27 September 2011

Spanish 3 assessment documents

Sometimes I feel like I'm reinventing myself every year. Do you ever look back on something you did and think, "Why on earth did I do it that way? What a bad idea! Here we go again." I feel like I do that every year! So even though I completely redesigned my Spanish 3 class last year, this past summer I attended a week-long workshop on using proficiency-based assessments, and here I am again, reinventing Spanish 3.

I give all the credit in the world to @tmsaue1 and the @JCPSWorldLang teachers who welcomed me into their learning community and inspired me to work on authentic, proficiency-based, standards-based assessments. You can view their documents here.

In the spirit of open source I also try to make everything I do available. Here are my Spanish 3 assessment documents, and the rubric I use to "grade" them (you'll notice there's no place for an actual grade). Feel free to comment here with your email if you want an editable version--they looked terrible in Google Docs as Word documents.

22 September 2011

For KWLA 2011: Media from Reel to Real

Here's my Prezi for my Friday a.m. session, Media from Reel to Real.

21 September 2011

Accuracy vs. proficiency: an illustration

photo Steve Mullan

Accuracy refers to grammatical forms that match the standard form of the language. So, a student produces 'yo pensé' instead of 'yo piense' (something my 3's have been doing recently). Proficiency includes an aspect of accuracy, but primarily refers to how well the speaker (or writer) is able to communicate and comprehend meaning. The contrast is what Cathy Doughty (confusingly) refers to as focus on form vs. focus on formS. (The distinction is necessary but this way of referring to it has always driven me up the wall- I can't remember which is which without looking it up. Every.time.)

Next week, Ingrid Betancourt is coming to visit our local library, a super exciting event because every year for the past 3 years my Spanish 3 students have done a project related to her kidnapping and rescue. To prepare for her book talk, I got her book in Spanish and I'm trying to finish it before she comes. It's 700 pages long. I've made it halfway. I just read this morning a perfect example of the importance of proficiency over accuracy. I know that as Spanish teachers it makes us cringe inside every time we hear "Me llamo es..." but read this snippet of Betancourt's story and see which you think is more important.

Betancourt was in the jungle for more than 6 years. Not long after she was kidnapped, three American contractors were also kidnapped, and they ended up with her for a period of time in a type of jail in the jungle. The hostages bickered quite a bit amongst themselves, often targeted at Betancourt, so much so that at one point she was taken out of the jail and housed elsewhere in the camp. Then, the other hostages back in the jail complained so much that her conditions were now better than theirs, that she was transferred back. When she returned, one of the Americans, Marc Gonsalves, whom she says did not participate in all the bickering, approached her. Here's my loose translation:

Marc smiled sadly and told us in broken Spanish, with all the verbs in infinitive form, that he was very happy to see Lucho and I again. His words reached my soul...
"I can't believe it! You're speaking Spanish! I go away for three short weeks and you end up speaking better than me!"
Everyone laughed, because Marc answered with the three words of Spanish that he could patch together. He translated literally some English expressions that, miraculously, in Spanish came out hysterical and made us all laugh. Then he bid farewell courteously and went back to the barrack.

So, can verbs in infinitive "reach the soul"?

19 September 2011

Fun activity #6: A escribir

Fun activity #6 is ¡A escribir!, an activity obviously designed to get students spontaneously writing.

At first, when our activity chooser landed on "A escribir," students were not thrilled. Writing? Don't we do that all the time? And from my perspective, how do you keep a random, effective writing prompt on hand all the time?
This is where I have to hand all the props to @ZJonesSpanish and his Tírate a escribir writing activities based on comic strips. The chooser lands on A escribir? No problem. I literally have to do -nothing-. I pull up Zambombazo, click on Tiras, and pick the newest one that I think will interest my students and be appropriate for their level. We talk about the tira cómica for about a minute, and then they have 8 minutes to write whatever they can think of about it. It's been a whole lot more interesting for my students than they thought it would be. We even sent some responses to Zachary and he posted them on the tira on his site.
Another offering from Zambombazo great for lower levels too (and incidentally, writing or speaking) is his ebook, ¿Qué le dirías?.
Spontaneous writing gets kids thinking on the spot in the TL, a skill that boosts oral proficiency as well. Go for it!

12 September 2011

App review: Tour Wrist

A couple of weeks ago on #Langchat, the Thursday night (8 ET) chat by and for language teachers on Twitter, we discussed iPad (and other iOS) apps that may be useful in the world language classroom. That night I downloaded something like 25 free apps and since then I've been on a mission to see what they can do in my classroom. In my Spanish 3, we have 2 iPods and 1 iPad, and in AP, we have 2 iPads and 3 iPods. Not ideal, but enough to have a little fun.

Our first unit in Spanish 3 was on things we do with friends and family for fun ("Esparcimiento"), and included some talk about travel, as well as concentrating on expressing opinions with deeper vocabulary than "Sí, me gusta." The interpersonal speaking assessment involved me having a conversation with them (about a sports game) so-- what do the rest do while I'm talking to 1? Enter Tour Wrist.

tour wrist home page

Tour wrist is a free app that lets you do virtual tours of more than 23,000 places all over the world. You can look at the Tour of the Day (or obviously, home, hotel, or photographer of the day) but more useful is the "Browse all tours" function. That takes you to a map of the world.

tour wrist map - Central America

You can use two fingers to enlarge any part of the map to see more of what's there. Now, the offerings in Latin America are not exactly extensive, but the app is a whole lot of fun. As you focus in, more and more green placeholders show up. Tapping on one will tell you what it is, and tapping on the arrow on its title will take you to the tour.
This is where you find the best feature - by holding your device at eye level, you can turn around and see the 360-degree view as if you were there. Really, you can hold it up and look at the sky, or down and look at the floor.

Tour of bridge in Medellín, Colombia

Anyway, what do you do with this in class? While I was doing the interpersonal conversation with individual students, the others had to work in pairs to find a tour in a Spanish-speaking country and answer the following questions:
1. What is it?
2. Where is it?
3. Do you like it?
4. Why or why not?
They did this for at least two places.

The students really enjoyed the app, of course, but more importantly, they were using their recent targets (expressing reasons for opinions) to talk about places I could never take them to. I did have one pair choose random places in the Caribbean or someplace. I told them later that if they were doing something that didn't have much to do with Spanish or places where people speak Spanish, they probably had the directions wrong.

So- it would be nice if there were more tours available in the places we were looking, but it's a stylish, user-friendly, free app for all iOS devices, lots of fun for all involved.

What ideas do you have for Tour Wrist in the world language class?

01 September 2011

Myth #6: Memorizing vocabulary

For my original post about the myths, look here.

foto por Micheo

Myth #6 is this:
Students learn vocabulary in long lists of isolated words (or, we just went over bosque, why can't they remember it and remember it's masculine?).

What a mistake I used to make, and textbooks make. To think that we can give students a list of vocabulary, tell them there's a quiz on Friday, and somehow think they'll be able to use it next month, or next week for that matter.

Here's the truth: students learn words they need to do what they want to do. Think about the words you know - they are words you need to accomplish something. I don't know how to talk in Spanish about nuclear power plants. I barely know how to talk in English about nuclear power plants, and what I do know I know because my father worked at one for thirty years. Our brains are efficient - most of us just don't bother remembering terminology we never need to communicate something.

If you've interacted with me for very long, you know that my students do free-topic blogging. I once had a student who wrote nearly every week about hunting. It was his passion. The verb cazar was not in our vocabulary for Spanish 3. But you can bet that before long he knew that and the words for all the different animals he hunted. Why? Because he wanted to. In Spanish 3 every year, we read the novels Cajas de cartón and Esperanza renace. Both deal with immigrant children. Though the words are not in our vocabulary list, by the end of the year they are completely familiar with words like migra, campesino, pizcar, and frontera. Why? Because they need them to talk about the issues in the books.

It's one of the most freeing things that has ever happened to me in my professional life to come to the realization that students will naturally acquire the vocabulary that interests and helps them without me drilling or quizzing it.

As a few resources for you, check out the archive of last year's #Langchat on rethinking how we teach vocabulary. I also have done several blog posts on this topic, including how I do vocabulary (surprise! I do give out vocab lists!), why you should kick the vocab quiz, and what you might do instead of the vocab quiz. Also check out cybraryman's page on teaching vocabulary, as well as Edutopia's insightful post on the topic.

If you're into research, read up on what it has to tell us about teaching vocabulary, including that shallow processing memorization doesn't work. For a tempering opinion, if it's worth a book purchase to you, you could read Vocabulary Myths by Keith Folse, who warns that throwing out vocab lists and stopping teaching it explicitly is too dramatic and not actually an answer to the vocab question.

However you decide to present and teach and review your vocabulary, my advice is to seek more ways to focus on these five keys:
1) motivation - make it vocabulary students find interesting.
2) useful - students see value in vocabulary when they can see themselves using it.
3) frequency - in every way you can think of, integrate the vocabulary that everyone uses.
4) phrasal - fool with words and phrases to encourage chunking of words commonly used together
5) less is more - concede that students can only acquire so much at a time, and give up on the rest (at least until later).