Sunday, December 4, 2011

Don't Just Take My Word for It!

I'm always looking for ways to reinforce concepts in my Spanish classroom. My students come to class without a true working knowledge (that they'll admit to) of English grammar, so presenting Spanish grammar can be a challenge. One of the most challenging topics at the beginning of study is the gender of nouns. Why is a word considered masculine or feminine? Why do adjectives have to agree in number and gender? "Can't people just speak English?"!

I love websites that are interactive. My students lose focus when forced to sit for too long. (At least that's what I tell them because I don't show movies in class!) Study Spanish has great FREE activities and podcasts for use in the classroom. Even podcasts like The Gender of Nouns 1 wait for a response. It's time to create some of my own to make them even more personal!

With my upper-level classes, I would like to have my students create podcasts using PhotoStory or MovieMaker for different units that we do. They can choose to do one on Activities to do on a Beach (using current vocabulary of course), a specific country, or a holiday celebration coming up like Las Posadas in Mexico.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's a Small World (after all)...

About two years ago, I signed up for an account with ePals, because (as the site says), I wanted to take my school global. Sadly, I haven't done anything with that account as I was waiting for the right class. I was intimidated by the thought of managing 137 different students and making sure no one offended anyone else, thereby starting a global war of my own! However, this year I think I've found the perfect group to use this program.

In the beginning, I thought I would like to search for a school in Europe (Spain, specifically) but since I have an affinity for all things Guatemalan, I have found a school in Guatemala with which I'd like to build this relationship. My worry is whether or not to look at peer-level (age appropriate?) students for my students to communicate with or choose younger students who might be a little more patient with my Spanish-language learners.

My students (as most teens are) tend to lean on the narcissistic side of things. What's in it for them? Why should they do this? What's the point? The point is to make their worlds a little bit larger and realize that there's actual PEOPLE who live somewhere else, do some of the same things they do and SPEAK A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE, but at the same time share some of the same thoughts they do about things like television, music or politics. Since almost all kids like to talk about themselves...this one should be a slam-dunk! :)

Using Digital Stories in the Classroom

My students are captivated by anything video-esque; it could be a video on YouTube, flash cards that I make up on StudyBlue, or interactive activities on Learn Spanish. If it appears on the whiteboard screen, I pretty much have their attention for some fleeting moments before I switch to the next activity and the dance starts all over again.

Integrating culture has always been a challenge for me. As a mid-level Spanish teacher (level 2 and 3), I find myself mired in trying to find new and creative ways to integrate grammar and culture kind of goes in wherever I can, which is usually isolated holiday celebrations. I think using some digital storytelling websites like Animoto, Slideroll, or Stupeflix will help me get the culture integrated in my lesson and not just a box to check off at certain times of the year.

I created this short slide show using pictures from Antigua, Guatemala, a place where I spent a great deal of time over the past few years. Although the pictures are not mine (Creative Commons pics from Flickr), I found them easy to upload and put to the pre-loaded choices of Latin music offered at Animoto.

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

I can see myself using pictures of different locales and using them to teach about bargaining with different verbs and different vocabulary words and phrases. In this case, we could talk about the coffee, jade and gorgeous textiles found in Guatemala. The "chicken buses" in Guatemala are always a fun topic of conversation for me and something cultural outside of a holiday to share with my students!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making Up Digital Stories

I used Bookr to make my very own digital story that I will DEFINITELY use with my students this year. Mi Vida Cotidiana (My Daily Life) was SO simple to use once I figured out what to do!

Although I did run into issues when it was published that I couldn't go back and edit, but that's the breaks, right?

I will require each student to narrate their own daily activities and find appropriately licensed pictures in order to do so. With technology being so accessible, I find it very important to make sure that my students credit the appropriate writer/photographer/artist within their work. I can see myself using these for verbs, vocabulary introduction, travel, transportation, art, personal identification - virtually ANY topic I need to cover, regardless of level!

Once Upon a Time (in a Digital World)...

Simply put, digital storytelling takes "old time" narration and marries it to a technology application and makes it POP! In 7 Things You Should Know About Digital Storytelling, it states:

"People tell stories to teach beliefs and values to others."

How better than to connect to someone (or a group of people) than with a story or personal narrative? How many meetings have you attended where a speaker provides a humorous anecdote or personal story to give credence to the subject to which he/she is speaking? Digital Storytelling takes it up a notch, so to speak. It can be as simple or as complex as the speaker would like. I remember when PowerPoint presentations were the height of sophistication. Now there are sites like Prezi or SlideShare so those types of presentations are much more portable.
Youth Filmmaking at Al Aroub by karathepirate, on Flickr
photo by karathepirate

Digital Storytelling can be used in a multitude of ways and in a multitude of formats to connect our students to a world that is so beyond what they know in their neighborhood, town, city, or region. So...let's get connected!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Those Who Can... Tweet!

Social Networking and Social Media have blown up as career choices for young people, but what about those of us who are knee-deep in our chosen career and want to make use of those tools? In 28 Creative Ways Teachers are Using Twitter, that appears on, fantastic ideas are thrown out about how teachers can use Twitter to enhance their instruction.  I like the idea of instant feedback from my students, especially the ones who may be too bashful to speak up in class.  About 3 years ago, a colleague had told me about Twitter and recommended that I download TweetDeck on my computer.  I did it immediately and had "Twitter Fridays" with my level 2 Spanish students.  Those students are now seniors (I had them as freshmen) and still using it!  I would tweet a question in Spanish and students (either using a laptop or their phone) would respond in Spanish. They considered me a technological genius (and I didn't tell them any differently)!!  Now, with the changes in internet safety, Twitter is blocked in my district as a social networking site, so we're unable to use it in the classroom.  However, to connect with my students outside of the classroom regarding events inside of my classroom, I would certainly not be opposed to using it!

In his blog post entitled, Twitter for Teachers – a professional development tool, Paul Hill emphasizes the importance of developing a PLN (Personal Learning Network) and throwing your ideas out there to develop and evolve as a professional.  Since I've had my "professional" Twitter account (just a week or so), I've followed educators that I've found interesting; some of whose ideas make sense and some whose perspectives I wouldn't normally have found unless I reached out into the interwebs.  To maintain my professional certificate in my state, I need to have 175 hours of Professional Development every 5 years.  I can find 175 hours of PD using Twitter in about two months!  I can't use the time I spend on the service for my PD, but it does give me ideas on how I can make my professional life more productive!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Technolanguages is a site I have belonged to for a while, but had forgotten about it!  Sometimes, I take workshops, find something that I become very interested in, sign up and then never log into it again.  It's probably a side effect of my vida loca... :)  It's expanded a little bit since my last visit, but it doesn't appear that the forums are any more active than they used to be.

Spanish Teacher Chatboard is another place I use to connect to others in my field.  The chatboard takes on a couple of different tangents: one is the "newbies" asking for advice and the other is discussion about how to approach different topics within our common levels.  I like this particular site because one can take a look and discuss theory and practice as well as connect on grade level and find out what topics are trending in the field.

I can't say that I contribute much to these boards, I mostly lurk with a purpose in mind.  At this point in my career, I feel more confident beginning a thread or contributing my ideas to add to a discussion.  After all, I'm always willing to learn something new!