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.


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?

First week plans 2016

As I sit down after my first two days of school, I find myself wondering how it got here so darn FAST. I feel like it was June yesterday … anyone else? I also planned on sharing my first week plans long before it was actually the week that I started. Such is life, I suppose!

I go into this post on my first plans, thinking about how the research says that you end up being a mix of the 5 people you spend time with the most. I can totally see that I am a mix of all of my favorite world language teachers/bloggers, so I really cannot credit a lot of these ideas as my own.

As a note, I’m only teaching level 1 this year, so these plans are for them!

Thursday, August 18th: (French music ALWAYS playing in the background)

  • Students come in, I greet each person at the door. I will assign seating for this first day; I think it’s important to give students this kind of structure on day one.
  • I think what Sara-Elizabeth posted about the first day story – letting kids see what they can understand on day one is SO CRUCIAL. I’m starting off with this this year. I plan on kids writing a few things they understood on a sticky and posting it for everyone to see.
  • I plan on doing my first days administrative stations from last year. This year’s stations include: syllabus hunt, student info sheets, crepe talk with questions, choosing French names/making namecards, and getting to know each other. As a high school with three feeder middle schools, I think it’s so important to get kids talking to each other as soon as possible. As for French names, I will direct students to listen to the names of their choice on Hear Names – have you heard of it? It’s names pronounced by a native speaker of the language, and I’m in LOVE. That way, I don’t have to pronounce every name, or worry that I’m doing it wrong (am I the only one who feels that way?!)

Friday, August 19th

  • I anticipate that we’ll only have time for 1-2 stations the first day, so I plan on finishing the other 3 today.

Monday, August 22nd

  • Today I’m planning an intro to me. I want the kids to have a second chance (or first, if they missed the first day) to get the comprehension feeling. I’ll have them fill out a quick formative assessments: 3 things I did that helped them understand, 2 things they understood about me, 1 question that they still have.
  • Then, we’ll introduce ourselves around the room, and say something that we like!
  • I plan on getting into proficiency again this day, reviewing the levels and having kids describe school like this. We’ll set our own language goals on the proficiency path, too!

Tuesday, August 23rd

  • Today we’ll start again with names and likes, and I’ll try to make sure everyone gets to know other people’s names (I think this is so important!) I’ll go around, adding in the “il/elle s’appelle” distinction, and giving several options to keep kids on their toes!
  • I’ll probably give a little processing time where kids listen to a few audio samples. At this stage, I imagine it will be something like, “true or false: this person gave their name.”
  • Since this is the second day, I’ll have students tell their name to a few partners and ask “et toi?” as a performance assessment at the end!

Wednesday, August 24th-Friday, August 26th 

  • In Ohio, we do a version of student growth measures that require us to do a pre-test and give the same test as a post-test to measure growth. I’ll be giving my pre-test these days, and I’ve allotted 3 since I need to do a listening, reading, writing, and speaking section. I expect that most of my students will leave the listening, reading, and writing sections blank, but I do need to interview each student individually, even if they can’t respond. This is always such an awkward down-time for students, but I don’t want to cut the speaking portion to make it less awkward at the beginning of the year.
  • While I’m finishing interviews, I plan on doing an activity with cognates, again à la Creative Language Class!

There you go, my first week and a half of class. The fun stuff starts after this!

Logistics: Manie Musicale

So, I’ve had a few people ask me how my #maniemusicale2o16 is going now that I’m actually into the fray.

The answer: pretty much as I expected, but we’re behind by about a day, maybe two from my original estimation. Here’s what I’ve been doing each day:

Round 1: The Sweet Sixteen

For the Sweet (original) 16 songs, we watched two videos per day. So, this took 8 days total. This round was for exposure, so we just watched two videos per day and voted immediately. We talked about which ones we liked and which videos were funny, cool, or weird. Some were weird and cool and funny (Papaoutai, anyone?!)

I keep all of the votes in a folder in my Google Drive, and it’s a really simple voting template. You can see an example here.

I had students watch the videos individually on their devices. My HS students have MacBooks and my MS students have iPads. I posted the link to my playlist on our Schoology page, so about two days into the start, they knew where to go and find the new videos. I wanted them to have access to the playlist so that they could find the information about their favorites and listen to them on their own if we found their “jam.”

Round 2: The Elite Eight (Les huits élites)

During this round, I wanted to not only re-familiarize students with each song that they picked in the first round, but get to know the songs a little bit better. We listen to one song each day, and vote every two days for this round.

I’ve done two types of activities here: cloze and “put the lyrics in order.” Then, we talk a little about the song and highlight some of the key structures. We’re working on the structures “je veux” and “je ne veux pas” right now, and SO MANY of the songs include that structure. It is WONDERFUL.

For the “put the lyrics in order” pages, I just group students in groups of two, and have them put only the chorus in order. I encourage them to follow along and sing if they want! All I do is copy/paste the lyrics, scramble them, and cut them out. I love to scramble them because some students try to just put the cut lines together and then they find out they’re wrong.

Dernière danse chorus

Place de la République chorus

For a cloze, I love LyricsTraining.com. Students can repeat, etc. by themselves, so it’s really great for students who get conscious if others write more than them. It works well because all of my students have a device, but you could also use paper. Also, did you know that now on LT, you can create your own activities? I love this because I pull out all the words that I want students to focus on in the song, so we can talk about those structures or reuse them afterward!!

Also, with LT, students can choose between typing the word they hear (write mode), or picking between 4 options (choice mode.) A lot of students prefer choice mode, which I love for novices, but I also try to challenge students to write if it’s a song they need a little differentiate. We turn it into a little competition for high scores, and some students like to replay to beat their previous score.

The only downside to this is that all of the songs I use on LT are SO repetitive. For songs like Papaoutai and On danse, I chose to do this because putting the chorus in order would have been too simple.

Here’s an example of a LT I made for Papaoutai. We were focusing on il vs. elle, the question “où,” and the connector “ou.” It was a little tricky for students in that way. I also recycled some vocab like family and descriptions.

Round 3: The Final Four (Les quatres qualifiées!)

We have not started this round yet. I plan on looking more closely at the chorus of each song in the final four and really trying to figure out what they’re saying. That way, students will know what they voted for, and not just which video was cool/which one was catchy/which one would annoy their classmates!

I will post activities here when we get there! :]

Round 4: The Championship Game

Again, we’re not here yet, so stay posted for my ideas on this. I’m thinking they’ll have to happen after spring break, so I’ll be mulling over possibilities for this! If you have suggestions, I’d love to know!

Update on #maniemusicale

Wow, thank you all so much for such a positive response on “La Manie Musicale.” I am glad that you could use it, and even more excited that your students are loving it

If you have already started, feel free to tweet your results on twitter using the hashtag: #maniemusicale2016. That way, our students can see different results and compare them, if they want to! :]


Also, if you’ll be at Central States this weekend, feel free to #langchat LIVE in the lobby of the Hilton hotel. Come anytime after 7PM, but the chat starts at the normal time of 8PM EST! I’m looking forward to meeting you all there! Yippee!

La Manie Musicale de mars!

Confession time: I LOVE music. Always have. When I was a teenager, you could always find me singing or listening to it, and instead of doodling, I wrote lyrics in the margins of my notes.

Second confession: I have barely used music in my classroom this year. Last year, due to a whole host of factors, listening to music became such a chore that this year I just removed it. Now, almost through 3rd quarter, I am really sad that I haven’t incorporated it. I’ve seen SO MUCH great stuff out there for a Spanish version of Music Madness and decided to run with it!

The setup:

Since I haven’t used music in my class, I didn’t have students vote on their favorite songs to use; I picked them all myself. Since they don’t have the exposure, I limited it to one (of my favorites, I’ll admit) song per artist/group.

I used this great bulletin board template that I got from Andrea; I just changed the Spanish titles to French and changed the title/champion pages a little. Me, being me, I couldn’t just print them in white (though no offense if that’s what you do!) – we have an amazing variety of colors in our copy room, and since my third favorite color is “rainbow,” I went with it. Here’s the bulletin board at one of my middle schools.


Note: I did group my preliminary round in groups that are similar. For example, if it’s a slow song with a female artist, I matched it with another song with a female lead that was slow. There are a few that are male vs. female. I know this “stacking” doesn’t give me an accurate picture of preferences, but I wanted my students to have exposure to different styles. In one round, I think students will dislike both songs, but have to pick their favorite of the two … I’m “mania”cal, I know.

The execution:

Since I teach at three different schools, I decided that I’m going to do two potentially “different” brackets – I’m going to make the high school votes into one bracket there, and use votes from my two middle schools on the bracket you see above. I realize that this may be hectic for me, but my HS and MS classes have very different interests and personalities. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I plan on having students watch two videos (I picked all acceptable videos for my purposes; but if you use my songs, please watch through them to make sure they’re appropriate for you and your school!) per day for the first 8 days of the bracket, and voting via Google Forms. Since I’m doing two different brackets, it should be easy enough to “make a copy” of one voting form for my other schools!

Then, for the second “round,” I plan on doing one song/video per day with an activity (cloze, arrange the chorus in order, etc.) They’ll vote on the second day, after getting to know each song a little better through these activities!

For the third “round,” I’m going to have students compare the songs to each other to explain their preference/vote. We just learned how to compare in my French 1 classes, and I think comparing the songs will be a great extension to this activity. I plan on using something similar to “Be the judge” by El Mundo de Birch (author unknown?) which you can find in the middle of the page here.

For this to work, I will have to start this Friday, February 26th. It will end by crowning the champion the day we leave for break, Wednesday March 23th. I don’t currently have a snow day plan. :]

The aftermath:

I plan to do something cool with the Champion, but I haven’t decided what that is yet. Maybe for the week or so after spring break, we can use it as song kind of brain break? I’d love your suggestions here! :]


If you’re looking for French resources, here’s my variation of Andrea’s bulletin board bracket. Feel free to use my songs, pick different ones, or change up the pairs in the first round!

If you wanted to see what I’m using, here’s the song list.
Here’s my playlist of the songs and their videos on YouTube. (However, “non non non” is no longer available in the US; I’m looking for a fix for this!)

If you’re looking to edit, I used this pages file. I used the font “KG Drops of Jupiter,” which you can download here. I can’t recommend KG fonts enough!
If you don’t have pages, here’s the word document. The formatting might be off, and you’ll have to change the font.
If you want to use the same songs as me, here’s the PDF.

I’d love to see how your bracket turns out! Feel free to share on twitter or in the comments!

Let students create the input!

Wow. It’s been about a month since I blogged about my rough start, and first I just want to thank everyone who commented, tweeted, or otherwise supported me after I spilled out my thoughts and soul on the internet. I would have burnt out long before now if not for your love and support, #langchat.

Things those of you who read that post might be excited to learn:

  • THE RESA IS OVER. (Unless I don’t pass, but shhhhhhh!)
  • Setting a date for only French in my classes; eep!
  • Finding a sage/CI balance, at least for now
  • I’m trying my hand at “Music madness” this March. More to come on that later.


What I’m REALLY posting about today is my new-ish found revelation to use the things that students create as extra input for my classes. Duh!

Earlier this year during a chat, John (@CadenaSensei on twitter – follow him!!) and I talked about how this year, we want to get extra repetition of vocab/structures by using what our students create as secondary input. That way, I don’t have to create EVERY SINGLE THING that my students are doing, they get to see their work as an example used in class, and I can stretch the input of those structures without coming up with a million examples myself.

What do I mean by this, you ask? Well, right now in my level 1 class, we’re doing short comparisons. I’m following the Creative Language Class unit on homes (edited for French, of course) and the last I can we have is “I can compare homes around the world.”

For starters, we’ve been comparing two specific homes (House A is bigger than house B.) I asked students a lot of yes/no, true/false, and then “which is” questions about this topic: Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.29.11 AM

We soon move to making comparisons about houses from different countries, too, for example:

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.29.24 AM

After students get the necessary input on the “X est plus ____ que Y” structure, then I start letting them make comparisons on their own. One activity we did once I thought students felt comfortable was to find their own pictures and compare any two homes they wanted. They had to write two true and one false comparison about the two homes. I was able to wander and give individual feedback while students used their devices for this activity.

The best part of this activity? I have about 300 sentences with visuals that compare two houses and I didn’t make them myself.

For my next trick, I selected some of the examples that were submitted to me via Schoology, cleaned them up, checked for errors, and enlarged the text. Now, I have a TON of examples to use in class this week.

For starters, I’m going to have students read over these 9 student-created examples and highlight the true/false statements. I’m excited about this repetition of input, having students not only read each statement, but pick the one that doesn’t fit, and to showcase student examples. I specifically chose a lot of students who might not have their work used as an exemplar in other classes. Here’s the version I hope to have students highlight this week: Comparison quiz 9

How do you use students’ work to inspire new input? I’d love to hear about it :]