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Developing a PAT system

I have tried an failed over the years to incorporate a PAT(Preferred Activity Time) point system.

In brief, a PAT point system awards a class with points to earn some sort of prize.

I’ve tried giving points for staying in the Target Language, but that ended up being too much running back and forth with a timer, sometimes felt subjective, and wasted my time when I had to keep resetting the timer.

I know some people work wonderfully with a timer, but it just wasn’t my thing. I decided I needed to take a look at my class expectations, and see how I could reward students for meeting and exceeding those expectations.

These are the expectations that I hold students to, and potential for points in meeting/exceeding these expectations.

  1. Listen and read with the intent to understand, and let me know when I’m not being clear.
    A few different point possibilities here. I’m thinking 3 points when I ask a whole class question and get a partial response, and 5 points when I ask a whole class question and get a (what sounds like) full class response. And although I probably wouldn’t announce it because I don’t want it to be taken advantage of, but when a student asks a GREAT question, or stops me because I’m going too quickly or said something incomprehensible (they use my stop signal, fist in hand) I’d probably give like 10 points because that is SO important as a language learner to be able to say ‘hey, I want to be able to understand you, let’s try again’.
  2. Be free from potential distractions such as side conversations, cell phones, other technology.
    My admin bought be this pocket chart. I’m going to establish a routine for students to put their phones in the pocket chart (I give students numbers alphabetically for when they turn in on-paper work, and for my popsicle sticks for cold-calling, they will use this number for their phones) OR put their phone on a charger at the front of the room. Each phone is worth 1 point. Honestly… might need to put smart watches up too… yay technology!
  3. Sit up with clear laps, look like you’re paying attention.
    I’m not sure how I would reward this one, tbh, it’s such a basic skill, but it is CRUCIAL.
  4. Be respectful of peers, teachers, and the classroom.
    If I see something great, reward it, and praise it. Probably be willing to give like 2/3 points for this.
  5. Push yourself to respond in Spanish, act it out, draw it out, use words you already know.
    If a student feels comfortable enough (which is my goal!) to try to output I’m going to praise them like none other! Give a sticker, a high five, call home, whatever is appropriate, but make a big deal about it in front of everyone. 10 points!

So there are some of the things I give points for. Now… how many points are they shooting for and what happens when they get those points?

When I test drove this point system in the last few weeks of class, we were shooting for 100 points by the end of class Thursday. That seemed pretty reasonable. If my classes are 25 students and each student puts up a phone every day, voila! Maybe I’ll up it, I’m not sure.

So 100 points earned students 10 minutes of a preferred activity at the end of class Friday. I think maybe an additional minute for every 10 points after 100.

So I’ve done, outdoor time, dance party, a game, a movie (I know 10 minutes of a movie doesn’t seem like long, but they know they can earn extra class points). I’m still working on compiling more rewards though. A friend of mine suggested something that *I* do, like sing a song in front of the class, dance in front of the class… or something. I’m not sure. What do you all do for PAT?

Cultural interaction!

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about it in detail or not, but I’m currently working on my Master’s through Michigan State. Currently I’m taking a class on teaching culture in the language classroom. We’ve covered some challenging concepts, and I’ve had to think a lot about the preconceived notions I have of people that I never even noticed before, it’s been an eye opening experience for sure.

The most interesting things we’ve done thus far in the course, though, is create cultural activities for our classroom. We’ve based our activities on the activities found in THIS book. It’s a little pricey, but there are SO MANY GREAT ACTIVITIES! One of the best things about the book is that all of the activities are applicable to any language!

The first activity that I designed was meant to meet the Investigate portion of the intercultural I Can statements from NCSSFL-ACTFL. In that activity, students listened to one of my friends from Costa Rica describe some of his childhood games, as well as read a facebook conversation between him and me. They then listed the games that he talked about, investigated one of the games on their own, and drew on comparisons to games that they have played in their childhood. That activity definitely needs some more fleshing out, but it is definitely on the right track.

My second, and most recent activity design focuses on the Interact portion of the I Can statements, specifically the “language” subsection. This part has always tripped me up when assessing students. I had a gross misunderstanding of what “interact in a culturally appropriate way” meant. Then it dawned on me… we use rejoinders all the time in class. Those are culturally appropriate phrases! I can get students to interact in a culturally appropriate way!

Now, I use rejoinders almost every day. I try to work them into story-asking, readings, PQA, I don’t know why I had never thought of doing it during MovieTalk! Or at least… not the way that I did it for this cultural activity.

This could be done with anything in a CI classroom I suppose, but it added some novelty and some great reasons to get repetitions of phrases.

Each student gets three rejoinders (they could be a variation of however many you’d like, I had enough different ones to give each student three different rejoinder cards).

Teacher makes a statement, clarifies, circles, whatever you do to make sure students KNOW what you just said.

Teacher asks students to look at their rejoinders and find an appropriate phrase to say after the statement the teacher just made. Take a look at a few of the options students give you. Really though, take a poor choice to show students that not all rejoinders fit everywhere.

For example, I had made the statement “The man falls down the stairs” and asked students an appropriate response, a few of the suggestions were “How funny” “Poor thing” then I took “Not worth it” as well. I restated the statement and asked students to vote on what they thought was the most appropriate rejoinder. I mentioned that “no vale la pena” does not make sense there, and that they understood my statement because they knew that wasn’t the appropriate response.

Then I began reviewing past statements. I made a few statements and asked what an appropriate response would be. I think that this was giving them repetition of the language, AND it was showing me their comprehension.

What I would change next time I do this though, is I would personalize the statements I make more, because I think it could be really funny, and give extra repetition of language.

My next step is to review the movie talk that we did with still images and a short reading. Students will then WRITE in the rejoinders where appropriate.

Finally I’ll do a short speaking re-tell of the video where students are in groups of three, one student retells the story with help from images, another student attempts to use rejoinders while their partner re-tells, and then the third student makes a tally for each rejoinder the second student uses.

My assessment for this is NOT necessarily language production. I WANT the student doing the re-tell to do well, but what I am mostly aiming for is for students to begin TRYING to use culturally appropriate phrases at appropriate times.

My Plan B

I got a lot of inspiration from Martina Bex’s Plan B to do my own Plan B. But I also had to think about a lot to make sure that Plan B was still doing SOMETHING for students.

I gotta give it to Martina, Plan B is a LOT of work. But I think I have something that could be a fairly simple plan B *IF* you already have a story script.

I’m not sure I can necessarily share the actual document because I used one of Anne Matava’s scripts from her new book and I want to respect her hard work. So *eventually* I will come up with something that people take as is.

The gist of my plan B plan is this:

1. Have a story script already written out.
2. Give students a glossary of any new words they might encounter (or just need refresher on).
3. Write statements in English, students copy a sentence from the story that supports the statement (what up DOK).
4. The beauty of story scripts is that the body of the story pretty much repeats itself, so I went ahead and numbered the “location” paragraphs. Students choose one of the location paragraphs to translate to English.
5. Students choose a location paragraph that they did not choose for step 4 and do a horizontal conjugation (however you might do that, mine is from 3rd to 1st person).

Hopefully this will spur some ideas on what to do if you need to switch from your usual lesson plans and need your students to do some independent work while also getting some CI.

When the wild GooseChase pays off

So many ideas are running through my head!

I was introduced to GooseChaseEDU by the wonderful Leslie Philips of our Indiana TCI collaboration group back in December. I thought that it looked interesting when Leslie told us about it, but I hadn’t gotten around to actually trying it in class.

But, Y’all. It was so much fun! My Spanish 1 class needed some motivation to start diving into Spanish, and I think this was the ticket. I’m working on a story about aches and pains and working towards Señor Wooly’s “me duele”. I introduced the structures “me duele, me siento, and me receta” I know, “Me receta” is low frequency, BUT I’m using it so that I can also teach the song “Ay Doctor” by Jesse y Joy as part of my “Cuánto me duele” story.

Anywho. I needed to review body parts, and wanted to start exposing them to different forms of the structures. So while I was circling some practice sentences to start to get a feel for the new structures, I inserted some TPR for body parts, and brain breaks. Yay backwards planning, the body parts I TPR’d are the body parts from “Me Duele” by Señor Wooly. After we finished up our practice sentences I instructed students to form no more than 5 groups (because I have the free version of GooseChase currently and it only allows 5 teams per game). Students downloaded the GooseChase app on one phone per group, and they got to it.

GooseChase has two types of Missions. Photo/Video missions where students submit a, you guessed it, photo or video to show evidence of completion, or text missions where they respond via text. I stuck with the photo/video missions. All of the missions were along the lines of “me duele la cabeza” or “No puedo caminar, me duelen las piernas”. Something that made them THINK about body parts AND see new vocab in context. Lemme tell y’all. We have some funny kids. Students had 8 missions to complete in about 20 minutes, it got pretty loud but they were having so much fun I think it was ok. With about 10 minutes or so left we went back to the prompts and reviewed all of the pictures that students submitted (btw, the pictures upload relatively quickly to the activity feed, so you can show the pictures to the students as they come in) and then I circled the phrases more. “Oh, en esta foto A Rickie le duele la cabeza, le duele la cabeza o le duelen las piernas, etc.” It was definitely a great spin on traditional PQA.  AND we reviewed the pictures by mission, picked the best one from each mission, and the team with the best/most creative/funniest picture got some extra points.

I’m going to try it with Spanish two later this week to review a legend. The prompts will be short sentences from the legend, and I’m going to ask that they re-enact the scene, though the video limit is a bit short so I’ll have to be selective with my scenes. I think this could be a nice addition to Readers Theatre.

I also think that there could be some input processing á la BVP with the prompts. Depending on WHO the subject of the prompt is could determine who takes the picture. For example, if the subject is “I” the picture should be a selfie, if it’s “we” EVERYONE in the group should be in the picture, etc. I’m not sure how one would do ‘you’ unless they had a finger pointing at someone, but they might be able to do it with a video as well.

Go try it, it’s a lot of fun, and gives a LOT of opportunities for good repetitions that include your students as the focal point of input!

Other uses in the language class:

  • Preview a story (we’re previewing a legend with some of the sentences that will show up in the legend)
  • Use as an activity during Embedded Reading, during one of the early (short) versions.
  • Review a story (á la All the worlds a stage Scroll down a bit there’s a description)
  • Students take pictures of “practice sentences” with new vocab. This gives you SO MANY opportunities to circle the structures with each groups picture. And because each picture is different, there are other things you can add in to Picture Talk each photo.


Ok, so I’ve been playing around with this idea of mixing the idea of Dictogloss with MovieTalk to make a “cooperative” activity.

But what’s Dictogloss?

Dictogloss is a focus on form activity that goes something like this:

1. Teacher reads a short passage, about 200 words or so, to the students at a slower than usual pace.
2. Students take (or don’t take, teacher preference) notes on what they hear.
3. Teacher reads the passage again, students can take notes again.
4. Students pair up and try to reconstruct the entire text from their notes.
5. Teacher then projects, or passes out the original text
6. Students can then compare their reconstructed text to the original text.

It does invoke explicit knowledge, BUT students are getting input as they hear the text read aloud and they are trying to process meaning in order to correctly reconstruct the text.

So how am I trying this with MovieTalk?

Well, I’m currently in the middle of a VERY long MovieTalk, it might take a few days to get through the screenshots. So what I’m trying to do is use “Dictogloss” as a review. So I go through my MovieTalk at my normal pace, but then review the screenshots relatively quickly after I feel that students are comprehending well.

After the review, I asked students to pair up, and write anything and everything they could about the part of the video that we had already gone over.

usually have a script already written out for a MovieTalk, but in using it as an exit ticket, we can review what they write at the beginning of next class after I type up what I said for the MovieTalk.

FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) in my class

I have been building my library for a few years. Spending my own money, little by little accumulating more books. I did a Donors Choose project over the summer to add 44 new books to my library, and it was a great success! I now have over 100 books in total, about 50 or so different titles.

I started off pretty early in the year in Spanish 2 doing Book Speed dating.  Students spent 2 1/2 minutes with each book. One minute to write the title, and read the back of the book to see if it was interesting to them, then a minute and a half to try to read the first few pages to see if they were able to read the book. Then they moved on. In a class period, given distractions and managerial work, I think we got through 10 books each. Over time we did more speed dating. Students still haven’t gotten to review each book, but that’s ok.

I also show students THIS presentation, and have a discussion (in English) about how easy reading needs to be in order for us to be able to make inferences, and learn new words. We then talk about their experience as readers (I really recommend Readicide).I tell them the reading needs to be: Interesting enough so that you want to continue reading, or easy enough so that you can feel successful, but hopefully both.

The very first time that I asked students to do FVR I gave them the instructions that Bryce Hedstrom gives. “Five people at the library at a time, find a book, if you’re not sure what you want to read, grab a few different books. If you have trash hold on to it until we’re done. If you think you might need kleenex, grab some before we start reading. We are focusing on reading, not pretending to read”.

That day we read for five minutes, and it flew by! Most students said that it wasn’t enough time. I was in awe. That was a Monday. On a MONDAY students were willing to try something new (read a book in Spanish), and said it wasn’t enough time. I decided then, on Wednesday to try reading again. I ask students how long they want to read for, most said 10 minutes, so we did just that! Students read for 10 minutes, and it was so peaceful and quiet, and I could see them focusing on trying to make sense of the words on the pages of the books.

As my students read, I read in French. On reading days (we’ve been doing MWF for 10 minutes) it’s the first thing that we do after the bell ringer because i want to show students that it’s a priority to me. Today, actually, I almost forgot and we started to move on, but I stopped what I was doing so that we could go back and read, pointing out to students that it is a priority for me.

The research is inconclusive on how many exposures to a word we need before we acquire it. Some studies have shown 8 exposures allows us to recognize the words, but as far as how many exposures we need to be able to produce the words we don’t really know. There is no magic number. We can’t say “I’m going to give my students 154 exposures to the word and they’ll be able to use it, but if I only get 150 they won’t be able to”.

After reading we have a little meta discussion on reading. Because I’m learning French through reading, I tell students what is going on in my head, I tell them any new words I learned (or maybe “I learned the word for Drink, but I don’t think I can say it yet”), and ask them if they learned any new words, and if they feel they can use any of those new words yet.

Reading has been going great! I’ve even seen some words from what they’re reading show up in quick writes! Words that I’ve not used, they just picked them up.

I do have one student reading Crepúsculo (Twilight), and she’s really invested in it. I allow her to use a dictionary while she reads, thus invoking the input load hypothesis (Hulstijn and Laufer, 2001). I’m especially interested to see how acquisition of vocabulary works with this student as she defines the need, search, and evaluation of what she’s reading.


Horizontal Conjugation in Textivate!

O.M.G.! I love using Horizontal Conjugations. I think that they are a great way to let students give a little bit of output, but is still very structured. I’ve been doing a lot of “horizontal conjugation” while doing special person interviews by asking students what the other student would say about themselves. So students have heard the first person a lot, and now I want them to start trying some (very structured) output.

I started off by typing the 1st person version as the main text, note that I selected first person forms for the user defined gap activities.Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 11.58.00 AM.png

Then I typed the third person version in the extra text box.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 11.58.16 AM.png

So when students goto start doing activities with the text they get something that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 11.59.20 AM.png

They get the third person text to reference as they reconstruct the text in the first person.

I did preempt the horizontal conjugation with textivate activities with JUST the third person version and the English translation for support. Check out the sequence HERE.


You’re ALL special people!

I FINALLY started doing Special Person interviews regularly.

I’m doing them with Spanish 1 because as a department we agreed we want semester 1 to focus on students being able to talk about themselves. Special Person interviews are SUPER easy for that.

The questions we’ve been focusing on in Spanish 1 are basically the first page of THIS document from Bryce. My process through one question in level 1 goes something like this:

T: What’s your name?
S: Justin
T: Class! His name is Justin! (I hold up a quotation bubble I have on a stick, to signify that what I’m saying is what the student would say)
T (as student): My name is Justin.
T: Class, does he say “My name is Justin, or his name is Justin?”
Class: My name is Justin!
T: Right! “My name is Justin”

After circling a couple questions, I go back to the class.

T: Class, (In English) What are some things we can say about this person so far?

This gives students the opportunity to output IF they feel they are ready. Any time a student says something REMOTELY correct, I try to praise them (I’ve been slacking on this one… oops), then I make sure I restate it correctly. Then I move on…

T: Class, (In English, again) What are some things he could say about himself?

Once again, this is voluntary, I do not force output. If no one can come up with anything I review what he would say by putting my quotation bubble on a stick up and speak for the student.

After we get comfortable with those question (aka, once students start answering me in full sentences when they are the interviewee because they feel confident) I move a little quicker and add another question to the mix. I always love the “do you have an animal” question because we LOVE animals!

Not only have I been doing special person in Spanish 1, but I’ve been doing it in Spanish 2 as well. It started off the same, using the first page of questions, gradually adding more questions, and moving through practiced questions quicker.

Today I started introducing some first person past tense. So I asked the first “get to know you” questions and then moved on to “What did you do after school yesterday?” For Spanish, that mostly means use of the preterite (which is a focus for Spanish 2).

So I follow the same procedure as before. Ask a question, answer question, say what the student would say, ask students to talk about the person, and ask students to say what the interviewee would say then with Spanish 2 I’ve added in the question “Who could use these words to tell me about what THEY did after school yesterday?”

Anyway, one of my high fliers (who often gets bored because she thinks I spend too long on a single story) said that even though the process was similar, interviews are interesting enough to keep going.

So if you haven’t tried special person yet, I suggest trying it! Even if it’s for 5 minutes (although I’ve only been getting through like… one person MAYBE 2 people in a class period with additional things that I do in class.

Happy inputting!