Saturday, July 29, 2017

Engineering Castells - Culture & STEM in the FLES classroom

This is the third post in my series on how to connect STEM and Spanish. Check out the other posts in this series Experimenting in the Target Language and La migracion de las mariposas.


We've played with blocks before in kindergarten and it was fun but I hadn't realized that it was kind of a STEM project in disguise. So with a little more intention and an injection of some Spanish culture I made it into a mini unit for that crazy time at the end of the year where you may or may not have class and when you do the students are antsy for summer break. Plus it was a great review of vocabulary we had learned earlier in the year.

Target vocabulary:

I like/I don't like
tall/short
fast/slow
strong/weak
big/small
colors
Oh no!
numbers 1-10

We started by first looking at some photos and watching a video of castells in Barcelona and Tarragona. I first learned about these human tower teams and the exhibitions and competitions they have while traveling in Spain in 2015. I was instantly captivated and I ended up buying stacking toys that look like the castellers that my students love playing with as a fast finisher.

The top of the towers are usually young kids - just about the age of my students.


Why yes that kid IS dressed like Michael Jackson. I don't remember the reason why.


Check out the Tarragona Tourism site for more beautiful photos. 


We also watched videos of the castellers in action. The students cracked me up with their commentary - I heard a lot of ¡No me gusta! as they watched the castell get higher and higher. Afterwards, we looked at where Spain was on the map. We also discussed whether the castell was tall or short, big or small, and if the castellers moved slow or fast. We counted how many levels they had and I asked them if they would be scared to go to the top or not.



After discussing the castells we got out the blocks and made towers of our own. I challenged them to build their towers at least 10 cubes high. What strikes me is that while they usually start out just one cube on top of another they quickly transition to making it with a wider base at the bottom. I heard lots of ¡Ay carambas! and ¡No me gusta! as their towers fell. And they counted as they went higher and higher.




In the next two classes we reviewed what and where castells are and then we worked with a partner to build a tower together. One partner looked at a tower I had built behind a screen and relayed what they saw to their partner back at the table. Like before this task was a little confusing and some of them forgot to use their Spanish in their excitement but by the second class most of them had the hang of it.

The last two classes we took what we knew about how to build the best towers and how to communicate with our friends and applied it. First the students made a plan on paper. Then they took their 2D representation and with a partner they took turns building a 3D version of their designs. It was pretty hilarious when they realized they got to build what they had drawn before. Needless to say they were pretty excited.



All in all it was a great mini-unit to end the year on. Do you use STEM activities in your classroom? Have you seen the crazy castells in Catalonia? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

La migración de las mariposas

This is the second post in my ongoing series of connecting STEM with Spanish class. Check out the first post Experimenting in the Target Language here.

For the last several years I have had one grade level participate in Journey North's Symbolic Migration. If you haven't checked out Journey North's amazing resources I'm telling you to open a new tab, go there now, and then come back. I'll wait here while you have a look.....
So you've seen the site? And it's amazing right? Did you see the section about the Symbolic Migration? Each class makes their own butterfly out of a file folder and each student colors their own true to life paper monarch butterfly. After assembling all the necessary pieces I send off our butterflies which then "migrate" to Mexico for the winter.



Last summer I attended the KY Center's Arts Integration Academy where me and other Spanish teachers as well as arts teachers learned how to either integrate the arts into our Spanish classrooms. I left this Academy knowing that somehow I wanted to take our symbolic migration and incorporate the Arts. So this past year I did it with 4th grade and it turned into a year long project that extended into Library and Computer classes and ended with artwork in the hallways and displayed at the local public library.

In Spanish class we looked at the Journey North maps to see if the butterflies had made it to Mexico yet. We played a matching game where they had to match pictures with sentences about migration. We colored and wrote about butterflies in our interactive notebooks. We talked about Day of the Dead and the role butterflies play in that tradition. And we got our file folder butterflies ready to migrate.

Target vocabulary:

Need to go
Need to return
Months of the year
It's cold.
It's hot.
North, south, east, west
Where?
When?
Why?
Animals
What animal do you like?

In Library and Computer class, the students did research and filled out a graphic organizer about butterfly conservation and what we can do to help sustain and grow the butterfly population in our own community. Keeping the elements of design in mind they then created an informational poster about what they had learned in Computer class. (This is my secret tip to including more cross curricular content and stay in the target language - get other teachers to teach the English parts for you!)



Our local library down the street has a butterfly way station with butterfly friendly plants and feeders so I contacted them and asked if they would be willing to display a few of our best informational posters. We decided that in the spring when they had classes about gardening would be the best time and they did a great job creating a beautiful display!

I selected a few posters to be displayed at the public library.


In addition to creating posters to display, the students also used their interpersonal skills to create a 3-D mural on one of the hallway bulletin boards. They worked in teams to staple and glue the butterflies in place with a strict ¡No inglés! policy while they worked. This was one of their favorite activities and at least once one of our administrators walked by and was amazed at how much Spanish she heard! We placed several of our posters by the artwork and discussed what other high traffic areas could we place the remaining so more people would read them and talked about how art impacts people's beliefs.



Finally after many months of waiting the butterflies returned to Kentucky...but they weren't our butterflies. They were from all over the United States AND they also had letters and pictures from the students in Mexico. So we dragged out the atlases, I put up the state abbreviations on the board, and the students busied themselves with finding out where all of las mariposas had come from. 



Overall, this year long project was a huge success. My students were engaged and excited to not only learn about butterflies and Mexico but also about how learning Spanish can help them cooperate to solve global problems. 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Experimenting in the Target Language - Connecting Science and Spanish

Yay for summer and finally having some time to catch up on blog posts! This post hopefully marks the start of a series on how to connect STEM and Spanish (technically, making it STEAM!)

I've worked to incorporate the Arts into my classes before but this past year I tried really hard to incorporate a little bit of STEM in Spanish class because our STEM lab teacher had to leave us. One small addition to my ¿Te gusta chocolate? unit was a quick science experiment where we tested the validity of Ricitos de Oro's story.

The learning targets for this unit were I can describe things by size, color, and temperature and I can tell you some foods I like and dislike. I usually tell the story of Ricitos de Oro, we sing the song chocolate, and then we try some authentic Mexican hot chocolate and graph whether we like it or not. More details on this post here.

But this time we tested what size mug we should drink our hot chocolate from. Turns out the smallest porridge would NOT have been perfect and the medium one cold. Since I tell this story in conjunction with the song Chocolate, Chocolate we decided to figure out what size cup we should use. 


The first class students made their prediction and in the second class we tested our hypotheses. Since we were using boiling water (boiled in my electric kettle I keep in my room for making afternoon tea) they just watched while I actually conducted the experiment (great interpretive exercise!)  They recorded their observations on their papers and we made our conclusions together as a class and individually on their papers (Hola, presentational writing!)

I love how this student made her tazas so kawaii. 

After deciding that we needed to drink our hot chocolate out of medium sized cups I made them Abuelita hot chocolate and we graphed who liked it and who didn't.



I have to say that in the past I have struggled with how to get students at the novice level to use higher order thinking but STEM activities like this one definitely makes that easier. They may not be able to express themselves as well but with some guidance we persevered. And they were also SUPER excited to test out their hypotheses, record them, and of course put what they learned into practice.

Do you incorporate STEM in your classroom? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

End of the year survey

It seems like most years I am rushing to finish up things but somehow this year, even with a ridiculous amount of interruptions to the Spanish class schedule, most classes were finishing up some sort of presentational writing task at the end of the year. When they finished they filled out a quick survey. 



I loved reading through their surveys. When you have 500+ students it can be hard to get to know each of them. This survey was a great way to hear their individual voices. Who knew D was so interested in mythical creatures? Or that normally reluctant student S loved when we labeled body parts on our partners with post it notes? Even just having them filling out the survey inspired some great conversations with me and with their classmates.

Third through fifth grade filled them out individually. In second grade they discussed orally in their groups and I wrote down their collective answers. I always find it interesting how they remember doing activities that I had forgotten about. And some of the things they want to learn next year such as count to 100 or write paragraphs in Spanish really surprised me. 

Super low tech way of tracking the data


Another surprise - just how good they were at in self-assessing their performance/proficiency level. Just more proof that my Chichen Itza graphic, regular reminders of what each level looks and sounds like, and Si, Se Puede bubbles is really working. They know what level they're at and they want to move up!

One question asked for advice for a new student to Spanish class and most classes came up with some great advice. Keep trying. Never give up. Pay attention to Ms. K and it will get easier. My fifth graders in a contender for rowdiest class advised new kids, "Don't get in trouble." Too bad they often didn't take their own advice! Hahaha. My favorite was, "It's hard at first but it's really fun!" 


So that was the end of the year survey. It will be interesting to see what the beginning of the year survey results are in comparison. Do you survey your students? With paper? Online? Let me know in the comments below!


And if you want a copy of my survey it's available on Teachers Pay Teachers - just click HERE!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Getting in more interpersonal mode

A few months ago I blogged about the interpersonal mode and how I needed to do more with it in my class. Well, I'm happy to report that my students have been rocking out the interpersonal mode this second half of the year because of a few easy changes I've made.


Conversation training

Sometimes I do this with inside/outside circles and sometimes I just have students find a new partner, but each time we start small and build up. In second grade that means 20 seconds up to 40 seconds of a sustained conversation in Spanish. In 4th grade and 5th grade we've gone from 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. I post ALL the questions on topics we've learned throughout the year on the board and students must ask, listen, and respond. 


Especially in the upper grades we are working on listening and responding in a way that prevents 2 presentational statements. My 4th graders have gotten especially competitive and ask how long the other classes have gone in order to beat their times. This takes only a few minutes and every other class or so is our bellringer activity.


Combining modes

Per the suggestion in the session I went to, I use an interpretive exercise in small groups to encourage interpersonal communication. For example instead of just asking students to look at a Lost Pet poster and answer comprehension questions about it (although we did do this the first few times) I asked students to come up with some questions in Spanish they might ask and then they quizzed their partners. We did the same with birthday party invitations. Students asked each other questions and used the invitation to answer.



Then we combined the interpersonal with presentational writing as students asked their friend who is too upset to write a poster questions and then create a lost pet poster for them. For the invitations students will open their own invitation business and will interview their new clients about how old they are, when their birthday is and what they like in order to create the best invitation.


Dramatic Play

As an early language teacher I love dramatic play and it's always been a part of my repertoire. I've realized that a good role play not only has students using multiple skills but it's great interpersonal practice! In kindergarten we read Por Favor Sr. Panda. Now students are buying their own donuts but like in the story they must use good manners. The role play also has them practicing greetings, colors (the donuts are all different colors) and numbers as they count out the money. In first grade we did the same but with burrito ingredients as they had to ask their partner what they liked and didn't like so they could make them a yummy burrito.   We also did the doctor role play earlier in the year. 


To make it more challenging and to reinforce math skills I changed the price of the donuts/burritos and give students limited money. Depending on how much money they get they can only buy at certain shops or sometimes they can buy more than one. I asked them to predict which store will make the most money - the store with the higher prices or the lower prices. 


So that's how I'm getting in more interpersonal. How do you teach the interpersonal mode? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

What I'm watching to keep up my Spanish

As a non-native speaker living in a predominately English speaking community it can be tough to find ways to practice my Spanish but watching TV is one of my favorite ways to expand my vocabulary and get listening practice. There are TONS of shows out there online.

(And let me preface this list with the fact that my undergrad degree is in History and I'm obsessed with Law & Order type shows and anything with time travel...so basically I'm a huge nerd.)





El ministerio del tiempo from RTVE.es - This show is my absolute favorite. It follows a team of time travelers who are tasked by the Spanish Ministry of Time with the responsibility of protecting the timeline and history of Spain. Great for spotting all those famous writers and artists you studied about in Spanish lit and civ classes. There are two seasons online already and season 3 is coming out this fall. If you like shows like Dr. Who, Firefly, or Sherlock then this is for you. It's sci-fi but with a hint of humor. 


Isabel from RTVE.es -  I love a good historical drama and this one doesn't disappoint with three seasons about Los Reyes Catolicos Isabel y Fernando and their rise to power. I never learned the vosotros form in school (because according to my teachers I wouldn't need it...yeah) and this show is full of it so it's given me lots of good input. I'm halfway through season 2 and I've already been inspired to read some historical fiction based on Isabel and her daughter Juana la Loca after watching this show. If you like shows like The Tudors or The White Queen then this is for you. 


Los misterios de Laura from RTVE.es - This show is also a favorite and they even made an American version with Debra Messing. Each hour is a different case that sounds like it came from a Agatha Christy novel (and some of them ARE Agatha Christy cases.) solved by the eccentric Laura Lebrel. While she's great at her job, her personal life is another story. It's slightly humorous and doesn't take itself too seriously. I liked this one too because it has modern Spanish dialogue - something I miss out on with my many historical dramas. There are 3 seasons online. If you like shows like Castle or Bones then this is for you.


El gran hotel from Hulu.com - This show is about a luxurious hotel, the family that runs it, and the servants who work there. It's set in the early 20th century and it revolves around an ongoing mystery of the disappearance of the brooding main character's sister. I have to admit that I watched most of the first season and then gave up on it. But that's because I tend to like shows that are slightly irreverent. If you liked Downtown Abbey and wished there had been more drama and intrigue then this is for you. 


Juana Inés from Netflix.com - This show is about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun and writer in 17th century Mexico.  It follows Juana Inés as she struggles to find a place in the world where she can use her large intellect and passion for writing in a time when neither women nor criollos were valued. I just bought the novel Yo, la peor, a fictional retelling of the life of Juana Inés and can't wait to start it. Another for those who like The Tudors or The White Queen. or fans of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's writing.


Celia from Netflix.com - Just added after a recommendation from Twitter. This telenovela documents the life of Celia Cruz. I'm only 3 episodes in but I already love the music and the ear training I'm getting for that tricky Cuban accent. I don't usually like telenovelas but as someone who is obsessed with Cuban salsa this show is great. If you love the Reina de Salsa or biopics then this is for you.


What are your favorite shows and series? Share in the comments below!


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pets, pets, pets

I'm in my fifth year teaching and I'm finally at a point where I am repeating units that I've taught before but I don't know if I'll ever stop refining them. Take my Lost Pet unit, which my third graders loved last year. This year I'm teaching it to 5th grade but my fifth graders are going even further.

I still want them to describe their pets but I also wanted to focus on the verbs "I have" and "I want." So we started with playing my go to card game where students practice asking and answering questions over and over - The Crazy Pet game. Students ask ¿Tienes una mascota? Their partner flips over a card and answers. They keep playing until someone discards the Tengo un dinosaurio card. While half the class played the game, the other half got on the computer to play Victoria Languages Online. They also loved the ¿Tienes una mascota? song from this site.

Click the picture to purchase your own set of Crazy Pet cards and adoption questionnaire!


Once we had"I have" down we started on "I want". We started by looking at pet adoption sites (Yay for authentic resources!) and talking in a group about which pets we wanted to adopt and why. I made an anchor chart or language ladder to help my novice high students not only talk about which animal they wanted but WHY they wanted to adopt that animal.



Then I set them free  on the adoption site with a pre-adoption questionnaire. The scenario was that they and their roommate were adopting a pet. They had to read the different pet profiles and decide between themselves which animal they wanted to adopt and fill out the application - an activity that included ALL 3 modes of communication. I told them they were only allowed to adopt 1 pet and encouraged arguing as long as it was in Spanish. My one class really took that to heart and I heard lots of "No quiero un gato. Quiero un perro." Or "No me gusta grande."



If you teach fifth graders you know they get awful after Christmas break and that's especially true the closer you get to the end of the year but they have loved this unit and wanted to "adopt" pets more than one time. It was the perfect activity for the week right before spring break when everyone is restless. 


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Science & Art in the FLES classroom - Arpillera Habitats

This year my goal has been to really hit the Connections C of the 5 Cs. I attended the World Language and Arts Integration Academy this past summer and saw how my colleague Mercedes Harn uses art in her Spanish classes and was inspired. And since we lost our STEM lab this year I also try to throw in some science where I can.

The end result is that my third graders have been talking about where they live and where animals live. This week we finished up the unit by making arpillera inspired collages and then wrote short descriptions. They turned out so great and the students enjoyed making them.




During the unit we did a variety of activities - I "read" them the story of Welcome Home Bear (it's only in English so I translated as I read. Then I told them the story again with props. It was a great way to spiral back to Me gusta/No me gusta and weather vocabulary as well as practice the new phrases. We also looked at the animal profiles from El Parque de las Leyendas, Each profile had a section labeled habitats and told us if they were endangered or not. And of course lots of Kagan structures like Rally Robin, Mix, Pair, Share and Quiz, Quiz, Trade.

We talked about Peru - where it was on the map, its flag, and its capital. Then we looked at arpilleras and practiced describing them - the colors they saw, the animals and people, and what habitat they thought it might be. I even had 2 different apilleras to show them - one I had bought in Chile and one I bought on Ebay.

When it was time to make our arpilleras students chose what habitat they wanted to represent and they had to include 2-3 animals that lived there. Before each class, we first generated a list of words we might need while we worked. I strictly enforced a No inglés policy. It made for pretty quiet classes because the students only talked when they needed something from a classmate and occasionally to compliment each other's work.

We used Rally Robin to come up with a list of words we might need when we made our apilleras.

I've done this sort of project before and have been frustrated when students struggle to write a description even when the sentence frames are provided but I've realized that it's because I haven't modeled enough for them what to do. So this time around, we did a group write to create a description of an arpillera collage I had made. Then I picked three students' collages and wrote the individual sentences for each on index cards. Students worked in pairs to decide which collage their card went with and what order made the most sense. When I finally let them loose on their own they had both the sentence frames and an example of what it should like.



The results this time was much better. I still had students who were confused but usually those were the kids who had been absent the classes where we did the group write and matching. We also did rough drafts this time by folding a piece of notebook paper in half. On the top they wrote their first draft. I corrected it and then they unfolded their paper and copied the corrected version on the bottom.



I'm so thankful to the KY Center for putting on the Arts Integration Academies. I've gone twice now and always come away inspired and full of ideas. This unit on arpilleras was definitely a hit! 

Do you incorporate art or science in your FLES classroom? How? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mixing it up with proficiency levels

Having students at different levels happens sometimes in high school but it's pretty much a given in an elementary class. Let's talk about just one of my fifth grades classes...

My school likes to group all the ELL kids in one class to make it easier for scheduling so this class has several native speakers in it. 

Our district also redrew the school boundaries this past year so I have students who have never had Spanish before. Maybe they had Chinese. Or maybe they had nothing. 

Then I have non-native students who have had Spanish since kindergarten. 

Oh, and two new kids showed up last week and they've never had Spanish before either. 

Plus they're fifth graders after winter break so they're also kind of the worst. 

But this past week before doing our bell ringer conversation and getting ready to do some Mix, Pair, Share we reviewed our proficiency levels and what that sounded like, where they should be, and what they should be aiming for.



¿Tienes una mascota?

Novice Low - Sí. Rocket.

Novice Mid - Sí, tengo un perro. Se llama Rocket.

Novice High - Sí, tengo un perro. Se llama Rocket. Rocket es grande. Me gusta mucho Rocket. ¿Y tú, tienes una mascota? ¿Cómo se llama?

It only took a minute but I was able to instill some confidence in my two boys who can only answer the question ¿Tienes un perro? with a sí or a no. I heard my students who started with me in August answering with Sí, tengo un perro. And lots of students reaching up to novice high and elaborating on their answer and asking each other questions. Several kiddos also wanted to know how to say they used to have a pet or if they had a pet what it's name would be. So I also heard some imperfect past and conditional thrown in the mix too.

It was super quick and really easy way to differentiate both our opening conversations with each other and during the Mix, Pair, Share. It reminded both me and my students where we're at and where we're heading and most importantly that we're all at different points and that's ok!

How do you differentiate in class? How do you share proficiency levels? Share in the comments below!

Also check out my Chichen Itza graphic that I use with 2nd-5th grade. 




Sunday, February 19, 2017

More Kagan Structures to get your students talking

I wrote a post last year about how I use Kagan structures in my classes. I also use Rally Coach. After some refresher sessions and observing a teacher who is an absolute master at Kagan I've added more to my rotation. Here is a list of what I use and how I use them that I hope you find helpful.





Turn and Talk - no prep: just establish the routine of face and shoulder partners

Students turn and talk to their partners. They practice either a conversation or answer a question I have posed to the class.

Things I've used this with - Everything! We start each class out with greeting our partners, asking their name, and how they are. I also add any other questions we might be working on such as How old are you? and Where do you live? If I am telling a story or we are discussing something else I don't let them raise their hand to answer until everyone has turned and talked to their partner. This way everyone gets a chance to answer and the number of hands that go up increases to nearly everyone in the class.


Stand up, hand up, pair up - no prep: just write out what students will say on the board

Students walk around the room with their hands up. When they find a partner they have the conversation in Spanish. When they're done, they put their hands back up and find a new partner. I do keep the sentence frames on the board for students to reference if they need them.

Things I've used this with - Everything! In kindergarten they went around and greeted each other and introduced themselves. In 4th grade they are walking around and talking about what animals they like and dislike.


Mix Pair Share - a little prep: some music and a few picture cards

I play some music while the students walk around. To make use of every moment I play a song they can sing along with like Chocolate or Basho and Friends ¿Cómo te llamas? When the music stops, the students find a partner. I give them a prompt that they answer with their partner. When they have agreed they turn back to back with their arms crossed. I call on a random student to answer and then we start again.

Things I've used this with - In 3rd grade we are learning about animal habitats. I showed a picture of an animal and students had to tell their partner where it lived. In 2nd grade we are learning about characters and setting so I gave them the character or setting from the story Rubia y los 3 Osos and they had to tell their partner either ¿Quién? or ¿Dónde?


Quiz Quiz Trade - a little more prep: enough cards for each student to have one

Each student gets a card. They walk around with their hand up until they find a partner. They show their partner their card and tell them about it. The partner shows them their card. They either say muy bien or coach the other person to the correct answer. Then they trade cards, put their hands up, and find a new partner.

Things I've used this with - In kindergarten, they got a card with a color on it. They had to greet their partner, introduce themselves, and tell them the color on their card and then switch and say goodbye. In 3rd grade for the same animal habitat unit they got a card with an animal and had to tell their partners where they lived. In 2nd grade they got a card with a food on it. They had to tell their partner if they liked or disliked the food.



Do you Kagan structures? What are your favorites? Share in the comments below!





Saturday, February 4, 2017

A year of growth

I love the blog, books, and podcast from Gretchen Rubin. She recently quoted Yeats on her blog, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

I'm in year 5 of teaching (with 4 years before that of being an assistant teacher abroad) and this year has been a year of growth. I've gone to my state conference - KWLA - and to ACTFL. I always come home with great ideas from conference but this year I've found additional ways to stretch and grow as a teacher.



Observe other teachers/Let other teachers observe you

- Our district has started a program where they pay for subs so teachers can go and observe each other for half a day. I've had two different teachers come in and watch me teach and it's interesting to hear what others are struggling with and looking for when they come and observe. Having someone in my room always makes me put forth my best effort and I find myself remembering to do things I often let go. I tend to keep doing these things even when the other teacher has left. And getting a glow sheet at the end is a good self-esteem boost since I often focus on what I'm not doing right rather on what I do well. 

- I didn't go and observe another WL teacher in my district. Instead I watched 4 different teachers in my own building, seeing how they taught content. We have a 30 year veteran in our building who is a Kagan machine. Every kid was engaged in deep discussions while I was in there. It was inspiring to watch. I'm now adding more and more Kagan structures to each class to my students' delight. I also realized I'm pretty lax about talking about the learning targets while every teacher I observed went over them. Guess what I'm doing now... 


Embrace the parts of the bureaucracy that make you better

- I know it sounds crazy and I get that most people despise all of the paper work that distract teachers from actual teaching but I've always ended up improving my teaching practice because of these accountability measures. They are meant well and if you focus on what they're trying to get you to do they actually can make a difference. Recently our new superintendent mandated that we have to start submitting "High Yield" lesson plans. Our principal told us she would be looking specifically to make sure that our formative assessments matched our learning targets. Guess who spent an hour revising her learning targets... 


Get involved

- It's hard to be a department of one so by getting involved I have created  network of teachers who  have supported and challenged me. I've been the NNELL-KY rep for the last 2 years and also serve on the KWLA board. I'm on my district curriculum development team. I have people who will ask me the tough questions, who argue with me, and also encourage me. A recent argument about assessment and how to collect data effectively on 500+ students has led me to rethink what I'm doing and how I can do it differently. Guess who has already gathered more data than she thought possible... 




So to summarize, in the last few weeks I've been more deliberate in making sure my learning targets match my assessments, communicating those targets to my students, and actually tracking more of the assessment data so I can definitively show proficiency growth. These are all things I knew to do but struggled to actually pull off.

Watching how other people did it, being forced to think about it because of a new lesson plan structure, and arguing about it with a trusted colleague - THIS is how I've put what I've learned in theory into practice. I always keep in mind how Helena Curtain ended a workshop I attended. After presenting tons of information and strategies she reminded us that we get better, "one baby step at a time."

What do you do to grow as a teacher? Share in the comments below!




Sunday, January 29, 2017

Animales Yoga

My kindergartners are talking about what animals they like. It's also that time of year where more often than not we have indoor recess which means when I see them after lunch they are more than a little squirmy. My solution? Yoga! It's great for kinesthetic learners, wiggly kindergartners, and there are lots of authentic resources out there to tie it to the target culture.

We read Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo and I decided to focus on 4 animals that can be pets and ones that had yoga poses.


El perro - downward facing dog pose




El gato - cat pose




La rana - frog squat




El pez - corpse pose





Here are some great resources with lots of different poses to fit the needs of your classroom:

http://www.kidsyogastories.com/kids-yoga-poses/ - 58 poses with different ideas for which animals/vocabulary to use them with.

Here are 2 videos that you can use all of or just part of. They are also great authentic resources for body parts. I will be using the first one with my 5th graders next week as a listening exercise during our doctor unit before we actually do the yoga poses.





Do you use yoga in class? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang! Namaste!


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why I love kindergarten

About this time of year I start thinking if I wouldn't be better off teaching high school - the time of the year when the budget committee meets and rumors of the elementary World Language positions being cut. But then I have a kindergarten class and I remember just how much I love teaching my early language learners. Here are a few reasons why it rocks to teach Spanish to kindergartners.



1. They are completely baffled but generally ok with 99%-100% TL usage in class, but that's because they don't understand everything that's being said to them in English. Most of them don't even recognize there is a difference between Spanish and English, only that Ms. K talks funny. At the beginning of the year a few will tell me, "You need to speak kid-language" or ask me "When are you going to use your normal voice?"


2. But by the end of the year they do not like hearing me speak any English even to adults outside of class. I've been told, "Uh, shouldn't you be speaking Spanish?" and asked "Why are you not speaking Spanish?" "Oh my gosh, do you speak English???" and my favorite, "¡No inglés!"


3. They believe in magic. The looks on their faces when they realize the 3 Kings have left them candy canes in the paper shoes we colored is the best part of my week. Or how excited they get when they find the small Ratoncito Péréz that I hide in my room. They believe me when I tell them that calling my puppet a puppet will hurt his feelings because he thinks he is a real frog so they whisper to ask when will I bring out the puppet again.


4. They tell me I'm beautiful and that they love me on a regular basis. If you want to feel like a rock star, then teach kindergartners. We practice how to whisper Hola to me in the hall and how to give a hug from afar (two fingers crossed and wiggled at the person you want to "hug") at the beginning of the year because otherwise I would be mobbed every time I saw a class in the hallway.


5. Even though they are novice low they are the most enthusiastic and creative learners at this level that you will find. I've got several students who aren't satisfied with just muy bien when it comes to talking about feelings (something we haven't even started yet in kindergarten) so they've started pointing to my poster as they leave the room to tell me they're tired or hungry. One kid pointed to me and then the sick picture then to himself and the sad picture. I guess he thought I might not understand if he said he was sorry I was sick if he said it in English. (This interaction by the way has prompted me to start feelings earlier than I would have since it is clearly something they wish to communicate.)


6. They personalize their learning with little prompting from me. I'm fascinated each year at which words and phrases the different classes latch onto and make their own. Mrs, Kelley's class this year really know aquí está while Mrs. Nelson's class loves to say guácala. Several kids love to say Ay caramba anytime I drop something (which since I am clumsy is often.)


What are your favorite things about teaching early learners? Share in the comments below!



Sunday, January 8, 2017

ACTFL16 - Big Idea

Last month I shared a small idea that I brought back from Boston. In this post I want to talk about a BIG idea.

Saturday I attended Paul Sandrock and Donna Clementi's session "Collaboration: A Real World Purpose for Interpersonal Communication." I'll admit this session didn't really fit into my conference goals of focusing on  FLES or assessment & feedback sessions but I'd heard good things about Paul Sandrock and the interpersonal mode is something I struggle to teach so I went. And I was glad I did! Here's what I learned.


"Two presentational statements do not make an interpersonal conversation."


And that right there, folks, changed my world. 

Can my students ask some basic questions? Yes. Can they answer some basic questions? Absolutely. Can they have a conversation where they are actually listening to the other person's statements and responding? Uh, NO. So are they improving their proficiency in the interpersonal mode? Eh, maybe some of them are but not because of anything I'm doing explicitly. 


There are a few reasons why I struggle with the interpersonal mode...

First, the interpersonal mode is not my strong point. I still to this day get nervous when I have to talk with native speakers. I can watch Spanish TV series all day long (El ministerio del Tiempo anyone?)  or even write a 10 page paper but have an impromptu conversation? No thanks. Because it's my weak point in my own language learning it's a weak point in my language teaching. I have to consciously and deliberately think of ways to get my students to have more real interpersonal interactions

Second, elementary age students don't necessarily know how to do this in their L1. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a 7 year old? It's all about what they want to talk about not what you want to talk about. We learn the absolute basics in kindergarten and 1st grade - eye contact, smile, don't talk at the same time as the other person. This is age appropriate. 

But in the older grades, when I came back from conference I tried to get them to have a REAL conversation not just make 2 presentational statements at each other. I found myself having to model a conversation in English so that they understood why they needed to listen to each other and respond. Some of them still didn't get it but a lot more of them did than before and they should get better with practice. 

The point, however, is that how to have a conversation was something I had to explicitly teach in English for them to understand. And now that I've done that it needs to modeled over and over again so that they internalize it.

And third, interpersonal is HARD for novices no matter what age they are. When limited to lists and memorized phrases it's not that easy to have a back and forth.  Last year they learned how to ask questions like why, where, and when, which works great when talking to me because they can elicit more information but that doesn't work when talking to their classmates and they would switch to English. But if I teach them better phrases than just question words they can stay in the target language. Already with just I agree, I don't agree, Me too, and I prefer ____ I've gotten my 4th graders talking about their favorite animals in a much more authentic way than they had been previously. They can do it IF they have the right tools.


So what does that mean for my classroom?

I've already introduced a few simple changes to existing activities so that students have more of a chance to use the interpersonal mode. In Paul and Donna's presentation they had lots of ideas on how to use collaboration to get students to use that language, specifically using interpretive exercises to encourage interpersonal communication. I use Kagan structures a lot and those already encourage the use of phrases and vocabulary for collaboration and accountability. I need to be more deliberate in making sure I'm teaching and having students use them. 

I need to look at my unit plans and evaluate the interpersonal activities to make sure they are actually interpersonal and not just presentational speaking in disguise. 

I need to research what is developmentally appropriate for my young learners so that I'm not expecting too much from them and so I can teach them interpersonal skills in a way that enhances both their L1 and L2. 

I need to make sure that my activities are things my students actually want to talk about! If they don't care enough to discuss it in English then they are not going to put in the effort to talk about it in Spanish. Luckily, this is not something I struggle with too much. 


So there you have it - my biggest take away from ACTFL16. "Two presentational statements do not make a conversation." I think I might make that a poster and hang it over my desk as a reminder. 

Which of the three modes do you struggle to teach? What are your strategies? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!