I don’t know what I (don’t) know

Can you believe that it’s already “mid-to-late” July? I cannot and I know that the summer always flies by, but this one seems to be speeding ahead at a pace I cannot keep up with!

Last week I had the amazing privilege to attend a College Board AP Training presented by Davara Potel, who, before she retired, taught in a district that was near mine, and she is just the sweetest woman that I’ve ever met – and really knows her AP stuff! I was blown away by so much that she said and I just wanted to record her so that I could get every bit of information imaginable.

What really struck me about AP is how much everything needs to be vertically aligned from level one until AP. I knew this, or at least, I thought that I did. But this workshop had me looking back at last year and feeling even worse about it than I did at the end of May. I was not focusing on the right things. I wasn’t getting kids prepared now to build on their knowledge as it relates to AP. I wasn’t doing enough grammar, probably.

And it really hit me: I’m so young. I have four years of teaching under my belt, and like that old guessing adage, “the first two don’t count.” I don’t know a lot of things that most people give me credit for, and for that I sort of blame the internet. Each 140 character interjection makes me seem like the world’s best teacher, but believe me that I’m far from it. This four-day workshop took a lot of the things that I “thought” I had figured out and turned them upside-down, as it relates to AP.

 

What I thought I knew #1: We should be spiraling the same themes from level one to AP. I feel like this one was pretty self explanatory.

What I learned from this workshop: It’s not enough to cover the same things – we should be covering the same themes with different contexts! For example, in the theme of science and technology, year two would be “what are the benefits of recycling,” year three would be “how can we save the planet” and year four would be something like “eliminating food waste” or “what future inventions could change our world?” If you’re blessed to have AP in years five or six, you could go even deeper! I need to rethink what my level one units look like for this purpose.

What I thought I knew #2: We should continuously be asking questions to elicit information from our students. Again, self-explanatory. But teaching level one, it looks a lot different than it does in the upper levels.

What I learned from this workshop: It’s not enough to just ask the question and get a response. For upper levels in particular, it’s about the follow up questions – the spontaneous answers that show what and why our students are thinking a specific thing. Davara was great at asking a question and then following it up with a great 5 W question – “Who are these people?” “Farmers” “Oh, they’re farmers? What is it about them that made you think they were farmers?” I need to be intentional about the follow up questions I choose, in level one and beyond.

What I thought I knew #3: The role (or supporting role) of grammar.

What I learned from this workshop: Everything. Nothing. More. Less. I’m doing it wrong. I’m not doing enough. I don’t know the role of grammar in each (or any) level. (sidenote: a few years ago I plunged a ladle into the “grammar is bad” punch and sipped so much kool-aid that now I hardly touch grammar. I’m not saying it’s a good system. I need to rethink all of this completely and totally.)

What I thought I knew #4: If kids are speaking (to me, to each other, to the video recording of me), they’re getting interpersonal practice. I know that level 1 is primarily memorized chunks of language, so “spontaneous” just means not knowing which question I might ask.

What I learned from this workshop: The key to success on the interpersonal speaking part of the AP test is just that – it needs to be truly interpersonal. I need to develop and implement more ways for my kids to speak spontaneously without knowing what I’m going to say beforehand. I’m thinking implementing a can of questions à la Creative Language Class will help in all levels. 5 minutes left? Boom, pull a topic. Need a brain break? Boom, pull a topic. Half the class is gone for an assembly? Boom, pull 4 topics. I’m thinking of color coding these by either a) the level in which the learned the information (this year’s AP interpersonal speaking was about CAMPING for goodness sakes!) or b) by the type of interaction (invitations, question to elicit information, opinion, etc.) I’m also thinking that Wednesdays (our classes are shortened) might be purely to practice interpersonal skills.

 

What I thought I knew #5: Novices need structure in what they read. I rely so heavily on infographics in level one that if I had a nickel for every one I used, I could buy my own classroom supplies! (har har)

What I learned from this workshop: Infographics are still great. But, I also looked closely at the kinds of texts that students are reading in AP, and my level ones should be exposed to more text as we get to the end of the year. Sure, I might edit the text to break up the paragraphs or make things double spaced, etc, but I think they need to get exposure to text-driven texts as well as visual-driven texts. This workshop did reiterate that there are GREAT infographics for all levels, though, not just level one. Still relevant at the AP level, so booyah!

 

So, this year, I’m going to be a little bit like Laura reinventing the wheel where it needs a little work, and hopefully coming out with lots of knowledge on the other side. And, hopefully, like Laura does so well, I’m going to try to show my ups, but mostly my downs as I try to figure it out and make it work for me and my students. A lot of that goes back to being intentional, no?

Authres: Hobbies

Don’t you love when you stumble across an authentic resource that NAILS exactly what you’re trying to do with your class? I know that I do! And I can’t take all the credit for this one, my colleague found it, but I wanted to share out with all of you.

We’re reviewing from last year about what activities that you do, and adding in personalized activities for each student. We’re also going to be sharing how often you do those activities, and were hoping to survey students about their preferences. That’s where this beautiful #authres comes in.

It’s an authentic survey that asks students how often they do certain activities. All of the “big names” are there: video games, TV, “radio,” reading, but includes some out-of-the-box things, like if you get an allowance, time spent in a library, and your future activities.

Here’s how I’m thinking you could use this in your class:

  1. Give out a page (or two) of the survey. Have students answer the questions about themselves. Then, make a few copies, or upload them online. In groups of two, students could make graphs about the different questions. Graphs could be things like “How often our class listens to music,” “Our favorite TV shows,” etc. I’m thinking that would be a great level two activity, or towards the end of level one.
  2. Partner activity: each partner would receive a copy, ask their partner a certain number, set, or example questions, and let them check the box that sounds most like their partner’s answer. Again, I think level two is best for this activity.
  3. Cognates practice. Wow, if you ever need an authentic resources where cognates abound, this would be it. You could have student highlight cognates, guess what certain words mean (and give them the corresponding question(s) for reference) or complete the Creative Language Class’ cognates activities (level one, level two)
  4. What we’re planning on doing is using this as a summative interpretive reading assessment. We’re going to check some boxes off, and then follow the questions for an interpretive reading assessment from ACTFL. We’ll have students answer these questions in English, identifying key words, guessing meaning based on context, and asking general understanding questions. I’m toying with the idea of asking students to write 2 or 3 ways they are similar/different to the person who “completed” the survey. This would be for level two as well.

What about you? How would you use this resource in your classes? I hope that you can, and that you’ll share how it went with me on twitter or in the comments!

My first EdPuzzle!

Man, this week has been rough. But my PLN always here to bring my back up, whether it’s sharing resources, sending words of encouragement, or tweeting me flowers. I couldn’t be more thankful.

That said, I created my first EdPuzzle this week. EdPuzzle is a website that allows teachers to upload a video, clip it (if necessary), add audio commentary, and give pop up questions along the way. Then, students can watch that video, interact with your questions, play a section again if they missed it, and the teacher can see the results. This site is similar to EduCanon, but since I don’t have EduCanon premium, I enjoy EDPuzzle. Very user friendly for me, and my student could really use the listening practice – at their own pace!

What I really like is that once students have completed the video, you, as the teacher, can see individual progress, including how many times the student watched part of the clip! I think that is genius! You can also view the video as a student to make sure that your kinks are all worked out.

A screenshot of what a teacher can view on EdPuzzle - this assignment hasn't been completed.
A screenshot of what a teacher can view on EdPuzzle – this assignment hasn’t been completed. (click for full screen)

Unfortunately, EdPuzzle didn’t work on my school’s computers, and while I was prepared with EduCanon for backup, most students couldn’t change the volume or play the video via EduCanon. Man, technology is a fickle beast, and I was really discouraged by it.

Anyway, I thought that I’d share the video I made anyway. My French III students are beginning a unit on vacation, and Kirsten D. from twitter (@cardinalfrench) suggested this video. I didn’t even need to crop, I just added my questions, and voilà, complete!

Here’s the video. What do you think of EdPuzzle? Would you change any of my questions?

https://edpuzzle.com/embed/m/550206ee91314dcd17fe62cc

Impressionism fair!

There’s a quote that I can’t remember that I’ve been thinking of today – something about me being a sum of all the people I’ve ever met.

So, today in my French III class, I used an activity I found from Lisa Shepard. We’ve been talking about art, and she did a unit where she focused on impressionism, so I borrowed some all of her ideas. Today, we did the activity she describes here, where students look at two paintings, pick which one was an example of impressionism, and support their case. I grouped students into partners, and they spent yesterday looking at their paintings, and coming up with supporting reasons that the painting they chose was impressionism. We talked about subjects, scenes, colors, point of view, brushstrokes, etc.

Then, today, I moved the desks into a circle, with one desk on the inside and one on the outside. I modified Colleen’s “fair” activity, so that students had a few minutes to review with their partner before they presented. Then, the students on the inside (partner A) walked from desk to desk, asking which painting was impressionism and the reasons why. Their partner, on the outside (partner B), stayed with their paintings, and defended which they chose. Once these students had finished, they switched roles with their partner, so that partner A stayed to defend while partner B walked the room. I circled around, sitting across from students and letting them explain to me. Every group chose the correct painting!

Then, I added an element of John’s fairy tale activity (which he modified from Colleen’s fair activity as well) He had students circumlocute different fairy tales, and student A would guess what student B had described to them. I had students guess which one of the paintings they thought was impressionism, and had them decide if the “defender” of the paintings described the correct one.

I think a great extension of this activity would be to give students new paintings and to choose on the spot which one is impressionism. One thing I would change for next time is that I would limit how much the students got to use their cheat sheet, arm the inside circle partner with questions to ask, and/or have the “questioner” rate how well the “defender” described their painting.

Here are a few pictures of the madness:

IMG_0265 IMG_0266

Overall, this mash up activities worked out well. One of the things I want my French IIIs to work on is their ability to have a spontaneous conversation. While this wasn’t spontaneous, I think that it’s a step in the right direction.

One day, I’ll have my own amazing activities, but until then, I’ll keep modifying and sharing others. :] Thanks Lisa, Colleen, and John for your great ideas!

Fearless – step 3: Post a story for all to see

Okay, so I said that I’d post my story here. And even though I’m still nervous to do so, I’m going to post it anyway. Constructive criticism is the best kind, right?! Right.

So, please remember that I’m a non-native speaker, and that I’m not perfect in any sense of the word. And that while TPRS does a great job of giving three completely random structures, I do not yet possess the same abilities.

This story is intended for year three, intermediate low speakers of French.

La sculpture magique! 

Structures:

Ca me fascine
J’ai déjà vu cette pièce d’art
Ca me fait sentir ____________

Un jour, Bob et Angélique sont allés au musée d’art avec leur classe de français. Ils sont allés au Louvre à Paris ! Pendant le tour du musée, Bob a vu une sculpture très célèbre : La Venus de Milo. « Oh la la, » dit Bob, « Ca me fascine. » « Vraiment ?! » dit Angélique, « Ca ne me fascine pas ! » « Pourquoi pas ? » dit Bob. « Parce que ca me fait sentir triste. »

Dans la prochaine salle, Bob et Angélique voient une peinture très célèbre : La Joconde ! « Ca me fascine » dit Angélique. « Je ne l’aime pas » dit Bob «  Ca me fait sentir étrange. Elle me regarde. » Et puis, quelqu’un dit, « Bonjour ! » Bob tourne, et Bob voit encore la Venus de Milo ! « Angélique, » dit Bob, « J’ai déjà vu cette pièce d’art … » Mais, quand Angelique tourne, la Venus de Milo n’est plus là. Angélique et Bob courent a une autre salle.

Dans la prochaine salle, Bob et Angélique voit des pièces d’art très grands « Ces pièces me fascinent » dit Bob. « Bonjour ! » quelqu’un dit. Puis, Angélique voit la sculpture, La Venus de Milo, derrière une autre pièce d’art. « BOB ! » dit Angélique, « J’ai déjà vue cette pièce d’art. » Mais, quand Bob tourne, la sculpture n’est pas la. « La sculpture est magique ! » dit Angélique. « Ca me fait sentir étrange. »

Bob et Angélique vont partir le musée après le tour. Ils montent le bus pour aller a la maison. « Le musée me fascine » dit Angélique. « Moi aussi. » dit Bob. Et tout en arrière du bus, Bob voit La Venus de Milo ! « Angélique ! La sculpture magique est dans le bus ! » Et Angélique voit la sculpture. « Bonjour » dit la Venus de Milo. « Ca va ? » …

There is intentionally no ending to the story because I plan to have my students make their own endings to tell who the statue is/why the statue is here. We will vote on the best one.

One of my biggest fears is that I write my stories too easy for my students, but I want to make sure that the language is accessible. I think I heard once that you should use 90% of known language, 10% new structures or cognates. Is there validity in that?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!