Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ACTFL Presentation: Increasing TL Communication w/ Film Shorts & Comprehensible Input

Last Saturday, at the ACTFL 2013 convention in Orlando, FL,  I presented a session entitled "Increasing TL Communication w/ Film Shorts & Comprehensible Input".  A copy of the handout is available to view or for download below.  It's not as visually attractive as the powerpoint with embedded videos, but the information is the same.

Thank you to those that supported me by attending the session.  It was reassuring to see members of my PLN from #langchat in my session that I met for the first time at ACTFL.  It was my first time presenting and their support meant the world to me. 


No prep Thanksgiving activities for Spanish class

The day before Thanksgiving vacation the students have one goal in mind: get through the day so they can start their vacation. I know this because I've heard it from several students in my homeroom group and other classes.

The regular plans may need to be put on hold, but that doesn't mean you have to turn to simple games like Bingo. Another popular activity is for students to write things they are thankful on turkeys' feathers. They have the cuteness factor, but I suggest you make it more meaningful by increasing the comprehensible input and increase class discussion as Sra. Yedinak explains HERE.

I had several activities ready to go that took no or minimal planning but were in the target language and required student engagement.

1.  Estoy agradecido porStudents moved their chairs into a circle. I wrote the following on the board: Estoy agradecido por...,  Estoy agradecida por..., está agradecido/a por...
I randomly pulled a student's name from index cards (or use a random name generator) and that student moved into the chair designated as #1. The student originally seated there moved into the seat of the students that was called. The student in chair #1 had to say for what they were thankful. (i.e. Estoy agradecida por mis hermanas.) Then I pulled a second name and that student moved into the seat next to the first student and said for what the first person was thankful and then added for what they were thankful.  We continued this for 15 students.

Even if there are more than 15 students in the class, going through this 15 times is plenty. My rule was that any student that had already said for what they were thankful decided to chat with another student, they had to move to the end of the line and repeat what each person had said.  There was a united sigh from the remaining students when after the 15th person's name was called.

To end the activity, the students wrote 5 sentences about what 5 of their classmates had said and for sentence #6, they wrote for what they were thankful.  I kept the notes on the board as they wrote. I didn't want it to be a tricky exercise, but rather one in which they heard "Estoy/está agradecido/a por" over 100 times.  This worked well and I didn't have to quiet the students even one time!

2. Infografía: El pavo, sabor y nutrición para Fin de Año. This infograph is not made specifically for Thanksgiving, but it still works for Thanksgiving.  I used this with my Spanish 4 class for a short activity.  I projected the infograph on the board and simply asked them to tell me information in English from the infograph.  As they called out information, I used a marker to put a check on that information.
I find this the evening before the class, and I can't remember if I saw it on someone's blog or if I saw it on Pinterest.  The link to the infografía is HERE

3. Another short activity on vocabulary related to Thanksgiving is on Quia.  Just google "Quia - Día de acción de gracias", and you'll find several shared activities or click HERE to choose matching, concentration, or 2 other choices. I did the matching only but if I had had the ipads in my class, I may have considered having them pair up to play a round of concentration.

It would have been easy to include the Thanskgiving theme into a story, but the students appreciated the change of pace. I saved enough time in our 70 minute block to read another chapter in our leveled reader. 

UPDATE: Two days after I posted this I found this post by Señora Pelirroja (@SraPelirroja) on her blog Classroom Creativities.  It DOES take prep time but it is a cute idea.  If I had seen this at the beginning of November, I would have planned for my students to do this activity before I went to ACTFL so other students could appreciate it for a few weeks.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Student-created stories w/ guidance

A quick way to assess if your students have internalized structures is to have them give a short presentation.  I limit these type of activities for the beginning levels, but I used the following as an informal assessment (i.e. not graded) to help me know how to structure the pacing of future classes.  

1. Structures and Vocabulary: 
- él no se despertó = he didn't awaken 
- él se durmió = he fell asleep
- cuando él tren (or el autobús, or el avión) llegó

2. Ask personalized questions to students using the above structures (mostly whether they fall asleep in certain classes, at sports practice, at music recitals, and when they awoke that day).

3.  Class helped to create story by giving details for the following storyline:
someone wanted to go somewhere and why, how they went there, where they didn't awaken, where they awoke and how they felt.

4. After students helped create the class story, the students wrote the story in their writing journals (I wrote it on the board as they retold it to me and they copied it) or they read a previous class's story.

5. The following day we read two stories from the previous year. This is the 3rd semester I have taught Spanish 2 in recent years, so I am accumulating a nice amount of stories by previous classes that are useful for additional comprehensible reading.

6. We also watched a similar story on Educreations that I made about last year's class story.  

7. After those activities, I made a last minute change in my lesson plans and added an activity for students to create and present their own stories.
I wrote the following on the board (in Spanish for students,  but it's listed in English for blog purposes)
- Name of the person
- where did they want to go and why
- what transportation did they use
- after how long did they fall asleep
- where was the bus/train/airplane when the person didn't awaken
- where did the person awaken and how did s/he feel

Students worked in groups of two.  Each person had half a sheet of paper (torn lengthwise) and 10 minutes to create the sketches and practice their stories. Even though I told them to only use words they already knew, some didn't follow that advice, so while they were working, if they asked me how to say something, I wrote that on the board and the students had to point to that word and pause when they were presenting to make their presentations comprehensible to their classmates.

After 10 minutes they presented their stories to the class with the use of the document camera; no written notes, guided only by their sketches. In both classes, several groups quickly volunteered to take their turn, eager to share their stories with their classmates.   

The benefits:
- It was easy for me to assess their progress on the target structures (a nice surprise was how well they were pronounced the words; but a few still stumbled on the pronunciation)
- The students were engaged. I didn't need to remind them to listen or pay attention.
- The structure wanted to + action (ex: wanted to go to Hollywood because he wanted to see the starts) was used in the story; a good review for many.

Two examples of students' stories and sketches:
Patricia quería ir al centro comercial porque quería comprar ropa nueva.  Ella fue a la estación de autobuses y se sentó en el asiento. Ella se durmió inmediatamente. Cuando el autobús llegó al centro comercial, ella no se despertó.  Ella se despertó cuando el autobús llegó a Goodwill.  Patricia estaba contenta porque podía comprar mucha ropa en Goodwill.

 Tim vivía en Harrisburg. Él quería ir a Hawaii.  Tim quería nadar con tiburones.  Él fue al aeropuerto y fue a Hawaii.  Él se durmió en el avión y no se despertó cuando el avión llegó en Hawaii.  El avión regresó al aeropuerto en Harrisburg.  Tim se despertó en Harrisburg.  Estaba furioso porque quería nadar con tiburones y no había tiburones en Harrisburg.

Why is it that many times the best activities I do in class are the ones that are last minute (literally, last minute - as in the idea pops in my mind during class) additions to my lesson plans.  I'm glad that those last minute changes often go well, but it is frustrating that, in comparison, some things I spend a considerable amount of time working on and preparing for class, end with less than pleasing results!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Learning (Spanish) Commands - Usted Form

Students write commands to solve problems.
Note: This is also known as a Commands Gallery Walk

I use a fabricated story about my cat when I teach formal commands.  The activity is described below for how I teach it in Spanish, but it can easily be adapted to any language.

I begin by telling the following story in the Target Language about my cat: "My cat loves to hunt and every day it hunts and kills either a bird or a mouse. But my cat doesn't like to eat what it hunts so it picks up the kill in it's mouth, walks to my neighbor's house, and drops it's hunted prize at the front door of my neighbor's house.  My neighbor is very angry with me and my cat." Then students say commands in the usted form to tell me what to do.

This year I decided to have the students create their own short scenarios.  

1. The students wrote their fabricated "problems" on a large paper and hung them around the room. I limited their stories to 5-7 sentences.

2. Then I gave each student a pack of post-it notes.  

un problema con un caimán
3. Students had to write a command for each of the "problems" and stick their post-it note to the paper.  They could not repeat any verbs already mentioned on other post-it notes on the paper, and the individuals could not use the same verb on more than one paper.  (I had 15 students in class, each had to write commands on post-its for 14 of the "problems", they did not have to write on their own paper, and the student could only use a verb one time.)

4. After the students have written a command and put post-it notes on all the papers except their own, the owner of the paper reads the commands and chooses the 3 they like the most to share with the class.

The students enjoy listening to their classmates' "problems" and the creative ways to solve the problem.  Having the students write on post-it notes instead of directly on the paper meant students didn't have to wait until the previous person was finished writing on the paper, a time-saver.  

Update 2017: Recently in my inbox from Pinterest, there were photos of suggested pins for my Spanish boards. One was a Pin that used my idea but instead of the students creating a problem, the teacher wrote the problem and put it in a clear protector sheet and then students added the sticky notes as described in this post.  I added the picture I found on Pinterest to give you a clear picture how it was done. I'm unable to give a photo credit because the Pin on pinterest leads to a dead end. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Teaching Idea Inspired by Ellen DeGeneres

Inspiration for classroom activities can be found in so many places, including The Ellen DeGeneres show.  I'm not sure how my web browsing led me to videos of The Ellen Show a few weekends ago, but on the right of YouTube page I saw the title, "Ellen and Jennifer Lopez Dance-Off" (click on title to see the video).

True to Ellen's style, she made the Dance-Off look fun, and I started thinking how I could use something similar with my students.  While an identical "dance-off" would be fun, it certainly wouldn't be related to the curriculum. However, last weekend when I was planning out the week's activities, I wanted a quick review of how to say s/he was doing something, by using estaba + gerund (ex: estaba nadando, estaba escribiendo, estaba bailando), and I decided now was the time to use a variation of Ellen's activity. 

I made a powerpoint for a fun warm-up, but it would also work great as a brain-break because it is quick and it gets the students up and moving around.  The directions for the activity are on the #2 slide below. The link to the powerpoint is HERE.

Gracias Ellen

Monday, November 11, 2013

Novels and Classroom Door Decorations

I am going to assume that reading novels in second language classes is increasing.  I say that because the number of downloads I've seen in the last few months for materials I have on this blog for a few of the books I've read with my students continues to increase.

For those of you that enjoying making bulletin boards, the following idea may be just for you.  Why not decorate your classroom door to coordinate with the novel you are reading with one of your classes?  It will catch the other students' attention in your school, it will add a little pizzazz to your hallway, and it will be a daily reminder to your students that you are reading a novel in the class.

Below are a few photos of doors I found online - some on Pinterest and some by googling "classroom doors".  

You could do this with any novel you read with your students, or even decorate your door for a particular unit.  Those great decorations don't have to stay inside your room!  

The doors for the novels shown above are just a sampling of the great novels available for language teachers.  If you're looking for materials, check the right side of my blog and you'll find links to Mira Canion and TPRS Publishing where you can find the above books and many others.

I know, it's just another thing that will take time that you really don't have in the first place.  I like the idea, but I haven't decorated my door yet.  However, some of the more crafty teachers out there may find this suits them perfectly.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

¡Bienvenidos a Nelly Hughes!

I want to officially welcome Nelly Hughes as a new contributor/writer to this blog!  

Nelly is a talented high school Spanish teacher, presenter and TPRS/CI coach. I connected with Nelly through Twitter and shortly after we started to share ideas on teaching and sharing resources with each other.

Nelly and I met in person for the first time in Dallas at the NTPRS conference. That's when I discovered that Nelly was a wonderful, generous person, willing to share ideas and her time to help others to improve their teaching skills (especially in TPRS/CI methods) on the path to become better teachers.

Since the conference, Nelly and I have stayed in close contact with each other, discussing ideas on how to teach the same mini-novel we taught this fall, sharing resources and materials, and bouncing ideas off of each other.  An example of Nelly's work, a document on the song, "Mi novio es un zombi", can be found HERE.  

Earlier this week, Nelly sent more documents to me that she created to use in her classroom.  That's when I suggested that she do one of the following things:
1 - start a blog so she can share her materials with others easily
2 - create the documents on Googledocs and tweet the URL of the document
3 - open an account on TeachersPayTeachers. I no very little about the regulations for joining, but for those that want to share materials but not necessarily charge for them, I have seen items on that site that are free downloads.
4 - accept my invitation to be a Contributor to my blog.

I'm pleased to say Nelly accepted my invitation to be a Contributor to the blog! You can find her name on the right of the blog under Contributors, along with Krista Applegate, a colleague at my school, whom I encourage (or...coerce) to write about the activities she uses with her French and Latin students.

Check back in the near future to see Nelly's first post and subsequent posts on her classroom activities and accompanying materials.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Author Skype

Have you ever experienced a Skype session with the author of a book that your students have read?  My Spanish 2 students and I had a Skype session last week with Mira Canion, the author of Fiesta Fatal, the book we piloted and is scheduled to be published early next year, and six other books for Spanish students.
Spanish 2 students Skype w/ author Mira Canion

Mira was very accommodating and worked with me to schedule a separate Skype session with each of my Spanish 2 classes. There is a two hour difference between us, which meant she had to arrive at school extra early in order to Skype with my first period class.  

Each session was 25 minutes long.  Mira had asked that we start the Skype session in Spanish and then move into English.  The day before our session, my students' homework assignment was to write two questions in Spanish regarding the book (the plot, the characters, the ending, etc), and one question in English about the book or about writing in general.   

At the 3 appointed times, we successfully connected with Mira and the students asked their questions in Spanish and Mira answered them in Spanish.  Mira writes books and also teaches full-time, so she was careful to use vocabulary and grammar that the students could understand in Spanish. And, unbeknownst to Mira, (but she'll know if she reads this post), two or three times when I saw the students didn't understand, I jotted it on the board, out of view of the camera.  

This was a very positive experience for my students! They took advantage of the direct access with the author to ask about the different characters in the novel, what they were going to do after the last chapter, why they acted the way they did in the novel, etc. They also had some great questions about writing such as how long does one book take from start to publication, from where does she get her inspiration, how much does the book change from the first draft to the final publication, and on and on. The conversation with Mira provided my students a glimpse into the work that goes into a book before it reaches the classroom.  An extra bonus for my last class was the opportunity to meet some of her students. 

If you have never had a guest enter your room through Skype, here are a few suggestions to make the session go smoothly:
1.  Do a trial run through before the session to make sure there are no technology kinks that need to be worked out.
2.  Talk with your students about Skype etiquette.  (one student speaks at a time, speak clearly, no side conversations, treat the Skype guest as if they were physically in the room, etc.)
3. Set a determined length of time and stick to it.  
4. Have students write possible questions beforehand so they are prepared to ask them and you don't lose any Skype time.
5. If it is a big class, move the computer to a different angle so the Skype guest is able to see more of the students, not just those that are front and center. Also, have students circle in and sit close to the camera.

 Two years ago, I contacted a writer of a short story that my Spanish 4 students read in hopes that we could Skype with the author.  I was not successful in setting up that session due to the author's schedule that year, and then failed to check back the following year.  However, after the students' positive reactions to the Skype session with Mira, I'm inspired to explore other possibilities for using Skype to connect my students with others.  My students connected with a class in a Spanish country two years ago and I think it's time to explore that avenue again.  I have other ideas that I'm already mulling over in my head.

If you are willing to share your Skype experiences with me, or any words of wisdom on how best to incorporate it into the classroom, whether here on the blog or by direct e-mail, I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reading - Ensuring Students Understand

Chapter 7 - Fiesta Fatal
As I have probably stated before, when I read mini-novels with my students, I want the students to understand the storyline.  I know from experience, that if I ask the students if they understand, some will say yes even when they don't.  My job is to ensure they really do understand.

After reading chapter 7 of Fiesta Fatal, the book I'm piloting for Mira Canion, I created a review activity of the main character's journal.  Some of the statements are taken directly from the chapter, others are thoughts that Vanesa might say or think, and others are statements that are not true.  Students read the statements and checked the ones that match Vanesa's character. 

Chapter 9 - Fiesta Fatal
In the last few years, I have moved away from grammar lectures and have replaced them with many short pauses in conversation and reading to point out and/or ask questions why something is written the way it is.  My students do not specifically know the terms imperfect and preterite, but they are beginning to write the correct tense when needed.  To sharpen that skill, I tried a new activity in which I could quickly assess their progress.

First, I gave each student a page from the newspaper, folded to make it more manageable.  Since newspapers are a good source of information, the newspaper represented background information.  I also gave them a copy of a ticket to a Lucha Libre event that I made online. Lucha Libre is entertainment similar to WWE, which means it is an event filled with a lot of action.

Then I read the chapter to the students.  They closed their eyes and when I said a statement which included information (imperfect), they held up the newspaper, and for a statement that described a specific action of one of the characters (preterit), they held up the Lucha Libre ticket.  It didn't take long for me to see which students were consistently answering  correctly and which students were unsure and were making more errors.  

After the newspaper/Lucha Libre ticket exercise, I gave them a paper with sentences that they read and then wrote I (for información) or A (for acción). 

The newspaper/ticket activity can be used with any book or story. Choose something to represent the two different past tenses that are related to the storyline and choose a reading that has a good mix of both tenses. 

Both activities described above are good reviews of the chapter for the students, and also will enable you to better identify which students are struggling and need extra support.

Acting and Freeze Frame

Earlier this month my students read a book that we piloted.  The book title is Fiesta Fatal written by Mira Canion, and will be published in the future.
My last post on Fiesta Fatal was on chapter 3, which can be found HERE.  Chapter 5 has a scene in which the mother, Julieta, and her daughter, Vanesa, hail a taxi cab in their efforts to escape.  My students and I read the chapter together.  After reading, the students put chairs in the formation to resemble a taxi cab.  Then they chose one of the following roles: taxi cab driver, Vanesa, or Julieta.  Before acting, I gave them three minutes to make paper props of a tiara and a cell phone.  Some made additional props like steering wheels. 

Acting ch5 of Fiesta Fatal
Then I reread sentences from the chapter (disguised repetition) and students portrayed the scene, then froze in action.  I took photos with my iPad to be used later. As I moved throughout the classroom, I described their actions, (more repetition in context). All the classes enjoyed the activity, including the normally quiet class.  Unfortunately, because I blurred their faces on the photos, you are unable to see how amazingly expressive they were. They "knocked this activity out of the park"!

After they finished acting the scenes, I hooked up my iPad to the smart board and students said sentences in Spanish to describe the photos.

The following day, I made a collage of the photos, and made copies for the students.  I also wrote sentences from the book and students matched the sentences to the photos on the collage. (one last chance for students to see and hear the vocabulary and grammar structures in a different format).

- I labeled the photo collages with letters H-P to give students more practice with letters that aren't at the beginning of the alphabet.  
- I used the App BlurFotoLite to blur the faces of the students. I can't say the app worked well. I was able to blur the faces but it froze both times I used it. Not an app I recommend.
- I first learned about Freeze Frame from attending a Carol Gaab session at ACTFL.