Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Notes Book & Chunk Teaching

So this year I am teaching a new way and I have to say, I LIKE IT SOOOO MUCH! The kids are learning faster, they are remembering past material taught, and they are so engaged! I call it "Chunk Teaching" 

So with a language we move from concept to concept...teaching brand new grammar, vocabulary, and conversation...hoping to God that little Johnny didn't forget the past concept I taught him. :/ You know it's true?! I'll be honest I always feel like I'm a good judge of character for my students because I get bored easy just like a bunch of viewpoint is "If I'm bored teaching it...they HAVE to be bored learning it." Sooooo, I switched things up a bit this year. 

First thing you'll need to do is tell every student that they need to construct a little book from blank sheets of paper...I told my kids take 6 sheets of paper, make a booklet, decorate the front ANYWAY you like, and staple it so it will hold together.

So this book? Yeah, IT'S THEIR NOTES! Do you know how easy it is to get them to take notes now? I just say "Sacan los libros" and bam...easy peazy. Something about taking notes on a blank sheet of paper must be a dramatic experience for kids but when they are filling up these books day by day, they are addicted. They can easily look down, flip the page, and see how much Spanish they already know (and need to know). 

The reason I did this....I'm going on maternity leave in the fall (late October to be exact) and I really really needed some way that I knew my kids would have the material at their hands. Also, I can I get through the material a LITTLE quicker than last year...I don't want to leave and the kids have three months of Spanish left with a month to go...ahh, nightmare! 

So here's how "Chunk Teaching" works....I am also a Psychology major as well as Spanish...I know, very diversified but science proves our brain works better and "learns" better and retains the information longer if we learn concepts in "chunks" We can learn multiple concepts but like info must be in chunks "small pieces" so...I figured why not try this in my class?

The first concepts we teach in Spanish 1 are: Alphabet, Spanish Speaking Countries, and Basic Greetings. I usually try to throw a cognate lesson in there as well. So instead of spending two WHOLE classes learning the alphabet and then wondering if they got it....I said "let's open our new fresh books" and title the first page "The alphabet" (but in Spanish). I then taught them 5 to 6 letters (THAT'S IT).....We did pronunciation, we talked about how well they related to English, blah blah blah. Then, I said okay we're going to talk about Spanish Speaking Countries now...start a new page and call it "Spanish Speaking Countries" and then we only did like 5 or 6 with the capitals, talked about each one and done.

Then, last concept....we did greetings...I always teach them "Me llamo (my name is)", Soy de (I am from), and "Como estas" (accents included but keyboard won't do it right at this moment)...this way I can quiz them the next day at the door with telling me THESE 3 things about themselves. 

There are alot of activities to do to practice like presenting each other, presenting yourself, going around the room and filling up a hand (5 peers) by telling them these three things, etc. 

The next's like magic! They actually REMEMBER!!!! You're not OVERLOADING THEM! They can remember like concepts...they can remember chunk information and retain it longer. 

I do this EVERY class...we are on the 11th day of school and my kids CAN: say their alphabet (in Spanish), list and name some Spanish speaking countries with their capitals, know ALL their basic greetings (hello, how are you, i'm good, thanks, where are you from, what's your name, my name is, etc). Also my kids can conjugate in the YO form and the Tu form...they know 15 infinitives, they know adjective placement (putting the adjective AFTER the noun), definite articles, etc. If you don't believe me....take a look at our quiz which was done on the NINTH...yes I said that right....NINTH day of school! 

Chunk teaching....amazing! 

Here is evidence of EXCELLENCE from my freshmen Spanish 1 class: 

Here is the back of the test so you can see what all they did in NINE days of school!!! LOVE CHUNK TEACHING! :))) 

God Bless,
Brittany B. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Get off your butt and GO TALK!

So I think we can say as a language's ridiculous how little the kids want to speak the target language....why...they are scared...they know English...and usually NO ONE is holding them accountable to speaking that language.

Now, old school teachers, I might take a whopping for this but having the kids copy notes, do a worksheet, work their conjugations in a little boot is NOT working...they are becoming experts at getting their work done, and doing the task...but can they take that conjugated verb and go out in the world and produce a sentence? Many CAN'T!  

The other day I was teaching my Spanish 3 and I noticed that the kids "thought" they felt very confident about being able to conjugate present tense verbs. I said "Alright, if I's the verb "Escribir" right now...create a sentence using the nosotros form...who can do it?" Yep, what I thought...every single one of them were picturing that little boot and the nosotros form and trying to figure out what sentence to make...took on average about 45 seconds to a minute to get a sentence together....not good for Spanish 3. 

So I listed a bunch of infinitves on the board and I said "Get up"...they looked at me like I was weird...I said "Get up, c'mon, stand up" So then they got up...I said "Walk around in the room right now" Once again, weird looks (I am use to it by now). I said "STOP WHERE YOU ARE" I said look at the person who is standing the closest to you...and right now take the verb "trabajar" and create a sentence using the "ella" form....pause, pause, pause, and then I hear a little chattering....they were USING their verbs!!!! They were FINALLY speaking to each other. I then said okay, other partner....translate in ENGLISH what he just said.

We went on and did this for about 15 more minutes...walking around, stopping, choosing partners, and talking. I walked around and listened to each kid and I was soooo impressed that after 15 minutes it was coming to them so much faster. Bam, they got off their butts and talked.

Yes, I am doing this EVERY CLASS, EVERY LEVEL!!!!

God Bless,
Brittany B. 

Ahhh...the challenges of teaching advanced levels!

So I felt inspired and motivated to write tonight's post because here lately I have NOT felt very confident about my situation...the situation of having FOUR PREPS TO PLAN FOR and being 28 weeks pregnant!!!! I am the Spanish 3 teacher and the AP teacher at my school (we have no level 4) and here lately I am STRUGGLING to find where my kids are at in their Spanish learning with my advanced levels. 

It's SOOO hard to have 25 sets of eyes looking back at you and you're ready and excited to teach but it's like "Hey, what do you know? Can you conjugate a verb? Can you ask me my name?" I have realized SOME CAN....and SOME CAN'T and folks, that's just dang scary if you're a Spanish 3 or AP teacher. 

I have gone back and forth and wrestled with the fact of "Where are my students? How much do we need to review? Where can we back up to?" Ahh, these questions sometimes drive me crazy!

After weeks of idea inventing and pinterest craziness looking for inspiration....I think I might be onto a little something....task/stamp sheets.

Sad thing, I haven't created them yet but I am currently working on them as we speak actually. 

Here's what they are:
1. Every student will be asked to work with a partner. I am going to tell them CHOOSE SOMEONE YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH! So in this case, yes...choose your bestie.

2. The students are going to be responsible for two things: Writing the tasks and Speaking the tasks.  I am wanting to see BOTH of their skills. 

3. The first week of school (and probably the second...heck, maybe the third) they will get time in class to receive a mini review over what their task category is that day (This you can forego or you can do). You can teach the "mini-lessons" right before the kids work on their category task sheets. 

For example...tomorrow we are reviewing "Common Conversational Components" like how are you, what's your profession, where are you from, where are you currently living, etc. 


But if they can't remember....they have to see it again and be re-taught. 

4. After the "Conversational Category Lesson" the kids will scatter all over the room with their partner, a paper, pencil, and a high-lighter.

5. They will receive their "Conversational Task Sheet/Stamp Sheet" and they are responsible for going through EACH task and seeing if they can speak it and write it. If they can't, they will high-light it and go onto another one. 

THE HIGH-LIGHTED AREAS IS WHERE "THEY" (THE STUDENTS, THE KIDS) have to go home and work on it. Study, read it, quiz each's on THEM to learn it. 

After they can confidently say, I know all this...they will get their next assignment....their "Real-Life Test" This is an assignment I am going to create where they have to take ALL THIS out into the world and use it. It might quiz another friend in class and show evidence of the answers, they might visit the local Mexican restaurant in town, or they might find a native that speaks Spanish or even better...they can schedule to come talk to me after school or before. THEY MUST show got it. 

Lastly, it all ends with a test over EVERYTHING....every category, every area, etc. This will be the final test of "IF THEY CAN DO IT" this a huge task? You betcha BUT if I can get this created...this will change my Spanish 3 and AP courses FOREVER! Also, I can ALWAYS review it and know where my kids stand ;) 

God Bless,
Brittany B.

P.S. When I get the first one created....I will be sure to post it on TPT :) Gracias! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

They Did It!!!!

Okay, so I am going to try to not let my excitement take off on me! As most of my readers have figured out...I teach Spanish 1, Spanish 3 (our school does not have a Spanish 4) and AP Spanish. Teaching upper level has been a journey as well as a challenge. Every year I get to fight the battle of my students close to forgetting every lick of Spanish I have taught them and then of course....I have to get them ready for one of the most difficult exams to ever walk the earth...the AP Spanish Exam...yikes!!!

After years of first day disappointments that my "UPPER LEVEL ADVANCED" kids forgot how to conjugate a freaking present tense verb...I knew something had to change. Sooo....last May I introduced the lovely "SUMMER HOMEWORK". It was a little shocking at first and I'm sure I probably ticked off a few kids but my thought want to learn Spanish bad want to take AP bad'll do it.....and.....they did! I still have a few stragglers that need to turn in their assignments and they have until Friday with a small late grade attached but wow, look at those completed books, papers, etc!

So...I decided to share my assignment since it turned out to be pretty darn successful! 

First, every AP student (no matter what subject) needs to be familiar with the college board website and familiar with the class they are going to take and the exam that is attached to it. Now, I know we preach we are educators, not "exam prep instructors" BUT in this case...they have to know what is sitting at the end of that very dark and challenging tunnel.

First assignment....easy easy....get on the site, look around, read about YOUR class, YOUR test, and then send me an email and tell me what you think. What are you scared of? What are you confident in? What do you need me to do this year? What can you do to prepare? At least two paragraphs and bam, you just completed your first "summer homework" 

SUCCESS...I was ALREADY getting emails by the first week of break...chu-ching! 

Second, 10 hours of  logged Spanish work....2 for writing, 2 for reading, 2 for speaking, 2 for listening, and 2 for grammar work. 

 I said...for writing...journal, make a blog, write letters, text, etc.

 I said for a novel, read twitter stuff in SPANISH, read texts, read CNN Espanol, etc. 

I said for speaking...visit little mexico communities (and we have them where I'm at), visit the Mexican restaurant and order a 1.50 taco if you're broke but talk to the employees, use a friend in our class to chat, visit groups of people that will just speak Spanish...

for listening...everything in reverse with speaking...

and grammar...get online, buy an AP prep book to work in, download a Spanish practice APP on your 500.00 iphone. 

They had to bring in their writings, provide proof of their speaking/listening, and bring me proof (written) of their grammar practice.


If anyone is interested in copies of my AP summer work...please send me a message and I would be happy to share my assignment with my readers as a "thank you" of support! :) 

You guys excited about going back?! Let's make it a great and fun year! 

God Bless,
Brittany B.