Saturday, August 29, 2015

Proficiency Level Pyramid

I have never done a really good job of explaining proficiency levels to my students. One of my goals this year was to make sure my kiddos understood the process of learning a language. I didn't want any of them to get frustrated because they couldn't speak Spanish fluently after a month.

The Chinese and Japanese teachers in our district have these awesome illustrations where students "climb" the Great Wall of China or Mount Fuji from novice low up to intermediate.  But us Spanish teachers didn't have anything nearly as cool and culturally relevant.  So this summer I decided to make a proficiency level pyramid using Chichen Izta in Mexico.

I introduced it to my fourth and fifth grade this past week and they loved it! I printed one large one in color to put on my bulletin board and each student got a half sheet in black and white to keep in their folders. I explained that even in English we aren't born speaking in complete sentences. We are at the top of the pyramid in English but at the bottom in Spanish working our way up. 

We also looked at pictures of the real Chichen Itza and reviewed the taco rubric from Mundo de Pepita.  Both the pyramid and the taco rubric really gave them good images to associate with their learning in Spanish class. And I know it was working when they asked me how they could get to intermediate.  Do you talk about proficiency levels with your students? How do you explain them? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Get the large version here.

Get the half sheet student copies here.

Clip art by Phillip Martin - check out more great clip art here.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New year - New schedule

I just started my fourth year and I'm officially OUT of the Specials rotation. I will see every class EVERY OTHER DAY!!! 2nd-5th grade will get 25 minutes every other day and Kinder-1st will get 15 min. That's 75 min in 6 days for the older grades.

How did I get more time? By advocating. By showing off what my students CAN DO. With a little help from the KY Dept of Education and their new World Language Program Review that requires all schools to provide WL instruction. By getting creative with the schedule and being willing to go back on the cart if I needed to. By getting lucky in that our population is getting smaller so we have less classrooms. By simply asking for more time. By being patient and flexible the last 3 years.

Am I at the recommended 90 minutes per week? No, but I'm getting there. I'd be there if I worked at a smaller school but with 24 classes and only 1 of me it's hard to get to that number. The good news is that we are headed in the right direction.

Only 15 minutes for K-1 does mean, however, going back on the cart. (I get to keep my room for the older grades.) Señora Speedy is making a grand comeback with a new face and speech bubble. As much as I love having my own room I have to admit I missed Speedy. Now I get to have the best of both worlds.

I'm so excited to start my new schedule on Monday. What are you excited about for this upcoming year?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Scholarships for teachers to travel abroad

I spent almost 5 weeks of my summer this year in Spain! Thanks to a scholarship from SCOLT I was able to study for 3 weeks at Estudio Sampere in Madrid, Spain.

My scholarship included 3 hours of classes during the week and lodging with a Spanish family who not only provided a bed but also breakfast and dinner, as well as laundry once a week. It didn't include airfare, the extra week and a half I tacked on to travel around, or the extra activities the school provided (like weekend excursions to Toledo, Segovia, and Avila.) Sampere was a great place to study - right next to Retiro Park, lots of activities outside of class, as well as great teachers and staff who all insisted on all Spanish all the time. I really enjoyed my time there and would recommend Estudio Sampere to anyone.

I had two great teachers and awesome classmates at Estudio Sampere in Madrid

I spent my time speaking so much Spanish. Not that I don't speak Spanish during the year but the level of language I use with my novice learners is not sufficient to maintain or raise my own level. Three weeks of intensive classes certainly helped and I was able to learn lots of colloquialisms that make me sound less of a guiri or gringa and more like a fluent speaker.

In addition to all the Spanish I was speaking I got to

1. Visit lots of cool places (Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Barcelona, Tarragona, Cordoba, El Escorial, in addition to thoroughly exploring Madrid.)

2. See amazing art (I went to the Prado twice, attended a lecture on Guernica, discovered Sorolla, developed an obsession with both Velazquez and Picasso's Las Meninas, and was inspired by Miro.)

3. Take part in cultural experiences that I can't wait to share with my students (Castellars building their human towers in Tarragona, cooking classes, huge annual water fight called La Batalla Naval de Vallecas, a live flamenco show, buying cookies from cloistered nuns on a wooden turntable.)

4. Collect books, games, puzzles, take pictures, and other miscellania for use in my classroom this upcoming year.

5. Meet, hang out, and get inspired by other Spanish teachers in my course.

A weekend excursion to Segovia

All of the following organizations have scholarships each year - I highly recommend looking into applying for next summer.

SCOLT - Southern Conference on Language Teaching

CSCTFL - Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

NECTFL - Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

SWCOLT - Southwest Conference on Language Teaching

ACTFL - American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

AATSP - American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese

School starts for me in less than 2 weeks. I'm sad to see summer go but I have to say it's certainly been memorable!