Thursday, July 13, 2023
Friday, June 10, 2022
Wow. The last time I wrote a reflection here was almost two years ago....just around five months after the pandemic initially hit the United States. Since my toddler still takes an afternoon nap, today is the day I've chosen to sit on my shaded patio to revive my blog just a bit.
There has been so much to weigh educators down in recent years. So much so that it would be easy to lament the struggles we have faced in the classroom and the repeated insults to teachers and the teaching profession of recent times, but I would rather focus on the silver lining; that is, what worked surprisingly well in the face of adversity. To that end, I will share what changes I've made since 2020 to better suit my learners' needs.
1. Post all notes and resources to the LMS daily. Organize content by week and thematic unit.
Pre-pandemic, I posted content online when I wanted to save paper or for "easy" reference, and it was all grouped in a long list by unit rather than week and day. There was often a number of students who didn't know where to find what they needed, but now there is much less confusion. Documents, links, images, and so on are all posted in a more clear and organized manner by week and day. Furthermore, folks who are absent can just get online, and locate the day's work at the top of the course modules page. There, they can access what they need instead of waiting for an email from me with a breakdown of the lesson. There have been times when I have forgotten to email absentees, so this routine essentially eliminates that error. With our LMS, we can copy modules over from year to year, and just tweak them as needed -- sweet!
2. Make short video tutorials on key concepts.
The Loom video-making tool was my best friend in August of 2020. I made numerous videos so that learners at home could still move along with us if it was their virtual learning day. I'm not really sure how often those videos are viewed on the LMS now, but I offer them as an added resource if clarification beyond the shared documents is needed. As an added bonus, I am much more accustomed to hearing my own voice without cringing as much. :)
3. Keep track of attendance on paper.
We were required to keep paper copies of attendance back when we were on an A-B schedule because we could not input attendance for the at-home learners until the next school day. It was a messy document full of A-B notations, but once the hybrid schedule moved to in-person five days per week, it was a neat visual of who was in school. I continue to take note of attendance on paper with one of my many clip boards because I prefer the visual when I need to go back in history to see who was out on a particular day. It's an extra step that really isn't necessary, but I am much more likely to look back at data for attendance trends with my paper record. Time is of the essence, and sometimes paper just makes sense.
4. Allow learners to make up or redo assessments during class time.
As a district requirement in 2020-2021, educators had to allow for makeup work and reassessments during class since we only saw our students in-person two days per week. Pre-pandemic, I offered extra help and time to make up work during FLEX (time embedded in school day for learners to visit any class for extra help) or after school. It seemed like students had ample opportunities to meet with me. For most, I'd say that is true, however, I often found that the students who need to see me the most are needed just as much in another classroom. By offering the opportunity to do makeup work during class, work gets made up much quicker.
5. Arrange the desks in rows.
If you asked me three years ago, I would never, and I mean NEVER, have agreed to move my desks in to rows. In fact, up until August 2020, I had never once arranged my desks in traditional rows. A year passed with mandated rows, and then this past year went by with the same classroom setup. Much to my surprise, my learners seemed to like this traditional arrangement, and I found that they seemed to be more attentive and focused overall in this way. That said, my windowless, small classroom looks much better when the desks are pushed together in quads to form "tables," if you will, but keeping learners facing each other every single day, with the inconvenience of the angle of certain desks, seems less appealing at this point. I'm not sure exactly how I'll design the room this coming August, but I'm leaning towards rows with tennis ball feet at this point. We move around, and collaborate/discuss in the hallways often, so I think it'll be just fine if I do maintain the rows.
6. Create a student-friendly Google Form to complete when leaving the classroom. Laminate passes that say "See Google Form" along with the room number and teacher name.
I had heard about using Google Forms in this way back in the summer of 2020 when I participated in countless online PD sessions. When we arrived on campus for the 2020-2021 school year, our administration informed us that we would be using a school-wide format for paper passes to hand write each time a student needed to leave the classroom for any reason. I complied, and did so for one and a half years before I boldly created the form. There's no going back. It's more sanitary because I can clean the laminated passes, moving forward, and I don't have to halt class to write the same tedious info yet again. (Rule followers: I had an informal drop-in observation this past spring, and was worried that the newest assistant principal would be upset, but then this person surprised me, and said they liked the idea, and wanted to share it. Alrighty, then. Hehe.)
If other changes come to mind, I'll come back, and edit this post later. In the meantime, I hope that you have a restful summer with a little time for reflection mixed in. What has represented a silver lining during your time as a teacher in a pandemic?
Saturday, August 29, 2020
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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:
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.)
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.
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
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...
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
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
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!
Friday, January 4, 2019
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!