Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Magic of 4:1 Positive Feedback in the Classroom

Last year I was a New Teacher facilitator for the electives teachers in our district. I didn't do much except email them when the meetings were and planned some ice breakers and reflection activities. But I got to go to all the trainings with them and honestly I think I got more out of them than they did. (As a first year teacher it's hard to be presented with a ton of information when you're already so overwhelmed.)

The best take away I got? Use a 4:1 ratio for positive to negative in classroom management.

Now, I had heard that before. In my first year of teaching even, but what really made it stick was that the PBIS coach told it didn't mean for each student but the class overall.

Mind blown!

Here I was thinking I had to say 4 nice things to that kid rolling under a table before I could correct him.

Now I simply say muy bien or gracias to four students doing the right thing before I correct little Johnny for being under the table. Usually by the time I've recognized 4 students for being in their seats criss-cross and eyes o me, Little Johnny has made it back to his carpet square. Then I say thank you to him (or just smile, nod, or give a thumbs up) and we move on.

You don't even have to compliment or thank the kiddos doing the right thing but just describe what they're doing. Emily se está sentando con las piernas cruzadas. Henry tiene la boca cerrada y está listo de aprender.  It helps that in K-2 we start class with piernas cruzadas, bocas cerradas, manos dobladas, y los ojos en la maestra. That way I can refer to these expectations later without switching to English.

It has really upped the positivity in my room, my students are much more likely to be on task, and we are all staying in the target language.

Here's a link for more information -
And here 

#HighlightReal - This has HELPED in my rowdy fifth grade classes but it has not completely solved the problem. If there was a solution then me, the other 5 Special Area teachers, the Behavior Coach, and/or their classroom teachers would have figured it out by now. Some groups of kids when together are harder than others.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Using Bitmojis in the Spanish Classroom

I recently discovered the bitmoji app and I realized they had a LOT of food related ones AND that you can change them into other languages like Spanish and French. So when I went to revamp my slide presentation to introduce our My Food Choices unit in second grade I decided these silly pictures of their teacher would be a good way to capture my students' interest.

They loved it! I told them a quick story about how eating too much pizza, hamburgers, and ice cream gave me a stomachache using different bitmoji images. I needed to eat healthier. Then we practiced healthy food vocabulary with the slide above and they told their partners which healthy foods they liked and disliked.

In later classes we looked at different authentic posters. Eventually we will make our own informational posters (more on that later!) The bitmoji story was a great introduction to the unit.

How to get bitmojis in another language:

1. Change your phone to the target language.

2. Open the Bitmoji app and choose your bitmoji.

3. Save your bitmoji to your favorite photo app. I have mine uploaded to Google Photo.

4. On your desktop, open Google Photo and download the bitmoji to your computer.

5. Insert into your powerpoint, slide, or word files. Use and have fun!

6. Be prepared to have students argue over whether the bitmoji is really you and just how much it looks like you. (Apparently my red glasses are not really reed according to several of my students.)

Other Ideas:

Print them on sticker paper with ¡Buen trabajo! or other encouraging phrases to put on student work or hand out as prizes for games.

Add them to worksheets for a fancier word bank, especially for food, likes/dislikes or days of the week.

Put them on newsletters and bellringer slides to start the day to add a personal touch.

Print out phrases like ¡Me gusta! or ¡Qué asco! and put on popsicle sticks and use to model conversations in class.

For older students, have them change their devices' language and have them make their own TL bitmojis.

Do you use bitmojis in your target language? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Presentational Writing Practice in the FLES Classroom

Last year I realized that I don't do a lot of writing in my room. I teach at a Title I school and while our scores are going up, we still need our students to be writing more. Writing in Spanish is a good way to get in more of the presentational mode and I use it as a way to reinforce L1 skills like punctuation and handwriting.

But how to do it?

1. Do group writes. Especially for younger students, start out by modeling how to write. Ask students to give you the sentences and you write them. Then let them come up and write the sentences.

2.  Have students partner write - One person has the whiteboard and marker but they have to listen to their partner as they dictate. Then they revise it together. My second graders loved this last year as they wrote animal riddles during our zoo unit. And it was great scaffolding for later when they wrote on their own at the end of the unit.

3. Whiteboards during our Hola time. We have a time where we practice our interpersonal conversations. Some of these times instead of orally practicing introducing ourselves and talking about what we like, we write our answers on whiteboards.

4. Make it fun. In our My Food Choices unit in second grade we take laminated place mats and write what we like and don't like on them. It takes what would be a boring activity using a worksheet into a fun activity because they are writing on the plate. Later we do the same thing when talking about school schedules and our favorite subjects. They write on a large laminated schedule.

5. Write on the tables - My fourth graders wrote descriptions of their friends using expo markers on my tables. Each table had a different adjective. Working with a partner they took turns writing who they knew that matched that description. They had a lot of fun and it was super low prep. Before my third graders did the notebook foldable below they did the same thing. Writing with a partner the names of their family members. Each table was a different person in the family.

6. Interactive notebooks - a lot of our activities in our interactive notebooks have the students writing. This activity in third grade, had students writing about where they lived and the members of their family.

7. Use social media - my students are too young to be on social media but Instagram on paper was a big hit right before Thanksgiving break. Some even asked if they could take a picture and post it to their real Instagram (I pretended not to notice they are about 4 years too young to have their own accounts...)

8. Lengua Lunes - Outside of class, as part of our morning show, students write the answer to a question and turn it in. On Tuesdays, someone is drawn and they get their name announced on the morning news show and get a pencil from our school counselor. If you don't have a morning show like I do you could use a bulletin board with a weekly question. Or put up butcher paper and have a Spanish graffiti wall. Just be sure to show and model to students how to use it appropriately.

So that's how I get my students writing more in class. What are some activities that you do in your classes to get in the presentational mode? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Finding Balance as an overworked, underpaid World Language teacher

It's time to #highlightreal. My to-do list is out of control. My fifth grade unit is a hot hot mess but we're too far in for me to change much. Halloween just happened AND I was sick all week. I've been having stress dreams that leave me cranky. And my goal of drinking less caffeine has gone down the drain. It must be DEVOLSON (Dark Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November.) Read more about that here.

Finding and maintaining balance as a teacher can be hard to do. I'll admit sometimes my sanity-saving strategies include wine and Cheez Its but with the exception of a week or two in late October and February I have healthier strategies for self-care.

1. Let go of perfection and focus on what impacts student learning. That means my door isn't as pinterest ready as it could be but my interpersonal activities are on point. Ditto for bulletin boards. I tend to go for things that can be left up for several months.

2. Document what you do with tips for what you want to change for the next time. Last year I made a google doc for each grade level with I cans statements, assessments, links to resources, and reflection on what to change for next year. It's has saved me a TON of time this year.

3. Get students to help you. I recruit fifth graders before and after school to help me with monotonous tasks like sharpening pencils, stamping papers, stapling paper books, etc. Having student teachers  has been a God send in that I almost never stay late now because I either make them do the copies while I'm teaching or I do them while they're teaching.

4. Plan on Thursday for the next week. It's the only day I stay late. I get all of my copies made, write my plans, and make any resources I need. I do work on the weekends but in my PJs with coffee and Law and Order on in the background. But only on Saturday mornings. I don't do the Sunday night panic.

5. Have teacher friends. I'm part of a book club that is really more teacher support group than book club...although some of us do read the books too. It's nice to have women who really get what it means to be a teacher that I can vent to.

6. Have non-teacher friends to remind you that the grass is always greener on the other side. I call my best friend Susan most days after school and listening to her talk about sales reports reminds me why I left my corporate cubicle for teaching.

7. Make time for your hobbies. I dance Cuban salsa which has the triple benefit of being exercise, a place I can practice Spanish and learn about Cuban culture, and meet new people. Dancing is an instant boost for me. I also love to read, listen to podcasts, hike, and travel.

8. Speaking of exercise...don't forget to get some. Besides dancing I also have an energetic dog who needs walking everyday. While we walk I listen to a favorite podcast (I love Happier by Gretchen Rubin and Stuff You Should Know).

9. Get enough sleep. I'm a morning person so that means I go to bed at a ridiculously early time but even if you're not a lark, make sure you're getting enough Zzzzs. I have an app that filters out blue light (which will keep you up) that automatically comes on at 7pm. And I listen to a podcast to fall as I fall asleep, which gives my mind something else to focus on rather than all the things stressing me out. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I either put my podcast back on or I have a phrase I repeat to myself that puts me right back to sleep.

10. Write everything on your to-do list, even the smallest things. I do this so I get the satisfaction of crossing things off and it reminds me off all the things I have accomplished even when I feel like nothing got done that day. Or you can keep a Ta-dah list and write everything down you've done rather than things you have to do.

What do you do to stay positive this time of year? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Scaffolding Interpersonal Speaking in the World Language Classroom - Getting Your Students to Speak in the Target Language

I was recently reading a conversation (lurking really) on Twitter about getting students to use the target language and not sneak in English in one of those activities where they have to interview their classmates.  Soon after I did a similar activity with my fifth graders (they had a bingo sheet with different activities and they had to interview each other to find people who liked to do those things) and I realized that I had very little problems with this.

I only had a few students who tried goofing off but the majority of the students happily spoke Spanish while trying to interview their friends and get bingo and earn a sticker.

So why do they use the target language instead of reverting to English?

I scaffold the speaking practice. Students switch to English when using the target language becomes too onerous. Giving them something to reference makes them less likely to make that switch.

We practice our interpersonal conversations each class as part of our warm-up that I call Hola. This year I laminated large blank pieces of white paper and wrote the questions and sentence frames for each grade level. I throw those up on the white board during our Hola time so that if I have any new students or students who struggle they can use that as a guide. Heritage speakers and kiddos who have been in Spanish class longer don't need it as much. Because I used vis a vis markers I can add and subtract to this scaffolding as the year progresses.

Anchor charts and language ladders are another of my favorite ways to help students use more of the target language. This chart for hobbies shows students what answers look like at each level and then based on their goal for the year they can self-differentiate. I color code everything in my room by the Novice sub levels. Yellow is low, green is mid, and blue is high. They get excited when they get to blue (and so do I!)

I color code everything for the proficiency levels. Yellow-NL, Green - NM and Blue - NH

This language ladder from a few years ago helps them build up from a novice mid answer to a more novice high.

The visuals also help ME to stay 90% Target Language as well

Before we do any activity where they will be doing interpersonal speaking, I like to activate their prior knowledge by having the class generate a list of words and phrases that they could use. This gets them in a Yes I can kind of attitude and it gives students who need extra support something they can reference if they need to rather than slipping into English. If I do hear English all I have to do is point to the board. You can ask for volunteers or better yet use Rally Robin or Turn and Talk to have everyone thinking and talking before you write anything down on the board.

Student generated lists help activate prior knowledge and get them prepped for an interpersonal task

Other factors:

I give them a reason to speak in the target language. See my post on I can statements here. Stickers are an added incentive as are Si, Se Puede bubbles.

It's part of our routine. We practice EVERY class period so they are accustomed to speaking in the target language. I get some push back at the beginning of every year from older students new to the school but once they get used to the routine and realize they can use the scaffolding provided any resistance dies down.

Kagan structures like Hand Up, Pair Up or Mix, Pair, Share makes it less scary and fun for kids to speak in the target language. Read more here.

They're elementary students and don't have the inhibitions older students have. Just another reason I love teaching the littles!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Día de muertos Ideas and Resources for Spanish Class

It's that time of the year! Halloween and Dia de muertos are fast approaching. Here are some ideas and resources to get you started!

1. Build your ofrenda! This year I put mine in the hallway so that students can see it every day on their way to their specials classes. The gym teacher overheard a kid calling it the "Coco table!" I only actually teach Day of the Dead to 2nd grade since their focus for the year is Mexico but other students love seeing the table and posters.

I use fake apples and flowers from the craft shop. The papel picado came from Hobby Lobby. The calaveras came from Rite-Aid last year and the posters are from Teacher's Discovery. I like to use butcher paper and label everything so students can easily see what the names for each item are in Spanish.

Mundo de Pepita also has a create your ofrenda that is cute. I saw it on Twitter where someone had magnetized it so students could play around with it. Can't wait to try it!

2. Watch some videos! This first video is great for tying Día de muertos with butterfly migration. I plan on having students listen for the vocab words they learned during that unit - mariposa, invierno, and months of the year. 

This video is in English but it is short and I like that it features kids the same ages as my students. It was a nice introduction this past week to Día de muertos.

3. Read some books! I checked this book out from the library. It's English with lots of Spanish mixed in. My plan is to "read" it in Spanish to my students, where I will just simplify the language and describe the pictures for my students. And then fingers crossed maybe some of them will check it out and read it on their own later.

I also have this book, which will be good to review the family members honored during Día de muertos celebrations. After I use them in second grade, my plan is to put them out on the ofrenda so students can look at them.

4. Have students show what they have learned! I will have students look at the ofrenda, the posters in the hallway, and Día de muertos infographics to label an ofrenda. Then they can color it.

We will also do a compare and contrast activity. I've used hula hoops in the past and my students thought that was super fun. I also just got a new venn diagram pocket chart that I'm dying to try out! 

You can get your own word wall words, labeling and matching worksheets, and links to the infographics in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

What are your favorite Día de muertos activities and resources? Share in the comments below!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

I CANs that promote proficiency

My district has implemented these 5x5 walk-throughs which means my principal pops in from time to time for 5 minutes and one of the things on her checklist is whether or not I have learning objectives posted and if they are rigorous.  I can statements and me have a stormy past. I learned in my university classes that I should be using them but I've written bad ones, forgot to post or refer to them, made them too vague etc. Every year though I get a little better at doing them.

Recently we did a training on Proficiency Based Instructional Outcomes in my district. Here are some thoughts we shared and asked ourselves to reflect on...

Most of the examples are learning objectives I have actually used in the past. 

1. Are they are at the right level? This means you have to know what level you are targeting. If I'm targeting novice mid I shouldn't have I cans that are asking for intermediate or advanced tasks. So "I can talk about what I did this weekend" (advanced) is out for my elementary kiddos but "I can tell you what the weather is today in Lexington, KY and at another famous landmark" (novice) is in.

2. Are they measurable? I used to be really vague. "I can identify colors." It's not horrible but admins are notorious for asking how I will measure it they made it or not. How many colors do they need to identify? Is one enough? 5? 6? "I can identify 4 colors in a Joan Miro painting" is a double whammy because it tells them exactly how many colors they need to identify and brings in the target culture. "I can make a Joan Miro inspired artwork and describe my piece" actually has my kinders doing something with the language.

3.Do they reflect what students can do in a real world context?  Part of the power of learning objectives/instructional outcomes is that students understand what and why they are working towards. If they don't understand the outcome then you lose that power. So "I can use the verb necesitar correctly" is out. "I can list items I need for school" is in. Or if they don't necessarily reflect a real world task like "I can list the days of the week" then they should be a stepping stone to something that is. My first graders start by listing the days of the week so that later they "...can read a weather forecast for the week."

4. Do you refer to them? How? Soooo...I've had several people who've told me to post them in English, point to them, and say them aloud in the target language. That sounds great for middle and high but it's problematic in elementary school for a big reason - a lot of my students are preliterate. They can't read the I can statements so I usually take less than a minute and say them in English. Or sometimes in upper grades I ask a student to read them in English. Referring to them is my biggest weakness although I am getting better.

5. Logistics - I see up to 10 classes a day. I don't have the board space to post the outcomes. And because I like it to be specific to that day not just the end of the unit I have a LOT of outcomes. I like to keep a Google Slides presentation that has a slide for each grade level. Each slide has a graphic with vocab that students can refer to, a bellringer activity for 3rd'5th to start the class, the essential questions for the unit, and the I cans for the unit.

This year I decided to put ALL of them for the unit on the slide and just bold and highlight the ones for the day. That way students can see where they have been, where we are going, and maybe most importantly I don't have to keep editing the slides EVERY single day. Below are some examples from first and fourth grade.

First Grade:

Fourth Grade:

How do I incorporate intercultural competence? With ACTFL's new Can Do statements I am still wrapping my head around this one. The main tenets are Investigate and Interact.

My fourth graders are learning clothing vocabulary. For investigate, we started with I can list 3 clothing items in a school uniform but then moved on to I can compare and contrast what I wear at school to what students in Spain wear. Although according to ACTFL they can't really compare and contrast until the intermediate level, but I think with guidance and scaffolding this definitely possible at a novice level.

For interact, they will get on the El Corte Ingles site and shop for a school uniform from a school dress code I found online (yay for authentic resources!) They will also design and describe a school uniform based on what they have learned. I threw in "I can compliment a friend on their clothing" because it makes a good entry activity and it gets them thinking about what they and their friends are wearing. This is my first time teaching this unit so I'm still making tweaks to both the activities and the instructional outcomes.


ACTFL Can Do Statements  - New Can Do statements document
Musicuentos post on new Can Do statements - A run down of the new Can Do document that is really useful
NNELL Archived Webinars - Several of these webinars address Can Do statements. They are free for current NNELL members (only $30!)

So those are my reflections after our training on learning objectives. How do you write and post your learning objectives? How do you share them with your students? How do you incorporate interculturality?  Please share in the comments below!