Saturday, January 27, 2018

Get more time for your FLES program!

I often get questions about my schedule from other FLES teachers. It's funny that when I tell high school teachers how many students I have (520) and that I see them for 25 minutes every other day, I get looks of horror. But when I tell other FLES teachers the same they want to know how I got so lucky and what did I do to get that schedule. I didn't always have it so good...

Here's what my schedule has looked like over the last six years.

Year 1 - Spanish was in the Specials rotation and on a cart. I taught K-5 once every 6 days for 55 minutes. It was horrible. Students would forget what I had taught the last time I saw them. I didn't have a curriculum and I realized later that I was going too fast and expecting too much.

Year 2&3 - Spanish was still in the Specials rotation but I convinced my admins that it would be better for the students if I saw them twice in the 6 days. I switched with Library one year and Computer Lab the other. Halfway through the 55 minutes me and the other Special Area teacher would swap classes. A fourth grade teacher remarked that she could tell a difference in how much Spanish the students could speak after making this change.

Year 4&5 - We lost population and we switched from a 6 day rotation to a 5 day rotation. Someone needed to come out of the schedule. I begged my admins to please let it be me. My vice-principal told me to propose a schedule and she would consider it. I came up with a A/B schedule where I saw 2nd-5th grade for 25 minutes every other day and K-1st for 15 minutes every other day. I was on the cart for K-1.

Year 6 - I see everyone for 25 minutes every other day. I get an hour of plan during the instructional day on Day B and none on Day A so instead of doing morning duty I use that as my plan time instead, which I am happy with since I actually end up with a little extra time. Here's what it looks like today. You can see that I don't get any time between classes within a grade level so one class is leaving as another is coming but I do get 5 minutes between grades to reset and get ready.

Advice for other teachers:

1. If you are in a schedule like my first year where you only see your students once a week or less then work to convince your admins to let you switch with another class. I was lucky that my PE and Music teacher were already doing this so there was precedence at my school for this arrangement. If you don't have this at your school try starting with Music or PE. The motor skills that they teach in those classes also benefit from seeing the students more frequently. Art, STEM, and Library are not usually good candidates because getting out/putting up supplies and checkout takes up a lot of time and these teachers usually want the full time.

2. Take baby steps and educate your administrators on how proficiency works. I didn't go from once every 6 days to every other day. We worked up to that as my administrators saw my students improving in their Spanish proficiency. They saw how the increased frequency was working and were willing to give me more time.

3. Be flexible and creative. My A/B schedule would not have worked those first few years because we simply had too many students. When it did make sense I had to get creative and be willing to do 15 minutes on a cart with younger grades. It wasn't ideal but I made it work. In fact, I had a first grade teacher tell me I put them to shame with how much I got done in 15 minutes.

4. Be realistic. There's no way my current schedule would have worked those first few years because our school was so big that I didn't even get my own classroom until my third year. Only because of redistricting and an aging population in our district has allowed me to have more time. You have to do what works for your school and your population. I was also extremely lucky to have a supportive admin in charge of scheduling. If your admin isn't on board right away it might take more time to win them over.

5. Be really really flexible. Yes, I said be flexible already but I'm saying it again because it's that important. Now that I'm out of the Specials rotation I have kids pulled out of my class ALL the time. We try our best to make sure everyone gets Spanish but some kids come late from intervention, some Special Ed kids don't come because they have to have so much time in the resource room, some get pulled on Thursdays and Fridays for gifted and talented. MAP testing sometimes conflicts with my class. I'm okay with all of this because I'd rather see most of the students every other day. Also it's not much worse than what I experienced when I was in the rotation. It's just the life of a FLES teacher.

6. Always be advocating for your program. You won't get more time if the admins, classroom teachers, and families don't love your program. Make sure your students' learning is visible. Put in the hallway, send it home, teach lessons that your students go home talking about, invite all stakeholders into your classroom.

7. Stay positive. Being a FLES teacher with large numbers of students and not a lot of contact time is hard but by staying positive I have been able to enact change at my school.  Every year I think, "Wow! This is so awesome. It can't be better than this!" But then it gets better. And let's be honest any time in the target language is better than no time so keep that in your mind while you work to get MORE time.

So that's how I got to see my students every other day. And I'm chewing on an idea to see even more of my older students and maybe even the preschoolers at my school next year. How often do you see your students? What do you do to get more time with them? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Green Screen in the Elementary Spanish Classroom

Last year on career day a guy came from KET, our local PBS station, and did a presentation on green screen. As we were cleaning up from career day I noticed that there were a bunch of green plastic table cloths.  Instead of putting them in the trash I gathered them up and put them in a drawer with the hope of finding a use for them later. And then this fall during our weather unit in 1st grade I decided to give green screen a try!

Here are six tips to get you started...

1. Download the Do Ink Green Screen app for ipad or iphone. I have a teacher ipad but it's a huge pain to get the school to buy apps for it so I signed in with my personal itunes account and bought it myself. At $2.99 it was totally worth it! There is another version that costs more and has more capabilities like drawing and animation but if you just want green screen, stick with the cheaper version.

2. Get a green sheet from Goodwill or green plastic table cloths from Wal-Mart. Or steal  re-purpose them from an event like career day like I did. ;-) Set it up in your classroom, preferably somewhere that you won't have your back to the room. This was not the case for me this year but I had my student teacher taking the videos while I kept an eye on the rest of the class. Next year if I'm alone I will set it up so I can do the video AND still have eyes on everyone. My first graders are usually pretty good but they're also not angels.

3. Model for students how to make a video. We chose a few students one class who chose which weather they wanted and then made a video that I projected onto the SMART board using my air server. The kids got a BIG kick out of watching their classmates and it made them super excited to make their own while at the same time showing them the format and expectations. 

Model how to do the video with the whole group before having students make individual videos

4. Set up an area where students can practice. I did this by putting two velcro squares on my cabinet, putting a pretend microphone, and weather and day cards in a basket. Students took turns being the weather reporter while the other kids sat on the bean bag chair and watched the "TV."

Students practice before doing their green screen video
Students practice before doing their green screen video

5. Give the other students something to do. The first time we had students spelling the weather words with magnetic letters and the second time through we gave them pencils, crayons, and weather forecast worksheets to let them get some presentational writing practice in while they waited. It's crucial that there is something for students to do while they wait their turn to make their video. Antsy and impatient students are the ones who misbehave.

6. Decide what you will do with the finished videos. A hundred videos was too much for me to look at and edit (and also somehow the first time they didn't save) so we let the students watch their videos immediately after making them and that was that. No worries about trying to make them nice or having enough storage space. We did two rotations so students got to make two videos. If you  have fewer students then you could have them edit them in computer class or just make them into QR codes and display them for parents to view. 

Other notes:  If you have a class set of ipads and/or older students it wouldn't be necessary to have stations. You could model how to make the videos and then let students make and edit their own. I only have the one ipad but I think it worked to have students doing other things at different stations. I don't often do centers or stations but this format was one of the first time it really worked for me. Partly because students knew if they were off task or misbehaving at one of the other centers they would not get to make a video so that was enough for them to stay on task. 

My first graders had such a great time making their videos and I can't wait to come up with more ideas on how to use green screen in my classroom. Do you use green screen? What do you have your students do? What classroom management strategies do you use when you are making green screen videos? Share in the comments below!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Adorable First Grade Illustrations

Is there anything more precious than little kid drawings? If you answered no then you might be an elementary school teacher. 

My post on Places Around the School - Six Ideas for the FLES Classroom was already chock full of pictures but I just had to post up close pics of their illustrations on the large map we hung in our front hallway for our Spanish Speaking visitors.

This was a group effort by students from all 4 first grade classrooms.
This is the STEM lab. Check out the two students sitting at the table with a beaker of something green and smoking in between them. The other stick figure is our STEM teacher Ms. Napier. She's the only teacher that made it onto the map.
I would say this was me but it's in the wrong place on the map so I'm going to go with this is a student speaking Spanish in their sala de clase. 
I love the swings, the slide, the mud, and the four different suns. ¡Está super soleado!

Not pictured is a guitar in la clase de musica, lots of books on bookshelves in la biblioteca, a lone student eating lunch in la cafeteria and a house across the street. Also lots of very creative coloring. For the record our STEM lab is not green and purple striped.

What adorable drawings have your students made? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Places Around School - Six Ideas for the FLES Classroom

I have a new curriculum this year (as opposed to no curriculum before) and while there are many units I was already teaching there are several that I have never taught before. One of those was a unit for first grade on the different places in school called Me and My School. I'm not sure why I never taught places in the school before but it has turned out to be one  of my favorite units so far. Here are 6 great ideas that my students loved.

1. We stared the unit with Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes. Just like with Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes I "read" this book to them (translating and simplifying as I went while showing them the pictures.) Then we told the story again with the awesome story props from I recommend printing, laminating, and putting a magnet on the back for easy story telling. 

2. From the book, we came up with a chant that helped students connect different actions with the different places in the school. 

Leo, leo, leo, leo en la biblioteca.
Como, como, como, como en la cafeteria.
Juego, juego, juego, juego en el patio.
Canto, canto, canto, canto en la clase de musica.
Pinto, pinto, pinto, pinto en la clase de arte.
Escribo, escribo, escribo, escribo en la sala de clase.

3. Then we practiced the different locations with my lovely llama, Primavera (named by second graders who were studying seasons at the time.) I took close up pictures and wide angle pictures of Primavera around the school and the kids had to guess where she was. I got this idea from someone on either Facebook or Instagram (sorry I can't remember who!) 

llama en la clase de musica

4. Next we hid pictures of Primavera around the school and my student teacher Sarah Beth took half the class on a llama hunt. Students had to find the right place on their list and mark if they found the llama or not. This was another big hit but we did annoy the Music teacher with kids constantly peeking into her room to see if they could find Primavera. The other half of the class stayed with me and played memory with school supplies flash cards. 

Tip - If you do this make sure you put the pictures outside of a classroom so that students don't need to go in. We did this but even then the kids were very "thorough" so you might also warn your teammates. 

lugares alrededor la escuela

5. Battleship with bear counters and simplified versions of our school map was also super fun and got in some interpersonal practice with ¿Dónde está? and the different locations. 

map of the school battleship game

6.Our final project had students labeling both smaller individual maps and making a larger map that we hung in the front hallway for our Spanish speaking visitors. Giving the students this authentic audience really motivated them and they worked really hard to label their maps. Check out my separate blog post on the adorable illustrations they made for our large map. 

Tip - Make copies of the maps that you put out for visitors so that students can have their original to take home. Sending home work with students, especially work they are excited about is a great way to advocate for your program.

mapa de la escuela proyecto

mapa de la escuela proyecto

This has been one of my favorite units ever. The students were so engaged and learned so much. Do you teach places around the school and what activities do you do? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Building Community in the FLES Classroom

Every year I try to pick one goal area and focus on that. I've had classroom management, 90% target language usage, and improving my assessments. I don't forget these goals in the next year but I try to fine tune them. Last year my goal was more culture and community - 2 of the 5 Cs. (This year's goal is to figure out our new curriculum but more on that later.)


So what are the standards relating to Community?

School and Global Communities: Learners use the language both within and beyond the classroom to interact and collaborate in their community and the globalized world.

Lifelong Learning: Learners set goals and reflect on their progress in using languages for enjoyment, enrichment, and advancement. 

In order to get students to set goals and use the language outside the classroom is to find them authentic audiences to share their work with. With that in mind I've come up with a list of ideas I've implemented (or plan to implement) in the classroom.

What I've done and has worked:

Readers Theater - I've done this for the last several years. Older students practiced and performed readers theater for younger students. By participating within their school community, my students were MUCH more engaged in practicing reading their scripts until they were performance ready.  Read more about it here.

Butterfly conservation - My fourth graders last year are participating in Journey North's Symbolic Migration which automatically connects them to the global community by sharing with a class in Mexico and another in the US or Canada. They also did some research on how to help the butterfly population in Library class and then are creating informational posters in Computer Lab. Some  of the posters were displayed at the public library in the spring.  Read more about it here

Guatemalan worry dolls - I found this idea on another blogger's site. We made these dolls while practicing numbers and estimation and learning to say Tengo miedo and No tengo miedo. We will also made some extra dolls and donated them the Children's Hospital. Read more about it here. 

Fundraising for Heifer International - Students voted for which animal they liked best by dropping their change into a cup and using the phrase Me gusta ___. We raised over $90 and even got a fancy certificate in the mail. Read more about it here.

Interactive Notebooks - Sometimes I debate whether our notebooks are worth the time spent on them but then I see how excited the students are when they get them back at the beginning of the year, flipping through them, reading them, practicing the chants, etc and that's when I know they are totally worth it and are helping to cultivate lifelong learners. Students also write their goals for learning Spanish in their notebooks and I've added self-assessments at the end of the units. Read more about it here.

What I'd like to implement in the future:

Kindergarten art projects - We make different art projects in kindergarten that I'd love to turn into greeting cards that we can send to a nursing home or some other facility where there might be Spanish speakers - or just people who'd love a card to cheer them up.

School maps - My first grader are doing a unit called Me and My School. As part of learning about the different places in school the students will label a map in Spanish. I'm hoping to have those placed in the front office for any Spanish speaking visitors to our school.

Healthy food posters - My second graders are in the middle of a unit called My Food Choices. At the end they are going to make posters showing healthy and unhealthy food choices. My plan is to talk to the local Krogers and see if we can have them displayed. Or maybe they could make them on the brown bags that customers use since I've seen other schools do something similar. It's just a matter of finding the right person to agree to it now.

How do you incorporate the community C? What authentic audiences have you given your students? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

¿Flotan o no flotan?

Last year at ACTFL I attended a session titled "Implementing Content Based Instruction: A Tool for Teachers" presented by Heather Hendry and it really changed the way I teach. I came back from ACTFL and observed four different classroom teachers to see how they were doing math, reading, and social studies to see where I could start incorporating more content.

The lesson that Heather presented during her session was all about school supplies and if they floated or not. I did that specific lesson with my kindergartners as part of our Me and My Classroom unit at the beginning of this year. And? It was a huge hit!

Target Vocabulary:

Floats/Doesn't float
Numbers to 5

I just started by introducing the supplies at the beginning of class and having students repeat the names after me. It was the beginning of the year so we were also working on greetings and introductions at the time.

After a few classes, I got a tote with water and made an anchor chart that said ¿Flotan o no flotan? I handed out pieces of paper that said the same thing so that students could make their predictions. I would hope up an item, ask them to identify it, and then predict if it would float or not. 

In the next class I had six totes with water on tables. We quickly reviewed what we had observed in the last class and then we did all over again but this time taking turns with a partner to put the different items in the water. To make it an interpretive listening activity, students had to listen for which supply to put in the water. No putting things in willy-nilly.

I was more than a little worried about letting kindergartners loose with water so early in the school year but I told them they wouldn't get to play if they didn't follow directions. I had a few who had to sit out but no one got soaked so I count it as a win!

We finished up our water project with a cut and paste activity where we got to use all of our different school supplies! We weren't finished though. Because next we weighed them to see which weighed more and which weighed less - my way of introducing the words more and less. The procedure went the same way. We did it as a group with an anchor chart. Then we weighed them in small groups. And then a cut and paste.

The students really enjoyed themselves and so did I. And they got to play and learn some science at the same time. How do you teach school supplies with younger students? Share in the comments below. Get a copy of the worksheets I used as well as flashcards to use with an anchor chart at my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Teaching Introverts in a Loud, Active, & Crazy Communicative World Language Class

KWLA conference was over a month ago but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it. I didn't actually get to go to a lot of sessions this year because I was presenting 2 workshops and 2 sessions but one session I did attend that really stuck with me was one "Speak up, I can't hear you: Engaging Introverts in Active Learning Classrooms" with R. Brown & H. Campell-Spetz.

I am what I used to call an outgoing introvert. I need a LOT of time by myself but I can talk to just about anyone. I was also a very eager student. I was that kid who always raised her hand and participated enthusiastically in class. I've realized that students most like me - eager to raise their hand, speak up, and aren't shy - are the ones that I pay the most attention to.

But this year I got a  new fifth grader who is new to the school, new to Spanish, ELL, and very very shy. She would answer questions if I called on her but only in a whisper. I literally had to walk across the room and let her whisper in my ear. So teaching introverts was on my mind going into conference.

What I learned:

- Turns out that as an "outgoing introvert" make me an ambivert. Introversion and extroversion is a scale and most people fall somewhere between the two extremes.

- Introverts feel more comfortable with more processing time. Strategies like Think, Pair, Share work really well  because it gives the students time to process and then speak with a partner, making them more likely and comfortable with then speaking in front of the group.

-Introverts like to observe. Just because they aren't raising their hand to answer questions or are shouting out answers like other students doesn't mean they aren't learning. 

- Assigned roles during group work helps make sure that more extroverted students don't take over. 

-It's ok to push people out of their comfort zones. That means pushing introverts to talk more and just as importantly to push extroverts to listen more.

- A lot of what I'm already doing in class is what I should be doing!

What this looks like in my classroom:

-One of my favorite things to do is to make all students answer a question first with their partner before I call on anyone. This gives everyone, but especially my introverts, the processing time that they need. And they need processing time when I'm asking them to answer in the target language! The number of hands that go up goes from a few to almost everyone. I talk more about this in my post getting everyone talking.

-The Si Se Puede bubble sheets help me make sure I'm calling on everyone and not just my more outgoing students. I can see who needs more bubbles and either call on them or in the case of my more shy students I can listen in during an activity so they aren't always speaking in front of the whole group. Now I just need to make sure I'm doing this on a consistent basis!

-I use Kagan partner mats and put my students in groups of 4. I specifically try to make sure that my quietest students are not with my louder students but with someone I think they will be comfortable with. Kagan structures like Hand Up, Pair Up and Mix, Pair, Share lets shyer students talk without being on display as well as choose people they're comfortable with.

-I'm encouraging but I try to not force my shy students to do more than they're comfortable. And while I worried about my new student she is slowly coming out of her shell. She still speaks quietly but she eagerly raises her hand now and participates with a smile. Another quiet student, really shined during a recent shopping role play. I was pleasantly surprised to hear how well she was speaking Spanish.

-I need to remember that interpretive and presentational writing are opportunities for quieter work. Spanish class doesn't always have to be lots of loud conversations.

- After this presentation I realize there are a few other students that should probably be on my radar and who need some extra encouraging and relationship building, especially several of my shyer boys. I will probably always naturally gravitate to those more outgoing students who are like me but my ongoing goal will be to make sure I'm reaching and valuing the learning styles of ALL of my students.

What do you with your shyer students? Share in the comments below!