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? 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Connect with Students using a +1 Quiz ?

Do you want a practically guaranteed way to learn more about your students and make the important connection with them as a valued student in your classroom? You may be surprised to hear that this can be accomplished by having the students answer a quiz question.  

It is the +1 Quiz ? and it's not my original idea.  I heard about the +1 Quiz ? at a conference a few years ago in which Blaine Ray described how it worked. I also heard about a variation of this on the national news last school year when an elementary school teacher did a variation of the same thing Blaine Ray did. 

What is the +1 Quiz ? ? From what I understand, when Blaine Ray gave a quiz to his students, he told them that they had the opportunity to earn a bonus point if they wrote a sentence at the end of the quiz that was about something happening in their lives.  It could be something they were happy about such as their birthday was in a few days, that they had a game that evening, or something more serious such as their dog recently passed away, or they were nervous about a big geometry test the next day.

I vowed to do this in the past (I even blogged about it HERE, saying I wanted to experiment with it), and actually did it one time last year, but then I get forgetful and don't remember to tell the students about the +1 Quiz ?.

On Friday, one of my classes wrote sentences about the information that they learned about their classmates.  It was a nine point quiz and on the spur of the moment I remembered the +1 Quiz ? and told the students that the quiz was worth 10 points; 1 point for each of the sentences about their classmates and 1 point for writing something about themselves that they wanted to share. I gave them permission to write it in English so they weren't limited in what they wanted to write.

Here are a few of their sentences: 

and the one that absolutely made my day:


As I was reading the papers, I was reacting to them in my thoughts.  Then I decided that I should write those thoughts directly on the paper.  After all, the students wrote something about themselves, I'm sure the students will appreciate some feedback to what they wrote.

I learned a great deal about my students from this little exercise beyond their abilities in Spanish class.  Why did I wait so long to try this?  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

La Dentista script from Sr. Wooly's song

Who doesn't love the wonderful Sr. Wooly and his creative videos and ever-increasing teacher materials?  I'm positive if I had my students list their top five activities of the semester, Sr. Wooly's videos would, without fail, be top contenders.  

In 2013, I added Sr. Wooly's La Dentista video as part of our (official) curriclum for Spanish 2.  Before any of the activities below, the students and I read a children's book about going to the dentist, (Max va al dentista), read a story on A-Z reading about a vampire that goes to the dentist, complete the MovieTalk of La Dentista y el Vampiro and related activities (click HERE for those activities), create class stories using high frequency words and structures, and complete several other components in this "unit" of the curriculum. 

To prepare my students for the vocabulary in the video La Dentista, we do the following activities:

1) An activity with the phrases:  Creo que sí and Creo que no/no creo que.  Students wrote 1 sentence about themselves that was true (verdadero) and 1  that was not true but could be possible.  I read one of their sentences to the class and their classmates said Creo que sí if they thought the sentence was true, or no creo que sí, or creo que no if they didn't think it was true.

2) To pre-teach the structure, se quejó de, I created a TPRS storyline. Students contribute the following information about a fictitious character:
 - name
 - lived with mother, father, or both
 - number of siblings
 - class in school 
 - sport person played
 - instrument the person played  

Then I use the students' suggestions in a story about someone that complained throughout the day about each of the above items.  After our class story, students read a story, from a previous school year, about "Dante". 

3) I turn the volume off when we watch La Dentista the first time and I narrate the action and descriptions using vocabulary that the students know and introduce a few others. During this narration I also ask questions throughout to check for students' comprehension.  

The second time we watch the video with sound and subtitles.  We may watch it a few more times, and I pause it to ask students to describe what is happening.  The last time we watch is with the grammar pop-ups.

*4) I distribute the story script for La Dentista and I read it to the students. 
Partial script for La Dentista
When I read a word they are not sure about, they tap their foot on the floor and I translate the word to English and continue with the reading in Spanish. 

Sometimes I assign the script for homework.  Students have to read the story to their parent in English.  The purpose is for students to read the story again in the evening and if they're reading and don't know a word, I tell them to circle it and tell me the next day so I know which words are causing problems.

  Recently, Carrie Toth (@senoraCMT) posted materials on her blog (HERE) that she uses with La Dentista.  Her materials have a powerpoint with screenshots of Sr. Wooly's video and text.  I'll add that to my materials to provide more repetitions of high frequency structures. (Plus check out her materials on Billy la Bufanda, and Runaway on the same blog post!)

Because Sr. Wooly's videos easily captivate the students' attention, we use many of the videos as part of our curriculum and others for a brain break or end of class video if there are a few minutes remaining.

If you have heard about his videos but haven't subscribed yet, I strongly recommend that you do so now.  Plus, according to his recent email to current subscribers, his new and improved site will be revealed within weeks. 

*Since Carrie has a transcript available for the La Dentista story, I did not link my version on this post.  If you would like a copy of my transcript, indicate that in the comment section below (and also indicate if you prefer not to have your comment with your email published and I will send you the document without posting your comment) or contact me on twitter @sonrisadelcampo and I can send the document to you as a link from Google Drive.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I CAN Statements with Novels

Reading is a important element of the Spanish curriculum at my school district.  In each level of language, which equals 100 (+/-) hours of class time, students read 2-3 novels.  With the small number of classroom instruction available to us per language level, I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our curriculum to make sure we are using that time wisely.  In regards to reading novels, I used to ask myself how can I demonstrate that reading a specific book has helped move the students forward in their language acquisition and understanding of the culture?  

Last December, I created I Can Statements for students to check off after we created several class stories, read parallel stories from previous years, personalized information to the students in the class, and completed several MovieTalks.  The I Can Statements provided a clear list for the students of what they could do after completing the "unit".  (More detailed information about the I Can Statements can be found HERE.  To be clear, the statements are not directly related to ACTFL's CAN DO statements, but were inspired after my chat with Michele Whaley at ACTFL14.) 

After using the I Can Statements with my students, I started thinking about how I could do something similar for the novels that we read in class.  

Below are I Can Statements I made last spring for the book  Fiesta Fatal by Mira Canion.  

Chapters 1-5 (link to doc): 
Chapters 6-10 (link to doc):
Fiesta Fatal begins in Mexico, with references to towns in Mexico, markets, azoteas, quinceañeras, transportation, and other related culture.  The I Can Statements include information on culture, as well as specific statements related to students' language abilities such as retells, making predictions, listening skills, and comparing.

The I Can Statements help the students, parents, and administration see the benefits of reading novels in the second language.  One option is to revise the documents to add lines for parent signatures.  For example, add 7 lines for a parent to initial, but only 5 of the 7 need to be initialed.  The students choose 5 of the 7 to demonstrate their skill to a parent. I think parents will enjoy hearing their son or daughter speaking in Spanish, even if they don't understand what they're saying.

I have similar documents started for the other novels we read in class, but I still need to create the sketches to go with them and finish the documents.  They would be completed at this time, but . . . I've become hooked on reading popular fiction novels in Spanish (como: La Chica del Tren, Perdida, La Ladrona de Libros, Ve y Pon un Centinela,) and there are many others on my shelf or on Amazon calling my name.  :-)