s a real problem!) has hit and I’ve been struggling to stay positive. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing positive about it, though!

  • Spirit week: It’s homecoming week at the high school this week, and in addition to wearing jeans, that mean that I got to: represent my university, wear tie dye (my preferred kind of shirt, btw), come to school in one of my husband’s flannels, and tomorrow is my first pep rally at new school. A lot of fun there; students think I’m crazy, but I love dressing up.
  • Fall themed beverages: no matter your preference of pumpkin or not, tea or coffee, we can all agree that fall themed beverages are clearly some of the best out there.
  • Wonderful colleagues: Whether at school or on twitter, colleagues have come rushing to my aide this week and I really appreciate the help and support. One day, I hope to get the chance to help you all in the same way.
  • My students: no matter what kind of day I’m having, my students pick up on that. They’ve really been supportive this week, when I haven’t been at my best, and I really appreciate them for that.
  • Technology: This year I’m pushing myself to give up some control and not be the “sage on the stage.” It’s a tough endeavor, but I could not be more thankful that my students have devices – it helps me get and keep students working at their pace, which I think has helped a lot!

I’d love to hear about how you’re combatting DEVOLSON, and any positivity that you have this week!