19 December 2014

Top 14 of 2014

In case you haven't seen it, my guide to becoming a 21st Century world language teacher is THE SINGLE MOST POPULAR THING I HAVE EVER POSTED. I collected resources from a lot of the big brains around our little Twitter PLN for this page. It's not a "post" per se, but it's my version of a textbook for people wanting to up their game.

14. Daily Instagram Updates April 24
I had to write my objectives and agenda on the board each day AND I had to post them online. So I just took a picture and set up my site to take pictures of the board from Instagram!

13. Proficiency by the Bikes Aug 14
I borrowed from Srta. Barragan, Kelly Daugherty and Martina Bex to make students aware of where they're heading from the beginning and help them set reasonable goals. I think it helped me even more than it helped them, keeping me honest about what tasks are appropriate for their level.

12. Genius Hour Agenda Overview March 18
I've since revised the sequence of activities and moved the bulk of the process to the beginning of the year instead of the end, but here's how it went down last spring.

11. Make an Interactive Infograph Syllabus Aug 31 563
If I'm going to make a syllabus, I want people to actually look at it and use it. Infographs draw the eye, and you can add resources to it to make the whole thing a one-stop shop for the whole course pretty much.

10.  Setting Independent Language Goals with Students January 19
I presented on homework choice with Sara-Elizabeth and Bethanie at ACTFL14, and this post helped me get the structure together to be more manageable for this year. There are still kinks, but it's working pretty nicely.

9. Why LangCamp? May 10
Alas, LangCamp 2014 never got off the ground, but there's still a chance we could get something together for this summer, right? Picture it: hanging out with the best, smartest, funniest minds in our field and finally really digging into our language teacher plans to take over the world.

8. Start with a Song: Pop Music Motivates Oct 19
I love coros. My kids love coros. If there is one thing they will still have when they have been done with my Spanish class for years, it is coros. Here's how to set it up to make students look forward to Spanish class and to keep Spanish stuck in there head all day for years to come.

7. Genius Hour Agenda, part 1: Setup and Vocabulary January 11
As I said in another ACTFL14 presentation, the key to making Genius Hour work is in the scaffolding, really structuring assignments to build proficiency in topics students love, starting with vocabulary.

6. Strategies for Standards-Based Portfolio Curation January 4
I'm arduously redesigning the portfolio structure yet again, to push leveling up quicker and easier organization (kids hated the approach this year). But standards-based principles remain in place.

5. Why and How You Should Do Stations on Day 1 Aug 18
This is the follow-up to my all-time most popular post. Basically, it's all about setting the tone and positive--yet high--expectations.

4. Three Apps, Three Types of Movie Projects July 14 756
I didn't do as much with Sock Puppets or Green Screen as I'd hoped, and I actually didn't do anything with Voice. Next semester.

3. Proficiency Portfolio Re-Design May 28
Portfolios went better than ever before. But they still took literally days off of my life and frustrated kids. Be on the lookout for the next incarnation--this time with ACTFL I-cans!

2. Your Own Personal Spanish Curriculum Jan 9
Genius Hour, personal goals, and portfolios mean a lot of choice...perhaps too much. But I'm working on it.

1. First Day Fun Stations July 18
While not quite as popular as the 21st century language teacher guide, this is by far the single most popular post I ever did publish. I'm working on how to adapt it for a set of kids I already know on a personal and a Spanish level, but the idea of keeping kids moving trying different things was certainly a hit and really set the tone for what I would be willing to call the most successful semester of my 11-year teaching career

So here's to another year of growing, reflecting, and plotting together, my dear PLN! Happy holidays!

17 December 2014

Love, Hate, and Spanish 1

To compile a list of what worked and what didn't and begin to develop a plan for improvement, I promised to try not to cry myself to sleep when I polled Spanish I about their Top 5 and Worst 5 activities from class this semester. Of course I also swore their responses would not affect their grades either way.

Love/Hate logo adapted from NetKids DeviantArt page
If they liked it, their task was to tell A) how it helped and B) why they enjoyed it. If they didn't like it, they were to A) describe the problem and B) propose a solution.

Now the whole thing probably would have been a lot more useful if the young ones actually HAD stuck to these tasks, but still, I got information I think I can use.

These activities were pretty overwhelmingly in the Top 5 category.
  • Coros
    Pretty much UNANIMOUS favorite (barely anyone could resist putting it in the top 5, no dissenters), students said it helped them "learn some everyday words" and "got my brain on the right track." Now I've got to figure out how to take it to the next level to promote intermediate skills next year.
  • Pinterest (18:6)
    Most liked reinforcing vocabulary, for Genius Hour and Plan Verde, with images and finding more information easily. The main complaints was some topics were hard to find pins for (I'll have to counsel on passion topics better), and some thought it was too easy, which I think I can live with in Spanish I.
  • InfuseLearning (14:1)
    Only one kid admitted they "didn't learn anything" from the vocabulary doodling exercise, but others said "seeing other people's [images] helped the definition really stick."
  • Emergency vocab (14)
    Taken from First Day Fun Stations, kids had a reference for how to ask to go to the bathroom, etc. at the back of their interactive notebooks. They didn't use all of the words, but the reference was handy apparently.
  • Daily language goals (9)
    They may not have hit 90% every day...or very many days at all...but they liked how it made them conscious of their language usage and accomplishments.

Like  No real complaints about these, but not many put them in their Top 5.
  • Socio/monitor cards (4)
    I, too, was pretty pleased with how well these worked. Kids almost sounded natural when they had an English script of what they should ask.
  • Interpersonal Playbook (6:2)
    Some thought it was too easy, but others thought it was a handy reference.
  • Calendar (3)
    A few thought it helped them organize well and communicate expectations with group members. Plus the instructions to set them up were useful for practicing numbers and dates.
  • Presentations (4)
    A handful got a kick out of getting in front of class (Q&A especially helped with "thinking on my feet") and others liked learning from each other.
  • Vocab visuals (3)
    The visual connection was important in different activities, and including them in their passion presentations was especially key for communicating with classmates.
  • Web map (3)
    Some liked making the connections to keep words they "needed throughout the semester on hand."

Mostly just on the Worst 5 lists
  • Tweeting experts (0:15)
    I never got up the guts to do it, so I shouldn't be surprised. I bet WeSpeke would work way better!
  • Collaboration (1:8)
    Last year it seemed to get kids to face their shortcomings. This year, they mostly complained of just getting people upset. Frankly, I think that's a strong indicator of the necessity of the conferences about collaborative skills, but I'll be thinking of another way.
  • Exploratextos (1:11)
    I tried. A few suggested doing a few books together as a class. Maybe we could have a rotation? Order some more after they browse a bit? Maybe some Google Community reader response?
  • Metas/Resultados del dia (4:15)
    Some it organized, most it didn't. I kind of liked the one suggestion for checklists, but I'm not sure how to structure that to help students maximize their time.
  • Portfolios (3:18)
    I showed them what I've been working on for a new template using ACTFL I-cans, and most feel better having less choice in this and were relieved upon seeing the clearer objectives.
  • Diigo (5:16)
    I couldn't have survived grad school without it. Maybe it was the blog publishing. Maybe I did too many steps at once. I think maybe I will have students focus on one resource at a time, highlighting, paraphrasing, summarizing it before moving on.

Some thought they were great. Some just wanted them to stop.
  • Invento project (8:5)
    I'm gonna call this one a keeper. I was intrigued by the idea of scrapping Plan Verde to devote more time to this and passion projects. I mean, really, if my tests are portfolios or IPAs, there's no reason I HAVE to do 3 projects!
  • Glog (3:5)
    I didn't like shellling out $40 to make overly complex soundboards either. I'm contemplating VoiceThread or Prezi as a substitute, although TinyTap might be a useful app to substitute, and if I could convince the powers that be, I'd totally shell out $30 to get MadPad HD on each of my class iPads.
  • Storyasking (4:8)
    Some thoroughly enjoyed Mucha basura and El mejor invento and how they "figured out new words on my own." Others iddn't get the point of all of the repetition. I guess I could try shorter less complex stories.
  • Reportajes (3:3)
    I need to tighten this process where individuals take turn standing up and telling what they have and what's next. I need to make it a quicker, more interactive routine.
  • Personal Goals (11:5)
    Some liked exploring what mattered to them, though there is the passion project for that...Others just liked the easy grade or felt like it was busy work. This one bears a closer look.

07 December 2014

TPRS Genius Hour

The best reason to present at conferences is that people with great ideas come to you. I mean, sure, you get to gather your thoughts on your own work, maybe show off a little, but if you are presenting something, people who are interested in what you're interested have a designated time and place to track you down...even if it is 8 AM on a Sunday.

This is where Cadena Sensei comes in.

Those who have put up with me for any amount of time know I think Genius Hour is one of the secrets to life--or at least to making kids want to learn (which...isn't that what life is anyway?). I've presented on it three times since August alone. However, I'm always looking for new ways to make it--and all of my Spanish instruction--more productive, more accessible for my students. So John came up to me after my Genius Hour session with this idea to use some pre-selected texts as springboards for Genius Hour projects. Of course the English teacher in me starts singing Liiiiterature circlllles! in my head. I wasn't quite sure if this was quite autonomous enough to be "Genius Hour," but I stored the idea and made Cadena Sensei swear to blog about it (still waiting, John. Tweet him and bug him for me, if you want.)

TPRS on the plane
Now I've been snooping around some TPRS books lately, trying to figure out how it could fit in with my students' goals and interests, and I picked up a couple of Kristy Placido's at the TPRS Publishing booth at ACTFL a few weeks ago. By far, my favorites are Noche de oro and Robo en la noche.

I devoured Noche de oro somewhere between San Antonio and Charlotte and suddenly Cadena Sensei's plan clicked. I started listing every topic I could think of that Noche de oro made me think of, every possible tangential topic that could be explored in greater depth, a la Cadena Sensei's plan, that could ever possibly appeal to any of the students I knew I'd have for Spanish II.

I came up with 20 topics in 3 different categories:

For the ecologically minded
  • birds
  • trees
  • ecosystems
  • conservation
  • rain forest
  • beaches
  • mining
  • waterfalls
  • coffee
For the artistically minded
  • Costa Rican chefs
  • heavy metal
  • salsa
  • tattoos
For the socially minded
  • study abroad
  • police corruption
  • government structure
  • desaparecidos
  • blended families
  • teen freedom
  • flirting/dating

And that's just from Noche de oro! If I go with, say, literature circles, letting students choose the text as well (as per Cadena Sensei's suggestion), and add Robo en la noche to the mix, students could also choose from these topics:
  • health care
  • dictatorships
  • Costa Rican military
  • eco tourism
  • ocean/sea life
  • fruit/flora
  • cathedrals
  • weddings
  • breakfast
  • elders
  • widows
  • horses
  • exotic animal trafficking
  • parks
  • Tico cuisine/restaurants
  • cell phones
  • injuries
  • kidnapping
  • judicial system

PLUS there are these Pinterest boards that the autora herself put together too, for both Robo en la noche and Noche de oro.

Putting it together
Now. TELL me there isn't something for everyone there? I mean, I could put names to the topics right now, and I could satisfy just about every kid on my roster. On top of that, since there is the uniting theme of the book, students would all have a common purpose for conversation, and they could bring their respective pieces of the puzzle to jigsaw the whole thing richer!

So here's what I'm envisioning for a new Genius Hour day routine (bearing in mind 20% of the 4-day academic week at my school is not a whole class period):
  1. Tip-off talk: pick a partner and discuss the who/what/when/where/why/how of last week's chapter to refresh (with Sock Puppets?)
  2. Story setup: activity to preview impending chapter (word cloud, headlines, image discussion, videos, etc.)
  3. Story time: read another chapter of the book, pausing for quick writes.
  4. Genius hour: collect, reflect, prepare, or share
  5. Connection blog: explain 2 things you learned on your topic and how those things fit with the story.
And THEN students with different Genius Hour interests would have an excuse to work together on their final product--since all of the topics started on a related note--thus encouraging the young ones to get REALLY creative with their connections for presenting purposes.