Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pre-conference Professional Development at iFLT2017

It's July and you know what that means: it's time for meaningful professional development at iFLT! I'm writing this from Denver, Colorado, where 500+ language teachers will converge on Tuesday to kick off the first official day of iFLT. 

My first day of iFLT started on Monday because I am serving as a coach this year.    

Coaching 4 Coaches workshop
Teri Weichart conducted a Coaches 4 Coaches session on Monday to train the coaches and
attendees that signed up for an extra session on coaching, before the start of the conference. After hugs and greetings to other members of our Coaching Tribe, we got down to business. 
Teri put 5 white poster sheets around the room and we wrote a skill on each of the posters. Later, in small groups, we discussed each poster. Below are several answers that stood out to my group that are beyond what you may normally think one would answer. 

1. Comprehensibility
Students may not recognize cognates they hear until they see them written. Don't assume the students understand you when you are using cognates.

2. Keeping Things Interesting
- vary energy and voice level
- go "off rails" to follow student interest
- pause to add suspense
- always give students a choice (Ex: Do you want to discuss in groups of 2 or as a whole class?)

3. Storytelling Skills
- "If it doesn't flow, let it go" - if you are telling a story and you realize it isn't interesting and not working with the students, drop it and move on. Give yourself permission to "let it go".

4. Connecting to Students
- Recognize what each individual student's engagement looks like. One student is engaged when they look directly at you, while another may be as engaged but he is looking down. Student engagement looks different for different students.

5. Other
- incorporate music, brain breaks, and CI games
- Be present in the present (show up to class in the present, not focused on the past)
- Encourage students and build up their confidence
- Accept that students' skills are where they are, not where you want them to be

Coaching Teacher SkillsLaurie Clarcq played the role of coach when Kirstin Plante taught the teacher "students" Dutch. Both of them were amazing: Kirstin on making the language comprehensible by going slowly, using gestures, writing the words in both languages in two different colors, engaging the "students", pausing and pointing at the words, expressive, etc; and Laurie with her gentle and encouraging method of providing feedback to Kirstin. (Btw, if you see Kirstin, ask her to demonstrate her version of a giraffe walking to the store.)

Then we returned to our small groups and took turns playing the roles of teacher, coach, student, and observer in the coaching format. Each role is a powerful learning experience and helped prepare us as coaches for the attendees that will visit the coaching rooms in the next few days.

Stephen Krashen talked to participants in the Fluency Fast classes and others about the power of reading and its role in language acquisition.

After the training and the Krashen talk, I'm ready for iFLT to officially start!!!

Personalizing experiences before and after conference hours

I've attended many conferences throughout the last few years in which I failed to schedule time to actually see the city and surrounding area in which the conference was held. But this year, I arrived in Denver before 9:00 am on Sunday, and spent the day with the talented Nelly Hughes (Spanish teacher from Ohio) and her family hiking at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The park is beautiful with spectacular views. Of course, my conversations with Nelly were often related to teaching. 

At the end of the day, I bumped into friends from Pinellas School District in Florida and we went to a local restaurant, Casa Bonita, where the food was ok but the conversation was GREAT!

Suggestion: If you are able to extend your stay at a conference a day or two before or after the actual conference, DO IT.  You never know when you'll be in that city again so make the most of your time and financial of attending the conference by setting aside time to explore the area.


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