viernes, 11 de agosto de 2017

Study Skills and Strategies: Vocabulary

The school year is just barely gearing-up in many parts of the country, or if you live in a place that doesn't start until after labor day, you have a few more weeks to enjoy summer, planning, professional development, and everything else!

As I start a new year, I always try to incorporate some basic study skills training into my classes and lessons. I firmly believe that the effort and time that I invest in the beginning of the year pays off later on!

So... one of my favorite things to tell my students, especially freshmen is to make sure that they are studying not staring!

Then we practice :)

Every day we take two or three vocabulary words from the unit and try a different method of active studying.

Here are some of my ideas.... I will probably add more in another blog post... and please feel free to share your favorite ideas too! I am always on the hunt for new things to incorporate into my lessons.



Write the word or words several times on paper (on the computer doesn't count)
Look at the word and careful say each syllable out loud-several times in an exaggerated and slow manner, then say the word as fast as possible several times
Act the word
Sing the word
Draw the word (if its a noun or if a verb is easily represented)
Act and sing the word
Write the word in the air several times-use both print and cursive
Listen to a Native speaker or near native speaker say the word and repeat after him/her several times
Use the word in a sentence (or four)
Go around the room and have every student use the same word in a different sentence (level 2+)
Think of words that sound similar and make sure that this word and its meaning are clear: example would be hombre, hombro, hombre, etc.
Quiz each other on the word



One note ** I do have my lower level students learn words in English and Spanish. My upper level students are given words in Spanish with Spanish explanations/definitions.

Ok and a final note*** my vocabulary quizzes contain a huge mix of sections, I try to keep them as Spanish based as possible so students might draw the word, label pictures, use the word in a sentence, complete sentence fill-ins...... and yes.... when I feel like giving them a break (or me) translate a word or two....although I try to avoid translation on quizzes, tests, in life, etc.

Do you teach active studying and strategies? What are your favorites!!!!???

lunes, 24 de julio de 2017

Back to School:Welcome New Teachers!!!

I love back to school time. I admit I love my summers too. Especially when they are hot, sunny, and filled with fun with the family. But, I am always excited for a new school year. Every year, in pretty much every school there will be at least one new teacher. I have been the newbie in three schools so I have a few things that I would like to talk about :).


For the Veteran Teachers!!! 

Be sure to introduce yourself. You are the comfortable one. The one who knows the ropes, the culture, expectations, etc. Don't make the new person do all the work!!!

Offer your ideas in a concrete manner to someone new in your department. Go beyond showing them the curriculum and create a space and forum to discuss lesson plans... first day... when you will try to give first assessments...etc. Remember that when your new colleague succeeds, your department, students, and you succeed.


Be receptive to your new colleagues ideas too! Get excited about their creativity, technological skills, or whatever it is they have to offer.


Ask your new colleague what they need. This simple question can make their life so much easier. Is there anything that you need?

Be a nonjudgemental presence. It is not your job to critique or judge their abilities (unless it is). Welcome them into the school and enjoy working with someone new.


For the New Teacher!!!

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Make sure that you ask the basics: Where does one make copies, obtain supplies, go to the bathroom, etc. The supply question may be particularly important when it comes to obtaining things like markers, or colored pencils, large paper (anything out of the ordinary that you might want to use).

Make sure you apologize if you make a mistake. Say thank you to those who help you. Say hello to everyone.

Don't join in on gossip or complaining. In fact, avoid these circles at all costs.

Don't hesitate to give credit to a veteran teacher who helped you. If the principal complimented your first day lesson that you co-constructed with a colleague, be sure to mention that it was a collaborative effort!

Learn the technology that the school uses. Practice with the technology until you get it right. Have back-up lesson plans in case technology fails you, but always work to incorporate technology.

Ask a veteran teacher for ideas if you are stuck on lesson planning, how to deal with a parent, how to deal with a particular student, or how to incorporate a particular topic.

Ask other teachers if they will share with you: materials, ideas, cross-curricular ideas, etc.

Be sensitive of others' time. Remember that the beginning of the school year is crazy busy for everyone. If a colleague can't help you at a particular moment, realize that they have their own commitments and obligations too.

Good luck to all and I wish for you a wonderful 2017-2018 school year! 

miércoles, 12 de abril de 2017

Managing Stations (part II)

I have decided to do a series of blog posts on stations and their management because while they can be an extremely effective lesson format, this format can also be challenging and stressful!!!!! I also recognize that if your first experience running stations didn't go as planned, it is difficult to be motivated to try them again.  So... a few more tips on stations:


1) set-up the desks in advance (if possible). Floaters!! I know you. I have been you for two years. Every class I taught occurred in a different classroom. For someone like me who likes props, this was an extreme challenge. I simply had to let go of my expectations of starting stations with the bell. I would give my students a warm-up activity, then calmly rearrange the desks while they were completing the activity. If you have a class that is used to changing desk formations, then have them help. But if you do not, I recommend simply directing five students at a time to change into the arrangement that you want (spares time and noise!!).


2) Know your stations inside and out. Know exactly what activity corresponds to which station number. When you know what students are supposed to be doing at station 2, for example, you can answer a question, even if you are assisting a student at station 4.


3) Pre-form the groups with a maximum of five students. I honestly prefer groups of three-four, but for large classes this configuration is simply unattainable. For the first times that you run stations, make the groups in advance, and carefully consider your pairings. If you really want to get fancy, save your groupings and use them to inform your next station activity.


4) Don't be afraid to insert a "silent" station. While silent might be a bit of a misnomer, I occasionally incorporate a station that doesn't actually require cooperation (gasp!). My reasoning is to give introverted students a chance to breathe, relax, and process the data without being required to interact on top of all that work. So....what are some silent stations:
               Create a pneumonic device for learning x... (remembering vocabulary, conjugating a verb, remembering irregular verbs of a tense, etc. )
              Another silent station if your school is computer or tablet based is to have students complete a quick quiz in Quia, or any of other website. complete a quick web quest on a related cultural point, have students create their own five question quiz to share with you or the class upon completion of all stations.
               Or incorporate some color therapy and have students draw a vocabulary word or verb picture, or simply color something that is pertinent to your class.


Let me know what else you want to know about stations!!! I would love to hear all about stations in your classroom.


viernes, 24 de marzo de 2017

Managing Stations

I love stations, but I know that getting a class used to station work can be a challenge. In the ideal world, the first time a class did a station activity it would go smoothly and everyone would be pleased, but in reality, just like any other new classroom activity, stations take time for students to figure-out, and it takes time for me to decide how to best manage them with any particular class. Here are some of the things that I do to manage stations:


1) Spot check/spot grade at random. I will grade or check students' station work. It is either entered in the grade book as participation or homework. If I have small classes, I will spot check a few questions from every student. If I have a large class, I will check the work of one of the group members that I select at random. Now to me the key is selecting the students' work you will grade because otherwise students who are bright, but less inclined to work with others, will show you their work for the group and nobody else will do anything.


2) Expect to have to re-explain the directions the first few times you do station work. If you have upper level students, it's ok to tell them to figure it out and travel around, but with the lower levels 7-9 a lot of time might be invested in explaining the stations again (and again :) ).


3) Plan to run stations for two days. Even if you have five ten minute stations and a fifty minute class, it is likely that when first starting stations, students will only participate in three of them due to needing new directions, traveling slowly, etc. That's ok! I find the second day of stations usually goes more smoothly, and then I have time to review answers as a class.


4) If I am running stations for two days, and I anticipate having some free time, I will encourage students' to revisit a station they found challenging, check their answers, or tidy-up their work.


What do you do to keep stations running smoothly?

viernes, 3 de febrero de 2017

Peer Observations

In my experience, peer observations can be nerve-wracking or enjoyable, collegial or competitive, a learning opportunity or an opportunity to criticize. I hope that if your school uses peer observations they are all of the first things and none of the second!

If you work at a school that is thinking about setting-up peer observations or would like to modify existing peer observations, or if you yourself would like to promote them, I encourage you to consider the following questions.

Who is the learner? Is it the person being observed or is it the observer?

What are the observations going to be used for? Are they going into a formal file?

Who will have access to the observation notes?

How many times will they be done?


I think that peer observations can be an extremely useful and beneficial tool, but I firmly believe that the answer to the first question should be the observer. The observe should be observing to learn a new technique, strategy, classroom management idea, a new way to present material, or looking for a way that more cross-curricular studies can be done. As long as the observer is the learner, most teachers welcome peer observations.

Peer observations should never be formal or evaluative. This should be left to the administrators and department heads. If department heads typically observe to evaluate, then they should observe each other.

No one but the observer and the observed teacher need to have these notes. The best way for a department head to gather information about peer observations is simply to ask during a meeting what was learned from the peer observations. What strategies are being incorporated due to peer observations.

How many times peer observations are done is really dependent on teacher availability and time. I would say no more than three formal peer observations should be done at least in the first year of a peer observation set-up.

Does your school do peer observations? What are the pros/cons? and how do your experiences align or differ from mine?

viernes, 22 de julio de 2016

Vida y Muerte en La Mara Salvatrucha: my thoughts and review

I know that many of us are trying to incorporate as many reading opportunities as possible into our lessons. My school was looking at using Vida y Muerte en La Mara Salvatrucha to replace La Gran Aventura de Alejandro in our Spanish II class. In the end, we took a year off from a longer reader, which was a difficult decision and one that I wasn't thrilled with either, but we didn't find Vida y Muerte to be the right book for our Spanish II classes. The teacher of the Spanish II Advanced class did use the book, however, and he reported that he would probably use it again.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the book (in my opinion)

Pros:
1) Tons of past tense verbs (which is one of our main grammar goals in Spanish II)
2) A high interest topic for most/many high schoolers
3) A relatable character (he talks about his first true love experience, his need for acceptance, etc)
4) Many topics (probably several dozen that could be expanded into sub-units, projects, papers, quick writing prompts, etc.
5) Many other works with themes that are relatable (music, newspaper articles, etc.)
6) A good albeit short history lesson on La Mara Salvatrucha (again this could be expanded in a number of ways)


Cons:
1) This work could be perceived as casting Spanish speakers in a negative light, and we decided that this was a problem for us since our population of students has limited contacted with Spanish speakers (this wouldn't be an issue in many parts of the country where the students are friends with Spanish speakers)
2) The book is a bit dark. My Spanish II classes consist mainly of students who are 16+, but there are a few younger students in the class (advanced 13 and 14 year olds) and I didn't feel right using it with them.
3) As with all readers made for non native speakers, some of the language seems a bit contrived.

While my pros outweigh my cons in terms of the overall book. I ultimately decided that for Spanish II this work wasn't the right one.

What do your students read in Spanish II? I am always searching for something that is not too babyish but not too dark.

lunes, 20 de abril de 2015

Group Work in the TL!

One of the biggest challenges I have is maintaining Spanish throughout an entire class period, especially if the class lesson involves group or partner work (which they all almost always do). So, I have tried a few things to keep my students speaking in the target language while doing group work.

Tickets-each student has three tickets on his/her desk. A ticket is removed if I hear the student speak English.  The best aspect of this method is it allows students to tangibly see that I am aware of their language use. The worst aspect is it makes me feel like the language police, and really I want my students to want to use the language. I don't want them to use it out of fear or shame. As a result, I personally don't find this method very effective for my teaching style. But, I am open to the idea that there are teachers out there who can pull this method off without making the students feel as though they are being policed.

Timer-I have tried having students use or speak in Spanish for a set amount of minutes. Then, after the allotted time has passed, allowing them to clarify or elaborate in English. The pros to this method is that all students can participate. The biggest con is that the reluctant speaker simply waits until the English allowed portion and then participates.

Self Evaluations- On the smart board, I project the self-evaluation prior to and during the group work. The evaluation generally looks like this:  
 /5
I spoke only Spanish = 5 points
I spoke primarily in Spanish, but I used a few English words = 4 points
I spoke in both in Spanish and English, but I was one hundred percent on task = 3 points
I spoke only English, but I was one hundred percent on task = 2 points
I spoke only English = 1 point

My students know that their self-evaluations go into the participation category of the gradebook.
This method has thus far been my favorite because it allows me to make my participation category more objective, and I find that students are generally honest. I also allow students to write me a note on the bottom of the evaluation.

How do you encourage students to maintain their use of the TL, even when doing group work?