TeachersPayTeachers Store Sale!!!

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May 9, 2017

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! (Or was that last week? I don’t know if anybody really knows. But I digress…)

My whole TeachersPayTeachers Store is having a sale! Check it out! Mostly Spanish stuff, but a few relics from my days teaching American History!

Only 2 days!!!

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CI in the Mitten: Another #mindblown Day

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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!

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!

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.

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.

My Favorite Tech Tools

For those of you who are just getting–or already have–Chromebooks, I wanted to share some of my favorite tech tools that I regularly use in class, as well as some tools that I just started using this year.

kahootKahoot This is a great tool that I use for reviews before tests. I haven’t played around with all the new features that they’ve added recently, but my students generally beg me to play. This morning, after we were done with their first Kahoot reviewing for their test tomorrow, some students asked me if we could play again. Yes. It’s just that good.

 

Nearpod This is a tool that I just started using this year after hearing about a colleague using it. It has options to either teach a live lesson or allow students to go through it on their own pace. I have onlnearpody used the live lesson function, but what it does is it broadcasts the presentation that I want to their individual devices (in my guys’ case, their Chromebooks, but it could also be used on an iPad, I imagine) so that they have easy sight to what they should be taking notes. I tend to use it to introduce new grammar points with both levels 1 and 2. One of my students said that they pay attention more when they use Nearpod in class.

memriseMemrise This website/app is based on brain research that converts information to short term memory, and then eventually to long-term memory. It gamifies the material, similar to Kahoot, and there is a class leaderboard, which ups the competition factor among students.

This is in addition to Google Platform for Education. See my previous post here about the different applications and uses.

Students Using Chromebooks

September 21, 2016

chromebooksSo my students have had their Chromebooks for about a week and a half. About 6 of them have left their Chromebooks in my room. Once they finally realize that they’re missing, how do they get them back? Well, for one, I don’t let them sit around the room. As soon as another student finds them, I put them in a nook underneath my desk. And then I wait. Generally by the end of the day they realized they’ve misplaced this precious technology.

Our school participates in PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). We have a school-wide currency called Discovery Dollars. Students receive Discovery Dollars when they are caught being good. So as we are about 3 weeks into the school year, hopefully they should be accumulating these Discovery Dollars, which can be used for various items throughout the school with their various teachers.

When students realize they have left items (including Chromebooks) in my room, they have to ask me for them. I generally ask them, “How much is it worth to you, dear?” [insert big cheezy grin here]. They usually stammer and think out loud, “You mean in Discovery Dollars?” Um, yes. The first time they leave their Chromebooks in my room, I will give it back to them for free. On one condition: That if they leave it in my room again, they will need to “pay a ransom” in Discovery Dollars to get it back. They humbly agree.

This seems to be working for me. It is something you may want to consider if your students have or are about to get Chromebooks or some other kind of precious technology. Keep in mind I work with 8th graders, so if you have younger students, you may want to modify some of these ideas. This has worked for me ever since I started implementing it a couple of years ago.