Sunday, March 13, 2016

Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages 2016

Over the last few years I have attended numerous conferences for world language teachers (PSMLA, NECTFL, and ACTFL) and hands down this year's Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages that was held in Columbus, Ohio, on March 10-12, was easily one of my favorites. 

Some of the highlights were:

1) GRANT BOULANGER received the CSCTFL Teacher of the Year Award! Congratulations GRANT!!! 
I am confident that everyone that knows Grant, will agree that he deserves to be recognized and celebrated for his passion for teaching Spanish with the belief that ALL students can be successful. It's exciting that this award will provide Grant with additional opportunities to share how he connects with his students and starts them on their way to proficiency in their second language. 

2. John De Mado was the Keynote Speaker. He didn't deliver the one-two punch. He delivered the one-two-three-four-five.....ninety-nine, one hundred, etc. punch. His straight talk about education, the illusion of education, the perceived literary problem, etc. left me wishing that ALL educators, not only world language teachers, could hear his message.

Several truths from John de Mado's Keynote were:
- Literacy begins with Comprehensible Input.
- Telling students what they need to know to say back to you on a test is NOT education.  It's an illusion of education.
- Computer programming is NOT a culture.
- Textbooks were NOT designed to be the curriculum!
- Where languages are celebrated, literacy thrives; where languages are atrophied, literacy declines.
- One cause of devolving language is high-stakes testing ill-conceived mandates.
- Standardized testing is killing us. It's killing our minds. It's killing our literacy.
3. The sessions and workshops! There were between 16-21 sessions happening at one time, not to mention the 3-hour workshops that were also offered in the mornings and afternoons.  

A common problem for me was which session to attend because there were usually several sessions that I wanted to attend scheduled for the same time. When there was a conflict, I decided to attend sessions of presenters that I had never heard present before and/or presenters that may not be presenting at the next conference I will be attending, IFLT16 in Chattanooga, TN.

Below are my notes & reflections and presenter comment's on the sessions that focused particularly on Comprehensible Input and Reading. (The reflections are listed in chronological order.)

Craig Klein @profeklein  aka Spanish Cuentos
Exhibitor All Star Session: The Power of Comprehensible Input and Storytelling
Craig started the session by sharing his journey from teaching college students to his move to teaching elementary students. He quickly came to the conclusion that he needed a different game plan. After observing another teacher whose students were comfortably speaking in their second language, he analyzed what words they were using and realized that they were using a core vocabulary which was sufficient for their communication needs at that level. This led him to search information from available online resources, such as blogs, videos, Twittter, etc. about teaching with stories and with comprehensible input. 

He apparently is a quick learner! He shared many videos of his students acting in class, retelling stories, and telling their own stories with props they created at home. I wish everyone at the conference could have viewed those student videos because there would be NO doubt that storytelling is powerful in second language acquisition. 
Additional comments by Craig and/or ideas from his classroom:
- Teaching with stories and CI works at any level.
- High amount of Input is needed before Output.
- Create finger puppets to introduce vocabulary (ex: Make a blue spoon finger puppet with eyes. Use inanimate objects instead of always using animals or people.)  
- Tell your students that you will publish their stories in a newsletter that you send to parents and then you will have a flood of stories from your students.
- Students prepare a story at home and come to school prepared to illustrate the story on the board and tell it to their classmates.

Check out his Spanish Cuentos blog HERE.
Check out the video El Ratón Pablito for an example of his online stories. 
Check out this video of his 4th grade students telling a story. They were NOT reading from a script when they recorded the video. 
Seriously, GO to his Spanish Cuentos blog and you'll find a boatload of ideas!

Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell @SECottrell & Wendy Farabaugh @MmeFarab
Effective Storytelling with Consistency, Cartooning, and Cool Content
Sara-Elizabeth started the session with a story in Spanish and later Wendy demonstrated storytelling in French. (Wendy has some major acting skillz!)

My reflection/notes & comments by presenters:
- Introduce "dice" (s/he says) early in beginning levels so you can say "He says, I want to go to the party." which allows you to give repetitions of the first person plural form. 
- Use Goldilocks story to teach este, ese, aquel (this one, that one, and that one over there)
- Push for proficiency by asking students to add details.
- Use cartooning (simple shapes with obvious details) to help students visualize.
- Check YouTube on how to draw simple figures for storytelling.

As I say, less is more when it comes to sketching!

Teri Wiechart @TeriWiechart
Put TPR Back Into TPRS
Teri is the TPR pro! She demonstrated the power of TPR by giving commands to  5 non-speaking French attendees. The were quick learners with Teri as their teacher. 

My Reflections & notes and Teri's comments:
Teri & classroom mgmt

- Create 3x3 grids to track and recycle vocabulary taught to students and then add more grids of words to build vocabulary.
- Highly recommends Contee Seely's book "TPR is more than commands"
- Play with words used in commands - make odd combinations
- Chain commands - how many commands can students follow  correctly?  (Say 3 commands - students act them out; say 5 commands - students act them out; continue adding commands to find the highest number that can be completed)
- Teri allows students to give her commands as long as they are physically possible and not rude
- Student gives commands to teacher and she narrates the commands in first person singular as she performs them.
- Make mistakes when following commands to see if students recognize the error.
- Use numbers in commands so students start to learn them.

Grant Boulanger  @grantboulanger (2016 CSCTFL Teacher of the Year)
Best of Minnesota: The Art of Engaging Novice Learners
In true Grant Boulanger fashion, he started his session by getting to know the participants by asking them what level they taught, where they were from, etc. Grant shared examples of how he first makes students feel as part of a community and then how he engages the students in the classroom using the Target Language. Most helpful for me was watching a short video clip of Grant interacting with the students in his class.

My reflection/notes and comments by Grant:
- Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations ~Jeremy Hsu
- Be attentive to students and be in the moment with them
- Keep it Simple in the Classroom 
- For language to be acquired provide input that is: Understandable, Interesting, and Repetitive
- We acquire language when we understand messages.
- It doesn't matter is language is comprehensible if it hasn't been comprehended. (Grant quoted John De Mado's keynote speech)
- Interaction accelerates acquisition
- Teachers need to create a classroom environment that will allow language acquisition to occur
- Intentional planning must yield to flexibility 
- Students must make eye contact with teacher and respond to what the teacher says - facial expression, verbally, body posture
- Validate a student by asking him about his new hairdo, new shirt, and talk to other students about the student's response
- Create a space of JOY and SUCCESS in your classroom! (photo right: Grant shows student's weekly bathroom pass in which she signed out of every class except his. She didn't want to leave the class!)

Check out Grant's blog!

Mira Canion @MCanion
Reading is Thinking; Making True Learning Visible
When Mira Canion is the presenter, be assured that you will be an active participant in the session. (The downfall to this is that I did very little tweeting or taking written notes during the session.)

Mira started the session with a photo and then asked participants related to the photo. Some questions were easy to answer, while others required us to think about how we arrived at that answer. In some cases, our background knowledge and experiences influenced our answers. She pushed the participants to explain how they arrived at their answer, helping us to delve into the invisible thinking that steered us to the answer we gave. We then compared the first photo to another one that was similar but carried a much heavier meaning and impact on the people's lives in the photo.  

Mira had us break into groups of 4 and then each of us were assigned a number.  This helped to ensure that all group members were participating in the discussion questions.

Later, she demonstrated activities that can be used in connection with a text, such as Quiz, Quiz, Trade, (photo on left) in which the teacher writes questions about a text and gives the questions to the students. Students then pair up and ask each other their question, then trade their papers, and pair up with another student to repeat the process.

Check out Mira's blog!

The list of sessions above are a sampling of the sessions that I attended. I will definitely consider attending this conference again, although I REALLY wish presenters didn't need to bring their own LCD projector and speakers (which I forgot and Christy Miller kindly lent her speakers to Krista and me for our presentation.)

Next conference: IFLT!!!! And I know, without a doubt, that IFLT will provide powerful professional development!

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