This year we were asked to adopt the idea of Growth Mindset, an idea from Carol Dweck, an author and leading researcher in the field of motivation. The main idea behind growth mindset is that we don't have a fixed intelligence and we can all get better at something if we put in enough work. (I'm trying to get better at blogging and marketing right now!!😉 )This was presented to us during a staff meeting and coupled with the idea of grading. Some of my coworkers and I started talking after the meeting "Does this mean we have to allow unlimited retakes? Won't kids just choose not to study so they can see what's on the test and then ask to do a retake?" There's a lot of sticky questions to navigate, but I thought I'd give it a try in a small way.
"We heard Spanish is awesome today!" said several students in my afternoon class on the day I introduced Quizlet live. I even had coworkers coming up to me all week asking me to show them this new game their kids are all buzzing about! So naturally, I wanted to share it here as well!
Quizlet live allows you to take any set of flashcards with 12 or more terms and turn them into a fast-paced, competition among your students. All you need to do is sign up for a free teacher account, select the study deck you want, and click on the new "live" button. It could be a set you've created, or one of the millions of sets already in their database.
But then during my second year of teaching, I went to a workshop by Carol Gaab on TPRS and my mind was blown! I learned more in one workshop than in most of my methods classes combined! I couldn't believe how amazing this strategy was and that nobody had ever shown it to me before! This was amazing!! I went back to school the next Monday and dove right in with my students and they gobbled it up. They loved everything about it and both their fluency and engagement skyrocketed! It was a miracle! But how do I still teach the required elements of my school's textbook curriculum?
Tener que + infinitive is one of those topics that I have to teach (haha, get it?), but never really sinks in for the kids. This year I was looking for a new way to teach it and I came up with an idea that worked so well, I just had to share it! (I crack myself up!)
This week our school gave up 5 days to the dreaded PARCC test. I knew ahead of time that my kids would be tired and cranky and I wanted to do something to brighten their day after suffering through two hours of testing. Also, we only have 26 minute class periods, so I knew not a whole lot of learning was going to take place. Instead of continuing with my curriculum, I put together this music slide show. Each day we would choose a different Spanish-speaking artist by rolling a die. I would give the students 3 quick facts about the singer and then we would learn the chorus of a song. Finally, we danced to that song using a YouTube video - either something from Just Dance or a Zumba class. My 6th graders LOVED it! My 7th graders had mixed reviews. They loved the music, but a lot of them were "too cool" to dance. Typical 7th graders ;-). But most days everyone was excited to come in and see which song we were doing and their energy and mood changed immediately, which was my ultimate goal!
During my student teaching, I remember observing veteran teachers and thinking "Wow, they speak so much English! I'll never do that!" Fast forward 10 years and....We're all guilty of it. Sometimes it's just faster and easier to give the directions in English, even if we know we shouldn't. Here are three tools I use in the classroom that have really helped both the kids and I to speak more Spanish.
1. Los Frijoles: Each class gets a different colored plastic cup. When students speak in Spanish, I put beans in their cup and when they speak in English (or misbehave) I take beans out. They know that sometimes I will put in a handful of beans at the end of an activity so I'm not chained to the cups and that they don't get beans if they ask for them.
I have a divider in it for each different prep, and I transfer whatever current unit I’m working on for each class to that binder to easily transport back and forth as necessary.
I also add a footer to each document I create with the file name. That way, when I catch mistakes I’ve made, I can easily find the file on my computer to modify it for next time. This was helpful when my school switched from Word to Google Docs, and I couldn’t remember where I made the document: .doc for Word and .gdoc for Google Docs.
How do you stay organized?
The next day I told students I would set a timer for 5 minutes. In those 5 minutes they could use their notes and ask each other for help, but I would not answer any questions. At first, they all panicked and wanted help. I stayed strong and just pointed to the clock. And – miracle of miracles! – they started to read the directions and ask each other for help!!! By the time the buzzer went off, there were only a few questions and they were actually curricular-related as opposed to I-don’t-feel-like-reading-the-directions-myself questions. At the end of class, I made sure to praise my students for working so independently and point out that they just needed a few minutes to allow themselves to think on their own. I think something may have clicked!
What tricks do you use to help kids become more independent and read directions?
If I create a puzzle with nine pieces, I will label all 9 pieces with the same number in pencil before I laminate it and before the kids cut it apart. Then I also label the ziploc baggie with a matching number. This way, when pieces wind up on the floor, I know where to put them back.
Another time saver: Have kids help you! You don’t have time to cut out 24 puzzles with nine pieces each. The first time I make something new, I let my first class cut out the pieces and then it’s ready for all future groups.
Here are some puzzle sentences I use with my students that I use this trick with!
Here is a sample of Gustar verb puzzle sentences in action! The product for sale is obviously typed up and cute, but these are the original pieces I made by hand for my students before I got into Teachers Pay Teachers. I like these activities because it's helpful for the students to be able to move around the words and understand the order more easily!
I can’t take credit for this because I got the idea from my friend Holly (and then I've since seen it on multiple Pinterest pages), but I think it’s a great one! I do a lot of games where students receive a paper game board that they need to write on. I used to photocopy a new set each time we played and students would recycle them when they finished playing. Now I invested in several boxes of plastic sheet protectors. I put the game board in the plastic and give each student a dry-erase marker and a sock.
I spend a really long time teaching pronouns to my students because I believe it's critical for them to understand this before we begin using any verbs.
We start off by making sure they know what it is in English and I show them this School House Rock video. It's old, but they still really like it. Then we do one of their favorite activities all year: Pronoun TPR. Here's a video demo.
Today’s post is about this fantastic free app called Duolingo. It is a wonderful tool for differentiation, especially for your high-achievers who always finish early.