Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Keeping them Guessing with Varying Presentation Tools

I am happy to report that the EdTech Review just published my second article this year, actually this month. I was inspired over the weekend and wrote about presentation tools. http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/trends/2645-online-presentation-websites-tools I try to vary my way of presenting material to my students because invariably they get tired of the same types of presentations. Also, I love it when the students use some of the newer presentation tools on the Internet rather than creating simple PowerPoints. On another topic, my Spanish III students enjoyed a collaboration with a college class in the Dominican Republic yesterday. We communicated via the WhatsApp app and sent audio messages back and forth providing feedback concerning each other's pronunciation. My students enjoyed this tremendously and we are following up on a few more voice messages in class this afternoon. After that, we will review the present subjunctive for the chapter test on Friday. Hopefully, they will come through and perform excellently as expected.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


I went to sign my contract for my Fall Semester Spanish 1020 at our local college last night, but to my chagrin they now pay by the student if one has less than seven students in a class. I had only two enrolled, so this amounted to only $500.00, which I obviously declined. It's so depressing to think what they are doing this to the adjunct instructors there, who obviously must make a living from the money they make there and at other colleges. In fact, I find this to be a cruel policy. I worked there for eight years and had plenty of classes with under seven students and was never paid by the student. This is a disappointment, but Thank God I have my high school full-time Spanish job as well as my adjunct classes at South College in Knoxville, who will give me two classes next quarter. One will be online and the other one on site. I really did not see this coming, but life is full of surprises I suppose. On the bright side, I love my high school classes and especially the Genius Hour Project we do each Friday. The students are such an inspiration to me as they work on their project ideas, building businesses and acting on their creativity. In fact, it makes me think about building an online tutoring service website. I will need to work on how to get this started, but it definitely has potential. Let's just roll with the punches as they say.

Friday, January 27, 2017

TGIF- a long week

This has been the busiest week so far this semester. I gave my Spanish II students a quiz every day of the week. We still need to take two more quizzes before taking the chapter test. My most successful activity this week was actually the daily native speaker group activity. My Spanish III students now rotate daily through three stations headed by native speakers who talk to them about different topics, such as famous sites in their home countries, popular foods they like, and sports activities. This has really worked well and the students have steadily gained more confidence each day. They feel proud that they can now understand what the native speakers are saying and really attempt to ask them questions related to the assigned topics. In addition, we have been doing a "news flash" or noticia de la última hora in Spanish III class as the "hook" question. As we work on the subjunctive mood, these two daily components plus the genius hour project have made my Spanish III class extremely enjoyable to teach this semester.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Article in the EdTech Review

I am happy to report that my article, "Providing a Bigger Purpose with a Genius Project" was published this morning in the EdTech Review, a publication that originates out of India. http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/2638-genius-hour-project-ideas I had not sent them any articles since last year, so this is perhaps a new beginning of sorts for me. This week has been hard work, quizzes every day and grammar lessons with the Spanish II classes. I am trying new approaches in Spanish III class to make it more and more conversational. We now have the Noticia del día in place, where students begin each class with a news flash of some sort. We then have a group activity, led by native speakers who question the students on different topics each day. The students had very positive reactions to this and I can't wait to see how this works out today.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Teacher PD today

Today we will have another teacher PD in our series of professional development we are offering at the local middle school. This one will cover a review of the Excel program. Yesterday we had another genius hour and I was amazed at the level of commitment my students are showing. They worked so peacefully on their projects that I was able to create an article for the EdTech Review during my last period of the day. I am having my English teacher friend look it over before submitting it, but it basically covers the genius hour project idea in the classroom. Last night we had a nail biter basketball game. Our team lost after a very tough fight. It was sad. The star players are in my Spanish III class and I am so proud of their efforts. Not only are they great players but they actually try to learn Spanish in my class. What else could a teacher ask for? Next week we will get into testing with quizzes every day, and the week after that I will be giving my first chapter test to my students this semester. Hopefully, they will test well and all of our effort will have paid off.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Give the students credit for their bright ideas

Today I was amazed by my students' ideas in their daily reflections once again. I absolutely love it that they take responsibility for their own learning and share their bright ideas with me. Today a student told me that we should look at learning as a computer with temporary and permanent memory and that for obvious reasons we should try to commit the new vocabulary words to long term memory by really trying to learn the pronunciation. In my first period class, we did the usual after group practice of the vocabulary words on Quizlet and played the match and Quizlet live games. This was a lot of fun and enjoyed by all. But, in second period the class decided to have the students pronounce the words individually and I put a native speaker in front of the class. Interestingly, she didn't accept anything instead of perfection and some students ended up having to pronounce the words numerous times. This actually took up the entire class period, but toward the end the students' pronunciation had improved dramatically as had their confidence in their speaking abilities. Quite amazing actually. In their reflections they expressed this as well and most said they wanted to do this again next time. Of course this will have to hold until next week, since tomorrow is our designated Genius Hour, during which the students work on their extended Spanish projects. Power to the students!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An ordinary Wednesday

So, the 39 day blogging challenge continues. I was able to form the Academic Festival teams to create a Spanish video with the theme of "Social Media." The Spanish II class participants came up with some good ideas concerning bullying possibly. The Spanish III class has not discussed this yet but I am sure it will come out great. They are very creative. I sent out the survey forms for my Great Global Project Challenge, "Why Should I Study a Foreign Language?" but unfortunately I only received three back so far from the 23 registered participants. I do hope I will get them to complete the forms before the end of the week, though this will probably not happen. My classes are getting more into the work now that we are back from snow days and MLK day. Today I am getting more positive responses for the reflection component of the lesson. So I think we should settle in before too long. Hopefully, there will not be a bunch of snow days to throw us off course again. Did I just say that?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Friday, the 13th- may the geniuses be revealed

Friday, the 13th was an awesome day in my classes. We had the first official Genius Hour in all four of my classes. A lot of the students were able to identify a Genius Hour Project they would like to pursue and presented their proposals to the class. A few were rejected and need a little refinement, but most students have a fairly good idea of what they want to do with this. Some ideas that will be explored are Hispanic art- drawing a famous Hispanic basketball player (I have no idea who that is), creating original canvases inspired by Hispanic art that will be displayed on my classroom walls; fashion- designing a dress based on Spanish fashion trends; designing a pullout table and offering it on a bilingual website; exploring the idea of making the ocean floors habitable with a bilingual report; opening a coffee shop that serves Hispanic coffees and treats; expanding an existing Mexican business to include tamales and buñuelos; watching telenovelas and creating a pilot episode for a new one; creating a game that includes a Mayan village; creating a furniture line that is based on Hispanic themes; researching what it would take for a small Cuban child to make it to the baseball leagues in the US; creating an action plan to be able to play soccer for Barcelona; creating a mission trip to a Hispanic country; creating a travel plan/package to visit a Hispanic country; creating a website that offers boat tours in Puerto Rico; creating a green screen photography studio that would allow one to take pictures on location in Hispanic countries; creating a life-size sculpture of a mythical creature that is famous in the Hispanic culture; and more that I do not recall off the top of my head. Some of the students' presentation topics gave me goosebumps, I was so impressed. One student in Spanish III class said she would love it if we had Genius Hour in all of the classes on a rotating basis so you would have one every single day. I just loved that comment. Well, we have a three day weekend due to MLK, which made is easier to get the lesson plans in already on Friday for next week. On another note, we will be participating in the Roane State Academic Festival after all. It is being held during Spring Break, but they have a creative video category so I was told by the teacher who organized the trip last year that we will be participating with videos. The theme is social media. We will see what can be done with that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why is 2017 a great year to study Spanish?

Today we were finally back at school and I used the Transparent Language presentation Why 2017 is a great year to learn a language with my Spanish II students. I love this presentation as it gives students wonderful reasons for learning languages this year. They add empathy, tolerance, communication, global citizenship, entrepreneurship and more reasons that most would have never considered. My students were able to write marvelous short essays with the topic, "Why is 2017 a great year to study Spanish?" Had I not discussed this presentation they would have said it fulfills graduation requirements and possibly will help them in their future career. I can't wait to get out my survey to the schools around the world for our Great Global Project Challenge on "Why Should I study a Foreign Language?" I am just waiting on approval of our survey form from one of the collaborators. Spanish III class viewed the "Lo mejor de lo mejor" presentation I discussed on yesterday's blog. They were fascinated that some people apparently eat gold. We also registered all of the class members on the new seesaw.me blog and posted a few items in response to the presentation and concerning Genius Hour. When classes were over today, I felt very at ease and happy with them this semester. They are well behaved and highly motivated. What else could a Spanish teacher wish for?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Still not back at school- another snow day

We are on another snow day. So what's a teacher to do? Make out lessons on Blendspace. I spent quite some time this morning making out a grammar lesson for my Spanish III students. This is my Spanish Subjunctive Lesson. I love Blendspace because it is so user friendly. I tried out a Sway lesson, but was discouraged quickly. I may try again later, but for now I have my grammar lesson ready. The question is when will I even get to the subjunctive though, since we have been out for two days now. Tomorrow we will do the pre-test, then on Thursday the vocabulary section and on Friday is Genius Hour. Consequently, it will be Monday or Tuesday when we do this lesson. I posted it on our Facebook group for anyone who wants to get ahead with his/her notes from the PowerPoint. We will see if anyone takes me up on that because they are equally bored staying at home as I am right now.

Monday, January 9, 2017

What to do on a snow day

We are having a snow day today due to icy roads all over our very hilly county. The school buses can't handle these conditions without putting the children in danger. So the question is now what to do on a snow day. Fortunately I live in town so I personally have been able to get out without a problem. Once the temperatures climb above freezing I will probably check to see if the car wash is open to get the grime off my car and also go to the grocery store for a few items. When I heard about the school closing yesterday I was actually sad about it. The semester had begun so well last week and this feels like a break in the momentum. But this is how it goes here every January I suppose. I did make new connection on Edmodo, Ms. Christina de Haro from Spain who has a great blog at https://mflandbeyond.wordpress.com/. I will be using her PowerPoint "Lo mejor de lo mejor" with my Spanish III class this week, probably tomorrow if we have time after the pre-test. It features some of the most extraordinarily priced restaurant dishes in the world. Apparently, some people enjoy eating gold, which dates back 5000 years. I love her video of the dining experience at the most expensive restaurant in the world. It includes a virtual reality experience out of this world. This should lead to a great classroom discussion in Spanish III class. What else to do today? Well, I have been waiting for Alexis Radney and Atholo Carrao to get back to me on our "Why Study a Foreign Language" collaboration survey form. We do need to get the forms out to the participating teachers very soon. I could watch another Indian movie on Netflix, though the one I watched last night had a terrible plot. One thing I can say about Indian movies is that they never seem to have a good ending, but rather leave you completely horrified at the end. Watching the news? I probably will be watching CNN but their repetitive programs get old soon. So what can a teacher do? Probably more school work. I will keep you posted. The 30 day blog challenge continues.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

It's a wonderful life

The snow did finally materialize last night and we have a nice covering, though it doesn't seem like a lot. Around here it can get dangerous with just an inch like that because there could be icing under the snow. Teenagers have been coming out all night to spin in the snow in the middle school parking lot which is visible from my house. They must not sleep at night. School was reassuring yesterday. I was so glad to see that the students are excited about their Genius Hour project in the Spanish III class. Several of the Spanish II students in last period came prepared with laptops and bright ideas even if they could not work of anything since we were dismissed early due to the impending snow situation. I was glad to see my last period class come in very calmly and not as chatty as on the first day. This was mainly due to the absence of a couple of students. One of them dropped the class and the other one transferred to another class period where he will probably share his joyous attitude. So, I have a very upbeat feeling about this semester. I already finished creating my lesson plans on Friday morning for next week, allowing me to sit here very calmly about my life. I must say, all of the planning for school last week really paid off for a peaceful and organized return to school. So, what can I work on this weekend? I was thinking that I need to come up with a way to display the "epic failures" somewhere in my classroom. Each Friday we will post sticky notes with things we tried that didn't work out on there as the Genius Hour progresses. Yes, it's a wonderful life at Sequoyah High School.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Snow day- of sorts

Today was the second day of school, but not much went on. We had a two hour impending snow delay and went home shortly after the beginning of the last class period. On the bright side, my Spanish III class met and we did generate some great Genius Hour ideas. The new Chromebooks work great and pick up the WIFI in my room without any problem. Ideas concerning the Genius Project were beginning a baking business, opening a Honduran restaurant, creating original art based on Hispanic themes, creating a charger that won't break (not sure how this relates to Spanish), a green screen photography studio that features Spanish themed backgrounds, and creating an app that translates what people say during a video conference. I was quite impressed with the ideas and can't wait to continue this next Friday during the next Genius Hour session.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

First Day With Students

Today I met my Spanish II students for the first time. Most of the Spanish III students were in my class last semester. The first two classes were very quiet and reserved. I was pleasantly surprised about that. Then Spanish III class great as expected, very excited about the Genius Hour project that is to come. Last period of the day was chatty; what do you know? But all of the classes actually did the activities assigned: syllabus/genius hour discussion, New Years Activity, ACTFL "Can do" assessment and their index card introduction. Tomorrow we will start school two hours late due to impending snow. This means my first two classes will not meet at all and will miss the first Genius Hour. But they can do this next Friday. I am very excited about Genius Hour and can't wait to see what they come up with. Game design seems to be big, but we will see.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In-service Day

Today is our in-service day and we had a county-wide motivational speaker, Christian Moore. The speaker was very inspiring and I feel as though what he said will help me when reacting to situations in the classroom concerning behavior issues. Unfortunately, the morning did not start well when a lady teacher almost crashed her car into mine in the college parking lot (the meeting was held at Hiwassee College) and then yelled at me that it was my fault, that I was parked in the driveway. Hey, it was pitch dark outside and I had no idea I was not in a parking spot. Well, I moved the car up under the trees in the front row and tried to calm my nerves. Tomorrow is the first day back for the students. I am over prepared with seating charts, syllabus, pre-test, New Year's activity, and Genius Project proposal. Hopefully, these students will share my excitement about life!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

This is day 2 of the 30 days of blogging challenge. Yesterday I actually thought that today would be our first day back with an in-service. This now means that I turned in lesson plans for three days this week instead of the two that we will actually be teaching. Oh well, I guess the administrators are used to such faux pas by now. I was excited this morning to see that Lucy Gray had sent the presenter certificates for the Global Education Conference, which I promptly printed, laminated and uploaded on the TNCompass site for PDP points. Well, I have so much planned for this week that it will be virtually impossible to get to all of it without making the students think I have completely lost it. I do not know how long to take on the March Madness handout for Genius hour. I guess we will play that one by ear. I have the syllabus, the genius hour, the Great Global Project Challenge, the pre-test, and the ACTFL "Can do" assessments planned. Oh let's not forget the Three Kings Day Blendspace lesson and the New Years Activity. Much of that will definitely have to spill over to next week.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year New Classses

Wow, we are in 2017 and I have all new classes coming in on Thursday since we are on block schedule. I am so glad that I have spent some time to get ready for the new classes over the winter break. So, I will have 4 classes, three of which are Spanish II and one class of Spanish III students. I am very happy that my donorschoose.org project was approved and I will receive my new chromebooks later this week hopefully. These will definitely come in handy when we begin our journey with Genius Hour. I also put in for another donorschoose.org project, a 360 degree camera which would be so wonderful to use once genius hour gets into full swing. This Friday we will do the March Madness handout to see what sort of project my students want to develop. Also, I am involved in the Great Global Project Challenge with "Why Should I Study a Foreign Language?" and we have 15 schools from 10 different countries participating so far. I can't wait to tell my students about this project and have them begin collecting the data and create the project website. Wednesday is the first day back for teachers. I am very hopeful for this term and can't wait to get back to work.