Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Haste makes waste: The multi-dimentions of "SLOW"

In the book "Stepping Stones to Stories" by Ben Slavic, he lists SLOW as one of the five important skills needed in delivering comprehensible input to our students.  If I understand him correctly, the SLOW he refers to is the speed in which teachers talk to their students in the target language.  He writes, "Speaking to your students slowly indicates respect.  When you speak slowly you acknowledge that you appreciate how hard it is for your students to understand the new and foreign language."

SLOW is a difficult CI skill for teachers because it feels unnatural. It feels unnatural if you teach in your 2nd language and, even more so, if you teach in your native language! It requires a conscious effort and strict self-discipline, but it is necessary to (1) put our students at ease and (2) allow their brains the needed time to absorb the meaning of the message in the TL language at their own individual rate. 

Without question, speaking SLOWLY to our students is crucial. But, SLOW is more than one dimensional.  The SLOW in the title refers to the pace in which we move through our lessons or our "curriculum". 

Many of us introduce new structures and vocabulary to our students with PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers), followed by stories (TPRS) using the target words in context, and then reinforce it with reading and possibly a MovieTalk, or some other type of comprehensible input, to give additional repetitions of those structures. When we see evidence that the students "get it", we move on to new structures.  

Are you thinking, "isn't that what we're supposed to do?" 
Well... yes, but.. I think there's an overlooked element to our teaching pattern and rhythm: We don't allow (sufficient) time for students to play with the newly-acquired language, if indeed it has truly been acquired.  

Students need time to enjoy the feeling of success, of being able to respond to and use the new vocabulary and structures in a new context withOUT the pressure of new words added to the mix.  Allowing playing time with the newly-acquired structures sends the message: this material is important and I (the teacher) am going to allow you (the students) time to celebrate your growth and success and show off what you can do with it. Today we are going to take time to explore exactly how useful are those new structures/vocabulary.     

In addition, by forging on too quickly with new content, we miss the opportunity to show the students the power of High Frequency Words (HFW) on which we base our lessons. If the words are HFW, there are a mountain of contexts in which we can provide additional exposure and reps of those HFW. Students may be amazed at how many conversations use words such as wanted, had, there was, was (location & emotion), etc. There's a reason they're called HFW! 

Allowing extra class time to play with the language validates our choice of the HFW (found in the structures and vocabulary) on which we plan our lessonsThe extra time and CI will pay dividends, both now and later in the students' language journey, because they will have a more solid grasp of the words and structures they will encounter 75%, or more, of the time when communicating (listening, speaking, reading & writing) in the language.  

Just as important, if the words we are teaching are High Frequency Words, by pausing a day, or two, or three, before adding new material, it makes it clear to all involved that acquiring those HFW is not only a good idea, but crucial in order to make steady progress toward the goal of fluency. It sends the message that NOW is the time to really make those structures part of each student, to make them really stick, for both the fast processors and the slower processors in the group. It shows our commitment to student success right now, in this lesson, in this moment, in the present, and... in the future when they move on to the next lesson, the next unit, or to the next language level the following semester or year. 

If we allow that additional processing time and exposure through play time with the language, we help to discourage the yo-yo pattern of 2 steps forward, 1 step back (or worse, 1 step forward, 2 steps back) that can occur when too much is thrown too quickly at language students. The words that aren't fully acquired start to become jumbled with the newly introduced words, and before you know it, there's a cyclone of words and structures swirling in the students' heads and when that happens, trying to put things in any time of order becomes a huge challenge. 

Please understand that "playtime with the language" is NOT wasted time. It's NOT "fluff". Putting on the brakes and choosing to go SLOW AFTER you feel comfortable with the students' ability with a particular set of structures allows the students to relax within the learning process, which lowers the affective filter, which in turn opens the door for students to make (even) deeper connections with the newly acquired structures. 

Have you heard the wise old saying, "Haste makes waste"? It mean acting too quickly on something will actually slow things down.  There's a lot of wisdom in those three words. Heed the advice or be prepared for the consequences, which will cause frustration on both the teacher and the students' part, (at least that has been my experience, whether I was the one at fault or the "haste" happened before students arrived in my classroom.

This year I'm stepping up my efforts to be more attuned to my students' language abilities and needs. In other words, I'm striving to be honest with myself about what my students can and can't do in the language in relation to the comprehensible input they have been received, in my class and previously. I fully believe in recycling language - it's necessary and with HFW it's natural.  What I don't believe in is the need to "re-teach". If that need exists, I suspect it is due, in part or in whole, to the lack of the needed amount of comprehensible input and time to acquire the language at a previous time in the language experience.   

Saturday, August 13, 2016

CI Sessions at ACTFL16

ACTFL16 in Boston, MA, is close to 3 months away.  The 3-hour, half day workshops begin on Thursday, November 17. The opening session is on Friday, from 8:30-10:00, where the new ACTFL TOY will be named. Three of the five regional TOYS in the running for ACTFL TOY are Grant Boulanger, Darcy Pippins, and Michele Whaley, all of which teach with CI. There's no denying the power of teaching with comprehensible input!

Three days of hour-long sessions, on anything and everything language related, follows the opening session.

For attendees searching out sessions based on teaching with comprehensible input, you will be glad to hear that there is a long list of presenters from which to choose.  

I compiled the list of sessions on comprehensible input below to help to help you to start planning your schedule at ACTFL. If there are other sessions that fall into this category that are not mentioned (or other errors), please let me know and I will update the documents. A link to the document is HERE.

What a line-up! And don't forget about the professional development that awaits everyong in the exhibitor hall and in the evening conversations with other teachers.  If you are still on the fence on whether or not you will go to ACTFL in Boston this November, click HERE to access ACTFL'S online program to see what else ACTFL16 has to offer!

 I hope to see you there.  :-)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Explosion of Spanish Readers this Summer!

It wasn't that many years ago when it was the norm for two, possibly three, Spanish readers to be published each year. Well, times are a changing, my friends, because in the last year there has been an EXPLOSION of books, hot off the press, written for language students. I expect that trend will continue, due in part to:
   (1) Dr. Krashen's call for more books written for language learners and his advocacy for reading, citing studies that reading is a powerful method to increase proficiency in a language
   (2) Karen Rowan's urging to budding writers to publish their works. She is promoting "How to Write a Novel" through webinars, sessions at iFLT and NTPRS conferences, Facebook pages and other online social media. Her sincere encouragement to teachers to write a novel is incomparable!
   (3) Mike Peto's and Meg Villanueva's examples of how to publish your own novel. After publishing his first novel, Mike Peto wrote "While I am enormously proud of this novel, I hope it is obvious that the main thrust of my work is to encourage more TPRS teachers to dream, write, edit, practice with their classes, edit further simplifying the text as much as possible and eventually publish their own class novels. not let anyone intimidate you into thinking that a mere classroom teacher cannot publish a TPRS novel."
     Mike Peto also has created a new website to track books written specifically by independent publishers to use in language classes called, CI Reading.  The website includes readers available in Arabic, French, German, Latin, Mandarin, Spanish, and books for Spanish heritage readers.  After checking the website, I found books that I want to buy to add to my ever-growing class library.

As proof of the recent book explosion, look at photos below of the books I have bought since summer vacation began, and there are (at least) two other novels that will be available this fall. The direct links to the novels are in blue and the webpages/blogs are in red.

Andrew Snider, @Reading633 on Twitter, announced to the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teachers Facebook group last month that the above two Spanish novels, "Las tres pruebas" and "La vida loca de Marta" were available.  I believe these are his first two novels. You can find them on his webpage, Reading 633, on the Spanish novels tab.  While there, check out his blog on which he shares FREE stories, videos, and other materials for teachers to use with their students. 

 "Peter va a Colombia" is written by Craig Klein Dexemple, @profeklein on Twitter. It is his second novel, (the first is "El silbón"). You can find his books on the "books" tab of his webpage Spanish Cuentos. While there, check out his blog where he explains in detail some of the lessons he uses in his elementary Spanish classes, and check out the cool resources such as finger puppets and a poster of storytelling characters in his online store

"Ataques de hambre" is written by Eric Herman.  The book is a "Colección de los Cuentos Clásicos con Confesiones & Continuaciones" of the stories:
- Three Billy Goats Gruff
- Goldilocks
- Little Red Riding Hood
- The Three Little Pigs
- Jack and the Beanstalk
He retells these well-known bedtime stories in simplified Spanish and then branches out and writes the story from the perspective of the characters in the stories. If you like the story, "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" (one of my favorite versions of the Three Little Pigs story - find it HERE on YouTube), then you, and your students, will enjoy Eric's book of stories of the characters' perspectives and confessions in the above listed classics. I bought "Ataques de Hambre" from Amazon HERE. He may have it listed on his webpage but I did not see it.  Check his school webpage, The Edgartown School, for a multitude (I'm not kidding) of resources such as videos of Eric teaching his students, embedded readings, online resources, etc. etc. etc.

Meg Villanueva, @meggiev777 on Twitter, has published two books and you can find the one shown above at Amazon here. I was late to the party on this one because "El gato misterioso y otros cuentos", as shown above, is her first book which was published last year (?) and I only bought my copy this summer. On the back cover of the book, Meg writes "El Gato Misterioso is a book that can be easily read by Spanish 2, successfully read by Spanish 1 after second semester, and read with assistance from the first week of Spanish 1." It is a collection of stories written in the present tense and then repeated in the past tense.  I need to buy her second book, "El cochino blanco y otros cuentos", to add to my class library. Check out Meg's blog, Let's Make a story!!  ¡¡Vamos a hacer un cuento!! and her Facebook group, La Sirena Baila.

Katie Baker's second published novel, "El Ekeko: Un misterio boliviano",  became available this spring (?). It is published and distributed through TPRS Publishing, Inc., which is also where you can find her first book, "La llorona".  "El Ekeko: Un misterio boliviano" is "based on fewer than 200 high-frequency words in Spanish...making it an ideal read for beginning language students."

The last two books that I purchased this summer are written by two outstanding authors whose names ALL Spanish teachers should be familiar with because they have written and published MANY novels. They are also skilled and engaging presenters at state, regional, and national conferences such as CSCTFL, ACTFL, iFLT, and NTPRS.

Mira Canion, @MCanion on Twitter, published "El capibara con botas". She describes it as "An easy Spanish reader containing just 55 new vocabulary words and English-Spanish cognates", which makes it a perfect reader for elementary students and beyond. You can find "El capibara con botas" HERE, along with numerous other fantastic novels written by Mira, at her website Mira Canion.  Note: She sells the books in packs of 5 on her website, so if you want one copy you can find it at Amazon, HERE, or you can always ask, (it never hurts to ask, right?) Mira if she is willing to sell it to you in less than multiples of five.  

Carol Gaab, @CarolGaab on Twitter, has written and published a fourth book in the Brandon Brown series.  It is "Brandon Brown dice la verdad" which is available, along with a seemingly endless choice of other Spanish readers, by Carol Gaab, Kristy Placido, Carrie Toth, and others, at TPRS Publishing, Inc. (There is also a collection of readers for French teachers and teacher of other languages.)

Finally, I need to include Mike Peto's book, "Superburguesas" which is available at Amazon here. It was published last year, but as I mentioned above, I believe Mike Peto helped bring about the "explosion of Spanish readers" by:
- self-publishing his novel, 
- sharing with others how to do this, and 
- encouraging others to do the same.
Mike has not mentioned this, as far as I know, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is working on writing another book. At least that is what we hope is awaiting us in the near future.

Mike shares his lessons, experiences, and thoughts on teaching on his blog, My Generation of Polyglots.  

I'll mention it again, because it's an invaluable resource, check Mike's newest website CI Reading,  to find books by independent publishers in several languages.

FYI - To be clear: I purchased these books with my own money and I did not receive any monies from the authors to mention the books on this blog. I am sharing the information and blog pages about the books and other materials because I know how beneficial it is for our students to have access to books written for beginning and intermediate language learners.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

14 Energizing Review Games

Why do I use review games in my classroom? Instead of using games to review before a quiz or an exam, I view games as an opportunity to provide additional input in the target language in a fun, energy-filled atmosphere for the students.    
The below compiled list of games are ones that I use when reading novels with my students. They are games that I use after reading the text and after discussing the chapter, several chapters, or an entire novel. (However, most of these games can be used in other contexts and subject matters.)  

The games are divided into 3 categories: no prep, low prep, and games with questions.   

No Prep Games 

1. The Copier  
Set-up: Divide students into 2 or 3 groups.  It is better to have groups of 6 or more than to have small groups.  Each student needs a white board and a marker.
    Without using the novel, the group decides on a sentence to write about what happened in the chapter(s). I require that the sentences have a minimum of 6 words. All group members must write the EXACT same sentence.  They must work together to check the sentences that their teammates wrote to make sure it is an exact duplicate - spelling and accents should be identical. 
    When all students in the group have a sentence written, they raise their marker board and the teacher reads each marker board.  If all the boards are correct and identical, the group earns a point for their team. They then erase the boards and start working on another sentence.
If a member of the team has an error in the sentence, the teacher continues to look at the other boards (so the group doesn't know on which board the teacher saw the error), and tells the group there is a problem that needs corrected. Team members need to check their boards again in an effort to find the sentence that isn't identical.
    Students can search for the error(s) or they can erase the sentence and restart with a completely new sentence.
    If the group has a correct sentence, the teacher writes the sentence on the board for other groups to see it.  The groups are NOT permitted to use the same verb in subsequent sentences.
    The group with the most points at the end of the allotted time is the winner.
    Promote teamwork by telling students that it is the group's responsibility to check ALL the sentences in their group. If someone's board is not identical, it is not the student's fault but the group's for not finding it together.

Low Prep Games

2. Find It!
Set-up: The teacher chooses several sentences from the chapter(s) that can be acted out or that can be drawn on the board and prepares a document with the sentences.
  Assign teams; 2 or 3 to a team is best. Each team will need a marker board and a marker. Choose a student or ask for a volunteer to be the all-time actor or all-time artist.
    The student volunteer reads the first sentence and then either acts out the sentence or sketches it on the board.  Students search for the sentence in the novel that is being depicted and write it on their group's marker board. Since the sentences tend to be long, I tell the students to write the first X number of words of the sentences. The team that is first to write the correct sentence earns a point.
    This game requires the students to re-read sentences in the novel in order to find the sentence that the student volunteer drew or acted out. 
    Option: The teacher can call on groups to give the answer verbally instead of the students writing the sentence.

3. Scrambled Sentences
Set-up: The teacher pulls sentences directly from the chapter(s) and jumbles them. The jumbled sentences are put onto a powerpoint, 1 sentence per slide. Try the website Scramblinator to make this task easy; copy and paste sentences from the site onto Powerpoint. Cut typing paper lengthwise in several slips on which students will write sentences.
    Students work with a partner.  
    Project the first scrambled sentence on the board. Students unscramble the sentence and earn a point for a correct sentence. As additional sentences are unscrambled, students should put their strips with the written sentences in the correct chronological order.
    If you want the students to not rush when they are writing, give points for all the teams that correctly unscramble the sentence and not only to the first group to complete it.  
    For added review of the chapter(s), after all the sentences are ordered, ask students what event(s) happened in between the first and second sentence and discuss their answers.   

4. Salad Bowl
Set-up: The teacher selects words from the chapter(s) and writes them on index cards or slips of paper.  Students sit in a circle with the teams being every other person in the circle on one team and the others on the second team.
   This game is explained HERE, but it is labeled as "3 Rounds". Since writing the post, I discovered that many call this game "Salad Bowl". In the blog post, we played the game with Verba cards, but it can easily be adapted to be used with novels.

5. Marker Partner Game - The teacher will copy sentences from the chapter(s), but for half of the sentences, change one or two words to make the statement false. Find instructions HERE

Games with Teacher-prepared Questions
All of these games are based on questions that the teacher writes with information from the novels. 

6. Novel Bingo
Set-Up: The teacher prepares the questions and creates a document for the students with the answers ONLY.  Copy BINGO cards. The students write the answers on a BINGO card.  If the teacher posts the list of answers online or distributes copies of the document, the students can complete this for homework so as not to take class time for this.
The teacher reads the questions/clues and the students put BINGO chips on their BINGO card for the answers to the questions. 

Below is the first page of a document for Novel BINGO for the TPRS Publishing novel, La guerra sucia. If you are interested in the full document, you can find it HERE.
Page 1 of 2 for Novel Bingo

7. Baseball
Set-Up: Divide students into two teams. Draw a baseball diamond on the board. Determine which questions are worth the value of "single", "double", and "triple". 
Play; Students answer questions correctly to advance around the bases and score "runs" for their team. Check THIS POST for details. 

8. Running Crossword Puzzle
Set-Up:  The teacher uses the prepared questions/clues to create a crossword puzzle. Make several copies of the crossword puzzle clues and place them around the room OR in the hall.  Students should work in groups of 2 or 3. Give each group the blank crossword puzzle without the clues.
Play: One student is named the Writer. S/he must stay at his/her seat or desk and is not permitted to read the clues. The other student (or other 2 student if playing on teams of 3) will walk (quickly) to the clues, read them, and return to the writer with the answer. If the student read the clue but doesn't know the answer, the student can tell the clue to the writer and together they can try to figure out the answer. 
Note: This is similar to running dictations described HERE. ESL teachers have used this activity for years!  I do not remember which teacher suggested to use a crossword puzzle instead of a dictation. If you know who it was, please let me know so I can credit him/her with the idea!
There can be multiple winners or the winning team can be the one that finishes first or correctly finishes the most clues in the allotted time. I like to stop the game before any of the groups finishes the crossword puzzle in order to not have students sitting around waiting for the others to finish.      

9. Bazinga! - described HERE

10. Grudgeball - described HERE. Since this game may rally the competitive spirit a little more than what you bargained for, I suggest that you read Martina Bex's suggestions on THIS BLOG POST to prepare students before they play this game.

11. Bluff 
Set-Up: Divide students into 2 or 3 teams. Place two chairs in the front of the room with a marker board, marker, and eraser.
Play: The teacher asks one of the prepared questions. Students that know the answer stand up, or students that don't know the answer but want to "bluff" and act as if they knew the answer and possibly earn more points for their team can also stand up.
   The teacher marks on the board how many from each team are standing.  That is the number of points each team will earn if the student chosen to answer can correctly answer the question, OR the number of points deducted from their score if the student answers incorrectly.  
   In this example, we will say that there are 2 teams playing - teams A and B.  The teacher chooses a student from Team A to choose a student from Team B to answer.  The student chosen from Team B is the one that selects a student from Team A to answer.  The two students go to the front of the classroom where there is a marker board for each of them and they write their answer, without any help from their team.
    The students reveal their answers when the teacher signals them to do so.  If the student answered correctly, the teacher adds the points to their score, or subtracts points if the student answered incorrectly. (The number of students that stood on their team indicating that they knew the answer is the number of points earned or deducted.)
   The winning team is the one that has the most points after all the questions are asked or after the pre-determined time.
   After the question is read and students are standing up, I insist on complete silence so students do not share the answer with their team members.
   You may need to make a rule that keeps students from choosing the same person.
    Make sure to include some very simple questions so everyone has a chance to participate in the game.
    If you don't want negative points, you can make a rule that says "0" is the lowest score allowed.

12. Trashketball
Set-Up: Divide students in two teams. Put a small rubber ball on the middle of a student desk or table. Put an empty waste can, with a clean liner, in front of the room. Put tape on the floor to mark 3 lines with the closet line worth 1 point, the second closest line 3 points, and the last line 5 points (or whatever point values you want).
    One student from each team stands at the table with their hands behind their back. The teacher reads a question. The first student to grab the ball is the one that answers the questions. If he answers correctly, he earns a point for his team and then chooses from which line he wants to attempt to throw the ball into the waste can to earn additional points for his team.
    If the student answers incorrectly, the other student has an opportunity to answer with the same options if he answers correctly.
   If both students do not know from the start, one of them can grab the ball and forfeit his chance to answer, passing to the other student to answer. If the 2nd student can't answer, the question goes back to the first team and this time the team can help him answer. This eliminates the problem is none of the students know the answer because they can still earn points for their team.
    This game is one of my students' favorites. Many times the students that are not on athletic teams score more points from throwing the ball than the athletes.

Good 'ol Standbys:

13. Jeopardy - Use an online template such as the one at to create your Jeopardy board.

14. Kahoot or Quizzizz.  When Kahoot first came out, I shared it with members of my department only because I knew that eventually other departments would learn about it and soon the students would be playing Kahoot in every class. That happened about 6 months after I started using it in class, and because of this, I am careful to limit it's use in my class even more than usual. Quizzizz is similar but the students work at their own pace.

If you have additional games to be added that you use with novels, feel free to email me or leave a comment below. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

How to make a Billy la Bufanda cake

Billy la Bufanda
Spanish students in our school district are introduced to Billy la Bufanda and Sr. Wooly in middle school.  In the high school, Billy la Bufanda and the two other songs about Billy are always a crowd favorite. 

Therefore, when I wanted to surprise my Spanish 4+ class today with something special, Billy la Bufanda came to mind.  I know my students like food and they like Billy la Bufanda, so why not make an edible version of Billy?

I asked my daughter to help brainstorm how to make an edible Billy because she is the queen of creative desserts.  Then I searched on Pinterest (no edible Billy's to be found) and decided it was high time that Billy make an appearance in cake form.

Spanish 4+ students and Billy la Bufanda
Needless to say, the students were surprised and after one mandatory photo, they didn't hesitate to cut Billy (oh no) and enjoy the tasty treat.

Isaac is the brave soul that cut Billy.
If you, or your students, are interested in making a Billy la Bufanda cake for, follow the simple instructions below and you'll be ready to share the treat in no time.

Items needed:  heavy duty cardboard, pencil, scissors, hot glue gun, heavy duty aluminum foil, cake batter, icing, blue, green, and black food coloring, colored Twizzlers.

How to Make a Billy la Bufanda Cake

1. Watch the short video "How to Make a Custom Cake Pan"

2.  Decide the size of the cake you want.  I wanted my cake pan to fit onto my oven's drip pan so I sketched Billy to fit within those restraints.  (My oven's drip pan measures 19" x 14".)  You also need to remember that the cake pan must fit into your oven.  If you want a really big cake than you can make two separate pans and join the parts of Billy together when you decorate the cake.

3.  Sketch the outline of Billy on a large piece of cardboard and cut out the outline.  I got heavy cardboard at the grocery store when the person stocking shelves was breaking down the cardboard boxes. (Note: I sketched Billy as he appears online, knowing that I was going to flip the cake two times, so I didn't need the inverse of Billy.)

4. Put the cardboard shape of Billy on a sheet of wax paper and trace the form onto the wax paper. Set aside until step #8

5.  Cut additional strips of cardboard, 2 inches wide.  Use a hot glue to glue the strips perpendicular to the outline.

6.  Put a large sheet of aluminum foil under the cardboard outline and fold the foil up and over the glued sides. Use additional sheets as needed to cover the outside bottom of the cut-out form and to fully cover the 2-inch sides.

7. Tear off a 2nd large sheet of aluminum foil and place it in the inside of the form and press it on the bottom and the sides of the cake form. 

8. Place the wax paper (from step #4) inside the cake pan form. Spray it with Pam. This will make it easier to remove the cake from the pan after baking. (I forgot to take a photo of this step.)

9. Place the cardboard/aluminum foil cake pan onto the drip pan.

10. Mix the cake ingredients, use a boxed cake mix or make it from scratch. Pour the batter into the cake pan, leveling the batter to fit in every corner of the pan. Bake according to directions. 
*Note: If using a boxed cake mix and your Billy cake form is similar to the size of mine, you will only need 1 cake mix.

11. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

12. Take a knife around the edges of the pan and gently push the cake edges toward the cake and the aluminum foil sides away from the cake. This is a big advantage to making your own cake pan with aluminum foil because you can bend the foil away from the cake making it easier to remove from the pan.

13. Place a wire cooling rack on the top of the cake and flip the cake upside down.

14. Ease the cake out of the cake pan.

15. Carefully lift off the wax paper from the cake.

16. Immediately, place the pan or sheet on which the cake will be decorated, on the bottom of the cake and flip the cake the second time.  Allow time for the cake to cool.

17.  Mix or buy icing.  Divide the icing and put it into 4 different bowls.  Use food coloring to dye the majority of the icing blow. Save a little icing to dye green (for the stripes on Billy) and a small amount to dye black (for Billy's sunglasses), and leave about 1-2 tablespoons white (for Billy's teeth). Put blue icing on the entire cake and sides.  Use a decorator's tip to pipe the green strips on Billy. 

18. Take a small knife and gently scrape off the blue icing where you want to add the black sunglasses and add the black icing there.  Do the same for where you want to add the icing for Billy's smile.

19. Use blue and green Twizzlers for Billy's arms and hands. Cut the blue Twizzler's the correct length for the arms. Cut 2 small pieces of a green Twizzlers to the shape of Billy's hands. Use a knife to cut strips of green Twizzler's for the fringes on the scarf.

20. Share Billy la Bufanda and ENJOY!

*Update: I forgot to add Billy's eyebrows!  To add them, use either green Twizzlers or the green icing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Take Care of Yourself

Note: This blog post focuses directly on you, the teacher, and not on the students, the curriculum, teaching methods, etc. I feel I need to write this blog post before my mind will be freed up to return to writing other posts related to teaching. Please take this advice to heart and act upon it if you realize it pertains to you!

Have you ever postponed going to the doctor because you didn't want to take off a day of school? Teaching is a demanding job, but writing lesson plans, valid lesson plans and not just fluff, for a substitute teacher for your classes is, in my opinion, a more demanding job.

I have 3 different preps and I hate missing a day of school because:

1. I feel like we are crunched for time, as it is, with our schedule (we only have 100 hours with the students per language level)

2. Three different preps with 70 minute classes! That says it all. Preparing substitute lesson plans for 1 prep takes time; preparing sub plans for 2 preps is twice the work; and sub plans for 3 preps, well, I usually decide that it is easier for me NOT to miss school and throw out the idea of going to any appointments. Sure, I could have the students watch a movie, but....did you read #1?

3. When I make substitute lesson plans that are solid, it usually requires me to respond, in some format, to the work that students did after I return to school the next day. In other words, I have additional work waiting for me when I return. (I know, there are emergency and substitute lesson plans you can buy online, but they don't always match up for what I want for my students.)

However, I am here to tell you, maybe to admit to you is a better choice of words, that the above thinking is flawed. The best thing that teachers can do for their students is to take care of themselves. If it means making substitute lesson plans that may not be up to par to what you really want, then so be it. Cut yourself a break. Think of the many other professions in which employees are able to easily take a sick day and aren't required to make plans for others while they are absent from work. 

Do you get the picture? YOU need to take care of yourself, first! As teachers, there are many times that we put our jobs and our students first. That's noble and that's good, but when it comes to our health, we shouldn't be doing that.  

If, by chance, someone tells you that since as a teacher you "only" work 9 months, (gross misconception by those not in education; they also think we work 7 1/2 hr days; teachers know that is not true), you should wait until the summer to schedule all your doctor appointments, then simply smile and move on. If you're organized and plan ahead, scheduling those screenings for the summer is a good idea but, if you have postponed and delayed appointments already, don't fall into the trap of allowing someone trying to shame you into delaying appointments until the summer.  

I realize I am writing this in mid-May when there are only days, or weeks remaining in the school year.  However, it's possible that when you read this, it will be months after I wrote it.  In that case, summer may not be a few weeks away and in that case, don't delay. You need to come first.

If you're reading this and you are feeling a little bit of guilt - GOOD! That's what I'm aiming for because I want to push you, or guilt you, into action.

It is easy to find lists of preventive health care screenings on the internet.   
Follow this link: Preventive Health Screenings for a list of screenings, and then visit your primary care physician and seek her/his input and advice. 

And..I'm not an expert on insurances, but I think it is the norm for insurances to pay 100% for preventive health screenings. 

I'll step down off my soap box now.  I'm not sure what else I could say to make it more clear to you that it doesn't matter what your abilities are as a teacher, if you are sidelined by medical problems that could have been nipped in the bud if you had gone to the doctor for your preventive health screenings.

Take care of yourself. Your students, their parents, and your administration, need you to do that. No exceptions.  :-)