Saturday, August 29, 2020

Reflections on the First Week of Pandemic School

Welcome back to the blog. I thought I'd share some lessons learned during our first week back on campus with our learners as well as some reflections on my experience and plans for moving forward before I have to get a corner of my bedroom ready to film some teaching on this Saturday morning. 

Let me begin by saying that we began the year with an A day/B day hybrid model that we plan on continuing until Covid spread dictates otherwise. I did not experience a single day of eLearning last spring because my sweet baby boy was born 10 days before South Carolina schools shut down on Friday, March 13th. The kids didn't even say "See you soon on Zoom!" because we were told that we'd try to head back to school in early April. Lolol. Little did we know that I'd be enjoying maternity leave while helping my -- at the time -- 9 and 12 year old children succeed at virtual school. 

Flash forward to August of 2020, and here we are.....still living the pandemic life. Last week, during our teacher work days, I had the good fortune of attending most meetings via WebEx and then there were very few of those, so I had lots of time to work in my classroom. Despite the generous amount of time we had to prepare ourselves, I was working Friday evening, most of Saturday, and all day on the eve of the return to campus. It was like the first few years of teaching relived. Noooo. But here I am still making it. It's all going to be OK. Here are a few items I want to share about my week:

1. It is best (and required by our district) to have EVERYTHING ready to go on our LMS (Canvas) before Monday rolls around. I spent way too much time during planning making sure I had published what I needed to have up and ready each day during this first week of school. (This chaos happened this week because of necessity, but it also drove it home to me that there is no time to post lesson work as we go. No time.)

2. I just spent this entire week writing personal emails to each student with the exception of three people who still need to submit their Google Form student info sheet to me. (I must note that we can have a maximum of 12 students in each class, so I don't have the load I normally would in a given here. Writing each and every child takes a ton of time.)  I ask at least one question in each email after I comment on the books, TV shows, hobbies they like. I also commented on their goals and/or concerns about French class. Reply emails have been rolling in, and the conversation continues, at least with some students. I've received photos and memes and been told that I taught a brother or sister or cousin. This has taken forever to accomplish, but I am THRILLED that I took the time to do it, and I now realize that I want to make an attempt to do this every year --- not just during this pandemic. In the past, I often wrote a quick email to students who wrote a question or something I needed to address on their student info sheet, but didn't write to everyone or engage in conversation with them about much of what they wrote. In the past, the getting-to-know-you work happened live and in the classroom, of course. That will still occur, even in this pandemic, but I felt it was worthwhile to reach out to each and every young person right away. 

                                                          A student sent me a puppy photo!

3. I want to touch base with each parent or guardian next. This is a lot, but so important. 

4. A great result of this pandemic is the scheduling of classes. At the high school level, students can begin entering the building at 8:30 a.m. with first block beginning at 9 a.m. Our day ends at 4 p.m., and everyone seems to be doing fine with that schedule. It also feels like school is not moving at the rat race pace it normally does because we have to stop and clean, for example. We also have to travel farther to use the restroom and to fill up water bottles. We must slow down. This is nice.  

5. Pandemic school challenges us every day to recognize what doesn't work and what we could do better. I'm designing the course as if it's all digital so that we will be at ease (hopefully!) when the schools shut down again, therefore, I'm making videos of all concepts to teach as well as words to pronounce, beginning this weekend. These accompany live instruction on days when learners are on campus with me. I look forward to seeing what impact this has on learning because I rarely made lesson videos in the past due to time constraints. 

6. As for the structure of our hybrid model schedule, I've decided to teach concepts every day which means eLearning day learners will watch my lesson videos and do the practice on their own. When they are on campus the next day, we will relearn that material if need by (It's likely.) AND learn new material when needed, before working one-on-one with me as much as we can. If this fails, of course, I'll come up with a new plan, but that's my vision for our semester for now. 

7. Boundaries. I'm going to try to log off from school every day at 4:15 p.m. It's a goal I really believe I need to work towards, so we shall see if that happens. It didn't happen this week, but that's OK. 

                                                   First Friday Afternoon of Pandemic School


Best wishes to all of the educators across this country and world wide who are trying to get it all done so that our learners can succeed while we all work to stay safe during this pandemic. 

If you've already seen your students on campus, what have you learned? Please do share your tips!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Quiet Kids in the World Language Classroom

During the school year, I will often join a weekly, general education chat on Twitter called #satchat which begins at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings.  One particular time back in November, there was no decision to be made as to whether I would sleep a little longer or join in the conversation because the topic was quiet kids.  I had been thinking a lot about how I could better serve the quiet kids with whom I was working in French class last semester (and quite frankly, almost every semester,) so I was looking forward to acquiring some tips from a wide range of educators who participated in the chat. Chrissy Romano Arrabito, the guest moderator, also wrote a book on this very topic!

After participating in what was an insightful chat, I thought to myself that I would like to extend the conversation about quiet kids with a focus on the world language classroom. I reached out to Romano Arrabito to ask if she would be willing to be interviewed about her quiet kids research, and she so graciously accepted my offer.  Read her bio below.

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Chrissy Romano Arrabito is a career teacher and proud of it! She is currently an elementary teacher at Nellie K. Parker Elementary School in Hackensack, New Jersey and has over 26 years of experience as an elementary and middle school teacher.

Chrissy is dedicated to teaching the whole child, stimulating and supporting innovation in classrooms, and strives to provide authentic learning experiences for her students. Her true passion lies in nurturing the quiet kids, those that tend to fall through the cracks, those that truly need a champion to support and advocate for them. Her new book, Quiet Kids Count: Unleashing the True Potential, presents stories and strategies to better meet the needs of the quiet kids in your classroom.

Connect with her online @TheConnectedEdu or follow the hashtag #QuietKidsCount.

----------------

Interview:

1. How would you describe a quiet kid? 

People think that introversion means shy, but it's not. It's how you manage your energy; how you recharge. Think of a quiet kid's energy level as a cell phone battery -- on lots of apps, and the battery drains quickly. Also, introverts like people. If comfortable, they like being around people. 

2. What inspired you to take notice of the quiet kids and their classroom needs?

My son. He is a shy introvert who struggles in world language classes. He is taking Spanish class right now. I asked him why Spanish is your least favorite class. He explained that it's high energy with lots of speaking. The teacher is high energy, and it's draining to be around. 

3. In the world language classroom, learners acquire language skills through interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes of communication. What would you recommend world language educators do to best meet the needs of the quiet kids who might not want to engage in  conversation with their peers or present their work to the entire class? 

The teacher could partner the kids up, followed by groups of around four, for interpersonal work.

Do choral/echo work (lots of repetition all together.)

Regarding presentations, give the quiet kids a choice: video or in front of the class. To be noted that videos will be shown to the class. 

For partner work, keep the same partner for a length of time -- maybe a month for classes that meet every day or for the duration of a unit of study.  (Side note: Romano Arrabito is not a fan of inside-outside circle tasks.)

My son's ninth grade Spanish teacher last year offered to administer the speaking exam at lunch or before or after school, and those times were open to all learners; otherwise, the exam would take place during class. 

4. Participation is sometimes factored in as a grade in world language classrooms. If this was a mandated practice at your school, how would you accommodate the quiet kids? 

We need to rethink the definition of participation. The old school way is to think that it means raising one's hand. There are ways to focus less on participation and more on engagement.  Tools like Google Docs for conversations and Padlet can make it possible to accomplish this goal. Voice options like Voxer allow us to hear kids' voices, and exit tickets are a good way to see evidence of engagement, as well. 

Ask yourself: What does participation look like in your classroom? 
    -Are students :
          -active listeners in partner work?
          -responding to prompts in a thoughtful way?
          -looking at their partner when they are speaking?
          -listening to their partner?
          -doing discussion prompts?
          -keeping the conversation going and growing?

5. Should we be concerned about student preparedness for the expectations of college professors or the demands of an employer after high school if the quiet kids are not required to step out of their comfort zone from time to time?

Quiet kids do function after high school, and are some of the most successful people in society. We must teach the introverted kids how to be successful with strategies that work. I have taken elementary school students aside who struggled with shyness, for example, and I equipped them with strategies to use to get to middle school. "Striking Early" is one such strategy: if I have something to share, and want to get my thoughts out there, I make sure I'm one one of the first to say what I need to. It alleviates anxiety. People are not shy when they are comfortable. (Romano Arrabito also shared that introverts spend 70% of their time listening; 20% of their time thinking; and the rest is spent speaking.)

Teach strategies that help quiet kids LOOK engaged in class: 
-provide actual conversation starters,  (Romano Arrabito shares some examples in her book.)
-provide tips on keeping conversations going, 
-know 3 things about the topic to keep the conversation going, 
-do homework literally: Do homework. Be prepared. Form study groups. 

Keep in mind that exhaustion is a side effect of introversion. Where is the quiet time built in? Our school day does not include breaks and there is constant interaction, etc. I recommend that teachers do flexible seating. I taught middle school for 15 years, and did not do assigned seating. Build relationships and a sense of rapport. The quiet kids eventually open up more. 

If nobody is teaching the quiet kids these strategies, it's our job as their teachers.  I use strategies to help my own son succeed as an introvert. In 7th grade, I made him advocate for himself. We would craft an email together, and he's functioning really well now. He'll ask people if they've read his 504, and then he'll tell them that he makes As and Bs. 

[To conclude,] remember that there is the "mask of an introvert" which means that quiet kids have to pretend to be something they're not to be successful. Strategies like the ones I just mentioned can enable them to accomplish that goal.

-----------------------------

If you'd like to learn more about Romano Arrabito's work regarding our quiet kids, you can purchase her book on Amazon at this link.

Additionally, click on this link to read the archived transcript of the November 9, 2019 #satchat on quiet kids.

What are your takeaways from this interview on quiet kids? What strategies do you already use to help your quiet kids find success? Feel free to leave a comment below. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Music, Intercultural Communication, and a Little Dancin'

Good evening,

Now that we have taken off for our annual spring break, I can sit down, and write a bit about what I've been doing with the latest (or not-so-latest) hits on the French music charts. Some people prefer not to think about work over breaks, but I enjoy it because I'm not as rushed to get dinner on the table or run the kids to piano practice.

Just this week, Anne Wolfe Postic, a fantastic freelance writer and content developer from Columbia, South Carolina, posted a photo she took of the beautiful view from her Palmetto State beach house, and captioned it with a quick thought about working while on holiday:

"When people find out I always work on vacation, they often feel bad for me. But maybe they don't know "work" can mean making deviled eggs and pimiento cheese, pouring a glass of prosecco as a prop, then calling it dinner and eating it on the porch while watching a beach sunset. Sometimes work is exactly what you wanted to do anyway."  

This really spoke to me because I'm one of those people who enjoys writing or working on projects when I'm in a more zen state of mind. As for a photo of southern culinary delights and a glass of bubbly, I'm not sure I could find a reason to include such a lovely scene in one of my posts on world language education, but....as the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way. :D

Anyhow, I must add that Anne Wolfe Postic regularly contributes to publications such as The Kitchen, Southern Living online, Free Times, and many more. Check out her work at annewolfepostic.com. (Her hometown is one of many places I call home, so I am especially proud to share a bit about one of the city's best-known writers. Oh, and guess what. She's also a francophile, I believe. Don't quote me on that, but I'm almost sure she has an affinity for French culture and cuisine.)

Since food blogging is not what I'm doing with my career or this particular blog, I'll get back to the original reason for this post. Last weekend, I had the honor of presenting on music and intercultural communication at the joint spring conference of the North Carolina chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) and Spanish (AATSP.)  Heather Tedder (@HeatherAMTedder,) my wonderful French teacher colleague from a couple hours north-west of me, so kindly invited me to come share with her North Carolina friends. What a warm welcome I received there! Living and working somewhat on the border of the two Carolinas has its perks!

The theme for the conference was play, so music fits in quite well. There's so much joy when most people hear a good beat or a meaningful song lyric. Heather remembered a post I had written on music back in 2015, and decided to ask me to present on it. I just went back and read that post, which can be accessed directly here, and let me tell you, I now realize three things:

          #1 I must go back to all of my old blog posts, and change all of those old, broken Wikispaces links to google ones. It's still shocking that Wikispaces shut down;

          #2 I no longer look for music on Sundays to use on Mondays like I did back in 2015.  I now have a husband and two kids, and our weekend time is most always sacred. On Fridays during my planning, if not before, I decide on a song for the following Monday. (Side note: I wrote this post on the weekend because it's my birthday, and I'm enjoying it my way. Hehe;)

          #3 I am glad I blogged about music four years ago because I had forgotten that I began purposefully introducing music at that point. Also, it's fun to see how it has all evolved.

Before I post the link to the presentation, I just want to point out a few things about this work:

-This project is a work in progress.  When I began looking closely at how I could use music as a springboard for intercultural communication, I gave one to three extra points or class euros on assessments if learners could recall the current song title and/or musician's name or answer questions about the topics that were pulled from the song. If you're against all forms of "extra credit," you could do what I'm about to explain to you in the next point. But first, I want to mention two things about extra points. First, I don't give too many extra points via Lundi en musique learning, so it doesn't change much.  Second, I'm very much for standards-based learning yet I'm only permitted to administer retests on major assessments, and the highest grade one can earn is a 70%. I believe in second chances, therefore, my learners can "pay" with euros to retake both minor and major assessments with the possibility of earning a 100%. This is how I work with the demands of common assessments and retake policies that don't completely align with my philosophy.

-The next step in this project will be to make the intercultural learning -- both identification for novices and comparisons for intermediate learners -- an integral part of the unit. I still might offer an extra point or two for remembering songs and/or music groups, but my goal is to coach learners to use what they learned to demonstrate intercultural competence in every unit we explore.

-I am beyond pleased with the proficiency gains I've seen as a result of this project. My learners are using language better than before by applying expressions they've learned on Mondays.  Example observation: Students are STILL expressing how they get from point A to point B in various contexts.

-Last but not least, I'd like to acknowledge some friends who have helped me with this project:

Leah Wilt - French Teacher at a high school in my county. Merci beaucoup, Leah, for creating many presentations of musicians/music groups.  If anyone would like to have access to them, please DM me on Twitter or send me an email. Contact info is in the presentation.

Ruta Couet - retired SC Dept. of Education World Languages Associate (A.K.A. the AMAZING Ruta who was on the committee that wrote the 2017 ACTFL-NCSSFL Can-Do document) Merci beaucoup to Ruta for presenting on intercultural communication at SCOLT in Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago. It was helpful to hear her thorough explanation of what they created. In fact, I was only going to share about the novice and intermediate levels until I saw her presentation.

Heather Tedder - French Teacher at a high school in Boone, NC. Merci mille fois to Heather for inviting me to present at the NC conference. It gave me the push to really focus more on music and collect evidence of the benefits of the project.

My French learners - Without these wonderful young people, I wouldn't have explored French pop music or thought so deeply about how to address the Can-Dos of intercultural communication as much as I have lately. They bring smiles to my face with their dance moves, good cheer, and interest in the music.

Filling out the bracket for French March Music Madness fun, thanks to @mmecarbonneau)

It was such a pleasure to work on and share this project with others. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about the project, presentation or resources I provided. There is a link to my Padlet and Google folder within the slide show.

Presentation: Jammin' on Mondays in the World Language Classroom

Happiest of Spring Breaks to you, and bonne continuation as we finish up the year!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Notes from SCOLT 2019 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Good evening,

This weekend, I had the good fortune of being sponsored by my principal to go to the Southern Conference on Language Teaching, SCOLT, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Merci beaucoup, Mr. Ruth!

In the interest of time, I decided to take all of my notes in a blog post, so that I could share them with you rather quickly.  I'm not sure that I've done a great job polishing my notes, which are not comprehensive, but here they are. If you have any questions about anything I wrote, please do let me know. I went over my notes, but I didn't take too much time editing all of them...

FRIDAY


General Session:
Carmen Scoggins, SCOLT President 2019 - makes sure everyone (educators, WL admin...) is taking care of themselves.
Congratulations to the SCOLT 2019 Teacher of the Year, Lisa Worthington-Groce! Representing German and North Carolina.

Rebecca Aubrey, keynote speaker:
Who is the edu who had an impact on you first? Share with neighbor.
Love that she talks about a little male learner who left an impact on her. He was often off task and getting in to trouble.  Rebecca showed the students a photo of a child who was not going to school because she could not. The powerful image inspired her young learner to contribute to class discussion, and then he lead an extensive learning project. What a rewarding experience for everyone involved!
Rebecca's mother didn’t recommend teaching. Can ya relate? Many of us might be able to do so...

A nice tribute to David Jahner who is retiring as exec dir of SCOLT.  Many educators left him video messages of congratulations and more. Of course, my first and most important teacher mentor, Toni Theisen, hopes he has more time for his dog. She loves dogs, especially daschunds. :)

Beckie Raye Rankin's (MaFLA) session : “Empower students with words and a mirror” 
She uses those down-time moments students need for reflecting, and it is powered by students.
Resources : www.padlet.com/bray_rebekah/reflectionscolt
My takeaway : This session made me think more intentionally about finding ways to encourage reflection. Also, I like the idea of using the down-time to reflect. When we were tasked to find resources on the topic to add to the Padlet, i found one that inspired me to model how I reflect AND model reflection with SketchNoting.

HOT SEAT session: Carmen Scoggins leading:     What’s trending in the language classroom?

Theanswerpad- can project learners’ drawings; good for formative assessment
Tabcloud - a Google extension for holding on to sites rather than leaving the tabs open
Kahoot - One teacher shares how to stop kids from spamming names.
After picking a game, and before starting it, down drop and click ON  2-stepjoin so robots can’t join.
(Carmen isn't a big fan of Kahoot since she doesn't really assess students with multiple-choice questions. Amen, sister!)
GimKit - Carmen says it’s worth the price. Can take whole Quizlet set and import it. Can make it competitive or have students compete against themselves.
EdPuzzle - if you have blocks on YouTube, it won’t be blocked in your EdPuzzle.
Texting story.com — fun text messaging exchange.
Prank me not — allows you to fake tweet
Carmen stresses using games that model formative checks for proficiency.

Numeracy Skills session by Carol Owens:
Loved this session! Creative idea for a presentation AND important.
Skills to have in WL class: basic arithmetic, conversions, more/less/equal, number sense
AP topic ex: hyperinflation, value of work and money, meaning of money
Driving topic :  travel miles or kilometers etc conversion
Number sense - knowing if it’s a speed or a route sign for ex
Gallons vs liters
Numeracy skills for surveys:
Survey strategies: percentages, graphing, graph interpretation, more/less/ equal
Interesting to note: re: the decimal point vs comma —  depends on proximity & wanting to be like us in Spanish-speaking countries according to Carol and participants
Global citizenship:  survey strategies, graph interpretation, critical numeracy

Grouping Students Intentionally, Easily, and Secretively (Fairly) by Benjamin Bradshaw
Plickers.com
This presenter chooses seating for his learners based on their ability as seen through multiple-choice questions he asks them. Grouping can be homogenous or heterogeneous.

Planning Instruction with the Brain in Mind by Greta Lundgaard
This was my favorite session on Friday. Thanks, Greta!
We did an exercise with rote memorization. Three lists of ten words. We had to put our pencils down. Had to memorize for 10 seconds each time. Then write all we remembered each time.
First list was jumbled letters in groups of 3. SLE NAS etc.
Second list was 3 letters but now words we know. SAT ANT OUT etc.
Third list had longer words like JACKET COAT ABOVE BELOW etc.
Last list was in order of a sentence THE CHILDREN WENT TO THE STORE TO BUY SOME CANDY. 
Each time we counted how many groupings of letters or words, and reported to Greta as she asked for results.

The brain is wired to forget.
Make learning meaningful.
Rote memorization wears many disguises. At some point you have to take down the word wall.
The brain gets energized by social learning and inquiry learning.
Watch “Why Students Forget — and What You Can Do About It” by Youki Terafa for Edutopia. It’s on YouTube.

Learning in routine ways weakens recall.

Give practice tests often to reduce test stress.

In your rubrics, include a section for vocabulary learned in previous units.  Learners need time and opportunity. Yasssssss!

Interleaving. Do it. Keep bringing back topics from older units. (I was JUST talking to my colleague about this very thing on the ride down to the conference. We need to do it with clothing as we don't do a unit specifically on clothing. I find that our learners do not know how to say "shoes" in French 3. Were they taught that expression? Yes, but only once in a unit on life on campus in the first semester of French.)

Ten Reasons to GO PRO-ficient. The SEAL of Biliteracy as a GAME Changer by Linda Egnatz

The SEAL can cover the world language requirement needed on transcripts to go to college. This can be helpful to ELL learners because they don’t always have time for a world language in high school due to the time needed for ELL classes each year.
In some states, the scores on the biliteracy assessment need to be advanced high. This varies from state to state along with the type of assessment tool used. Some of the tools to assess are the Advanced Placement exam, AAPPL, and the STAMP4.

Biliteracy Seal Benefits to World Language Programs:
Earn university minors early which frees up time for travel and study abroad experiences.
Motivation to move on the proficiency path.
External validation of the proficiency work learners do.
Build retention.
Double AP enrollment.
There may be washback on instruction happening.
The curriculum will likely become more proficiency driven, if not already.
Build administration awareness and support.
Build support from parents.
See growth in intrinsic motivation of students.
It can facilitate the building of bonds between learner and educator.

Be sure to show learners what the Seal can do for them.

SATURDAY

Intercultural Can-Do Statements: Investigate, Interact, and Reflect - Ruta Couet
(Just so you know, Ruta Couet retired recently from the SC State Department of Education. She has been a wonderful advocate for world language education over the years. We were so lucky to have her! I may be a little bias because I think of her as a dear friend, too. She is amazing, everyone! When she presents at a conference, I recommend you get there. Also, she was on the committee who developed these new Can-Dos for intercultural communication.)

The benchmark can-dos are there to consult for program or course targets. The indicators should be used for unit goals/IPAs. The examples of can-do statements are for lessons.

Benchmarks are too broad for unit goals.

Operative word for each proficiency level in the INVESTIGATE section:
Novice - identify
Intermediate - compare
Advanced - Describe
Superior - Analyze
Distinguished - Evaluate

Operative word for each proficiency level in the INTERACT section on LANGUAGE:
Novice - survival
Intermediate - functional
Advanced - Competent
Superior - complex
Distinguished - mediator

Operative word for each proficiency level in the INTERACT section on BEHAVIOR:
Novice - mimic
Intermediate - avoid blunders
Advanced - adjust
Superior - adhere to
Distinguished - accommodate

Examples:

Naturally Embedded Culture: Numbers
Healthy Eating - compare food pyramids and plates per country

Start unit design with the investigate and interact can-dos BEFORE breaking it down to the three modes. This will help you use can-dos that support the main objective.

Learn to Speak Student — Carmen Scoggins
(I'm going to have to write a side note about Carmen, too. She embodies the passionate lead learner we like to see in this world. Well, I could really go on an on about her because she impresses me greatly, but I have to get ready for the week. Just know that she is amazing. Go to her presentations. Learn from her when you can. That is all.)

Menti.com - free. Learners make a word cloud.
Carmen uses Snapchat to share needed supplies. ((Side note: I’ll be making one of those for that purpose this summer. I’m inspired to use it for school videos rather than just fun photos or video snaps for my circle of friends. Those snap filters need to be used.  Hehe)
Snapshot - Carmen makes a landscape-style collage of bitmojis (of herself, of course! ha)  that show what they will be doing that week. They see it on Mondays.
FlipGrid Mixtape - group of three who reflect in English on what they think about the learning they are doing in Spanish class. 

Creating LGBTQ+ Affirming Classes w/Lang & Content:No One Walks Alone-Joseph Parodi-Brown
Presenter used gosoapbox for participant interactions during presentation. Free tool, but limited.

Less than 20% of students are taught positive representations of LGBTQ ppl, history, events.
Seven states ban LGBTQ curriculum. Four of them are SCOLT states.
Access points for LGBTQ info in the curriculum:
Ex: LGBTQ History Month - October

Issues where intersectionality may apply: DACA, military, migration

================
That's it! Hope you find something useful in this post. Now I must go get my head in the game for the week ahead.

If you're still waiting on the spring break to arrive, may the days ahead go smoothly for you.

A la prochaine!
Cristy

Friday, January 4, 2019

New Year, New Website Update

Bonjour,

On this last day of winter break, I am pleased to announce that I have finally published updates to the website I maintain for my French classes. How refreshing to share something new next week! (Although this site isn't really new, I had not shared the link to it in the 2.5 years I've been at my current school.)

The fact is, there was some work to do to make the site presentable again. That said, I did not go through all of the links to see if they were still active, so if you notice one that is broken, please let me know in the comments. Also, if you have any learning resource or tool recommendations for World Languages/French to share, I'd love to hear from you.

You can check out my updated website here.

Wishing you a happy new year, and a wonderful second half of the school year! Cheers!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Shiny, Happy People...in the Classroom Learning Space

After one year and a half of blogging silence, I'm here to at least do one post in 2018. Last year, after almost a decade of on and off again battles, my mom lost her third bout with cancer.  I also got engaged around that time, and have acquired some children. And then I spent this entire summer planning my entire upcoming wedding. So, I'm sure you can imagine, blogging was not high on my priority list this past school year. (By the way, do any educators out there know how to mix tunes in playlists? We're not hiring an actual DJ for this event, so yours truly has to speedily develop amazing lists of music for hors d'oeuvres, dinner, and dancing. Who has some advice?)

While finishing up 85% of the work I wanted to do in my classroom today, I became inspired to write a quick blog post on its transformation from the dusty, sad summer storage space it was to the clean, happy environment it is now. While I had lots of informative and fun information hanging around the room last year, I just didn't have it in me to get too excited about our little block of school property. This past summer, I planned my entire semester for the two preps I'll have, and I feel more energetic than I had this time last year. So, please, have a look, and share some photos of your classroom this year, whether you've made changes or not -- it will be appreciated by more educators than you know. Inspiration comes from around us, and we all want shiny, happy people in our lives. 

Let's start with something pretty. It would be nice if I could take credit for the BEAUTIFUL bulletin board you see below, but I cannot. Two elementary ed students, one of which was in my French 1 class last spring, needed to decorate a teacher's board, so they chose to tackle my ugly, brown eye sore. I provided them with the border which represents an African cloth. What an extreme makeover!


Voilà the French café corner. We enjoy it for speaking assessments and alternative. It was a $35 purchase from Craigslist a few years ago when I left a private school that had provided me with a beautiful bistro set.


One of the best classroom supply purchases I've ever made was the one for the high bistro table which serves as an alternative learning space. No chairs allowed here! My French learners LOVE the table. There can be some silliness happening while standing back there, but you have to look past it to see how much learning and collaborating occurs. They often use the white board back there to drill each other or visualize their collaborative work. Furthermore, students who need to move during the 90-minute block have the opportunity to do so.


A week before teachers returned to campus, I stopped in to spend 4 hours dusting off the books and putting the furniture back in order. Much to my surprise, a long table and two lone chairs were left in the room for me. I'm not complaining. I now have a new work space for my learners. Win, win!


Here are a few displays I have for easy access to information that most all world language educators post on their walls. Students in their third year of study, or higher levels of proficiency, need to be able to express dates more often as they begin to share short bits of historical information or biographies and more. How sweet it is to watch the progression from constantly consulting the number display to rarely needing a glance at it during a presentation or discussion. The other three I'll post are also self-explanatory, but let me know if you have a question.





Expectations and consequences represent a required posting on any campus I've been on, so I'll include them in this post. The signs are not very big at all, and we don't refer to it really after the first week of school, and that's because I'm fortunate to work in a special community whose one-word theme for this year is #family. :)


The new and improved fake euro incentive program has been in the words for several months. At our state WL conference last February or March, a Spanish teacher from Georgia shared her system which included some creative, fun ideas that I added to the one I already had in place. I can't wait to share it with my learners because I'm certain they will appreciate it. I especially love the choices that allow us to focus less on punitive grading practices which I strongly reject. I already did this for quizzes last year, and it was a success.


 We're going to skip about 55% of one wall in my classroom because it will become a word wall of sorts in the coming days. I have the pleasure of hosting at least one (maybe more?) student who will serve as my assistant during a class period. She will design and post relevant and helpful information for each unit on the wall. I haven't done a word wall since I was required to do it way back at the beginning of my career because there just isn't enough time in the day, and I strongly believe in leaving work at school on most days. Thank goodness for helpful students!

On the remaining area of that wall and on part of the front one, I have a world map in French (not pictured) and blank frames that we will fill with class photos. Note to self: Print and post pictures much sooner than usual.) Once students complete the info sheet on the first day of school, I write their birth dates on calendar month print-outs to place on the yellow poster. That chair you see will move around, inevitably, but learners often sit there and charge their laptop while working.


Every classroom needs a station where learners can have access to supplies and turn in work in a clearly defined location.  Here's mine with a French and Francophone flair. :)


With the continual goal to build community in the classroom,  I added a donation box last year (or the year before?) that students can access when they need a pencil, pen, or whatever else has been dropped in the box. It functions somewhat like the cash register plate,  "Give a penny, Take a penny," does: students often borrow a pencil or pen and put it back at the end of the class period. I tell them that they can keep what they take out of the box if they really need to do so. Most do not. It must be noted that this box comes in handy when I frequently find perfectly functional pens and pencils on the floor at the end of the day. Instead of losing them in the back of my desk, students have instant access to them!


Not only did I score a long table and two chairs last week, but I now have a smaller, old school desk. FINALLY! I had one of those huge ones that I really didn't need. More space for kids to gather around my desk, AAAAND they do. Ha. I keep a "French shrine" up on top of the armoire so it can be admired without worrying about things disappearing or breaking. I'll post the color shot of it, too.



Now, we've come full circle in this classroom. I'll just add that the small table and office chair below are sought after, but I usually place kids there who do not want to sit in close proximity of others. That's OK. They still end up working with others in collaborative moments. Additionally, I'm able to keep a close eye on these students when I'm at my desk. Win, win.


As you can see below, I begin the year with quad seating.  In an earlier post, I shared about the seating survey I do around two to four weeks after school begins. Most learners LOVE this arrangement, and I prefer it because they are set up visually for communication and collaboration. However, there are students who prefer to sit in pair or side-by-side seating, so the seating becomes much more flexible very early in the year. What works for your students?


The relationships that we build in the classroom can, and should, begin with an inviting atmosphere. I am reminded of R.E.M.'s radio and MTV hit, "Shiny, Happy People," from 1991 when I think about the vibe I hope to welcome into our learning space each day, and I hope you are able to create such an ambiance for your young people, too:

"Shiny, happy people laughing
Everyone around, love them, love them,
Put it in your hands, take it, take it...."

Best wishes for a wonderful school year, everyone!

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Flat Classroom Experience: Virtual Valentines 2017 (...with an update on Snapchat)

Does anyone still read this blog? Ha. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't...seeing how I haven't posted for going on a year. When you decide to switch schools each year (two schools in two years,) you might be like me, and need the time to adjust to the new campus culture and curriculum. Oy. Both transitions were rather smooth, actually, but the blog, Twitter, and the additional flat learning experiences I like to include have been neglected.  Until now!

So, in my last post, I said that I'd share about the task learners' did in my class last spring when I entered the absolutely entertaining world of Snapchat. We're going to scratch that idea because I've decided that the (video) camera, along with its filters and tools, are a great addition to any project, but not really a tool I want to use in class just to use it. I still believe it offers fantastic opportunities for learning on a variety of topics of interest, like outdoor adventure, for example, but that's a personal choice for learners. I'll leave a photo here, though, to show you a student example of a snap with a short French expression and the category for the photo. They had to submit their snaps with the text on Canvas, the chosen LMS of the district. They enjoyed it, but it didn't take off in any way that inspired me to make it an integral part of the world language experience. By the way, my new school is out in the countryside, so there isn't good phone service to use Snapchat anyhow.


As I mentioned above, we are beginning to enjoy some flat learning experiences again now that I feel settled into the new school. As a matter of fact, last week, we participated in the K12 Valentine Project 2017, and sent virtual valentine cards to English learners in Morocco and French learners in Kentucky. Below is the link to the wiki I made for the cooperating teachers to access all of the cards and some links to learn about our town, school, and state. I must share that one of my learners has been to Morocco because his father comes from there, and we learned that one of the students in Morocco is from South Carolina originally. How cool is that!  If you'd like to see more of this project as it happened in classrooms around the world, check out the Twitter project hashtag #k12Valentine. 



Stay tuned! I might blog again soon about the Skype session we will have with a United Nations peacekeeper later this week. I'm just not going to make any promises. hehe