Sunday, September 4, 2016

¡Pégalo Primero! Game

I am always trying to think of ways to expose my students to a variety of ways to practice vocabulary. Let's face it, if we are teaching languages as we should be, it should be comprised of vocabulary (words and phrases). Students love games and therefore, the two should naturally go together. So I came up with a game (forgive me if someone out there already has something similar) that is highly engaging and also practices input of the language/vocabulary. This game is not limited to language classes alone. It is such a fun way to practice vocabulary words, phrases, events...just about anything!

I call it "¡Pégalo Primero!" (which means Hit It First!) as, the object of the game is to "hit" or grab the card first. As you are describing the scene, vocabulary word, event, etc., the students must keep their fingers on the edge of the table until you finish your description then they must grab the card first. It can get very loud and quite exciting! One rule I use in my class is focused primarily to save my cards: they cannot fight over a card. If there is a dispute with no resolution, they must both forfeit the card and no one gets it.

I have used this game after a Movie Talk, after practicing the new vocabulary and just before a Quizlet Live! game, and after a story. We always wait to use this game until after the students have been exposed to the vocabulary and structures sufficiently to be successful with ¡Pégalo!.

Here is an example of the game:
Here is an example of a card for a Movie Talk

Teacher: There is a little girl with large blue eyes, blonde hair, and a blanket over her head. 

You can give other descriptions too, but I wait to give the most obvious clue at the end of my description. If I have only one card with a little girl on it, I may say something like:
there is a room with cracked paint, a bed, and a person. The person is....
This way, you are able to get them listening more. If you are doing one for vocabulary practice, I typically give the translation or the definition and the kids must find the card I am defining. If you want the game to be a bit more challenging, I will have the kids place half the deck of vocabulary cards face side up in the target language and half down in English (you can do this with flashcards and vocabulary too). For the following card, I would simply give the translation: grapadora
An activity we do in class is called Visual Vocabulary to help them define words  in a visual manner. They must find visual representations of words they are struggling with and place it in our classroom Padlet. I then print them out for each class and we use these cards for practice.
This is an example of a vocabulary card.

The person that has the most cards, wins the round. This is a low-tech activity that is fun, engaging, and a great way to practice vocabulary and structures.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Teach Like a Jedi Master

I am a geek. I love everything Star Wars and tech; as, I am sure you can tell from the title of this blog post. I love to incorporate these elements into my teaching style to make things fun and engaging for my students. We “Write Like Jedis” in my class, use Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to help explain difficult grammar concepts, and “travel” to the planets Hoth, Tatooine, and even the city of Coruscant. As I dig deeper into the meaning of the phrase, Teach Like a Jedi Master, I have stumbled across a much deeper meaning that I feel educators should ignore no longer.

I would like to believe every teacher wants to be the best he can be for his students; which is why we attend professional development sessions on our days off, participate in webinars and Twitter Chats, and read up on all the latest sound instructional practices. In order to make the connection between teaching like a Jedi Master and our current roles as teachers, I believe I must first focus on what a Jedi Master is and what his capacity is in the life of his students.

A Jedi Master is a Jedi that has earned his right as a Master after demonstrating a variety of skills; including teaching. One of the important skills a Jedi Master must experience is the success of his or her students. Some take several Padawans on at a time; while others take on one specific student to teach wisdom and skills to. This is a process that takes time, patience, and a tremendous amount of coaching. This is the heart of what Jedi Masters do. Coaches have caught on to this important skill; so I ask, why is it we don’t run our classrooms as coaches coach their athletes?

Educators can learn so much from the coaching style. In most situations, coaches first demonstrate a particular skill, have the athletes practice it, then the athlete will demonstrate his ability to the coach. The coach then makes the necessary adjustments and the athlete tries again. Some of the best learning happens when trial and error is the norm and correcting oneself is allowed to naturally happen. I see the same benefits in gamification in the classroom (but that’s another post for the future).

Jedi Masters we must be; maximum potential we must reach. When creating your plans for the week, be sure to include ways for students to learn from their errors to reach their potential. The best learning comes when we move out of our comfort zones. Luke learned valuable lessons from Yoda on Dagobah; most of which he initially failed. Yoda coached him and helped him realize his true talents. He saw the potential within Luke; he just needed to help Luke realize it himself.
May the Force be With You!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Vocabulary GIF and AR Activity

This activity was such an incredible lesson. My students chose three vocabulary words they hadn't quite mastered at that point. By using Google Drawings, they drew a visual representation of the word they chose, then used a GIF creator.

We then used Aurasma to create an aura for the words. This way, they could use the Augmented Reality word wall when they needed to "look up" a word.

Movie Talks!

Movie Talks are such a wonderful way to practice repetition in the target language while using technology. We begin by finding a movie short on YouTube. I found one that was perfect for practicing the past tense. "Anya" is such an endearing story, the kids responded positively to this activity.

This story is such a wonderful way for students to learn about real situations across the globe while using the target language at a comprehensible level. The story of Anya is about an orphaned girl who arrives at an orphanage in Russia back in 1996. We practiced words such as "era" ad "tenía". I pre-taught many of the words I knew they did not know ahead of time. WE created signs and/or motions for many of them. 

I did the Movie Talk with them and stopped frames and discussed each one in Spanish, asked questions, and reflected on the situation in the story, we then played the video with sound without interruptions. The kids responded very positively to the story.

So, it was such a great lesson in past tense, I created a story using the vocabulary words we were working on and had my students "Volleyball Read" it together. It was strictly a narration and I purposely chose not to include dialog. It was a great success! 

I took this lesson even further, and had them create a cartoon that plugged in the possible dialog or thoughts, of the characters in the frames they chose. Using Snagit, we cut frames from the movie short and used these to create our very own comic strips. They chose 3-6 frames, used PicMonkey to create a comic strip with the "collage" tool, then they inserted word/thought balloons with unique the text features.The beauty of this lesson, was the fact that the kids had to insert the dialog in the target language that was not present in the story. They had to infer what the characters might be thinking or saying since there was no dialog in the movie (with the exception of two single word phrase). This lesson was exciting for them and gave them skills to create. They included this in the e-portfolios as well and gave some great feedback. They were very excited to create these from scratch. I loved that it was evident what they inferred in the frames they chose.

Global Education

TCEA, (Texas Computer Education Association) this year, left me such an appreciation for the need for a global perspective in education, that I had to step back and ask, Why? Why are more educators not taking this perspective? We have an amazing opportunity to equip our students with tools that will help them become strong collaborators, creative thinkers, and amazing innovators.

We have been Doing Mystery Skype and MHO in Spanish; as well as connecting with students throughout the world. These activities have been such and eye-opening experience for my students.

On Friday, one class taught a lesson to fourth graders about Cinco de mayo. The kids had props and costumes. They first pronounced the vocabulary words then acted them out. They wrote a simple story in Spanish, and read it slowly and comprehensively while acting out the vocabulary words each time they were mentioned.

I was so proud of them as they planned the lesson and worked very well together. Their reflections stated how accomplished they felt and how fun it was to help others understand the history behind Cinco de mayo.

We have done several Skype Misteriosos with other Spanish language learners. This activity has strengthened their geographical vocabulary and their confidence to communicate in the target language.

Spanish Novel Reviews

Students playing a game that required the use of QR codes. The front of the card provided the questions and the back provided the answers.

We begin our class with SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) each day. We have many novels available so my students have choice in their reading. These novels can be found on the TPRS Publishing website. Their semester project was to creatively present a review of their favorite novel read this semester. 
This was no ordinary presentation. I decided to give my students a challenge and put a twist on things as they had to present their project through the perspective of a person, place, thing other than the main character; but the biggest challenge was that they could not use PowerPoint, Word (or any other word processing tool) or posters. I gave them a list of project ideas and told them they were not limited to this list, it was just there to help spark their creativity. I had some amazing projects and they were very creative.
Some of the more creative projects came in the forms of board games, skits, and animations. 
I found that allowing for creativity and giving my students this opportunity to really think out of the box, they surprised themselves. In their reflections, many mentioned how proud they were of their level of creativity and truly enjoyed this project.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Guantlet has been Thrown...

Thanks Steve Wick (@rechargeedu) for sharing this

I had the opportunity to visit the architectural firm PBK last year with Klein ISD's new Transform Academy. We watched -very intently- how a high-functioning team operates; and it was truly a mind-blowing experience. 

I realized how we are -as educators- grossly underestimating the skills our students will need to be competitive in their futures. They require Avengers©-like collaborative skills, problem solving ninja skills, and (among many others) be creative innovators. I hear so often how teachers (in 1:1 environments across Texas) use their tech as glorified worksheets or for warm-ups and are very unwilling to change the way they have done things..."because they have 'worked' for so long". At the risk of ruffling feathers, I ask this question: How can we get our students to the "PBK mindset" of innovation and asking questions, this "edutopia", if you will; if so many educators still focus on the answers, rather than the questions?

We must equip them with tools and skills to nurture their inner creators. Thank goodness we have so many amazing resources literally, at our fingertips! We use Google apps in our class to create, collaborate, and innovate. I tossed out the projector and brought in interactive panels and an HD TV. My students collaborate in a variety of ways and have become skilled at working with others, as it is done holistically -every day- in my class. They create with Google Drawings, evaluate and give feedback using Google Slides, experience and experiment with Google Cardboard, Google Earth, and Google Maps, and they will begin communicating with others, globally, using Google Hangouts.

I want to equip these students with the knowledge and skills that will transform their lives, not just their learning. Won't you join me, and help our students be creative independent thinkers that work well with others that possess a global mindset? The gauntlet has been it's time for us all- teachers, principals, directors, superintendents, parents- to step up, grab that gauntlet, and leave those worksheets behind.