Conferences & Professional Learning

Conference Takeaways: Prioritizing Remediation Time

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CNN: Collaboration Needed Now!

Holy smokes. It’s been an intense three days of learning. I attended Solution Tree’s PLC At Work Institute this week, and I’ve got to say, it was the some of the best PD I’ve attended, particularly considering it was not grade or content-specific (hello, SCOLT and FLAG, you will always be my #1 for PD! 😘).

PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) encompass a lot of big educational ideas: differentiated instruction, standards based/mastery grading, common formative assessments, and data-driven teaching. A PLC must identify the essential learning outcomes, develop common assessments, and then analyze the assessment data as a team. Assessment data informs and drives assessment; if students have not mastered the essential content, they need to be re-taught and re-assessed.

I attended a fantastic session with Michelle Marrillia titled, Do Your Common Formative Assessments Really Change Your Practice? Turning Data Into Successful Secondary Classroom Instruction that gave me some practical ideas for how to integrate remediation into regular class time. She talked about the importance of guaranteed recovery systems – tutoring before or after school is not a guaranteed option, because not all students have transportation to attend tutoring outside of regular school hours. In my school’s case, remediation during our study hall time is not guaranteed either, because many of our students attend the career academy for half the day, and travel between the campuses during study hall. In order for the recovery system to be truly guaranteed, it has to be integrated as a regular in-class routine.

Option 1: Pull students for short & sweet recovery sessions several times a week. Identify the students needing remediation based on your common formative assessment (CFA) data, and pull them for some small group or one on one instruction during independent work time. I’ve done this before with quiz corrections: I give the class an assignment to work on independently (or in partners, or in groups – something they don’t need help/guidance from me on) and I call up everyone to look at their grade and make corrections. We talk about what they missed, I give them a remediation assignment to work on, and we schedule a retake. Michelle suggests giving CFAs weekly (formative assessment should be frequent with data used immediately to inform instruction), with the retake for the previous week’s assessment copied on the back of this week’s CFA.

Option 2: Schedule a longer slot of time for remediation once a week

Michelle suggested reserving one day a week as a “no new information” day for remediation and extension. Some teachers at her school use a red-yellow-green color coding system, with red meaning not mastered, yellow meaning approaching mastery, and green meaning mastered. On the remediation day, students get a sticker corresponding to how they did on the formative assessment and are assigned to a group according to their needs. The following points surprised and intrigued me:

  • The color coding system sounds like tracking. However, at her school, she found students didn’t get their feelings hurt by being in the red group, as it meant they would get the instruction they needed to meet the standard AND a chance to improve their assessment grade. She also shared hearing comments like, “I am NOT going to be red next week!” I think the key here is ensuring that you actually follow through with the remediation in a timely manner and truly provide a path to mastery.
  • The year this system was implemented, standardized test scores went up at her school. I would like to see more research on this point – does less content deeper result in higher scores on state tests? This does kind of make sense – particularly in subjects where success in Unit 3 depends on building on the skills learned in Units 1 and 2, ensuring that students master half the content will show up as growth on the end of the year tests, even if you don’t even skim over the rest of the standards.

I teach on a block schedule, and while I don’t see myself devoting 20% of my class time to remediation every week, my classes are long enough I could reserve half a class period for recovery, particularly if it’s not every week.

Takeaway: I need to prioritize grading CFAs quickly and using that data to provide remediation for students who are red on essential standards. Remediation/enrichment time needs to be a regularly scheduled activity.

EdTech

Learning to Teach in a Blended Classroom

I’m cleaning out my drafts folder this week, and I found this gem from September 2016. 

Y’all, my students got computers this year. Each and every one of my students was issued a Dell Laptop from the school for use at school and at home. Can I tell you how excited I am??

That being said, a month into school I have to say that this sudden exponential increase in the technology and resources available to me is going to take some getting used to, and some time for me as the teacher to figure out the best way to use it.

Love

I love having students submit work through Schoology, my district’s LMS. I love how I can save paper by posting assignments online, and use online interactive activities. I love the possibilities for instant feedback online practice gives, and how easy it is for me to enter personalized feedback on student assignments. I love how much less paper there is for me to keep up with! I love how I can collect speech and writing samples for students at regular intervals, and have them organized and accessible the moment students submit.

Needs improvement

Me: Did you finish your work?

Student: No, my laptop’s dead….

By high school most of my students know to ask for a pencil if they don’t have one, but in class of thirty two where every single one of us literally has the  same computer, you can’t ask to borrow a charger? Why won’t they just ask? And on assignments, why do some students never ask for help? I had a student pack up his bag ten minutes before class ended today without finishing his assignment, one with whom I have a positive relationship, because he was frustrated with the assignment and didn’t want to complete it. Umm, hello….ask for help? Or how only 8/30 students submitted audio files for the unit 2 recording assignment? What were they doing in class that day? I walk around, monitor, offer help, supervise, support…how does this slip past me?

Besides the management issues, I am also learning a new LMS, Schoology. It is far more friendly than Blackboard, but I still find it challenging at times (and that’s from a pretty tech-savvy teacher). Why can’t I copy a question when making a quiz, like I can on Google forms? Why can’t I assign a multiple choice assignment, why does it have to be a test or quiz? Why do I have to reset the due date when I copy an assignment from class to class? And why can’t I put some default settings on all my assignments, such as always showing the Spanish special characters?

More positives

Truly, I am grateful for this wealth of technology my district has bestowed upon us, so I before I end this post, let me share a photo of one of my sweet high school babies:

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Individual Listening Practice – more engagement than I’ve ever seen with whole-class listening activities

I wrote in my last post about using the laptops to flip listening from a whole-class activity to an individual/pair activity, with students controlling the  pauses and repetition of the audio and working through at their own pace. What I love most about having more technology in the classroom is the possibilities it opens up. My lesson planning is limited by my resources – in previous years, an activity like this wouldn’t have been possible with the smattering of student devices and the school’s intermittent WiFi as my resources. Although I’m in a novice stage as a “blended classroom” teacher (or whatever the term is these days), I won’t be a novice forever, and the possibilities for growth, for both my and my student’s learning, are endless.

 

Update – May 2019

I still love working in a 1:1 environment! So much of this is still true three years later – students who don’t charge their laptop or students who won’t make a recording no matter how much class time and encouragement they get. Other things have certainly changed – I would say my LMS proficiency is Advanced, and I’m much more comfortable managing a technology rich classroom. I’ve also experimented with technology-enriched instruction and assessment a lot over the last few years – I give most of my tests and quizzes through Schoology now (and often get them graded the same day!), and student have completed projects using Sway, Adobe Spark, and Padlet (and sooooo many Powerpoints!). The district is replacing teacher and student laptops next year with upgraded Dells (yay!), and I’m looking forward to continuing to experiment and expand my technology skills. 

Classroom Management & Organization, EdTech

Curation: Sort, Share, & Steal

Recently I read some posts on curation over at Cult of Pedagogy. I think curation is useful not only for ourselves, but can save other teachers a lot time when those curated collections are shared. Today I want to share some of the tools I use to curate, some of my curated lists, and some lists that have been curated (or collaborated on) by other language teachers. Many of these were mentioned in my SCOLT presentation, so these ideas may not be new if you were at my session.

On Twitter – Lists

Do you use lists on Twitter? I made a few lists several years ago and as I’ve recently followed a few political accounts, I find it useful to use my lists when I’m looking for teaching ideas. You can click here to see my lists; I’ve chosen to keep some private, but my teachery lists are public. You can add an account to a list by clicking on the three dots next to the follow button on their profile, and you can also view other people’s lists on their profile page. If you want to sort all the accounts you follow into lists in one fell swoop, TwitListManager may help to speed up that process.

On YouTube – Playlists

Have you ever tried searching for playlists on Youtube, rather than just a song? If, for example, you search for “spanish commercials,” and then refine your search to playlists only, this is what you will get:

youtube playlists

In the top three results, you’ve got a list of 28, 13, and 37 videos that someone else has helpfully curated for you. I also like Youtube playlists for music. I use playlists to collect the songs we listen to in class (I post it on our LMS, and will play it sometimes while we work or play Kahoot), and I use other teachers’ playlists to discover new songs that are likely to work with my students – comprehensible, clean, and catchy.

To see another user’s playlists, click on their profile. Sharon Birch’s playlists are a musical goldmine!

On Pinterest – search for boards, not pins

Y’all, I hate Pinterest. I find it to be a timesuck and the links are always broken (sidenote: to exclude pinterest from your google image searches, just add -pinterest to your search). However, when I do venture into Pinterest, I search for boards, rather than individual pins. I found this strategy especially useful when I was looking for ideas for teaching a novel – I could check out one or two Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro boards, and have  a lot of ideas at my fingertips. Or, similarly to Youtube, you can check out the boards of other teachers, rather than going down the search bar rabbithole.

Blogrolls

Blog recommendations from other language teachers helped me out hugely when I was a baby teacher looking for ideas & mentors. I use feedly to manage my blog subscriptions, with sections for politics, friends, recipes, and teaching. I haven’t been able to find a way to share my complete education reading list from feedly with you, but you can see the WordPress blogs I follow in the right hand sidebar. Again, I find other teachers to be the best resource as to what blogs to follow, so I love checking out other teachers’ blogrolls.

This post was written in March 2018 – I’m cleaning out my drafts folder this week 🙂

Conferences & Professional Learning

#SCOLT19: #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner

Who’s headed to SCOLT? Me! I am very excited to be representing Georgia as “Best of Flag” with my presentation #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner. If you caught me at FLAG/SCOLT last year, it will be much the same, but I have updated and added a few things. Check out my slides below, or click here to open in a new tab. I’m sharing tons of links to my favorite sources for finding beginner-appropriate authentic resources, as well as activities to go along with them. I’m also sharing three “ready to go” authres activities that I’ve used with my own students on leisure activities, school, and clothing.I will be presenting Saturday morning at 8:00 – I would love to see you there!

Conferences & Professional Learning, Travel & Study Abroad

Perú – 2018 SCOLT Scholarship Winner

This summer, I had the opportunity to study in Cusco, Perú for two weeks with a scholarship from SCOLT. It was my first time in South America and such a gift to experience in a study abroad setting. As required by my scholarship, I made a video about my trip. Without further ado, here are my travel tips for Cusco!

 

A partial list of travel scholarships for language teachers:

SCOLT Scholarships: https://www.scolt.org/index.php/scholarships – Deadline is January 31, 2019

AATSP Scholarships: https://www.aatsp.org/page/StudyAbroadScholars – Deadline is January 31, 2019 – may include a stipend for travel expenses

Central States – https://csctfl.wildapricot.org/page-1860390 – Deadline is November 30, 2018

Southwest States Scholarships: https://www.swcolt.org/awards – Deadline is December 31, 2018

I feel like many teachers who are interested in travel don’t apply because they assume they won’t get it or that the other applicants will be better. My attitude is that if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t win! Just by putting in the effort to fill out the application, ask for letters of recommendation and write the essays you are putting yourself way ahead of the majority of potential applicants. I have applied for many scholarships and grants over the past few years and got all but one – which I was the recipient for the next year!*  If you want to travel and have the freedom to do so, study abroad programs are a great way to experience another country. Don’t discount your credentials before you ever apply!

 

*Also, when you make it a habit to apply for things, you’ll find you can recycle many of your essays! And your recommenders can recycle their letters too 🙂

Class Activities, Grad School

Blog update/Linked Resources

Hello and happy summer! I wanted to write a short post to share a few projects I’ve been working on for a class I’m taking.

I’m taking a visual media course for my specialist degree in instructional technology, and we are publishing all of our projects on a blog. Here is the link:

https://msbrownspanish.wordpress.com/

I have enjoyed learning more about photography and design and creating some beautiful projects, as well as reflecting about how I can adapt these strategies to use with my students. Feel free to use my preterite/imperfect poster (project 4) or re-designed possessive adjective slides (project 5) with your students.

I started this blog in 2014 when I changed schools and, probably for the only time in my teaching career, experienced a huge reduction in my workload; I went from teaching six classes to five, from one planning period to two, and from 2-3 preps to one for a whole year! The next year, 2015-2016, we changed to a block schedule, I went back to one planning period and two preps, and started grad school. I’ve been in school ever since, beginning my gifted endorsement as soon as I finished my master’s degree and now beginning my specialist degree, and I just haven’t had the time or energy to blog like I did back in 2014. My blog posts will likely continue to be sporadic for the foreseeable future, but I hope that I will be able to share more grad school projects like this one in the coming months.