Classroom Jobs in the Foreign Language Classroom


When I used to use Classcraft, I loved that I created a beginning routine to each class. For a variety of reasons (mostly because I didn’t want to kill its novelty) I had to find a way to copy that feeling into my other courses. I needed a way to begin class and build structures roles. Inspired by the work of Bryce Hedstrom, I investigated the power of classroom jobs.

I’ve done classroom jobs for two years now and I don’t see myself going back. With them, my class has a structured, quick beginning and predetermined classroom responsibilities. I tinker with the number of jobs and the different roles occasionally. Here is what I currently have:

Paper-passer-outer: this person is the busiest most weeks. This person passes out all materials and passes back any completed work I have. It’s nice to have a person I just hand things to so that I can focus on talking and engaging the students in our lesson objectives versus doing clerical work.

Attendance: this is not the official class attendance, as I still do that through our online system but I keep a binder in the back of the room with rosters. The attendance taker marks anyone who is absent and reports that info to me. It’s helpful and it keeps the students accountable for each other. We’re a small school, so many times kids know who is absent already because the student was missing in an earlier class. It’s faster to have them just tell me.

Pledge Leader: we begin each class with the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. It’s routine and short and requires standing and speaking. I will never argue with those objectives. The pledge leader is instructed to say get the student’s attention and starting the pledge as soon as the bell rings. This gives me a quick minute to gather myself from greeting the students in the hallway to diving into our objective of the day.

Trash Person: often an underutilized person but I keep the job “just in case”. This person reorganizes desks and chairs and keeps the floor clear of debris.

Social Media Rep: sometimes I hand my phone or other device over to student (trust!) and give them access to our class social media accounts (double trust!). I really never worry; since I know who has it at what time, I know who I would punish if necessary. Some kids wish to document nothing. Some are clever and better at using social media to promote what we are doing better than me. I’d like to do even more with Instagram or Snapchat in the future. I have some ideas so stay tuned. (Check out my post on using social media in the classroom)

Timekeeper: paving my lessons is something I am working on. I’m often too fast and jam too much into a day. The timekeeper is a way to monitor myself. I review the agenda at the beginning of class and tell the timekeeper to “let me know when we have x minutes left” or “if we’re not doing this by ____o clock, stop me”. I noticed that even though I’ve always written our agenda on the board, the emergence of the timekeeper really makes the students aware of our daily activities. They usually check to see what we will be doing now. Also the timekeeper just helps remind me what time class ends. We have shortened classes on Wednesday and you think by know I would know what those times are, but you’d be wrong.

Cantaninja: I like the power of the Cantaninja. I like assigning it to a specific person too. Read more about the power of Cantaninja here.

Judge: this person is second in command. They make choices, lead others, run activities, etc. They are the “final answer” if the group has to decide anything. I like that this person isn’t always my best student; in fact it’s usually better when they are a student that typically doesn’t engage. The role requires engagement, so if you are assigned to that role, you have no choice but to be a part of the action.

IMG_2607
I use popsicle sticks with student’s names to mark who has which job. Every two weeks I rotate the sticks and add new ones in. The sticks are color coded with the classes.

I randomly rotate the jobs every two weeks. One week seemed too short and caused more chaos and confusion. Two weeks in a role feels good. At the end of two weeks, students get “paid”. I use a punch card reward system where students need to earn 10 punches to redeem a reward.

Some students are overly ambitious about their jobs and some are less so. The overall balance is good though. Sometimes the Cantaninja refuses to use their power (or the judge vetoes the use of their power) because they hate Cantaninja. The class deals with it. Sometimes the Cantaninja only plays “Soy Yo” for two straight weeks. The class deals with it.

Overall the jobs create an engaging environment that is different than most other high school classrooms. It helps build a community because different roles must, at a minimum, acknowledge others. It lessens my workload during class a bit and also keeps me efficient.

Read more about classroom jobs from Bryce Hedstrom.

Advertisements

Instagram & SnapChat to Share Information


I go through phases with this blog but I’m really trying to focus on it more in 2018. But this blog is not the only way I’m using technology to reach out, connect and share information with other teachers and parents.

I’ve had a SnapChat account for a few years. I used to use it as an alternative to turning in assignments traditionally. I have less of a focus on assignments today but still use the application to receive things from the students. Today, I mostly use SnapChat to communicate and share events that happen in class. I take videos and pictures, caption in and add it to our story. Sometimes it’s things I want the students to know and sometimes it’s just sharing what is happening in the room. I’m happy that parents are connected with it and interact with me too. They have commented that they enjoy seeing their child in class and what they are doing. Recently I took video of a student during his most recent speaking presentation and sent it to his mom, which she really enjoyed. You are welcome to check out our SnapChat @espanoldhs.

During the past few months I’ve done a lot of work surrounding George Couros and Innovator’s Mindset. (Highly recommend the blog for anyone interested in 21st century learning and innovation in education) He had prompted the use of social media sites like Instagram so I decided to revisit it and see if I could maximize it’s power. I’ve really enjoyed using Instagram this year to share and document things that the students are doing.

You may want to follow or check out the Instagram for quick activity summaries of things we are doing in class. I sometimes find it easier to just take a few quick pictures and caption what is happening versus writing a traditional blog entry.

One thing I’ve been doing this year with Instagram is highlighting students or groups that I am proud of. I began the year by just posting images but (again) after listening to George Couros, decided it would be powerful to actually record me actually confronting the student(s) and telling them that I am proud of them. It’s highly uncomfortable for me but it’s been a valuable experience.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 12.15.44 PM.png
Watch the video post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BbUtly7hzSZ/

I have the Instagram setup to auto post on Twitter as well (using IFTTT). I still use Twitter (@espanoldhs) too but I focus my during-the-day activity on Snap and Insta. I’m so happy for the connections I’ve built using these applications and look forward to all the possibilities ahead.

Maravilla: Wonder Projects in the Foreign Language Classroom


Prompted by a post by John Spencer, I knew I wanted to end 2017 in an engaging way. In my Spanish 2 classes, I had the perfect opportunity to have a week and a half open for a Wonder Week/Genius Hour type activity. All semester I’ve been focused on creating authentic opportunities for students to be creators and architects of their own learning. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to execute it. In fact, I had back up Spanish 2 lesson plans sketched out because I didn’t know if this was going to go anywhere.

Now that I’m staring at the results and reflecting on the process, I can share with you our journey and how valuable a time it was.

Una Semana de Maravilla: The Journey of Wonder Week

Day One: Curiosities

I had spent a lot of time looking through Laura Sexton’s reflections on Genius Hour and felt that the the most important part was to do a strong introduction and hook to generate some ideas and spark passion. Based on some of Laura’s prompts and our own unit on entertainment we just finished, I created a PearDeck where the students had to DRAW their responses to some questions. I only have them 3 minutes and then we discussed (and circled with PQA) some of the student responses. We got some good repetition and a fun discussion.

As I started to slide into the investigation project, we watched a TED talk and a few other clips I had seen from a PL class I took with George Curous. The idea here was to show them possibilities that young people can do and to inspire them.

I gave students a brainstorming sheet with some sentence starters that we would refer to for the next week. Their brainstorming assignment was in English and I wanted them to think of three topics or categories that interest them and think of questions that they have about each of these topics.

This was a very full Day One. If I had it to do over again, I would split it into two days. The CI we got from the PearDeck was super valuable and I could have spent a class period on that alone—-probably should have. I definitely cut us off short so that I could intro the brainstorming.

Day Two: Questions

I brought us back on Day Two with a pep talk from Kid President on changing the world. They somewhat laughed at my suggestion that they could change the world but couldn’t argue when I said it was possible.

Around the room I had 10-12 large posters with topics written on them: Art, Technology, Sports, Human Relationships etc. Then I gave them 10 minutes to walk around and write and brainstorm questions they can related to these topics. At first they weren’t sure but seeing other people’s questions on different posters really launched them into thinking of more questions. I had two empty posters with no category and students were encouraged to think of questions that wouldn’t fall into any category there too. By the time my three classes were done, they generated nearly 180 questions on a wide variety of topics.

We discussed how all learning begins with questioning. Their task today was to think of something they want to investigate and come up with THREE questions they are curious to know the answers how.

Foreign language confession: at this point I break from the target language. The questioning done today and the investigation to follow is all in English. Perhaps a breach of FL “best practice” but I shifted my focus to general “learning” for this portion of the project and would pick up FL for the reflections at the end.

Students submitted their three (or more!) questions to me in classroom and I responded by asking at least 3 more questions related to their questions. This was 1) my attempt to guide some students that I knew were going to get stuck, 2) expand the focus of students looking only for basic information and 3) show my natural curiosity in their investigation.

Their homework was to #neverstoplearning about their topic for the next 48 hours. They would ask me questions about “How should we answers? Do you want us to write things down?” and my answer was the same: I want you to learn for the next 48 hours. Whatever that means to you—-just never stop learning. If you think you are done—you are not. Keep investigating for 48 hours. Some did not like this response but it was one of the most valuable things I think I did to encourage them in their investigations.

Day Three & Four: Investigation

I was gone on a professional day so students had freedom to explore and learn. While I wasn’t in the classroom, they were sharing their insights with me through classroom. I asked them to fill me in on the process and this was a rewarding day. To hear from them during the inquiry process was great. There were a lot of discoveries and surprises and I was eager to wrap this up with them and let them share their learning.

Day Five: Yo Tengo Maravilla Presentation

Welcome back to the target language! Remember those sentence starters and phrases I introduced a while back. Well, today it was time to put those into practice. We had a quick informal sharing of our topic information in the target language and then I shared a presentation template with the students.

Based on their research, I wanted them to generate a list of 10 vocabulary words associated with their learning, one phrase that shares their wondering, one phrase of what they learned and one personal reflection about the project and/or their learning. Within the presentation they could also use English for supportive details and extra information.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was a great guide and I’m happy with the FL tie-in. It is not much but my goal is to increase their familiarity with these reflective phrase starters so this was a good way to accomplish that. The vocabulary I thought was important and it had two unforeseen benefits. One, we had a discussion about proper use of translators and dictionaries and how to use them. I said that obviously they were going to need to look things up but wanted them to do so responsibly. This gave me the opportunity to teach them how to do this.

Secondly, I was surprised how the personal vocabulary really helped the students build their own skills. The day before break we did a non-wonder-week related game about our “Palabra Más Impresionante” (the vocab word we are most impressed that we know) and a few students used these vocabulary words as their example. And they were words that I didn’t know (I’m not up to date on my fishing and lure terminology) but these kids were able to use the vocabulary correctly. Very impressive moment for me.

Final Day: Sharing

We were up against a holiday break but I know that it’s important for the students to share their information. I wanted this to be shared with other teachers since it is such a cross-curriculum activity, so I had them record their investigative experience in English in a FlipGrid.

Hear our learning here!

I love FlipGrid because you get to hear the reflections of the students in their own words. You can reply and share with a global audience. All learning should be shared with a global audience and I’m happy to share ours with you. If you have a moment, please listen to what they learned and share feedback.

If I were to do it again, I would do something bigger as a sharing component. I wanted to do a gallery walk in Spanish with those presentations and maybe a small group IPA/speed dating activity.

I think that I will do something similar again at the end of the year or maybe 3rd Quarter and then I’ll be able to use some more of these ideas. In the meantime I’m really grateful that I didn’t have to resort to my back up plans and instead had an engaging and meaningful end of 2017 with my Spanish 2 class.

Differentiated Communication Tasks


Among the internet’s greatest resources for language teachers interested in comprehensible input is Laura Sexton. Her blog PBL in the TL has given me a lot of inspiration. My recent implementation of PUEDOS stems from a blog she wrote

I started using PUEDOS at the beginning of my Spanish 2, 3 and 4 classes the past two weeks. Now I can sit back and reflect on their power and feel encouraged about the potential for increased communication happening student-to-student in the classroom. Students are given a sheet with 10 communication tasks; varying in complexity and skill. I appreciated the template for these proficiency tasks provided by AATSPSC keynote speaker Alanna Breen and used this to help me develop communication tasks related to the content and skills I was trying to develop within our units.

Puedos

I allot the first 5 to 8 minutes of class for 5 consecutive days for the completion of PUEDOS. The goal is to prove that you can do as many different communication tasks as possible (Puedo hacerlo). Each student must get a classmate to assess whether or not they can do the task. I asked the students to be critical and helpful and to really be sure that the student could complete the task confidently before signing off.

During PUEDO time, students interact with each other in the target language; listening, responding and helping each other successfully complete communication tasks. I would also float around the room, listening and occasionally assessing a student’s ability to complete a task as well.

After five days I collected the sheets to see how the students did. When I collected them, I would spot check and ask students to complete a task that they had indicated that they could do. This helped keep them accountable for the learning and also cautioned classmates to be honest in their assessments of each other. If they didn’t feel confident that Riley could do it when I asked him–don’t tell him that he can do it (No, lo siento no puedes).

I loved using this at the beginning of class because it just blasted the room with a sea of Spanish sounds and communication and helped set the tone for an enriching and engaging experience. Since each student could only sign off twice on a paper, it forced interaction between students that normally don’t interact. The repetitive nature of it was nice and it allowed for a lot of individualization. Certain students were stronger in some of the tasks than in others and benefited from hearing, or “testing”, another student. I also was able to witness great examples of collaborative learning and students helping each other out. One girl told a student that she didn’t think he could do it yet and then followed up with a great explanation of why and suggestions of how he could improve and practice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For Spanish 2 and 3, I did use these PUEDOS as a general summative assessment in interpersonal communication. I don’t know if I always will but I did for our first implementation. I love the fact that I can customize these tasks to address Unit specific objectives or extensions. Spanish 3 recently completed PUEDOS while working on the first half of “La Llorona de Mazatlan” by Katie Baker and some of the PUEDO tasks really helped comprehension and connection of the material.

I look forward to more engaging communication tasks like this and am so proud of my students and their ability to communicate with each other on a daily basis.

Read Laura Sexton’s Blog on Differentiated Social Warm-ups here.

Quizlet Live to Introduce a Chapter


Some of my best teaching moments come from spur of the moment ideas and adjustments. Today I was introducing Chapter 2 of La Llorona de Mazatlan and felt that I needed something that included more CI and opportunities for comprehension.

I frontloaded 8 key phrases and vocabulary words and used them to talk about myself. We circled and created unique phrases with these vocabulary phrases.

Then we moved into Quizlet Live. I created a set of phrases copied from Chapter 2 of the novel. During the Quizlet Live game, students had to read and select the correct ending for the sentences. It was not an easy task and required a lot of reading comprehension and discussion of probable statements that could make sense. The activity took a little while but by the time we finally had a winner, students had previewed several key statements and moments from the Chapter we were about to read.Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.03.44 AM

After the game, we made predictions about what would happen in Chapter 2 based on the phrases they remembered from the Quizlet Live game.

Overall I felt very good about the level of comprehension we achieved today in a short time. Doing something like this to preview the material in the chapter was beneficial and I need to think of ways to continue to do this more in the future.

Inspiring Pages with Adobe Spark


I’ve always thought it was important for teacher’s to have a web presence in a society that is saturated with technology. It always made sense to me that if I can order a pizza on my computer, my students and parents should be able to find out of their education on a computer.

Now there are great learning management systems like Google Classroom, Canvas and Schoology that let teachers share and receive information immediately with students. Everything is just a click away. Miss class? “Check Google Classroom” How can I turn this in to you? “Check Google Classroom”. There are even parent/”shadow” options on these so parents can see every educational transaction as it’s happening too. Plus almost every district has online grade books where parents can check grades and contact teachers through email.

I had a pretty good website. It didn’t require a lot of updating throughout the year, gave an extensive amount of information and looked not too shabby. But it wasn’t a high traffic area. Not often visited by anyone. Why was that? I deduced that it generally was not needed. My lesson plans were easy to find elsewhere. People who wanted to contact me already knew how to do that. Anyone that had questions about policies and procedures would rather just email and ask than click and read.

I maintain, however, that it is important for a teacher to have a web presence.  So I went small-scale and created a one page “hello” website about my Spanish class. Gives info, biography and has links to syllabi but otherwise it’s just some showcase photos.

I love Adobe Spark. Like, love it. It’s incredibly easy to put together a beautiful “web” presentation. I’ve used it only once before with my students but would really like to make the effort to use it more often. Just have to find the right inspiration.

I recommend you play around with Adobe Spark and think about how you can incorporate it into your world. It took me about 1 1/2 to create my new web presence with Adobe Spark and I think it’ll do the trick for a 2017 tech-saavy educational world.

Mrs. Huff's Spanish

(link)

Also check out my TPT store between June 28-Jul 1 2017 for a 20% off everything sale. I’m working on adding new resources and welcome feedback and suggestions.

My Store

Redesigned Syllabus for 2017-2018


Each year I tinker and improve the class syllabus I give to my Spanish students. I’ve gone extremely detailed and very visual. This year I’ve really focused on: What is the information I need to make sure my students and parents know?

During the last school year I made a change to standards based grading on a 4 point scale. I communicated expectations and explained that to everyone last year but felt that same information was worth clarifying in this year’s syllabus as well.

This year’s version of my syllabus was created on Canva. I like the way that it looks and the practicality of being able to download it as a PDF. Makes it easy to send and easy to print if need be. It’s not as flashy or interactive as my Thinglink syllabus of 2015 but I’m ok with that. After the first day, I’m quite certain no one went back to those Thinglink links anyway.

The key to creating any syllabus is being very clear about your course and your expectations. Does anyone else love redesigning syllabi as much as me?

 

 

 

Cantaninja


There is a great episode of The Office where manager Michael Scott stops all activity in the office for a designated period of time on Monday for a mental break where the staff watches a movie. His boss questions him on this later:

Jan: How would a movie increase productivity, Michael? How on earth would it do that?
Michael: People work faster after.
Jan: Magically.
Michael: No, they have to, to make up for the time they lost, watching the movie

It’s a popular belief that taking a break to do something frivolous cannot lead to increased productivity. I experimented with something called Cantaninja in my Spanish 2 classes during the 4th Quarter of school and I think Michael Scott would approve.

Cantaninja is an idea I came across reading a (wonderfully helpful and insightful) blog by Martina Bex. She describes a class incentive program and an earned privilege where the students can stop time and demand a Spanish song be played.

To begin, I created a playlist of Spanish songs that I thought my students would be intrigued by. My Cantaninja playlist is ever evolving–I’m constantly adding and subtracting songs based on what I find, what seems appropriate, what the students are “in to” and what units we are studying.

Cantaninja is one of the assigned jobs students have in my Spanish class. One student is the assigned Cantaninja for a two week period. This designated student could attack class at any time by yelling out “CANTANINJA!”. At that moment, all activity in the class must stop and the class must watch a music video of the Cantaninja’s choosing (from the playlist).

Here are the rules of Cantaninja:

  1. Cantaninja cannot be used during the last 5 minutes of class
  2. No activity can be done during Cantaninja time (no work, no computer, no talking, etc)
  3. Only one Cantaninja per class per day
  4. Cantaninja cannot be used to skip a planned activity (if we’re supposed to have a quiz, we’re still having the quiz)

The short little breaks actually did increase productivity–both for me and my students. I had to be more mindful of how I planned and structured my class because I never knew when (or if) a Cantaninja attack was coming. I had to be very organized so I wasn’t left standing there at the end of the hour with things left undone. Preparing for the possibility of a Cantaninja attack helped me be more mindful of the lessons I had planned–what was critical to do, what could we do without, what I can do if I need more time because there was no Cantaninja attack.

The productivity effect on my students was also interesting. There were some days when there was no Cantaninja attack because the Cantaninja felt it was more important just to keep to the regularly scheduled lesson. When there was a Cantaninja attack, students accepted that this was there time to take a break and then when work time rolled around, they were more apt to work then rather than find ways to waste time and mentally check out. Normally, as the teacher, I had 100% control over the agenda of the day. With Cantaninja, I relinquished control to the class through one individual. This individual had the power to adjust our class agenda for the day.

I liked noting when students would initiate Cantaninja. There was one particular time where all three sections called out for Cantaninja during the same point in my lesson (and the class cheered with relief). This was a cue to me that this particular activity  was not enjoyable.

Sometimes students would confer with one another. “When should I yell Cantaninja?” “Do we want to do one today?” Watching them discuss and reason when and why and if they should take a break was fascinating. Some designated Cantaninjas listened to the class, some didn’t. Some rarely called for an attack, some jumped at the opportunity within the first minute of class. The variety added an exciting variable to the class that I think helped make it more engaging.

Let’s not forget that this is a language classroom and the goal is to, you know, learn the Spanish language! While on it’s face Cantaninja is just a nice brain break, it was also a way for me to expose my students to popular artists and Spanish music. At first, students would bombard me with questions about what everything meant. After awhile, the questions stopped and I think they just started appreciating the music–realizing that learning a language isn’t all about translating everything word for word. But they did pick up words and phrases from the songs (Thanks J.Lo and Prince Royce). After one class watched Tengo Tu Love I had two students mocking how “basic” that song was. I questioned what they meant and one said, “I’m pretty sure a beginning Spanish 1 student could understand those lyrics. They obviously didn’t try hard to write a good song”. They continued to pick on the song and I just returned to my seat proudly thinking “Wow, they recognized the simplicity of the lyrics! They understood what it meant!”.

12050897333_be52220d42_zOther reflections:

  • Many students have downloaded music because of Cantaninja. It’s fun to listen to the brag about how much they’ve listened to Sophia Reyes or Juanes or CD9.
  • Students recognized that “this Wisin guy” collaborates in a lot of different videos. “He must be really good”.
  • I’ve loved Enrique Iglesias for quite some time so I liked the ability to bring his music to the class. But Cantaninja also gave me the opportunity to introduce these kids to Ricky Martin. Although “Livin la Vida Loca” is mostly in English, I maintain it has important cultural significance. It wasn’t that long ago that Latin music exploded into the pop chart (Holla 1998!) but that was still before these kids were born. Imagine being born in a world that doesn’t know Ricky Martin? I cannot live with that. Cantaninja has selfishly been a way for me to revisit my high school music self.

Re-Branding: Meaningful Ed


My school year ended yesterday. I’m celebrating my first day of summer vacation by returning to this blog. It’s been awhile.

I used to blog to share ideas. Then I wrote to reflect on what I was doing. In my blogging hiatus, I’ve done a lot of professional growing. I reached that magical milestone of 10 years of experience, looked around my classroom and thought “am I doing what I need to be doing”? I finally feel smart enough to realize that in order to be better teacher, I need to be asking better questions about my teaching. This blog seems like a fitting platform to ask those questions and continue this journey.

The new name for the blog is “Meaningful Ed”. I need my students to be engaged in the content inside and outside the classroom. Content and delivery must be meaningful to them if it’s going to stand a chance up against basketball games, teen dramas and Snapchat. My goal and my focus is to make education meaningful. Hopefully this blog shares that focus.

The name has a slight personal twist to it as well. My son is almost two and is at that stage where he is learning so much every day right in front of my eyes. It’s so amazing to watch that much learning happening so obviously and joyously. He is helping me realize how incredible learning is. And his name is Edward, or Eddie. Or Meaningful Ed.

A Day in the Life of Classcraft . . . .


6:00 AM Wake-up and check email. Two students completed a Classcraft Quest for XP. Go into Classcraft and award those students XP.

7:40 AM Arrive at school. Award Prestige AP points.

*I have two students that surpassed Level 18 so they have reached “Prestige” status,

which means they earn an additional 5 AP everyday. I have to put these in manually.

9:00 AM 2nd Hour Spanish 3 class begins.

9:01 AM Generate a Random Event in Classcraft and do whatever it says.

9:02 AM Go about today’s lesson plan.

During the class period, I deduct HP when applicable (when students need to charge their computer, have their cell phone out, act disrespectfully, etc)

I also award XP when applicable (finish task early, win a game, help a student, etc.)

9:40 AM We have a test tomorrow. If students want to use any collaborative powers, they should plan accordingly.  If students have time, they go in and use collaborative powers or strategize with their tribe mates.

9:42 AM Dismiss class

1:10 PM Repeat process with 6th Hour Spanish 3 class.

3:10 PM School dismissed

8:00 PM Students continually work on additional (optional) XP Quests on their own time and I look at those when I can

Occasionally . . .

  • Once every two weeks I give some kind of in class assignment to be completed in groups. This assignment does not take the entire class period and students are encouraged to work on “craft” related things during time