Sunday, December 1, 2013

ACTFL 2013 : Reflections & Notes

Hello, all!

This year, I had the good fortune of representing the state of South Carolina at the annual conference of the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages in Orlando, Florida. Many thanks go out to the administration at Hammond School where I teach and the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers' Association (@SCFLTA) for supporting me so that I could bring back what I learned over the course of those three and a half days of learning, sharing, and connecting. Merci mille fois!

Before I share a report on my learning experience, I must share with you how wonderful it was to be there the year that Toni Theisen was president of the association. I might be a little biased since I consider her to be my top teacher mentor, but I think everyone in attendance would agree that she truly modeled what it is to be a great educator and leader.  Not only did she use some of the latest technology in her opening welcome at the general assembly, but she put the focus on the learner in more ways than one.

It was so impressive to see Toni welcome her special guest -- one of her former students who is now a French teacher -- and serve as the moderator, along with her former student, during the panel discussion with current high school students from Florida. We could really see how the 2013 theme, "New Spaces, New Realities: Learning Any Time, Any Place," weaved in to all that Toni did as the lead learner!  Click here to read an article about the impact she has on her local community of learners : French teacher from Loveland to head national education group's convention

If you attended ACTFL 2013, I don't need to tell you how fantastic it was to learn from world language educators from around the world (A special shout-out to @JoeDale who came to present from the Isle of Wight!) and to (re)connect with educators in this face-to-face setting. Unfortunately, it just wasn't possible to attend all of the sessions I added to my schedule in the conference app, including some that were led by valued members of my PLN, so I hope other attendees in my network will be sharing resources on Twitter, as well.  
Here are some links and my notes from the 3.5 days in Orlando. Hope this information is useful to you! 
Assembly of Delegates:
Advocacy & Effectiveness
Topics discussed: Common Core, independent learners, can-do statements, IPAs,
World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (5 Cs are still there. )
ACTFL now has some curriculum design, IPA & raising global children books for purchase.
State Showcase:
-NC --->   There are performance tasks & extended response tasks by standard & proficiency level on the site.
-OH ---> They use LinguaFolio I-Can statements. 
For their student learning objective resources:
They have an OFLA Camp & students come & work as counselors. Great advocacy method!
-U.S. Global Heat Map: - See how globally competent your state is today. Powerful advocacy tool.
-Legislative & Advocacy Showcase:
-Massachusetts FLA Advocacy Strategies: Create/maintain an advocacy booth at the state language conference. (Good idea!)

Clementi and Terrill : designing units
-Don't drill and kill. That's not communicative (or inspiring.)
-Themes and essential questions.
Novice: What is family? Intermediate: What is friendship? Advanced: What is the global importance of relationships?
-Interculturality - Every lesson should be making students think about their relationships and its implications in the world around us.
-Sample standards-based IPA
1)Listen to and follow directions from one place to another. (Interpretive)
2)Read info on a site about Poitiers in order to identify what makes it special. Give reasons for the items on your list. (Interpretive)
3)Watch a vid about Futuroscope in poitiers and list what you can do there. (Interpretive)
4) Now choose three places to visit and give reasons. (Presentational)
5)Choose three things to do and discuss with your classmate. (Interpersonal)

Example on culture -- discuss old buildings and fact that they preserve historical places in France.
Be thoughtful and purposeful about all that we want our students to do.
Have students publish their work -- connections and lifelong learning.

Common Core:
Balance of Informational & Literary texts
Close reading of increasingly complex texts
Use of evidence-based arguments (Look at an athletes schedule & decide if s/he has a balanced lifestyle.)
Interaction with multiple print, auditory, and visual sources
Easy to go to the anchor standards to include CC standards
Do not look at grade level standards for this. (Say to admin who wants you to do grade level CC standards--> I didn't know you are planning to start an immersion program in kindergarten. (Still a lag, though, bc they won't have had the 4 yrs of language at home.))
Reading and writing ccss are ok because they show the overall goals. 
Hurry slowly! --> performance-based units with blended learning allow us to unpack the tools and give students time to really practice the skills and learn the concepts.
Top 10 Language Functions:
Express feelings and emotions
Tell or retell stories
Describe people, places, things
Ask and respond to questions
Express preferences, opinions, hopes and dreams
Maintain a conversation in person or virtually
Summarizing authentic oral text
Interpreting authentic written  text
Presenting info orally
Presenting info in writing
Interculturality - Are these 3 areas showing up in class? Add them to the unit plans.
Self (S)
Community (C)
World (W)
Interpretive Reading
Diane DeNoon - WL Coordinator, Kansas,
Text complexity:
Read and reread (close reading)
Select passages that require some cultural background ( for deep understanding)
Multiple sources info
Graphs and charts that ADD content
Process through conversation, not Q&A
Scaffold reading tasks with groups, pairs, individual
Emphasis on reading independently at high levels

Keys to Planning for Learning: Linking Curriculum to Performance
Laura Terrill - 

Global Themes:
Exploring Place & Time

Sample EQ for  Novice High: How do ppl here and in the French-speaking world describe a balanced lifestyle?

To describe proficiency levels of world language students:
Novice = parrot(repeating...)
Intermediate = survivor
Advanced = storyteller

Speaking a language is a skill; it takes time.

Presentation Mode Tasks:
"For publication" - present and publish or share with another French class
"On Demand" - come in and brainstorm and reflect and/ or compare and then submit.
 Homework, Grading, & Feedback
Lisa Lilley -
Looping students and parents in to proficiency 
Greg Duncan and Kerrie Neu <--- resources for helping parents understand proficiency goals.
I attended other powerful sessions on topics like student voice, state showcases, and more, but I mostly tweeted the key takeaways from those with the hashtag #actfl13. I encourage you to go back and read the thread if you haven't already done so.  

Now I shall end this post with a photo of some dear members of my PLN who gathered together on the final evening of the conference. The relationships we form make events like this one so much more special, so here's to all of the wonderful educators who share so much with me!

Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section of this post. I would love to hear from you! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

AP French: Discussing the film, "L'enfant," during the Family & Communities unit


Students of the French language and cultures need to be exposed to French and Francophone cinema, whether it be via snippets and/or trailers on YouTube or a full-length film.  As all world language educators know, film allows us to take a closer look at the cultures we study. Even the way international films tend to end informs us of our cultural differences. It is so amusing to see students' faces when a French/Francophone film ends abruptly.  What a great way to extend the conversation! Why did it end when it did and could the director have chosen a better moment? What do you think will happen next?
To kick off the start of our latest thematic unit, Family & Communities, students watched their first full-length film of the year:  "L'enfant", a Belgian film by directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. The story is centered on the life of a poor, young couple who struggle tremendously in life and with their unplanned baby. There is plenty of drama as they live on government benefits while the young man lives his life of a thief with his middle school-aged partners in crime.
L'Enfant film.jpg
For the past three years or so, I have shown this film and have found students to love it every time! As a result, this is a great time to really talk about the issues that surround the theme of family and communities. Please note that the film is rated R, so you will probably want to send out a parental permission form (I did not send one out because there isn't really anything scandalous happening other than some cursing here and there. It should be PG-13, I think.)
After the viewing is complete, students prepare an oral presentation of the film. They have two questions that they must answer before choosing their third question. I did not ask them to prepare a visual with still shots from the film, but they did so, and I think I'll require it from now on. (They are so used to having visuals with presentations that it has become second nature. Yay!)
 Please visit my website for the student handout:
Got feedback? Please do share! There are many things that you could do with films, so I would love to know what you would do. 
Have you shown this film before? If so, how did it go?

What are some other films that you have incorporated into the AP units?
Please leave a comment so that we can continue the discussion.
Bon dimanche!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Mission Trip to Haïti

The following is a guest post by Stephen, a sophomore French student at Hammond School in Columbia, South Carolina.  As a member of the Select Ensemble, our school's auditioned choir, he had the opportunity to travel to Italy and perform before the pope on New Year's Day 2013.

This past summer my church youth group went on a mission trip to Haiti. We visited orphanages and churches while there, and ministered to the Haitian people.

We left Columbia very early in the morning and arrived at the Port au Prince airport in the early afternoon. We were immediately bombarded by many people who wanted to carry our bags for us. We got in several vans and headed to the house that we were staying in. We got there late afternoon, and we just hung out for the rest of the day.

Image credit:  

The next morning was a Sunday morning. We woke up at about 6:30 and drove for an hour and a half up into the mountains to attend the Haitian church that we were visiting. They sang many songs in a mix of French and Creole, and they asked us to sing a few to them that we had learned. While singing, they all got very excited, and were dancing and swaying to the music. For the sermon, they had our minister come up and preach a sermon to them, which was translated into Creole by their preacher. We enjoyed a homemade lunch and afternoon with them, and then went home for the day.

Tuesday was probably my favorite day. We woke up extra early that morning, because we had a long trip ahead of us. We drove all the way to the top of Chacha Mountain. There was a small church on the top that we visited and did a day of Bible School and games with. The ride up was intense, with all of us in the backs of trucks and very little room for error, but we all made it safely to the top. We gave a short lesson to the kids, and then we taught them a few games. They especially loved duck duck goose and the sack race. While we were doing this, there were constantly new kids emerging from the forest to join in. We spent all day up there and them headed back to our house.

Wednesday morning we attended the Church on the Rock, which is an early morning church that begins at 6:00AM. They sang and read Scripture for about 45 minutes, and then they asked our minister to give another sermon. He had about two minutes of preparation but did a great job. Also on Wednesday, we visited an all girls' orphanage. The girls there ranged from four years old to sixteen years old. They enjoyed making beads and braiding our girls' hair, while the guys from our church painted the beds and walls, and did any other work that they needed done. At about 5:30 we returned to our house.

On Thursday, we returned to the church on Chacha Mountain, for our day of Bible School with the kids there. We gave a lesson, and then did various things. I started out shoveling sand to help make cement, but I also ended up in a game of soccer with them. They were very, very good at soccer. We stayed until early afternoon, and then headed back into Port au Prince to go to the orphanages. The girls went to the all girls' orphanage and an orphanage for small children, and the guys went to an orphanage for all boys. The boys there were very friendly, and several had t-shirts on from places that I recognized like Hilton Head. We again gave a short lesson and then began to play with the boys. I met a small boy named Duke, who was two years old. He first jumped on my shoulders, and then took me over to a bookcase, made me grab some pictures, and then explained to me about every person in the pictures. He also introduced me to each of them. The boys at the orphanages loved the cameras that we had, and they ran around taking pictures of each other and us. At about six, we went home for the day. 

On Friday, I attended an orphanage for babies and very young children. This orphanage was called the Faith Hope Love orphanage. The kids were very happy to see us, and proceeded to show us their artwork. I talked to one little boy who was getting adopted by a family in Texas soon, and he spoke fluent English. We left this orphanage at about 1:00, and briefly stopped at the all girls' orphanage to finish up the painting that we were doing.

Saturday was our last day in Haiti, and I knew I was going to miss it. The people were so happy, and the atmosphere was great. But, before we left, we went one last time to the all girls' orphanage. They sang us a song, and everyone said their goodbyes. We then went to the Port au Prince airport and flew home. We arrived back in our hometown at about 4:00AM on Sunday morning. I immediately went to sleep for about twelve hours when I got home.

Haiti is an amazing country and I would sincerely recommend it as a top notch place to go on a mission trip.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Connected Educator Story

Good evening!
Before Connected Educator Month ends, I would like to share the many ways that Twitter has impacted my professional growth over the past almost five years.

As recent as early 2009, I was making a great effort to use the available technology to create a go-to website for my students. In fact, I had set up a Wikispaces account back in 2006, but was really unclear on its possibilities and design features. Sadly, I was limited to the school's platform for class web pages.  That was not appealing to my creative side! It was also hard to deal with the fact that I was very isolated as the only French teacher in my school.  So, in an effort to become better connected, I reached out to our national language organization for an "e-mail mentor," and received some helpful tips. Communication was not very quick, however, like I would have preferred.

It was during spring break of 2009 that I was first introduced to Twitter in a coffee shop in Loveland, Colorado.  Fortunately, the snow that had trapped my friends and I in their house for a few days melted enough for me to go have a coffee with Madame Toni Theisen, who became a wonderful French-teacher mentor to me! She showed me her tweets and all of the tech tools she discovered as a result of her interactions on Twitter. I was still not totally convinced, but since I'm always willing to try new things, I set up an account while keeping warm in my dear friends'  Colorado home. It turns out, it took me about one short week to see the value of Twitter.  My professional growth has been TREMENDOUS as a result of the connections I've made. (Humorous little side note:  My first handle was @jmlesoleil, which is somewhat abbreviated French for "I love the sun." That Colorado winter was a frigid shock to my system after being in South Carolina for so long!)
Thanks to Twitter, I....

-learned how to build a class website with Wikispaces. ...and the rest (of my tech learning) is history!
-created a reading resource wiki for French teachers.
-won an iPod from the state language association of Oklahoma. (I was automatically entered in a drawing for tweeting/retweeting during their conference. I was participating from South Carolina.)
-made a connection with a French teacher and her students in New Zealand. While some students skyped, others wrote short messages with an old chatting tool called Etherpad(?) Oh, memories!
-engaged my learners in an Edmodo and Skype project for one year with a teacher in Paris.
-connected my learners with local and Parisian university students via Twitter. (We are on year three now, but have moved on to Instagram.)
-was invited to serve as a co-moderator of the weekly language chat (#langchat), and have participated in that capacity for about one year now.
-was interviewed for an article on social media by a reporter from the national language teachers' association. (The Language Educator, February 2012 : )
-attended and led a session at my first EdCamp.  It was South Carolina's first event of its kind!
-reviewed a chapter of an AP textbook before publication.
-was chosen by a valued member of my PLN, Patrick Larkin (@patrickmlarkin), to be profiled on his blog for connected educator month (October 6, 2013):
-was invited to guest blog for Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal), another valued member of my PLN:
Twitter has also enabled me to...
-meet members of my PLN in person at conferences or in places like Montréal, Canada.  :)
-present at local, state, and national conferences.
-collaborate with teachers all over the world.
-benefit from priceless, 24/7 interaction with educators all over the world.
-bring back ideas to the classroom. It's all about the students, after all!
There are probably other noteworthy things that have happened as a result of my Twitter interactions, so edits to this post are likely. One thing is certain:  there will be more great learning, networking, and collaborating to come!

What about you? How has social media enriched your professional life?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Three Reasons Why I Write Happy Notes to Students

Good morning!

This has been one of those weeks that turned out to be rather inspiring for a variety of reasons, so I thought I'd pump out a post on what fueled this desire to share on the blog. Hope you like it!

Latest goal:   Make a great effort to write positive messages on post-it notes to various students at least once per week.

In past years, I always meant well and started strong, but ended up forgetting about my plan to REALLY think about my students as individuals.  It's so easy to get caught up in all of the deadlines, meetings, and other tasks, and I'm quite sure that this is still going to challenge me as it always does, but, at least, in this moment, I'm planning to make a good effort to brighten someone's day from time to time. Life is not easy, so why not send out positive vibes when possible.

As an educator, I can tell you that I LOVE receiving little notes of appreciation from administrators and students every once in a while. Who doesn't like to be told that s/he is doing something right and that work is not going unnoticed? Being an adult, let alone a teenager, can be really tough, so a little message to tell a person that s/he is an important part of your day can go a long way!

Here are three reasons why I write 'happy notes' to students:

1.  A positive, personal message can put a spin on the day!
Last week, I noticed that a new student (to me, not necessarily the school) was really participating actively in class. For some reason beyond me, I thought that I needed to write this student a 'happy note' to let him/her know that I saw that s/he was engaged and actively participating in discussion. I told the student to keep up the good work and I drew a smiley face next to my signature. When I gave this high schooler the note, I glanced over to see the reaction. This person's face lit up with a big smile and that made me feel really happy. No kidding, this student's participation has increased since that day.  Honestly, I wasn't expecting that reaction, which I would say is quite ideal, but it really happened!

This example alone convinces me that I must do better when it comes to noticing the efforts of the individual student.  Will this be the result every time I hand one of my students a positive note? Probably not, but if it makes a student's day even a tad bit brighter, whether I see evidence of it or not, I'm cool with it. 

2. It feels good to make someone else feel wanted and important.
One day this week, I laughed when I looked over at a student who was showing his/her 'happy note' to another student. The other student didn't hesitate to ask me, with a big smile on his/her face, why s/he didn't get a message from me, too.  I smiled and let that student know that I'm sure s/he would earn one soon. It's not clear to me whether that message was shared with a classmate so as to make fun of the fact that I wrote a note OR if the student was proud of it. Either way, it's guaranteed that it was a kind gesture and that the student can appreciate, at least, the fact that s/he was singled out for one positive reason or another. The student who didn't get a note that day looked happy, too.  Kindness is contagious!

3.  We don't always know what others are going through.
No one can argue that a heartfelt message to someone will not make a bad day any worse than it already is. We see students who seem to be doing fine from day to day, but there is inevitably going to be a time when we find out that one of our students is struggling with a personal issue.  As an educator, I can relate and am going to share my personal anecdote.

Last spring, I was in a terrible, life-changing car accident; coming to school with a smile on my face challenged me more than ever last semester and I don't think I did a very good job of it, but the point is, I made a great effort to hide how I was feeling.  When colleagues brought me meals, museum tickets, or just an offer to go get my lunch in the dining hall, life was a little better on those days. When students asked me how I was doing or offered to bring me a meal, it brightened my day. With some luck, those of us who single students out to say something positive from time to time will do it on a day when a student could really use some encouragement. Life is short; let's be kind.

Here are a couple of photos I took of the 'happy notes.' Please share what you do to connect with students on an individual basis in the comments below. It would be great to hear what you do!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rubric Challenge 2013: The Interpretive Mode, Take Two!

Good evening!

Just a quick post to share my latest rubric drafts for the interpretive mode of communication. There are some revisions to the level 1-2 rubric, so please revisit it if you've already seen it. I developed the level 3 and 4/AP rubrics this evening, so they are new!  As soon as I finalize the documents, I'll post them in Word so that you can edit and use as your own, if you like.

As I stated in the last post, these rubrics were developed after having reviewed the work of Toni Theisen (format and some wording are from her district rubrics), Laura Terrill, FLENJ, ACTFL and Lexington School District One's rubrics here in South Carolina.

I would be very appreciative if you'd click on the following link to the "Rubrics and Assessment" page of my website, review the three posted rubrics, and provide me with some feedback either in the comments section of this blog post or on Twitter.

Click here to see the documents:  Rubrics & Assessment

Thank you in advance for your feedback!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rubric Challenge 2013 : The Interpretive Mode

Good evening!

Since it's late and my internal clock is trying to adapt to the schedule changes that have occurred in the past couple of weeks, I'm going to keep this post short and to the point.

Last year, I began using proficiency-based rubrics that I acquired from Toni Theisen who graciously shares all of her ideas and work with world language educators. Merci MILLE fois! She shared rubrics for the interpersonal and presentational modes of communication as those were the ones that she finished with her colleagues over the summer. I began using those rubrics for all tasks in those categories upon our return to school last August. As I reflect on the 2012-13 academic year, I feel that I'm better assessing students on what they can do rather than what they can't, so I plan to continue down that road with the latest focus being on better assessment of interpretive tasks.

For the past few weeks, I've been actively working on a rubric for the interpretive mode and have sought feedback along the way. On my wiki homepage, you will see the first draft along with the most recent revisions. The first four categories were inspired by interpretive rubrics that a colleague in a local district shared with me. The fifth one was my creation and it seemed to be well-received by those who reviewed the first draft. After more brainstorming, reviewing ACTFL's guidelines, and reviewing some of Laura Terrill's presentations (By the way, she is AMAZING!), I came up with the newest category, "Making Inferences."

Will you kindly have a look at the second draft and provide me with some feedback?

Direct link to my wiki homepage:

Thank you in advance.

EDIT:  As of 8/27/13, there are all new drafts of the rubrics for the interpretive mode. Please see my next post. Also, my Wikispaces addressed changed to my first and last name as listed above. Please take note.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Faculty Goals & Self Reflection...With My Successes AND Failures for All to Read!

Good evening!

Now that back-to-school season is upon us, I'm reflecting on 2012-13 and making goals for the new year.  Typically, we are asked to do this task in the fall sometime and then we meet with our principal to discuss our reflections. This year, administration is doing it a little differently, so, beginning next year, we will be required to reflect and plan at the end of the academic year.  Since the new system wasn't developed until school let out for summer break, this year's goal-setting document is due during the first week of school.  As I began writing my thoughts yesterday evening, I thought I should just turn this into a blog post that I can refer back to at the end of the year. Oh dear! Here I am sharing my successes AND failures with you. I am comfortable doing so because goodness knows I make and (usually) learn from mistakes. Read at your own risk as this might be rather boring for anyone besides me! :)

·    Reflect on your qualities as a teacher. Comment on your strengths and areas that need strengthening in your classroom practice.

Keeping all learners (students and yours truly) at or above the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) recommendation for 90% target language use in the classroom has been my goal since I first stepped in the classroom several years ago. For the past two years, I have been able to reach that goal, so that is the area of my teaching where I feel the most success at the moment. On most days, we are speaking French during class for more than 90% of the 50-minute class period and are doing so by actively participating in a fun and easy system of accountability.  Overall, students have made marked improvement with regards to oral communication, so I plan to continue to engage students in spoken practice with this method.

The most significant weaknesses I see when thinking about my goals for professional growth include the areas of feedback and assessment of interpretive communication. During the 2012-13 academic year, I was concerned about the way I handled both of these components of my courses, so it was rather easy to brainstorm ideas for this goal-setting exercise.

In the past, the turnaround time for student feedback has not always been what one would describe as stellar. In fact, sometimes I don’t return work for a week or, shamefully, longer.  Oh là là!  I feel that I should return work to students within two days after the due date. With quicker feedback, my hope is that students will have at least a little more success since the information will still be theoretically fresh in their minds. 

During our first year with 1:1 iPads, I also began using a proficiency-based grading system that has been wonderful for assessment of student progress.  However, I didn’t have a rubric for the interpretive mode of communication (e.g. listening to podcasts, reading various texts, and so on…).  When students had to perform in this mode, I usually felt that I had to prepare short answer questions for them to answer so that I could grade the work out of the total number of questions rather than assess their proficiency level.  Sometimes, students would do other tasks, like summarizing what they read, to demonstrate understanding/proficiency, so I had to use rubrics that didn’t correspond with the ones I had in place for the other types of assessment. I would like to have rubrics reflect the proficiency goals better.

·    How will you work on those areas that need strengthening? Include ways that [the school] can assist you.
Depending on my schedule and the amount of planning time I have each day, I will make an attempt to schedule time for feedback on student work each day (rather than do it without any type of organized plan.)  If that’s not possible, I will make a concerted effort to do it every other day.  Since I don’t create multiple-choice and/or fill-in-the-blank tests, it can be rather time consuming to assess the type of work my students do. There’s not really anything that administration can do to help me with this goal other than ensure I have two planning periods since students must write compositions, create products, and so on.
As for my goals for better assessment methods of the interpretive mode of communication, I am either going to create rubrics before school resumes or use one that another world language educator and/or school district prepared and shared.  I will also do more pre-, during, and post listening/reading tasks that require students to show comprehension by engaging in critical thinking.

·    What were your professional goals this year? Comment on your ability to meet these goals.
Listed below are the 2012-13 goals I submitted last fall with comments on successes and failures in parentheses.  (Last year, we were asked to list three general goals and three that include some sort of collaborative work.)
1.  French 1,2,3 Curriculum:  I plan to revise the current curriculum as the year goes on to make it align more with the six major themes of the AP course. The themes are very broad and practical, so it makes sense to get students accustomed to them from on day one of the program. (I would say I met this goal because I did do some revisions as we moved from unit to unit in all four levels of French. This is a continual work in progress, so I will be revising it again this year, just as I do every year.)
2.  Model UN  : I plan to prepare students for the spring conference this year. I also plan to build a wiki that will be rich with resources that will aide delegates in their research. ( I would say that I met this goal, too, since I did the following: created a club website, met students for a few meetings, participated in a club meeting with a former ambassador to Tanzania, and tried to find a conference (to no avail) that didn’t conflict with our holidays.)
3. French Club:  I plan to see if there is some sort of service learning members can do OR help gather donations for supplies to be sent with a doctor/missionary going to Haiti. I have an idea for the latter, so I just need to make initial contact. (I did not meet his goal, unfortunately. French Club only met a handful of times due to lack of leadership on my part and on the part of the officers. Moving forward, I hope to merge with the Spanish and Latin clubs in order to form a bigger and, hopefully, more united international club.)
1.  I plan to work with the upper school librarian in order to do a lesson on effective Google searches for quality authentic sources in French.  Students need to be able to conduct research by finding articles, infographics, and podcasts/videos in the target language.  The librarian will also teach them how to set up their Noodle Tools account and write an annotated bibliography.  All learners, with the exception of French 1 students, who will do it in the spring, will have this training in the fall. Moving forward, I will not have to have two-day lessons on this at every level of French since it will be done in French 1 every year. (This goal was mostly met because I did collaborate with the librarian to carry out this learning experience, but I didn’t remember to do it in the spring with the French 1 students. This means that I will have to do the lesson with French 1 and 2 students this year in order for all students to have the initial training. I will review the research process with the level 3 and AP students this year. I will also change the expectations for the research project for the level 2 students because I asked them to produce at a level of proficiency that was too advanced and resulted in frustration and poor performance.
2.  I plan to do a year-long collaborative project with a French teacher in Paris, France. We are doing a focused project that involves research among students at participating schools, both in-house and across the globe.  We are building a wiki and modeling it after the FlatClassrooms project. This is a huge endeavor, but it should be rewarding for the students.  The topic of this project is global citizenship and digital media. Only levels three and AP will participate, it looks like, but I hope to have the lower levels at least connect with other schools through blogging.  (This goal was not met. We started the project, but it fizzled out due to conflicting schedules and a loss of contact. The blogging project with another American independent school did not happen because I dropped the ball. Our schedules do not mesh well either so we should have had organized it better on the front end. Moving forward, my students will be connecting with university students in Paris and they will come visit us one day in February as they have done for the past two years. There is another possibility for an exchange with a French high school, but I’m not yet sure if we have the same ideas for a project.)
Moving forward, I plan to create a reflections and goal-setting document that students can add to the e-portfolio they will keep this year. Last year, I think I just asked students to think about their goals because I can't find a document anywhere! If I find one, however, I'll add a link in the comments below.   If you read this post, thank you for humoring me!

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

Now, that we're getting closer and closer to the first week of school, I'm going to go ahead and wish you a fantastic year full of creativity, inspiration, and, finally, something we need to experience every day -- laughter!

Monday, July 22, 2013

On the 1:1 iPad Classroom: Tips for a Smooth(er) Year

Good morning!

Now that the first year with one-to-one iPads is complete, it's a good time to reflect on the lessons learned and plan for the second year. The following tips are not listed in any order of importance and can be relevant in classrooms where other types of technology enhance instruction.

  • Test apps ahead of time with a student or colleague.
  • Teach technology vocabulary, especially if you're a 90%+ world language educator, during the first weeks of school.
  • Use an app because it enhanced the learning experience: NOT because it is on a 'top app' list.
  • Give students a list of recommended apps for content area games/practice so that they can use them when they finish a task early or for exploration at home.
  • Create another list of apps that provide ALL students with authentic resources in the content area. Great ones might include newspapers, magazines, museums, and the visitors' welcome page for a city.
  • Show students how to add shortcuts so that they can quickly access websites that have not yet created an app for it.
  • Actively monitor use of the iPad. If several students are off task, they are not being engaged.
  • Ask students to load apps the day BEFORE you want to use them in class. Saves precious time.
  • Show students how to make a folder for the apps that they'll use in your class. Do this during the first week of school.
  • Know what you want with regards to note-taking tasks before school starts. Are you going to prepare guided notes? Should students take notes on paper? This can be a time consuming problem, so think it over.
  • Carefully select the way(s) students can submit work. Naturally, there will be less confusion if students only have one or two ways to share their learning.
  • Helps students organize their work within their note-taking apps. Require one-on-one time outside of class if students are unable to get organized. Do this periodically for the particularly unorganized student. I have had students take photos of important information and then leave it in the cameral roll. Egads!
  • Have a backup plan if the technology fails. We were fortunate to have very few days where the wifi didn't work, but there's always potential for down days!
  • Be flexible, patient, and willing to learn!
  • Allow students to choose the app they'll use for a task as long as it has the necessary features.
  • Put the technology away sometimes. Students need to step away and see that learning can occur without it, too.
  • Give yourself a break when looking for apps/tools to enhance a lesson. Quality over quantity.
  • Choose apps that are versatile and allow students to create a product, when possible.
  • Teach students how to produce quality photos and videos.
  • Make a sound booth for recording in the classroom. Consider using a large cardboard box, egg cartons, and a blanket to create this space (sound booth construction idea by @k_shelton).
  • Require students to share presentations with you. Hook your iPad up to a screen and pull up each presentation as students comes up to present. Saves tons of time!
  • Ensure that the subject heading for task submission is standardized. Keep it simple!
  • Decide on the e-mail address(es) you want students to use BEFORE school resumes. The addresses seem to automatically save in Contacts so there is confusion at times if there are too many addresses from which to choose.
  • Strongly encourage students to save their usernames and passwords in Keeper (a free app that only requires you to remember one password in order to access your information).
  • Ask yourself if the task can be done without the iPad/technology. If it can, ask yourself if there would be added tech skill-building possibilities if you go that route. Technology should enhance.

What tips do you have for educators who are going 1:1 in the classroom?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Appy Times in World Languages!

Good evening!

Now that summer's in full swing, I have had some time to reflect on my experiences with one-to-one iPads in the world language classroom. The initiative began in April of 2012 with the faculty rollout. We participated in several Apple-sponsored professional development days, beginning in May and ending in August. This allowed us to spend the summer discovering apps and preparing for this new adventure. The rollout for all high school students occurred in August, just before school resumed.  What a year of trial and error for everyone involved! 

In this post, the focus will be on the types of apps that were and will be used in the world language classroom. Although these apps were tested for and used in the French classroom, they can be beneficial in other world language classes and possibly even other content areas.

Year One in Review

Frequently Used Apps

-Dropbox (Free) - This one allowed me to organize documents within each unit and class and then share them with students. For the first couple of months, students submitted tasks to my account, but it was an organizational nightmare for me, so I switched to folders in G-mail.  I will continue to use Dropbox in order to share documents, rubrics, and so on.
-Fotobabble (Free) - Take photos, record audio in the target language, and share.  Great for speaking practice on content-related topics! Currently, there is only an iPhone app for it, so we just enlarge the iPhone version on the tablets. 
-iMovie ($4.99) - Create videos in the target language, edit, and publish.  The movie trailer feature would be nice, but we didn't really use it because it appears to only allow users to add music.
-LaRousse Dictionary ($4.99) - This was the required dictionary app last year. It has some great features, like the verb conjugation charts for many tenses and the audio pronunciation of vocabulary, but there are often too many choices for novice learners to effectively choose the word they need. Students will be asked to install the WordReference iPhone app this year (See below for details.)
-Keeper (Free) - Store passwords in this app that requires users to only memorize one password to gain access. Pay $9.99 to upgrade to access in the cloud and backup protection.
-Keynote ($9.99) - Create presentations (Apple version of PowerPoint.)  My students often create presentations made up of images and/or graphs with or without text which they use as a visual for presentational speaking tasks.
-Pages ($9.99) - Type essays (Apple version of Word.)  Upper level students used this app more than the lower levels because they typically wrote persuasive essays for a major assessment research task.

Less Frequently Used Apps

-Blogger (Free) - We started the year out with blogs and planned to comment on other French students' blogs in another state, but it didn't work out in the end because I tried to bite more than I could chew during the first year of 1:1 iPads...  This is a rather user-friendly blogging platform, but initial setup was a bit of a struggle for some students because the set-up steps aren't cut and dry from what I remember.
-Book Creator ($4.99) - This tool allows students to make several books. It includes an audio feature and the finished product can be opened in a variety of places. My second year students used the storytelling tool of their choice for a book writing
-BuddyPoke (Free) - Make talking avatar videos in the target language and share.  Last year, we used the app one time in French 1 in order to create a French-speaking avatar. Learners might make an avatar at the beginning of the year and add to their online portfolio this year. 
-Concept Mapping Tools (Free) - Make a visual representation of one's learning. Great springboard for critical thinking and presentations. I won't name any of the free apps here, but every single one we tried had major bugs to fix, so we were never able to use them.  See below for the tool I may use this year.
-Feedly (Free) - Upper level students used this tool to access all of the blogs they wanted to use for research in the target language.
-Pic Collage (Free) - Make posters with photos or try their design features.  Similar to Glogster.
-Poetry Magnets (Free) - Create poems with this tool that allows users to change the language and include accents! Just drag a tile up onto the wall and double-tap on it to bring up the editing box.  When finished writing the poem, click save and then it can be located in the photo stream.
StoryBuddy 2 - The lite version allows users to make one book at a time and allows users to save the story as a PDF and gives more options than the previous tool I mentioned. The upgrade costs $4.99 and allows users to create 5 stories, add audio, and offers more ways to share. My second year students used the storytelling tool of their choice for a book writing task.

Year Two: Planning Ahead

-Instagram (Free) - Take photos, like them, and leave comments.
-Interview Assistant (Free) - Prepare interview questions and then record answers.
-iThoughts ($9.99) - Visualize the thought process! I've used a free (buggy) one in the past with upper level students who documented their learning over the course of a unit and presented with it serving as the visual. Students do not buy a textbook for my courses (with the exception of AP), but I do require them to purchase a few apps. If administration does not want to purchase it for all iPads, I might include it in my required app list at the start of the year.
-PhotoCard (Bill Atkinson) (Free) - Write post cards in the target language and e-mail them to recipients. Users can use their own photos or the app choices.
-QuickVoice2 Text Email (PRO Recorder) ($2.99) - Record from just seconds to hours in the target language! We tried the free version last year, but students could only record about 2 minutes if they wanted to share their work. Upper level students needed more time so we are upgrading to the pro version this year.  There is also the voice to text feature that will convert 30 seconds of recorded speech.  I only tested it in English, so I don't know if students can use it in French.
-Share Board (Free) - Collaborate with one classmate at a time with the free version.  Before school resumes, I will test this app out with a colleague to determine if it would be a good fit for my classroom.
-Socrative (Free) - Do quick comprehension checks with short quizzes.  I may or may not use this app much since it requires a lot of prep on the teacher side. 
-Tellagami (Free) - Create talking avatars with pre-chosen backgrounds or user photos.
-VoiceThread ($79 for 50 student accounts) - Post a photo, video, or other visual and invite students to voice comment around it.  My school might fund it if I want to use this tool, so I might use it, but I still have to conduct a cost benefit analysis.
-Web to PDF (Free) - This tool will be for my use only since users must be 17+ to install it.  It looks like a great tool for capturing web pages for the class website or presentations.
-Weebly (Free) - Use as a class website where students can access links, documents, and so on. I just created a class site and it looks beautiful in Safari on the iPad. I have not actually used the app to build much yet, so I will be checking it out soon. I might have students use this tool to create their online portfolios this year, as well.
-WordReference (Free iPhone app only) - This is a great dictionary for the world language classroom. Some features include the verb conjugations in multiple tenses, lists of expressions, and the forums.

Voilà, voilà! I divided the apps from last year into the two categories of frequent and not-so-frequent use in order to show you that my students didn't really use a great number of them in the first year. I have found that it can be so overwhelming when we get our hands on new technology for the classroom, especially since there are many tools that can enhance the learning. The key is to choose tools that can be used for a variety of tasks and also help students reach their proficiency goals over the course of the year.  Sometimes less is definitely more!

Is there an app that you would add to this list?

If you use any of these apps already, what are some ways you use them to enhance the learning experience?

Please take a moment to share your 'appy thoughts' in the comment section below.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Keeping Learners in the Target Language Since 2011


Today's post is long overdue, so here we go! After several e-mails in which I explained/forwarded the method I use to keep students in the target language, I decided to write a post so that I can refer back to it when the topic comes up.  Blogging serves a beautiful purpose!

I would like to thank French teacher, Janet Hachen, of the Upstate in South Carolina, for first presenting this PAIE-MOI! (Pay me!) system at the South Carolina chapter of the AATF's fall workshop back in 2011.  After attending her presentation, I implemented the plan in my classroom the following week and have been using it ever since. Merci mille fois, Janet!

Before I share my thoughts on this method, please visit my professional wiki and click on the file entitled, 'French-Only Policy,' in order to get a better understanding of how it works.

It goes without saying that students' oral proficiency has improved, dare I say, tremendously since the implementation of the paie-moi system.  They speak with more ease AND some language learners even crack jokes (...usually at my expence, but it's all good!).  Of course, this type of plan only works because I greatly prepare students with useful 'classroom navigation' expressions at the start of year one AND I strategically plan daily learning experiences.  By the way, classroom management issues are reduced significantly when students are actively engaged in target language tasks. What a great incentive to make the change!

Some language educators with whom I've corresponded have an 'English zone' in their classroom where they put down masking or duct tape in the shape of a box. Students can enter the zone along with the teacher and pose a question or make a comment in English.  This comes in handy on occasion, especially for the first year students, because they sometimes have long explanations/questions that would take too long to write down. (My 'English zone' is just outside my door in the hallway because I feel comfortable using that space.) 

Remember, with this system, students may write things in English on mini white boards, tablets, or elsewhere. Trust me, this ends rather quickly because students seem to prefer speaking, even if it's in the target language. Yay!

It should also be noted that this method really holds the teacher accountable for 90%+ use of the target language, as well, because baking brownies for a class takes away some of that precious personal time! Now that I speak French from bell to bell, the often frustrating days of going back and forth between the native and target language are a thing of the past.

Now, some of you might not think the paie-moi plan would work in your classroom. Here are some other ideas that might suit you better.  Special thanks to @HCPSLanguages from my Twitter PLN for sharing these resources!

From the October 2012 edition of ACTFL's magazine, The Language Educator:
"Going for 90%+: How to Stay in the Target Language" by Douglass Crouse

Check out this wiki page for several ideas that have been shared by world language educators!

Before you go, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.  Do you have a TL-only system in your classroom? How does it work? Do you know of other resources that would help WL teachers make the switch?

Best wishes for a new year of 90%+ target language use in your classroom!

Cristy Vogel a.k.a. @msfrenchteach

Sunday, June 30, 2013

AP French Institute - Summer 2013

Bonjour à toutes et à tous!

Last week, I spent my days speaking French and learning more about the AP French Language and Culture exam.  It was so great to meet French and Spanish educators from around the state and to learn more about the cultures of the Belgian instructor and the Beninese participant.

During our instructors' lectures, I decided to take notes on the tips we were given to prepare our students for the exam.  (Thanks, Kristina, for encouraging me to prepare this document for our colleagues!) I took notes on tips that some AP teachers probably already know and also some that do not appear to be in any of the textbooks. 

Do you agree with the information I gleaned from the institute? What would you add to this list?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Click here to access the document.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Learning French with Twitter

Hello to summer vacation and the opportunity to do some of those things that I rarely find the time to do. Professionally, blogging is near the top of the list!

Today's post is inspired by a recent grad who I'm tutoring this summer. Although I don't even know if she tweets, I decided to compile a list of word-a-day Twitter accounts that I will share with all of my French students and, of course, you, my reader! 

The account usernames are listed in no particular order and they were chosen because the accounts are fairly active and the majority of the tweets are dedicated to vocabulary/expressions for the French language learner. If you know of any accounts that should be on this list, please share them in the comments. 

Many thanks to Madame Onsrud (@Imhsonsrud) for helping me develop this list!