Tuesday, March 31, 2015

De Vacaciones

Spring break is just around the corner! To encourage dialogue in the target language, even outside of school, I have come up with a short list of hashtags to give to my students. Last year I did a similar activity, but for a month at a time (you can see that post here). Usually, I give them a hard copy of the list and then I also post the daily hashtag and my contribution on Twitter and Instagram throughout the week.  Students then take a picture each day that represents the given hashtag.  They post a one sentence explanation in Spanish as well and then add the hashtag for the day, and our classroom hashtag.  Since we've been practicing with seasons, colors and clothing...this seems like the perfect way to review and revisit familiar vocabulary and get a little insight into where everyone is over break.

Feel free to use these in your classroom, too, or make up your own list in your target language.  I always encourage the kids to use our classroom hashtag #LMSespañol, but you could incorporate your school or program's hashtag instead.

I plan to give out prizes for students that participate.  Usually I enter their names into a drawing, draw a few winners and then get 4x4 prints made to add to my "Beyond the Classroom" bulletin board in the hallway.

Monday, March 30, 2015

What Kind of a Teacher are You?

I loved this challenge to reflect posted by Laura Sexton on her blog.  I wanted to define my teaching styles and influences in a concrete way, and I thought this was a great way to do so.

  1. I am a good teacher because:  I am a good learner.  I am curious.  I hate to be stagnant.  I revise, reflect and revise again.
  2. If I weren't a teacher I would be: A full time student. Probably getting my master's at a university abroad and never wanting to come back. 
  3. My teaching style is: Relationship-oriented.  My classroom management, my report, everything is centered on how well I get to know my students and how much they trust me.
  4. My classroom is: MESSY.  Blue walls, travel maps and pictures, papel picado, magnet manipulatives, student work, library books and magazine...learning is messy.  And I'm unorganized.
  5. My lesson plans are: In an adorable polka dot planner.  I write/plan in that over the weekends and then I transfer them to a large calendar at the front of my room and a day-by-day agenda on the marker board. Each night, I also update my Teacher Webpage.
  6. One of my teaching goals is: To grow our program to reach our elementary schools.  I want to show and convince our community how vital language learning is even BEFORE kindergarten, but especially in the primary years.  I hope I get to see the program trickle down to all grade levels. 
  7. The toughest part of teaching is:  imposing things on students that I do not personally agree with. When I know something negatively affects them or their learning of Spanish, it is hard for me to put any amount of effort into it.  I know there will always be things that we must do simply because we must do them, but for me rationale behind the duty is everything.  If it is not there, I can rarely fake it.
  8. The thing I love most about teaching is: character development.  Helping students to become better people, not just better language learners. 
  9. A common misconception about teaching is: that one should teach the way that one was taught. Times are changing. Students are changing. We must change, or become irrelevant. 
  10. The most important thing I've learned since I started teaching is: I know much less Spanish than I thought I did. I have not "arrived." I am not "accomplished." I continually have a long way to go, I just happen to be helping others come with me.
I would LOVE to hear your answers.  Share them with us!

Friday, March 20, 2015

World Language Week: Duolingo Initiative

Last year, I tried to encourage my students to dabble with the app Duolingo , especially during World Language Week.  Although not perfect, Duolingo does an excellent job of making language learning fun and addicting.  It also encourages students to practice each domain:  reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Unfortunately, not many of my students took it upon themselves to download the app on their own time and see the wide variety of language options the app had to offer.

This year, I figured they needed more of a formal introduction.  So, I got approval from my building technician to get Duolingo added on a class set of Ipads.  I also encouraged students to create an account over the weekend so they could log in immediately in class.  When they arrived, we logged in to their accounts (or created them) and I walked them through the basics of the program:  the languages they can choose from, the 3 hearts per skill, lingots, etc.  I also explained how to add friends on Duolingo and gave them my username so they could see how many points I was earning. I then encouraged them to tweet screenshots/share their level, points, and fun phrases they were learning with the hashtag #LMSwlw (Lakeview Middle School, World Language Week) and I turned them loose!  You should have HEARD my classroom as students were talking in German, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Italian, Irish, etc.  It was beautiful!  They had a lot of fun competing with each other or seeing what someone else was learning.  I listened to multiple conversations about comparing grammar to Spanish or translating a word to Spanish...L3 to L2...NOT L1!  I was so impressed by their focus for a whole class period and their repeated desire to try again once they failed.  Success!

I had multiple students speak with me at various other points throughout the week, commenting on how they "passed" me, or asking me if I had gotten to this lesson in French yet.  Students were much more willing to work on their own the rest of the week after having a class period to dedicate to getting familiar with it and getting "hooked."

So far, so good.  I am learning the importance of instilling a love of learning and an interest in all languages and cultures...not JUST Spanish.  I'd say it's working!

Friday, March 13, 2015

World Language Week: Talent Showcase Project

World Language Week was nationally celebrated this past week (March 9-15).  However, our school corporation will be celebrating this coming week (March 16-20) and I could not be more excited! Every year it seems this celebration gets bigger and bigger within our World Language Department (high school and middle school teachers).  I will be posting our schedule, events, and reflections eventually, but today I just wanted to share with you the project my students have been doing in preparation for WLW.

Thanks to one of my awesome colleagues, we started our World Language Talent Showcase project back in February.  The main objectives of this project are...

  1. Students demonstrate their talents and interests.
  2. Students teach classmates about another language or culture.
  3. Student work and projects will advertise World Language Week and the World Language Department in future years.
It began with students choosing a talent of theirs.  Some chose writing, playing an instrument, painting, creating a website or making a 3-D model.  We had a wide variety!

Then students brainstormed ways of using that talent to teach their classmates about another language or culture.  For example, students wrote a letter to a family member in Spanish, played the national anthem of Mexico, painted a Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera tribute mural in our Media Center, collected helpful links regarding sports' stars from Argentina and created a replica of a terraced farm from Peru.

Once that was decided, student chose whether their project would be in the form of a product or a presentation.  Products are going to be displayed in our Media Center all next week for others to enjoy, and presentations will be in front of our class on Thursday and Friday.

On the day we introduced the project, I handed students these guidelines.  We spent just one day researching information in the computer lab, and the remainder of the project was completed on their own time.  They created their own due dates along the way and monitored what materials they would need and when.  Two weeks before presentations were do, they submitted a one page "Content Connection" paper which justified their choice in project as vital to a language or culture in some way.  

This coming week products will be displayed in our Media Center for other teachers and classes to learn from and check out.  We will have contributions from at least 6 different Spanish classes and one Latin class.  The French and Chinese classes may contribute as well.  Late in the week, those not submitting a product will verbally present to their classmates.

I hope to learn a lot from my students, get to know them a little more in the process, and create lots of resources for future open houses and publicity of the program.  Stay tuned for more details throughout the week!

Thursday, March 12, 2015


This past Monday evening, many teachers, administrators and staff members across Warsaw Community School corporation participated in our first #WCSmission Twitter chat.  It was from 8-9pm and it was moderated by myself, a fellow teacher from an an area elementary school and our corporation PLC Coach.

About 25 adults participated, including building principals, assistant principals, elementary, middle and high school teachers, special education teachers, technology directors and even our superintendent!  It was so encouraging to learn from colleagues and to hear everyone's vision for our corporation.

I created a simple Word Document that walks through the basics of chatting on Twitter.  Here is a link to our archived chat as well, if you are interested in reading through the questions we posed and the many answers we received.

Our plan at this point is to continue every other week.  We have gotten lots of suggestions for future topics and more and more adults in our corporation have mentioned joining in future discussions.  It is so exciting to see people work together across grade levels, content areas and even languages to better our students' educational experience.

Have you considered starting a chat within your school, community or corporation?  I think you would be surprised at the number of people who still haven't tried Twitter or who haven't truly accessed all there is!  Perhaps you could be the person to open their eyes to the world of resources available.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Voice Recorder Pro

The way our current tests are set up, students step into the hallway with me to have a quick conversation for their speaking test.  It is usually between 5-8 points, and it involves the student answering a few questions I ask them in complete sentences.  While I greatly value the one-on-one conference with each of my students, the obvious downside to such an exercise involves time.  28 students X 2 minutes each X 3 classes = lots of time spent not "teaching."  I am constantly trying to come up with activities the rest of the students can be doing that are truly worth their time while I am not instructing/monitoring.  Plus, the conversation I am having with one student generally feels rushed and pressured as I am always with one ear turned towards my classroom.

I am convinced there has to be a technological advancement out there that will make this process more efficient.  This year I began experimenting with Voice Recorder Pro.  It is a free app that allows students to record their voice, play it back, alter the speed of recordings and export these files to various locations.  It has truly streamlined our speaking tests!


  1. Each student can take the speaking test at the same time, instead of waiting 2 days to speak with me.
  2. Students can listen to their own answers and learn from their mistakes and my comments instead of trying to remember what they said or how they said it by memory.
  3. The anxiety related to conversation being "put on the spot" is greatly reduced when you can think first and re-record later if necessary.
  1. Instructions took quite a bit of time the first time we used the app together.  There are many options and many different features for the students to sift through.
  2. The best option we could think of for me to hear each recording was for the students to export the file to DropBox.  But, each time, it uploaded the MP3 file along with a text coding file.  Our DropBox account had to be cleared out regularly.
  3. Each file has 2 names you can edit.  One just changes the name inside the app, but the other will change it when you export it, too.  Trial and error!
I will continue to use this app as often as is feasible while we aren't yet 1-to-1.  I anticipate it being even more helpful when students have a device in class each day.  

Friday, March 6, 2015


Thanks to my #langchat family, I was introduced to EdPuzzle a few weeks ago.  Since I have been researching flipping my classroom and simultaneously planning for our switch to 1-to-1 next year, I thought this would be a good app to get familiar with.  Here was my experience and reflection after my first assignment:


  1. The tutorial videos on their website walk you through each step of the process.  I can normally figure tech-stuff out on my own as I go, but having these videos to refer to was really helpful.
  2. Their customer service is unlike anything I have experienced before!  When I tweeted a question/comment, they responded almost immediately.  When our school filter blocked something, they gave us a possible solution. They were ON it!
  3. The data you receive from your student's submissions is incredibly detailed.  You can see how many times they viewed each segment.  You can see class averages.  You can see a question by question break down with individual students listed by the level of reinforcement they need.  You can easily export the report to Excel for printing or other manipulation.
  4. Students do not need an email address to create an account.  This is just one more way of eliminating unnecessary steps in the process.  They can easily login via their Google account, or they can opt out and create a separate account.  So nice.
  1. Without being 1-to-1 yet, I had to guarantee lots of notice for my students without internet access to be able to complete the assignment.  After a 5 days' heads up...I still had students in each class that didn't even view the video.  Not exactly "flipping" a class!
  2. It was more challenging than I expected to find a video I wanted to manipulate in the first place.
  3. Our school security filters currently block YouTube which means EdPuzzle does not function properly on student devices if I get my video from YouTube.  (They did say a future upgrade will fix this problem, though.)
For my first video, I chose an advertisement for Mexico City.  The speaker speaks quite fast and uses words that my students are unfamiliar with, so I did small voice overs in certain spots to make it more comprehensible.  I also included 3 multiple choice questions based on current vocab and grammar structures. Students were challenged but they were not intimidated.  The class average was above 80% on each of the 3 questions.

Overall, this app was something I really enjoyed experimenting with.  I am already plotting my next assignment for the coming weeks.  I took our first assignment as simply a completion grade (which I never do!) so that students could familiarize themselves with the program.  I look forward to when they are confident with it and we can utilize it to its fullest potential!