I am excited to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel in terms of this school year coming to an end! It has been a good year with many changes in our district and I am excited to recharge my batteries this summer and prepare for our upcoming year. With that said, I plan to participate as much as possible in the Twitter #langchat sessions and the Google+ Langcamp organized by Laura Sexton. Both offer great opportunities to connect with other world language educators from across the country and allow you to explore what you are passionate about pursuing in your professional career. I can’t wait to see how this summer unfolds and to learn new and exciting things to bring back with me in September! I will be packing my “backpack” full of new stuff!
I have had a very select few students (my “superstars”) over the past 10 years ask me about things they could do to keep up with their language studies over the summer break. I am always thrilled when I have students ask me this and I scramble to come up with some ideas that don’t involve handing them a textbook.
One of my favorite things to do is loan out Spanish readers that are not included in our curriculum (so there is no overlap with what they will study in the future) and let them just enjoy free reading and exploring cultural themes, etc. that they discover through the readings.
I never had access to readers like this when I was in high school but I think I would have loved to take a few of these home and test them out.
I also love to point them in the direction of a variety of web sites that I archive on my classroom web site. Generally I try to update my web site at the beginning of our break when I actually have time. My students can also get in touch with me via Twitter or e-mail at any time to ask for further suggestions, questions, etc.
What ideas do you have? What types of activities do you suggest for your students or do you require some type of summer reading or work?
I purchased my first Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner in October of 2013. I had stopped using a paper grade book for a few years as it became tedious to write down grades by hand and then input them into our electronic grading system (Power School). However, after researching Standards-Based Grading and attempting to track student progress in a different way, I decided to use both paper and electronic grading systems. The paper grade book allows me to organize student progress and proficiency whereas the electronic grades allow me to report basic grades as required by our school district.
In the past I have used a lesson planning book and separate calendar books to keep track of appointments, meetings, bills, etc. The idea of carrying around three separate books was definitely not appealing.
I researched teacher lesson planners online and randomly came across several reviews for “Erin Condren Teacher Planners.” Up to that point, I had never heard of Erin Condren nor did I realize that these cool and customizable planners existed. These are the premium-deluxe planners for the Type-A and/or ADD-type teachers, mothers, parents, business owners, etc. who need to keep everything organized in one place. Oh, and I really can’t remember things when I type them into my iPhone (I have learned that it is actually necessary for me to physically write down my appointments, lesson plans, etc. in order to really remember these things later- typing just doesn’t always cut it for me). Based on the video reviews I watched and others that I read, these planners sounded perfect for my needs.
I went to the Erin Condren site and browsed the different Teacher Planner options, looked carefully at all of the features of these planners first before making a decision.
Ultimately, I ordered the Viva España- Granada Groove Lesson Planner and customized it with my own cover information. I also added extra Student Checklist pages, a penholder, and a set of the markers.
Here is a detailed description of the lesson planner, as it appears when it first arrives: heavy-duty spiral bound, 2 plastic covers with beautiful artwork and my personalization (all correctly spelled, etc.), an information page, classroom events/ volunteers page, substitute teacher page, birthdays, absent student log pages, graph pages (I used these for notes for various projects I worked on over the school year- like planning our class trip to Spain), year plan, monthly calendars with two extra notes pages for each month (I love these calendar pages because I keep track of meetings, appointments, bills, vacations, etc. all in ONE spot), lesson plan pages, student checklist pages (I added extra ones to mine when I purchased as I taught 5 courses/ three trimesters= 15 different “classes”), notes pages (I used these to keep track of conference notes, parent contacts, etc.), a 2-pocket folder (which didn’t hold up extremely well as I had it packed and used it a lot), a plastic sleeve for important documents, and a little plastic zip pocket which I used for business cards, the cute stickers that were sent with the planner, extra blank thank you cards, etc. The inside page of the back plastic cover has a two year calendar (mine was for 2013-2014).
Here are the pros for my planner in list form:
1) Everything I need is literally in one place and I no longer have to keep three separate planners/ calendars.
2) I don’t lose any of my important information as the year goes on- especially hard copies of conference information, meeting notes, etc.
3) As a high school teacher, there was more than enough room for me to plan detailed lessons for three or more “preps” over the course of three trimesters. Each day is a different color as opposed to each subject/ course being a different color.
4) I used the checklist pages as a grade book. This allowed me to group assessments by standards as opposed to by date and assignment. It was very easy to show the students where they struggled and lacked in proficiency in order to focus their efforts for retesting/ revisions.
5) Stickers!! I love the little stickers that you can use with the monthly calendars for meetings, appointments, conferences, library time, reminders, and extra blank ones too!
Here are the “cons” for this planner in list form:
1) Although the cover is heavy duty plastic, it did bubble up in a few spots rather quickly after using the planner. This did affect the usability but rather the esthetic quality of the planner (just slightly).
2) The tabbed dividers are great but I needed to add my own “extras” like “lesson plans” and “grade book” so I could quickly tab to these frequently-used sections.
3) My biggest complaint is that the student checklist pages are not made of a heavier duty paper. I used these pages a lot and one of them is almost completely ripped out from turning the page back and forth so many times!
4) The removable ruler/ page marker does not fit in the spiral rings very well and it is a real pain to turn the pages when it is attached! I actually took it out several times because I got sick of fighting with it.
5) I would definitely reinforce the outer edge of the folder with some decorative duct tape if you plan to use it often. Mine is torn about halfway down the edge from use.
6) Do not waste your money on the markers. I was sucked in by the cute design thinking they would be really nice quality markers for the price. They dried out rather quickly and were not that special in reality. I think you could spend your money on nice scrap booking markers with fine tips and they would last much longer than these ones. I did purchase the penholder, which held up pretty well but is not an absolute necessity.
7) I contemplated the idea of adding on the matching notepads; but in all honesty I don’t see how they would have possibly fit in this planner. It is already packed full and there isn’t a whole lot of room for any further bulky extras.
8) This planner gets very HEAVY as the year goes on so be sure to remove pages you no longer need or clean out papers that you don’t need to keep with you at all times.
9) I added a really cool Post-It brand plastic pocket with Velcro closures to the inside of the front cover to hold very important documents that I didn’t want to lose (thus the Velcro closures). It was pretty cheap and it has sticky pads to attach it to the cover.
I recently placed an order for my second Erin Condren Teacher Planner this month for next year. I decided to go with the Viva España- Watercolor design this time. I haven’t received it yet (ordered on May 23rd and supposed to be delivered on June 6th– which is another con in my opinion considering that almost everything is shipped super fast these days)! When I do get it, I plan to take some pictures and update this post to compare the new design to my 2013-2014 planner. I really loved the Granada Groove design so I am hoping that the Watercolor design is just as lovely. I traveled to Spain in April of 2014 and the Watercolor cover reminds me of the beautiful Arabic tiles (azulejos) in the Alhambra that we visited in Granada. I couldn’t resist when I saw it this time!
I am copying this from a comment that I made on Martina Bex’s blog: The Comprehensible Classroom
This is my brief history with TPRS and the transition to the textbook.
Hello! I am a former TPRS teacher and now a Realidades teacher (desafortunadamente- and I only say this because of the lack of results I am having with Realidades). I am working on bringing back TPRS into my curriculum. I am not the only Spanish teacher in my district (there are approximately 6 of us) and our district has adopted Realidades as our curriculum. We also have to give common assessments (final exams) that are the same across the district. These common assessments are currently 200 question scantron-type exams with about 50% vocabulary matching, 30% vocabulary and grammar use with multiple choice questions, and 20% reading and listening comprehension. This is my big hesitation/ roadblock because I know that my students are all required to take this exam and my evaluation is tied to their scores. I feel that they could be very successful with the vocabulary portion because it is very easy for most students. The multiple choice questions are more difficult. I think what Martina said about picking the most important, high-frequency vocabulary words and structures from each chapter is the key and then giving the kids the rest of the vocabulary to “memorize.” To be honest, the current method for teaching vocabulary in our department is to give the students the list on day one of the new chapter, translate the list to English, talk about the vocabulary words and structures, then start quizzing (translate from English to Spanish then Spanish to English). The words are drilled everyday orally and through rote practice like crossword puzzles, textbook activities, etc. The kids who “do school well” have them down in 2 days while the others never quite get there, which means KWDSW are bored for about 2 weeks and the rest dread the vocabulary quizzes. Ugh! Not a pretty situation for anyone involved. I would appreciate ANY and ALL ideas you folks have!
Also, just to be clear- I am not trying to minimize or discredit the curriculum and the hard work of my colleagues. I am just looking for ways to improve upon our curriculum. I think this is an essential part of education- reflecting and looking for ways to improve what you are doing with the goal of student success!
Martina- your site is absolutely fantastic and it is so awesome to have a virtual PLC thanks to modern technology.
I have developed a loose plan for how I will begin the first couple of weeks of school borrowed and based on the ideas of many talented teachers and teacher blogs out there:
Carol Gaab’s 2 week lesson plan is found here: http://www.tprstorytelling.com/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=39&Itemid=300065
-Using her basic format for starting with the TPRS lessons and blending with my Realidades TPRS book so that I can cover the stuff that will be on the common assessment in our district as well (200 question scantron vocabulary matching and multiple choice).
The Comprehensible Classroom found here: http://martinabex.com/2011/08/17/first-day-of-school-plans-pqa/
-I like her ideas for seating charts and pairing kids up into random groups later on.
Profa Baro’s Interactive Notebooks (yay, no more binders that fall apart) found here: http://profabarostprs.blogspot.com/2013/03/interactive-notebooks.html
-I am totally going to try this out for next year with my Spanish 2 and 3 classes.
Also, I am going to give Standards-Based Grading using ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines a go for next year. See this chart created by Martina Bex found here: http://data10.teacherspayteachers.com/Download/Proficiency-Targets
I am poring over Profa Baro’s Curriculum ideas because her stuff is so well organized and she rocks the Interactive Notebooks. I will definitely be referencing her stuff a lot as well as Kristy Placido and Martina Bex. I hope that my curriculum in the end truly becomes my “own” and I know that I have some excellent master teachers to look up to for guidance in that goal.
As we are quickly approaching the end of another school year, I have been doing some serious reflecting on my practices over the last nine (wow) years.
Basically, when I was hired to teach world languages about 10 years ago, my department was implementing the TPRS methodology of Blain Ray. This was incredibly interesting and was a lot of work over the past 6-8 years. Now, we are using the Realidades textbook series.
So, here are the problems that I can see at this point:
1) All student in Michigan are required to take 2 years of the same world language in order to graduate.
2) We have a lot of variety now when it comes to student learning, interests, background, etc.
3) I find it difficult to differentiate with a textbook that many students perceive to be deadly boring- they can learn vocabulary like there is no tomorrow but can they actually COMMUNICATE- not so sure on that piece.
4) We can’t scrap a program that we just put in place and are still writing curriculum for as we speak.
What is a teacher to do (especially one who has flirted with TPRS/CI and can see its benefits and disadvantages)?
1) READ, READ, and READ some more blogs by the talented teachers out there like Carol Gaab, Kristy Placido, Crystal Barragan, and many others.
2) Formulate some plans this summer to help blend the two together.
3) Also kick around the idea of Standards-Based Grading and Proficiency Assessments.
My question to the readers is, “Do you currently use Realidades and CI-Style Methods together? If so, how did you start the blend?”
I am not a new TPRS person and my personality is well-suited to it. Moreover, I love being able to shake things up and show kids the interesting parts of language learning.
Not finished yet with this post but this is a start. Help me if you can!!
This past week (4/23/13) I had the opportunity to present some information about Evernote to the Lapeer East HS staff. I feel that it went pretty well and was positively received by my colleagues.
This is the beginning of an “Evernote Experiment” for me that I plan to continue over the remainder of this year and next year. Converting all of my teaching materials into Evernote files is definitely going to take a massive amount of work. However, I am excited at the prospect of being able to share teaching materials with my students, their parents, and of course my colleagues and administrators.
I was inspired by Nicholas Provenzano’s Evernote presentation and I hope to gain more insight from his work as I continue over the next year.