Monday, March 28, 2016

Kindness costs nothing.

I will forever be grateful to those that blog, especially to World Language teachers that blog, and share activities they have created, resources they have found online, and their classroom experiences, both good and bad. I respect them because, as a blogger, I understand the time commitment involved in writing posts and in responding to readers' comments on the blog and through personal emails.

As a blogger, you are writing on a public space, and you are "putting yourself out there". There may be those that enjoy what you share and then...
there will be that small population, for reasons I don't understand, that write comments that are not helpful. After all, Kindness Costs Nothing (a sign which hangs in my room in English and in Spanish).

Yesterday, I received one such comment on my blog. At first, I was unsure how to handle it. My knee-jerk reaction is to throw my hands in the air and give up. After all, my blog is a labor of love - that's it, plain and simple. But that's not a logical reaction. Why is it that one negative comment can overshadow many positive comments?  

Last night, after two Easter meals with my family and my husband's family, in other words surrounded by positive energy, the solution on how to respond to the comment came to me. It's quite simple and it may just be the perfect solution. I decided to combat that one comment with twelve THANK YOU and encouraging comments on other blogs.

This morning my first business of the day was to catch up on my blog reading and leave encouraging words on blogs of other world language teachers. I searched out new blogs as well as blogs of those I've been following for years. In reading their blogs, I received valuable, personalized professional development. I read their insights on teaching and received ideas from the materials and resources they shared. What better way to show the blogger my appreciation for their work than by leaving a note of thanks in the comment section? 

My heart is singing again.

May I suggest that when you find something useful on someone's blog, take the time to let them know. Please don't misunderstand me - I'm not fishing for comments on my blog, but rather asking you to show your appreciation to bloggers in general for their energy and time in maintaining their blog and freely sharing with others. There is a list on the right side of my blog of amazing teachers with blogs.  

let's Celebrate the Many Hardworking Bloggers that enrich our teaching with our notes of thanks and encouragement.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Los videos de Juan Fernandez

Are you acquainted with Juan Fernandez, @granainoinuk, on Twitter? 
If you teach Spanish, you may want to follow him on Twitter. 

Because on a language forum that I follow, someone shared the link to his new YouTube channel with the videos he makes. The videos are perfect for second language learners because:
(1) he is a native speaker 
(2) he speaks clearly, 
(3) he speaks slow enough to give listeners time to process and understand what he is saying

Below is one of his videos:

I also like that the video DOES NOT have subtitles, but I noticed there is the option to add them if you wanted them on the screen.  Another one of his videos I watched had the subtitles, but since his speech is comprehensible to my students, I don't want the English on the screen.

In Juan's video "¡Dale la vuelta a la tortilla!", he begins with several written examples of the subjunctive used with CUANDO. After watching it, you can explain this food idiom. (The website Spanish Food Idioms has a nice explanation.)

Some of the videos are short enough that they would work nicely as Brain Breaks, such as the 2 minute video, "Cómo decir NO en español".

These videos led me to his website, 1001 Razones para aprender español with even MORE resources and the scripts of his podcasts.  Wow! I feel like I hit the jackpot this morning. 

I hope you didn't have anything too pressing today, because you may want to put your plans on hold to watch Juan's videos.  :-)  

THANK YOU Juan Fernandez for creating these videos!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Novels: Making Connections and 4-1-1 Comprehension Checks

Reading novels is a staple in every level in our World Language department. Below are two new approaches I used with reading a novel. 

1. Connecting to the character in the story. 
This year is the first time my students are reading the TPRS Publishing novel, Frida Kahlo, by Kristy Placido.  Before we started reading, I gave them the paper below.  They read the statements and responded to the scenarios on another paper that had 15 blank squares.  

The students did NOT know that these statements were events that happened in Frida Kahlo's life or were similar experiences (such as #9 & #10), that we were soon going to read in the novel. 

I created similar events (#9 & #10)
in order to provide examples that are plausible for my students.  (Ex: Frida called Diego out on his relationship with an art model when he was painting at her school. The possibility of our school commissioning an artist to paint a mural on our school wall is very unlikely so my example is the student's boss, who is married, has a romantic relationship with another person.)

After each chapter that mentioned one, or more, of the examples in the chart, we discussed the students' answers and compared them to Frida Kahlo's actions.  If what the student had written was similar to Frida's actions, they circled the square. If it was different than Frida's actions, they drew a bold "X" over the square.  After discussing all 15 examples, we were quickly able to identify which students could relate to events in Frida's life.  

2. Checking comprehension with Higher Order Thinking 
There are (a few) times that I assign homework for my students to read a chapter or two from the novel we are reading together in class.  A twist on checking their comprehension of the chapter (and also to see if they read the chapter), is to give them the 4-1-1 Comprehension Check.

To create a 4-1-1 Comprehension Check, you will need to choose 4 sentences from the chapter(s) that the students read for homework (or that they read in class). Then add a sentence of something that DIDN'T happen in the text, but is something that could have happened.  Write another sentence of something that DIDN'T happen and IS NOT a logical option of what could have happened in the chapter.  

4-1-1 Comprehension Check - ch6 of Frida Kahlo
Type the sentences in random order.  The students have to find the 4 sentences with information that occurred in the text they read. (If they are sentences with a clear chronological order, ask students to put them in order.)  For the remaining two sentences, students determine which one didn't happen but could have, and which sentence is not a logical choice of a possible event in the book and then they must DEFEND their reason for their choices with information in that particular chapter or previous chapters.  

The above example is from chapter 6 of "Frida Kahlo".  The two sentences that are NOT from the novel are B and E.  The book does not mention that Frida told her sister about the rats, but since Frida was closest to her younger sister and they spent a lot of time together, it would be a logical possibility that Frida would tell her sister about the rats.

The sentence that is not a logical possibility is E because if students read the chapter they know that Frida was hiding the rats from her mother. Frida would not want to give the rats to her mother as a gift because her mother would not agree to permit Frida to continue caring for them. 

Another chapter in Frida Kahlo that is perfect for a 4-1-1 Comprehension Check is chapter 7 that lists the mischievous acts of Frida and her friends at la Escuela Nacional Preparatoria.

This 4-1-1 Comprehension Check is beneficial in that students have to separate fact from fiction. If they read the chapter and understood what they were reading, it should be a fairly simple task for them to find the two sentences that are not from the text.  The higher order thinking skills are needed to determine which sentence is/is not a possibility, and then defend the answer using information already known about the character or the plot.

The 4-1-1 Comprehension Check can be used as a formative or summative assessment.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Summer Professional Development on Teaching with Comprehensible Input

Annie Ewing, one of the organizers and geniuses behind the Tri-State TCI - Teaching World Languages with Comprehensible Input, has compiled a list of summer CI workshops and conferences on her blog, Profe Anny Cuenta.

Click HERE to see the list of 8 Professional Development opportunities, and possibly more to be added.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Creating a mini-unit from El Banco

Sr. Wooly's song, El Banco, has been one of the songs that I share with my Spanish 2 students for several years.  When I first started using it, it was basically to show the students the video for them to enjoy the song and hear the Spanish.

Now, however, since it is part of the Spanish 2 curriculum (that means I'll be subscribing to his website for years to come), there are readings and activities in place to introduce structures and vocabulary BEFORE watching the video, AND, activities that we do directly related to the video. It's not haphazard as it was in the past (which by no means took away from the enjoyment of the video), but rather a meaningful, well-planned component of the curriculum.

I added a two new activities this year (see #4 & #6) 

1. Rumors activity by Martina Bex
    Introduces structures: ¿Quién dijo?, no lo creo 

2.  A variation of the Thief Activity by Martina Bex. 
    Target structures: soy inocente, no hice nada, no lo creo.  Student A takes 10 things out of their bookbag and puts them on a chair; then leaves the room.  One student is chosen to take and hide one of the items.  Student A returns and has to guess who took the item. 

Student A: ¿Quién robó mi ____?  Daniel, ¿robaste mi ___? 
Daniel: No. Soy inocente. No hice nada. 
Student A: No lo creo.

3.  Movie Talk of Mercedes commercial of blonde lady in library

      Target Structures:  se acercó, miró
This short video helps me to introduce se acercó, which is a structure students will hear again in El Banco. It is also a good way to recycle previous vocabulary and pull in more examples of verbs in the past such as miró, vio, pensó, etc.)

4. Draw diagram on the board of the police station and interrogation rooms. Explain the main characters in the story and their actions, (in the TL of course!) referring to the diagram on the board.

5a. Distribute and read EL BANCO script
Note: I used to have Sr. Wooly's name at the top of the script but then the students knew that there was a video to accompany it.  I like to surprise them with the video, so you will notice that the paper below does not mention his name in order to keep the video a secret.


5b. Listen to recording of native speaker. My friend Nelsi, is from the Dominican Republic. I recorded her reading the story so my students can hear the beautiful Dominican Republic accent. 

6.  Act out the story.  (A day with acting in class is always a good day!)
You will need the following:
   - Margarita
   - Federico
   - el detective
   - a 2nd detective
   - two students to be the doors  (hold arm against your body, bend the arm at elbow, and extend the forearm).  The detective must pass through the door to go from one room to another.

El detective interroga a Federico.
Props:  tie for el detective; two desks and four chairs (each interrogation room had two chairs and a table); folder; two pieces of white typing paper - one with a sketch of Margarita and one with a sketch of Federico and scribble lines to look like information about the two suspects; a plastic cup (can be water in it); a styrofoam cup, pen,

The teacher should be the director while the students act. Insist that the students are dramatic. Insist that the detective walks through the "doors" to enter the interrogation rooms. When you say, "Había una mujer que se llamaba Margarita", pause and allow time for Margarita to look at the "audience" and acknowledge them.

7. Watch "El Banco", MovieTalk the events in the story. This video is always one of the students' favorites.

8.  Describe El Banco characters on the board. (A double T-chart) List the 3 characters:  Margarita, Federico, and el detective.   I ask the students to tell me the actions that the person did or describe the person (what s/he was wearing, physical characteristics, his/her feelings, etc).  Teacher writes on board:  Margarita, Federico, & el detective.  Students tell teachers sentences to describe the person or to tell what actions s/he did.  Students write sentences as teacher writes them on the board. Students form inside/outside circles. Student A reads a statement to Student B and Student B says which person it describes. Continue with 2 more statements then switch or Student B is reading from the list of statements and Student A responds.

9a.  El Banco script on Textivate - This is a public link
Variations: create a sequence for homework; or create a Challenge activity with the script instead of a sequence.

9b. Order the dialogue. I projected a scrambled dialogue that used the same structures and vocabulary but not related to El Banco video, on the board. Students worked with a partner to put the dialogue in a logical order.

10. Comprehension questions. I have some questions that I verbally ask the students about El Banco.  (Ex: ¿Dónde estaban las personas? ¿Qué bebió el detective/Margarita?) The purpose of the questions is to give students more input so they hear the vocabulary and structures in a different format. 
During these questions, I insist that students have two choices on how to respond: 

    (a) they raise their hand - they know the answer;
    (b) they place their first in the palm of their other hand - this indicates they don't understand the question, and/or they don't know the answer after they have referenced the El Banco story script and cannot find the answer

Passively sitting in the class and not choosing one of the above actions is NOT an option.

After the flood of input on these song and text activities, I give students a quiz which is a short story to read (it is NOT El Banco story), but it contains the same major grammar structures and vocabulary words.

Sr. Wooly has expanded his website immensely... so if you haven't checked it out lately, you will be in for a pleasant surprise. It is teacher-friendly and packed full of readings and online activities for teachers to assign online for students to complete. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

CSCTFL 2016 presentations

I presented two sessions at CSCTFL 2016.  The links to the powerpoints of those sessions are attached below.  

Presenter:  Cynthia Hitz
Integrating Apps and Tech Tools into a 90%+ TL Classroom

The emphasis in this presentation is scrutinizing the apps and websites that are used in the WL classroom to make sure they are giving you ADDED VALUE.

Presenters:  Cynthia Hitz & Krista Kovalchick
Breathe Life into Reading to Increase Student Engagement and Comprehension

 What reading activities help increase student engagement with the text? What activities can a teacher employ that demonstrates the students' comprehension? This powerpoint is packed with activities (more than a dozen), that you can use to liven up any text. 

If you have any questions about either powerpoint, please do not hesitate to contact me on Twitter @sonrisadelcampo. I uploaded the presentations minus the videos of students. During the presentation, the videos were useful in seeing the activity in action, so if something is unclear, send me a tweet or ask below and I will answer your quesitons.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages 2016

Over the last few years I have attended numerous conferences for world language teachers (PSMLA, NECTFL, and ACTFL) and hands down this year's Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages that was held in Columbus, Ohio, on March 10-12, was easily one of my favorites. 

Some of the highlights were:

1) GRANT BOULANGER received the CSCTFL Teacher of the Year Award! Congratulations GRANT!!! 
I am confident that everyone that knows Grant, will agree that he deserves to be recognized and celebrated for his passion for teaching Spanish with the belief that ALL students can be successful. It's exciting that this award will provide Grant with additional opportunities to share how he connects with his students and starts them on their way to proficiency in their second language. 

2. John De Mado was the Keynote Speaker. He didn't deliver the one-two punch. He delivered the one-two-three-four-five.....ninety-nine, one hundred, etc. punch. His straight talk about education, the illusion of education, the perceived literary problem, etc. left me wishing that ALL educators, not only world language teachers, could hear his message.

Several truths from John de Mado's Keynote were:
- Literacy begins with Comprehensible Input.
- Telling students what they need to know to say back to you on a test is NOT education.  It's an illusion of education.
- Computer programming is NOT a culture.
- Textbooks were NOT designed to be the curriculum!
- Where languages are celebrated, literacy thrives; where languages are atrophied, literacy declines.
- One cause of devolving language is high-stakes testing ill-conceived mandates.
- Standardized testing is killing us. It's killing our minds. It's killing our literacy.
3. The sessions and workshops! There were between 16-21 sessions happening at one time, not to mention the 3-hour workshops that were also offered in the mornings and afternoons.  

A common problem for me was which session to attend because there were usually several sessions that I wanted to attend scheduled for the same time. When there was a conflict, I decided to attend sessions of presenters that I had never heard present before and/or presenters that may not be presenting at the next conference I will be attending, IFLT16 in Chattanooga, TN.

Below are my notes & reflections and presenter comment's on the sessions that focused particularly on Comprehensible Input and Reading. (The reflections are listed in chronological order.)

Craig Klein @profeklein  aka Spanish Cuentos
Exhibitor All Star Session: The Power of Comprehensible Input and Storytelling
Craig started the session by sharing his journey from teaching college students to his move to teaching elementary students. He quickly came to the conclusion that he needed a different game plan. After observing another teacher whose students were comfortably speaking in their second language, he analyzed what words they were using and realized that they were using a core vocabulary which was sufficient for their communication needs at that level. This led him to search information from available online resources, such as blogs, videos, Twittter, etc. about teaching with stories and with comprehensible input. 

He apparently is a quick learner! He shared many videos of his students acting in class, retelling stories, and telling their own stories with props they created at home. I wish everyone at the conference could have viewed those student videos because there would be NO doubt that storytelling is powerful in second language acquisition. 
Additional comments by Craig and/or ideas from his classroom:
- Teaching with stories and CI works at any level.
- High amount of Input is needed before Output.
- Create finger puppets to introduce vocabulary (ex: Make a blue spoon finger puppet with eyes. Use inanimate objects instead of always using animals or people.)  
- Tell your students that you will publish their stories in a newsletter that you send to parents and then you will have a flood of stories from your students.
- Students prepare a story at home and come to school prepared to illustrate the story on the board and tell it to their classmates.

Check out his Spanish Cuentos blog HERE.
Check out the video El Ratón Pablito for an example of his online stories. 
Check out this video of his 4th grade students telling a story. They were NOT reading from a script when they recorded the video. 
Seriously, GO to his Spanish Cuentos blog and you'll find a boatload of ideas!

Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell @SECottrell & Wendy Farabaugh @MmeFarab
Effective Storytelling with Consistency, Cartooning, and Cool Content
Sara-Elizabeth started the session with a story in Spanish and later Wendy demonstrated storytelling in French. (Wendy has some major acting skillz!)

My reflection/notes & comments by presenters:
- Introduce "dice" (s/he says) early in beginning levels so you can say "He says, I want to go to the party." which allows you to give repetitions of the first person plural form. 
- Use Goldilocks story to teach este, ese, aquel (this one, that one, and that one over there)
- Push for proficiency by asking students to add details.
- Use cartooning (simple shapes with obvious details) to help students visualize.
- Check YouTube on how to draw simple figures for storytelling.

As I say, less is more when it comes to sketching!

Teri Wiechart @TeriWiechart
Put TPR Back Into TPRS
Teri is the TPR pro! She demonstrated the power of TPR by giving commands to  5 non-speaking French attendees. The were quick learners with Teri as their teacher. 

My Reflections & notes and Teri's comments:
Teri & classroom mgmt

- Create 3x3 grids to track and recycle vocabulary taught to students and then add more grids of words to build vocabulary.
- Highly recommends Contee Seely's book "TPR is more than commands"
- Play with words used in commands - make odd combinations
- Chain commands - how many commands can students follow  correctly?  (Say 3 commands - students act them out; say 5 commands - students act them out; continue adding commands to find the highest number that can be completed)
- Teri allows students to give her commands as long as they are physically possible and not rude
- Student gives commands to teacher and she narrates the commands in first person singular as she performs them.
- Make mistakes when following commands to see if students recognize the error.
- Use numbers in commands so students start to learn them.

Grant Boulanger  @grantboulanger (2016 CSCTFL Teacher of the Year)
Best of Minnesota: The Art of Engaging Novice Learners
In true Grant Boulanger fashion, he started his session by getting to know the participants by asking them what level they taught, where they were from, etc. Grant shared examples of how he first makes students feel as part of a community and then how he engages the students in the classroom using the Target Language. Most helpful for me was watching a short video clip of Grant interacting with the students in his class.

My reflection/notes and comments by Grant:
- Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations ~Jeremy Hsu
- Be attentive to students and be in the moment with them
- Keep it Simple in the Classroom 
- For language to be acquired provide input that is: Understandable, Interesting, and Repetitive
- We acquire language when we understand messages.
- It doesn't matter is language is comprehensible if it hasn't been comprehended. (Grant quoted John De Mado's keynote speech)
- Interaction accelerates acquisition
- Teachers need to create a classroom environment that will allow language acquisition to occur
- Intentional planning must yield to flexibility 
- Students must make eye contact with teacher and respond to what the teacher says - facial expression, verbally, body posture
- Validate a student by asking him about his new hairdo, new shirt, and talk to other students about the student's response
- Create a space of JOY and SUCCESS in your classroom! (photo right: Grant shows student's weekly bathroom pass in which she signed out of every class except his. She didn't want to leave the class!)

Check out Grant's blog!

Mira Canion @MCanion
Reading is Thinking; Making True Learning Visible
When Mira Canion is the presenter, be assured that you will be an active participant in the session. (The downfall to this is that I did very little tweeting or taking written notes during the session.)

Mira started the session with a photo and then asked participants related to the photo. Some questions were easy to answer, while others required us to think about how we arrived at that answer. In some cases, our background knowledge and experiences influenced our answers. She pushed the participants to explain how they arrived at their answer, helping us to delve into the invisible thinking that steered us to the answer we gave. We then compared the first photo to another one that was similar but carried a much heavier meaning and impact on the people's lives in the photo.  

Mira had us break into groups of 4 and then each of us were assigned a number.  This helped to ensure that all group members were participating in the discussion questions.

Later, she demonstrated activities that can be used in connection with a text, such as Quiz, Quiz, Trade, (photo on left) in which the teacher writes questions about a text and gives the questions to the students. Students then pair up and ask each other their question, then trade their papers, and pair up with another student to repeat the process.

Check out Mira's blog!

The list of sessions above are a sampling of the sessions that I attended. I will definitely consider attending this conference again, although I REALLY wish presenters didn't need to bring their own LCD projector and speakers (which I forgot and Christy Miller kindly lent her speakers to Krista and me for our presentation.)

Next conference: IFLT!!!! And I know, without a doubt, that IFLT will provide powerful professional development!

Monday, March 7, 2016

CSCTFL 2016 - A few days away

Program cover - CSCTFL 2016
It is only a few days until CSCTFL16!  Last year during CSCTFL15, I read tweets from teachers at the sessions, saw photos of attendees as they strengthened friendships and met new colleagues for the first time, and read blog posts describing the huge benefits of attending this regional conference. With each tweet, photo, or blog post that I read, my disappointment and regret of not attending the conference in Minneapolis grew. 

Then I read that in 2016 CSCTFL was going to take place in Columbus, Ohio.  I immediately put it on my wish list of conferences to attend and I set to work to write two session proposals. Imagine how excited I was to receive a congratulatory email stating that my proposals were accepted!

So many (great) sessions, so little time
Click HERE to access the lengthy list of incredible sessions available for the 3-day conference. How can that many great sessions be offered over such a short period of time???

When the conference schedule was first published, (months ago), I read through the l-o-n-g list of sessions and made a schedule of priority sessions to attend. (Click here to see my tentative list of priority sessions. I'm sure I'll be adding a few more possibilities on the 6-hour drive to Columbus.)  

Click here for a list of sessions on Grant Boulanger's blog, offered by the #langchat moderators.

If there is a downfall to this year's conference, it is that there are several sessions that I REALLY would like to attend but they occur at the same time, or they occur when I am presenting. My game plan: Divide and conquer. Basically, I am hoping to find friends that are also torn about which sessions to attend, then we'll attend different sessions and regroup to share the insights from the sessions we attended. 

Two sessions I know for sure that I will attend:
As luck would have it, both times I am presenting there are other sessions I wish I could attend. Since I haven't figured out the whole cloning aspect, I going to have to rely on tweets and blogs to friends to share what is happening in those sessions.

A short description of the two sessions that I will be presenting are:

1. On Friday from 5:00-6:00, my colleague, Krista Kovalchick, a French and Latin teacher that teaches next door to be a Palmyra Area High School, and I will be presenting on "Breathe Life into Reading to Increase Student Engagement and Comprehension".  Reading is a powerful tool in the WL classroom and our presentation includes various examples on how to increase student engagement with fun and interactive reading activities. We included several videos from our classrooms so you can see the level of student engagement during those activties.

2. The following day, Saturday, from 9:30-10:30, I am flying solo on my second presentation entitled, "Integrating Apps and Tech Tools into a 90%+ TL Classroom". The emphasis is on using apps and websites that provide ADDED VALUE to a WL classroom. I enjoy experimenting with technology and new and improved apps, but the bottom line is if the app or tech steals time from the class instead of providing ADDED VALUE, it doesn't pass the test for my classroom.   

If you are planning to attend CSCTFL this week, Krista and I would be honored to share with you what is happening in our classrooms, as well as learn from YOU what is successful in your classroom.

I don't think it is too early to say THANK YOU to the organizers and those that are working behind the scenes to make this three-day professional development opportunity a reality. I repeat: I am looking forward to attending many informative sessions and learning from outstanding world language teachers in the Central State Conference area and beyond!