Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 IWLA Conference

These are my presentations for the IWLA Conference:

Session 1: 8:00 Friday presentation
2013 Central States Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Report
Council Bluffs Room

Session 2: 10:45 Friday presentation
Learning Through Web 2.0: A Virtual Presentation
Cedar Rapids Room

Session 8: 10:20 Saturday presentation
1:1 in the Language Classroom (iPad vs laptop)
Cedar Rapids Room

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Child's Reflection

Scott McLeod's recent post got me thinking.  Last week my child came home from school and we were talking about one of her classes, how it was going, and what she was doing.  This was not a class that she wanted to take, but one that her mother emphasized would be good for her and a good challenge.  She commented, without agreeing it was enjoyable of course, that it was a course that she might come to like.  I asked her why.  "Because in my other classes it's just memorization, but in this class, there are no correct answers.  I can be creative.  It doesn't have to be one and only one answer."

I think this is really a depressing state of affairs that students see education as this low-level, input-regurgitate style approach.  Some of this is necessary to get basic facts, but to base the entire educational curriculum not only doesn't advance our future leaders, but also doesn't push our kids' thinking and challenge their thoughts.

How are we helping students to see what life and the rest of the world has to offer if we are set in a "sit and git" style of teaching and learning?  How are students collaborating with those outside their district, state, and country to compare how others are learning, how they are similar and different from themselves, and how their culture is really not as foreign as we may think?  Why is it that in the 21st century we still have teaching focused on the teacher and not the student?  How are teachers being encouraged (and restricted from) using the vast amounts of technology available to them?  Are there support systems in place to make all this happen?

What am I doing to combat these challenges?  In my own classroom students Skype with and collaborate with other classrooms around the world - Spain, Argentina, France, US.  Students create their own stories, both digital and face-to-face in class, offering the direction of where the lesson will go, the vocabulary to be learned, and the conversation to be entered.  Check out these stories!

My daughter did not set out in the conversation to accuse anyone of anything, nor am I.  However, it was a very bold statement of what life is like for high school students around the country.  Thank you Mr. McLeod for your timely post regarding the 3 Big Shifts.  I think we still have a ways to go.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Using Technology to Reach 21st Century Goals

It's the end of the school year so I have been doing lots of dreaming for next year while reflecting lately on the events of the past year.  What do I love the most?  Real-life assessments!  I brag about my students regularly and cheerlead them almost daily.  What does a teacher know, right?  Within a week's time we have three, yes, THREE major assessments going on in class.


Monday Spanish II students skyped a classroom in Argentina to practice the past tense.  This is our sister classroom in Buenos Aires.  South Hamilton students took turns talking to students in the ORT classroom who were learning English.  The Argentinian teacher and students commented on the kids' great Spanish.  This is a real-life test and the students succeeded with flying colors! 

The evening before, I got a call from a friend who wanted to do a project.  She wasn't sure what it would look like, but she had a goal and it matched what I was wanting to accomplish at the end of the year too so we moved forward, quickly!  Created within 24 hours, it has now gone international and gained world-wide attention! Information can be found here.  This post includes pictures of our students here at SH.  The details can be found here.  This is technology use at its maximum: google docs, google presentation, twitter, symbaloo, google hangout, and email are all included.  Over 21,000 people are watching this project unfold remotely around the world.  How cool is that?!

One of the responses to the final reflective assessment was:

Learning about Spanish art was very interesting. I noticed that a lot of the art was influenced by other parts of Europe. They also had a lot of Art schools there that produced a lot of famous artist. They have a lot of art museums that display these famous works. Artist, such as Picasso, influenced as well as displayed their culture, which showed that Spain was very art interested.
The other countries, such as Costa Rica and Peru had a very different style of art. While Spain was more European and renaissance,  Peru had a much more “tribal” version of art as well as portraits like Spain. The artists in Costa Rica and Peru also displayed a lot of the culture of their countries, as well as some of the government problems, like Spain as well. Although they are also interested in the arts, they weren’t so much influenced by Europe or the countries around them, giving them their own look at things.
It was interesting reading about the other countries as well as my own. I thought it was fascinating that although they speak the same language, their culture, homelife, and even dialect is very different indeed. It really showed that each of these countries are all of their own, and the stereotypes and grouping of spanish speakers being all form the same country  should not even be considered because they are not the same, and I think that this was a learning experience that was one of the intentions of this project. It also made me curious to learn more about these countries because they seem pretty cool.  

EVENT #3 Next week a former student who is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador will be visiting with all classes, presenting in Spanglish about her cultural experiences.  I will update this blog after she comes....

We are indeed living in exciting times, exponential times!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Metacognitive Conjugation Learning Centers

My students have been struggling through the complex components of the preterit tense in Spanish.  I created some learning centers for them explore and practice the preterit tense in various ways.  My attempt was to focus on the multiple intelligences.  We engaged in 5 of the centers today and will complete the remaining 4 tomorrow.

Center #1 El juego: This board game was created using MSWord.  The students roll a die, move the appropriate number of spaces and then conjugate an assigned form.  If they are correct, they earn the corresponding points.  Some students decided if you got it wrong, you lost that many points and moved back to where you started!  Eventually, after some comfort level was reached, the students were encouraged to begin using the forms in sentences to start getting context.

Center #2 Las sobres: I usually do this with flashcards at the beginning of each class period for a couple minutes as a warm up, bellringer, or review activity.  The students were directing themselves today, choosing the verb forms to conjugate, and selecting the verbs from an envelope.

Center #3 Los dados: This game is a typical dice game that I'm sure is played in many world language classrooms across the country.  The students are given a list of verbs and a list of subjects that correspond to the numbers on a set of dice.  Once rolled, the student create the verb form and use it in a sentence.  For the more competitive students, they can add up the numbers on the dice and keep score.

Center #4 El Arte: Research suggests that large movements of the hands to create letters helps the brain remember the words. So, I got a huge piece of paper for the kids to write their verbs and forms on, emphasizing large movements.  It didn't matter what the paper looked like in the end or even if we could read it.  The important thing was that they were creating words and thinking about the spelling of the new stems and endings of the verbs.

Center #5 El cuento: The students were given a list of verbs that we have been working on in the past tense.  They created a short story using these verbs in the past tense.

Having only 40 minute class periods, we can not possibly get to all the centers in one day so I split up the centers into two days.  This is the division line between the two days.  At the end of today the students were asked to complete two questions:
One strength I have with preterit conjugation is... This is something I am getting comfortable with, a skill I have confidence with, or something that comes easily to me.
One challenge I have with preterit conjugation is... This is something that I still need to work on, something I am still confused about, or something I need a little review with.

Center #6 La música: The preterit tense can be quite complex and overwhelming at first for novice language learners.  A number of my students are musical and like to express themselves through rhythms and songs.  This station will have them creating a song to remember the conjugations and verb forms.

Center 7 El crucigrama: This is another strategy again used in many world language classrooms around the world. does an excellent job of creating a variety of puzzles for students. This activity forces them to think critically since some words have multiple meanings.  They also need to spell the words correctly or may not find the right solution to the puzzle.

Center 8 Wikisticks: These are also called bendaroos.  Students will have a choice with this one.  They can either bend their wikisticks into letters to create the different forms of the verbs or they can create a short story with them, creating characters.

Center 9 La batalla: Classic Battleship right here! Verbs across the top; subjects along the side.  Rather than calling out "B8", you call out "I went".  You can still complain that "YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!" in the end however.

Center 10 El rompecabezas: Using this pattern puzzle, student match up the sides with sentences, similar verbs or forms, or categorize a verb, stem, or ending.  The squares are cut and the students have to reassemble the puzzle.  The numbers are irrelevant to solving the puzzle, but rather serve a quick visual check for accuracy from the teacher.  There are lots of higher oder thinking skills involved in this one and the kids really don't like thinking that much, but it's good to challenge them once in awhile.

At the end of today, the students were posed with an additional two metacognitive questions:
The station that helped me the most was ______ because ....
The station that helped me the least was ______ because....
It is important for kids to understand how they learn best.  Sometimes activities that they enjoy doing are not the best way for them to learn, and vice versa.  Guiding the students through a reflective activity like this helps them to better understand the kind of learner they are and what is most efficient for them in the learning process.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Free 1:1 Ideas for PE

Recently an administrator solicited ideas for the district's Physical Education department to integrate some technology.  Below is the result of my brainstorm for just this department.  These are all free suggestions that wouldn't cost a district any money.  I'm sure there are many more so please add additional suggestions!

1. fitness calendar - google form created by teacher for students to record their daily exercise regimen, caloric intake, more - goes to teacher who records

2. flipclass - students watch videos at home about rules, techniques, come to class ready to answer questions and begin play

3. journal/blog - students blog about their fitness, how exercise X is helping them become more fit, stronger, more flexible, other.  This could be a structured post given by the teacher or they could have a "free write" or middle ground of open-ended questions.  This may be a place to also record type of exercise, pros/cons, level of difficulty, reaction, more. 

4. current events - kids love to watch and talk about sports.  Have them blog about what is happening in sports right now (Pistorious would be a hot topic I'm sure this quarter!)  This could be a weekly or regular activity, such as every 2 weeks.

5. Self-evaluation - students record themselves through video playing a certain sport, lifting weights, or other fitness activity.  They critique their form, effectiveness or other components they are trying to learn.  They could even post them online and critique others in a group forum of sorts.

6. Class Spreadsheet - for the competitive kids: those who want to participate can log their goals, and try to beat not only themselves, but other in class.  Who can do the most situps in 1 min? Who can do the most burpees in 1 minute?  This could be a progress check at the beginning, middle and end of the quarter or semester, maybe biweekly.

7. Fitness Movies - at the end of the quarter or class, students choose their favorite activity that they did and make a fitness video about it to be published.  This may include the rules, proper form, health benefits, and perhaps healthy eating choices.  They could solicit friends to help them be participants in the video, but the student is the writer, director, and producer.

8. Twitter - post X# tweets or links about healthy eating, benefits of exercise, etc.

9. Documentary - similar to a work out video, but have it be a life story of someone (self?).  This is my exercise history.  These are the choices I have made in my life to be in the shape I am in today.  This is what I have learned in this class.  This is how I am going to make better choices starting today.  This is where I hope to be next year at this time.

10. Skype - Try to get a professional or college athlete to skype with the class.  What are his/her ideas about fitness?  What does a typical workout look like?  What is a typical day's menu to keep fit? How does one juggle home life and fitness routine?  If a teenager wanted to become a college/professional athlete, what steps should s/he take to become successful?