Plan!

I am excited for class tomorrow because I have a PLAN.  I have been writing a story to use that meshes well with comprehensible input.  I have thrown in some of the Sweet 16 vocabulary that my students already know along with some solid descriptions of our characters…I am ready!

Students will be drawing and coloring…yep, coloring!  Hay un hombre delgado y bajo.  Lleva pantalones negros….

New Books, New Plan

I was working in my classroom today, looking at my new Spanish novels and checking the new scope and sequence.  I have big plans, so I hope I can get this all pulled together. I cannot be the only teacher with this dream.  We, meaning teachers in my ESU (Educational Service Unit), are making a concerted effort to increase fluency using comprehensible input.

We all start a new school year with high hopes, but sometimes we get discouraged before Christmas. Let’s make a pact not to give up too soon this time.  Fluency is too important, even if we have trouble convincing parents and students of this.  I am lucky that I have the freedom to do what I know is right based on research.  Many teachers are not so lucky, so I do feel blessed.

I promise not to give up this year, no matter how challenging it gets.  My students deserve my best efforts, and I want them to experience that feeling of satisfaction that comes from learning more than they thought they could.

Feedback!

This school year has been different from last year in various ways.  The main thing I have changed is my way of teaching.  I threw out my book and have been concentrating on giving students tons of comprehensible input.  They were a bit scared at first—and so was I, to be honest.  They didn’t know what to expect without a book.

I am feeling much less apprehensive as I practice using a lot more Spanish in class.  I explained the goal to the students (90% or more in Spanish) because it shouldn’t be a secret.  I have had students share their feelings about comprehensible input lately.

One student said speaking Spanish is “becoming second nature” to her.  Another told me he thinks we are meeting the goal of 90% Spanish in class.  He also shared that he is understanding almost everything!  I of course, am thrilled that my students are learning and happy.

I can’t wait to see how much the students learn (and retain) by the end of the year!  Every positive comment from them encourages me more.  For more information about comprehensible input, visit Martina Bex.

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Skills

I had some time to sit and drink coffee while one of our dogs was having a dental yesterday. Chance ended up minus 13 teeth by the time the morning was over!  He’s recovering well, by the way. 

I was in a tiny town in rural Nebraska at the local gas station.  In spite of that, I was able to use not only English, but Spanish and ASL—American Sign Language!

People often give me weird looks when I say I love languages, but I truly value learning something just because it’s interesting and I can.

I was—and still am—so thrilled that I had the knowledge to communicate in ASL.  So few people in this area study it.  How lonely life must be for that kind, deaf fellow in that tiny town.  His uncle sat with us at the small, round table. He was surprised and happy when I started signing with his nephew.  I was sad that so few people ever tried.  

The next time someone gives you a strange look when you mention an uncommon interest you are passionate about, don’t let it bother you.  Your passion may lead to something wonderful.  Learning for the love of knowledge feels amazing.  Using what you have learned is truly priceless when you can make another feel less alone.

Planning

For all of those people who don’t know how teachers roll, let me give you a bit of insight.  After the initial rejoicing at the end of the school year, many of us use our vacation time to attend workshops or take classes to improve our practice.  Those workshops may last one or two days, depending on the topic, but the thinking process lasts a lot longer.  Putting all of the learning and thinking together to create classroom activities takes even more of our vacation time.

That’s been my experience, especially after the Martina Bex Comprehensible Input workshop last week in Lincoln.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I spent this week rehashing and rereading the handouts she provided for us.  Now I’m almost ready to start choosing vocabulary to use in my own stories.  Then comes the actual writing process.  I’m sure I’ll have a few false starts, but the results will be worth the time.

For more information about Martina Bex, visit her at https://martinabex.com/.

 

Meeting Martina

Before I begin, let me tell you that I wanted to call this blog post “My Brain is Full,” but I felt that was too long, and I like alliteration, so I went with the current title.

If you teach (especially foreign language), you probably already know which Martina—Martina Bex.  I have spent considerable time exploring her blog https://martinabex.com/ otherwise known as The Comprehensible Classroom.  She discusses the advantages of using CI (Comprehensible Input) when teaching.  After all, if the students have no understanding of what the teacher is saying, why bother?

Martina spent two brain-filling days with over 100 educators from Nebraska and surrounding areas.  (One teacher drove from Arkansas to take this training!)  The part that really blew me away was that we teachers didn’t have to pay to attend!  That never happens!  This time, however, it sure did, thanks to the hard work of Dr. Janine Theiler of the Nebraska Department of Education.  She had support people like Jessica and Jami who saved my bacon when I thought I was lost.  They made sure everything went smoothly so we teachers could learn and improve our practice in the classroom.

I was thrilled to get a copy of Martina’s presentation in addition to the handouts provided.  I will use them to create plans of my own as I work toward CI in my own classes.  Now I have the framework necessary to push students toward proficiency!

It was a pleasure to meet Martina.  She’s very approachable and thoughtfully replies to questions.  I took the picture below on a break from the session on the second day.  I asked Martina, “What makes you happy?”  Her response: “My children!”

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For more information about Comprehensible Input, the research behind it and strategies for implementation, please visit https://martinabex.com/.

Coffee Karma

Ysabela and I had a fabulous visit to D. C. for the American History Film Project exhibition.  I was excited to have Doorja leading our tour since she was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic (in spite of the rain).  Ysabela learned a lot.  Martha was there to help navigate, so all bases were covered.

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Our weekend was fun, but then we had to get down to the business of making our way home again.  Our shuttle driver was late, but it turned out fine since ticket agents open the counter close to five in the morning.  Ysabela and I had stayed up all night so we wouldn’t oversleep, so we were in desperate need of coffee!  While I waited in line to check us in, Ysabela was playing on her phone in the waiting area.

The line moved rather quickly, and I looked over to catch Bela’s eye so she could join me.  I was surprised to see her chatting with “tall, dark and handsome.”  After I noticed him close to my daughter, my tired, squinty eyes zeroed in on his cup of coffee.  🙂  Where in the airport did he get that this early in the morning?!  My (flawed) plan was to clear security and then get a cup of java.  Seeing his cup made me realize the error of my ways.  Bela was happily chatting away to this young fellow, but I had the chance to ask about the coffee shop location.

He stood up quickly when I turned back to the line and asked Ysabela if we wanted coffee.  She reported later that she refused several times, but he insisted.  He put his coffee cup down near Bela, took off and said he’d be back.

I was approaching the counter when I turned to see this young man with a cup in each hand heading my way!  I couldn’t believe it when he refused payment for the coffees!  I tried three times, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He said something like, “I’m working, and if you want coffee, you can have coffee!”  What choice did we have?  Ysabela and I thanked him profusely and had coffee!  Before he disappeared, I asked him his name and told him I’d be sure to blog about him.

If any of you know a handsome gentleman named Zari, please pass along a hug from us.  He made our morning, so he deserves some good karma….let’s all keep paying it forward.

 

 

 

 

Onward to D. C.

Somewhere close to lunch on the last teacher workday (LAST TEACHER WORK DAY!!!!), I left to take the dogs to Koko’s Palace, pick up Ysabela and our “personal bags” and head to the airport.  When I refer to “personal bags,” what I really want to say is that we each carried a large tote that held our clothes for the weekend.  My bag even had room for my purse.  That saved me money since there’s a charge for a carry-on or checked bag.  Only a personal bag flies with me free—if it fits under the seat.  We all know clothes can be mushed, and mush we did.  🙂  We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  I was a bit nervous since I had received an email advising me to arrive three hours early for domestic travel due to long security lines.

Bela and I took the red-eye and arrived in Washington, D. C., right before five in the morning.  I will admit to sleeping—and most likely snoring—all the way.  I am not ashamed.  In my defense, I did warn my flight neighbor.  He didn’t have a problem with it.  Bela later informed me that he and I were doing some duet snore harmony.

I had downloaded the Uber app prior to leaving home, so I thought transport would be easily arranged.  HA!  Airport Internet could be a bit better.  After almost half an hour of “loading” on my cell phone, I was done.  My last resort was to call my hostess, Martha.  She was already awake (thankfully) and came to pick us up within the hour.

We were welcomed at the apartment building by Martha’s neighbor, Mr. Ali.  He’s a delightful person who made me a cup of coffee when I was there last year.  Coffee friends are forever friends.  Ysabela and I managed to get settled in enough to take a nap.  Martha set the clock to make sure we’d be ready to get to the venue by the appointed time.

Didn’t I tell you what we were doing there?  Oh, dear!  Sorry about the oversight!  We were there to present student films for the American History Film Project!  I attended last year with one of my students; sadly, none were able to come this year except for my daughter (who also did a film).

This year’s venue was lovely.  The curator at Blenheim was so gracious and generous.  Ysabela and I even got to take a tour of the place before our presentations began!  We were made to feel so welcome that I hated to leave at the end.

It has been so encouraging to see Martha’s dream grow.  There were more films presented (and more states represented) this year than last.  Our in-person audience also doubled!  Local school board members were in attendance, and they took an active part by asking insightful questions after each film.  Ysabela did a fine job, as did the other students.  Several young film makers joined us via Skype to answer questions.  Technology is great!

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For more information (and to see the films) head on over to the Facebook page (link below), give it a “like” and do some browsing!  Please share it with your friends as well.  I’ll blog more about it all in a day or two!  Stay tuned!

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Marking Time and Papers!

The end of school is drawing near, and the teachers are just as excited as the students.  Many of us teachers have exams all prepared and scheduled.  Mine sure are!  Having exams ready to give lowers my stress level.

Making a final exam is not as easy as it may sound.  I don’t want to give a huge test; instead, I want to sample several topics I think students should have the vocabulary to write about.  There is a second part to the test for students to speak the language.  I asked my students for topics they are comfortable discussing, and I will choose from those.  Once they know what to work on, they can be prepared!