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.

Observe, Support, Grow

In my PLCs we do a lot of teacher coaching. I was trained as a coach last year at iFLT (International Forum for Language Teaching) in Denver. It was a great experience, and I’ll be going to the training again this summer when iFLT is held in Cincinnati.

Basically our set up is: One teacher, one coach, a row of chairs for ‘students'(other teachers usually) and a row of observers. Teachers teach, students are the most perfect angels that they can be and are focused on learning, and the observers watch the teacher interact with the students.

If you ask any teacher coach they’ll tell you that the person who gains the most out of a coaching session isn’t the teacher, it’s not even the students. It’s the observers. During our debriefing we ask the questions: “how did the teacher connect with students? How did they make language comprehensible?” In our coaching model we focus solely on the positive. The teacher already knows what didn’t work while they were teaching, and the observers aren’t going to take anything to their classroom that they thought the teacher did poorly.

Our goal is to get this brave teacher, who got in front of (unknown) peers and taught, to keep doing the great things they are already doing. As teachers we typically critique ourselves pretty harshly, and we tend to focus on that. Having an outside person tell you what you are doing well is such a revitalizing experience.

Recently we’ve even taken to writing “love letters” to the teachers who demo. One of the observers will write down all the things that the other participants say. It’s a nice little thing to keep in your desk and look at when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

So what’s my point in all this? Have an open door policy. Let your colleagues observe you, and go observe your colleagues. Let them know what they are doing great so that we can get everyone working on doing more of the great things they are already doing.

Book Discussion: Social by Matthew D. Lieberman

I’ve been reading the book Social by Matthew D. Lieberman. It is a book recommended by the great Bryce Hedstrom. I’ve had the book on my bookshelf for a while and decided to dive back into it. General thoughts are that it is an enjoyable, easy read with a lot of anecdotal, and scientific evidence on the importances of being social. Though Social isn’t necessarily about the classroom it gives a lot of food for thought in how we should treat our students, and how we should expect our students to treat each other.

Part 1: Beginnings

The first chapter of the first book starts off with brief discussion of the author’s grandparents and how after his grandfather died, the fun-loving and energetic part of his grandmother died. 

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.

Teaching Interculturally in All Classes

I don’t know how many Culture-Related posts I’ll make but this is the first of a few.

We live in a global society, almost every aspect of our lives have some international connection. Whether students realize it or not, they are part of something bigger than their own communities, and will be more so in the not too distant future.

With the advent of the internet and the interconnectedness that is at our fingertips, students can tweet at people in Ireland, like instagram posts from China, view snaps on Snapchat from anywhere in the world, connect with people from Australia on Facebook, the possibilities are endless! But I believe that we have an obligation, as educators, to show students how to properly interact with other cultures.

BUT I DON’T KNOW ABOUT OTHER CULTURES. That’s fine, it’s a learning experience for you too!

In Language classes, it’s easy to introduce students to other cultures because it’s one of our standards. ACTFL, the American Counsel for Teachers of Foreign Languages, has recently updated their I CANstatements on interculturality, which I believe could be useful in any classroom if you are trying to move to teaching interculturally appropriate lessons.

I’m currently taking a Teaching Culture class in my grad program through MSU so this is just something I’ve had on my mind. One of the books that we have for the course is Intercultural Language Activities by John Corbett. What I LOVE about this book is that all of the lessons are in English and can be done with minimal prep. For language teachers it is a little more work because we then have to find language-appropriate resources, but for other contents you could use them as is because you wouldn’t necessarily have a “Target Culture” that you’re aiming for like a language class might.

In a language class we might focus on culture from a specific country, in a sociology class however, a teacher might focus on generational cultural differences. I think that is particularly important nowadays with the perceived gaps between Babyboomers, and millennials or Generation Xers and Generation Zers (is that a thing? I don’t know.) Not only could a teacher do an activity that requires students to reflect on their own culture, but will challenge their opinions on others by assessing the perspectives, the why’s of a culture.

A lot of the activities in the book could be easily transferred to an English class, or social studies class, but because I often try to think of how my activities can be transferred to Science or Math I’m going to try to adapt some of the activities for bringing culture to Math and Science.

For Science, teachers could pull in the cultural perspectives of Famous Scientists like in Corbett’s “Five Most Famous…” Students begin by listing famous people from their own culture as well as selecting another culture to investigate. Immediately my thoughts go to Darwin and his research, did his background in the UK affect how he perceived the world and how he came to the research that he did on evolutionism? Or what did the culture of Marie Curie do to support, or hold her back, what would be the reaction to her nowadays in our culture?

Math could do the same activity as I suggest with science, or perhaps a Math class could analyze the pride that a culture has in their sports team as suggested by their winning/losing record. Or maybe they could, and I realize that this is basic math, but it brings culture into math, find the average ages of perceived adulthood in relation to legal ages. Or maybe they could figure out some of the cultural perspectives of food, what cultures have higher caloric intake, and does that caloric intake relate at all to overall health?

These are just some basic ideas, but what I want people to think about when they are trying to incorporate other cultures into their classes is that students need a lot of reflection on their own culture and need to look at other perspectives from other cultures/generations so that they can make comparisons and have a better idea of what comprises their own culture.

I look forward to exploring some more cultural topics and ideas on how to incorporate culture into all contents and classes

Trying: A Support System

Hooooola! I am so excited to start on this educational journey with the other EduTryGuys. These men are some of my best friends, biggest supporters, and they deal with all the ridiculous things that I have to talk to them about. I initially met some of these guys when I did my student teaching, but then I graduated and needed to find a job. I worked in a small rural school in northwest Ohio, and it was great! I was teaching Spanish, teaching culture, opening the minds of students. Essentially, though, I had moved there for the job and knew no one. I missed the community that I grew up in, and missed my friends. After two years at my first job, there was a job opportunity at the school where I did my student teaching! My mentor teacher had called me to tell me, and later that week I had my interview and got hired! I was so excited to not only be back in my home community, but I was excited about having some of my best friends be in the same building as me not just as friends, but as colleagues.

Moving back, though, I got a lot more than I was expecting. I got a support system that I didn’t even know that I needed. Jason, who I had known for a few years already, finished his MAT and transformed into one of the most passionate, straight shooting educators that I know. Marc continued to be great, and having one of my best friends from undergrad around, with the same prep period, made work so much fun. It took me a while to get to know Jay, Brian, and Jeremy, but through time I grew to really respect their opinions and ideas on education. Jay is a hot-off-the press teacher, beginning his teaching career just a year after me; Brian KNOWS his content, and shows his passion for his content and education; Jeremy has recently taken on a new job and is excelling at it! He has been super helpful as our school has transitioned to a 1:1 school system. We all often joke about how many PD hours we could log if we counted all the hours that we talk about education (hint: it’d be a LOT).

It’s not just these guys that have changed my teaching, but also some lovely language teachers from all over the world. There are two groups specifically that helped me start to move towards a happier, more result filled existence as a teacher. A comprehensible input (CI) group from Columbus, Ohio, and the CI group that I help run in Indianapolis. I am so grateful every single time that I talk to people from either of those groups. Of course, it’s partially because we share the same ideas, but we also challenge each other.

The same is true with the EduTryGuys. We mostly share the same ideas, but more than anything we challenge each other. We make each other think, we make each other reflect on our own ideas and practices, and we’re upfront with each other about goals and expectations. And of course we support each other when we do fail, and help each other learn from those failures.

As educators we get to choose who we learn from and grow with. As Rita Pierson says “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. Same goes for educators, and thankfully I love these guys and the lessons they give me.

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.