23 August 2011

Trending topic = authentic comprehensible input

foto por Scott Beale

I keep the Mexico trending topics as a column on my Tweetdeck, because you never know what will come up there. One great thing about Twitter is that you can only get so complicated in 140 characters, and when someone gets it in their head to get a topic like #4palabrasqueduelen trending by thousands and thousands of people, the text gets even simpler. So of course I had to mine the tweets using Archivist Desktop, clean them up, and use them for class. This is authentic input, mostly simple phrases written by Spanish speakers for Spanish speakers, most of them about our students' age or just a bit older. Twitter is such a gold mine!

And I can't do something like this without sharing, right? I put them in a spreadsheet, took out the hashtags, fixed the accents that got messed up in the transfer, deleted the trash, and deleted the repeats like the unending versions of "ya no te quiero." (Twitter is so dramatic.) I also only kept 50 of them - the program mined 2000 tweets.

After your students read them, take a poll of what are the favorites. Then see what are their #4palabrasqueduelen - o mejor, #4palabrasquealegran, a great suggestion from @SraHeebsh.

21 August 2011

Got the rubric!

After making my first new assessment description, I've finished the performance assessment rubric. It took a long time to make but hopefully it will be adopted for every assessment from 6-12 grades at my school. Again, I stole most of it from the great people at @JCPSWorldLang (with a special shout-out to @tmsaue1 for all the sharing they do over there). They got it all on one page, but I wasn't willing to put my text that small, or my document-creating abilities just aren't up to par. ;-) Thoughts?

18 August 2011

New year, new units, new assessments

At last I've turned to working on my own classes (after looking at Spanish 1 all summer for our new teacher) and I'm (once again) re-doing my Spanish 3 units. This year I'm trying to make them more realistic. I've been heavily influenced on this by a particular #langchat last year on making assessments authentic. My assessments were fun, and used a lot of language, but didn't have a whole lot to do with what students really would do with language.

So, back to the drawing board. I've come up with the assessments for Unit 1 (titled "El esparcimiento") and just did the assessment description for interpersonal writing. What do you think?

(Of course I have to give a shout-out to @JCPSWorldLang, from whom I stole almost completely the format for this.)

16 August 2011

Jumping on the Animoto bandwagon

I've heard a lot about Animoto but it's always been filed away in that "I'm sure it's great, but I'm on technology overload here" part of my brain. This week I decided to finally jump in and make on.

If you stick with the basic account, it's more than mildly annoying that you can't do anything past 30 seconds without a paid account. But thanks to @ckendall for the heads-up that you can apply for a free educator account. Mine came through immediately (no 2-week wait like they cautiously say). That gives you unlimited videos for you and up to 50 students.

Yesterday, our first day of school, I was in the new position of actually not knowing my Spanish 3 students. This is the first class I've had that I didn't already have in a previous class. So, we talked about why each one of them elected the class. I took some of their ideas, grabbed some photos from Flickr Creative Commons, and made a quick Animoto. Today I did the same thing with some vocab from AP's first unit.

What will you make?

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

13 August 2011

Rethinking "late" work

After a busy but fun month of traveling here and there on vacation, it's back to school and back to the blog! We teachers have been at school this past week, and the kids come back Monday. Where did that summer go?

One goal I accomplished this summer was reading The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn. While I do not share Kohn's apparent view that kids are generally angels who are being failed by everyone and if they were just in the right environment they'd all do the right thing and achieve all the right things (a biased summary, you can tell), I applaud and stand with him on so many aspects of traditional educational models that just make no sense. And this is from someone trained and drilled in "if the one-room schoolhouse was good enough for them...".

As I read this book, and discussed related topics on #langchat, I have become increasingly frustrated with late work policies and other issues that invalidate grades. I've had students turn in exemplary work, but I have to give them an F because it's a week late. To me, that is academically punishing a student for something that is not an academic problem.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that very few times in my life have I had a deadline that, if not met exactly, was a disaster. Even the water company gives me up to 2 days late to pay my bill. Now, I understand that it's a life skill to learn to budget time, plan for when things are due, etc. But also, what about when life happens? When Grandma's sick and everyone's at the ER until 2 AM? When the alarm didn't go off and I wake up five minutes before school? When because my teachers don't talk to each other I have a book review, research paper, chem test, and Spanish presentation all on the same day?

At my school, we used to have a late work policy. Everyone had to use it.
1 day late : -25%
2 days late : -50%
3rd day: Zero

If you use zeroes, you know how they kill a student's average and quickly make it impossible to bring up the grade.

Last year they let us set our own late work policy, and this was mine:
1 day late : -25%
2 days late : -50%
after 2 days until the end of the quarter : -75%
At the end of the quarter, I was forced to finalize grades and thus, to give a zero.

This is my new late work policy. Let me know what you think.
Students can turn in up to 2 assignments up to 2 days late per quarter with no penalty.
After 2 days late, the student will be dismissed to the library to complete the assignment for 60% credit and cannot return to class until it is finished, but will be responsible for all missed work.

I'm trying so hard to find a balance between grace, training, and trust. I'll let you know how it works.