Same = enough

I cannot believe that it is August. And that August, as far as summer goes, is so SHORT! In my district, teachers go back on the 14th, and students return on the 17th, which is a jarring reality check after having the entire months of June and July off.

Recently, I was having a talk with Laura Sexton, who I not only consider to be a mentor, but a really close friend. As we were chatting, it came up that I didn’t know if I could reuse last year’s syllabus, or if I needed to make a new one. Another key component to this story is that last year’s syllabus is good. It’s pretty, I still love how it looks, it has almost all of the info that I need, can be resized/moved around/adapted easily, and only needs a couple of modest changes. I mused aloud if changing the color would be enough to make it “new” or “different.”

What Laura said to me next really hit me, and has stuck with me as I’m preparing this year’s back-to-school resources: “I think it’s a sickness that we can’t be satisfied and reuse.” Now, at first glance, that might seem like a harsh thing to say, but Laura and I have a great relationship and if you could see our looooooooooong history of GIFs, freak outs (mostly mine), encouragement, and real talk, you’d see it like I see it – as truth.

It’s a sickness to never be satisfied. I don’t know if truer words have ever been spoken about the plight I feel (and a lot of us feel) as a teacher. I am never content with things I’ve made in the past, always trying to redo them completely or make them better, and in the words of another amazing mentor, I’m trying to “sacrifice the good on the altar of the perfect.” (Thanks for those other heart words, Sara-Elizabeth!)

I’ve got a lot going on this year – teaching a new (to me – sort of) class, taking on grad school, being a part of the #langchat team, plus my personal stuff like “seeing my husband, ever,” “making sure there’s food to eat,” “pretending like my house is clean sometimes,” and my multitudinous church-related commitments.

So with Laura’s advice in my head and heart, I modified last year’s syllabus. I didn’t change anything major. I resized a few boxes. I changed the font sizes and deleted a few topics we might not get to. I added in that contingent about translators. I FINALLY remembered to add my sliding grading scale. I ditched the parent/student signatures because of the hassle that became last year. I took what would have been hours of work and got to allocate that time to things that I really need to do. And somehow, I’m not just okay with that decision – I’m happy with it. I still do love my syllabus. It covers everything I want. It looks good printed in black and white, and is only two pages. I think that’s a total win (and I will share it with you soon, I promise.)

What else am I planning to reuse this back-to-school season?

  • My back to school resources, like student info sheets, getting-to-know-you activities, and maybe the syllabus scavenger hunt (or maybe I’ll ditch that like I’m ditching French names.) I actually bought and made editable copies of these activities, so if you’re interested, I got those here (made for English classes but mostly applicable for WL!)
  • My proficiency activities from last year – crepe talk, movie descriptions, and analogy making are all still good and relevant. Maybe I’ll add in a few things here this year, but I won’t be starting from scratch.
  • My first few days of French 1 – although I’ll change their order around, these activities really seem to work for me each year and my students seem to really like them.

That leaves me time for those things where I might need to “reinvent the wheel” (for good, I promise):

  • My AP Syllabus that needs submitted to the college board (more on that later)
  • Short-, medium-, and long-term planning for AP (ditto)
  • Making Meredith’s file folder selfies work for me/my students
  • Deciding on a go-to rubric (maybe) before school starts

 

I encourage you to find ways this back-to-school season (and all year, really) that same = enough. Because with all that’s going on this year, same = enough and enough = amazing.

 

La Manie Musicale: year two!

Hey all, sorry to be absent from the blogosphere lately!

I’m just letting everyone know about my (really late!) plan for Manie Musicale. I had a lot of help choosing songs from Megan, who has a great list of songs for her upper levels. I wanted to change some things up from last year, because I’ve used some of last year’s choices in class already. (PS you can see last year’s logistics here)

Here’s my plan of songs for Manie Musicale:

  1. Papaoutai – Stromae VS Est-ce que tu m’aimes – Maître Gims
  2. Comme ci comme ça – Zaz VS Elle me dit – MIKA
  3. Place de la République – Coeur de Pirate VS Là-bas – Baptiste Giabiconi et Marie Mai
  4. US Boy – Jena Lee VS J’ai cherché – Amir
  5. Tombé sous le charme – Christophe Maé VS On danse – M. Pokora
  6. Tout ce que t’es pour moi – The Garlics ft. Amisiac VS Tourner dans le vide – Indila
  7. French Kiss – Black M VS Andalouse – Kendji Girac
  8. Le Sens de la Vie – Tal VS Avenir – Louane

Are you planning on doing Manie Musicale? I’d love to hear your choices and what you plan on doing!

“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!

maison-i-cans

Why I #FridayFeedback

Looks like I’ve got to clean out the cobwebs forming in the corners of my blog for this one.

Do you get feedback from your students? Do you get feedback from your students and actually read it? Do you get feedback from your students, actually read it, and then use it to inform your teaching? I know, it’s really hard to do. I’m sometimes a mix of all three, but I’ve really been trying to be better.

There’s a ton of research that shows that choice is a motivator for students, so I love little opportunities to get them to tell me what they like in class. I also love hearing their opinions, because while 50% of students tell me that they loved the most exciting thing we did that week, the other 50% tell me that they like the activities that I thought were “boring.” They like the activities that weren’t as engaging, but helped them with little aspects, made them feel confident, or got them out of their chairs for a few minutes of a day that seemed long and dull otherwise. It reminds me that even when I don’t think a lesson went over well, my students got something out of it, even if it’s only a few of them. It also helps me plan activities for the next week of class, with students’ ideas fresh in my mind.

That’s why I use Friday Feedback – coined by Creative Language Class and shared with me by Allison Wienhold. At the end of each Friday, we wrap up a few minutes early, I remind students of the activities we completed this week, and they write about their favorite one and tell me why. I love reading the “why” parts. I’m going to share a few of my favorite ones from last Friday with you:

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I hope you feel inspired to get feedback from your students! I’d love to hear how it goes!

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.

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:
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and here is page 2:

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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.