Interactive Student Notebooks Set Up

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The first time I tried doing interactive student notebooks, I wasn’t very successful. We used them a lot at the beginning of the semester, and then kind of petered out. The second time around, I went down the hall to ask some notebook advice from some math colleagues, and got a couple of simple suggestions that really helped me with consistency the second time around. I use notebooks for warm ups, notes, vocabulary, and handouts. I do fancy foldables sometimes, but my primary goal is organized note-keeping. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips for keeping you and your students organized with ISNs.

  1. The first time you do it, you might want  to only do it with one class.
  2. Post the table of contents on the wall.
  3. Have a consistent schedule for checking notebooks. I check notebooks each time students take a test. That way, I can grade while students test, and if I need to keep some notebooks to finish up  on m planning period, it’s a night where they won’t need them at home to study.
  4. Set up notebooks together a few days into the semester. I used this slideshow, copied from my friend in the math department:

To make your own editable copy, click here. Click file, make a copy, and then you can edit and download to your heart’s delight! If, like me, you are on a block schedule and are starting new classes, the dates for the warm up pages might be helpful to you. I have students reserve a warm up page for each week of class at the beginning of the semester, and date those on our notebook set up day. After that, we have a consistent beginning of class routine that allows me to catch my breath and get my mind focused while students complete their warm up on the designated page without asking me a million questions.

 

Online account list on the left, pocket for in-progress papers on  the right.

Online account list on the left, pocket for in-progress papers on the right.

This semester, I added a user name list at the back of the notebook. My students made accounts for Quizlet, Padlet, and Conjuguemos last semester, and I plan to also use Duolingo and Señor Wooly this semester, plus whatever other gems I come across that require student log in. I get so tired of having to look up student log ins, so I thought it would be helpful if they at least write down each website they register for along with their username and a password hint.

What are your favorite ISN tips?

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TBR: Professional Reading

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Down here in Georgia we got an inch of snow Friday night, so of course it’s Tuesday and I have a report-by-ten-o’clock-work-day. This quiet time in my classroom feels like a gift, so I’ve used some of it to do some reading and reflection.

Whale Done

I have to admit my expectations were low when the admins gave us a book with a cheesy title on our first day from Christmas break and along with a deadline for reading the first two chapters. However, upon completing those chapters this morning, I was pleasantly surprised by the message. The authors explain how the whales at SeaWorld are trained with positive feedback strategies, and how those methods can be applied to managing people (I have to chuckle each time I read “animal” and think “student”). Some takeaways from today’s reading:

  • It is more effective to reinforce positive behavior than to punish negative behavior
  • Management is most effective when there is trust and a positive relationship in place
  • “The more attention you pay to a behavior, the more it will be repeated.” Therefore, reward students with attention for positive behaviors!
  • Praise progress, not perfection: give praise when something is done right or almost right
  • Whales need motivators other than food. Workers need motivators other than money. Students need motivators other than grades. (Intrinsic/extrinsic issue)
  • Too often, workers and students only receive feedback for doing something wrong. It is (even more) important to also give positive feedback for doing a good job!

 

The Language Teacher Toolkit

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Christmas morning: yes, I asked for a professional learning book for Christmas. #nerdforlife

Confession: I follow The Language Gym through my feedly account, but I rarely make it through a whole blog post as the attention and focus required for processing each post is usually more than I can give in  those minutes I am scrolling through my phone looking for a distraction! This book is similarly dense, but I am committed  to getting through it. I read for thirty minutes today and found myself nodding and underlining on each page. Here are a few takeaways:

  • My goal in reading this book is to expand my repertoire of best practices – that is, add a few more tools to my teaching tool kit
  • Different methods have different advantages. I agree a lot with the Natural approach described in chapter 1, but my method is a hybrid with communicative language teaching and grammar-translation. The authors acknowledge that your teaching style is going to be heavily influenced by how your students are assessed, and I appreciate that they do so without judgement.
  • “Beware the teacher who claims that research supports their preferred method.” This made me chuckle, as I am guilty of it and know many teachers who are also guilty! The authors point out the difficulties in comparative research on different teaching methods and the many factors that play into a student’s ultimate learning. It is a good reminder to be humble and remain open to learning from others.
  • In chapter 2, the authors start out a discussion on oral work with questioning techniques (circling). “In the process of a ten minute exchange of this sort, students are getting lots of easy, repeated comprehensible input and a chance to practice their pronunciation and embed vocabulary. If students hear the word bag twenty times they are more likely to remember it without having to resort to a more tedious conscious rote learning method.
  • Things to try: chanting & singing things that need memorizing, oral gap filling (teacher reads aloud a familiar text with pauses for students  to fill in the next word. Would work well with a story or song), cumulative games (I go to the market and I buy…), running dictation (post texts around the room, partner A has to go to the text, memorize it, then repeat it back to partner B. No cell phones!)

 

What are you reading these days? What I should I read next?

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Teaching the Novel Tumba

I am wrapping up a three-week unit on the novel Tumba by Mira Canion and wanted to share some of the activities we’ve done. If you are interested, here are my unit plans.

Pre-Readng Activities:

  • Before beginning the book: We discussed products, practices, and perspectives and watched some videos about Día de los Muertos. We filled out a chart to compare the two holidays. Post reading, we will re-visit the chart and see what else students can add.
  • We also used this embedded reading on Tumba. Here is my pre-reading/chapter 1 packet.
  • Crayon wars with chapter word clouds from the teacher’s manual: call out a word in English, students mark it in the word cloud with a colored pencil. Pair up two students with different color pencils and make it a race. After wards, students can self-select words they don’t know to add to their vocab list.
  • Chapter art from the teacher’s manual: To maximize the mileage I get out of copies, I’ve used each chapter art for both listening and writing (I also shrunk the art on the copier so I could fit two or three on a page). First, I will do a listening activity where I read a sentence and students decide which picture it corresponds to, writing the number of the sentence next to the picture. Afterwards, I have them paste the pictures in their ISN and write a sentence or two to describe each picture. You could also use the pictures for story re-tells.
  • Quizlet: Is my favorite! I found a whole folder of Tumba-related sets made by Elena Lopez, and also made Spanish-English sets for the vocabulary I had identified for my students. Question/answer or fill-in-the-blank cards make great sets for rounds of Quizlet live. I like to print these out first for students to match up manually in order to scaffold them up to the speed of Quizlet live.
  • White boards: Put a statement on the board and have student respond on the whiteboards. This works great with True/False statements or Which character ____? questions. It also works well as a post-reading review.
  • Probable/Improbable: After chapter 8, I asked students to make predictions about chapter 9. I then picked several statements to write on big paper and post around the room. Students walked around and gave their opinion on a post-it note as to whether each statement was Probable, Improbable, Posible, Imposible (on second thought, just probable/improbable would  have been enough options). IMG_20161101_075226.jpg

 

Reading:
I really enjoyed reading out loud to students, with student readers doing the dialogue, but towards the end of the book students felt confident enough to read independently or in small groups. Sometimes I would have them read in groups and then read together as a class with actors (low-key reader’s theater), sometimes I would read to them and they would re-read as they completed post-reading activities, and sometimes we skipped the whole-class reading altogether. Variety is important!

Post-reading:

I used a LOT of activities from the teacher’s manual, as well as from Allison’s Wienhold’s blog posts on Tumba (I really liked her idea of having students write quiz questions and quiz each other – we did it after chapter 9 and it was a good change of routine from answering post-reading questions).  I often used the chapter questions from the teacher’s manual, or we played a game like Kahoot (the ones by Elena Lopez are always high quality), Quizlet Live, or Quizizz, or we simply discussed.

Assessment:
Ok, I’m a bit old school here. I made a chapter packet for almost every packet with target vocabulary, comprehension questions, and other related pre-and post reading activities and graded several of these as classwork completion grades. I gave two quizzes – one after chapter 4 and one after chapter 10. Quizzes were all comprehension based, with matching and true/false questions. I will give them a unit test including a writing section (describe a character and/or describe a picture). I am also planning to put students into groups and have them re-enact different parts of the book as a review before the test.

Reflection:
I’ve really enjoyed teaching Tumba, and I think my students have enjoyed it too (planning to give them a survey about this and will share results). I feel like I’ve taught Día de los muertos more completely than any other year, and students have a deeper understanding of it. We also touched on  lots of other cultural topics, such as school schedules, family relationships, and the Mexican Revolution. I also think students acquired a lot of vocabulary, and as we wrote and talked about the characters and events, I was able to do a lot of pop-up grammar about 3rd person singular/plural verb forms. I look forward to teaching it again with future classes and further refining and improving my lessons. If you have funds available for materials, I would highly recommend purchasing a class set of Tumba and the teacher’s guide to go with it.

 

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Thoughts on Stations and Games: Homecoming Week Edition

Homecoming week started last Thursday. Friday was “Movie Star” Day:

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Ninja tutus.

Between the chaos and costumes of homecoming week, plus the interruption of fall break in the middle, plus just being at the point in the semester where I am tired, we’ve been playing a lot games in class. I’ve written before about using games the day before a break to engage students with language, and I wanted to share a few more ideas.

  • Stations do not have to have rigid timing and rotation. Some games/activities take more time than others, and that’s okay. If students are enjoying an activity and using language, I am happy to let them keep that activity until it is no longer engaging. Also, whenever I do stations where students physically move from one area to the next, a lot of time is wasted with transitions and my dear students treat me to a lovely chorus of whines. So, I’ve found that often it works just as well to move the activities around, and let students stay put. I circulate constantly (and get tons of steps on my imaginary FitBit) and offer to trade out activities when one seems to have run its course.
  • You need more activities than groups, but they don’t all have to be different activities. If it’s okay for students to spend twenty minutes playing one game, they aren’t going to have to do eight different stations. That’s fine. However, it helps to have multiples of games if they do take a long time to play. For example, I made two sets these Halloween preposition cards for a Go Fish station. Students really enjoyed playing it, and having multiples of the same set made it possible for more students to play. Also, having extra games makes it easier to keep everyone busy when groups are finishing at different times.
  • All your stations cannot be high prep. I made three different sets of custom cards for stations today. That was a lot of work to make, even with help from several students with the cutting. Having other games handy that do not require any more work than getting it out of the closet like As, Dos, Tres or Verba,  will save your sanity.
  • That being said, Quizlet makes printing cards super easy. I waste so much time finding pictures, pasting them into a word document, resizing, and formatting when I make my own picture, word, or sentence cards. If you make it as a set in Quizlet, you can add pictures and print flash cards without having to mess with the formatting.
  • If you invest the time to teach students to play it, then use it more than once. I saw an idea on Mis Clases Locas about playing Old Maid with countries and capitals. Great idea! Then I realized I had printed and laminated the cards without including an old maid. And then realized I didn’t even remember how to play old maid. And then I remember that we had played spoons on our game day last Friday, and that was basically the same thing! So that’s what we did, and I didn’t have to spend time explaining the rules to a new game.
  • For weeks like this, I am ok with “just” playing with language. It takes a lot of thought and prep time to prepare multiple engaging stations activities around the same content. So today I made an effort to start students on an activity related to our current topic, but if they want to play As, Dos, Tres or Spot It in Spanish, that’s fine with me too.
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Sometimes things are hard

I am having a week where everything feels hard (and it’s only Tuesday). Deciding what activities to do, planning enough for our 90-minute block schedule, and just sitting down to tackle the pile of grading has gotten really hard. And then there’s the elephant in the room: straddling the moat between grammar-driven and proficiency models of curriculum is really hard. I keep finding myself asking, Why am I even doing this?

(Note: I wrote that paragraph a week ago. It’s Tuesday again, and things are still hard.)

I’ve begun teaching conjugation this week. I know direct grammar instruction is out of style, but I have reasons (departmental colleagues who will teach many of my babies in Spanish 2 and  3), so I’m going to write about how I’m trying to teach grammar better – specifically those conjugations and verb paradigms they will NEED to have mastered to be successful in Spanish 2 at my school.

Step 1: Preview 3rd person singular and plural forms with Soy yo.

Have you seen this video? I love this song so much!

I also love every resource Kara Jacobs has ever published, and her Soy yo activities are no exception. At the link above, she has activities centered around the story of the video: The girl likes her hair. She rides a bike. The  two mean girls don’t like her. The girl plays her flute. The mean girls don’t like the music and leave. The girl dances. The girl enters a basketball court. She steals the ball and plays. The boys look at her. The girl leaves. The girl sees boys who are dancing. The girl looks at the boys. The boys look at the girl. The girl dances. The girl leaves with her father.

This story came at a great time for me – finishing up Me gusta + Infinitives, so the vocab and reps of le gusta/les gusta was perfect. What was also perfect was how this song gave a great opportunity to preview 3rd person singular and plural verb forms. La chica juega or juegan al básquetbol? Insert pop-up grammar about how makes a verb plural.

Step 2: Teach conjugations, but not the whole paradigm at once, keep it visual, and save pronouns for later

My grad school professor, Dr. Barry, taught us the Lee and VanPatten method: teach grammar through comprehensible input, and only teach 1 concept at a time. By one concept, she mean just 3rd person singular verb forms, not all six boxes on the present tense chart. I felt like they could handle more, so we’ve been working mostly on 3rd person singular and plural forms, as well as a little bit of 1st person singular. For the Realidades readers, I’m teaching the vocabulary in chapter 2B – things in the classroom and prepositions of location with the verb estar. Almost everything we practice with is visual, either based on a picture or our own classroom. I’m asking questions like, El reloj está o están? Los libros está o están? The singularity or plurality of the subject is something visual, not just an s at the end o the word on paper they have to imagine. So we transfer from there to talking about los chicos, las chicas, los estudiantes, la profesora. We are using a few forms of estar, as well as some of those What do you like to do? verbs from the chapter 1a vocabulary.

In the past, I have taught conjugations with pronouns (yo, tú, él, ella, etc) and then sprinkled nouns and proper nouns later. Some students got it, some were totally thrown off. I would also always start with people as subjects, and kids would be totally confused when they got a sentence in chapter three like Las uvas ____ buenas. So I decided to start teaching verb forms with nouns first, and then add in the pronouns when they were comfortable talking about las banderas, el reloj, la profesora, mi amigo.

Step 3: Sprinkle in some pronouns once they’ve got the singular/plural thing down. Keep it visual.

My students have seen most of the singular pronouns already in various activities and readings. So we started with a matching activity I printed off from Quizlet. I wanted to see how much they could figure out on their own, and also see if they could make the jump from Usted to Ustedes and from ella to ellas. They did pretty well, and we went over it afterwards and talked about the pictures (talking TO someone vs. talking ABOUT them). Next, still keeping my focus on 3rd person verb forms, we did this page in our notebook:

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Left side is one person doing the action, right side is multiple people.

 

 

First, we labeled each picture to the side with él, ella, ellos, or ellas. Then, I gave them an infinitive bank and asked them to to label each picture with the correct form of the verb. I was really impressed with how many students got the juega and duerme forms correct – they have seen it enough times in class (especially juega from the Soy yo activities), and they just knew it without needing an explanation about stem changers and boot verbs.

Step 4: Continue to practice, and add in the rest of the forms slowly, visually, and in context. Give lots and lots of input.

I really don’t like teaching conjugation explicitly, as it necessitates so much time spent on grammar explanations in English (NOT engaging) and so often still results in frustrated and confused students. I am quite happy with how my students are doing so far with these re-paced lesson plans.In the next week or so, I want to figure out some more stories to tell my students to model and contextualize the remaining forms (2nd person and 1st person plural). I’m not super comfortable with storytelling or TPRS, so this is hard for me, but I think a bit of teacher-led input/storytelling along with lots of supported reading input will be a big step forward.

I’m not as good as I want to be yet. But I´m better than I used to be. 

 

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Authentic Audio: Physical Descriptions

Two of my favorite resources for audio are Audio Lingua and Spanish Proficiency Exercises. Each of these sites has audio organized by topic, so it is easy to find something that works with your unit. Since Spanish Proficiency Exercises includes transcripts with the videos, it is very easy to create cloze activities to go with the audio.

I’ve been using a simple cloze activity with this set of videos for years, but I changed the activity around bit this time and was quite pleased with the result.

medardo

Cloze, sequencing, and comprehension questions all in one. 

Since my students each have a brand new laptop (we are finally 1:1! HOORAY!), I posted the audio on Schoology and let them complete the activities independently (both Audio Lingua and Spanish Proficiency Exercises include download links). We did a practice run as a whole class with the script for Deysibeth projected on the board, and then I set them loose to complete the rest of it on their own or with a partner. I haven’t tried doing audio activities independently very often in the past, so I was pleasantly surprised to notice that my students not only interacted with the audio more, playing it over and over again in an attempt to catch the deleted words, but were so much more engaged than they are when we do audio as a whole class. I also think adding the sequencing activity worked well, as it was easier than the cloze and gave students a sense of success. And, as always when using audio from native speakers, I love how this exposes students to different voices, different accents and rhythms of speech, as well as a wider variety of vocab (ojos pardos, bajito, peludo…the list goes on).

Here is the link to the activity if you would like to use it. The videos are linked above, as well as at the bottom of the activity.

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Back to School, Year 7

Hello Everyone! Happy back to school! I am on my second full week and am really enjoying my students. This semester I have three sections of Spanish 1 on a block schedule and am really liking this one prep thing! In this post I want to share a few things I’m loving this (seventh!) back to school season:

New Bulletin Boards

IMG_20160815_163549I finally put up a cute Boggle bulletin board (I’ve had it pinned about two years) as well as a cognate board. My Boggle board is modeled off of Señora Dentlinger, and you can download the files for my cognate board here and here.

IMG_20160815_163038 A second bookcase – student supplies

As you can see above, I now have two bookcases in my classroom. I didn’t really have a good place to permanently store supplies for students last year, so I am loving this extra storage space.

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Top shelf: Signs with our school’s theme for the year, in a place students will see them. Second shelf: glue, hole puncher, scissors, and turn-in boxes. Third shelf: Writing utensils – markers, extra pens and pencils, pencil sharpeners, colored pencils, and crayons. Fourth Shelf: mini white boards and markers on the left, extra handouts on the right Fifth shelf: Dictionaries.

The make up work box

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The make-up work/extra handouts box is a black crate I bought at walmart last year. Did you know these crates are exactly the right size for hanging folders? They fit a standard hanging folder short-ways, and a legal size folder long-ways. In the past I have tried make up work boxes with folders for days or weeks, but it quickly became disorganized. So far, unit folders have been easy for me to maintain (ok, I’m only on the first unit) and won’t require re-filing until the end of the semester. Having a designated place for extra handouts has really helped me with keeping my room tidy, as well as when students ask me about make up work (am I the only teacher who can’t remember what I taught yesterday?).

Lularoe

IMG_20160815_063222IMG_20160801_180106Lularoe is a home sales clothing line, similar to Avon or Mary Kay. I love their clothes because they are modest, comfortable and cute, and make getting dressed on those early school mornings so much easier. My favorite pieces are the maxi skirt, the Nicole dress (green dress pictured above), and the Amelia dress (black and white pictured above-  my favorite because it has pockets!) If you need some good back-to-school clothes, I’d be glad to point you to some awesome Lularoe shopping groups on Facebook.

This guy

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On a personal note, meet my fiancee! Daniel and I will be getting married next March 🙂

 

Happy back to school! What are you loving this August?

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