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.


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:

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.


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 🙂

Class Activities, EdTech, Spanish 2

Reviewing Vocabulary with NearPod

In this post: Reflecting on my first use of Nearpod, plus free, ready-to-use Spanish 2 resources for Realidades chapters 2b, 3a, 3b, and 5a

It is the time of the year when motivation is swiftly waning for both students and teachers. As I was planning for my lesson today, I thought about what motivates me as a teacher: being creative, trying new things, experimenting with technology, and finding ways to keep it in the target language. I decided to give NearPod a try, and I was pleased with the result – 30+ minutes of engagement for both students and teacher! I wrote a series of definitions/descriptions in Spanish for the vocabulary words, using free response and draw it slides. Students saw the prompt on their screen, and then either typed or drew their response. Next time, I want to include more draw-it slides with longer descriptions. They really enjoyed drawing and seeing what their classmates drew, and sharing their images was quick and easy. I can’t figure out how to retrieve those images now that I’ve ended the session with my students, or I would share  some of their cute sketches with you!

I am teaching driving and directions vocabulary in Spanish 2, which corresponds to Realidades 2 Chapter 3B. If you would like to see my nearpod, here is the link. I also have a Google Slides version. I have done similar definition/description activities for chapters 2b (shopping – crossword linked), 3a (places around town, errands), and 5a (disasters). The same clues could be used for a crossword, a tarsia puzzle (Chapter 2a – shopping linked), or you could print them and have students work in teams to figure them out (just be sure to clarify that their phones are off-limits). You could also project the clues on the board and have students write the answers on paper or mini-white boards. Writing the clues would be a good task for heritage speakers or advanced students (though they aren’t always as good at keeping it comprehensible for their classmates!).


Tech Tip: ClassroomScreen.com

My school’s technology specialist recently introduced me to a neat little tool: ClassroomScreen.com. It is designed to be projected on your whiteboard and offers a number of useful widgets: a timer, a clock, a random name picker, a QR code generator, as well as  a text box for posting announcements or instructions. Check out my video demo below:

Pardon the quality – I’m learning!

Conferences & Professional Learning, EdTech

EdTech Conference Takeaways: Edmodo vs. Blackboard

I attended a session on Monday on Digital Assessments. The presenter went over Plickers, and then showed us how she uses Edmodo. I was really impressed with how much mileage she gets out of the Edmodo platform – posting class notes for absent students, turning in assignments, quizzes, and surveys (what an easy way to do voting for Manía Musical!). I also really liked Edmodo’s badge feature – Edmodo has a few built in ones like “Good citizen” and “Hard Worker,” but you can also customize your own – she does “Movie Critic” (watch a historical film and write a page analyzing the historical accuracy – could adapt for foreign languages), “Hot 100” (get a perfect 100 on a test), and “Quizlet Star” (earn a high score on Scatter or Space Race). She uses the badges for extra credit (1 test point per 2 badges earned), but I think it also would contribute to a positive classroom environment – sometimes it’s hard to give good students recognition, but the badges would be an easy (and free!) way to do it.

Anyway, here’s my dilemma: I’ve dabbled in Edmodo before, and I know how easy it is to use. However, my district has purchased Blackboard as our learning management platform. I would like to use Blackboard since many other teachers in our school use it and students quickly become familiar with it, but it is incredibly complicated on the teacher end to create, post, and organize materials. I feel like I have to go through 8 screens to do something that in Edmodo would be 1! I attended a session this morning on differentiation with Blackboard and was quite impressed with all of the different functionalities Blackboard offers to set up formative assessments and tailor future assignments to a students’ needs and abilities. However….despite an excellent presentation by a very skilled and passionate teacher (who works at my school and would be available to help me!), I know that to actually implement what she showed us will require a lot of trial and error and a lot of time on my part. I hate spending an hour or two struggling with technology for something that should have taken 15 minutes at most.

Here are the pros and cons, as I see them:

Pros – Easy to use for both me and my students. Free. Will be able to access my information regardless of whether I change school districts.

Cons – another login for students to remember. Not officially sanctioned by the powers that be.

Pros -universal use across the district. Will be familiar to students, particularly the sophomores who had laptops and used blackboard last year. Lots of robust features. Classes already loaded in. Will make my administrators happy.

Cons – high learning curve for me, big time investment just to post materials.

At this point I’m leaning towards Edmodo, but I have another session on Blackboard to attend – perhaps it will change my mind. And then again, it all depends on how far we are with the 1:1 rollout…if most of my students don’t have school-issued laptops, I may not use much of anything.

Conferences & Professional Learning, EdTech

EdTech Conference Takeaways: Plickers

First, let me say this: I cannot wait to use Plickers in my classroom!

Do your students love Kahoot? Then I bet they will love Plickers too! Bonus: the only devices required for Plickers are the teacher’s: your computer, projector, and smartphone or tablet. Students respond to questions you project on the board by holding up cards like this:

Each card has a unique symbol, so students can’t just choose an answer based on what everyone else is holding up

This is a half-page image printed on regular white paper. You can print a set out from the Plickers website for free. On each side, you can see a letter – A, B, C, or D. You project a question on the board through the Plickers website (multiple choice or true/false), and students hold up their card to indicate the answer. Here’s the cool part: you collect their answers by scanning the room with your smartphone! On the card above, you also see a number (I was 25). You set up your classes in Plickers, and each student is assigned a number. So, when you scan the room to collect answers, you have immediate feedback on each of your students (as well as a record of who is participating). The presenter suggested having a set of cards for each class, and writing students’ names on their assigned card. Collect the cards and keep them in your room to avoid having to re-print when students inevitably lose them, and just have students find their cards on Plickers day.

I love using Kahoots, but I’ve had a few problems with them – students who don’t have devices, students who are “sharing” with their partner but not actually doing any thinking, students pretending to participate who are actually on social media, loss of connectivity, poor wifi, waiting for someone next to them to submit their answer so they can copy, randomly choosing an answer as soon the question pops up so they can be the first to answer, and that time my seventh period lost Kahoot privileges because someone put “john is gay” as his username.  I’m not ready to abandon Kahoots entirely, but I am excited to have another review/formative assessment tool in my arsenal, particularly as this one doesn’t require student devices. The biggest advantage that Kahoot has is the sharing/search ability – unfortunately, there is not (yet) an option to search questions or sets from other teachers on Plickers.