Sunday, November 22, 2015

LIVE! from ACTFL-3

"If it's not good and not working...I have to ask myself Why am I still teaching it?"
            Thank you, Laura Terrill.

Today was inspiring and empowering.  For starters, ACTFL has launched its Global Engagement Initiative this year that seeks to recognize programs that engage students of all ages globally.  I am proud that my program was honored today for our middle school trip to Costa Rica, but you don't have to travel with your students to get them globally engaged-nor is this a competition-any program that meets ACTFL's requirements can be recognized.  Today's session was inspiring-there were recipients that are engaging in exchanges with other schools, doing service trips, creating communities on their campuses and connecting older students with real life job experiences in which they use their target language.  Visit the Global Engagement Initiative website to read about the programs recognized this year and to nominate your own program!  If you're looking to build a globally connected program, Ben Rifkin of ACTFL suggests using the rubric to get some ideas on getting started.

The afternoon was spent being challenged, and empowered by Laura Terrill and Donna Clementi. (Their book "The Keys for Planning for Learning" is my bible of unit writing and lesson planning)
My takeaways:
  • If it doesn't work, toss it.
  • Don't be held captive by your textbook(in fact, maybe toss it-I've done it, it's great!)
  • Material has to be engaging and interesting to students-use photos of real people with real emotions.
  • Literacy is so so much more than reading(Do your students know how to use Google responsibly?)
Finally, the evening was spent with dear colleagues at a reception for the National Network of Early Language Learning-great to connect with true believers!

There are so many opportunities for elementary and middle school teachers here at ACTFL-if you can, come. So many of us may work in isolation...but we're not alone.

Friday, November 20, 2015

LIVE! from ACTFL-2

So, what's here at ACTFL for K-8 teachers? This weekend there are sessions on staying in the target language in FLES, practical tips on integrating technology, content ideas for elementary, developing deep thematic units, learning stations and dual language programs-plus sessions sponsored by NNELL, who has a presence here, too.  A ton of great sessions for us, K-8 language teachers!

My biggest take away from today was not about pedagogy, writing assessments or tracking proficiency growth.  Today centered around global engagement and justice.  This morning's keynote was presented by well-known travel writer and guide, Rick Steves, who challenged us to keep traveling and to seek building more bridges than walls.  This was followed with a plenary on global engagement with a notable CNN correspondent and an author/teacher and four time Peace Corps volunteer who highlighted the life changing experiences they've had because they ventured beyond our borders...and comfort zones.  These experiences have me reflecting on myself as a person in this world. How do I fit into this global community? What are my responsibilities to help others in this community?  What bridges am I building? 

Isn't this what we want to cultivate in our students?  From an early age, children can start to form stereotypes and assumptions- I am reminded today that as a world language teacher, it's my work to challenge and debunk these stereotypes, to cultivate interculturality and encourage respectful investigation of this world.  Yes, TL use and performance benchmarks are important, but if I only focus on the language, I'm missing the heart of the matter. We can do this..from the very start.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

LIVE! From ACTFL 2015

As an elementary and middle school teacher, I used to feel intimidated by the ACTFL convention-I often assumed that there was nothing there for me-that it's for high school and university professionals only. Not so!

I'm going to to write a few posts from ACTFL in San Diego highlighting what's here for us K-8 folks.
So, Today: 

Words and Actions Teaching Language Through the Lens of Social Justice with Cassandra Glynn, Pamela Wesely and Beth Wassell.

If you haven't already done so-I highly recommend reading it. The authors/presenters are sure to include ideas and resources for elementary through advanced university students.  I think this is an important theme for us to explore as K-8 teachers, as we know that beliefs and stereotypes are formed early. As a language teacher, I believe strongly that it's my job first and foremost to combat stereotypes and help foment an open, global mindset in my students. We can do this starting early by choosing carefully the kinds of images that are displayed in our classrooms, the vocabulary we choose and the materials we use during lessons.   

 Seriously. Get this book. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Do you celebrate Día de Muertos with your elementary or middle school students?

The children in my Spanish program range from age 5 to 14, most of them functioning at novice-mid language level.   How do I help them to understand and experience in a meaningful way Día de Muertos while maintaining 90% plus target language?  My approach is multi-faceted and relies on our school community:
  1. Partner with other specialists: art, music and library teachers.  These colleagues have been a treasure because not only can they explore different disciplines on the topic,  they can help provide the holiday's context and meaning in English.  Combing art projects for the ofrenda, singing traditional Mexican songs, and reading books in English about holiday, make the work in Spanish class so much sweeter.  
  2. Link Día de Muertos to the current thematic unit in some way. In order to build connection and meaning, we explore the holiday through the lense of the current thematic unit. For example-easy connection to a unit that ties to family, but a unit that ties to food helps to give focus to our celebration-even our thematic unit on biodiversity and conservation has a connection. I found a great authentic resource on celebrating Día de Muertos in a sustainable way-using recycled materials, etc.
  3. Give lots of visual support. I love and use Spanish Playground's unit that provides a great resource for introducing the holiday in the TL. I use lots of photos and drawings to help stay in the TL during class presentations and discussions.
  4. Give scaffolded support for presentational speaking. The children talk about their families-I know that is not the culture in all schools, but in ours it is an important part of the school culture.  My students have the option to remember and celebrate a loved one by placing items and photos on the ofrenda and/or talking to the class about them(every child has the option to pass-and many do). Since ground rules about respecting each child in the community, students' choices to share or not are respected-as are any emotions that come up.  At the early levels, children are provided with a form to fill in..."Recuerdo a....Se llamaba....era...." They can then use that support to help them to share, using Spanish. At upper elementary and middle school levels, students have more language experience and are able to create more on their own with more detailed descriptions of their loved ones.
  5. Communicate with parents.  Communicating the plan with parents also provides children with an opportunity to discuss and explore the holiday with their families at home, which enriches the in class experience.  
  6. A School Tradition Because celebrating Día de Muertos is part of our school's annual traditions, children are able to participate many times over the course of their time at the school-giving them lots of practice and opportunity to see it from different perspectives and ages.  Messages and language chunks are reinforced over a period of years. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Best Free PD:#Langchat

If you're looking for a free, time-friendly way to explore a proficiency topic with meaty dialogue-you should join #langchat on Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings. As elementary language teachers-we're often the only language teacher in our building-this is a great way to connect with other teachers at all levels in a great professional learning community!  See you there!  Thursday at 6 pm CST, 9 am  CST Saturdays.