Adventures in CI…er, sort of…

Adventures in CI

October 5, 2017

It is now a month into school. I’m not doing a traditional CI classroom model, but I make an effort to speak more Spanish to my students, including my 1s. This has been going well, but I find myself slipping into English more. There are definitely days that I use more English than Spanish, and while I’m not doing traditional CI, I feel like the exposure to the language is making the work itself less intimidating.

My goal is to use more Spanish than English by midyear, but that means I need to use it more on a daily basis. I need to take the “No inglés, sólo español” approach that my high school Spanish teacher did with my class. The only difference would be that my 1s would have less of a language base to work off of, and would probably default to English.

I flip flop between teaching grammar points in English with my 1s but doing all Spanish with my 2s, to thinking about doing all Spanish all the time with both my levels, but I have a feeling that this would lead to confusion with my 1s. I go into English when necessary, but this hasn’t changed my overall teaching method or approach.

I have all these ideas swirling in my head about how my ideal class would be taught, but when it comes down to it, I’m a creature of habit, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But then that gets me thinking, ‘is it actually broke and I’m in denial about it?’

I have been teaching for 14 years and the quality/learning style of students has definitely changed since I first started teaching. I am now competing with YouTube and reality TV for their attention, and just the thought of that makes me so tired! To keep their attention, but still make it fun, engaging and <gasp> educational?! I might as well be a miracle worker!

But then I go back to thinking about my Methods teacher in Undergrad, who I respect and admire: Spanish is fun. Period. I want them to have fun and learn something at the same time. I guess that’s what we all want. But I’m still figuring out how to do that.

For those of you who do more CI-type methods, I would be more than happy to hear any tips/tricks/suggestions of how to transition to a more TL-dense classroom!

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Strategies for Next Year: Comprehensible Input (CI)

next_year_ci

May 4, 2017

If you read my last blog entry, I am super stoked about a conference I just went to, called CI in the Mitten. It’s all about Comprehensible Input and strategies, tips, tricks, etc. on how to get your students talking. The goal is to teach completely in the Target Language (TL) and have students understand 80% of what they are hearing. There is no direct grammar instruction, simply having students figure out on their own how the language works. It’s supported by Stephen Krashen’s theory of CI.

So after getting super psyched about all the possibilities and even trying it myself as both a student and a teacher, I’m all in for next year! If any of you out there are reading this and are already doing this, I’d be grateful for any and all suggestions/strategies/tips/tricks you could offer me!

Fresh Start

fresh_start

August 31, 2017

Today is my last day of work for this week. Well, at least working while I’m at school. Here in Michigan, most teachers started back to work this week, and we’ll meet our new batch of kiddos next Tuesday after Labor Day.

As you may have noticed, I took a true break this summer and did almost nothing school-related. Unless you count me tutoring as a second job. But, I digress…No blogging stuff (unless you follow me on Instagram. Which you totally should!)

So now it’s back to the grind. I finally have my classroom in order and pretty much ready to go! For those of you who are interested, here’s my wonderful room!

I’ve been lucky enough to be in the same room for all 14 (!!!) years of my teaching career. And yes, I mean I have been teaching in the same room, in the same school, for all 14 years of my teaching career. I call that a win! (And a super lucky break!)

My classes are smaller this year (most of them are 23-29 kids), while my homeroom is my only class over 30 (33 kids). I think this will be a nice break from last year. Plus, I only see my homeroom for 20ish minutes before they go on their way to 1st hour. And then I see most of them again for 3rd hour.

So this year I have decided to go all in with TL spoken in class. 90/10 is my goal. Mostly I’m putting that in writing so I can remind myself when I’m teaching next week (already?!) that that will be the case moving forward. I wanted to give my kids (especially my 1s) a head’s up about what that means for them. Hopefully it will make them more engaged overall since they’ll really have to make sure they understand what’s going on!

So, I’ll definitely keep you updated as to how things go. What new things are you trying this year with your kids? Let me know and keep me posted as the year progresses!

Year in Review 2016-17

year_in_review

May 31, 2017

So I’ve seen some “it’s the last week of school” posts from my teacher friends in other parts of the country in the last few days. While I envy them for being on break already, I know they go back earlier than us, so I guess it all balances out. Here in Michigan, we still have about 3ish weeks of school left, but because of an 8th grade trip to Washington, D.C., that leaves next Wednesday, I’ve had to give my Final Exams a bit earlier than in previous years.

While my kids are starting final preps for Final Exams, I thought I’d take the time to check in and let you guys know what has been going on here lately and recap this year, which I already sort of did in a previous post.

So here’s the plan for the last few weeks. My kids (both my 1s and 2s) take their Finals next week Tuesday and Wednesday. After that my classes will probably be smaller as a large percentage of our school’s 8th grade class is going on this trip. I haven’t told them yet, but all we’re basically doing is watching movies in Spanish.

The first movie we’ll watch is Finding Nemo. I’ll put the Spanish language track on with the Spanish subtitles, and then have them watch it, completing this sheet as they go. One of the things my students have picked up on in previous years is that the Spanish language track and the Spanish subtitles don’t always match up. Additionally, they start to pick up on the slang that Crush uses with his surfer talk. When I get the sheets back, I notice them making notes in the margin like “compa=dude”. I’ve also found some really talented artists in my classes. Check it out below!

The end of the sheet asks them to describe their favorite part. In Spanish, of course!

The second movie we’ll be watching is Beverly Hills Chihuahua. This time we watch the movie in English. Because the majority of the movie takes place in Mexico, I have the students take notes on a lined piece of paper. I tell them to divide their paper into two columns: One for new Spanish words they learn, and another for new culture points they learn.

I think the twist on it this year will be that I will tell students that how well they pay attention will determine whether or not I collect it at the end. This forces students to pay attention, do the worksheet, take the notes, and then if they don’t pay complete attention, I make it for points at the end and collect it.

So overall, I think this year went well. As I mentioned in my previous post, there were definitely some bumps in the road and it was a learning experience for all. In planning for next year, I’m going to attempt doing Comprehensible Input (CI). I think this will help my students be more confident conversationalists overall, and encourage more of an immersion culture. I feel that this will also help their listening and reading comprehension skills as well.

Those of you who are following this blog may be recruited for some help. If you have experience in TPRS (Total Physical Response Storytelling) or CI, I may be wanting to pick your brain about things. Things like how to do a Movie Talk, whether or not to read a story like Pobre Ana, or something similar. I know I’ll definitely have to figure out how to do assessments that support CI/TPRS. I got a lot of good ideas at a local conference, CI in the Mitten (see my post here about it), and got some amazing ideas from the presenters there. I also currently follow Martina Bex and Maris Hawkins.

So this is my starting point. I can’t promise another post before the school year is over, but just in case, I leave you with these wise words of wisdom:

“Learning from our mistakes and holding on to our memories help us become deeper individuals with a better sense of who we are and how we choose to live our lives.” –Ron Clark

CI in the Mitten: Another #mindblown Day

CI_Mitten

April 22, 2017

You know that feeling when you come back from a conference and your head is swimming with all the amazing ideas you were just learning about and you can’t wait to try them out in your classroom ASAP? Yeah, that’s me right about now. After realizing that–aside from my brief foray into PBL with my 2s earlier this year–I haven’t really changed my teaching methodology the whole time I’ve been teaching. That’s 13 years of doing the same thing with the same methods. My kids have changed, why shouldn’t I?

If you read my last post, I gave you a brief overview of what has happened to the clientele in my school over the last few years. Since I’m not dealing with the same types of learners I had when I first started teaching, it seems only logical that I work with a different methodology to fit the currently clientele.

Let’s face it: kids today want to be entertained. All. The. Time. And what better way to do that than creating stories with Comprehensible Input (CI)? I think this is a more viable option for both of my levels, especially my 1s. And while every hour will not go exactly the same, I think this will keep me on my toes more!

So what exactly got me so super geeked? To start the day off, I was in the same room with Dr. Bill Van Patten! Having done my Masters in Second Language Acquisition (SLA), this guy’s name was all over everything that I read research-wise. To say I was fangirling out was kind of an understatement! Then, I got to go to CI bootcamp with Carol Gaab. She taught us by putting us in the students’ seat by teaching us Hebrew. In the 3ish hours that I was in that workshop, I learned more than I did when I took the same conversational Hebrew class twice in Sunday school!

After getting a good intro to how the method works, I then went to learn about Movie Talks from Jen Kron. She made references to Martina Bex and Maris Hawkins, both of whom I love! After lunch, I got some good hands-on practice with a Coaching Session. Super helpful and although it may take some practice, I think this is a better way to go.

Finally, the last session that I attended was presented by Kristi Shaffer about using Realia with CI. She gave some really good examples of what she uses with her 1s and 4s. I got some amazing ideas on how to use things with both my 1s and 2s.

So, to recap: I think CI is a great method/technique to use because while it’s still teacher-driven, the kids get more of a role in creating the stories, and as a result they stay engaged and it’s more about having fun and–Oh, by the way, you’re learning!

Reflections on the Year (So Far).

reflections_year

April 18, 2017

With only weeks remaining in the school year, I have started my reflection process. This is me thinking out loud and for you to learn what I have, but not through trial and error. I think it would be safe to say that I have learned almost as much as my kids have this year. After teaching at the same school in the same room with (mostly) the same teaching assignment for 13 years (as long as my kids have been alive!), it’s good to know that I’m still constantly expanding, learning, and growing as a teacher. I consider myself lucky. Not many people can say that they’ve had the same experience that I’ve had with their job. I like this familiarity.

I am also pleased to know that my kids can teach me some things and that–contrary to popular belief–I don’t know everything. And I will never claim to. But this year has taught me that even more.

So, you may ask, what have I learned? Here’s what I have learned this year so far:

  • Don’t assume students know something. Explain as much as possible.
  • When students ask a question, be straightforward with them and answer their questions. (This also goes with the thought above.)
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work.
  • Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board after trying something new. I realize that the style of PBL that I was doing wasn’t working for my kids, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it another shot.

Without going into a detailed history of why these changes in my teaching have occurred, the short version is this: A couple of years ago my district decided to re-draw the boundary lines for who attends what school where. This dramatically shifted our population and–I believe–my teaching style as a result. The assumptions I made (correctly) with the previous population can no longer be made with my current clientele. This forced me to change my teaching style and go back to basics. I would consider this my Renaissance.

One of the main things I was taught in Ed School (thank you Western Michigan University for giving me an amazing education with priceless experiences; Shameless Plug. Sorry not sorry.) was that a good teacher always re-evaluates and continues to reflect. And that is what I have to keep reminding myself of every day, with the start of each new year.

While it may seem that I’m getting nostalgic a bit, it’s true. As frustrating as this year has been, I really appreciate the experiences I have had, because they make me a better teacher. Each group of kids that I get leave a special place in my heart and I can say that these guys have made me a better teacher. And isn’t that what this is all about?

MACUL Recap: #MindBlown

macul_recap_mindblown

March 24, 2017

Recently I had the privilege of attending the MACUL Conference, since it was located in Detroit, near where I live. For both days, it was around $200, which I thought was pretty steep. Until I went there and realized for what you are getting, $200 is pretty much a bargain!

macul_conference_logo

Speaker highlights include Sir Ken Robinson, Jennie Magiera, Jane McGonigal, Barbara Chamberlin, Ph.D, Hall Davidson, Leslie Fisher, and Matt Miller. Ok, so I’m kind of fangirling out with that last one. If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you know how much I love what Matt stands for. He is passionate, energetic, and an amazing educator. Did I mention he’s a Spanish teacher by training? Yeah, that last one really earned him a lot of points with me.

But I digress…

There were so many great sessions to choose from and so much to see that I know I didn’t do half as much as I wanted to. Each day I came home, my brain was sufficiently fried, but in the best possible way. Between students presenting their coding/technology skills, the MakerSpace, and meet and greets–not to mention the exhibition hall with an insane amount of vendors–there was so much to do you literally needed a Top 5 in each category just to make it doable.

If you ever make it to this conference, definitely plan in advance! Just planning which sessions to go to was tough enough, since I am so passionate about everything EdTech. I should have also planned on which exhibitors to check out, which exhibits in the MakerSpace and MaculZone I wanted to go to, and that doesn’t even begin to cover the half of it! Plus, the venue was so large in and of itself that to physically get from one location to another was a workout!

So the sessions that I ended up going to were Ditch that Homework with Matt Miller (obviously), Deep Learning with Google Tools with Matt Miller, Flipped Classroom in the Foreign Language, Google Classroom with Leslie Fisher, Seesaw Interactive Learning Journal, and The Digital Pirate with Matt Miller.

Matt Miller and Leslie Fisher get me really excited about all the tips/tricks/shortcuts they showed us, and their passion for their topics was clearly evident. On top of all of this, part of the fun of the conference included a game through an app called GooseChase, which is like a digital scavenger hunt. So many possibilities with this! The more things you find, the more points you earn which can lead to a prize.

So as you can see it was a lot of fun, super educational and got me super geeked for using all this new technology and playing around with everything. If you are in Michigan, I would highly recommend this conference to anyone with a passion for EdTech.

What’s your favorite conference that you’ve been to? What was so amazing about it? Tweet me, Facebook me, and let me know!

Healthy Choices for Food & Exercise

healthy_choices_food_exercise

March 9, 2017

My Spanish 1s are culminating a unit talking about food, healthy and unhealthy food and activity options. For a final project before their Common Assessment (which serves as the Post-Test in a Pre/Post-Test), they are to create a poster talking about what you should/shouldn’t eat and what kinds of things you should do to stay healthy. It turns out I have some very artistic students in my classes who turn out some amazing final products!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The idea is laid out as part of our textbook that we use, Realidades. (This is one of the few things I actually use textbook materials for!) In the Guided Practice side of the workbook, a template is laid out for students to start their brainstorming using the following sentence starters

  • Debes comer… [You should eat…]
  • No debes comer mucho(a)… [You shouldn’t eat a lot of…]
  • Debes beber… [You should drink…]
  • No debes beber mucho(a)… [You shouldn’t drink a lot of…]
  • Debes… [You should…]

Students make sure that the sentences are grammatically correct, lay out a rough draft on a piece of lined paper, and then–once approved by me–they may start on their final draft on a special piece of paper that I give them to make their poster. I include samples from previous years’ students so they can get an idea of how they can lay it out, what they can include, and ideas for how to include pictures even if they’re not super artistic (I tell them they can cut out pictures from magazines or use clipart found online). Their poster must be colored and I show them this rubric so they know what I’m expecting them to do.

As you can see, the results are awesome! I am constantly amazed with the hidden talents of my students! They are so creative and really get into it!

What are some of your favorite projects to do with your kids? I’d love to hear about them below!

Continually Improving

continually_improving

February 16, 2017

Teaching is a reflective process. You cannot expect to get better if you do not constantly reflect on what you have been doing. This has been a huge year for my growth. Trying something new made for a bumpy road at first, but it has gradually smoothed out. My Spanish 2 students have been brutally honest about what works for them and what doesn’t. I’m glad they are willing to advocate for themselves and not hold back when I ask for their feedback.

It has been a year of learning for all of us. I am always looking to incorporate new methods, and while some have worked and others not so much, I know that I’m becoming a better teacher for it.

One of my files in my Google Drive is “To Do for Next Year”. Here I include notes about what to include, what to skip, and what to tweak based on current students’ experiences or if a particular activity was effective or not. I always leave myself notes in my Google Doc or my lesson plan so that when I’m using it the next year, I can go back and change what didn’t work and keep what did.

I’m thinking that at the end of the year I’ll do a survey with both my 1s and 2s. I want to know what they really liked and what they didn’t. Hopefully they take things seriously (if you have middle schoolers you’ll understand this; end of the year 8th graders can be very snarky with their comments when you are looking for honest feedback).