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.

Grad School, Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

What I’m Learning in Grad School: CI Demo

This past weekend I began my first class for my master’s degree in Spanish Education through Auburn University. The first item on the weekend agenda was a CI demo in German! The presenter, Andrea Wilkinson, was excellent. I was reminded of so many little tid-bits about teaching in the TL just by watching and learning from her. When she first started talking I was totally confused, but pretty soon I was answering questions in German! Here’s the board with her visual aids. Each time she introduced a new word, she wrote it in German under the person it corresponded to – no English!2015-08-14 19.22.36

The topic was physical descriptions. She would present a new word, and then start asking questions. Who is pretty, Cindy or Helga? Is Cindy pretty? Is Cindy young? Is Helga young?  Every time she asked a question, she had us raise our hand and called on someone. When you answered a question, she handed you a Euro.  As soon as I saw the girl next to me get the first Euro, my attention spiked – I wanted the Euros so bad! My hand started going in the air and before I knew it I was answering her questions in German!

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The timing of this demo was quite serendipitous as I started my descriptions unit in Spanish 1 the following Monday. Having spent the whole weekend in Alabama I didn’t have time to print and laminate Euros or hunt through magazines to find the perfect visual aids, but I made it work. I have a PowerPoint with pictures of people for descriptions, but I wanted to do it like Andrea did in her demo, with all the pictures visible at once – that way, I could write all the vocab on the board and maximize potential for questioning and comparisons. So, instead of starting with my usual pictures, I started talking from this Quién es Quién image, cropping off the edges to make the image more manageable.

quien es quien

I wanted to track participation, but I didn’t have Euros to hand out. I kept the hand-raising and calling on someone strategy (if they called out the answer I just ignored them and called on someone anyway – they learned quickly to stop calling out), and wrote each student’s name on the board as they answered questions, and added checks as they continued to participate. Yesterday and today I switched and just wrote a check in the gradebook each time I called on a student. I’ve been really pleased with this for a number of reasons. One, my kids are eager to participate! Secondly, they don’t mind me circling so much because they want to get credit for their participation. I’m reminded to ask more questions and keep repeating so they all have an opportunity to answer. The gradebook is working fine for now, but I’d like to try the Euro strategy sometime because it was just so fun to feel rewarded every time you answered. Another option for tracking participation would be making a big chart on laminated poster board with all my students’ names and making the check marks there – that way, they would be able to see how many checks they have and audit me if I mess up.

One more tip I learned from Andrea was asking tag questions: You ask a question with the question word, like, Who has brown hair?, but add a choice at the end – María o Anita? The advantage of tag questions is that they are hearing the question word, but the choice at the end makes it easier to answer. It’s also a great strategy for differentiation – start with an open-ended question, and then add the tag at the end if kids aren’t sure how to answer. I was amazed at the hands that went up when I switched from Who and What questions to tag and either/or questions – I realized that students were listening hard, and were just waiting for the right question to raise their hand.

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 3: What do you like to do?

Authentic Audio: Me gusta/No me gusta

Here are some links to Audio Lingua recordings of native Spanish speakers talking about their likes and dislikes:

1. Alejandra: http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?article3525

2. Edinson: http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?article2108

3. Paola: http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?article2481

4. María: http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?article576

I had students set up a graphic organizer on their paper:

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Super low prep – no copies required!

I played them in the order listed above, as they get progressively more difficult. María speaks really fast, but my kids could still catch Me gusta fútbol! I played it multiple times and had them also listen for her age and the days of the week she practices.

Differentiation: I downloaded the files from Audio Lingua so I could save them in my dropbox and easily share with my department (and also still have them in case the internet went out). I used VLC media player to play them (a free download), and discovered that I could speed up and slow down the playback speed. So cool! So I played it once or twice at regular speed, slowed it down once, then played it again at the normal speed. Neat!

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Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar

More Practice with Questions

As I was wrapping up stations last Friday, I asked students to respond to two reflection questions. What activities in class are most helpful for you? Are there any specific topics you need more practice with? The responses were for the most part encouraging and informative:

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Lots of students mentioned more practice with numbers, dates, and asking questions. Of those three topics, asking and answering questions is the one I most value. I also got lots of requests for more English and translation (natural student instinct, or am I not being comprehensible enough? Something for me to reflect on). So, for today, I put together an activity for practicing questions similar to one I tried last spring, inspired by a post by Colleen Lee over at Language Sensei. I give students some English support (which makes them happy), but it’s primarily in the TL, which makes me happy. Here’s the run-down:

Goal:

1. Solidify student comprehension of basic introductory questions.

2. Provide novel-feeling practice opportunities with introductory questions.

Flashcards – 1 set of questions in Spanish, 1 set of questions in English, 1 set of responses in Spanish, preferably printed on different colored paper. I printed mine from Quizlet, but you could easily create cards in Word or Excel.

Make enough copies for a set between every pair of students, plus a few extra for students who prefer to work alone. To cut down on prep, I had my first period cut the flashcards. At the end of the period each set was clipped together with a paperclip, and then thrown in a big zip-lock bag.

Procedure:

1. Give each pair of students a set of flashcards. Have them match the question in Spanish to the translation in English, and then the response in Spanish. I walk around and answer questions if they need help, but they can do this pretty independently.

Phase 1: Matching
Phase 1: Matching. I only had 2 colors of paper – would have liked to color-code the responses as well!

2. When they finish, I have them pull out the English, and start practicing asking and answering the questions out loud. Here’s where it gets fun: I put instructions on the board for multiple ways to practice, with the difficulty increasing as students moved down the list. Voilà differentiation! If they need more support, they can look at the cards as their partner asks the question, and use the “answer cards” as cues. If they want a challenge, they can practice without looking at the question as their partner asks, relying only on their listening comprehension skills. I told them to work at whatever level was right for them, but I’ve found that many of my kids this year are quite competitive and like to challenge themselves – so they’ll go for the hardest level!

Instructions on the board.
#4 was a student’s idea 🙂

3. Go over it as a class. This gives me a rough gauge of student progress, and also gets in a couple more repetitions of the questions with proper pronunciation. I used Quizlet (rather than reading the questions myself – I love how Quizlet will read the questions out loud and shuffle the cards for me!), and went through the questions 3 times. The first time through, I had students translate the questions. The second time through, I asked them to respond in Spanish (everyone at once!). Third, I turned off the board (no visual support) and ran through the flashcards with only the audio, with students again responding in Spanish.

I plan to use this activity a few more times this week (though not spending as much time on it as I did today). Hoping to get all my students to at least level 3!

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar

Stations: Practice and perfect!

I was talking to a few teachers in my department between classes earlier this week:

“I’ve introduced most of the unit’s vocab, but I need more ways to practice it. Students can do all right on straight translation, or remember a phrase long enough to do their stamps, but when I ask them a question out loud, they still can’t tell the difference between ¿Cómo estás? and ¿Cómo te llamas? How do I get them to keep practicing, without it being repetitious?”

How indeed, to get lots of repetitions without it getting old? STATIONS.

Here’s what I put together to practice basic beginning-of-Spanish-1 questions, numbers and letters, as well as letting them explore the language a little bit.

1. Conversation station: practice asking and answering questions out loud with a partner.

20140814_09562320140814_095742My classes are around 32 students each, so I make multiple sets of station supplies to give students the maximum number of options in choosing a station – I don’t want “but there’s nothing left to do!” or, “all the stations I need are taken!” to ever be an excuse. I printed the questions out on cardstock, and plan to save and add to these bags throughout the year. This station WILL be recycled!

2 . Numbers station: I bought these knock-off Jenga blocks from the Dollar General for $3 a few years ago. I wrote the numbers on them in a sharpie, from 1-42. Lots of teachers give students a task to correspond to a specific number, but today I just asked them to put the blocks in order.

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20140814_104019 3. Reading station: I’ve been acquiring Spanish children’s books slowly over the past few years. I have pure Spanish children’s books, an Autobus Mágico, some bilingual books (some collected for me by my friend’s mom from Cheerio boxes), plus some “First 100 words in Spanish” type picture-dictionary books. I also have some novels, some poetry, a Bible, and a set of picture flashcards. This station was just for students to explore Spanish independently, from a book that looked interesting to them. For accountability, I asked them to write down five words they learned – either from looking at the English translation, looking at the picture, looking them up in a dictionary, or by recognizing a cognate.

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In one period I caught two boys going through the flashcards – Guess what bicicleta means?? Ok, coche? Avión? #ReasonNumber287WhyILoveTeachingNovices

4. Spelling station: a good friend of mine gave me a Spanish Scrabble game (Pensante!) a few years ago. I divided the tiles into 4 baggies (about 25 tiles per bag – so multiple groups could participate at once), and asked students to first look at the tiles and review the alphabet (they need to be able to spell their name for their stamps). Then, they can arrange the letters into as many Spanish words as possible (they wrote them on their paper for accountability), and add up their points. They got really into this one! Also, isn’t it amazing how many words they know after just 2 weeks of class?20140814_10041020140814_104814 20140814_1053365. Tech stations: review vocabulary on Quizlet on smartphone, on my Promethean board, or on my desktop computer. They love the scatter game, and they can plug their headphones in and listen to the pronunciation.

6. Writing station: write a few sentences in Spanish about yourself telling your name, age, birthday, where you’re from, plus any bonus information you know how to say! I posted an example paragraph about myself on the board for extra reading input.

7. Stamps station: This is straight from the fabulous Jefferson County World Language Curriculum playbook. I gave them a set of speaking goals at the beginning of the unit, written as I can statements – I can introduce myself. I can ask someone their age. I can tell the date. As they learn how to do each goal, they do it for me out loud and I stamp their sheet. I LOVE the stamp sheets, but honestly, it’s difficult to balance listening to students individually while managing/teaching the other 31 students. Except on station day! I wrote up VERY CLEAR instructions for each station, posted around the room, and tried to be explicit about my expectations up front, so that students could manage their learning independently. If the rest of my students are occupied in learning tasks that don’t require my direct supervision, I’m free to focus on individual students, listen to their stamps, and give individual help and feedback. Differentiation success!

Links:

My stations instructions – don’t reinvent the wheel! I posted these around the room, and made multiple copies so students could take the instructions back to their work area. I also included suggested group size and how long to spend at each station, but I didn’t end up supervising this too closely – if they are engaged in language-learning activities and behaving appropriately, I am happy! Also, I might have taped the “Stamps Station” sign to my shirt… just sayin’ 🙂

More stations resources – the generous sharing of other language teachers has helped me so much in learning how to implement and manage stations! Here are some of the posts that have helped me:

The Creative Language Class has a pretty comprehensive series on stations (and have lots of other great ideas too!), so if you’re just getting started I would recommend starting by reading through their posts.

http://creativelanguageclass.com/stations-centers/

Kristy Placido on stations:
http://kplacido.com/2013/10/02/stations/

http://kplacido.com/2013/10/03/stations-what-ill-do-next-time/

http://kplacido.com/2013/10/05/future-ideas-for-stations/

Stations in Spanish 3 and AP:
http://musicuentos.com/2012/09/success-with-stations/

http://musicuentos.com/2013/09/music-stations/

More on stations…
http://candidagould.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/station-pedagogy-or-the-magic-roundabout/