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)

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)

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:  
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?

jueves, 7 de agosto de 2014

Getting Back into It!

After a wonderful summer spent with family, moving, and finding new jobs, I am back to blogging! Are you ready for the beginning of school?! I must admit that every time at this year I feel a million different things. I am nostalgic for the peace and quiet summer evenings, looking at a sunset, waking up slowly and enjoying a cup of coffee while doing nothing (well almost nothing :), and a great excitement to see who will come through my classroom doors this year, experience how much the kiddos will inspire me, and the general excitement that learning and teaching with a purpose can bring! How do you feel?

As I mentioned above, I have been in the process of moving, so it will be a bit of time before I am fully up and running, but I hope that you bear with me. Here are some things that I am hoping to set-up in the next few weeks:
-Task Cards! I began using task cards at the end of last year, and I loved them! I will be posting a blog in the future on how to use them, but in the meantime, I am hoping to put a small sample for free on my TPT store. I will put the whole preterit/imperfect set up for sale too!

-More organized pinterest boards! I am hoping to reorganize my pinterest boards, eliminate the boards that are just products and really focus on boards that I find useful in my teaching.

- New elementary units. I am presently working on a new elementary unit that should also be up in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, be sure to read through my back to school check-lists from last year. I can't wait to see what this school year will bring! Also, feel free to post about your back to school prep in the comments :)

lunes, 12 de mayo de 2014

What is your ideal Exam?

So, I have been a rather vocal proponent of trying to make the traditional paper/pencil exam at my school into an assessment that is more authentic. While my school is unwilling to stray from the two hour traditional format, one of my colleagues asked me what my ideal exam would look like. My answer is not one hundred percent formed, and it would need to be scaled to fit each class level,  but here are the elements that I would like to see included in my (more) ideal final exam.

- Students would create a planned speaking presentation that incorporated two of the themes that we had studied (I would create some prompts to help them get started, and most of my classes have studied between 6-10 themes)

-Students would write a paragraph on one of the themes that we have studied (Again, I would design relevant prompts)

- Students would read two different articles on two different themes and respond to the questions.

- Students would dialogue with another student about a predetermined topic, but without a script or notes.

- Students would spontaneously speak (in the computer lab) without a script or notes on a theme that was not told to them ahead of time.

- Students would listen to an audio text or view a video clip and write or speak a response.

- Students would write, listen, or speak about an element of culture that we had covered throughout the year.

While I have purposefully left my ideal exam a bit vague, I acknowledge that there would be some challenges to creating and using this sort of an exam.: Time (all of my students take their traditional paper/pencil exam on the same day at the same time), Perceived subjectivity by parents and students, Rubric (would need to be highly specific about length, grammar requirements, etc.)

Here to me are the advantages: student can show their ability to use the language, students have some choice in what their exam looks like, this exam would ideally be more reflective of the way the students are being taught.

Is a final exam required at your school? What is your ideal exam?