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?

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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.

First week reflections 2016

Wow. This year has been amazing and I’ve only been in the classroom for 7 school days!

I wanted to reflect on the pluses and deltas of my first week, as some of you are starting your school year soon, and as a place for me to share what’s going well for me!

Pluses:

Saying the I can statement every day!
Last year, I gleaned some wisdom from Thomas Sauer: it’s okay to plan the 90% TL we use, but it’s also really important to plan the 10% L1 use. While, I’ll admit, my class is not currently 90% TL, I’ve been using the first few minutes to go over the I can each day, and a check up or formative performance assessment each day for students to tell me how they feel about each I can. I think it’s had a really positive effect for my students – they can tell that they’re learning, and they get excited to give me a “I can” rating on their “thumb-ometer” (from a thumbs down to a thumbs up and anywhere in between! I stole this from a friend of mine who teaches middle school – thanks, Jess!) You could also use “fist to five” but I find that the variations on the thumb-ometer are more discrete to share, and tell me more than the difference between 4 and 5.

Saving a reflection space in my planner
Maybe you’ve heard that I prefer paper planning to online planning. I love technology, I am a millennial, and so much of my life is tied to the internet, but planning is NOT, or I scramble each morning to remember what I planned for each day. I have a Plum Paper Planner for the second year and I LOVE it – since I’m teaching 1 prep this year, I saved two boxes for a reflection of the lesson. I give the pluses, minuses, and obvious changes for next year. I love this short reflection each day!

Brain Breaks!
Gosh, I love the brain breaks I’ve been stealing from around the internet. Most of them come from Sara-Elizabeth, but Martina has a great list as well! It’s really nice to reset in the middle of the class before moving on to the next input stage. On a feedback form today, one of my students said he loved the brain breaks because it “relieves him” from one activity to another. Since that’s the point, I am glad that they see it that way.

Primacy/recency
My (short) teaching career has always started with bell ringers. Kids come in, sit down, and start whatever activity I have … orrrrrrrr they try to play games on their MacBook/iPad and tell me that they’ve done the work “in their head.” Since I start the class, there’s no wrangling kids who are trying to play “Slither,” pushing kids to finish quickly, or wondering what to do when 10 kids have finished and 15 haven’t. I will say that I started off terrified of starting the class with input, and I still get a little nervous, but it’s been going really well. I’m excited to expand input with songs and readings soon!
For a breakdown of what I’ve been doing:
(Say I can = no more than 1-2 minutes!) –> input activity –> processing activity –> administrative activity, if necessary –> brain break –> input #2 –> interactive activity/formative PBA

All of my classrooms
If you didn’t know, I teach in 4 buildings this year. I love all of my classrooms, not because of the furniture, infrastructure, or space, but because that’s where my students and I interact. I’m not shy about picking a favorite classroom, though. I have the amazing opportunity to teach in one of the model classrooms at the high school this year and I love every single thing about it. It really starts my day off on an exciting note. (The picture on the blog title is also one of my classrooms; I love it too!)

IMG_5324

Friday feedback
Last year I stole the idea from Allison (who stole from CLC, I think!) to get feedback from students on Fridays … but I never actually got around to implementing it. Such is life! I did it today for the first time, and I loved it. It gave me insight – not just to the popularity of activities (I can usually judge that by the excitement level) but also by the reason why, which is so important. These were two of my favorite examples from today:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.32.28 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.32.55 PM

I could give a million more “pluses,” but I will save you the excessive exclamation points (or maybe not?)

Deltas:

Last class
My last class of the day is 15 students. This makes me simultaneously jump for joy and weep. I love the class size, but maaaaaaaaaaan, do we get through everything about 10 minutes faster than my other classes! I’m trying to use my own daily reflection to really make sure that we have the best lesson possible, but I’ve gotta figure out how to have equitable activities in this one!

TL use
I still don’t know how to hit the ground running with starting the year well. You might think that I have it all figured out because of the wild popularity of my 90% TL post last year, but I don’t. I’m still getting my bearings on that, but hope to switch my own TL use to 90% next week.

I guess another delta is that I don’t have more deltas! Whoops. I’m sure I’ll think of some along the way – nothing I do is perfect!

I’d love to hear about what’s working in your class so far this year!

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!

My new infographic syllabus!

If you’ve been following along with me on twitter, you might know that I was lamenting over not having a classroom to decorate this year. And, I mean, my last classroom was pretty adorable, if I may say so myself. I LOVE the color teal (or aqua, or turquoise) and I love patterns, so I went with that theme for my room at my first school.

So, this year, with no room to decorate (okay, one of my rooms has some decoration, but it’s still up from last year!) I had to go all out on my syllabus. If you saw my sneak peek  on twitter, you’ll know that my syllabus also embraces teal and pattern. I like it much better than my school-color themed choice from last year. (PS, both years I used Piktochart‘s free version to create them – for me, Piktochart is easy to use, easy to get used to, fun to use, and their staff has been wonderful to work with!)

Last year, I had a few syllabus issues:

I realized, too late, that even with my ThingLink tags, my syllabus did not give all the information that I wanted it to. I had to make a second, text-based page with additional info. Not my favorite course of action, as I worked so hard to make the visuals great.

The second issue was for parents. While I made the parents sign the bottom of the syllabus, they never saw the additional links that I added! I want to be as transparent with students and parents as possible, so I knew I needed to fix that. I didn’t want to rely on students to share that additional information (including necessary materials, what the heck proficiency is, and ways to follow me on social media.)

This year, I decide to make the graphics work better for me, to break up the text into sections, and instead of just being there to, well, be an “infographic.” I really love the result! I sacrificed some visual simplicity for it to be exactly what I needed, but I might also have reduced the need for extra links!

Okay, okay, enough typing and onto what you came for!

Here is page 1 of my syllabus:
syllabus-2016-2017 (5)

and here is page 2:

syllabus-2016-2017-pg-2 (4)

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share them with me in the comments or on twitter.

PS: I’ve been asked by a lot of people if they can have an editable version of this sucker. Man, oh man, do I wish it was editable. I’m currently trying to decide if it’s feasible to make an editable version; stayed tuned!

#AuthRes August

Wow. As I’m staring at that word, August, I’m simultaneously freaking out and jumping for joy at the same time. I bet a lot of you teachers feel the same way.

Last week, Sara-Elizabeth of Musicuentos called us to #AuthRes August, where we share some authentic resources for the world language classroom that our students will love this year.

While I am not going to post 70+ resources like Maris did this morning (Spanish teachers, check it OUT!)  I will share a couple that I’m excited to use this year.

What I’m working on this year is starting the year off with a unit about the Olympics, because it’s current, relevant, and hopefully give my students something interesting and engaging to describe! I plan on using some of these resources:

The olympic website in French – this has a list of the results, athletes, and a link to each of the events/sports that are in the olympics – so much better than just learning basketball and football (American!)

FranceTvSport – This is a French based TV station, so it leans a little more toward the French! You can track the medals won by the team, see a calendar of event days/medal ceremonies, and as a bonus, it has the country names in French! A lot of them are cognates, so it will boost confidence at the beginning of the year.

Speaking of events, there hasn’t been an April Fool’s Day (Poisson d’avril!) that my students haven’t been on spring break. Coincidentally, my birthday is March 31st, so there’s never been a birthday where I’ve been in school. This year, April 1 falls on a Saturday, but I’m thinking about amping up my birthday work day with some fun poisson d’avril stuff! This post looks a little advanced for my novices, but maybe we’ll use it.

I don’t know if we’ll get into all this stuff in my level one class this year, but if you’ve just finished the Keys to Planning Book, my bet is that you’ll try to incorporate the “balanced lifestyle” unit – shoot, it’s already in French! Here’s some supplemental resources for that:

  • An infographic about le goûter
  • An example of a petit déj équilibré
  • Anything from the MangerBouger site – seriously, there are guides to each food group, recommendations for eating better at each age group, recipes, seasonal produce to balance your plate (and wallet) – it is totally worth an hour or two of clicking around!

Last year, I used and LOVED this infographic about habitudes alimentaires. We did an IPA style reading, and then surveyed our class about our own eating habits. We made graphs and compared the data that we found. It was a great reinforcement of the question words and answer in context, too!


I hope this has given you some inspiration to use #authres this coming school year! I plan on posting a few more times on the topic, both on my blog and on twitter! We’d love to have you join us by posting on your blog, or on twitter (or even facebook!) with the hashtag #authresaugust! If that’s too big for your tweet, you could use #authres instead (or both, you overachiever, you!)

Like Sara-Elizabeth mentioned in her post, if you don’t have a public place to share your #authres, I would be happy to share your resources for you – French, Spanish, Latin, German, Japanese – it doesn’t matter, I’m just happy to share! You can leave your ideas in the comments, or tweet at me. I promise that if you use the hashtag, it doesn’t matter if you’re a twitter “celebrity” – someone will see it and benefit from it!

While you’re at it, if you need a public place to share those activities that you develop, you can add to the growing list that Sara-Elizabeth started! Choose your language with the tabs at the bottom!

One last thought: I would not be the teacher that I am today (and I still have TONS of room to grow) if other people hadn’t been kind enough to share their resources with me. I get as many ideas from Sara-Elizabeth, Bethanie, Maris, Amy, Melanie, Megan and Kara, Allison, and Carrie‘s Spanish resources as I do from my French teacher friends! So nothing you share is too small, insignificant, or “imperfect” to help someone else out. Let’s do this – together.