Sunday, May 20, 2018

FCPS K-5 World Language Curriculum

I realized I keep mentioning having a new curriculum this year but I haven't actually gone into much detail. So here are some details!



- You can find it here http://blogs.fcps.net/curriculum/world-languages/

- It is a formal curriculum which means it's big picture and is an overall guide rather than being an operational curriculum that gives you more specifics. It's written with the hope that the program has 90 minutes a week but is adaptable to programs that don't (like mine!)

-Every subject area in our district had to use the same template -  the different sections pull from ACTFL's national standards, the KY World Language Standard, and FCPS's Student Growth Goal Rubrics. (The rubric link takes you to the KWLA Resources page. You can find the rubrics for all 3 modes of communication from there.)

- I'm learning to go bigger in my themes and use performance based assessments rather than just building a theme around a book. That's not a bad way to do things but a lot of times those smaller themes I was doing fit well into the larger ones.

- The curriculum lends itself easily to performance based assessments and they have been life changing. My students are SO motivated when I tell them at the beginning of a unit that we will be creating something or doing a dramatic role play that they stay engaged throughout the unit. I often will get, "when are we doing the shopping game?" I answer, "When you're ready. You have to learn all the Spanish you need first." They easily accept this answer and it works for classroom management because they know if they're not behaving they don't get to participate. I used to do this in my doctor unit but scaling it up to nearly all of my units has really made a huge difference.

- One of the amazing things has been discovering new units that I can't believe I never taught before. Like Me and My School in first grade or Me and My Home in third grade. The themes are high student interest.



If you are without a curriculum (a common theme among FLES teachers!) then I highly recommend looking at the FCPS curriculum. It's free and is a great guide on what to teach when. It's super adaptable to different needs. I won't say it hasn't been an adjustment this year but overall it's been a positive change to my classroom.

What curriculum do you use? How do you decide what to teach when? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Gradual Release Model in the FLES Classroom - #SCOLT18

SCOLT was so great this year! I might even venture to say I got more out of it than I did ACTFL this year. All of the sessions I attended were great and I was able to meet and network with a lot of great teachers in the Southeast region.

I don't know what other people do at conferences but I pick sessions in several different ways. One way I pick sessions is based on who is presenting. If they've got a reputation for being a great presenter then I go. So when my co-worker Ben suggested I go to Greta Lundgaard's session because she was great, I went. And guess what? She was great. 

Her presentation was on the gradual release model of teaching and how to use it in World Languages. There are four stages - I DO, WE DO, YOU DO TOGETHER, YOU DO ALONE. Turns out I'm pretty good at stages 1, 2, and 4 but almost never do stage 3 - YOU DO TOGETHER.

While I sat there a light bulb went off in my head. I had just finished having my 4th and 5th graders write a description of themselves to go with self-portraits they had made in art class. They had watched me write a description of myself. We had written one together. And then I sent them off to write their own.



For some kids it was no problem but for most it was like pulling teeth. And I realized it was because we had missed that important step of YOU DO TOGETHER. I also think they could've done with some more initial input but this is my first year with this curriculum and I'm still working out the kinks. YOU DO TOGETHER is also a good time to walk around and check on students or work with groups that need more help. Next year I need to pull my struggling students and work with them in a small group while I let everyone else work together.





Greta also talked about slowly taking away the scaffolding. If they couldn't do it then you put it back and then later take it away again. She used the example of having students write about what they did over the weekend. Even just saying don't forget to use preterite and imperfect is a form of scaffolding. Again, I realized I had been doing that. I say things like "Don't forget to use a complete sentence." And then I point to our sentence frames on the wall ALL THE TIME. It's ok to do this but by the end of the unit/year/5th grade they really need to be able to do that without my reminder if they're truly performing at the Novice High level. 

So what does that mean for this unit next year?

1. More initial input so students can see and hear the structures Soy ____ and Es ______. I have a few authentic resources and some readers I want to add next year to help with this. Our list of words was also way too long. I need to narrow it down so students don't get overwhelmed. 

2. When it comes to writing we are going to do YOU DO TOGETHER where students will write a paragraph describing each other, a famous person, etc. I think we need to do this several rotations so that they can improve on their work each time. Giving them one to correct would also help them recognize the patterns and identify those same mistakes in their own writing. Bonus - this definitely connects to core content and I will ask classroom teachers if there is anything specifically in the writing process I need to emphasize. 

3. Differentiate - while students are working in pairs I will make sure to pull a small group of students who need extra help and work with them where they need it.

4. Pull the scaffolding away. It's ok for me to remind students to write in complete sentences but eventually they need to know to do it on their own.


Hoping next year this unit will go smoother! How do you get your students to write at a higher level? How and when do you pull away scaffolding? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Los Tres Cerditos - An Elementary Spanish STEAM Challenge

I have a brand new curriculum this year and I haven't had as much time to incorporate STEM into my lessons as I've had before but I recently got the chance in third grade.

My third graders recently finished a unit on extreme weather. We practiced counting to 100 and talking about being afraid with Worry Doll Math unit and then we talked about the temperature and extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. The following unit in our new district K-5 curriculum just happens to be Me and My Home so I decided to introduce houses with The Three Little Pigs.

Spanish FLES


First, I told them the story using story props from my favorite site kizworld.com. The students helped act it out and we discussed which pig was smart, which house was strong, and who in the story was mean.

Target Vocabulary:

Vivo en...
una casa de paja, madera, ladrillos
Es fuerte.
Es inteligente.
Es simpático.
Es antipático.

To wrap it all up, the students completed a STEAM challenge. They had to build houses out of straw, wood, and bricks that could withstand a tornado, hurricane, and a flood (tying it back to our previous unit.)

I put them in groups of four and they each had to construct a house of either straw, wood, or bricks. There were not allowed to use any English. They had a sheet with a list of phrases they might use which we went over before starting or they could act something out. The paper included all of the supplies, plus interpersonal phrases like more/less, I like it/I don't like it, Very good/Oh no!, I agree/I don't agree. It's important to remember that the more cognitively challenging the task the less TL students will be able to produce which is why we stuck with easy phrases that they had learned in previous units. If they did use English they were sent to the penalty box for a few minutes.


Spanish FLES STEAM challenge 3 little pigs


The straw group had plastic drinking straws cut in half, strips of paper, masking tape, and play-doh. The wood group had wooden craft sticks, masking tape, and play-doh. The bricks group had legos.

I worked it out with my third grade team that I would take their classes for 50 minutes instead of 25 so that we had enough time to build and test their houses. The only English I used was to clarify that to test a house it must have four walls and a roof. Because of our time constraints I didn't worry about a door or a floor. I also explained the English penalty box. Then we flipped the sign back to Spanish and away we went.

I was really impressed at their ability to work together and in Spanish. They didn't resent the penalty box and one class even policed themselves and would put themselves and each other in the box without my direction. After about 25 minutes we tested each house.

FLES Spanish STEAM Los 3 Cerditos


I've seen this challenge on Pinterest done with a hair dryer that has ears and eyes to make it resemble a wolf but since I was connecting it back to our severe weather unit we went with a tornado, hurricane, and flood.L

For the tornado it had to stand up under a hair dryer. For a hurricane we used the hair dryer and a spray bottle. The flood was the hardest and only one house passed (and a straw one at that!) We put them down in a tub of water. It passed if no water got up into the house. Even though we had previously looked at pictures of houses on stilts none of the students seemed to remember that as a solution - they kept trying to make them float.

I think next year I will add a reflection sheet or checklist that they can do after in Spanish, but overall, it was a great way to get out some energy the week before Spring Break. I was very happy with how the students used both their creative and collaboration skills along with some basic Spanish phrases.

Other Resources:

Las Casas Increibles - a great website with easy text and pictures of traditional houses around the world.

Los Tres Cerditos Reader - an easy reader my kiddos loved by Speak Up Language Learners on TpT


What do you teach in your house unit? Have you taught Los 3 Cerditos? Share in the comments below!

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 flexible...like 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 kizclub.com. 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!