MACUL Recap: #MindBlown

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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!

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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!

Continually Improving

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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).

Choice Boards: Round 1

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November 7, 2016

Phew! So I know it’s been a while since I’ve last written. Things are getting super crazy and hectic, but what else is new? Since I last wrote, my 2s have turned in their first Choice Boards, and here is what I’ve learned so far:

  1. When using Kaizena, if you set it up linked through Google Classroom, anything students upload in Google Classroom will automatically show in Kaizena. This made for very tedious work basically looking at duplicates of anything the students submitted. Very frustrating and time-consuming.
  2. Have one location for students to turn things in digitally. I find it best to have students either share it with me via Google Docs (which will send you an email notification) or upload directly to Google Classroom. Make sure your students give you access to the docs, otherwise you won’t be able to see anything!
  3. For the speaking activities, I use a rubric to evaluate them. I ended up printing out hard copies of the rubrics and attaching the speaking rubric to the overall Choice Board rubric. I initially thought I could do everything digitally, but the old-school teacher in me needed to see and physically write on the hard copies. It’s still reducing my paper trail overall,  but I feel like giving students a hard copy of the rubrics gives them more concrete feedback.

I had to adjust the pacing overall (see my previous post here about how that went), and I think together we have finally found our groove. It was a bumpy start, but I think things are starting to smooth out overall.

We are now on our second chapter and the students are starting to figure out how things are going to go. (“Wait. We’re going to have a Choice Board for every chapter?” Um, yes. How else am I going to see if you’re proficient in the material?) I think they like the overall structure of the class, but I’m not totally sure. I’ll probably give them a survey right around midterms to see how they feel about stuff. Maybe at the semester I can make some changes. I’ve already started to tweak things based on their feedback.

Meeting the Needs of All Students

meeting_needs_studentsOctober 18, 2016

So we are now in the thick of it, and I am already learning a lot about the needs of the students in regard to pacing and instruction with this new format. After one week of introducing the new concepts back to back, it came to my attention that there needed to be some processing time between introduction of concepts. Based on student feedback, I have decided to space out the introduction of new grammar concepts with group guided practice. This will help them get a better idea of how well they are understanding the material and receive effective feedback from me about what they may be doing wrong.

While students are working on their Choice Boards (see my previous post about that here), I am meeting with them to have individual conferences. I ask them four basic questions: What do you feel your strengths are for this chapter? What do you feel like you need work on? How much progress have you made with your Choice Boards? and Do you have any questions for me? As I talk with the students, I’m making a Google Doc recording their answers. I expect to have 2 meetings with them per chapter to monitor their progress and see how they have progressed in their understanding of the concepts.

When students hand in their Choice Boards, it will be a combination of handing it in digitally via Google Classroom or sharing it with me in Google Docs or doing various speaking activities with me in person. They will check in their workbook pages with me in person during their second Individual Conference. I am still not sure how I will evaluate the speaking activities done in person. I included a rubric with the Choice Board in Google Docs, but I’m not sure if it would be more effective to print out a hard copy or make notes to myself on paper and later fill in their rubrics digitally when they turn them in via Google Classroom.

In meeting with the students individually, one thing has stood out to me: The higher students often do well and don’t need a lot of one-on-one attention help, but it’s the lower students that need more structure and less independent work. This was one thing I did not consider when I originally made this plan. I know it seems fairly obvious now, but the details and logistics seem to escape you when you’re planning a general overall schedule. This became apparent when I went to meet with one of my students in my homeroom, who expressed a lot of concern with this less-structured setup. I told him that after I finished the initial round of Individual Conferences I would be able to work with him one-on-one and answer any questions he had or re-explain anything he needed me to. He seemed relieved and determined to be successful, which I appreciate. I like that I can get individual time with each student and they can give me some very good constructive criticism that will ultimately become a better teacher.

I think overall this will be a good plan. But, like any good plan, there needs to be tweaks and changes to make it as successful as possible. I think together my students and I are finally finding our groove that works for everyone.

Pacing & Planning: Post-Conference Reflections

 

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October 14, 2016

Last night was Parent-Teacher Conferences. We did a new system, where instead of all the parents coming at once, they made appointments via PTCFast.com. The school set us up an account, and we could schedule breaks. Theoretically, it sounded like a great idea. Until we got off schedule. Part of my problem was that I didn’t set a timer. It sounds dumb, but 5 minutes is less than you think when you get going.

Anyways, there were only a couple of students who attended with their parents. One of them was a Spanish 2 student of mine. I started off the conference by asking for his feedback about the class. He expressed to me some concerns about the quickness of the pacing and how he felt overwhelmed. His mom commented how I was one of the only teachers to actually ask him what he thought. (Seriously? How can that even be? Anyways…) He told me that he didn’t have enough processing time between introduction of grammar concepts and that with the introduction of the Dream House project (see my post from July 30 about this new version of a project I do with my 2s here), he felt very overwhelmed and stressed. When I explained to him that the Dream House project was a two-chapter project, he seemed a bit relieved.

There was one other parent of a 2 that expressed that her daughter had concerns about the class as well. She was worried that I make it seem like they didn’t learn anything last year (which could honestly be part of my presentation, but also the realization that the teacher they had last year and I have very different teaching and classroom management styles). Her daughter is currently doing well in my class, but nevertheless, I told the mom that I’d talk to her daughter to make sure she isn’t feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

I think that overall conferences went well. I feel like the students are overall responding positively to this new style of teaching. The one thing that I worry about is that this new method of teaching doesn’t hinder my students’ proficiency in the material. In the past, the high school teachers have commented about how knowledgeable my students are coming into their classes. I just hope that this new method doesn’t prevent them from being as proficient as in years past. I realize that each group of students is different, but in the end, I just want to do what is best for the kids, and not do something new just for the sake of being different.

Beginning of the Year Reflections

October 11, 2016

So I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. School is in full swing and things have gotten pretty hectic on my end. My students are slowly getting used to the routines I implement in my classes, and we’re falling into a nice rhythm. So I guess this is as good a time as any to reflect on how things have gone so far.

My 1s are in the middle of Etapa 1A, which is the first “real” chapter that lets them get a better idea of what to expect for the rest of the year. They have their first vocabulary quiz today. Some of them have been asking me if spelling counts. (Um, hello. Yes. What did you expect taking a language class?) So I think they’re freaking out a bit about how that’s going to work.

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Part of the Choice board is that students can create a meme for my Wall of Memes based on the current chapter’s grammar/vocabulary

My 2s are at the beginning of the Project-Based Learning adventure. I just put my Etapa 6A Choice Board live on my Google Classroom, so now the fun begins and the real work happens. I’ve already realized how I may have to tweak things and give them reminders about stuff that I (stupidly) assumed they would be able to figure out. For example, how to make a copy of a Google Doc for certain assignments attached to their Choice Boards. They initially complained when I announced that there was homework, but when I explained it more, the groans seemed to subside. A little.

 

The grammar flipbooks turned out pretty good. We shall see if/how much the kids actually use them as we continue on. I’m considering doing a Grammar Flipbook for Midterm Review (when we eventually get there). If they find the ones we did at the beginning of the year were useful, then I might do another version.

To wrap this up, I’ll put a question out there for those of you reading this. I encourage you to comment and put in your metaphorical two cents. My question is: What has been your biggest teaching triumph so far this year?

I can’t put my finger on one moment that’s stood out to me yet, but I guess if I had to say one thing, it’s that I really like my homeroom group. They’re one of my classes of 2s and I would like to think that part of the reason they are such a personable, amazing group of kids who work well as a team is because of the ice-breakers we did at the beginning of the year. Granted, they had already been in class with each other for one year prior to having me as a teacher, so they somewhat knew each other. But still, I would like to think that part of their amazing teamwork and overall jovial nature as a group would be because of how I talk to them on their level and I’m straight with them about how they’re my guinea pigs with this whole crazy adventure. And I would like to think they appreciate the honesty from me.