Since my school year ended, I’ve been taking some reflection time to think and plan for the upcoming year. But before I completely unleash myself onto a new school year, it’s a good idea to celebrate my 10 bright spots of the last.
1. Social Media Integration
My brightest professional learning this year was done with George Couros. I had the opportunity to hear him a few times this year and he spoke about an innovator’s mindset. It was really reshaped my approach to education and the vision I have for my classroom in the future. One thing I was immediately able to apply to this school year was a ramped up social media presence and integration into the classroom. I’ve written about this before but I’m really happy with the online culture it is creating. I’ve had great feedback from parents and truly believe this is the new “Class Newsletter” or email home to parents. Social media is so instant, transparent and interactive and it lends itself nicely our classroom. I believe we’re modeling powerful and positive use of social media–which is all the more important for teens to see. (Read more about how I use social media in the classroom).
2. Story Acting
Allison from Mis Clases Locas hosted a free TPRS training this March in Dunkerton, IA and since it was 1) less than 15 miles away and 2) Allison is amazing and 3) I had never had formal TPRS training, I thought it was a good opportunity to go. The day was really good and I’m grateful for TPRSBooks for making it possible. I had a lot of unanswered questions regarding assessments that day but one idea that I decided to immediately implement was using students as actors. Mike Coxen demonstrated how this could be done with novels and I tried it the next day.
My class was reading Rebeldes de Tejas and I used the students as actors in the Chapter. It was fun watching the characters unfold. In Spanish I said that I needed a student to play the role of Juan Almonte. We discussed the personality and behaviors of the character and looked around the room for students that shared those characteristics, personalizing the material as we went. We chose a really loyal and nice girl to play the role of Juan and the chapter continued to develop. These characters moved around the room, used props and acted out the chapter as we read aloud together. The chapter took a little more time but they had so much fun. (We had our All-Star pitcher play the role of the canons!)
Here’s how I knew it was a bright spot success: The next day when we did more novel work, the students kept referencing the student actors and the events that took place. (Where was the young girl standing when Santa Ana saw her? Oh Abby and I were standing outside a church and Jonah was looking at us.) Comprehension of these two chapters was way higher than the other chapters. It was a great method of working with the novel in an engaging way.
I continued to do this with novels and also did it with our Song Stories, which was another great bright spot.
3. Songs as Stories
I think I first read about using music videos and songs as CI stories from Kara Jacobs. I used songs as stories a few different times this year and each time it was a great comprehensible success. The inclusion of the music and artist was a good cultural connection and the videos sent themselves nicely to stories.
My first major success with this was with Nicky Jam’s El Amante but I also used it with Ana Mena, Alvaro Soler, Lasso and Elvis Crespo (during my Fiesta Fatal Unit). These were fun to have the students act out as we told the stories and the repetitive storytelling helped build good comprehension.
4. Libros Libres
I was fortunate to receive a grant from the Iowa World Language Association (IWLA) and a grant from our local Casey’s Convenience Store to build a classroom of comprehensible readers for the classroom. I started doing Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) and appreciated the opportunity to give students some access and immersion in materials that they chose.
I learned a lot throughout the free reading process–some that doesn’t probably fit in the bright spots post–but overall it’s been a great addition to our classroom. I enjoyed also using my new library with a group of enrichment students. Providing more enrichment opportunities has always been a goal and I was happy to see that happen this year.
Oh and I decided to stop calling it FVR and instead am calling it Libros Libres. The kids never knew or cared what FVR stood for and I saw a need for students to learn the difference between the word “book” and “free”.
5. Drag and Drop Google Slide Assessments
I read a very good article by Kristine Keefe on Maris Hawkin’s blog with different ideas for using Google tools in the classroom. I started to build more interactive Google Slide activities and assessments where the students dropped and drag elements or reorganized things to show comprehension.
I upgraded from doing Hyperdocs in long Google Docs to using Google Slides and also started doing some reading and listening assessments as Google Slides. The students responded positively to this and I have to say that it was much easier to grade. The visual sense of it helped me understand common errors students were making (for example if I constantly found myself highlighting the teal boxes–I knew that was a common error people were making). It takes a little work to make it and get it ready but I’m so glad I’ve started to do this more.
6. Roster to Slides Function
Since we are a Google school, I’m always interested in better ways to use all the Google tools. Alice Keeler is very helpful with that. One add-on that I have loved this year is called Roster to Slides. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: take a roster of your students and it automatically creates a Google Slide presentation with one slide for each student.
This has been super valuable for formative practice activities. I can scan to see who has done what AND the students can look at each other’s work. Usually after the work is done, we take turns reading other slides and commenting on each other’s work. Technically each slide is open and anyone can edit any slide but I’ve not run into a problem yet and since I don’t do it as a graded summative activity, it doesn’t usually matter. It’s so much better than having to click and open 56 different docs or slides in Classroom!
Mini-bright spot: Gotta love the addition of Bitmoji Chrome Extension to showcase student voice!
7. Proficiency Grading Rubrics in Google Forms
Another great Google tool was used with Forms and Sheets to help me effectively give feedback to students. I created Google Forms with the proficiency criteria for speaking and presentational skills. I wrote about the entire setup and process here but it was really a time-saver for me. One of my personal problems of practice has been effective feedback. It’s something I’m still going to work on next year but I thought this was a good way to communicate to students what I thought they could improve with their language skills. (Read about the add-on and process here).
Under this category I would also say that I found a better footing with proficiency based grading. We’ve been using a Standards Based grading system and during the second semester I did a lot of studying proficiency rubrics and tried to do a better job of using them in my assessments.
8. Employability Skills
My school has been investigating Standards Based Grading and trying to figure out what it would look like building-wide. We received some great information from the Shenandoah School District in Iowa and how they are doing SBG. They referenced the State of Iowa’s 21st Century and Employability Skills for students grades 9-12 and how they address these through grading. Since I was constantly asking the students to be “Prepared, Interactive and Engaged”, I thought there was a place to include employability standards in my classroom.
I rolled this system out during the 4th Quarter and on the first day I shared it with the students, I knew it was a good idea. Several students commented as much and asked if all teachers would be doing the same. We talked about each characteristic, it’s importance, what it looks like in the classroom and how students could exhibit these behaviors. A lot of this discussion was done in the target language but we had some informal chats about what it means to be a responsible and respectable young person today.
I included these measurements at midterm in 4th Quarter. Scores were included in the grading program but NOT calculated as part of their grade; I wanted their grade to only reflect their language learning and without more administrative input, I wasn’t willing to mess with calculations. I just felt it was important to communicate to parents and students the behaviors and attitudes they exhibit in the learning environment. Most students scored “proficient” and I reserved by high marks for students that were examples. I kept a spreadsheet with me at the front of the room and would jot down observations of their skills anytime something stuck out to me. At midterm we also did self-evaluations and peer evaluations that helped me gain insight. My original intention was to do it again at the end of the term but ended up not doing it.
9. Peardeck and GimKit
I’d been hearing about PearDeck since 2014 (thanks to Maris Hawkins) and decided to dabble with it this year. I stumbled into a free Premium Trial that somehow I stretched for about 6 months. I remember the first day I made a deck and used it with my Spanish 4 class. I honestly told them–“I’m not sure about this site–let’s just see if this works”. When the bell rang, several of them told me this was a winner and they couldn’t wait to do it again.
I started it using it more and more with instruction and found I was able to receive great formative feedback, the students were engaged and honestly lessons were just more fun. Then I tried the Vocabulary Deck. Awesome! Then…I thought about the possibilities of using it as an assessment tool. I would prepare a deck that had some practice slides at the beginning that we would do together and then I turned it on to student paced mode with the students flipping through and answering questions on their own. I could export those results, use Flubaroo to grade and provide feedback and the result was a great, easy and attractive assessment. Now I’m just waiting to buy my Premium account for 2018-2019!
Another site that the students declared instant winner: GimKit. (Read more from Maris here). I had a 2 week trial of GimKit Pro and it’s another must buy for next year. I love how it’s different than Kahoot, Quizizz and Quizlet Live but still is based on my Quizlet sets. I love the assigning homework feature because it makes for great outside of class practice.
10. Alvaro Soler
We use Cantaninja in my classroom and the current playlist has 3 Alvaro Soler songs on it. I love listening to the students talk about their Soler-related accomplishments-I follow him on Instagram, I know all the words to Sofia, I figured out what El Mismo Sol is about, etc. In general, he’s just a bright spot 🙂
I like to end Spanish class not with a fiesta but with a music video. I like the kids to take a song and interpret it and make it their own. We did Aseraje, last year’s Paloma Blanca contest and this year Spanish 3 made a video for Cintura by Alvaro Soler. I used Kara Jacob’s unit for the song (another song story!) and everything about this was wonderful. The learning they accomplished was great but also the video itself is just really fun and a great digital way to always remember this group.
My only regret is that I only did the video project with Spanish 3. Should have done it with both courses again.
Which just leads me to: things I need to do differently next year! (Blog post to come)