Saturday, September 27, 2014

15 Ideas to Increase Awareness of Your Language Program and Share Your Students' Success

This is one of those blog posts that practically wrote itself in my mind over the last 24 hours. It is a reminder for me, as well as others, to continue the work to go beyond our own classroom and promote our language programs in our school and community, become involved in language organizations, share what we've learned, and encourage others in their journey as world language teachers.

Below are ideas that show the part that we, as language teachers, can play to increase understanding of the process of language acquisition, share our class activities and student-centered lesson plans, and showcase the success our students experience in our classrooms. 

Disclaimer: I have not done all of these. Some, such as #12, are out of my comfort zone but they are still on my radar to (hopefully) complete some day.  By posting the list on my blog, I can revisit it from time to time to check how much progress I have made on completing these tasks.

1.     Willingly share materials and activities with other language teachers at your school. (Share with others also, but ESPECIALLY those at your school!) If you created an activity that provided an opportunity for your students to succeed, don’t hesitate to share it, even if your colleagues don’t teach using the same methods that you do. A ready-made, proven lesson plan, may be a welcome sight to veteran teachers. (Better yet, share your CI- packed emergency lesson plans with your colleagues. Few teachers will turn down that offer!)

2.    Submit a proposal to present at a conference. Write a proposal to share TCI activities and reading strategies that you use in class that help your students to increase their proficiency in the target language. Submit the proposal to present at a local, state, or national conference. If that feels like too big of a step out of your comfort zone, ask a colleague to co-present with you.

3.    Invite your administrators to your class.  Give them a front row seat to the excitement and progress of your students. 
4.    Go to School Board meetings.  Let the board members know you are interested and invested in your school. You may be surprised how often discussions at board meetings are directly related to the subject you teach. Talk to your administrator and request an opportunity to showcase your students' language proficiency by having the students present what they are doing in class at the School Board meeting.

5.    Write and submit articles.  The Language Educator and other language publications are always looking for articles from teachers and what they are doing in their classroom that will be of interest to their readers.

6.    Submit a comment in the “So You Say” section of ACTFL's publication, The Language Educator. This is a less intimidating and less time consuming way to reach many readers with information on your methods and successes. 

7.    Write letters to the education department of nearby colleges. Offer to open your classroom to prospective teachers to observe your classes and techniques. An open invitation that welcomes the college students to observe a TCI teacher in action and to see the students’ responses will increase awareness and understanding of TCI and TPRS methods of teaching.

8.  Submit an article to your local newspaper. Write an article about a class project (i.e. a class community service project, a global collaboration project, or the success of your students in their language proficiency). 

9.  Participate in Twitter chats.  Participants in twitter chats such as #langchat both share their experiences and are actively searching for teaching strategies to add to their teaching methods.

10.  Use the power of Twitter.  Tweet links about Language acquisition articles, links to blog posts and Pinterest boards, and links of youtube videos of great TCI teachers in action. 

11.  Participate in a local TCI teacher group and invite others to the meetings.  If one is not available in your area, work with other like-minded teachers to organize one.

12.  Videotape yourself teaching. Videotape examples of storytelling/storyasking, MovieTalk, PQA, circling with balls, and other TCI-heavy activities in your classroom and upload them to a public source. (with permission of your administration and pupils)

13.  Create excitement about languages in the elementary level.  Submit a proposal to your district's administration for a short-term, fun-filled, after school language program for elementary students for "X" number of days.  (Examples: 10 sessions - 2x/week for 5 weeks; or 12 sessions - 3x/week for 4 weeks). If your school doesn't offer languages in the elementary schools, this will create excitement about your program among the students (and parents) years before the students step foot in your classroom.

14.  Blog about your experiences.  The number of language blogs is growing faster than ever, (check this list and my Pinterest board of CI blogs and other language blogs) but NONE of those bloggers have the same experiences than you.  Blog! Many will learn from your experiences. 

15.  Be an active participant on language blogs.  Comment on their posts, ask questions, and write words of encouragement.  When they ask for your ideas, join in on the conversation by offering suggestion and sharing what has worked in your classroom.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Beginning Activities for Past Tense

Yesterday my Spanish 2 students drew sketches of a short story plot to review the structures:

Below is the explanation of the activity on my curriculum document:

For #4 on my document, I need to add in parenthesis that it reviews (estaba - lo encontró - la encontró). 

I gave the students a 10" x 13" piece of construction and they had 5 minutes to draw the lines to create the 4 boxes and sketch the information in squares 1-4. Then I put the sketches under the document camera and modeled how to narrate the sketches. We talked about 7 of them before and we'll talk about the others next week.

In next week's review, I'll use the sketches with yes/no, either/or and short answer questions.

The activity provided a huge number of repetitions of some high frequency words, more exposure to direct object pronouns used with past tense verbs, and an opportunity for students to provide materials for instruction with their sketches.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Making Personal Connections when Pre-teaching Vocabulary - Susan Gross style

The insightful and master teacher, Susan Gross, told me something in an email a few years ago that clearly explains the core of what we, as teachers, should set as our goal:
We who advocate for teaching with TPRS are advocating that you teach the students, NOT the curriculum. Obviously you must use the things that are itemized in your curriculum while conducting class, but your thought process should be, "What can I find out about my kids today using the conditional mood?" Rather than "What is a good story for teaching the conditional? ....
Your real lesson plan every single day is figure out how to sincerely connect with the kids. That's it."
I used this approach today as I prepared my students to read Ana María Matute's story, "La consciencia".  I asked myself Susan's question, "What can I find out about my kids today as I introduce the vocabulary for this story?"

La Conciencia is an authentic text that can be challenging for my students so I wrote a statement, that consisted of several paragraphs, for each of the following characters: Mariana, Antonio, and Constantino. (I had planned to include statements from el vagabundo, but I only thought of this idea at 11:00 pm last night and by midnight I had only completed the above three characters, so I stopped typing and called it a night.)

The statements are written from the viewpoint of the characters in which they talk about their life in the past and compare it to their present life, based on the background information of each character in the story.  Students read the character statements as an introduction to the characters, the circumstances, and the plot of the story. (The statements did not give away details that woud ruin the suspense in the story.)

Two phrases in the statements are: 
 1. Estoy harto de... (I'm sick of..) 
 2. No puedo soportar... (I can't stand)

They are expressions that I thought high school students would find useful. To teach the expressions, I wanted to keep Susan Gross' advice in mind.  

1. First, I wrote the 2 expressions on the board and each student numbered a paper and wrote the expressions and finished the sentence.  They did NOT write their name on the paper.  They included a third item in which they wrote the name of a famous person (actor, singer, someone in the news, politics, etc.). Then I collected the papers.

2.  Then, I read the name of the famous people and the students had to answer the above statements in the way that the famous person would answer it.  

3. Finally, the students numbered their papers 1-9 (the number of students in class today), and I read the two completed statements of the first student.  By the information provided in the statement, students had to guess who wrote it and write their name after #1.  I read each paper and without their names on the papers, even I didn't know for sure who wrote each of the statements. Then we went over the answers together. The students and I found out more about each other while using Spanish as our means of communication. 

It sounds so simple, yet it was an enjoyable conversation and I now know my students a little better.  

How I wish I had started teaching with TPRS and CI years before Susan Gross retired from the speaker circuit.  I could listen to her wisdom from her years of teaching for a l-o-n-g time.  :)

My advice - if Susan Gross makes a suggestion, it's valuable advice and well worth your time to follow what she recommends  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Subjunctive Review - The Fun Way!

How do you review the subjunctive at the beginning of the year without handing out worksheets with lists of verbs, conjugation charts, and rules?  Or better, how do you create a discussion or dialogue that requires the use of the subjunctive that shows how often it is used and how it naturally flows in conversations?

Last week I introduced an activity with my Spanish 5 student (in reality they're Spanish 4 students - see this explanation HERE) that met those requirements.  The activity eventually would lead students to a point to where they needed to respond with sentences that required the subjunctive.  They never saw my plan for the review until the subjunctive appeared. 

We started the activity with the premise of a lady that wanted to find a boyfriend, but was unsuccessful so she decided to go to an online dating service, in our case, a dating service for farmers.  We then listed what she wrote on the form to describe herself on one box on the board and next to that box, listed the true facts about the character.  (A side note: I love working with students that know how to "play the game" and are super creative, even if it means we end up with a character with a wooden leg due to the unfortunate accident she had with a cow, as in the case of Reina in the sketch above.)

Then we continued with an online bio of a man that saw Reina's profile. He filled out information about himself, so we once again made two charts, one of the lies he wrote and one with the truth.

The students were fully engaged in the activity. Don't let anyone convince you that students won't connect to characters that aren't real.  If they help create them and students have freedom to be creative, they will be engaged in the process.  

We continued with the story that these two people decided to meet at a coffee shop and when they saw each other, they immediately began making statements about what the other person had said.  Such as:

No es posible que tenga 22 años. (It's not possible that you're 22 yrs old.)
Dudo que haya vivido en París por dos años. (I doubt that you lived in Paris for 2 yrs.)
No creo que haya asistido Harvard. (I don't believe that you attended Harvard.)

It was interesting to watch the students during the activity.  When they were listing background information on the characters in Spanish they were calling out ideas, often several people talking at the same time. To an observer, it may have looked a bit chaotic, definitely non-linear.  But when I wrote the first sentence that one of the characters said after seeing the other to model what I was asking students to do in the next part of the activity, there was an obvious change. They didn't see the subjunctive coming their way, and boom, there it was. 

At first they were quiet, reaching back into what they had previously learned, and then, ever so slowly but surely, they "recovered" and continued the activity with sentences stating the reactions of the characters.  

Another step in acquisition.
Another example that showed students that they can handle any (grammatical) direction a conversation will take them.   

Readers Theater Latin Style

One component of teaching with CI that I need to use more often is Reader's Theater with props.  Krista Applegate wrote a post on her blog, Teaching French and Latin with Comprehensible Input, in which she describes how she used part of a text, instead of the whole story, for Reader's Theater.  Her post on Reader's Theater, along with photos, can be found HERE.

Last year, Bess Hayles wrote a blog post (found HERE) after attending a Carol Gaab, Kristy Placido, and Carrie Toth session at NTPRS on which she lists the steps for Reader's Theater. 

A tip when using Reader's Theater, choose actors that will capture the other students' attention with their enthusiasm and lively personalities. There are several in every class and you know who they are.  When you identify those great actors in your class, don't hesitate to use them for multiple stories.  You'll be glad you did and, even better, the students in the class will be more engaged watching someone that may be...well...unpredictable at times in their acting.  

My goal this week - at least one story in which I can use Reader's Theater, if not for the whole story, than at least part of the story, as Krista suggested. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Those pesky irregular verbs

It didn't take long at the beginning of the school year to discover that my Spanish 2 students needed additional practice on those pesky irregular verbs.  I also decided it was a good time to focus on how to say to whom something was said or given.

For those that teach Spanish, you know that "I say" and "I give" are irregular in the first person singular.  To review this, I wrote a story script about me having chocolate and other teachers in the school that wanted the chocolate.  In my opinion, it wasn't very compelling, so I brought a Hershey's chocolate bar to class and practiced the PQA with the chocolate bar and continued to hold it as I told the story.

My story script mentions 5 different teachers that enter my room and ask for the chocolate, but when I told the story, the students listed the people that entered my class and wanted the chocolate.  True to form, they mentioned people such as Beyonce and other famous people for the story.  The first two people enter my room together, the second two people also enter together. For the last person, I asked the students which person that was in that day's class, entered the room and wanted the chocolate.  I then gave the candy bar to the lucky student they chose.  That part of the story was particularly compelling. :-)

You can find the story script HERE.   
I also made textivate exercises for the story script and for grammar used in the story or similar to that used in the story.  Find the Textivate sources here:

Online search trick by Alan November

Photo credit: L. Brown
Before the start of school this year, our staff joined the neighboring school district to spend the morning with Alan November. He is a captivating speaker and knows a wealth of information on how to search the web and tap into sources based which eliminate bias. Find his website HERE for additional information and resources.

Another aspect about that web that he showed us was how to search according to file types.  The one I have used lately is the powerpoint filetype.  By using the following method, you can very quickly search only for powerpoints on the subject you choose.

For example:
1) Because I love fairytales, especially in Spanish, I searched:
   filetype:ppt Los tres cerditos

This provided a long list of powerpoints. In the list I found one that had the entire story in Spanish with photos at a level my students will be able to understand without problems.

To refine your search to powerpoints:
Simply type:  filetype:ppt + the topic which interests you
Type the topic in your target language for best results.
With some of the powerpoints I found, I was able to make changes for my specific purposes.

Other examples of my searches:
2) filetype:ppt tapas españa 
3) filetype:ppt el camino de santiago
4) filetype:ppt la navidad en españa
5) filetype:ppt los incas de Perú

The sky is the limit!

One suggestion from Alan November on using the results from these searches is for the students to compare the information from several powerpoints. 

Next time, before you spend time making a brand new powerpoint, check online with this quick search to see if someone has already shared their work online.