Thank you to all of the organizers of the first ever Comprehensible Input Midwest (CIMW) conference! Not only did I leave the conference refreshed with tons of great ideas, but I also scored a few free novels thanks to TPRS Publishing and TPRS Books. This conference was unique because I got a chance to connect with local CI teachers AND see presentations from superstars such as Stephen Krashen and Carol Gaab! I presented a session titled Turning the Page: Reading in the Lower Levels which focused on backwards planning strategies for novels and activities you can do to keep your students engaged while reading. Below is a pdf of my session and some ideas from other presentations that I am excited to use in my classroom.
Krashen's Keynote Presentation
The conference started out with a presentation from the one and only Stephen Krashen! Here are some powerful thoughts from his presentation:
Carol Gaab: Inspiring Higher Order Thinking (HOT)
This session really got me thinking about the types of tasks I use in my classroom. During this session Carol stated that we need to "decide what we want to occupy our student's cognitive capacity." When I apply this statement to Bloom's Taxonomy on the left, I can see that I need to focus on creating more activities that use the upper skills. During this presentation Carol proved that you don't need to use complex language to talk about complex ideas. Teachers simply need to give students the language they need in order to process and respond to the questions they are being asked. Below are some of Carol's ideas that I have already implemented in my classroom this past week!
Who else was at Comprehensible Midwest? Did you learn any ideas that you are excited to implement in your classroom this month?
I am now a middle school teacher! At the end of last school year a position at the middle school in my district opened up, so this year I am teaching 7th and 8th grade students. Although it has only been a couple of weeks I am loving the change. My students can speak so much Spanish! I am blown away by their creativity and willingness to express themselves! My brain is already spinning thinking of endless possibilities of activities that I can do with them this year.
Over the summer I was inspired by the infographic syllabi that I have seen online so I decided to give it a try. I used Piktochart to create a new syllabus for both my 7th and 8th grade classes. I wanted to keep the information concise so I stuck to the following topics: contact information, class overview, classroom expectations, materials and goals. The "I can" goals are from Dustin Williamson's blog. Piktochart was easy to use, but in order to download the syllabus into a printable PDF I had to purchase an account ($20 if you are a teacher).
To start off the year I was inspired by Allison Wienhold's blog Mis Clases Locas. On her first day of class Allison sets up an Instagram photo booth where her students can take photos upon entering class. I decided that an Instagram photo would be a great way for students to introduce themselves and choose a Spanish name. First, I had to create my school specific Instagram photo frame. I used this Instagram template to create my photo booth. After some fancy photoshop magic I took the finished product to Walgreens where I printed it onto a poster-sized foam core. Voilá, one life-sized photo frame!
On the first day of class I handed out a list of popular Spanish names. Each student had to pick a Spanish name and write a hashtag that represented how they were feeling about the first day of school. Students had the option to write their own hashtag or choose from options such as #necesitocafé, #odioloslunes, #megustaespañol, #megustaelverano, #tengosueño. On a piece of paper they wrote their Spanish name (in true Instagram fashion they put the @ symbol in front of their name) and their hashtag. When it was their turn to take a picture, students had the option to put on glasses and hats from my prop bins. Once they had their props on, each student introduced him/herself to the class (we all said hello using that person's Spanish name), read his/her hashtag and then I took the picture. Of course the student photos turned out better than mine, but the picture below will give you an idea of what the end result looked like.
Like what you see? Download the template for your own Instagram photo booth.
I printed out all of the student photos and put them on the bulletin board outside of my classroom for back to school night. The students and parents loved looking at all of the pictures! I loved that this activity gave the students an opportunity to learn their classmate's Spanish names and express their own feelings about coming back to school. It was also a great way to break the ice and show the students that this is a class where you can express yourself and have fun!
What are your favorite beginning of the year activities?
It has been 90 degrees here in Chicago and I work in a building without any air conditioning... needless to say, this week has been a struggle! At this point in the year my students think that videos are much more interesting than I am, so I decided to embrace this and do a MovieTalk for the last week of school. This hysterical animated film is called Rollin' Safari - What if animals were round?. It has just the right amount of humor and excitement to keep my students engaged during the last stretch of school.
With the use of some strategic pausing this video can create a lot of drama and suspense in class. We did class voting on topics such as 'Will the crocodile eat the flamingos?' or 'What animal is going to jump out of the water?'. Here are some of the structures I used for this video:
Back in November I was inspired by Martina Bex's session on teaching language through culture at ACTFL. In her presentation, Martina took us through the steps of how to take a cultural product, practice or perspective and create an entire comprehensible input (CI) friendly unit. After her presentation I was inspired to create a CI unit for the Reyes Magos and the result was awesome. It was great to watch my students be engaged while learning about cultural practices! Since that lesson I've dropped the ball...I was busy reading novels with my 3rd and 4th graders and doing typical CI stories and activities with my 1st and 2nd graders. But when I was spending the last of my curriculum budget for the year I found an amazing lesson on the encierro de toros (the running of the bulls) from Martina Bex. Martina already did the work for me by creating an informative presentation with pictures that explains the encierro de toros in comprehensible Spanish (thank you Martina!). I did take some liberties in paring down the language even further for my 2nd graders, but since I am new to this whole CI/culture thing it was great to have Martina's work as a starting point.
After my students learned about the history of the running of the bulls, I created a story about a young girl named Sofía that goes to Pamplona and participates in this exciting event. I tried to find images on Storybird that would fit with the story I wanted to tell, but I didn't see anything that matched the story I had in my mind. I ended up taking images from Google and creating a Where's Waldo-esque story that includes the following high frequency structures:
This story was a hit with my students! What kind of kid wouldn't want to act out the part of the bulls chasing people down the streets of Pamplona!? After we read and acted out the story I saw a project on the Spanish Cuentos website that I wanted to try. If you are not familiar with this site you really should check it out! The website has a variety of different hand drawn videos that are compelling AND focus on high frequency structures! Jackpot! They charge a small fee to unlock all of the videos (I think I paid about $20), but I've used it enough that it was definitely worth it.. On the website there is a video of a very creative digital storytelling project. In the description of the project it says that students were asked to create a story in class using high frequency words. Once the story was written each group made characters and other paper props for their story. After the props were created one student narrated the story (no reading allowed), one student videotaped, and another student manipulated the props. The result was awesome!
I applied this project to my 'Aventura de Sofía' story for my 2nd and 3rd graders. I broke up my students into small groups and gave each group a list of props that they were responsible for making for the story (each separate group made all of the props and recorded a their own story). I gave each group one iPad and one student was responsible for filming the story while the other group members manipulated the props. Instead of having a student narrate the story I decided to read it aloud (this simplified the project for me because it allowed all of the groups to videotape at the same time). The next class period we had a viewing party where the students got to watch all of the videos from their class.
Watching the videos was great because it provided a novel way to hear the story a few more times. Next class period I am thinking of muting one of the videos and asking the class to work collectively to narrate the story (I will pause and ask for volunteers to narrate different parts of the story to the class). This will be new for me because usually my focus is on filling my students with input, but I have a feeling that some of my students (especially my 3rd graders) are overflowing and ready for some output! I'm excited to find out!
In his book The Power of Reading, Stephen Krashen says "Language acquisition comes from input, not output, from comprehension, not production" (p 136). Even though most teachers agree that reading is a powerful way to provide students with the input that is required for language acquisition, many teachers are hesitant to being reading a novel with their students. As a teacher who teaches four different levels and around eight classes a day, I'm here to assure you of one thing: novels are your friend, not your enemy! For me, using novels has been a total lifesaver for the following reasons:
My 4th graders are currently reading Las aventuras de Isabela by Karen Rowan. I spent months pre-teaching the vocabulary words so that my students could read straight through this novel. In my experience, pre-teaching the vocabulary makes it so when you read the novel you don't lose momentum and the class can get lost in the story!
This book is set in México and offers opportunities to explore different cultural topics. As a teacher it was awesome to expose my students to such a wide variety of authentic resources while reading this book! Check out my top 3 cultural resources for this book:
Rewind to me three years ago sitting in my first Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling® (TPRS) workshop. I was learning about great reading and storytelling techniques but I couldn't wrap my mind around one thing: how does this work in the elementary classroom? How do I make reading an integral part of my curriculum when half of my students are preliterate? How are my squirmy first graders going to be able to listen to a story for a thirty minute class?
One of the reasons I started writing this blog was because I felt there was a lack of resources for Teaching with Comprehensible Input (T/CI) at the elementary level. Of course you can always take materials that are created for the upper grades and modify them for younger learners, but what do these modifications look like? Below are some of the ways that I have adapted T/CI to keep my elementary-aged students engaged and my class comprehensible.
My students love storytelling! Often when my students enter my classroom the first thing they ask me is "Are we acting out a story today?" They love having their voices heard and playing an active role in their learning. I have found the general guidelines of storytelling are the same at the elementary levels as the upper levels with a few key exceptions...
Change it up
The first time I tried telling/acting out a story with my first graders it was a complete disaster. Not only did I spend too long establishing details, I also tried to tell the story for the entire thirty minute period. One of the most valuable adaptations that I have made to my T/CI practice is the inclusion of activities to break up the listening and allow my students to get up and move around. In general, I think that incorporating movement and brain breaks into your lessons is important at all levels, but since younger learners have shorter attention spans movement is even more important in the younger grades.
Here are some simple ways I incorporate movement in my class:
I work in a district that has a play-based kindergarten program (I am so lucky to work in a place that values social emotional learning!). Having said that, most of my first graders start the year at very basic reading levels. When I started TPRS and T/CI I got hung up on "R" (reading) of TPRS--how much language should I be posting for my young learners? Am I harming them by posting words that they can't read? By not posting written language am I depriving them of valuable comprehensible input that they need? I now post our target structures on the front white board with their english translations, and when we are first learning the word I will pause and point at the structure just like I do with my older students. I also write out short dialogues on white board thought bubbles that I hold above my student actors. Sometimes I also write a summary of the story on our storyboard for them to read along with me if they are ready. After talking to my colleagues I realized that providing written language for pre-literate students is still extremely powerful because they are starting to make connections between sounds and letters. I never force them to read until they are able to, but it is important to provide the written language for the students that are ready to read it (and know that the other students will follow suit when they are ready).
These adaptations are simple, but can go a long way in keeping younger learners engaged and actively listening. What are some of your tricks for using T/CI in the elementary grades?
When I think about teaching cultural lessons I usually come up with a list of excuses that looks something like this:
Who can relate to these excuses? I know that focusing on cultural topics is something that I want to do more of with my students, but I always find reasons not to...until now! At ACTFL I was inspired by Martina Bex's session on teaching language through culture. In her presentation, Martina took us through the steps of how to take a cultural product, practice or perspective and create an entire comprehensible input (CI) friendly unit (did I mention that she also made this process look totally effortless?). I'm taking baby steps, so instead of making an entire unit I created a mini unit that I can finish before winter break.
My mini unit focuses on el Día de los Reyes in Spain. I started the unit by looking at pictures and reading an explanation of the holiday with my students.
El Día de Reyes es una celebración en España. Los niños escriben cartas a los Reyes Magos con una lista de los regalos que quieren. Los Reyes Magos llegan a las casas el 5 de enero. Los Reyes Magos tienen regalos para los niños buenos y carbón para los niños malos. Los Reyes Magos ponen los regalos en los zapatos. El 6 de enero los niños se despiertan y abren los regalos.
Phew! Talk about something that looks easier than it is! Writing a summary that is interesting and comprehensible is tough! It was hard to not include so many of the details that I find interesting about this holiday, but my new mantra for writing is less is more!
After the reading I used MovieTalk to show a short video from Nickelodeon. The video is about the anxiety that one boy feels when he can't find one of his shoes on the night the Reyes are coming. I focused on the following vocabulary structures for this MovieTalk:
After we watched the video we acted out different variations of the video using All the World's a Stage (I narrated the story and all of the students silently acted out what they are hearing). It was fun to think of creative places to make them look for the shoe and to see their reactions when I told them different items were in the box!
My younger students wrote letters to the Reyes Magos. In the letter the students explained how they behaved this year (I had them circle different smiley faces), drew a picture of one item they wanted and signed their name. I shared each of the letters, circling vocabulary words as I went, and finally the students put their letters in an envelope addressed to the Reyes.
If you would rather write the letter as a class here are some great online platforms where you can email a letter to the Reyes.
If your students are too old to write a letter and you are looking for a service project the group 'Reyes Magos de Verdad' is an organization that emails you a letter that a child wrote to the Reyes Magos and asks you to send a gift.
Even though I am still far away from creating a cultural unit as complete as the ones that Martina presented, I am excited to start creating CI lessons that focus more on culture!
My colleagues and I have decided we want to move to San Diego! The weather is glorious (mind you it started snowing in back home in Chicago tonight) and the sessions on Comprehensible Input have been incredibly inspiring. It is always so great to see how passionate T/CI teachers are and how willing they are to share their ideas with others. Also, I got to meet my idol Martina Bex today...I've never felt so starstruck. Her presentation on teaching language through culture was awesome!
Below I am posting the PDF version of my presentation "Turning the Page: Reading Short Novels in the Elementary Levels". For those of you that attended my session, thank you for coming! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments that you may have. For those of you that couldn't attend, feel free to look through the slides and reply below with questions or comments. I hope that the presentation provides teachers with strategies to make reading short novels more manageable for the teacher and accessible for the student. Enjoy!
I'm sure that all teachers can relate to the craziness of Halloween...the costumes, the classroom parties, and the candy! I've finally learned that it is best to embrace the excitement that comes with this day. Pick activities that will match your student's excitement! Below are some ideas for activities that I do with my students to celebrate Día de los muertos.
We read Rosita y Conchita by Erich Haeger aloud as a class. The book is in Spanish and English but I rewrote the text using simple Spanish that I know my students can understand. Some details of the story are lost when you simplify the text, but the basic plot line stays the same and the language becomes comprehensible for your students. One of the best advantages to rewriting a text is that you can target specific language that each grade level is working on. On a side note, the Kindle version of Rosita y Conchita includes a game where students click and drag items to make their own ofrenda. After reading the book we make ofrendas together on the SmartBoard--so fun!
I also love the book Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston. This book is in English so I rewrote a simplified version of the text in Spanish to make it comprehensible for my students. This book hits on a lot of traditional foods and symbols for Día de los muertos and it is easy to rewrite in simple Spanish for lower level students.
After introducing my students to Día de los muertos we usually do a simple art project to celebrate this special day. My 1st graders use pictures from Día de los muertos celebrations as inspiration to decorate their own skull masks. After decorating the face they cut out the faces (I usually help them cut out the eyes) and tape a popsicle stick at the bottom to make a mask. Below are the templates I use for the masks.
My 2nd graders make skull faces out of paper plates. A co-worker cut out the idea from a magazine and they look awesome! Again, we look at images from Día de los muertos celebrations for inspiration on how to decorate the faces.
The 3rd graders make papel picado. Here are some simple instructions--it is basically the same process as making cutout snowflakes. I usually have my students make 3 or 4 panels and then send the panels home with a string to hang them (I fold a piece of construction paper in half and put the papel picados inside to keep them from getting torn on their journey home). Insider tip: having the students glue at home is key--when they glue in class the tissue paper always manages to get stuck to another student's project, creating a sticky mess.
My 4th graders make calaveras de azúcar. Here is my tried and true recipe. The students decorate with the pre-made cake icing that comes in tubes (I limit each student to only 3 colors of icing in the hopes that it will still resemble a skull when they are finished). We usually spend one day making the skulls and one day decorating them. While my students are waiting to be called up to make/decorate their skulls they complete reading activities on Textivate!
Check out the finished products!
The majority of you have probably already heard about the animated short Día de los muertos. If you haven't then you should watch it right now because it is fabulous for a MovieTalk! In her Día de los muertos packet on Teachers Pay Teachers Martina Bex uses another animated short entitled Día de muertos by Sofía Aviles. Both are great videos, although the second video is probably better suited to older students (I'll let you watch them both to figure out why). After watching the video there are a lot of different activities you could do to reinforce the key vocabulary structures...
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate Día de los muertos with your students?
This week in my never ending quest to keep my class novel I stumbled across an amazing tech tool called EDpuzzle. I know that I am probably late to the EDpuzzle party, but that doesn't make me any less excited!
So what is EDpuzzle and how did it completely save my classes this week? EDpuzzle allows you to upload and edit video clips. You can search from clips on YouTube and Vimeo or you can upload your own video. Once the video is uploaded there are endless ways that you can manipulate it to meet your classroom needs.
I found EDpuzzle easy for my students to use. Students either login using their Google email address or they create an EDpuzzle account (all of the students in my district have Google email addresses so I had them login using their Google+ accounts to avoid having to remember yet another password). Once they are logged in they enter a class code--this is a code that EDpuzzle sends the teacher when they create a class. The fact that you can create different folders for each individual class makes it easy to organize your content on EDpuzzle. After the students completed the EDpuzzle assignment I logged in and navigated to the class folder to view each student's individual scores. This was a really quick way for me to assess student comprehension and they felt like they were getting a treat by getting to watch a video. It's a win-win situation!
I created an EDpuzzle video for my Cade meu Rango MovieTalk lesson. My students loved watching the video again and I got great feedback on their comprehension from the multiple choice questions that they answered.
But how can you use EDpuzzle when your lesson doesn't involve a video? This is where you have to get creative...to create a movie from a book I wrote using Storybird I took screenshots of the illustrations in the book. Next I uploaded the screenshots into iMovie to create a video. I added sound effects and music to make the movie more exciting and then uploaded the finished product into EDpuzzle. And there you have it...another way to make re-reading a text novel and engaging for the students!
What tech tools are you using to help keep your class novel and your students engaged?