Monday, November 16, 2015

Have You Moved Over to the Google Side? Part 1

I am a geek and love Star Wars. 

I also love Google tools, so I decided to use the theme, "Are You Ready to Slide Over to the Google Side?" for my tech session on Google Slides. 

It was fun and best of all, I had teachers using the collaborative features and they LOVED them! Most had never used Google tools for collaboration. These tools are fantastic for all classrooms but I am finding so many incredible things that benefit our Foreign Language students! I will be sharing these in a series of posts since they will be filled with tons of engaging activities!

The first tool I want to talk about is Google Drawings. This is not just a "Paint" for Google. There is so much more to this program than meets the eye! The best part of Google Drawings is the ability to have more than one person work in the drawing at the same time. There are some fantastic ideas out there on the internet using Google Drawings, but these are some of my favorites:
Creating a Timeline:
When creating a timeline, your students must know the information as they must research whatever it is they are going to place on the timeline. If you have them in teams of 4-6, they can be responsible for certain events/periods. For example: A Walk Through History Timeline
You can assign students different Eras that you want them to cover and they are responsible for those sections of the Timeline. You can do one in Foreign Languages for Wars in Spain, or A timeline over Pablo Picasso's paintings/styles, etc. I did this one for a training session on Google Drawings in my district:

Another clever use of Google Drawings is to create your own graphic organizers in teams. You can actually "see" the thinking process as they can comment in the drawings and help one another. One graphic organizer we did in class was discuss a character from a Movie Talk we did (this example is done in English for the sake of all language teachers):

Sylvia Duckworth does a wonderful job with her SketchNotes. I encourage my students to draw the definitions of words as this helps them remember the words much better. You can check her SketchNotes here.

The kids really enjoy working with each other using these tools. I hope you will allow your students the opportunity to collaborate and create!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Are You a "Failsure"? or a "Failearner"?

"Failsure"? I know, I know it's not a real word and neither is "failearner"; but they could be. Let's begin by defining these words. 

Failsure- noun (feyl-shur) 
1. an individual who does not to take risks in the classroom so as not to fail.
2. a person that does not adopt new and innovative strategies easily to ensure his/her students are all learning at their levels. 

Failearner- noun (fey-lur-ner) 
1. someone who learns from failures.
2. an individual unafraid of failing to be innovative so students can benefit from their experiences in the classroom.  

So, are you a failsure or a failearner? Educators are notorious for desiring control (at all times) in the classroom. I get it; however, it is essential that we put those fears to rest and take risks; Isn't this what we ask of our students? We expect them to be innovators; to be creative; to be original. How are they going to reach their full potential if we don't model what we expect from them? Just as we must model how to use digital tools for education, or to be respectful individuals; we must model how to learn from our failures. 

In Transform Academy this year in Klein, I learned the importance of failing and how to take these failures, reflect, and try again. I saw incredible growth from my students by modeling how to handle failures and make the necessary changes. We had many new experiences this year that really pushed our boundaries; and reflected on everything we did. This fostered a growth mindset in my class.

Prior to the new activity, project, procedure, etc., I let them know we were trying something different and we would reflect on our experience in hopes of improving whatever it was we were doing. This gave them the mindset that that these trials were works in progress (as are we) with the opportunity for improvement.

Teaching our students the importance of reflecting and learning from our failures is one step in fostering a failearner attitude. Dr. Shelly Zavala takes the opportunity to reflect by asking herself: "What is this inviting me to learn?" Have the kids journal their experience and how they feel they can improve on it. Take the time to help them shape their learning.

Attitude is an important aspect of learning from failing or being a failearner. Thomas Alva Edison had the perfect mindset when he said:


Don't be a failsure. It might be safe, but are you helping all your students grow to their full potential? Be a failearner and help your students be reflective, growth mindset individuals by learning from their failures. Provide them an environment to take chances, to reflect, and to grow. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

10 Cool Tools to Transform Student Learning

We know that engagement is the key to student learning; why is it then that so many teachers, especially foreign language teachers, still use very little-if any- tech in their classrooms?
Here are a few tools that will drive student learning through the roof!

1. Kahoot! My students can't wait to Kahoot! They love to create their nicknames and compete against one another. In addition, they practice concepts, vocabulary, and culture at the same time. There is now a ghost feature that allows your students to compete against themselves. You can also collect data to see which students are grasping concepts and those who still need support.
2. Tagxedo is a tool you and your students can use to create word clouds in customized shapes.

3. Yakit (or blabberize for android) is a fun way to have characters or photos speak, You could have them use target vocabulary or summarize a novel, or discuss a famous person.
4. QR codes: what a fun way to have kids explore text, vocabulary, and so much more! My kiddos did a project for our class novel, La Vampirata and they could not use PowerPoint or Word. They WOWed me!!! Some created websites on Weebly and created their QR codes. They posted the QR codes throughout the class and had teams go from one to another to "frontload" information prior to playing "Jeopardy". They were incredible!
5 is a great resource for students to create their own websites. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to teach them digital responsibility. They need to learn how to site sources and how their words can be seen throughout the world. It is important for our students to realize how our words can impact others.
6.   Having students publish their work online is an opportunity for students to be reflective people. You can create a class blog where they take turns reporting what was done in the class for the day. This can be a fantastic resource for students who are absent that day.
7. Connected Mind is a mind-mapping tool that allows you to insert links, videos, photos and much more! Real-time collaboration is not yet available but they are working on it!

8. BigHugeLabs has many resources for students and teachers...and it's free! Students can create movie posters for books read or create a motivational poster that describes their outlook on life, topics, etc. 
9. Aurasma is amazing! Students can investigate historical figures and create auras that explain that person's life, facts, etc. This is an extraordinary way to assess your students' learning.
10. Picmonkey is an online photo editing tool that enables your students to create unusual products but much more user friendly than Photoshop. Students can create projects, comics, books, etc. The possibilities are endless!

My students have astounded me with their creations! There's no question as to their mastery of the concepts through the use of these tools. Keep working on transforming your students' learning!

Agents of Change

Transform Academy is a new program created in Klein ISD that has enabled teachers invited, to "transform" teaching practices. This program has created quite a buzz in the district. I had the opportunity to participate in this elite group and I have to say it was such an encouraging experience! For years I have been making a push for a change in our attitudes towards learner-centered education which includes environment, teaching practices, and blended learning.
So often, educators tend to teach students in the manner they were taught. This might have been fine long ago, but today we have students that are innovators, problem-solvers, and unbelievably creative. We need to provide a learning platform that enables our students to create their own learning experiences. Most districts are reluctant to this philosophy due to accountability. I get it, but if our kids are retaining and truly learning rather than regurgitating, we have no worries when it comes to accountability so long as we are still providing our students with the standards.
Transform Academy also provided us with monies to transform our classroom environments. WOW! What an experience! We were able to try-out the furniture and speak with manufacturers to discuss any concerns we might have. My plans are to create a "language lab" format in my class since I tend to do stations, it is very conducive to collaboration.
I am looking into many options for technology as well. I love Steelecase's MediaScape is a product I would love to have in my classroom but it is just too expensive for a small-scale venture. I have looked into many products that might mimic these features and have come close, but I am not quite there yet.
Many educators choose to look away and continue doing what they have done since the beginning of their career. Teaching is ever-changing; therefore, doesn't make sense that our teaching practices must also change to meet the needs of our learners?

Transform Academy looked at the "whole student" approach. We focused on considering what exactly our students need to learn at their maximum level. Shouldn't this be what every educator does in his/her classroom (regardless of subject)? We explored new technology and approaches at how to best use these in classroom environments. There were educators from elementary, intermediate, and high school present. There was dialog as to what works at the varying levels and what does not.
I love the fact that these 31 educators had an experience of a lifetime to provide their students experiences that will enable them to learn to their full capacity.
Krimmel's theme for the Transform Academy presentation was "Agents of Change". We have seen how this experience has positively affected not only our students, but the excitement of teaching in the school. We really are Agents of Change and are thrilled at all the possibilities!

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Change. For some, this is word is a nasty four-letter-word. I can understand complete as humans are creatures of habit. Is change necessary? You bet! Change is inevitable and we know it is coming. So what can we do to help our students meet those changes head-on? ¡Es obvio! We need to change our mindsets and how we teach our kiddos.

One thing to ponder: Are you teaching your students to learn? I know this sounds silly, but really, are you teaching your students to empower their learning or are you just teaching the subject? We must help our students learn how to learn.

Star Wars and Spanish?

Wow! It has been such a while since I've posted! There is so much information and resources I want to share with you!
My latest venture is being selected as part of a new program that Klein ISD has developed called Transform! Academy. We are "no-box" thinkers and have an amazing time collaborating and coming up with spectacular ideas for our classrooms.
They gave us some monies to us as we see fit to enhance our students' learning. Since my campus is a 1:1, I decided to focus on some unconventional technology as well as new furniture to create a cafe style atmosphere in my class. I am excited to receive all my collaboration technology and love the fact that KISD is so supportive.
I wanted to take a moment to chat with you on the different things you could do in your classes to make it fun and engaging. With the new Star Wars hype, it was so much fun to use the scene between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker to explain ser vs estar. You could bring in light sabers and really get into the presentation of this. I use a scene clip without sound and we act it out.
Here's the poster in my class:
I also use travel posters when we do our travel unit of the various planets in the Star Wars movies. We have a discussion in Spanish as to which planet they would visit and why. I put together a short video that serves as a travel commercial to each one of the planets/locations in the ads. As we discuss each planet, I play the commercial for each The kids have so much fun and it is completely relevant to them. Using pop culture is one way to reach our students and make things interesting for them.
You can also take a photo and use Yakit to have them speak for the character in the photo/poster. It is a great way for students to use the language and have fun with it!
¡Que la fuerza te acompaƱe!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Future of Foreign Language As We Know It

As I was discussing Spanish III with my niece the other day, it occurred to me that if foreign language teachers continue in the direction many are heading, the future of foreign language as we know it is bleak at best. My niece mentioned how unfriendly her Spanish teacher is; which in turn was the deciding factor as to why she refused to continue in Spanish. The teacher's outlook on teaching Spanish has to do with "old school" beliefs that Foreign Language should be grammatically difficult as a means to challenge students. While I agree we should always challenge our students; it is the manner in which we choose to do so that will make the difference. 
There are many ways to challenge students in foreign language to stimulate higher-level thinking. Challenging students to find solutions to real global situations plaguing the areas being studied is one of my favorites. I love The Flat Classroom Project! It is the ingenious collaborative effort of Viki Davis and many others. If you are unfamiliar with Flat Classrooms, please, do yourself a favor and check out the many amazing things they have accomplished.
Foreign language teachers need to change their mindsets to match the students they teach. If our goal is student learning, how can we truly believe this, if many continue on the same path with little to no change? Students are no longer choosing to continue in the FL they had been studying. Instead, they are taking other electives after they fulfill the minimal requirement.
Here's the problem with the old mindset; kids are not choosing the conventional language classes and now that computer programming is now an option to fulfill the FL credit,  we now have competition; and compete we must!
Stir things up! Here is an amazing site that provides a multitude of ways technology can be used in a foreign language classroom.Use technology and have students LOVE our beloved foreign language!