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Monday, December 21, 2015

La Virgen de Guadalupe - Easy Lesson Plan


This month one evening, when I was lesson planning, I saw a message on my computer for a facebook entry from a teacher that shared a free resource on La Virgen de Guadalupe.  It was a script and comprehension questions written by  Bryce Hedstrom, available for F-R-E-E on his blog. Check out his "Free Stuff" page of his blog for the story on La Virgen de Guadalupe and other "free stuff"!

I used Bryce's script of La Virgen de Guadalupe and other activities for my Spanish 4+ class as listed below: 

1. Copy the script and distribute to students. I have 8 students in this class (a dream class, for sure!) so I assigned each student a section of the text.  They had to read the text and then on construction paper they sketched the main points from that section.  I continue to hear that when we learn it is best if we can picture something in our mind, so I wanted students to hear an explanation and have an image ready for them to connect to it. The example on the right was on the portion of text that said the people go to church to give thanks and to sing.

2.  Each student presented their information using their sketch(es) and a short explanation of their section of text.

3.  To review the new information, I created a Kahoot game for students to play. It is listed as a Public Kahoot which you can find HERE.

4. To end the activity on an artistic note, I gave each student a Sharpie marker and a piece of construction paper. They watched THIS VIDEO and learned how to sketch La Virgen de Guadalupe. 

The sketch above is by one of my students. We didn't have time to watch the end of the how to draw video, but it is a good start.  We'll finish watching the video on Wednesday, and I'll upload her finished sketch.

OPTION: If you have the Akinator app on your mobile device, set the language to Spanish and use La Virgen de Guadalupe as the person that the app needs to guess. If students answer the questions correctly, Akinator will be able to guess it. It is a fun way to review information.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Spanish Stories with the Subjunctive


Story-asking with students is beneficial for students in ALL levels. When students help create the details in a story, they become invested in the story and are active listeners and participants.

Es probable que la Sra. Hitz hornee galletas para nosotros.
I wanted to involve my students in creating a story with me that pulled them into the story development and was packed with examples of the subjunctive. The steps for the storyline and following activity is described below.

1. I started with a story plot from *Bryce Hedstrom (see below for info): Person A has two friends; 1 friend wants Person A to go with her to one place and the 2nd friend wants Person A to go with him to a different place. This creates the subjunctive phrase:  "Ana quiere que Marcos vaya a la playa con ella" (Ana wants Marcos to go to the beach with her - Ana wants that Marcos goes to the beach with her).

2. For the story, I asked which student in the class had a problem (but didn't tell them the storyline yet). After we found the student for the "person A" role mentioned above, we decided which two students wanted Person A to go somewhere with him/her and to where s/he wanted to go with Person A.
(For this example, Person A will be Colin, and the two friends will be Isaac and Megan.)

3. Colin needed to decide if he wanted to go away with Isaac or with Megan.  In order to do that, Colin (the character in the story) needed to think of the pros and cons (ventajas=advantages, desventajas=disadvantages) to going away with each of the two friends.

4. The students gave me ideas and suggestions for the pros and cons of the student going with Isaac or with Megan. Each sentence started with "Es posible que" or "Es probable que", which requires the speaker to end the sentence with the subjunctive.
Ex:  
Las ventajas de ir a Disney World con Isaac:
(a) Es probable que ellos se diviertan mucho en los parques de atracciones.
(b) Es posible que Isaac tenga dos "quick passes" y no necesiten esperar en las lineas largas en los parques.

Las desventajas de ir a Disney World con Isaac:
(a) Es posible que haya muchas personas en el parque.
(b) Es probable que la comida en los parques cueste mucho.

5. Students then suggested ideas for the pros and cons for going away with Megan.

6. In our class story, the students voted with which person and to which destination Colin decided to go. 

7. That evening I typed the story and distributed it the next day in class. We read the story together. I, or a student, read a paragraph in Spanish, and then I chose another student to read the same paragraph in English. This helped to ensure that ALL students understood the story completely.

8. I randomly put the students in groups of 3. Each group had to create their own story, following the format from yesterday's story (which they had the copy).  They wrote the introduction and then the pros and cons.

9.Then each group had to illustrate the pros and cons by sketching a person thinking with two thought bubbles. (For each student story there would be 4 sketches with 2 thought bubbles each.)

10. I put the sketches on the board, or for the Spanish 4+ the students drew directly on the board. A student put a letter on each sketch. Then I read the introduction and the pros and cons and students wrote or said which picture matched the pros or cons.

This activity provided a great deal of repetitions of the subjunctive used in context: creating a class story, reading the class story; creating a group story; sketching the group story; listening to the group story and identifying which sketch belonged to the story.

 *The initial part of this storyline is from Bryce Hedstrom's ebook "Expressing Desire: Teaching the Subjunctive #1" in which Bryce explains how to teach the subjunctive with stories. You absolutely must check out Bryce Hedstrom's website for a long list of FREE Spanish stories and resources for language teachers, as well as resources that are reasonably priced.   


EJEMPLO: 

Las ventajas de ir al prom con (name)

  1. Es posible que la chica compre cosas en Gucci para llevar al prom.

2. Es posible que la chica lleva un vestido de muchos colores. 


Update on 1/11/16:  Arianne (@dowd124 on Twitter) shared the following photos that her students made when they used the above story format.  Thanks for sharing Arianne!!!



 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Flatline - Bad news during story-asking

In teaching, there's not much that takes the wind out of my sails more than when I tell a story with my students and it falls flat. Completely flat, with no chance of reviving it. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened today. I planned a story, I had the targeted structures for the story, but the story started sluggish and went downhill from there. It was a failed attempt, no beating around the bush, I'll call it for what it was.

If this has happened to you, you know the feeling. I could actually hear an echo inside my head saying, "abort, abort, move on", but as strange as it may sound, aborting a story that is flatlining and moving onto something new, can be even more scarier than forging ahead with a deadbeat story. (By the way, Why is it called deadbeat? If it's dead, there isn't a beat, right?)

Well, there was no life in the story, and hoping it would revive was a utter waste of my time. Wishful thinking, but no chance of revival. The clear signs were:

Glazed eyes.
Slowed pulse. 
Contagious yawns.
Glances at the clock.

(That's describing the students, by the way, not me, or at least I hope it didn't describe me.)

It was the last period of the day, so after students left, my first instinct was to talk to my trusty colleague for some feedback, but unfortunately she had another commitment at the end of the day. So tomorrow, I will try again. I'll review the basics of story-asking and look for the missing link, and hopefully, this situation doesn't repeat itself tomorrow.

We all have an bad day, an off day, a day where striving to provide the "compelling" in Compelling Comprehensible Input feels way out of reach. I'm going to view this as evidence that there is a lot of room for growth and learning on my part. And that may explain the expression "growing pains", it's a it of a painful experience.

Friday, December 4, 2015

En 2016 espero que... A Bulletin Board for the New Year

Hall bulletin board display
If there is one thing I've learned when adding a display on a bulletin board, especially when it is original and requires creativity and making sketches, die-cut letters, etc, (more work than simply buying pre-made bulletin board sets from a catalog), it's to make sure what I put on the board is something that I can leave there for at least two months.

My plans were to make a bulletin board for the coming Christmas holidays, but with only 17 school days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I ruled out a Christmas bulletin board for this year (at least for the large bulletin board in the hall). 

I had been waiting to be inspired and f-i-n-a-l-l-y it happened. (Which is a good thing because the bulletin board in the hall had only red fabric on it for several weeks!) I decided to have the students write what they wish for in the new year. 

Students' wishes/hopes for the new year.  (names of students covered)
Students started their sentences with: Espero que..; Deseo que..; or Quiero que...
 I shared my photos with Nelly Hughes (@nellyanhug), and she immediately replied that the sentences they wrote for the bulletin board provides me with even more information for PQA.  Killing two birds with one stone is always a good thing!
To the left is a collage of a few examples from the board.

 If you are interested in the pdf files of the people, please send me an email, leave a comment below, or contact me on Twitter (@sonrisadelcampo).       

Update:  Emily Long sent me a photo of the bulletin board that she made with her students (below).  Thanks for sharing the photo, Emily!

 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

El Gordo - Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad

The month of December is filled with opportunities for Spanish teachers to include culture. These celebrations include:
- Dec. 8 The Immaculate Conception
- Dec. 12 Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe 
- Dec. 16-24 Las Posadas
- Dec. 22 The Winter Solstice
- Dec. 24025 La Noche Buena y la Navidad
 
One celebration that is HUGE in Spain, in fact it's "fat", is "El Gordo", el Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad. It is Spain's, and the world's, largest lottery when you take into account the number and amount of prizes that are distributed.

In order to help the students experience (in a very small way) the excitement of El Gordo, I created billetes from an image of the lottery ticket from 2011.  At the bottom of the ticket, I added spaces for the students to write a number and their name.  

Today, as students entered the classroom, I gave each student a ticket. I explained the lottery system and that the tickets were sold as décimos.  At the bottom, the students had to write 5 numbers, and they were not allowed to write the same number twice, and their name.  They had to record the number they wrote on their tablet or on their phone because they will need to know that later.  (This will be my way of practicing numbers later in December - sneaky, I know.) Each class had their own container in which they put their billetes.

From now until December 21, the students will have to "buy" additional billetes by...suggesting cute answers to class stories, exceptional participation, showing kindness to another student, helping me distribute papers, or anything that deserves an extra billete. When they receive additional billetes they will write a 5 digit number (not the same as before), their name, and then place it in their class container.

On December 22, the day that Spain holds the drawing for El Gordo, we will hold our drawing.  Either I, or a student, will draw a ticket, and then s-i-n-g the number, in Spanish of course.  Students will look at their list of numbers and if they hear their number, they will have to repeat the number in order to claim their prize.  (The reason I have them write their name on the bottom of the ticket is in case they don't recognize the number, I will know whose ticket it is.)

The prizes consist of Spanish pens, homework passes, a small jar of my homemade jelly, baked goods (oatmeal cookies with cream are one of my students' favorites), free choice to sit where you want or to sit on the cushioned chair, small gift certificate to Dairy Queen, etc.

We will also watch several of Spain's great advertisements and film shorts on the national lottery.  Below are links to the clips from 2014 and 2015:

Anuncio Lotería de Navidad 2015 - Justino
Check Martina Bex's blog HERE for amazing & free materials for this short film.
 
Anuncio Lotería de Navidad 2014 - El Mayor Premio es Compartirlo


Another gem for Christmas: Mejor anuncio Navideño 2014/15 - Sainsbury's Christmas. 

I plan to be generous with handing out additional billetes to build the excitement and to give some extra encouragement for class participation. 
I'm looking forward to December 22!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Post ACTFL - Time to Read Blogs!

Last week many of the nations second language teachers converged in San Diego, California, for the national world language yearly convention hosted by ACTFL. I, unfortunately, was not among those teachers. (Maybe next year.)

If you are like me and missed out on this professional development, no worries. There are many bloggers that I am sure will be sharing their newfound knowledge from the sessions they attended, as well as comments in those sessions that made them step back and rethink about how they teach vocabulary, culture, and other aspects of their language.

Martina Bex, from The Comprehensible Classroom, has already posted her first blogpost inspired by ACTFL on Language Chunks and Target Structures. She first explains what language chunks & target structures are and then gives examples of ones that she has used in her classes.

I'll be checking the following blogs of Grant Boulanger, Laurie Clarc, Carrie Toth, Kristy Placido, Alina Filipescu & Haiyun Lun, Nikki Totthingham, and Michele Whaley in the next few days in hopes of finding more shared notes and thoughts on the sessions

If you know of bloggers that have shared ACTFL notes, please let me know!
Thankfully...my Thanksgiving vacation started today and I'll have from today until December 1 to catch up on my blog reading.  :-)  

Story-based Assessments - Pulled Sentences & Additional Information

There are several ways of assessing a student's understanding of a text written in the Target Language.  One method that has been used for ages is to have the student read a text and then answer comprehension questions about the information in the text.  

The questions can be written either in the Target Language or in L1. One downfall to writing the questions in the TL and having students answer the questions in the TL is that students may be able to search the text using the words in the question and find the answer without actually understanding the text. (I've done this with texts written in English and with texts written in Spanish.) When that happens, the assessment is no longer providing information for which it was designed.

Lately, I've been experimenting with other ways in which students can show they understand a text.  Both of the examples below have numbers inserted in the text and the students choose the correct sentence to replace the number.

Example A:
This assessment is based on the story "Omar y Diego".  It is story that I wrote after a class story focusing on the structures: se despertaron, se fueron corriendo, and se levantaron.  I pulled some sentences from the text and inserted numbers in their place.  I moved the sentences to the bottom of the paper.  For the assessment, students must write the number on the line of the sentence that fits in that part of the text.  

To make this assessment more difficult, add sentences that were not from the original text to the choices, and/or pull out more sentences and add them to the bottom.  

If students haven't seen this type of assessment before, it would be helpful to use several class stories from the past and "practice" reading strategies to find the correct placement for the sentences.


Example B:
This is a variation of the above example. (I used the same story, "Omar y Diego" but this example shows the beginning of the story and the above example shows the end of the story. It's a full page of typed text!)  


Choose a place in a story where it would be easy to add another detail to the existing information.  Then to the left of the text, write several sentences from which the student needs to choose.  Some sentences you create can have absolutely nothing to do with the text. Students that understand the text should have no problem eliminating those as a choice.  You can list other sentences that are related to the subject matter but do not make sense at that particular part of the story. Also, by adding NONE to the choices, the student will not simply be able to eliminate two choice and by default choose the one that remains.  It is possible that none of the choices are correct and the student will need to understand each sentence in order to know if NONE is the correct answer.

This method may require some Higher Order Thinking skills (HOT)  on the teacher's part because you have to limit the vocabulary in the multiple choices to what the students know, but still create sentences that fit into the story and don't use the same words in the sentence before and after the #.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Flood of Subjunctive Input w/ Bianca Nieves y los 7 Toritos novel

As I mentioned in a previous post, my Spanish 4 students are reading the novel, Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos written by Carrie Toth, (@senoraCMT on Twitter), and published by TPRS Publishing, Inc.  There is undeniable tension between two of the main characters with their true emotions spilling out in dialogue.  At times, Carrie gives the reader a glimpse into Bianca's thoughts when suspicions and distrust escalate and imminent conflict is on the horizon.

These strong emotions make it is easy to imagine what dialogues could have taken place among the characters that are not recorded in the book, and what characters may be thinking but strategically keeping to themselves. This is a perfect opportunity to "flood" the students with comprehensible input that is packed with examples of the subjunctive used in context!  

After students had read the first five chapters, I knew they had enough information on the characters in the novel to match possible dialogues and thoughts to the characters.  I wrote 25 sentences related to the events in the novel.  Students had to match the dialogues and thoughts with the characters that would have said or thought them. (If you would like a copy of the document to the right, you can find it HERE

Of, if you are a Kahoot fan, I uploaded the above sentences on Kahoot. Have the students choose which person said or thought the sentences by playing Kahoot with THIS GAME. (That saves paper and saves YOU time at the copier machine!)

You can find additional resources, in the Teacher's Guide for this book. It is packed with more activities than you need, which allows you to choose the ones that work best with your students. 
(To be clear, I mention books and materials I use in my class because I want to share what I have found to be useful in my classroom.  I do not receive compensation for mentioning products from companies on my blog.) 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Non-Targeted Comprehensible Input

"The Case for Non-Targeted Comprehensible Input" by Stephen Krashen, Journal of Bilingual Education Research & Instruction, 2013 15(1): 102-110, is a must read for language teachers interested in second language acquisition. 

When I first read this article, I tried to imagine what a lesson designed around non-targeted comprehensible input looked like. How could I prepare for a lesson by not choosing focus words or targeted structures?  

This year with my Spanish 4+ students, I am inching closer to teaching with non-targeted comprehensible input and understanding how to prepare for these classes.  I dutifully come to class each day with a prepared lesson plan, but most times, the lesson serves more as a guideline or a back-up plan because I allow the students' interests, energy and unforced conversation drive the lesson. 

Here are a few examples of what that looks like ...

1.  November has 15 school days so I decided to name November as Reading Month. In Sp4+ class, every day we read 3 fiction/non-fiction online books at the start of class. (I use the website, A-Z reading. Interesting enough, the non-fiction books are the books that create the most conversations with students.) 

Last week I estimated 15 minutes needed of class time to read the 3 books.  Wrong. It took the entire 70 minute class period to read the (short) books  because after reading a page, a student would say, "I have a story to tell" (in Spanish, of course), and then proceeded to share a story related to a word in the book.  The page that described a spider stirred up 15-20 minutes of conversation among the students. 

That is how people communicate in their first language, no scripts, nothing planned, simply sharing experiences with others.  Sometimes the conversation skips from one topic to another and someone will ask, How did we get onto this topic? and we trace our conversation backward.  Now that...is interesting too; interesting to see the direction of a conversation when allowed to flow naturally.

2. Last week my plans were to read chapters 10 and 11 of La Llorona de Mazatlán by Katie A. Baker. Students pleaded with me to continue reading to the end of the book. What? They're asking to read more? There's only one answer for that question: Yes. 

3. A teacher in another discipline stopped in during class to drop something off in my room.  The students saw this interruption as an opportunity to talk in Spanish with the visiting teacher. The visiting teacher provided the compelling input for more than 10 minutes.

4. The day my friend from the Dominican Republic, Nelsi, came to visit, the students embraced the opportunity to talk and interact with her that I swear that class was shortened by 30 minutes. That's how quickly the time flew.

How does this work for language acquisition? Second language experts tell us that the high frequency words and structures will naturally appear and reappear - thus the label high frequency. This has been true in my experience.

For example...

I don't consider "crecer" to be a high frequency word, but in the last 3 days, it has appeared several times in different, unrelated materials. I didn't target this word, but because of the "non-targeted" repeated exposure in different contexts, "crecer" (& various forms of the verb) are now part of the students' working vocabulary.  

The continual implementation of "non-targeted comprehensible input" has transformed my class structure and my thoughts on teaching. My lesson plans are evolving, and each day I have the opportunity to witness first hand how this change has benefited the students in ways I could only dream about several years ago. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Character Thoughts Graphic Organizer

I am excited about the increase in novels now available for students learning a second language.  In my opinion, novels can be a teacher's best friend in providing comprehensible, compelling input (but be sure to choose a book that is at the students' level). 

The novel Bianca Nieves is a great book to study relationships (as well as Spain's culture and bullfighting). My students are keeping notes on evidence of relationships throughout the novel that are strained or that are outright hostile!

I appreciate that Carrie Toth, the author, has not shied away from using the subjunctive throughout the book. At this level, (Spanish 4), I welcome every opportunity to model the use of subjunctive in daily conversations and discussions.  It is important that students understand how commonplace the subjunctive is from children's storybooks to novels.

One way to model the subjunctive in context, is to ask students to provide the thoughts of a character in a book, stating what she liked or didn't like about a situation or about what another character is/was doing. I used the graphic organizer pictured above, after reading chapter 5 of Bianca Nieves, for students to get creative with Bianca's true thoughts on what is happening in her life.  

Exploring a character's thoughts can also be accomplished by asking the students to write journal entries in the character's viewpoint.  However, the advantage to the thought bubbles, as shown in the picture above, over a journal entry is the limited space for each thought on the graphic organizer. (In my experience, students are more willing to write a few sentences in thought bubbles than having to organizer their thoughts in paragraph form.)

I'm also currently reading La Calaca Alegre, also written by Carrie Toth, with another class. I am making a similar graphic organizer for the thoughts of Carlos, "los pensamientos de Carlos".

Two copies of the pdf of the pictured document are available if you have use for them:
Click HERE for the pdf of Bianca in black and white, empty thought bubbles.

Click HERE for the color pdf of Bianca, empty thought bubbles.

      On the left is another organizer that I used with my students with the story "Jack y las habichuelas mágicas".  
1. I downloaded the story from THIS website.  
2. I read the story to my students.
3. We talked about Jack's thoughts using phrases:
-Me gusta que..
-No es justo que...
-Espero que...
-Es raro que...

4. We also talked about the giant's thoughts, fears, what angers him, etc.
No grade; a lot of input (plus the benefit of reading with the story about Jack)

The final piece is an assessment. Please note, however, that this is not the first time we have discussed how a character feels about the actions of another character in a book or story. Also, when students talk about their weekends, I sometimes tell them to add something that isn't the truth so we can DOUBT something that the person did or usually does on weekends.  The students have had a LOT of input on this!

5. I distributed the above sketch with thought bubbles and students wrote the mother's thoughts. I provided a few prompts (similar to what is listed in #3) that I wrote on the board for the students. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Word Sneak" in MFL Classroom

"Word Sneak" is a language game that Jimmy Fallon plays with guests on his talk show.  Jimmy and his guest each receive 5 index cards with random words written on them.  The object of the game is to work, or sneak, the words into a conversation as casually and seamlessly as possible, in the order as given to you.  Watch this fun example of Jimmy Fallon and Bryan Cranston playing "Word Sneak".

Words for "Word Sneak" game
I made a few changes to the game to make it work with my Spanish 4+ class. 

1.  I showed a few minutes of "Word Sneak" on YouTube so students fully understood the game.

2.  For a practice run, I wrote 10 random words in Spanish on index cards and two students volunteered to play the game.  (Some of the random words were:  me dolía, las estrellas, vaca, sangre, etc.).  One of the students started the conversation, used the first word in telling about what happened with her pet, to which the second student responded, "sneaking" her first word into the conversation.

For something extra, after they finished I asked the other students if they could guess what words were on the cards.

3. Then I gave each student TWO index cards. The 16 words I had written on the cards were words that I pulled from the first chapter of La Calaca Alegre, a novel written by Carrie Toth. Since I have a small group of Spanish 4+ students this semester, 8 people played the game, instead of 2. It was FUN! If I hadn't know beforehand what was written on the card, I would have had a hard time figuring out which words were intentionally "sneaked" into the conversation.

After playing the game, we read Chapter 1 of La Calaca Alegre. The students already knew most of the words, but the game served as a refresher/review of the words in which students could hear and use the words in context.

For bigger classes, you could have several groups playing at the same time. If you have enough words, after the groups are finished they could pass their index cards to the next group and play with the new set of cards.

I recommend this for a level 3 or higher class.  It doesn't take long and it's a fun way to involve the students in peer conversation.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Interactive Reading for 2nd Language Classes - Larry el vampiro

A top priority for me when I plan lessons for my Spanish students, is to find creative ways for students to read a text in the target language.  I was able to accomplish this last week by using a story that I wrote two years ago.  I created an interactive reading by adding dialogue and gestures to the text to involve the students in the reading.  I have done something similar to this in the past (an explanation can be found on the blog post HERE, named Going on a Bear Hunt), or when reading a chapter in Piratas.  However, this interactive reading is modeled after a reading and blog post (read about it HERE and watch the video) shared by the amazing Alina Filipescu, (@FlipescuAlina on Twitter) a creative Spanish teacher in California.  

The structures that I was paying special attention to were:  "le dolía la muela", "quería morder" (because I want them to get used to seeing the verb in the infinitive form after a conjugated verb - btw, I don't use that explanation for the students), and "no la encontró".

There are 5 embedded readings of the story "Larry el vampiro". (I linked them to an earlier post about Larry el vampiro - HERE - click on "Larry el vampiro" written in the first sentence.) If you are unfamiliar with Embedded Readings, please go to Laurie Clarcq's blog HERE for an explanation and many, many embedded readings that teachers of several languages have shared on her blog.

Below is Version 3 of the story that I projected onto the board.  I read the black text, the students read the red text, and the students did the actions in the blue text.  (The powerpoint is also available from my shared GoogleDrive HERE.) 



I have two Spanish 2 classes and I told them that I was going to record them reading the text with the actions and my husband was going to decide which group did the best job.  Amazing how a little competition between classes creates a team atmosphere among the students in each class.

In preparing to record, during the recording, and when watching the recordings, the students read, and/or heard, the story (with the new structures) more than 7 times in one class period; several more in the following class period.
- first we decided the actions/gestures and practiced them individually
- they read the story 2 times to practice before the recording
- 1st recording, they read the story w/ actions
- they watched their recording
- 2nd recording, they read it (with more enthusiasm)
- they watched their second recording
- the 2nd class of the day asked to watch the other class' recording
- the students asked to watch their own recording again

That is a LOT of repetitions in which they're focused on creating a good recording so they were connecting meaning with their actions and dialogue.

I have the winning video of the students which I may upload to my school website AFTER I double-check with the students about posting it.  (They agreed to the recording so I could share it with for a future presentation, but I want to ask them before posting it online.) In the meantime, you can listen to an audio recording of the beginning part of the story HERE.  

We spent several classes on the embedded readings, on sketching, on retelling the stories, etc.  The last activity was a free write and that's where the time invested in the activities for Larry el vampiro was evident. They're writing was better than expected...once again!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Apps for the MFL Classroom

There are three apps that I've been using in my Spanish class lately.  

1. TAP ROULETTE. Sometimes in class I have more students volunteer than I need and at other times not enough students volunteer.  For a fun, easy, and quick way to choose a student, I use Tap Roulette.  The students put one finger on the ipad and when I press go, the roulette begins and the sound of the roulette wheel will eventual end and a bright red mark will appear under the finger of the person that was "chosen".

One day, I was reviewing the story that the class had created with me the previous day. I was prepared with questions about the characters and events in the story that didn't have an answer that we had discussed.  My plan was to ask for volunteers to answer the different questions, but then I decided to use Tap Roulette to do that work for me.  This was my smallest class (8 remarkable students!!) so we gathered our chairs in a tight circle, and I held out the ipad for the students to place their fingers on it.  Whichever person was chosen by Tap Roulette had to create more details to answer the question.  

The students enjoyed this, especially when their classmate was chosen twice before they had even been chosen one time.

The app is free.  It supports up to 11 fingers on the ipad and 5 fingers on the iphone.

2.  Team Shake.  This app provides a quick way to put students in a group.  You can select how many groups you want or how many people you want in each group.  First, you have to upload the list of names of your students.  If a student is absent, there is an online tab to take that person's name out of the draw. Then press shake and your groups will be listed for you.

This app cost .99.

3.  Touch Blur.  This app is handy when you have pictures of class activities that you want to share without others being able to identify the students.  Upload the photo into the app and touch the screen to blur faces or other things in the picture to hide its identity.

This app is free.

PSMLA 2015 - 1,2,3 Movie Talk Presentation

Today my colleague, Krista Kovalchick, and I went to PSMLA at Valley Forge, PA, and gave a presentation on Movie Talk.  Below are links to websites that we mentioned in our presentation.

 Additional Resources mentioned in our presentation:

Movie Talk blog posts; find videos and materials to use related to the movie talks from 2011 to present. They include: Alma, El monstruo del armario, Blind Date, Hit & run, El vampiro y la dentista, Sheep in the Island, Toilet paper/ipad commercial, La niña que recuerda, and La Dentista. 

Embedded Reading website by Laurie Clarcq

Pancho Camacho game - explained by Alina Filipescu w/ video demonstration

Movie Talk videos on Pinterest (The link will take you to my Pinterest board, but don't stop there, SEARCH Movie Talk and you'll find a lot of Pinterest boards!)

Movie Talk data base by Christy Miller
 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sharing Lesson Plans & Juggling

Recently, I read a world language teacher's comment online in which she said she had changed her curriculum to focus on teaching with comprehensible input.  She had several preps and the amount of work required to prepare new materials and lessons for her classes, along with the mountain of extra tasks that all teachers know too well, was leaving her feeling overwhelmed. She was a mother of 4 children and school demands were overtaking her family time.

Many teachers, possibly all teachers, can relate to her feelings because they are either on that path now or have been in the past. For those World Language teachers that have left the textbook on the shelf and have ventured into the world of planning their own curriculum, scope and sequence, lessons, materials, and activities, they are well aware of the time commitment and energy needed for this task. 

It's been a few years since I started on my "Adiós textbook, Hola Comprehensible Input" journey. I've been adding, changing, deleting, tweaking, improving, etc, my lesson plans ever since.  My focus this year is to be even more diligent in my efforts to recycle previous structures as new structures are added.

Below is a link that I'm sharing that has lessons and materials for teaching several focus structures with my Spanish 2 students.  The structures in the lessons are:

1- quería, había, fue (also puso - needed for class story)
(s/he wanted, there was/there were, s/he went) also (s/he put)

2 - estaba triste, (no) encontró, buscó
(was sad, didn't find, looked for) 
3 - se llamaba (s/he was called)

4 - tenía, vivía, era (had, lived, was)
5 - se llevaba (s/he was wearing)
6 - se sentó, a la derecha de, a la izquierda de
(s/he sat down, to the right of, to the left of)


Follow this LINK to lesson plans and materials for the listed structures. My hope is that you will find something that will be useful to you and your students.

Overhauling your curriculum is a huge task. The more knowledge you have on second language acquisition and the more experience you have in teaching (which includes a compilation of lessons that you learned from both your failures and successes), the farther ahead you will be when planning.


Another thought: Teaching should not be done in isolation.  Sharing materials is related to juggling (which is on my radar now especially since my focus is on recycling structures as new structures are added):

I'm a juggler. 
I begin the school year juggling a few balls (new structures). That's fairly easy. 
Then I add a few more balls while at the same time I have to keep the previous balls in the rotation.
After adding more and more balls, I start to feel a bit overwhelmed...
BUT...
when I find another juggler and we can share the same amount of balls between us, the task is less daunting.
When I find 2 other jugglers, all 3 of us have an easier task.
Imagine how much easier it is when there are 4, 5, 6, and many, many more juggling at the same time, lessening the amount of balls each of us have to manage.  
It's much easier and the social interaction is amazing.
  
THANKS to all the other World Language "jugglers" out there that have helped make my task easier throughout the years.  You know who you are. I am grateful to have you as my colleagues and friends.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

CI Friendly Back-to-School Night Information

Last night at Back-to-School night, I wanted to give the parents a demonstration of TPRS. However, I also wanted to show parents how to access class information and materials on my teacher webpage on the school district website, and explain class procedures and other important information to the parents, such as why there are no student desks in my room, and what novels we read. I knew that with the information that I wanted to share, I did not have the time needed for a successful TPRS demonstration.  In lieu of a demo, I gathered the papers and materials from that day's class (see photo below), taped them to the board, and explained TPRS using the visuals aids.  The following was written or taped on the board:


1. The 3 focus words for the day, with the # of reps of each word written in red.   There is a small yellow post-it note on which a student wrote tally marks to keep track of the repetitions. 


2.  A notebook paper with the details of the class story; written by a student.  (I tell students that do this job and the job mentioned in item #3, that they can write in English or Spanish.)

3. The notebook paper with questions related to the story; written by a student.

4. The sketches for the story by our very talented student artist of the day.

Those visuals were beneficial in showing the parents how words are introduced and used in context throughout the class period, and the number of repetitions needed for students to, first, recognize the word and, later, to eventually produce those words.

As parents were entering the room, I had Mike Peto's powerpoint playing on the benefits of learning a second language.  You can find and download Mike's powerpoint at his blogpost HERE. Thanks for sharing Mike. :-)

I also covered my boards with information on:  grades, output, input, and the idea that someone else mentioned on one of the forums I follow: ask parents to finish the sentence, "I had 4 years of (Spanish, French, German, etc.) in high school and I..." 

Donkey-Jote also made an appearance so I could explain the expectations for target language use.  

This blog post will serve as a file system for me to use the same information at out next Back-to-School night in February 2016.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Using CI to Make Comparisons

When I taught straight from a textbook, there was always a lesson on making comparisons.  I think one was called "Making Comparisons of Inequality". Now that I teach with Comprehensible Input, I include comparisons in conversation using a powerpoint slide of famous people. Not only is this approach interesting, but it is easy and requires little preparation work on the teacher's part.  

Teacher prep before class:
1. Create a powerpoint slide with photos of  famous women.  I have a slide with photos of Beyoncé, Betty White, Adele, Dakota Fanning, Ophrah Winfrey, and Michele Obama.

In class:
2. Ask students the names of the 6 people. Allow time for this part of the conversation to be flexible. For example, I provide extra input by asking students if they know someone else that is named "Betty". That can lead to what names do you think of when you think of an older person? (maybe Mabel, Henry, Elliott, Beatriz, etc)

3.  Make comparisons of the people on the board.  I began with asking students ¿Adele canta mejor que Beyoncé or Beyoncé canta mejor que Adele?  ¿Quién tiene más años, Beyoncé o Dakota Fanning? ¿Oprah Winfrey es más famosa que Michele Obama o Michele Obama es más famosa que Oprah? ¿Quién es más atractiva, Beyoncé o Betty White?
One student in the class captured everyone's attention when he said Betty es más atractiva que Beyoncé. Perfect! I stopped asking questions to the entire class and then focused on that one student. The student continued to play along and through that time period we learned that Betty White is more attractive than Beyoncé; that Betty White canta mejor que Beyoncé, that Betty White tiene más amigas que Ophra Winfrey...basically, anything or anyone that I compare Betty to, Betty always came out on top.

4. Lastly, distribute small squares of paper and tell students to write:
  1. the name of a famous person
  2.  the name of a student in the classroom

In having the students write 2 names on the paper, my plan was to...

5. Compare the names of famous people to each other and then compare two students to each other. However, the first card I pulled from the pile was Donald Trump and the name of a boy in class. The name Donald Trump produced good engagement and listening behaviors from the students so I stuck with those two names, and, of course, one thing we compared was hair. After I asked several comparison questions, I asked the students to talk to a partner and think of another comparison.

We continued with several other papers with names Larry the Cable Guy and Kim Kardashian. I always made sure that if we used the words inteligente, fuerte, guapa, my students ALWAYS had better traits than the celebrities.  

I like to include comparisons in class stories, but I did this activity after a quiz in a way to engage the students and give them a lot of reps of comparisons through talking about people they knew.   


Sunday, September 20, 2015

READING and My 2nd Language Journey

If you speak more than one language, you have a story to tell about how you became bilingual. When those stories are shared, openly and honestly, we can study them, compare them, and find common factors that helped move the learner forward in his/her proficiency in the language. In my language journey below, there was the usual formal teaching of grammar rules and vocabulary, followed by tests on those areas. However, that is not what made the biggest impact on my language abilities.

(This is the first time I wrote publicly about my language journey. It wasn't the easiest post to write, but as I said above, I wrote it to share what has been most beneficial to me in improving my language proficiency. The purpose of this blog post is not to share my grades in college, but rather to show that students can figure out how to successfully play the Grade Game. Good grades doesn't always accurately measure one's language proficiency. I am still on my Language Journey and I continue to learn each day.)

My language journey followed this path:
High School - freshman year, Spanish 1
College - (16 yrs & 3 children later; obviously I was a non-traditional student)
- Freshman year: Spanish 101 & 102
- Sophomore year - Spanish 201  
- Junior & senior years - changed my major to Spanish, studied abroad in Spain
Graduated college, summa cum laude, with a Spanish degree 

Returned to college, after birth of my 4th child, to complete student teaching requirement; obtained my teaching certification.


Honest thoughts and reflections on my language journey at college:
1. College level Spanish 101, 102, 201, 202, are full speed ahead! If you didn't have 4 years of Spanish at the high school level, (which I didn't) the pace of these college classes means acquisition rarely takes place. 
The Grade Game?
2. If you're serious about Spanish, getting A's is very attainable - for me it was easy. In beginning and intermediate classes, it required memorizing lists of vocabulary, understanding how to conjugate, knowing cultural facts - easy. Upper level classes were more demanding, but I obtained A's by completing the requirements on the syllabi and doing well on assessments.
3. A's on a college transcript don't accurately equate the level of one's proficiency in the language. (Often, fast-paced classes encourage "studying" in a manner that puts the material in the short-term memory.)
4. My semester in Spain was worth the money and major inconveniences. (I was married with 3 children at the time). With only a few exceptions, I think colleges should require this.
5. Even though I obtained all A's, with the exception of one B+, 
in my Spanish college courses, many times I felt I should have retaken the previous level or should have retaken some of my upper level classes.  I was happy with my grades; I wasn't happy with my proficiency level. (If I got A's and wasn't happy with my proficiency, what does that say about those getting B's and, gasp, C's?) Surely, I'm not the only one that felt that way.


So there I was, a Spanish education graduate with my impressive college transcript, was offered a job and was ready to start teaching 3 months after graduating. But there was one problem: I wasn't satisfied with my language abilities. I knew that I wasn't where I wanted to be with my Spanish proficiency.

That's when I started making trips to the community library and checked out   books in Spanish. I started with very young children's books, then moved to children's books with more text, some of which were bilingual. (I don't know how many hundreds of Spanish children's books the Lebanon Community Library has, but I've read the majority of them, or at least the majority of the ones they had 12-15 years ago.) From there I progressed to young adult readers, and eventually to full-fledged novels.   

Reading gently pushed my proficiency in the language higher and higher. 
My vocabulary grew from reading books, not from memorizing vocabulary lists, grouped by themes or topics. Verb tenses started to make sense to me because I saw them in context. The more time I spent reading in Spanish, the less I needed my trusty verb conjugation book (the one that I dragged with me to Spain to help me make sense of those 16+ verb tenses).  I understood the syntax of the language, and word order fell in place. I discovered that when I spoke in Spanish, I knew words that I had no idea I knew.

When I look back over my language journey, I clearly see the positive impact from READING. The money I spent on college to "learn" Spanish can't begin to compare to the gains I made in proficiency from reading books at the free local library.  

My language journey hasn't ended. I continue to learn daily and I continue to read novels in Spanish (my Amazon account confirms that!).

My personal experience of the power of reading, plays a big part in why I make it a priority to include a reading component in each of my lesson plans. It's also one of the reasons why I embrace TPRS, Teaching Proficiency through READING and Storytelling.  Reading, at the appropriate level, can help students to make big gains in their proficiency. 

My language journey at college, progress made from reading books from the local library, and teaching has made the following clear to me:
- Acquisition occurs when we are exposed to comprehensible input. 
- You can't speed up language acquisition
- If you rush through material, your students will resort to studying and memorizing.  They'll get good grades but won't be able to speak well in the language.
- If you assess materials that can be studied and memorized, the result of those assessments don't give a clear picture on the students' abilities; they're invalid.
- A's mean nothing if they are not connected to a student's proficiency in the language.
- Creating valid assessments is not accurately addressed in universities.
- The majority of students, high school or university level, are very well aware of their language abilities, or lack of abilities. They know when the assessment you gave them doesn't correctly measure their abilities. They may breath a sigh of relief because they got a good grade, but they know it's not valid.
- If your students are asking you what they need to study for the test - that's a problem.
- Reading is input that each individual reader has the power to control the pace.
- The "flow" in reading is an amazing experience.  It happens when you are reading a novel and forget that it's not in your first language.

Those are a few of my reflections.  More may be added in the next few weeks or months.


Of what has your language journey consisted? What has pushed you to higher proficiency in your 2nd, 3rd, etc. language?