Sunday, March 31, 2013

Photos to Elicit Discussion in the MFL
Following the success of "March is Children's Story Month" in my upper level Spanish class (see post HERE), I am declaring "April is Photo Month".  This means I will start each class with a photo and a short discussion.  

I'm banking on the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" to capture the students attention and elicit their thoughts and opinions in the TL. Starting class with photos and a 7-10 minute discussion will keep the students guessing as to what I have in store for them each day, but won't steal away too much time from the scheduled lesson plans.

I suggest that you vary the goal of the target such as one day students say what will happen next, or what happened previous to the photo being taken, or creating a personal profile for the person, etc.

Below is a list of a mixture of serious photos from news sites, beautiful photos from National Geographic, and funny photos. As always, you will need to preview the photos for school appropriateness! 

1. BBC News in Pictures

2. "World's Best Father" photos

3. National Geographic Photo of the Day

4. Lens, New York Times Photos

5. Awkward Family Photos

6. BuzzFeed, People you wish you knew in real life

7. NYTimes, What's going on in this picture?
   (Click HERE for a previous post in Feburary regarding this website.) 

Here is an idea to get students involved in finding the photos for discussion:  Choose 3 students at the end of each class and give them the assignment to find and email a photo to you that evening, along with an explanation (in the TL of course) why they think it is a good photo to use in class.  The next day in class, show the 3 photos but DO NOT tell the students who sent the photos to you.  The class will then vote on which photo they want to discuss and the student that sent the photo to you can win a small prize. (Even something as small as a "fireworks" clap. Anything to give them recognition for having their photo chosen by the class!)

Please feel free to share other websites with collections of interesting photos.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Short Films & CI: MFL Teacher Collaboration

Last summer at NTPRS12 I met Marta Yedinak, (@mryedinak on Twitter), a Spanish teacher in Wisconsin. Since then, Marta and I have been communicating through emails, phone calls, texts, twitter messages, etc. and sharing our Spanish lesson plans and activities.  Marta had an awesome lesson last week and I invited her to write about it on my blog.  Due to technical difficulties, (on my part, I'm sure), I'm writing the post in her place, but I look forward to having Marta as a guest writer on this blog in the near future!

Marta's Lesson Plan for MFL: Sheep in the Island

1.  Preteach any vocabulary that your students will need to know in order to discuss the video.  Beginning level students should already know basic words such as: corre, grita, se sube, se baja, está furiosa, tiene hambre, but you may need to preteach words such as "chocaron" (they crashed), to describe what happens with the two ships. (Use whatever level of grammar/verbs that is suitable to your class.)

2. Show the video to the students.


3. Story Sequence. Instead of writing a paragraph, students write a list of the events in chronological order in complete thoughts with a partner.

4. Group retell. Students take turns dictating the story as the teacher writes their sentences on the board.  This is the ideal time for pop-up grammar and circling the structures. Students WERE NOT required to copy the story into their notebooks.

5. Class Debate.  Students decide "¿Quién tiene la razón?" which is also the name of a show in Univisión.  Students had to present arguments to defend the sheep or the monster.  Marta said she wished she had videotaped the debate because it was "great" because the students were engaged and responding well.  Several students were using phrases such as "Protesto..." and they ended up having a trial!  

Marta said the next time that she does this activity she will have the students impersonate the characters so they can "interrogate them" as witnesses in a structured trial format.

6. Timed Writing.  Allow 5 minutes of class time for students to retell the story in written format.  (If the students heard a sufficient amount of repetitions of the structures throughout the lesson, this exercise will come naturally to them because it will "sound right" to them as they write.)  The Timed Writing file can be found HERE. Note on the form that the Timed Writing is not for accuracy, but rather to encourage writing.

7. Additional segments.  There are Part 2 and Part 3 segments of this video that can be used for additional activities.

Extra activities that may be added to Marta's activities as time permits:

8. Name who did the action (I have a worksheet for this available that you can find HERE.)
9. Story script (for upper levels).

10. Word Cloud. Show the word cloud to the students either before or after viewing the video.  If before, students read the word cloud and decide on possible story lines based on the words in the word cloud.  If after, students take turns saying a sentence that uses one of the words to describe an action in the video.  Another option, the teacher gives a definition in the TL and students look at the word cloud to find the word that the teacher defined. 

Get Adobe Flash player

Update: There is no longer a free version of Textivate in which you can upload your own materials. 
 11. Textivate activities. The free version of this site allows you to upload your text and make your own vocabulary and matching activities, but you can only embed and share those activities if upgrade to a paid subscription.  However, if you paste the text below into the text box on the textivate website, you will be able to do a variety of activities with your students. Thanks to Martin Lapworth, the creator of Textivate, for making tutorial videos (found HERE) to explain how this website works!
screenshot from Textivate website

the claws of a monster==las garras de un monstruo
went to investigate==fue a investigar
she tied the foot==ató el pie
she pushed the other box==empujó la otra caja
she flew across==voló a través de
the sheep escaped==la oveja se escapó
lit a fire==encendió un fuego
she fell to the sand==se cayó a la arena
looked at a frog==miró una rana
inside the box==dentro de la caja
she closed the lid==cerró la tapa
there was lightning==hubo relámpago
she became very aggressive==se puso muy agresiva
she imagined that the monster was a chicken==imaginó que el monstruo fuera un pollo
trying to escape==tratando de escaparse
the waves pushed the box==las olas empujaron la caja
a chain==una cadena
he grabbed the fork==agarró el tenedor
he hit the box with a tree==pegó la caja con un árbol
he wanted to eat it==quería comerlo
was floating in the ocean==estaba flotando en el océano

Also, if you paste the typed text of "Sheep in the Island" from #9 above, you will be able to do additional activities in story form.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

An Idea for iPads in the MFL Classroom

Below is a post I made on our department blog (a different blog than this one) on 1 way that I used the iPads in the classroom last week with my Spanish 2 students. 

I also used the iPads with my Spanish 4b class (that's the name I call them bc they actually will ony have the same amount of language instruction at the end of the semester as other Spanish 4 students), but I didn't post any of their examples on the blog. We are very fortunate here at Palmyra Area High School to have a set of iPads to share with the Social Studies department.  But if you are like me, you don't have time to check out the iPads to see what apps are available, plus then you'll need time to create lesson plans that focus on acquisition and not on technology.  

(Post from Department Blog)
I used the iPads during the first semester and I wasn't pleased with the results.  For starters, I used the Sock Puppets app because I knew the recording time was limited and I didn't want the students writing long dialogues. However, we ran into problems saving the dialogues and other small problems for which I hadn't planned. (You won't know what problem will arise when using new technology but you always need to be flexible and have a back-up plan!)  Thankfully KK was there to help with the small problems, but I still wasn't happy with the results.

I reflected on the lesson that evening and know one thing that caused problems.  I originally had planned for the students to write the dialogues the day BEFORE the iPads were in the classroom, but the previous day we were finishing up a TPRS story and ran out of time.  

The second problem was the voices of the Sock Puppets.  They're cute when you are listening to them in your L1, but their voice variations made it more difficult for the students to understand L2.

Last week I used the iPads for the second time and I'm glad to say it went much smoother.  I wanted students to make stories in the past tense with high frequency verbs using the  Educreations app to display at Palmyra Pride Night.  It worked out well that they worked on this assignment on one of the days that I had no voice. Below are the steps and a few examples.

1. I distributed papers to the students with a basic outline: somebody wanted something and went 2 places to look for it. They decided if the person was able to find what they were searching for or not.

2. I distributed the StoryBoard paper below.

Students worked alone or in pairs to write and sketch their story.  There were several words they had to use:  buscó (looked for), quería (wanted), fue (went) and 3 others.

3. When their story was written and sketched, they met with me to go over the story.  

4.  They were only allowed to get an ipad out of the cart AFTER they had met with me.  (At the beginning of class I assigned each of them a number that they will use whenever we use the iPads again.)
Students sketched the stories (goal was 6 sketches & at least 6 sentences) and, if time allowed, they added the text on the screen too.

5. After the story was ready to record, they met with me again to go over the story.

6.  They went out into the hall to record.  I tried to keep it to two groups of students in the hall at one time.  If you allow more than two groups to record in the hall, you'll have background noise just as if they had stayed in the classroom.

7.  The following day we saved time at the end of the lesson to watch the stories together. (That also helped my voice problem.)

THOUGHTS on the lesson:
- I asked for students thoughts on this assignment and they told me they enjoyed it. It was a nice change for them.
- It worked MUCH better this time since their stories were written BEFORE they touched the iPads.  They had a limited amount of time and had to stay on task to complete the work. One limitation to the Educreations app is that you can't save a story and work on it the following day.   
- I would much prefer "asking" a story with them because I know that is how acquisition takes place, but without a voice, and because I wanted some concrete examples for Palmyra Pride Night, it fit my plans. 
- This is definitely OUTPUT, no getting around it.  It needs to be limited.  However, I put all the Educreations stories on Edmodo so they can watch their own and their classmates' PLUS their parents can watch them too.  It is a nice way for parents to see their child's progress.

Four examples are below:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sr. Jordan's Videos

I originally had planned this week to be jam packed with TPRS.  I use other methods of CI, but I really wanted to emphasize and give a full dose of TPRS leading up to our Easter vacation/spring break.  However, losing my voice changed that plan.

Jeremy Jordan's series "Cuentas Conmigo"
Today, with my voice still not fully recovered, I planned an alternative way for the students to receive some Comprehensible Input.  I used Jeremy Jordan's
"Cuentas Conmigo" series of videos made for his YouTube audience.

To start, the students watched the first 3 episodes.  Then they had to verbally list facts and information about the story.  I took advantage to do some grammar pop-ups with sentences that they said. (i.e. "Su madre era rosada." Why is it rosadA?  Why is it ERA and not ESTABA?)  I tried to limit it to 10 seconds or less for each grammar pop-up, even though I know at NTPRS12 in Las Vegas they suggested the pop-ups be even shorter.

Then we watched the next 2 episodes.  I should mention that students watched episodes 3, 4, & 5, two times each because there was a lot of information in those episodes.

After watching episode 5, I made 4 groups with 5-6 students in each group.  Then they wrote sentences on white boards with all the members in the group writing the same sentence.  This forces them to be very careful with spelling, accents, and sentence order.  (The activity is explained HERE - scroll to #3)  

Ever since I found Jeremy's videos, I wanted to find the best way to implement them into my classroom.  I'm glad I didn't use them before, because it was a voice-saver not having to tell the stories today!  THANK YOU JEREMY!

We finished the class watching the videos on  Educreations that the students worked on Tuesday and Wednesday - which reminds me...I have to write a post about that activity because the students enjoyed it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Two More Apps (w/ limited sharing capabilities)

I heard about two new apps within the last week.  The first one I heard about today because it showed up on my AppsGoneFree app because it is free, at least for today.  It is called Speech Journal, by the Mobile Education Store.  

If different students use the app, they will need to click on the Not You? button and sign in with their first and last name, no email address needed.

The first screen of Speech Journal prompts you to choose an image.  You can take a photo with the ipad camera or choose an image from your Photo Library. There is the option to move and scale the photo. 

After you upload the photo, a Record button appears.  After you record, you have the options as shown on the image to the right.  If you play your recording and do not like it, simply click on "Erase and Re-Record".  If you only want to narrate one photo, then select Save Recording and you are finished.  Your file will be stored in the Archives.

To make a narrated slide show of several photos, after you are satisfied with the first recording, click on "Choose Image" to add more images and more recordings.

The downfall to this app is the only way to share the recording is through email.  If your students make the recording on a classroom iPad, you can always listen to the recordings directly from the iPad or have them email it to you.  However, the email separates the images from the sound.  Hopefully in the future they will provide more user-friendly options for sharing.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

@kristindunc tweeted about the second app, Story Creator.  It is a digital storytelling app that permits you to upload photos and record a narration of the pictures.  It evens permits you to put a short video on the "page" instead of a photo. 

A nice feature is that you can synchronize the recording with highlighting the words, but if you are not comfortable with editing, it may be a disadvantage instead of an advantage.
I had problems with the app earlier today when I deleted photos, and then it would kick me completely out of the program.  To share your finished product you can email it, but your friends will need to download the Story Creator app to view your story, or you can send a download link via email. 

Both these apps have obvious limitations; making them useful for only specific projects.

PLN to the Rescue

It was Monday, last period of the day, and one of my students said, "Señora, are you losing your voice?"  My voice was a little hoarse, but I felt fine and promptly said, "No" and moved on with the lesson.  By 6:00 that evening, the only remnants of my voice was a whisper.  

What's a teacher to do when they feel fine, but they have no voice?  I had plans for the next two days that I didn't want to reschedule for later dates, plus I had a meeting with students after school the following day about a trip in 2014.

My first thought was, 'ask your PLN'.  I posted my question on Twitter
and within minutes other teachers in my PLN were sending me suggestions.
The suggestions included creative writing activities, webquests, videos, games (The Telephone Game; Read Write Draw), games based on songs or on videos, talking activities, reading, acting, illustrating, and vocabulary review in groups of two.
This is just another example of why everyone should have a PLN!

Which did I use? It was sort of a combination of several suggestions that involved reading and sketching.  I also found a 4-minute screencast that I had made two years ago for my Spanish 5 students to watch before they started writing their stories because I wanted expressions such as "él tenía miedo que...; ellos no permitieron que yo...." and I wanted them to hear sentences with the subjunctive fresh in their minds as they started to write.

I'll try out some of the other suggestions in the future, not necessarily for substitute plans.

THANKS to everyone for your suggestions.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Don't Limit your PLN to Teachers of your Subject Area

Thanks to the various blogging platforms available, more and more teachers are sharing their teaching experiences with others online.  As language teachers, we don't need to limit our learning from others that teach the same language as we do.  There is much to be learned from teachers of other languages too.

Some of my favorite blogs to read are listed on the right of my blog, however, there are other blogs, many of them for English learners, that I check in on from time to time when I need help with ideas to use in the classroom. 

English language learning websites:
1. Sean Banville (@SeanBanville on Twitter) started this ESL website in 2004.  He makes podcasts of the latest news; one by him and the second one by speakers from North American so students learning English hear the news with the North American accent along with his recording.

Each of his lessons is ready-made, includes the transcripts, the recordings, and a myriad of activities related to the news story. How I wish we had something like this available in Spanish!
I made be a bit biased to his website.  You'll know why if you listen to one of his recent podcasts "Catholic Church choose Argentinian Pope" (and click on MP3 USA Female; or this one from January, "Gambia Introduces 3-Day Weekend" (MP3 USA Female); and several others that have one commonality.

2. Kiernan Donaghy creates English lessons based on short films.  If you teach a language other than ESL, you can still get ideas from his lessons to create ways to include the short films into your instruction in your Target Language.  Some films I've seen mentioned in Spanish and French blogs are ones that Kiernan had made lessons with several months previously.  

3. (Almost) Infinite ELT Ideas This is another English learning website but the activities and ideas suggested by Sandy Millin (@sandymillin on Twitter) and her readers can many times be adapted to use in the MFL classroom.

Tech Websites:
4. Free Technology 4 Teachers Richard Byrne's (@rmbyrne on Twitter) tech blog is one of my go-to blogs to read about new tech sites.
5. Integrating ICT into the MFL Classroom, by Joe Dale (@joedale on Twitter), is another blog more specific for language teachers. 
You'll find many ideas on either of these technology blogs.  

6. Classroom 2.0 Live You absolutely HAVE to check out this site.  I linked the title to the archives page where you can gain entry to past free webinars on different types of technology use in the classroom. Many of the authors of the blogs above have presented on Classroom 2.0 Live at some point in the past. Most of the live webinars occur on Saturdays at 12:00 noon ET, but they archives can be accessed whenever it is most convenient to you. 

7. Zambombazo (@ZJonesSpanish on Twitter) I'm including this one (even though it IS the subject area I teach) because if you are a Spanish teacher and don't know about this site yet, you are MISSING OUT!!! I was at a work day with our state dept. of education and was surprised when one teacher mentioned this site and several had never heard of it before.  You will find an incredible amount of activities related to music, art, news, etc. created by Zachary and Betsy Jones.   

Those are just a few of the websites I enjoy that aren't directly related to the language I teach (with the exception of #7), but are very helpful.  If you're low on ideas and need some inspiration, or just have some spare time to explore on the internet, I highly recommend any of the above sites! 

(Did you notice how many of the writers of the above blogs are also on Twitter?  You simply can no longer ignore the powerful impact Twitter can have on your Professional Development.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sock Puppets and Storytelling

In the past, I tried using Sock Puppets for a class activity.  I blogged about it HERE.  There were some problems and I haven't had the students use the Sock Puppets app since then.  However, I forgot to mention the other way I had used the Sock Puppets app in the past.

In class, the students help me to create stories fairly often.  For something different, I used the Sock Puppets app to retell the story, however I changed a few facts about the story.  The students listened to the story and had to list the things that were different from the story told by the Sock Puppet compared to our story that we created in class.  It was a short activity but because the students were listening to a Sock Puppet, it seemed to catch their attention more than if I had just read the story to them with the changes.

Another plus, it was a breeze to make.  You don't need any tricky tech skills to be able to create something using the Sock Puppets app.
CLICK HERE to see the short video.

Some hard core language teachers may not like that the puppet changes the voice of the person speaking, so it does not sound very Spanish.  I don't see it as a problem as long as it is used sparingly.

The Sock Puppets app is for the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPod touch.  It is a free app but if you want more than 30 seconds of recording time, you will need to pay a small fee to upgrade the app.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

PuppetPals App - Uses in MFL Classroom

Are you looking for a new idea to introduce a unit or a way to incorporate newly introduced vocabulary into your lesson?  iPad has many apps that allow you to be as creative without having to be extremely tech savvy.  One app that meets this description is the PuppetPals app.  

This morning (when I was avoiding writing lesson plans), I created a new video with the PuppetPals app relating to Chac Mool.  It was fresh on my mind due to a tweet last night from @esantacruz13 with a link to a video and a blog post with 5 embedded readings of Chac Mool written by Kristy Placido (@placido on Twitter).  

In not much time, and little effort, I made the following video.  Thanks to Carrie Toth (@senoraCMT) and Kristy Placido (@placido) for starring (unknowingly at first) and for granting me permission to post it on my blog!

Click HERE to see video.

PuppetPals is free, however, I strongly recommend that you purchase the "Director's Pass" for a few dollars.  With the director's pass, you can upload your own photos for backgrounds or for characters.

Last semester I read, Piratas, by Mira Canion and Carol Gaab. With PuppetPals and its backdrop of a pirate ship and pirate characters, the next time I read this book with my students I will be able to create a conversation between the characters or, even more interesting for the students, add a photo of one of my students in the story for him/her to  "interview" one of the characters.
With the purchase of the Director's Pass, this app will allow you and your students, to quickly create short videos relating to any topic you are currently studying.  

Other available themes (backdrops and characters) are western, community, fairy tales, aliens, and several others.  An example of using your own backdrop and characters is in the photo below on the bottom left.  It is a screenshot from a video in which the cow and duck are looking for the girl that usually feeds them because they are hungry.  While they are talking about her and asking where, she flies across the top of the screen, unnoticed by both animals.  That is just the beginning of the ways in which you can be creative with this app.

If you have the app or decide to buy it and make a video for class, I would love it if you would share some of YOUR ideas and YOUR videos.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pre-reading Activity w/ Sketches

My Spanish 2 classes are piloting Karen Rowan's book "El Secuestro de José".  Since it is in manuscript form, it does not have a teacher's guide available yet. In order to make it interesting and comprehensible, I have been trying different activities.

Today we did a pre-reading exercise for the last chapter.  After we completed the pre-reading activities, I read the chapter to the students, stopping after one or two paragraphs to ask students to summarize what just happened.  Thanks to the pre-reading activities, the students had no problems understanding the last chapter.

Pre-Reading Activity:
1.  I pre-read the chapter and chose 16 sentences that had vocabulary or grammar that I wanted to introduce or reinforce. I wrote those sentences on index cards and wrote a letter on each one, A-P.
2.  I sketched (and there are some rough looking sketches) the 16 sentences.  Sometimes I have the students sketch the pictures but I didn't want to use class time for that today. (I didn't put numbers on the sketches, but rather wrote the numbers next to the sketches on the board - see the photo above.)

3. In class, I put the 16 sketches on the board, grouped in fours and numbered them, and told the students it was from chapter 16 of the book.  Students had to either write or tell me sentences that describe the sketch.  I did this activity in three of my Spanish 2 classes.  If I saw the students were struggling, I told them to work in a group of 3 to brainstorm ideas together.  In each class, I had them write at least one time to describe a group of 4 sketches because I wanted to see their individual progress, but most of the sentences were done verbally.
4. Then students numbered their papers 1-16.

5. I taped the 16 sentences that I had written on index cards on the board and students matched the sentences to the sketches. 

6. To go over the answers, I asked who knew the answer for #1.  The student told me the letter; I put it under the sketch; and then the student chose a classmate to translate the sentence to English.

After the above activities were finished, we read the chapter.

If you are willing to share any pre-reading activities that you do when reading mini-novels, I would appreciate reading about them.  The more variety in types of activities, the better!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Children's Books in TL - Activity #1

Below is the activity I used before reading "¡La Señorita Nelson Ha Desaparecido!" to my students.

1. Read the book before class in search of words that students may not know.  Write those words on the board.

2. PQA the vocabulary and structures on the board.

3. Put students in groups of 3-4 and give them 10 minutes to write a short story including all of the new structures/vocabulary.  (I did this with my Spanish 4-ish students so I reminded them that I wanted work worthy of someone in that level. I do not suggest this activity with level 1 or 2 students.)

4. Students share their stories with classmates.

5.  Read the children's story.  

This was a simple activity that helped make the entire book comprehensible to the students.  

The words I listed on the board were:  espantoso, echar de menos, rehusar, *bolitas de papel mascado, *se portaban mal, *sabelotodo.

*Students already knew these words.