Thursday, March 24, 2016

Teach by Video

¡Buenas noches a todos!

I QUICKLY wanted to share a great resource with you tonight.  I know many of us have tomorrow off because it is Good Friday, and for some that will start Spring Break, too.  Perhaps over your long weekend and/or break you could check out this website and see how it could benefit your students.

Introducing:  Language By Video!  This website has a tab labeled "Countries."  From there, you can click on any Spanish speaking country and pull up a list of videos (sorted by Spanish level) that people from that country have made.  For example, I used this video when I met with my class who was preparing to go to the Dominican Republic and knew from past trips that conversations in the markets were challenging.  The video is extremely short and is conducted completely in the target language.  Out to the side, they have a transcript in English and in Spanish of what is being said.

Overall, I think this website provides a lot of videos I hadn't found on YouTube that show authentic, country specific language being used in a variety of contexts.  Other than that, I have been a bit disappointed in the other resources (or lack thereof), but I think experienced teachers can come up with ways to use these videos as the basis for discussion, as a quick warm-up or intro, or even as a homework assignment after a lesson.

Take a look and let me know what you think! 

Friday, March 11, 2016

World Language Week: Polyglots (and what they can teach us!)

Today is the FINAL day of the week set aside to celebrate World Languages. I hope you have sparked some enthusiasm in your students, your coworkers and throughout your sphere of influence:  Languages ARE influence.  Languages are power.  Languages are connections and communication and change.

Here is my last suggestion for celebrating languages (yes, MORE than just Spanish) in your classroom:

Introduce your students to the AMAZING reality of polyglots!

If you hadn't heard the term before, polyglots are individuals that can communicate in multiple languages (often used to describe people who know more than SIX).  In the most incredible cases, these individuals know more than 12 and are called hyperpolyglots.  Yeah, #mindblown.

This can be a really fascinating discovery for your students that value competition, records, trivia and hold themselves to high expectations or like to be known for something they can do that no one else can (um, hello every middle school student ever).  Here are some fun resources you can use to wow your students with the perfect representative for this week of celebration:  The Polyglot.

  • This article gives basic information on what a polyglot and hyperpolyglot really is, as well as lists some amazing, living examples.
  • This blog post includes 5 mini-interviews with polyglots where they share language learning myths, their favorite technique to learn a new language and things they wish they would have known when they started their journey.
  • Tim Doner began teaching himself languages when he was 13!  Here is a video in which he demonstrates many different languages, and here is a Ted-Talk where he discusses the issues in our school system when it comes to language education and gives us many ideas of how to improve it:

  • And this final video is of a young boy,Ravi, from India who uses an AMAZING amount of languages to sell things on the street. Genius.
I love the intrigue that discussing individuals such as polyglots bring to our class.  It's amazing! It astounds us!  We immediately think of how difficult just one or two languages has been for us, and we think How in the world did they do it?!  This is a great place for your language learners to be:  curious, motivated, and challenged.

How did you celebrate this week?  Please reach out and tell me; I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

World Language Week: Coworkers & Administrators

When you are taking on an endeavor to promote awareness of your program,  it helps to have HELP.  Some of you are blessed with entire departments of teachers in your language and possibly multiple other languages;  they should be every bit as passionate about this week as you are!  Delegate, brainstorm, and as soon as this week is over...start dreaming of an even better next year!

However, some of you are a courageous department of one.  You PLC with no one.  You swap resources online with whoever you can reach out to.  Ideas and initiative fall to you alone.

Whichever boat you are in, there are ways of utilizing and equipping those around you to support you.  But, there is a strategy to doing so.

Getting Volunteers:
I have had success getting donations of time, food and materials when I have asked well in advance.  For example, my cultural breakfast always involved TONS of helpers, even outside of our language department.  I suggest choosing carefully and specifically here:  Don't send out a broad email of "help if you can!"  Rather, email (or better yet, visit in person) specific people that you think would be good for a specific job.  Keep it simple, keep it cheap and keep it focused on the STUDENTS that will benefit because of it.  Also:  it helps if you are known for returning the favor later on.

Involving Administration:
Each building is different, and each administrator has their own preferences on how involved they like to be.  However, in my experience it can't hurt to inform and invite.  I sent out handwritten or emailed invites to any activities we were doing throughout the day, including project presentations in class.  If they come, thank them.  Engage them with students so they can see the learning taking place and the value that your program has in the lives of your students.  Take pictures of them interacting and print them to send with a thank you note in a week!

Other Teachers:
Don't assume that because someone teaches Math or Choir, they haven't had international travel experience.  I found out (quite to my surprise!) that nearly 20 teachers in my building had studied abroad, gone on missions trips, taken vacations or studied a foreign language in another country.  They had amazing stories of cultural misunderstanding, language bloopers and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that they were eager to share with students.  I compiled them via email and made them into a scavenger hunt of sorts.  Instead, you could video interview them during their preps and play them for your class throughout the week.  Or, you could just orally read off statements about them and have students try to predict who you are describing.  Another idea might be to have a map and paste teacher's pictures close to the country they have traveled to.  The more people you can incorporate the more that students can realize these opportunities are for EVERYONE.  Plus, who doesn't like reliving a crazy story from their youth?! :)

Regardless of how many people you do or do not get involved this year, make sure to go out of your way to thank them for their level of involvement.  I love picture thank-you cards so they can hang on walls and sit on desks for the following year, reminding the recipient of a great memory.  Have a running Google Doc of people who were involved and people you would like to include in the future.  Next year, it will make your planning process easier!  In fact, include all kinds of ideas and comments there so you don't have to start from the beginning all over again next time.

These quick summaries don't even mention the world that is the staff at your school, parent volunteers, area schools, social media and the immense amount of communication that all play important roles as well.  Don't limit yourself.  You might be surprised by the way the right question at the right time can yield a huge reward for you.  Reach out!

Who knows?! You might end up with a nice little video crew like my high school did...see the genius I came into?!  I truly deserve little to no credit for any success of our program.  Take a look-see:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

World Language Week: Celebrities & Languages

For the third day of World Language Week 2016, I wanted to point you in the direction of some great Youtube videos to play in class this week.  What makes them great?  They include some famous actors, actresses, singers and professional athletes speaking a variety of foreign languages.  In my experience, many students were familiar with the people...and very surprised at what was coming out of their mouths!

And, just for an example of something we want to avoid...Selena Gomez speaking English in a Spanish interview about how important the Hispanic culture is to her...*face palm*

Last year, I enjoyed playing clips of these videos in class and having the students then say who the person was and what language they thought they heard (I would cover up anything that gave that information away).  Then, we discussed why these people would spend the time and energy learning a foreign language and how it helped them in their career. 

Try them for a few minutes in your classroom and see if students who typically aren't as engaged, lean in a bit when someone they know is on the screen.  For another way to get your students invested in your class, ask them to find a different video of a celebrity speaking a foreign language and bring it in to the class with an explanation of why that language helped that celebrity.

**Fair warning, I only showed a minute or two of each video, so I cannot vouch that 100% of the video is school appropriate.  Please view all videos before showing them to your students.  Always **

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

World Language Week: Decorate!

Happy Tuesday!  Yesterday I shared some resources for bringing language besides Spanish into your Spanish classroom.  Crazy, I know.  But when we're celebrating World Language Week 2016, we want to open our students' minds even wider to the array of possibilities that languages offer.  Today, I want to focus on ways you can make your classroom, hallway, and surrounding areas feature and teach languages all throughout the year, but especially this week.

I've narrowed it down to 5 pins that I have loved having in my classroom because of the conversations they bring up, the color and interest they add, and the topics they feature.

As you look through this list, I encourage you to click on the links, print out the infographic/picture and then display it around your room on colored construction paper, or even make a large banner of it at your local Staples.
  1. Rosetta Stone created a great infographic that shows the "Business Risk of Language Barriers."  This can get your students thinking about how languages might make them more marketable in the coming years!
  2. This pin helps categorize languages into groups of "Easy, Medium and Hard" to learn for English speakers based on the amount of hours required to gain proficiency, and the similarities or differences in the alphabet and grammatical structures as they relate to English.
  3. Encourage your students to be bilingual (or trilingual!) with this information about how much more money languages can earn you compared to your peers who know just one language.
  4. This might inspire your students to become the "Perfect Language Learner!"

5. And this picture has twenty reasons to study language.  It is interesting to have students discuss which word motivates them the most!

Perhaps you could print off these pins, (or ones like them) and lay them on random desks as students enter.  As they observe and make comments, scaffold their focus.  Or, you could utilize your document camera or project them so you don't have to print them initially.  Come up with ways to draw students' attention to them by asking specific questions.  My favorite routine is to place them in "high traffic" areas of my classroom:  by the pencil sharpener, by the recycling bin, by the tissue box, etc so that students have the best chance of noticing them throughout the day.  Tape them to your door!  Hand them on fishing line from your ceiling!  Peak their curiosity and teach them something new even when you're not instructing.

Do you have go-to decorations you love in your classroom?  Share them with us by commenting and linking them below!  

Monday, March 7, 2016

World Language Week: Spanish Opens Doors!

Today is the first day of World Language Week 2016!  To help celebrate this week, I am committing to blogging once a day for 5 days...and giving away something free to help you teach the importance of languages!  Make sure to check out my resources throughout the week, comment with some of your own, and pass on the love of languages to each student that walks through your doors.

When I was younger I thought I wanted to know French.  I dabbled a bit, and then I stopped.  Spanish was so much more prevalent in my school, so I just switched over.  I FELL IN LOVE.  I couldn't get enough of Spanish and I never wanted to stop.  Other languages really held no appeal to me:  I just wanted to know Spanish. I knew college classmates trying two or three or five languages at a time, and I just didn't see the point.  Spanish intrigued me.  Spain intrigued me.  End of story.

Imagine my surprise, when three years later as a Spanish teacher in a local high school, I find myself in a professional collaboration with Chinese, Latin, German, and French teachers as well.  The disinterest melted away quickly when I realized how much we had in common:  we were misunderstood, undervalued and put on the back burner while other core subjects seemed to get priority.  We tried to get students outside themselves to see a bigger need in the world around them.  We tried to relay the experiences we had traveling thousands of miles away to students who hadn't left our county.  I quickly realized something I never expected:  If you teach any language, you advocate for all languages.

So, this week, I want to lead a charge for Spanish teachers to embrace, highlight and celebrate other languages.  Stop competing for numbers, and start encouraging students to explore other options in addition to Spanish, not in place of.  Here's one way you can do this:

Teach your students 1 new word a day in a language other than Spanish.

Not random words, however, Words that they can know because of their background knowledge in Spanish.  We often highlight English to Spanish cognates, but do we teach our students how many other languages have Spanish-look-alike vocabulary?  Their English will only get them so far, but once they have learned Spanish, dozens more doors swing wide open in their path.

Here is a handout of 5 new words to teach your students this week.  They include a word in French, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Romanian.  At the end of the handout there are the definitions, the Spanish words I would use to connect them, and a link to a native speaker pronouncing them for you.

Here's how I would use it in class:
  • Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of class passing out the flashcards to each student and learning and repeating pronunciation together.
  • Place ALL English words on the board (all definitions from the week mixed on one slide) and ask students to guess.  The idea here is that English alone is not enough knowledge to help.
  • Take down the English translations and place the Spanish words for the week on the board (RESIST the urge to translate back to English!).   Students should now be able to narrow down which one matches.
  • Have students draw a small picture, write the Spanish translation, etc on their flashcard and save in a pocket of their binder.
  • Each day, review the words you have already learned, and then add to it with a totally new language!
  • Allow students to make observations about differences in letter sounds in Spanish and the other languages. Engage in deeper conversations about a time abroad when your Spanish helped you learn another language or translate (I always talk about when I was in Rome and negotiated prices, got a taxi, purchased food, etc without speaking the same language...I spoke Spanish, they spoke Italian and we understood!)
You could even follow it up with videos like this one, that show the similarities between Spanish and Arabic (or other languages).  I loved to encourage my native speakers to pursue a third or fourth language instead of staying bilingual.  I rave about how French teachers have mentioned that native Spanish speakers have the best French pronunciation.  Open their minds to the possibilities beyond just your classroom. 

Let me know if you use it!  Or, think of other language and vocabulary that Spanish has helped you learn.  Pass this knowledge along to your students this week in an effort to not only show them how vital Spanish is for their future, but also to show them what else they can do because of it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

World Language Week: Cultural Breakfast

This year, World Language Week is being celebrated from March 7-13.  Maybe you didn't even know it existed?  Me neither just four short years ago.  But our department truly embraced this opportunity to show students how vibrant and vital languages can be in our world.  Read more about our activities, competitions and projects to get ideas for your school!

One of our most popular traditions in the World Languages Department is DEFINITELY our Cultural Breakfast.  It takes a lot of work in planning, but if you delegate well and promote it like crazy, it is definitely worth every minute and cent you put into it.  It can boost the notoriety of your program, but more importantly it can also be a unique way to expose students to authentic foods and customs.

We picked Thursday morning, March 19, last year.  We asked teachers, staff members, community members and parents to contribute anything they could.  We raved to the students about how delicious it would be. And then...we shopped and cooked and baked and decorated!

The main objective:  Introduce students to breakfast foods and customs around the world.  To do so, we asked each language teacher to contribute something from their target language/culture.  In addition, we reached out to teachers who travel frequently, ESL teachers, and our social studies teachers who incorporate a lot of cultural information into their classes.  Many hands make light work, as the saying goes, and without so many helpers there is NO feasible way to do this.  Some volunteered to purchase store bought items, some asked local restaurants to donate in exchange for advertisements and some cooked up their concoctions on their own time.  For those who aren't so handy in the kitchen...we also asked for plates, cups, silverware, napkins, water, hot chocolate packets and people to help serve.  Everyone can help!

The menu over the past three years has included the following items:  tortilla española, French baguettes with jam or nutella, Chinese assorted breads, Chinese noodle salad, clatites, naranjas preparadas, French quiches, Peruvian parfaits, Mexican chilaquiles con huevos, churros, magdalenas, pan dulce, Chinese dumplings, taquitos, doughnuts, biscotti, Indian doughnut holes, Indian chickpea bread, arroz con leche, and more.  To drink we normally provide water, orange juice or hot chocolate.  The items are labeled with names and the culture they are from.  We have also learned it is much easier to have the teachers serve the items so we can control the portions initially. Plus, it gives us a great opportunity to greet the students in our target languages!

Here are some logistical tips, from someone who has learned the hard way more than once:
  1. Plan ahead. Like months. Email and check in person to follow up.  We meet face to face once ahead of time just to triple check.
  2. Publicize!! Get it in school emails, over the morning announcements and show videos like these two (2nd video has "a*s at 2:03 but is generally unrecognized because of everything else that is going on)in the days leading up to it in class.  The more students have friends going, the more students will show up.  So get them excited!
  3. Know people in your building who can help.  Our head custodian provides large serving tables, extension cords/surge protectors and extra trashcans.  Our cafeteria manager provides hot water carafes, chaffing dishes and a case of individual sized orange juice cups. Two teachers who have connecting rooms let us use their space to eat/serve.  Many times the resources to help you are there, you just need to know who to contact.
  4. Have students sign up in advance.  To limit numbers, we require students to get rides before school (not ride the bus).  We also have them sign up and receive a sticker for the back of their ID card so that they can get in the door on the morning of.  We have even played around with the idea of charging students and collecting it for our World Language Club budget or to give to a local charity, but we haven't done so yet.  The bottom line is your teachers and community members need to know if they are making food for 15 students or 200.
  5. Have adults serve. Have adults mingle. Have adults. Lots. Period. 
  6. We don't infringe on class time.  That would do more harm than good for our department.  But if you are, make sure first period teachers know that ahead of time.  We tell students to get there with enough time to eat and get to class on time. (Our school day starts at 7:35 so breakfast is served at 7:00am)
  7. Prepare a simple slideshow to have in the background as students are eating.  We have trivia questions about breakfast traditions/foods around the world as well as how to say "Good morning", "Breakfast" and "Delicious" in each language. You can even turn on some authentic music!
  8. Have "Thank You" signs in all represented languages and take pictures of students holding those signs and stuffing their faces.  Then, print cheap "Thank You notes" and distribute to servers, cooks, and support staff.
  9. Apply for grants.  You can get teachers and staff reimbursed for their contributions to your meal...that might make you even more likely to get more volunteers in the future.
  10. Invite the big wigs!  Have your administration and Central Office staff come and see what your program does for students.  They love free food, and you might love the publicity!
  11. Take pictures. Post them on your school webpage, give them to your yearbook editor, put them on your class Instagram and save them for publicizing for the next year.

You might be thinking:  It's way too late to plan something for next week, Maestra! Agreed. Don't do that.  But it's not too late to organize something small for the last part of the month.  Your school can adapt to create its own World Language Week at a time that doesn't interfere with standardized testing.   This year, I am helping out at the high school's breakfast that will be taking place March 30.  I'll be posting pictures and reflections after that!

Do you do something similar at your school?  If not, what would you bring?