martes, 2 de enero de 2018

Are Your Speaking Prompts Sensitive to Your Learners?

Like most teachers/people, I used to ask my students what they were going to do over the holiday break. I believed it to be an innocuous question. However, one day as I was walking into the school, I asked one of my eighth graders what she was going to do over break, and her response was both heartbreaking and a wake-up call. She simply looked at me and said, "the adults will sit around and get drunk and I will look forward to school starting." I suddenly realized how cruel it is to use  the question prompt: what will you do during the holiday break? This prompt is problematic for two main reasons, it is insensitive to students whose home lives might be difficult already, and it often highlights income disparities between the students.

Instead, I have started asking questions such as, "What was the most fun thing you did over break?", "What was one thing you enjoyed about your break?", Who were the people you got to see over break?". While these questions aren't perfect (and I welcome other suggestions!!!!!), they at least give students who don't travel or have adults who spend time with them, the opportunity to give an answer. Seeing a movie might have been the best thing, or sleeping, or playing video games, listening to music, etc. Yes, these questions can still highlight income and home-life disparities, but I feel like every student can think of something they enjoyed at some moment.

Happy teaching in 2018!!!!!

P.S. If you haven't checked-out my free New Year's Resolution activity, look for it in my TPT store!!!!

viernes, 25 de agosto de 2017

Estatuas: A Vocabulary Activity

So since I wrote about vocabulary and teaching active learning strategies for vocabulary in my last blog post, I decided I will share one of my favorite vocabulary activities with you.

What you need: Your vocabulary list cut into strips so there is only one word per strip (or make index cards, etc.) This activity words best with nouns and verbs, although some other words can work if your students are creative :)

Cooperative students ;)

White boards (or a piece of paper, or a tablet)

White board markers (regular markers or fingers to write on tablet..)

For the lower levels: more than one card with the same word is fine!

How it works:
1) Give 2/3 of the class an index card with a word on it. Have them spread around the classroom and become a statue that represents that word. No moving!!!!

2) Place a white board next to all of the statues

3) Give the remaining students a white board marker, and send them on a statue tour.

4) The students write the vocabulary word that is being represented on the white board. They receive no feedback from the statue.

5) Review the statues and the whiteboards. This can be done as a second tour or using photos that you take and project.

6) Shuffle the vocabulary cards, and the students, erase the white boards and repeat!!!!

**please note any and all photos that I take in my classroom are immediately deleted from any personal device. I am extremely careful in the use of photos and student privacy. If you choose to use photos, make sure you know your school's policy.

For upper level students: Do the above activity with a twist.

Instead of writing just the vocabulary word on the white board, I tell them that if the vocabulary word that is being represented is already on the white board, then it is their job to write a synonym or another word the effectively describes the statue.

You can also have them write antonyms if you want to change things up!

*** As with any activity*** quit while you are ahead. Don't wait until the students are tired of the activity before you move on. Do something else while they are still having fun. I say three rounds max. One or two is probably best. Use this and all activities as part of your tool box :)

The students can also complete the above activities using sentences in order to practice the words in context: lower level students each write a different sentence which incorporates the same vocabulary word, and upper level students write their own creative sentences with synonyms.

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?