Post-conference To-Dos: #SCOLT18

Untitled presentation (3)


  1. Go through your notes and conference resources. Do it now, while it’s fresh in your mind, or set a reminder on your phone to do it on spring or summer break when you have more time. Here is an awesome google drive folder with materials from the sessions at SCOLT – go ahead and review the ones from the sessions that you loved, and set yourself a reminder to go through the materials for interesting sessions that you couldn’t attend at a later date.

  2. Debrief with your conference buddy, department, or any teacher friend you love talking shop with. My conference buddy and I took a “divide and conquer” approach to SCOLT this year, and made sure to sit down a couple of times during the conference to share what we had learned in our sessions. We will repeat that process with the other members of our department over the next few weeks, and possibly in our professional learning days during post-planning. If you’re a department of 1, why not share with a teacher from another content area – much of what I learned (technology tips, literacy strategies, management and organization ideas) could be useful to teachers of various subjects. The process of talking it out not only benefits your partner, but also helps you sort and retain the vast amount of information you took in over the weekend.
  3. Curate your fun new resources. You got a great activity or a cool authentic resource for a unit you won’t teach again until next fall – where are you going to put it so you remember to use it? Here are a few suggestions:
    • Make a thinglink or padlet for the conference with links to new resources and notes about activities and strategies you want to try (and then share it with your conference buddy, department, or other teacher friend!)
    • Download the files now and put them in your unit folders on Google Drive, OneDrive, or your laptop. If there are links you want to save, put them together in a Word or Google doc, along with a brief description of how you want to use them, and put the document in your unit folders.
    • Add authentic resources to unit or topic-specific Pinterest boards
    • Write a blog post about the new activities you want to try (if you don’t have a blog you can send it to me as a guest post!)
  4. Set intentions. Now that you’ve reviewed your notes, talked it over with a buddy, and sorted your amazing new ideas, it’s time to set intentions: what changes do you want to make now? What is one resource or activity that intimidates you, but you want to give it a try? Did you get ideas for routines that need to wait until next semester to implement? Pick out 1-3 ideas and either work them into your plans for next week, or put a note in your calendar to do it at a later date. Don’t procrastinate; if you don’t do it right away it will likely not get done at all.
  5. Follow up with the the many amazing educators you met at your conference. Maybe that means searching #SCOLT18 on twitter and following some new accounts. Maybe you promised to share a resource with another teacher – go ahead and send that email. Maybe you want something another teacher mentioned that isn’t already posted in their session materials – send them an email or tweet and ask nicely for it (and maybe send something their way!). Maybe you drop a note to your conference friends you never see any other time of year (hello Lee, Jaime, Celeste, Joe!) and tell them it was nice to see them again. Or maybe you just contact some of presenters and thank them again for sharing their expertise.
Posted in Conferences, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

#SCOLT18: #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner

I am super excited to be headed to #SCOLT18 tomorrow! Here are the slides for my session, #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner. I’m sharing tons of links to my favorite sources for finding beginner-appropriate authentic resources, as well as activities to go along with them. I’m also sharing three “ready to go” authres activities that I’ve used with my own students on leisure activities, school, and clothing. If you’ll be at SCOLT, I will be presenting Saturday at 9:00 – hope to see you there!

Posted in Class Activities, Music in Spanish Class | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lernen Deutsch: My German Journey

Hallo, mein Name ist Andi. Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch. Wie heisen Sie?

Untitled presentation.jpg

Guten Tag! I have been studying German a few months now, and since I find accounts of other language teacher’s language learning journeys fascinating (such as Martina Bex’s French and Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s Russian), I thought I would share some thoughts on my progress with German.

Why German?

I started studying German last October. It’s hard to say exactly why I started (I’m a bit surprised myself I’ve managed to stick with it this long!), but it had to do with curiosity – first, because I love languages and I’ve never had a German class, and secondly, because I wanted to get inside my students’ heads and remember for myself what it’s like to learn a brand-new language. Also, my husband studied a fair bit of German in high school and spent a summer in Germany in college, so I have a person available to help me when I have questions.

What materials?

I started with Duolingo, and I’m sad to say I recently lost my 100-plus day streak (I swear I had a streak freeze!). That being said, after three months of using Duolingo, I was bored with it. I did learn quite a bit of vocabulary, especially at first, but I hated the lessons on conjunctions, cases, and prepositions, as those words never “stuck” with me and I often didn’t understand why an answer was correct, particularly with cases (and this is coming from a language teacher and grammar-lover!). I have heard that the desktop version does a better job explaining grammar, but I prefer to do it on my phone as it is more convenient. For now, I’m taking a break from Duolingo to use some other resources.

Over black Friday weekend, I spent some money on two German courses: Coffee Break German Season 1 ($69) and Lukas Kern’s TPRS German course ($83). Coffee Break German offers all their lessons as free podcasts, but the paid version gives you access to PDF lesson notes, as well as a video version of the lesson with the vocabulary showing on the screen. For me, this has been money well spent as I didn’t feel I was learning much from the audio-only podcasts. I like to watch the video and pause it to write the words down in my notebook, and also pause it when they ask a question so I have enough time to think of the answer, checking my notes if needed. It drives me nuts that Mark (the German learner) talks more than Thomas (the native speaker and teacher) on the lessons, and that they ask me to translate English to German as soon as they introduce new phrases, but now that I’ve started taking notes as I listen/watch, I’m getting a lot more out of the lessons. No program is perfect, but this one is pretty good for the price, and the structure of the lessons works well for me personally.

I haven’t used the Lukas Kern lessons as much – I’ve actually only done one story, Schneckenwitz, which I believe is free on his website. I found it hard and frustrating, and even the “easy” story for beginners had a ton of words I didn’t know. I really wanted to believe his claims about how effortless language learning could be, but I think the old rule of, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” applies here (Caveat: I am sure he would say I was using his resources wrong/Not following his rules). I will circle back to these resources eventually, probably when I finish or get tired of Coffee Break German, but for now they are going to wait.

I also keep a notebook, a good old composition book like I require for my students. I have a pencil bag full of pretty pens, and I take great pleasure writing in my notebook and making it beautiful (this is coming from a dysgraphic child!). I love the autonomy of studying for fun, and I write down whatever it is I want to learn in my notebook. I have notes from Duolingo, Lukas Kern, Coffee Break German, as well as things I’ve looked up because I wanted to know how to say them (Youtube, WordReference, Google Translate, and Quizlet are my go-to resources). I draw lots of pictures, and sometimes translate to English or Spanish.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I made an Instagram to document my learning (andi.aprende.deutsch), and I post occasionally. Here is a video of me attempting to say my Spanish 1 unit 1 stamps in German. I sound a lot like my Spanish 1 babies – imperfect pronunciation, imperfect grammar, but comprehensible to a sympathetic interlocutor!

It gave me such a thrill the first time my husband told me, Fruhstuck ist fertig, and I understood him! Making that video above (without studying beforehand) and realizing I can do this! was seriously exciting! I hate being corrected when I’m not specifically asking How do you say ____? How do you pronounce this? which is something that I need to think about in how I communicate with my students – If I say something to my husband in German, and he understands me, by George I want him to respond, not correct my cases! Back in November I ran into a German teacher friend, and it made me so frustrated when I tried to show him what I had been learning and all he did was correct me! I crave praise, comprehensible input, and simple interactions. I want to understand, express myself, and be understood.

So that’s my German journey thus far. Do you study another language? What are your favorite self-study resources?

Posted in Learning German, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

10 Tips for Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Students

This post brought to you by my course on Methods and Materials for Teaching the Gifted at Northwest Georgia RESA! Hi Michelle!

Today I have a video I’ve created with ten tips for differentiating for gifted students in your world language class, whether it be in a separate section for honors students or for those highly talented students (or native speakers) sitting in your regular courses.

Side note: What app or program do you use to make videos? I used PocketVideo and it was AWFUL!

  1. Start with clear learning goals, and keep those in mind as you design alternate activities.
  2. Use pre-assessments and formative assessments to determine which students need more challenging tasks.
  3. Be flexible – having students working on several different tasks in one room is a big paradigm shift for teachers.
  4. Focus on higher levels of Blooms – more apply, analyze, evaluate, and create, less understand and remember.
  5. Four areas to differentiate: First, content – what students are learning, or how deep they go into a theme.
  6. Second: product – how students demonstrate their learning.
  7. Third: process – how material is presented, what questions are asked, what activities students complete – gifted students need practice in making informed, logical, and appropriate uses of information rather than practice in simply acquiring it.
  8. Fourth: learning environment – gifted students thrive in a  learner-centered classroom that is interactive, focused on student interests, and where the teacher is the coach, not the final authority.
  9. Vary grouping – sometimes heterogeneous, sometimes homogeneous.
  10. Promote independence – encourage self-reflection, learning from mistakes, and collaborative learning.

As I currently teach all regular classes (no honors), my focus this year is on improving instruction for my gifted students who have ended up in the regular class for whatever reason. My goal for next semester is to implement more tiered instruction based on formative assessment (assign students to groups with tasks of varying depth/difficulty), compact curriculum and provide learning contracts where needed (i.e., for a native speaker – we agree student will do xyz alternate activities in lieu of the regular practice and assessment), and to use a choice board (students pick from several different activities, all which relate to the same learning goal; gifted students can be pushed toward more challenging tasks, or complete a choice board as an alternative to regular instruction) at least once in each level I teach. What are your differentiation goals for this year?


  • Rimm, Sylvia B., et al. Education of the gifted and talented. Pearson, 2018.
  • Maker, C. June., and Shirley W. Schiever. Curriculum development and teaching strategies for gifted learners. PRO-ED, 2010.
  • Winebrenner, Susan, and Pamela Espeland. Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom: strategies and techniques every teacher can use to meet the academic needs of the gifted and talented. Free Spirit Pub., 2008.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dear November Teacher

Dear November Teacher,

It is August, the second week of school. Do you remember how the second week of school feels? I love my job. I don’t love the getting up early, but I don’t mind it so much either, because I love seeing and teaching my kids every day. My advisement group? They’re the best. And goodness, Spanish 1….we LOVE Spanish 1! And that kid in my advisement who is taking German but has taken it upon himself to rewrite the date in Spanish every day on the board, and did five of the unit 1 stamps because he was so excited at how much Spanish he knew just by watching me type up the slides each morning before class? Or that girl in first period asking if she would be able to understand Spanish soap operas by the end of the class, because they’ve just added so many new ones to Netflix? Or all those sweet babies you taught last year in Spanish 1 who are so excited that you are their teacher for Spanish 2, and all the others who have stopped by to tell you they miss you – even that girl you thought hated your class? Or the girl doing her stamps last week  – veintiuno, veintidos, veintitres, veinticuatro, veinticinco, veintiseis, veintisiete, veintiocho, veintinueve, VERDE!!!!! Oh wait that means green…TREINTA!!! She got there, didn’t she? Or those Spanish 2 kiddos who sang the song and did the gestures and were actually smiling – even the one whose Spanish 1 teacher said she passed out of pity? I think he’s going to be all right this semester! I think he can do it!

Anyway, November teacher – I wanted to tell you that back here in August, exciting things are happening – relationships are being built, enthusiasm kindled, and sweet, sweet learning. I know it gets hard when it’s dark and cold and tempers are short and the beginning of the year enthusiasm has worn off and you start thinking how nice it would be to just work on a computer in an office with adults, and how much would that paralegal program cost? But please know that it’s a phase – this too shall pass – and in a few more weeks the valley will pass and it will get better. You love this job, you love teaching teenagers, and you are very, very good at it – I promise you’ll remember soon.


An August Teacher

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Teaching Mira Canion’s Tumba

This year is my third round teaching the novel Tumba in my Spanish 1 classes. You can see my previous post about Tumba here.


Adobe Spark (6)

A few thoughts, now that I’ve taught the novel a few times:

  • We read two chapters a day most days of this unit (a few days we don’t read at all). Students are interested in the story and seem motivated to keep reading after one chapter. I also teach on block schedule, so one chapter a day is too slow a pace for us.
  • Some of my favorite activities with the book:
    • Quizlet live 
    • Kahoot
    • Using the chapter art from the teacher’s guide as a listening activity  – I read a sentence, they match it to a picture
    • Using the chapter art as a writing prompt – summarize the chapter, write a sentence for each picture, etc.
    • Listening to several versions of Cielito Lindo with this activity from Martina Bex. I also love this version with Pavarotti and Enrique Iglesias
    • Listening to Calaverita by Santa Cecilia
    • The Mexican Revolution readings in the teacher’s guide – I thought they would be too hard for my students, but they exceeded my expectations and did quite well!
    • Fill in the blank vocab and verb activities – I use these as chapter reviews more often than giving comprehension questions, usually on Schoology so I don’t have to grade them. Here is an example: tumba cloze

This year we also did chapter skits as an assessment. It was my second time doing them, and to be honest, I’m not sure if the result is worth the class time it takes to prepare. One of my colleagues made a comment in passing last year that really challenged me: You can’t say you do differentiated instruction if you don’t have a single differentiated assessment. Ouch! I am guilty of hating projects and preferring to assess with paper and pencil tests. I decided this would be a good unit to assess differently. I don’t think this skit project is excellent differentiated instruction, but it’s what I was able to come up with this year. Next year, I need to clarify my goals before the unit begins and plan for an assessment that better aligns with that goal.

Disclaimers aside, if you want to try doing chapter skits, here are my instructions and here is my rubric. On performance day, I assigned each student a classmate to give positive feedback to. I asked them to write specific compliments about their performance – good pronunciation, good job remembering your lines, nice acting, etc. They wrote some really nice comments, and I think they enjoyed receiving them from their classmates. We also did “Tumba Oscars,” which was super fun. I wrote several categories on the board and students voted on slips of paper – best actor, best actress, best Spanish, most creative, funniest, best Sergio, best Alex…etc. I made certificates using a google slides template to surprise my winners with the next day.

Posted in Culture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mi día en la escuela: Comparing Class Schedules

Adobe Spark (5)

My students are currently learning school vocabulary, and my authentic resource activities were in desperate need of an update. I decided I wanted my students to do an activity comparing schedules of schools in Spanish speaking countries and their own (find my activity at the bottom of this post!). I asked one of my teacher groups on facebook if anyone had such an activity to share, and someone from my grad program shared this gem of a website with me:

school schedules in Spanish

If you click on the gallery link in the right hand corner, you will find 15 school schedules from various Spanish speaking countries, compiled by one of the Auburn foreign language education graduate assistants. ¡Muchas gracias, amiga!

I decided that rather than trying to print out the schedules, I would have students view them on their computer. For pre-reading, I had students discuss their ideal school schedule in  small groups, with a list of questions in Spanish to guide them:

discussion questions

After group discussions, we briefly shared out to the whole class. Next, I had students draw a number from 1-15. They were not allowed to have the same number as someone else in  their group. The number corresponded to one of the schedules on the Wix site. For their “during reading” activity, students answered questions about their assigned schedule. For post-reading, they discussed what they learned with their group and answered some reflection questions: How were the schedules similar or different from their own school schedule? What schedule would they like best? I also had students write questions down on sticky notes. I took these up and answered them at the end of class as a closing activity:









If you would like to use my activity, you can find it here. If you improve on it, please share it back with me!

Posted in Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela | Tagged , , | 1 Comment