Saturday, December 29, 2012

Google Voice

Every Thursday night on Twitter, from 8-9pm, there is a Foreign Language chat.  If you enter #langchat you can be connected with Foreign Language educators from around the world.  (I'm sure this pertains to other disciplines as well. )  Yes, the chat is kind of late at night, and sometimes I am so exhausted I really don't want to participate, but I have been exposed to some wonderful resources by interacting with these other professionals.

One such resource that I kept hearing a lot about is Google Voice.  For a FL teacher who has 25+ students in 4 out of 5 classes, making sure that every student speaks every day in the target language is a daunting task.  Yes, we go to the language lab and assess them on their speaking skills, but then we have to listen to 25+ recordings later which usually run 1-3 minutes long, depending on the course.

So, I set up a Google Voice account and got a phone number.  Initially it asks you to link it to your cell phone, which I didn't want to do. After the initial set up, I changed the settings, (thanks to Ben Revkin!) and the voicemails go directly to my Google account.  My cell phone never rings!

You should have seen the look on the students faces when I put my phone number on the board!  "Why is our teacher giving us her phone number?" (That must of been kind of weird in all actuality.)  I explained the purpose and gave them their first prompt; "¿Qué hiciste ayer?  Menciona 2 cosas."   (What did you do yesterday?  Mention 2 things.)  While they were working on their packets, I allowed 2 at a time to go into the hall to call me.  They loved it!

Plus, I could give instant feedback by texting them back any corrections in what they said.  Some texted  me back another response.  I even had one student text me on Christmas Eve wishing my family and I a happy holiday!  Learning beyond the classroom, priceless!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Next "Flip"

The flipping process is not just about the videos or tutorials.  The students have viewed the tutorials online at home, taken notes at home and filled out the Google Forms at home.  Now it is my duty to make sure that they have ample and meaningful activities to work on while in class.  While I feel as though I have done these kinds of activities in the past, they have been static and teacher driven.  One of the main purposes of the flipping classroom is to put the student's learning in their court.  They are supposed to work at their own pace on activities that I have designed for them.

From the webinars I have seen and research that I have done, I've seen many examples of packets of activities, questions, etc.  This seems a bit overwhelming to me and quite frankly, will I be able to, once again, give up the control of running the classroom?

I am currently in the process of moving from a blended classroom, one that incorporates the use of the videos, but is still quite teacher driven, to the flipped classroom, one that has students essentially working on their own, with my guidance.  As stated by others, my role is changing from the "Sage on the Stage" to the "Guide on the Side".

My next step now is to create "La Semana a la Vista" (A week at a glance).  I have divided it up into three categories; Packet activities, Tutorials and Things to study and to pass in (all in Spanish).  I have created packet activities that include, reading, writing and summarizing activities.  (Right now I only have my Spanish 4 class done.)  This is going to be called the PHREEL sheet.  This is loosely based off of Crystal Kirch's AMAZING WSQ sheet in which she has her students Write, Summarize and Question each week (she teaches math).  PHREEL is the Spanish translated version of her WSQ sheet with some additions for the four essential language skills.  Essentially each week students will be asked to practice with the grammar, speak, read, listen, and summarize what they have viewed in the tutorials in their own words, and be asked to ask high level questions about the topic.

My concerns; will I have enough activities to sustain them through the week?  Will they be challenging enough?  Can I really do this?  Can I give up the control?  That remains to be seen!
¡Qué pasen un feliz día de acción de gracias!  (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Free and Thank You

If you are still unsure as to whether or not you should take the big "flip", you might want to check out the website.  They periodically post webinars that are free.  I watched one last night presented by a Spanish teacher from Colorado who is "Flipping for Fluency".  There were teachers from all over the world at the webinar and many of them taught subjects other than foreign languages.

At this point in my flipping journey, I am conflicted.  I love the benefits that I am seeing from having my tutorials viewed at home and we practice in class.  I can't believe how much my direction instruction, while I still feel it's necessary in some cases, has sucked time from my classes.  When I was continually having to wait for students to stop talking, get out the appropriate materials, etc, all while trying to grab their attention to the riveting topic of "Definite and Indefinite Articles in Spanish", much time was wasted.  This was time that they should have been practicing with the language.

I have always told my students that they need to practice, but was I giving them the appropriate opportunities to do so.  I think for the most part, yes.  I don't think I, or anyone else for that matter, is an ineffective teacher for directly instructing their students.  I do, however, see how I am able to utilize the class time more effectively by not doing so and having them view it at home.

However, there is still the task of creating the tutorials ahead of time so that students can have ample time to access a computer and view the tutorials.  I initially wanted to do this periodically, but I see the benefits, and I want to keep doing more.  I just don't have enough time in the day.  Especially now that the quarter is ending!!

I would like to take the opportunity to thank many people for reading the blog (can't believe it!), supporting me in writing it and for asking me questions about the flipping method.  I would also like to thank my department for all of their support and openness while I am implementing this method.  If anyone has any questions, don't hesitate to ask!
¡Hasta la próxima vez!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fast and Furiously.

¡Hola!  Seeing some of the success that my other tutorials are getting, I am fast and furiously creating new tutorials.  I have implemented the viewing of the tutorials with my Spanish 1, 2 and 4 classes.  I haven't yet with Spanish 5 only because we have been finishing up with a major grammar point.

I'm going to put the cards on the table and be completely honest.  Yes, it is time consuming.  To create the Spanish 4 tutorial that I, hopefully, will post here, it took me 3 hours, start to finish.  I first created the power point.  I then created the google form that I would use as a guided practice/application sheet. Lastly, I recorded my voice over the presentation.  Is it perfect?  Absolutely not!  While speaking, I made some grammar mistakes, (it's in Spanish), which I corrected, but then again, this might happen in class as well.  In another tutorial, my son walked in screaming.  I had to delete that one because I am not quite that adept at editing my recordings yet.

It takes a little time to post them to the website where I have chosen to upload all of my content.  (No more than 20 minutes.)  I am also able to upload the google form that I want them to fill out to ensure they have viewed the tutorial.  (This is their homework.)

I have also used the google form as a survey to see what problems there were with my tutorial or anything else.  I have received some great comments!  One in particular was that students needed more than just one day advance to view the tutorial because they might not be near a computer to watch the tutorial within that time period.

Which brings me back to why I have been creating them so quickly.  I want to upload as many as I can so that students can work at their own pace, but within the contents of the unit.  I would like to be able to give them a 3 day period of time to view the tutorials.  So far, this has been the case due to days off and weekends.

The issue I am still tackling is what to do when the students don't view the tutorial for the day it's due.  I welcome any and all suggestions!!!

Here is the video that I created for my Spanish 4 class.  It's all in Spanish with some English mixed in judiciously.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Not so much of a success..

So far the flipping with my Spanish 2 students has been great!  They are viewing the tutorials, filling out the guided practice Google Forms that follow, and they have been asking great questions in class.  Naturally, seeing the wonderful results, I wanted to do this with my other classes.

I created a tutorial for Spanish 1.  I sent them the email with the code to access the tutorial.  I gave them ample time to view the material, talked it up in class, and sent another email, just for good measure.  To my disappointment, only 7 students out of 26 viewed the tutorial and submitted the Google Form.

So now what?  What do I do?  I hadn't planned very well for those 7 students to work on something else in class while I went over the information with the other 19 students.  I decided, to keep moving with the curriculum, to present the concept as I would have done traditionally.  I also went through the steps with the students and showed them where to go on the website so that they were familiar.  I asked the students who had viewed the tutorial at home how long it took them to watch it and to fill out the form.  All 7 said it took them 10-12 minutes to do so.

I now had to prove a point!  How boring would it be to have me present for 15 minutes (I timed how long it took in class) than they view it at home for 10 minutes?  I may have changed some minds, I may have not.  That remains to be seen.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with the students who refuse or don't view the tutorials at home?  I welcome any advice!

Friday, November 2, 2012

To flip or not to flip? Was it going to be successful?

Today was D-day.  Was the flipped concept going to work or not?  I was pretty anxious about whether or not I had made a big mistake with this.  I had a decent idea of who had viewed the tutorials because the majority of them had filled out the Google Form that followed the tutorial.  36 out of 52 students in fact.  I had build in a plan B for those who didn't fill out the form.  They were to take notes in their notebooks while watching the tutorial.  I checked them in class today and from both my classes, only 2 students had done nothing.  (Most likely because of power outages from the storm.)That was encouraging!!

I also did an informal assessment that took 5 minutes.  On a piece of paper, I had the students write down the conjugations and what the preterite is.  I also asked them if they had experienced any technical issues while viewing the tutorial.  That way I could fix whatever issues they had.

My biggest obstacle now was myself.  I had to let the control freak in me not take over.  I sooo badly wanted to review the information presented in the tutorial, just to make sure everyone understood it.  But, wouldn't that have defeated the purpose of the tutorial?  So, I stayed strong just as I do when my son is whining for a toy at the supermarket and told myself "No".

I put the students in random groups of four.  I gave each student a white board and a dry erase marker.  I also gave each group a picture of a famous person and asked them to write sentences using AR verbs in the past tense about the person.  I was worried about the length of this activity.  I wanted them to be engaged and actually working the language  After they exhausted the picture they were working with, I had them switch pictures with other groups.

Honestly, I did not believe that this was going to be successful.  I worried that students would get off topic and start talking about other things.  I circled the room, checking in on their progress, and that kept the side talk at bay.  I was overjoyed to see that some groups were using the ER and IR verb endings, which is the next topic that I have posted on the website.  They had gone ahead and viewed that one as well!

One thing I did not expect at all was the quality of questions I received.  Many students asked very pointed questions about sentence structure, how to tell the difference between the first and third person singular when they are spoken, and how to conjugate and irregular verb in the past.  I was stunned!  I have very rarely received this level of questioning after a "traditional" presentation of grammar.
The best remark of the day was; "Class is over already?"  That signaled to me that the activity was engaging and meaningful.

Overall, I am extremely happy with my first results.  I am ready to upload more tutorials!  Now that I have the basic idea of how to make and upload the tutorials, I need to focus on more ways to work with the concepts in class.  Any ideas?
¡Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Waiting to go back to school after Superstorm Sandy caused major damage on the East Coast.  I was supposed to find out if my first trial with students viewing the tutorials worked.  However, as I look at my google form, I have noticed that only 29 out of 52 students have responded on the google form.  Let's hope that this is due to power outages and not laziness.  Hopefully we'll find out tomorrow!  I've gotta get back to work!
¡Hasta Luego!

Monday, October 29, 2012

¡Mil Gracias!

A thousand thank you's to my colleagues, Greg DeCubellis and Ben Revkin, our resident tech experts, in helping me figure out how to record my voice over my power points.  It worked, and I uploaded the new version on  Now my students won't have to download the presentation which may cause problems with different operating systems.

View Ben's comment (Magister Revkin) on my last post as to how to do it on the MacBook Airs.
It's getting a bit windy now!

A question for all you "flippers"

How do you record your voice over your power point presentations?  I have a MacBook Air and I thought the record option on the powerpoint would be sufficient.  However, on it doesn't have a "Play" button on the presentation/tutorial.  The students have to download the presentation, which, in some cases, is presenting problems for students.  Is there a better way to record my voice over my power points, that doesn't require any fancy equipment?

Help!  Thanks!  For all my fellow east coast friends, be safe!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Superstorm" of issues

As we await Superstorm Sandy and prepare for power outages, it seems as though many of my students are taking the opportunity to use their electricity and watch their first tutorial.  When I checked my email yesterday, I had a number of emails from students saying that they could see the tutorial, but not hear my voice on the tutorial.  I then sent out a mass email to all of the students with an attachment to the presentation, so at least they could view it.  I also emailed them the google form to record their answers.

This is by no means the way I wanted this to go this first time around.  However, I tried to rectify the situation by sending them the presentation via email.  We'll see how it goes!  As for now, I'm hoping Sandy's storm surges don't flood my home!  Stay safe, mis amigos!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Problems that arise

Already encountering some problems.

I figured this might happen.  The first, one student couldn't create an account with  So I emailed the customer support and they got back to me fairly quickly.  

Next, while previewing my slideshow with my class today, to show them what to expect and do, I couldn't hear the audio.  I then realized that the way I had done my voice over was different, so the students would have to download the presentation, and then they can hear me.

So far, that's not bad.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!  Today I unveiled the task of watching the slideshow at home.  Things that I told them they needed to do were:
1)  Create an account
2)  Download the slideshow
3)  Watch the slideshow
4)  Take notes while watching the slideshow, which I will check in class on Monday.
5)  Lastly, fill out the google form that follows the tutorial.

While explaining this method to the class, I noticed that I saw some sparks in some eyes, not the usual glazed over look.  A sign of good things to come?  Let's hope so!  Stay tuned!!!

P.S.  I got my t-shirt and certificate in the mail today.  I am officially flip certified!!

Putting it into action.

Now what?  I have made the power point on the Preterite tense verb conjugations.  But I also need some sort of online source or requirement that lets me know that students have viewed the page.  I decided to make a Google Form that, I easily, posted right below the tutorial that the students will view. 

The Google Form
It is more of a guided practice sheet that will allow the students to answer specific questions regarding the tutorial.  It then takes it a step further by making them apply what they have just learned in the tutorial.  It took me maybe 10 minutes, if that, to create the Google Form.

I know have the tutorial, the Google form and all of my students email addresses to invite them to view the tutorial.  For homework tonight, they will have to watch the tutorial and answer the questions that follow. 

If all goes well with my pilot classes, I may consider doing this more often.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My first baby "flips"!

I forgot to mention in my first blog what exactly is a flipped classroom!!  Essentially, "flipping" your class means students are watching tutorials that I have created at home, online.  The tutorials consist of me teaching a particular topic.  Therefore, the instruction happens at home and not in the class.  Students then fill out a guided practice sheet that either accompanies the tutorial or is given beforehand. In class, students are actively engaged in practicing the topic they learned.

One of the major benefits of this type of instruction, so they say, is differentiated instruction.  Through the use of Google Forms, I can gain a better understanding of what students do or do not understand from my instructional tutorial.  I can reteach a topic to a group of students, one student or the whole class, depending on the feedback.  (I became flipclass certified through  It's free and takes a total of 2 hours to go through the course.  Fairly painless!  Plus, you get a certificate and a free t-shirt!!)

So now for my baby flips:
Step one: Decide which class to use this new practice with and which topic I was going to teach.

I decided that I would try this out with my Spanish 2 classes for a couple of reasons.  One, because they are very conscientious students and I believe that they will actually watch the tutorials.  Two, because the topic I was going to present was on Preterite tense verb conjugations.  This is the past tense and they are already familiar with how to conjugate verbs and the conjugation chart.

Step two:  Make a tutorial.

I anticipated that this was going to be a very daunting task.  Surprisingly, it wasn't.  I did have to make a power point presentation that teaches the Preterite tense verb conjugations.  While I was making the power point, I knew that I wanted to have a voice over.  On our new Mac Airs, there is that option to record your voice as you go through the presentation.  I tried to keep in mind how I would normally present this information to my students if I were speaking in front of the class.  One of the biggest points that I have heard or read is that you don't sound like a robot!  Speak as if you were in front of the class.

Step three:  Upload the tutorial.

This was fairly simple.  The website walks you through the process nicely.  Plus, the benefit of is that you can keep all of your tutorials in one place.  (I should be getting some money for mentioning this website so much, no? :))

¡Hasta pronto!

My Introduction to "Flipping" my classes

"Flipping"?  Um... ¡no gracias! What is this?  Will I have to do flips in front of the room?  Or will my students be "flipping" me the finger?  (Well, maybe.)  At any rate, I had absolutely no idea what this classroom practice was all about.  I had heard several people speak of it, I had read some things about it, but I wasn't completely aware of what "flipping" my class entailed or what I would have to do.

Ugh!  Something new!  Quite frankly, with the new evaluation system, I didn't know if I could or wanted to learn something new.  But, after 10 years of teaching, I felt as though I needed something to keep my teaching interesting.  I initially heard about the flipped classroom on Twitter.  I dove a little deeper with some google searches and came upon the website.  I saw on this website a treasure trove of tutorials created by educators, such as myself.  I watched a few of them and honestly, I was overwhelmed!!

So, I decided to sign up for a free webinar.  It was hosted by and the speaker was Crystal Kirch, a math teacher and department chair in California.  She had only been flipping for one year and the amount of work that she had done was both impressive and overwhelming.  I went away from the webinar feeling excited, scared, and apprehensive about starting this practice.

Where do I begin?  What resources do I need?  Will I have to get a grant from EGEF to buy any special equipment?  These were all the questions swirling around in my head.  Some of the buzz words and terms were like learning a foreign language (ha!).  But, seriously, where do I begin?