“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!



Don’t fit the mold

I will start this post by clarifying what you may have already gathered: I do still exist! I’ve been really caught up in taking a load off this summer. This is my first summer where things are “staying the same,” meaning that we’re not moving, I have no big trips planned, I’m not trying to redo everything, and I’m really trying to focus on relaxing and not thinking about school with every waking moment. Conclusion? It’s been going really well.

This summer I’m trying to update my curriculum, from all the tips and tricks I learned at #CampMusicuentos in June. It’s been a little rough, because not only am I reading The Keys to Planning for Learning, but I’m working with basically nothing except the outline of a former textbook. What I mean by that is: I’m not sure if my school has a set curriculum. I mention this, not to shame my school (I really do love it there) or to make myself sound impressive, but because I know there are TONS of young teachers in this position. My first year of teaching could have gone much more smoothly if I would have ASKED for our curriculum before school started. Now that I’m entering my second year at my new school, I’d feel silly asking about curriculum without raising questions like, “what exactly were you doing last year?” (Answer: “my best”)

I finally feel like I’m in a place to do some actual curriculum mapping and planning this summer. You might not feel like you’re in the place. Use an already set curriculum, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that! This brings me around to the point that I’m trying to make here:

Don’t attempt to fit a mold that someone “who knows what they’re doing” laid out for you.

What I mean by that is that there is a FINE line when you’re using someone else’s resources. I am ALL for “not reinventing the wheel,” “working smarter, not harder,” and “sharing is caring.” I am constantly reminded that teachers (especially us young ones) might not have the time, experience, or resources to write curriculum by ourselves. Heck, up until this year, I clung to the Jefferson County Public Schools curriculum tighter than I’ve ever clung to a textbook. But there’s a danger here, and that danger is losing who you are as a teacher.

Case in point: I looked at other teacher’s successes (JCPS/The Creative Language Class, Shelby County, etc) and thought “if they are successful, all I have to do is do exactly what they do, and I will also be successful.” WRONG. Even this school year, I had another French teacher to plan with for the first time. I spent a lot of the year trying to be more like her. Why wouldn’t I want to? She’s got tons of experience, stays relevant, tries new things, and is a good teacher! Of course I would want to emulate her and her practices. In the past, I spent so much time trying to do exactly what JCPS outlined that my teaching suffered. My students suffered. My mental health suffered.

You’re not meant to be someone else, no matter how great they are. I can’t shove myself into a colleague-shaped box. I can’t fit inside the crime scene-style chalk outline of anyone else. I can’t force myself into a curriculum that might not be right for my student population.

Did you know that the JCPS curriculum caught some flak for some of the units that they did? As far as I know, it was a curriculum compromise to include things like the “have a good day” unit. I didn’t know that until this year. I just assumed that they were the be all end all of curriculum! And it’s GOOD, regardless of these facts. Knowing this puts it into perspective that not one element contributes to your success as a teacher. A lot of it rides on you, your personality, your management, and so much more. So this year, my goal is to not lose myself in the quest for “better.”

I hope that your goal, while picking and choosing resources to help further your students towards their targets, is to remember who you are along the way. You were hired by your district for your expertise, your personality, your attitude, and your ability to do your job. Don’t let the promise of success with any one curriculum, method, or style tear you away from the great things that you bring to the table as an individual.

CSCTFL 2016: takeaways

Wow. I cannot say how amazing it was to attend CSCTFL conference this year. The highlight was being able to see some of my favorite tweeps in person, but also that they were so supportive of me. We didn’t get a lot of time to talk about sessions (I’m a verbal processor) but we did have a lot of wonderful conversations and I am so thankful. I finally know why Sara-Elizabeth puts so much stock in her “couch conversations.” They are amazing. This year’s conversations included cookies that I baked for my tweeps, which is apparently going to have to be a conference MUST from now on. Next conference, it’s oatmeal raisin!

Part of Friday’s lineup was presenting a session on storytelling with the lovely Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, which you can find here, on her blog. I want to give a huge shout-out to Sara-Elizabeth for bringing me on board to present with her, and an even bigger shout-out to everyone who approached me to give feedback. I was so nervous, but apparently it didn’t show.

Right before our presentation, I was excited to see Lisa Shepard representing Ohio as our teacher of the year, and though I was sad that she didn’t advance, it’s okay! I was just as excited to scream and clap for Grant Boulanger, the newest CSCTFL TOY. I was honored and humbled to meet Grant this last summer at IFLT and can’t wait to root for him at ACTFL (probably from behind my computer this time.) He really is as amazing as you’ve heard.

As for my conference takeaways, these are the things that completely rocked my world. I will group them into categories, à la John Cadena, who reminds us that at conferences, we need to think about our seeds (dreams that I want to pull off someday,) saplings (good ideas I need to plant and let grow in my head) and transplants (things I can take from the conference and use immediately in my classroom)

Transplants from #CSCTFL16:

  • A good essential question can be answered in the TL. Any other EQs, according to Donna Clementi, are a waste of time.
  • Novices cannot successfully transition to the intermediate level if we only ask them novice-level questions (from Linda Egnatz’s session)
  • If students have a hard time asking questions, it means that the teacher has been the only one asking them. Let Ss question each other as a proficiency-builder.
  • I need to teach students how to circumlocute effectively! The biggest problems with incomprehensibility stem from vocabulary, not grammar! (Thanks, Sara-Elizabeth!)
  • If you don’t plan well, using the TL is hard. – Carrie Toth <– I have learned this recently and will continue to struct my 90% lessons well.
  • The fantastic Amy Lenord said, “In level two, they are notorious for saying only what they learned in level 1 – and we LET THEM.” I need to push my students more here.
  • #CONFESSIONTIME: I don’t always say the learning target. (I know, I know, I’m dodging the things you’re throwing at your screen.) I need to be more transparent with my students about how their learning gives way to a bigger picture, make sure they have a way to evaluate if they met it.


  • Everything that Laura Terrill said in her session was utter gold. I need to get the Keys to Planning for Learning and book club it this summer with Megan and Laura.
  • Students need to see how this lesson ties into the next, into next week, into the next unit, etc. I need to find ways to be more explicit about this.
  • Thomas Sauer was adamant that we need to spend time planning our 10% that isn’t in the TL. I’ll be reflecting about ways that I can more intentionally use this time.
  • If you’re using IPAs, you should be modeling the IPA format in you classroom. This interpretive segways to this interpersonal, to this presentational, etc. This will help students when it comes time for the IPA. This is GENIUS.
  • As a follow up to this, Laura Terrill said that if a text is good, you WILL use it in all three modes. I need to reflect on the texts I’m selecting and use them in all of the modes.
  • In the words of the wonderful Carrie Toth, “be a mouse and go ask for cookies” – I need to ASK my native speaker resources to do things for me. And, I need to find native speaker resources. #yikes
  • “The most literate people are the best guessers” – I need to reflect about what this means for my classroom.
  • And again, from Carrie Toth: “Baby steps are the key to making change that last” – I have to evaluate what changes I’ll be making and which will have to wait.


  • I want to design units as beautifully as Laura Terrill and Donna Clementi
  • Amy made an amazing case from liberating from the vocabulary list. I need to chew this one over before I go for it.
  • All of Carrie Toth’s units have beautiful ties to culture. I would love for mine to be that amazing some day.
  • Linda Egnatz rocked my world. Seriously, one day I would love to coach students like she does. Her September/April evidence of student growth was so amazing I could have cried.

All in all, I learned a ridiculous amount of things at CSCTFL, I hope to return next year, and maybe present something! I would love to collaborate with you!

Curriculum revamp


As I write this, I’m in the middle of a crazy curriculum revamp across all four of the levels that I teach. When I got to my school this year, I was overwhelmed. It was my first year of teaching, and I had gotten married two days earlier (shout out to my past self for some fantastic planning on that front) and I didn’t even know where I could find my curriculum.

After a few weeks and some questioning, I found it … and it leaves, well … EVERYTHING to be desired. As language educators, we’re not in the Common Core, so currently our curriculum isn’t as nice as the subjects that are. If I’m being honest, our curriculum is a list of textbook pages and the concepts on them. That’s all. Not exactly my 90% TL cup of tea.

So, with a little help from my favorite bloggers from the #langchat PLN, I’m revamping. I decided to jump in with both feet, and I’ll talk to my curriculum director next year about a total revamp. Shouldn’t be too bad if I’ve already done the work. 

I started with this lovely post on what to do with curriculum before the school year starts, and I’ve been drooling over looking at the curriculum from both Jefferson County Public Schools in KY and Shelby County Schools in TN to help give me some ideas. I’ve also been reading, rereading, and rerereading (yeah, I just made that up) the gorgeous new Can Do statements from ACTFL. I think with the right mindset, all the way from my curriculum to my classroom, I’ll be ready to jumpstart my quest for 90%.

It’s been so helpful to read other people’s journeys and to really get a grasp of where students should be, proficiency-wise, at each level. I have so much to learn, and that’s what keeps me both excited and totally overwhelmed by this entire process.


Until next time …