The school unit in Spanish 1 offers tons of opportunities for incorporating culture and making cultural comparisons. I made a playlist of videos around the topic of school that I’ve been using with my Spanish 1 students. Here’s some ideas for how you can use them:
Use as a warm up or closing activity. Watch and discuss what you see. Have students write down thoughts, or ask a guiding question before watching – what is simliar/what is different? What surprises you? What questions do you have?
Examine bias. This is a great cross-curricular connection. Who made this video? Why did they make it? Are they biased or neutral? Remind them that even if they spot bias, they can still learn something about life/school in that country.
Y’all, I love teaching with music. Spanish pop music has been a part of my classroom since year 1, and my use of music for increasing student engagement, reinforcing grammar and vocabulary topics, and touching on cultural issues has only increased over the last ten years. Many students tell me that music is their favorite part of my class – “Yes! It’s Wednesday! It’s song day!” They beg me to play songs on Wednesday, and every other day of the week, give me song suggestions/requests, and tell me they’ve added their favorites to their personal playlists.
Over ten years of teaching, many things have changed, and other things stay the same: my students still love listening to Spanish pop music, and I still have to do battle with the internet filter every. freaking. year.
Admittedly, it has gotten better: at my previous school, I emailed the tech guy every single week with a list of videos to unlock. I think he got a real kick out of Mi novio es un zombie! And there was a stretch at my current school- I believe it was during the “Youtube for Education” era – where just about all my music videos were blocked, and I had to remember to download my videos at home so I could show them in class. Currently, I can access most of my music videos, and occasionally, when one is filtered, I can usually find it on another site with a video search excluding youtube (protip: search with -youtube to find videos hosted on other sites).
My current beef with the web-filter involves one of my favorite sites for extension, enrichment, choiceboards, and early finishers: LyricsTraining. I have talked about LyricsTraining in presentations to world teachers at FLAG, SCOLT, and within my own department, and it never ceases to impress. If you’ve never used it, it is a fill-in-the-blanks-in-the-lyrics activity. Students watch the video and, as the lyrics scroll underneath, they enter the missing words. It is a great listening activity, exposing students to accents of native speakers, and also gets them to engage with speech at native-speaker speed in a non-threatening way. But don’t get too excited: LyricsTraining relies on embedded YouTube videos. If your school filters videos the way mine does, you might find that many of your favorite, school-appropriate, teenager-pleasing Spanish pop songs are blocked for students. Songs like Te mueves tú, Corazón sin cara, Soy yo, and Tengo tu love.
The 2001 Child Internet Protection Act requires schools to install filters that block “sexually explicit” content. I absolutely support that, and I understand that no filtering software is perfect. However, schools need to choose web filters that empower teachers to choose age-appropriate educational content, with means to whitelist websites and YouTube videos that are being unnecessarily filtered out. Schools also need to differentiate between how the internet is filtered for students and staff members, but I think that is a post for another day. For now, I’m stuck pondering the latest email from my school’s wonderful technology support person, telling me there is no way to selectively enable blocked YouTube videos, and mourning the loss of my beloved Lyrics Training activities for my students this semester.
Do you follow Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) on Twitter? I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference this summer and attending his sessions on EdTech and self assessment. Here’s one of my favorite Bill Ferriter quotes:
So I began my portfolio experiment last year. I chose Seesaw as our portfolio platform on a whim after reading a blog post raving about it. As the semester went on, issues began to arise highlighting the fact that Seesaw was not passing the toaster test – while it had lots of nice features, it was not doing exactly what I wanted it to do. Here’s what I wanted in a portfolio:
A place to collect student work and reflections on their learning and growth, including audio, video, pictures, and text
Privacy – the student controls who sees it, if anyone, other than me
Ownership – the student shares it with me, but it is their collection of work and they retain control of it to look back on later, or to share with others to show their growth
Seesaw checked off number one, and we figured out how to adjust the post settings so videos were not automatically shared with the class (oh, the teenage horror!), but the ownership aspect was non existent – I was in control of all content submitted to Seesaw. Students didn’t have a username and password to sign in, but needed a QR code or passcode from me every time their browser data was erased. Oh, and the codes expired every hour, so I couldn’t post the code on Schoology for all time. In practice, this meant that once they compiled their artifacts in Seesaw, they might not be able to access them again. I’m not trying to hate on Seesaw – it has a lot of cool features, and the privacy settings and login system would work really well for elementary schools. Just, for me, it wasn’t meeting my needs.
Cue Powerpoint, the classic presentation tool teachers love to outlaw. Honestly, one of the most useful skills I learned in the EdTech class I took for my masters degree was how to create a narrated PowerPoint and export it as a video, but PowerPoint has been banned for every single assignment I’ve had for my EdS in Edtech. For why, professors? For why??? I mean, I get it, you want me to learn a new tool, but if Powerpoint does exactly what I need, why do I have to do a project in Hyperstudio when literally no one uses it, it requires a special software download, and I’m not allowed to install software on my work computer? <endrant>
Powerpoint allows for video, audio, images, and text (although inserting the video may require a rinse cycle in CloudConvert), and allows students to share with me and anyone else they choose, while still retaining control over their work. Toaster test? Passes with flying colors. Sorry, grad school professors, but in this case, PowerPoint really is the best tool for the job.
If you want it, here is the PowerPoint portfolio template I gave to my students. For unit 1, they have a video, two Explora Españolactivities, and a learning reflection.
Charades is a great way for students to review vocabulary in the target language while building classroom community. My secret for making it awesome while preserving prep time? Quizlet!
Step 1: Assemble your list of words. I like to throw in some challenge words that may not seem immedaitely pantomime-able (“It’s 2:10” and “apple” were ones that surprised my kids, but they eventually figured out how to act out). Maybe you already have it in Quizlet, or maybe you want to type it in a Word document and import it as a new Quizlet. Or maybe you just want to use mine? Here ya go:
Step 2: Print as flashcards. I’ve written before about why I love Quizlet, and the printing feature is a big reason! Print your words on the large or small flashcards. Check the two sided box so it prints the Spanish all on one page, but if you don’t want the English on the back, just adjust your printer to print one sided and skip the even numbered pages.
Step 3: Cut out your flashcards, or have a student do it for you. Assemble into baggies. Add directions, if you like. charades instructions (word)
Step 4: Divide your students into groups and play! Three groups of 8-10 players worked well with my students.
Need some ideas for gestures to use? Here’s a video:
Last year I implemented portfolios in Honors Spanish 1, with choiceboard exploration activities as a major component. I’m back at it again with a fresh batch of students, with my ideas from last year ironed out and refined. Here’s what we did:
Last year, I kept my magnets on my mini fridge all year. It was awkward because students had to sit on the floor for the activity, and my magnets got bumped off the fridge all year. The overhead cart may not be pretty, but it worked great for this activity!
Option 2 – Spelling – play with the letters
Option 3 – Lyrics Training – play with music & lyrics
For lyrics training, students had a choice between La Gozadera (really difficult!) and Tengo tu love. Unfortunately, Tengo tu love was blocked by the school filter, so La Gozadera was their only option. Here are some of their reflections:
I found it very difficult to find the lyrics to the song. They speak very fast, and you have to listen very carefully in order to catch it. However, I found it as a good brain workout, and it became much easier at the end.
After doing the lyrics training, I started to make connections in my head. I was able to distinguish between Spanish words more easily and hear words at a faster rate than before. After making several attempts, I noticed patterns and picked up the pronunciation of specific words. I definitely would like to do this with different songs.
Option 4 – Book browsing – read the books
I have a pretty good selection of easy readers & children’s books in my classroom library. Even though I tell them the novels will be easier, they always gravitate toward the children’s books! Here’s a reflection:
The title of the book I chose is called, “Oh no! It’s Hippo!” The short story I read was about a hippo, who was made fun of because he was fat. The other animals in the jungle make fun of him, and scare him away from the pond. I learned that ‘hipo’ in Spanish means hippo, and hiccup. This activity was hard, because I had to translate what the book said. This was a valuable learning activity for me, because I learned a lot of new words. My goal going forward is to comprehend a page in the book.
After the activities, I have students take a picture or screen shot a write a reflection on their learning and their language goals. I really enjoy reading these! We repeat these activities a couple times a semester, and it’s so exciting to see how much they grow over the course of the class. Especially in honors, I want to empower students to use Spanish for enjoyment, and not just see it as something they are doing for a grade. I think these activities also support state standards – Students will identify situations and resources in which target language skills and cultural knowledge may be applied beyond the classroom setting, for recreational, educational, and occupational purposes. (MLI.CC5) – As well as ACTFL standards – Students show evidence of becoming life-long learners by using the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment.
Holy smokes. It’s been an intense three days of learning. I attended Solution Tree’s PLC At Work Institute this week, and I’ve got to say, it was the some of the best PD I’ve attended, particularly considering it was not grade or content-specific (hello, SCOLT and FLAG, you will always be my #1 for PD! 😘).
PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) encompass a lot of big educational ideas: differentiated instruction, standards based/mastery grading, common formative assessments, and data-driven teaching. A PLC must identify the essential learning outcomes, develop common assessments, and then analyze the assessment data as a team. Assessment data informs and drives assessment; if students have not mastered the essential content, they need to be re-taught and re-assessed.
I attended a fantastic session with Michelle Marrillia titled, Do Your Common Formative Assessments Really Change Your Practice? Turning Data Into Successful Secondary Classroom Instruction that gave me some practical ideas for how to integrate remediation into regular class time. She talked about the importance of guaranteedrecovery systems – tutoring before or after school is not a guaranteed option, because not all students have transportation to attend tutoring outside of regular school hours. In my school’s case, remediation during our study hall time is not guaranteed either, because many of our students attend the career academy for half the day, and travel between the campuses during study hall. In order for the recovery system to be truly guaranteed, it has to be integrated as a regular in-class routine.
Option 1: Pull students for short & sweet recovery sessions several times a week. Identify the students needing remediation based on your common formative assessment (CFA) data, and pull them for some small group or one on one instruction during independent work time. I’ve done this before with quiz corrections: I give the class an assignment to work on independently (or in partners, or in groups – something they don’t need help/guidance from me on) and I call up everyone to look at their grade and make corrections. We talk about what they missed, I give them a remediation assignment to work on, and we schedule a retake. Michelle suggests giving CFAs weekly (formative assessment should be frequent with data used immediately to inform instruction), with the retake for the previous week’s assessment copied on the back of this week’s CFA.
As you reteach, you are probably still moving on with new material. Copy the retake on the back of the new assessment the next week. pic.twitter.com/bFbHHWkMTM
Option 2: Schedule a longer slot of time for remediation once a week
Michelle suggested reserving one day a week as a “no new information” day for remediation and extension. Some teachers at her school use a red-yellow-green color coding system, with red meaning not mastered, yellow meaning approaching mastery, and green meaning mastered. On the remediation day, students get a sticker corresponding to how they did on the formative assessment and are assigned to a group according to their needs. The following points surprised and intrigued me:
The color coding system sounds like tracking. However, at her school, she found students didn’t get their feelings hurt by being in the red group, as it meant they would get the instruction they needed to meet the standard AND a chance to improve their assessment grade. She also shared hearing comments like, “I am NOT going to be red next week!” I think the key here is ensuring that you actually follow through with the remediation in a timely manner and truly provide a path to mastery.
The year this system was implemented, standardized test scores went up at her school. I would like to see more research on this point – does less content deeper result in higher scores on state tests? This does kind of make sense – particularly in subjects where success in Unit 3 depends on building on the skills learned in Units 1 and 2, ensuring that students master half the content will show up as growth on the end of the year tests, even if you don’t even skim over the rest of the standards.
I teach on a block schedule, and while I don’t see myself devoting 20% of my class time to remediation every week, my classes are long enough I could reserve half a class period for recovery, particularly if it’s not every week.
Takeaway: I need to prioritize grading CFAs quickly and using that data to provide remediation for students who are red on essential standards. Remediation/enrichment time needs to be a regularly scheduled activity.
I’m cleaning out my drafts folder this week, and I found this gem from September 2016.
Y’all, my students got computers this year. Each and every one of my students was issued a Dell Laptop from the school for use at school and at home. Can I tell you how excited I am??
That being said, a month into school I have to say that this sudden exponential increase in the technology and resources available to me is going to take some getting used to, and some time for me as the teacher to figure out the best way to use it.
I love having students submit work through Schoology, my district’s LMS. I love how I can save paper by posting assignments online, and use online interactive activities. I love the possibilities for instant feedback online practice gives, and how easy it is for me to enter personalized feedback on student assignments. I love how much less paper there is for me to keep up with! I love how I can collect speech and writing samples for students at regular intervals, and have them organized and accessible the moment students submit.
Me: Did you finish your work?
Student: No, my laptop’s dead….
By high school most of my students know to ask for a pencil if they don’t have one, but in class of thirty two where every single one of us literally has the same computer, you can’t ask to borrow a charger? Why won’t they just ask? And on assignments, why do some students never ask for help? I had a student pack up his bag ten minutes before class ended today without finishing his assignment, one with whom I have a positive relationship, because he was frustrated with the assignment and didn’t want to complete it. Umm, hello….ask for help? Or how only 8/30 students submitted audio files for the unit 2 recording assignment? What were they doing in class that day? I walk around, monitor, offer help, supervise, support…how does this slip past me?
Besides the management issues, I am also learning a new LMS, Schoology. It is far more friendly than Blackboard, but I still find it challenging at times (and that’s from a pretty tech-savvy teacher). Why can’t I copy a question when making a quiz, like I can on Google forms? Why can’t I assign a multiple choice assignment, why does it have to be a test or quiz? Why do I have to reset the due date when I copy an assignment from class to class? And why can’t I put some default settings on all my assignments, such as always showing the Spanish special characters?
Truly, I am grateful for this wealth of technology my district has bestowed upon us, so I before I end this post, let me share a photo of one of my sweet high school babies:
I wrote in my last post about using the laptops to flip listening from a whole-class activity to an individual/pair activity, with students controlling the pauses and repetition of the audio and working through at their own pace. What I love most about having more technology in the classroom is the possibilities it opens up. My lesson planning is limited by my resources – in previous years, an activity like this wouldn’t have been possible with the smattering of student devices and the school’s intermittent WiFi as my resources. Although I’m in a novice stage as a “blended classroom” teacher (or whatever the term is these days), I won’t be a novice forever, and the possibilities for growth, for both my and my student’s learning, are endless.
Update – May 2019
I still love working in a 1:1 environment! So much of this is still true three years later – students who don’t charge their laptop or students who won’t make a recording no matter how much class time and encouragement they get. Other things have certainly changed – I would say my LMS proficiency is Advanced, and I’m much more comfortable managing a technology rich classroom. I’ve also experimented with technology-enriched instruction and assessment a lot over the last few years – I give most of my tests and quizzes through Schoology now (and often get them graded the same day!), and student have completed projects using Sway, Adobe Spark, and Padlet (and sooooo many Powerpoints!). The district is replacing teacher and student laptops next year with upgraded Dells (yay!), and I’m looking forward to continuing to experiment and expand my technology skills.
Recently I read some posts on curation over at Cult of Pedagogy. I think curation is useful not only for ourselves, but can save other teachers a lot time when those curated collections are shared. Today I want to share some of the tools I use to curate, some of my curated lists, and some lists that have been curated (or collaborated on) by other language teachers. Many of these were mentioned in my SCOLT presentation, so these ideas may not be new if you were at my session.
On Twitter – Lists
Do you use lists on Twitter? I made a few lists several years ago and as I’ve recently followed a few political accounts, I find it useful to use my lists when I’m looking for teaching ideas. You can click here to see my lists; I’ve chosen to keep some private, but my teachery lists are public. You can add an account to a list by clicking on the three dots next to the follow button on their profile, and you can also view other people’s lists on their profile page. If you want to sort all the accounts you follow into lists in one fell swoop, TwitListManager may help to speed up that process.
On YouTube – Playlists
Have you ever tried searching for playlists on Youtube, rather than just a song? If, for example, you search for “spanish commercials,” and then refine your search to playlists only, this is what you will get:
In the top three results, you’ve got a list of 28, 13, and 37 videos that someone else has helpfully curated for you. I also like Youtube playlists for music. I use playlists to collect the songs we listen to in class (I post it on our LMS, and will play it sometimes while we work or play Kahoot), and I use other teachers’ playlists to discover new songs that are likely to work with my students – comprehensible, clean, and catchy.
Y’all, I hate Pinterest. I find it to be a timesuck and the links are always broken (sidenote: to exclude pinterest from your google image searches, just add -pinterest to your search). However, when I do venture into Pinterest, I search for boards, rather than individual pins. I found this strategy especially useful when I was looking for ideas for teaching a novel – I could check out one or two Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro boards, and have a lot of ideas at my fingertips. Or, similarly to Youtube, you can check out the boards of other teachers, rather than going down the search bar rabbithole.
Blog recommendations from other language teachers helped me out hugely when I was a baby teacher looking for ideas & mentors. I use feedly to manage my blog subscriptions, with sections for politics, friends, recipes, and teaching. I haven’t been able to find a way to share my complete education reading list from feedly with you, but you can see the WordPress blogs I follow in the right hand sidebar. Again, I find other teachers to be the best resource as to what blogs to follow, so I love checking out other teachers’ blogrolls.
This post was written in March 2018 – I’m cleaning out my drafts folder this week 🙂