Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Google Translate...NEVER

I am sure that many other language teachers face the same battle every day....Students that think Google Translate is a great tool to use in class. I acknowledge that if you are totally lost, it can help, but Google Translate is not a dictionary. It is not the omnipotent being that can make all foreign languages make sense. I forbid its use, but they still try, and I can tell every time. A fellow teacher recently shared this YouTube video with me and I can't wait to share it with my students.

Here is the link for you too.

I am always looking for any other suggestions to help kids stay away from translators. If you have any good ones, please comment on this post and share your ideas!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The three R's - Reading, Review and Rethinking

So, in response to some of the struggles last semester, I have switched some of my units around, and am doing my Detective Story unit now, then I will do a shorter Spanish Civil War Unit, and do a quick sports (specifically soccer) unit before Spring Break. I am again collaborating with our German teacher to do a project together and we thought soccer would be great. She has exchange students coming for this semester, and I really wanted my students to get an opportunity to interact with them.

Last year, we used readers, and although the students were challenged, they all worked through it and continually improved. By this time last year, on the whole, the students were able to use context clues to help decipher unfamiliar words and move at a good pace through the reading. Part of the reason I moved the Detective Story unit to the beginning of the semester was because the students last year found the books much easier than the Santanilla readers. However, I am finding that this is not the case this year. I am struggling with motivating students to continue to work and try to get through the reading when many of them are complaining that they don't know every third word. Now, having read the books, I know that there is some new vocabulary, but there are plenty of familiar words and words that we have learned this year.

Last year, the students kept summaries and then I gave them comprehension questions at the end of the story. I don't like giving students the questions first, because then all they do is skim for answers, they don't really read. However, this year, I think I may divide the questions up and start passing them out as students get to certain benchmarks. For example, do this after Chapter 6. I also have students make predictions halfway through the book, because it is a mystery, and I think it is important that they can make the predictions in the target language. Of course it also forces them to use some future tense which is nice too.

On the grammar front, my Spanish III students are reviewing the present subjunctive again, because it was clear last semester when I tried to review the highlights that they just weren't getting it. This time, instead of just giving them tons more practice, I assigned a skit/song/game project which requires them to teach the concept via a skit/song/game and give practice to their peers. I have had success with this before, so I am hoping that it will really stick with them this time. Not to mention, many of the kids come up with some great games and songs that I can use with future classes. It is fun to listen to the kids complain that it is hard to teach information and make it fun at the same time. Now they know how I feel!!!  ;)

Having the time to let the students create these projects just reminds me how much I love the flipped class. In the past, to go back and spend this time on reviewing a concept, I would have to eliminate another concept, or do some portions of the curriculum more quickly to have the time. Now I am so glad that with more class time, the curriculum can be tailored to what the students need, not just what I have to get through.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Recap of semester 1 - success and failures

It has been a long break with my family full of snow fun in the mountains of Colorado. I hope that all who read this had a great break and feel reenergized for the new semester.

Reflection is the reason why I started this blog, and there have been many things during the first semester with my classes that I need to improve upon. I had so much success with the flip during first semester last year, that it is surprising that I have some of e issues that I have had this year. It never ceases to amaze me how even if we do the same things, the kids can react so differently.

The students were overall receptive to the idea of the flip because they loved the freedom in class. However, I was constantly fighting with them to watch the videos. Now, part of this issue is that since they learned some basics of many of the grammar concepts I was teaching last year, they felt that they knew it and didn't need to watch the video. As those of you who read the blog know, I don't care if they watch the video...they can look in the text or do their own research online. However, they weren't doing that either. Some were finally catching on at the end, and some came kicking and screaming. However, it wasn't enough for me. I need all of them on the train, all of the, learning and progressing.

Just because we were struggling with the videos doesn't meanwe didnt make great progrss durng the first semester. We did make tons of progress as a class. We focused heavily on speaking during our last unit, and all of the students became more comfortable conversing in the target language. We began with the readers, and although reading is far from their favorite activity, they all made it through together. They learn so much from reading that I really stress it, and sometimes they even realize vocab that they think that they should know and ask to learn it,prevent better,learn it on their own. For example, prepositions are something that we don't seem to really teach, but through reading, the students recognized this. So, one of the first projects we are going to work on in the new semester is a preposition project. Students will be asked to create a game, video or song to teach others the prepositions.

I am also looking at a similar project for the present subjunctive. This is a concept that they learn in Spanish 2, but when I reviewed it with them before the end of the semester end, the majority of them really struggled with it. So, they need to review it but mostly practice, practice, practice. I don't want to resort to worksheets, so I am pondering the project reviews maybe.... I am also pondering a game... maybe some sort of truth or lie game??? I believe you are not an astronaut....maybe getting rid of an annoying person.....I wish you would go away....I want you to leave me alone....still have to work out the details. Maybe giving them these topics for a skit would be better.....can I require that every sentence in the skit uses the subjunctive?? Got it..."Who's line is it anyway?" And every sentence has to be in can be a spur of the moment....then I can eliminate and bring in new players as kids make mistakes in order to have a "champ". See, the blog is a great way to reflect on ideas and problems.....Sorry for the stream of consciousness.

I am picking up a Spanish 1 class, but I am thinking that I am not going to flip it. I think it might be too much for the freshman that are being forced to change teachers mid-year. I am going to utilize online resources though, which should be fairly easy since most of them are in the flipped Algebra 1 course and are already on Moodle.

Incorporating what worked from last semester, I am going to begin each class on Thursday and Friday ( since I am on the block) with the conversation circles. I want to figure out how to Incorporated this into the Spanish 1 class too, but I have to evaluate where they are first. I am going to do a vocabulary builder on the other days to help them practice the unit vocabulary. I am going to do even more mini projects this semester, and we are going to continue reading, but in pairs this time. I am looking forward to the new semester, and hopeful that the students will continue to improve! ;)