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….

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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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Plan B

I have recently started a new business venture to go along with my regular teaching job.  After teaching for sixteen years, I know that lessons don’t always go according to plan.  No matter how carefully we make plans, things happen and we have to improvise.  You other teachers definitely understand and can cite thousands of examples, I’m sure!

Anna, my coach/mentor/friend, and I had a great day yesterday and a Plan A for today.  A bit before nine this morning, she informed me that she had to cancel due to illness, so I was forced to wing it (or as some say “drop back and punt”).  Enter Plan B.

I was in a panic at first, but Anna sent me a message telling me to take it ten minutes at a time.  That was today’s mantra.  Guess what?  It worked out just fine!  I even made use of the down time to brainstorm for later.

Sometimes Plan B is meant to happen in spite of our best intentions.  The next time you have to drop back and punt, maybe the real lesson is that you need to learn to be flexible and respond to challenges in the moment.

Hard at Work

I’m still in my jammies even though it’s a bit after lunch.  That may not be your idea of hard at work, but I had a full day of webinars on my schedule.  They started at eight this morning and run almost all day.  Webinars are a wonderful idea for busy people.  Especially antisocial, busy people like me.

Today’s focus is how to maximize Google for teaching.  I do a lot with Google already, but there’s always more to learn.  The best thing about these classes—they are free!  If I want to purchase a membership, I can even print a certificate for each webinar I attend.  So far, I’ve just signed up with the free option, but it might be worth upgrading later.

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Concert Time is Coming!

I took my Spanish Honor Society students to a Spanish language concert last year. The performer, Ennio Emmanuel, was sponsored by the Justo Lamas Group. Justo always puts on a fabulous show, and Ennio didn’t disappoint either. Both singers are inspirational, approachable and adorable. This year I will be taking a smaller group (due to our school athletic calendar), but we plan to have a great time. I am looking forward to the concert in October (as you can probably tell!).

Justo and Ennio both work hard to motivate students to speak Spanish and enjoy it. The audience members get plenty of chances to go on stage and sing or dance. Even teachers get into the act! Look the guys up on Facebook, and if you’re a Spanish teacher, consider hosting a concert. You won’t be sorry!

I still have the rose!  :)

I still have the rose! 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/justolamasofficial
https://www.facebook.com/eeofficial

The Real Value of an A

Over the years, people have spent considerable time discussing the merit of grades. Teachers think students should earn their grade, students think they are given a grade, and many parents push their children to achieve a certain grade or face consequences. I would like to just say to parents who demand an A that it adds a layer of stress for the students. If students can enter a classroom and earn an A all the time, the class may not be challenging enough. It isn’t always a reasonable demand to place on students. I tell my own child to do her best. That will have to be sufficient. I’d rather have her earn a C than be gifted an A with no skills. (Excuse me while I replace my parent hat with my teacher hat.)

As a teacher, I can honestly say I don’t “give” grades; students earn them. Liking a student doesn’t equal a good grade “just because.” That is why a rubric is necessary! Sometimes extra credit can help a struggling student pass a class, but for a class in a series, a student must have a certain base of knowledge to continue and be successful. I think it can be agreed that grades should reflect competency in the subject matter.

Many teachers agree that participation points can help students achieve a higher grade. If students attempt a challenging homework assignment, credit should be given as errors are corrected. Effort should be rewarded. That should be balanced, however, by performance assignments. I teach Spanish, so my examples will focus on that subject, of course. Some will say that participation points “pad” the grades. I would argue that they can make the difference for students who try their hardest, but still have trouble “getting” it. I also realize that not all students find foreign languages easy to learn. In my current school, one year of Spanish is needed to graduate. Most kids that think it’s too hard will not sign up for Spanish 2. Other schools require two years; college-bound students will sometimes take a third year of Spanish, depending on which college is the goal.

I have taught in several schools in the U. S. (and Mexico), and I have seen students in Spanish 2 who lack the basic skills to continue language learning. Keep in mind that I am not speaking specifically about my current school—I am discussing this in general. The sad thing is that some of these passed Spanish 1 with an acceptable grade, but a few cheated to get the grade. (Teachers can’t see everything even though we try!) Cheating can be defined as using online translation for writing assignments, group homework sessions and/or crib sheets during testing. When referring to group homework, I mean a session in which students copy answers rather than have a topic explained by a classmate.

One of my college professors told me that she required students to complete writing assignments in class to keep them from getting too much help outside the classroom. She shared that in a couple of cases, students have had high-level “skills” for homework, but no skills in class. I took this to heart, so my students complete many things in class.

At any rate, it’s obvious that cheating didn’t profit anyone. In Spanish 2, kids are held accountable for assignments based on skills. This means I ask them to speak, write and read in Spanish in addition to answering questions based on listening exercises. Whether students cheat to pass or really learn, the question remains the same: what is the true value of your A? Did you earn and learn, or did you cheat to beat the system? What did it cost you?

Full Concentration

Summer is winding down fast, sadly. I am not (yet) mentally ready to step back into the classroom, but I’m getting there. Maybe this year I can give 100% to my classes. I know that sounds bad, but it’s the reality.

My attention has been divided due to the grad classes I have just finished. Any teacher out there can attest to the fact that a teacher must constantly multitask and prioritize. For the past two years, I have juggled two or three classes each semester. I spent the two years before that completing some Nebraska requirements. I have worked hard, but in a multitasking way.

This school year, I will focus fully on my students. It feels like a dream come true! Fellow teachers, you know what I mean. It will be exciting to put my knowledge into practice. I feel very optimistic about helping my students improve their Spanish this year. I will definitely be pushing them harder. People in our town will have to adjust to hearing me speak only Spanish to my students no matter where I see them. Some will be angered by it, but I know what is best for my students. If I don’t use what I’ve learned, what good was all the time I spent studying?

Today’s Music

Teachers and parents, I’m talking to you! Are you listening to the same tunes as your kids (or students)? Are you hearing what they hear? My daughter and I get in the car, and the radio is always on. Sounds normal, right? I’ll admit to being entertained by a catchy beat. Then again, some songs are catchy only if I don’t hear the lyrics. Bad lyrics make some songs unfit for teen listening. I have heard lyrics so bad that I get embarrassed! (That’s hard to do!)

Think of some songs you’ve heard on the radio (or your iPod) lately. Now, sing a few bars of each. Stop singing when the song refers to sex or if you encounter a curse word. You just sing a few minutes and come back when you’re done. I’ll wait for you.

A few songs stand out (at least to me) for their offensiveness. Miley Cyrus songs are, in general, very crude. Rihanna doesn’t do any better. Then there’s Kesha, Pitbull (who should know better) and even Enrique Iglesias. Those are all offensive, but today’s winner for making me gag is Beyoncé’s Drunk in Love. Gross. Really listen to the lyrics and you’ll hear for yourself. Are we supposed to take her seriously? Pardon me while I puke.

What happened to morals? What happened to editing songs for tender ears? Why are we not doing a better job of protecting our kids? What is wrong with society?

Yes, I know teenagers are going to listen to provocative music. I also realize there’s a difference in singing about something and actually doing it. I understand that our kids want to “fit in” wherever they may be. I think we parents and teachers should keep telling them that “fitting in” might be easier than standing up for decency, but easy is not always right. We have to make sure good values are instilled in our children before they go out on their own.

We, the adults, are frighteningly aware of the world that awaits our young when they leave the nest. The media bombards us all with nudity, trashy music and a message that thin equals beautiful even if unhealthy habits create that skinny silhouette. Another message that is loud and clear to our kids is that sex equals love. Not true! Enough already!