16 October 2014

Nip Late Work in the Bud: Google Classroom Contact

Can I just say how much I love some of the features on Google Classroom? For example, there are two numbers for any assignment I create, right there on my stream: numbers for Done and Not Done. I simply click the Not Done column during my 4th period planning or after school the day an assignment is due (or the day before, if they've had a while to work on it) to see who has not turned it in yet. Then I click to check the little box next to Students, click EMAIL, and I send them some variation of this missive:
SUBJECT: ________ due today! Can I help? 
I noticed your ________ was not submitted yet. Is there anything I can do to help you wrap up? Did you have trouble...? 
Remember you can... 
________should be submitted today so that you can...
Please let me know what else I can do to help you complete the assignment!
 And you know what else? I blind copy their parents the same email (Google Classroom automatically makes them all BCC, so I send the main copy to myself).

I do occasionally get some questions back, but more than that? I get assignments turned in--sometimes within minutes of sending the email!

Maybe they just need someone to set off a little pavlovian bell on their phone to remember to hit submit. Maybe the "Remember you can" section gives them the missing piece to the puzzle so they can finish. Maybe the "so that you can" section makes them see the importance of submitting the work sooner rather than later. Maybe Momma lights a fire under them when her phone dings. Whatever the case, I have me some instant documentation if somehow my little reminder doesn't work its magic.

I confess this is not much use where neither child nor parent is attached to a smartphone or other email receptacle. Though that is a dwindling problem, it does still exist for a few of my students who fall behind. But at least it does cut back on the number of people I have to chase down during class so that I can actually attend to the ones who don't get the benefit of the inbox buzz the night before.

15 October 2014

Genius Hour Agenda 3: Reflection

Absolutely everything students do for Genius Hour, beginning to end, goes on our class passion blog. Now they're not writing blog posts from the start, unless of course you count making a list of words related to their topic. At the beginning, we are in research mode--or the "collect" phase of the Genius Hour process-- so the early posts are mostly embedding other people's words, demonstrating Novice Low reading skills like recognition. After collecting a quorum of resources that demonstrate the vocabulary in context, though, it is time to reflect.

Now, Genius Hour is but once a week the way I do it, though you could take your "20 Time" out at the beginning or end of each day, if you prefer. The rest of the time, you are still doing what you do, so they're getting all of that valuable comprehensible input along the way. For my part, I help hit the basic verbs hard in OWLanguage-type activities and other class practices during class project time. Amy Lenord compiled a list of the following essentials that will work no matter your unit:

I think, too, you can probably express most things you want to say with maybe 10 verbs, and the focus helps novices keep their phrasing simple:
  • Hay
  • Es
  • Son
  • Tengo/tienes
  • Necesito/necesitas
  • Entiendo/entiendes
  • Quiero/quieres
  • Me gusta/te gusta
  • Creo/crees
  • Puedo/puedes
Students use these verbs along with sentence starters and semi-scripts stacked with cognates to reflect in at least 3 forms: Questions, Summary, and Discussion.

Just as in Project-Based Learning, Genius Hour demands a Driving Question to steer the project. I've found that students attempting a passion project in the target language really need to poke around and see what's available on their level before they frame their questions. The question about where dreams came from was really a fascinating one, and those looking to prepare for careers in pediatrics or forensic science are certainly valuable and ambitious...but there's not going to be a lot they can work with in the target language. So I have students form their Driving Question after they've at least pinned a few resources and scoped out some tweets, maybe found contact information for an expert or five.

Then they set a task that will demonstrate the answers to that question and, like PBL, they break the Driving Question down into need-to-know questions, smaller questions that they could answer with different sources to inform their larger questions and goals.

For summaries, I provide sentence starters tied with the kind of collecting I had them doing most recently. The sentence starters, of course, rely on those high-frequency words we use regularly in class and cognates, so my novices still only need to contribute their level-appropriate words and phrases--gleaned almost entirely from their research and established list.

Reflection 1: after collecting pins and retweets
Something interesting for the class is...
I want to know more about...
I never knew that...
Other interesting topics related to my topic are...

Reflection 2: after following Twitter accounts and finding contact information
Experts in my topic are...
Experts can help me by...
If I need more experts or information, I can...

Reflection 3: after Google searches and Diigo highlights
A pattern I've seen in my research is...
I thought that...but I learned that...
I still don't understand...because...

Reflection 4: in preparation mode
Something interesting for the class is...
When I present my topic, I want to focus on...because...
I can show the class how...works...

I like to have students form questions and summarize before discussing so they have a reference point for the discussion already scaffolded in for them. What's more, I have students do a little asynchronous discussion before actually speaking, too. I set up groups of about 4 students with similar interests (always plenty of food and music groups) so that they will perhaps have some personal vocabulary in common, and also something they care about discussing.

Students then need to review what their blogging partners have posted--since the beginning or at least since the last time they checked--and then comment on their most recent summary post. They must respond with 2 statements (Me gusta... and Quiero saber mas de...) and 1 question. Then, each person answers each response on their own summary posts.

For the synchronous conversation, we turn to Vocaroo and break out their interpersonal playbooks to semi-script the conversation ahead of time. Their conversations connect to what they've already seen on the blogs, so they're reinforcing in a different mode, but gaining fluency with speaking on their personal topics as well.

13 October 2014

In-Depth Inquiry in the TL: Classmate Surveys

In-depth inquiry is key to Project-Based Learning, according to the Buck Institute for Education, but in-depth inquiry is tricky in a novice language class striving for ACTFL's recommended 90%. I, for one, have my novices do a lot of research with infographs, which you really can't beat for novice authentic input. However, for depth from a novice-appropriate non-native source, look no further than the shining faces before you.

Your students are sources: of opinions, perspectives, ideas...of starting points, really.

Now, explaining how to use Google Forms may take up all of your allotted 10% English for the day (and then some), although I suppose you could use a bunch of gestures and aquis and luegos, if you must. But having students form questions to obtain information from classmates.

Types of questions classmates can help with at the beginning of a project:
  • preferences - to help steer projects in a productive direction 
  • resources - to figure out what they'll need to get projects off the ground--and what they won't 
  • habits - to connect projects to students' daily lives 
  • suggestions - to improve on existing ideas and plans 
  • knowledge - to establish a baseline or popular perception 

Preview questionsI had students write their questions in their interactive notebooks first (and then on a Doc on Google Classroom too), primarily to make sure that they were comprehensible and correctish, to steer them back toward familiar constructions and away from dictionary dependence.

Revise questionsWe hadn't really done anything with forms explicitly yet, so I had them revise their submitted questions with s's, after reviewing vas, eres, and puedes, which we'd seen multiple times.

Predict answers
At first I let students choose loosey-goosey "text" responses, but then as students started taking each other's surveys, they really had no idea what their classmates were looking for. And after all, I make them anticipate responses in their interpersonal playbooks, so it's only logical to do the same in this context, to require multiple choice responses. I mean, this is going to become scaffolding for conversation, so it's useful to establish the vocabulary too. An "other" blank option is not a bad idea, though.

Give hints
Students should give an overview in their survey description of what their group is trying to do. For our Plan Verde unit, I suggested pulling back in the -mos ending we focused on for Driving Questions the week prior to say Queremos reciclar/reducir/reutilizar [material] por/con ... A little glossing might be in order, too, since different groups function from different vocabulary (the plastic group, for example, had no idea what bombillas were, or that they weren't necessarily explosive).

Test drive 
It would have been wise to have students try the surveys on group members before surveying the rest of the class, then maybe explain how--or IF--they can actually use the information they collect that way. If they can't, then, of course, they revise their surveys before posting them to Google Classroom (or your LMS of choice) for all to take.

Discuss results
After classmates have taken the surveys, then group members pull up their respective spreadsheets (I have each group member do their own survey, even if there's overlap because repeat ALL the input!) and talk about what they have and how they can use it. All they really need is their original questions, their results, and some memorized phrases about what the information "indica que necesitamos hacer" and perhaps de acuerdo and maybe sí, pero...

Hint: I still recommend students include ONE text response question, for names. That way everyone can "get credit," and it sets the stage for follow-up discussion!