Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth chapter 1 Reflection

We are doing a book study at RCS with the book “Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth”. It’s a very short, very readable book. I’m going to cross post my discussion board posts from the study’s Canvas page here to share out a bit more of what we’re doing.

1. If you knew you would have visitors in your class or in your building what would you address with your students before the visitors arrived?  Why not tackle that now?

I have my classroom expectations posted clearly at the front of my room. I try to review them EVERY DAY, and I model what those expectations look like. “Does it look like I am ready for class?” “Am I meeting expectations if…?” We also practice attention getters so that when they are necessary they work.

2. How do we respond to academic and behavioral mistakes differently?  Why do we have such different approaches?

I don’t think I respond to them differently. I do a lot of pedagogical research and extra reading on my own and find that the two are extremely linked. If a student is not performing well in my class, I have a conversation with them. I let students put blame on me, or I frame the discussion about what I am or am not doing to support them. It’s my belief that if a student is acting out in class, they probably got bored, or lost, or got lost because they were bored and act out because of that. I try to remediate both the same way by starting each conversation with “Am I going at a speed that is comfortable for you? Am I clarifying things when I see that you look confused?” I do then ask students if they are doing everything they can to meet expectations, and remind them that I am doing my best to do my part in the learning process and they need to do their part. I finally follow up with “What can I do to support you moving forward?”

3. What are the skills we assume students should just have, the ones we think we shouldn’t teach?

I know that every student comes from different backgrounds, so I try not to assume what skills they have.

4. Share a time with a student when “I’m proud of you” and/or “I’m sorry” helped to solidify your relationship.

My professional goal this year is to be more in touch with parents, and I’ve called quite a few parents/guardians this year to compliment their children, and maybe slip in a “we need to work on meeting class expectations”, leading with a compliment has really helped!

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Ditching Textbook =/= Ditching Curriculum

Ditching the textbook does not mean that you don’t have a curriculum. It just means that you gotta know a few things ahead of time.

What you gotta know before you ditch the textbook.

You gotta know your standards.  Or at least be really familiar with them. Textbooks DO sometimes lay out how they relate to the standards, so if you’re following the textbook you’re getting all the standards… theoretically. If you’re going to get rid of the textbook you need to know what your state/national organization expects students to know.

You gotta know what your goals are. This may look different for everyone. Maybe your goals are that students succeed on the end of course assessment. Maybe your goals are that students have mastered some kind of skill. For me, I know that I want my level 1 students to be Novice mid-High according to my national organizations proficiency guidelines. And I know that I want students to be able to talk about themselves and others in a basic yet meaningful way.

You gotta know what your assessments are. You have your goals… How are you going to know when students have met those goals? How are students going to know when they’ve met those goals? I think that when you get rid of the textbook that people need to be really good backwards planners. I know some people will disagree with that, that’s fine. I’ve seen some teachers go in without a plan every single day (either intentionally or not) and do just fine. 

You gotta know how to deal with the unexpected. Much easier said than done. With a textbook, you can meticulously plan every second of your class with ease. When you don’t have, what some might call, the crutch of a textbook, what do you do when the lesson is derailed or an activity that you thought was so great falls flat? My suggestion is to have some go-to bail out moves. Maybe you have a Kahoot or Gimkit ready to go *just in case* you need to fill time, or catch your breath. For me, it might be a quick way to turn a listening activity into a writing activity. Even the most foolproof lessons fall flat sometimes, just gotta be prepared.

You gotta know how to find resources. This is probably the toughest part. And I’m sorry, I probably don’t have a lot of real advice for teachers who don’t teach languages. We essentially have all the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. Even though it’s not my favorite thing because I there is so much to dig through, Pinterest has a lot of stuff there, and other teachers who have ditched the textbook have probably been nice enough to share what they like to use. Or Twitter, once you find the right hashtag, like for language teachers #authres to find authentic resources, you will find so many ideas to use in your classroom.

 

Ditching the textbook isn’t easy. I think, though, that it allows teachers to inject more of their personality into their lessons, and allows teachers to teach what they believe is truly necessary for students to succeed.

iFLT18 Reflection pt. 2: No one is born knowing how to manage a classroom

    Within the classroom I am pretty confident in my abilities to create engaging, meaningful language experiences. However, one of the challenges that I often face within my classroom is classroom management. Personally, I think that teacher education courses often forget about classroom management. In my undergraduate program I did take a classroom management class, but after the first few classes I felt the course did not focus much on classroom management.

    Jon Cowart, a language teacher from Memphis, Tennessee has long been an outspoken force for classroom management in language classrooms. Specifically in urban settings. Before this session, I thought that maybe I was just bad at classroom management, but Jon brought to my attention that there are outside forces at play too. Things that we do not see in the classroom can cause issues in the classroom.

    Mr. Cowart also walked participants of the presentations through some actual scenarios that can happen in the classroom. He did demonstrations how he would use the target language to positively narrate the class, providing students with more input in a non-threatening way. He said that when doing positive narration, try to avoid personal feelings, only state what you see.

    During the session, Jon also emphasized the importance of positive relationships. He shared some stories of having positive relationships with students and keeping their stakeholders involved in their education. I plan on setting aside a day, or at least half a class, a week to hold some individual conferences with students to try to better establish those relationships so that I can show them they have a positive adult role model, and to help maximize their investment in my class.

 

 

 

Some other quick tips that Jon gave us were to:

 

  • Make directions SOC(Specific, observable, concise). Jon helped us practice this, and reaffirmed that we “cannot punish students because we are unclear”.

  • positively narrate classroom actions

  • make sure that everyone is paying attention when you are giving directions

  • use the phrase “When I say go…” when giving directions allowing students to hear all of the directions before attempting to work on an assignment

  • create concise, positive instructions “No blurting” becomes “Respond when I signal you”.

  • Not redirect actions until after positive narration is done to give students one more opportunity to hear the directions

  • Positively frame consequences, eg. “I’m moving your seat so that you can learn more”

  • End hallway conversations with “What can I do to help you more?”

iFLT18 Reflection pt. 1 Dr. Krashen on the Net Hypothesis

    One of the talks that I was most looking forward to was a talk from Dr. Stephen Krashen on the Net Hypothesis and “Drop-in” language classes. Dr. Krashen started his presentation by discussing an overview of some of his foundational hypotheses such as the comprehension hypothesis, and the natural order hypothesis.

    Dr. Krashen discussed in length the natural order hypothesis and the pedagogical implications of it. The natural order hypothesis states that there is a predictable and reliable order in which constructions are acquired in a language be it in first or second language acquisition. What is sometimes misunderstood about the natural order hypothesis is that the natural order may not rely on what we believe to be simple versus complex constructions. In some cases, what are typically described in grammatical textbooks as complex. Dr. Krashen states that even though we know that there is a natural order, any type of grammatical based syllabus for a language class should not be used. By using any kind of grammatical syllabus, teachers would be under the assumption that the students learn what the teacher is currently teaching, which is simply not true. We still have to account for individual differences.

    Within the classroom, because individual differences occur, Dr. Krashen suggests that the Net Hypothesis will take care of the individual needs of students at the appropriate time. He says that if we cast a large enough “net” of input, i+1 will be available and students will acquire language. He did also reaffirm in this talk that the ‘i’ of i+1 does not necessarily stand for anything, it was just the variable he chose to use. Dr. Krashen gave a great metaphor, as is typical whenever I have seen him speak, he said that if we have a balanced diet (compelling comprehensible input) then all of the vitamins and nutrients (i+1) will be available and one does not need to worry about adding supplements to their diets.

    An issue that arose for me during this talk is that Dr. Krashen was talking about how ‘noise’ in the input, that is language that is not ready to be acquired, is fine. I did ask Dr. Krashen if he had an idea of how much ‘noise’ was appropriate in the language classroom, his response was simply ‘Let’s find out’, as though it were something that we still needed to investigate.

    In the classroom, the idea of the Net Hypothesis, especially with the background in Natural Order Hypothesis allows me to view student growth in a different way. I do still use some targeted input, so I am sure I may not be casting a large enough ‘net’ for students, but perhaps when evaluating students I will take a look at what it is that I am asking them to be able to do. Perhaps the student’s individual net is not catching all of the input yet to produce what I am asking them to produce.

    

 

Conference time!

2017-2018 was my first conference free school year since I started teaching. It was weird, but also kind of relaxing. 2018-2019 however is going to be a whirlwind and I’m starting off with iFLT in Cincinnati.

iFLT is the international Forum on Language Teaching. The conference is often held in the US. I did attend last summer, in Denver and it was AMAZING. This year, the conference is a bit closer, in Cincinnati so I’ll be driving down tomorrow to start the conference.

I am starting my week at the Coaching for Coaches workshop. We will be practicing, and discussing coaching styles to better train teachers that come to our workshops/events etc. After that We will have our first coaching session, and then I will meet with my Adult Spanish teacher team.

I am one of five teachers that will be teaching the Adult Spanish class. What is unique about iFLT is that conference attendees can go and watch real classes with real students. This is the first time that iFLT has done an “apprentice” program, so I will be paid with a Master teacher who will observe me being observed. I am so looking forward to this experience, especially because I’m wanting to start an adult Spanish class of my own.

My mornings this week will be filled with the the language labs, and then I’ll have time to go to other sessions and talks that pique my interest. But there are SO MANY OPTIONS! I think I am most looking forward to learning more about the Net Hypothesis with Dr. Stephen Krashen. I have a basic understanding of the Net (that if you give students enough input, they will have uptake in whatever they are cognitively ready for), but I think it will be a very interesting session.

While I’m at the conference, I will be working on grad school. I’m currently taking a Methods Course, and doing an experiential module(essentially, a self planned project). My EM, originally, was going to be conference attendance/reflection. But after talking with my adviser, we decided to go a different route. I will be using what I do at this conference as a basis to develop training modules for language teachers (Look for those in Spring 19).

And of course, one of the biggest reasons I am looking forward to iFLT is to hang out with my teacher tribe. It is such a rejuvenating experience to be around folks who believe the same things you believe, but who are also willing to challenge you in those beliefs.

Part of my EM will be reflections on sessions I attend so I will probably create a Master Post for that where everything will hang out.

BTW, check out all of the iFLT18 tweets here!

 

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Developing a PAT Point 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?

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?

An EduTryGuy at Heart

It is summer! The second half of this year was so much busier than I ever anticipated, and ended with some devastating tragedies. As a district, we lost two students, and a teacher within one week. On my personal social media pages I’ve done a lot of reflection on what the friendship of our Friend/Colleague Casey meant to me.

As I’m looking at EduTryGuys for the first time in a while, I see a tweet that we retweeted from Casey about him trying NearPod with his students.

That is one of the things I respected the most about Casey. He taught for 10+ years but was always willing to try something new. He was sometimes hesitant, and would text me about “How do I do this?” or text me about something he’s trying that he thought I might like.

An unfortunate reality is that sometimes, after 10 years of teaching, teachers become settled in what they’ve been doing. Although I’m sure that we all get stubborn about things we do in the classroom, we do get settled in some things, and that’s fine. But Casey always kept a very open mind about education, always striving for the best for his students, and the girls he coached.

Casey always tried, and succeeded, in making those around him feel heard and cared for. At his memorial service, I heard so many people talk about how much they cared for him, and how much he cared for them. He had such a huge heart, and put that before anything else. He put relationships before anything else. Casey has given me one more “Try”.

Try relationships. He knew that without positive relationships, whatever you’re doing in the classroom won’t reach the ones who truly need it.

I’m going to try my very best to honor Casey every day in the classroom by trying to establish such great relationships.

Casey was always supportive of this endeavor of ours, and he will always be an EduTryGuy in my eyes.

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.