Tuesday, September 10, 2013

QR Reader Codes in the FL Class

I have to admit, sometimes it's boring to go over chapter vocabulary in class.  I needed a fresh new way to get students engaged and excited to work on vocabulary.  But how?  I then remembered that my colleague Ben Revkin, latin teacher extraordinaire and in-house tech wizard, had showed our department how to create QR codes.

  • First, I downloaded a free QR Reader app on my smartphone.  I have an iPhone, but it works as well on other phones.  
  • Then, I visited a free QR code generator site.  On the site, I was able to write definitions, in Spanish, of the vocabulary.  I wrote a description of the word, just as in the game Taboo, without mentioning the actual word, using circumlocution as I had had the students do in class the day before.  
  • I downloaded 10 of the definitions I wrote and the site generated a QR code for me.  I then printed them out and hung them around the school.
  • Next, the students were asked to download the free QR app on their phones.  Some of their phones didn't allow them to download in the class and others did.  
  • I grouped the students who had the app with those who didn't.  They were given specific instructions to scan the code, read the code and then move on to look for the next code in the hallway.  They were also instructed to be as quiet as possible so as to not disrupt the other students in their classes.  They were also told that this was a competition to see which group finished first and with the correct responses.
  • After they found all 10 codes and scanned them, they were instructed to come back to class and in their group work out which word I was describing, without the use of their textbooks or notes.
There are 2 things I love about this activity.  One, the students had fun walking around the room with the air of a competition at stake.  Two, they were also all really engaged and working collaboratively to come up with the correct response.  The first group to hand in their responses and for them to be all correct won "Fabulous Spanish Stickers".  Now tell me, which kid doesn't love a sticker?

An example of a QR code.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wordle Wall

The beginning of the school year brings excitement and new ideas.  One that I am deciding to incorporate in my class is the Wordle Wall.  I have printed out and laminated several question words and commonly used phrases in Spanish and arranged them in different ways on one of the bulletin boards in my classroom.  The purpose of the Wordle Wall is to encourage students to use the target language as much as possible with me and with their classmates.  By having them on the wall in front of the class, hopefully the students will stare at it, it will sink in and they will begin to use the words that they see on a daily basis.

This is what the wall looks like now, at the beginning of the school year.  I am encouraging students to add other words or phrases to the wall.  One catch, the words have to be independent from the chapter or core vocabulary that we are practicing at the time.  I hope the wall inspires students to speak Spanish more in class with me and with their classmates!  I'll post another picture in June to highlight what has been added to the wall!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#fliplang -- Twitter chat

On Wednesday, July 31, 2013, the first #fliplang twitter chat occurred.  The idea for this type of chat came from a conversation on Twitter between @SraSpanglish, @SraWitten and myself @srapontarelli about the #flipclass chat and the #langchat chat on Twitter.  The flipped classroom chat normally happens on Monday nights from 8-9 PM EST.  The foreign or world language chat happens on Thursday nights from 8-9 PM EST.  The idea for #fliplang came about to help those teachers who are looking to flip their World Language classes.

Both of the other chats are fantastic and I wouldn't be the "flipper" and World Language teacher that I am today without them.  However, it seemed like there was much interest that specifically related to how to effectively flip the FL class.  Hence #fliplang.

The chat was very lively and went fast.  The questions posed were designed by Heather Witten and myself to help guide other teachers to think about how they could possibly execute the flip in their classes.  It was exciting to "follow' so many new and energetic language teachers from across the country.  I believe that many great ideas were shared and many of us are excited to put what we chatted about into practice.

We hope to keep this chat going and keep the ideas flowing!  Join us on Wednesdays from 8-9 pm EST to talk about flipping the world language class.  Next weeks topic will be on "Classroom Activities".  What do you do in class after they have viewed the tutorials at home?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Google Voice for Formative Assessment

A while back I wrote about how Google Voice was a great tool for getting students to speak on a more consistent basis.  One of the other aspects of Google Voice that I really liked this year as well was it's function as an "exit slip".

I initially wanted to use the Voice for speaking.  As I mentioned before, because of the large number of students that I have, I wanted to make sure that each student had the opportunity to speak to and answer questions about a particular topic.  However, I soon realized the texting function of Google Voice played just as an important role as did the speaking.  Because let's be honest, our students really only want to text one another anyway!

After my students viewed a tutorial about a particular topic, the next day in class I had them text me a response to a question that I put on the board.  After texting their response, they got to work on the in-class activities.  While they were working, I was able to go around and speak to them individually about the responses they had texted me and make any corrections if necessary.  They could then ask me any questions regarding the topic being studied as well.

In the last 5-10 minutes of class, we got back together as a group, reviewed an activity and answered any questions students had.  Then I gave them a prompt similar to the one from the beginning of class.  They then had to text me their answers.  As their texts were coming in, I was able to text them back with any corrections that were necessary.  Some students responded with another question, and most of them responded with a "Gracias" or a "Lo Siento" (I'm sorry).

The final text response functioned as an exit slip.  I essentially removed the paper aspect from the equation and gave the exit slip in a format that is more enjoyable to the students.  The feedback is also more efficient and timely for the students as well because it is immediate!  And in this age of instant gratification, nothing is better than that!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

End of the Year Reflection -- Motivation and Creativity

What a year!  I honestly can't believe it's over!  In September, I had a very novice understanding of what it meant to "flip" a class.  By October I was watching webinars and my having my students create accounts on sophia.org.  28 tutorials later I am flipping 2 courses of the four that I teach.  I have tweaked my "Week at a Glance" sheets, added more problem based activities, and I have incorporated much more speaking and listening into my daily routine.

I think the one thing that I have really valued the most out of this flipping experience is the individualized time that I get with each student.  I feel as though I know the students in the classes that I have flipped much better than those in the other courses that are taught more traditionally.  I am able to speak with each one of them on a daily basis and ask and answer questions.  This has allowed them to overall, score much better on assessments.

I am really looking forward to learning more ideas and techniques to implement in my flipped courses.  Problem Based Learning and Assessments are next on my agenda.  PBL and PBA will provide my students the opportunities to be creative with the language.  Through my many Google forms and surveys of students this year, if something seems relevant to them, if they can see the practicality of the content being learned, then they are more motivated to learn the material.  They are also more inclined to go beyond what we are learning in class and take their learning into their own hands.  When students become more motivated to use the language, they in turn become creative in how they can use the language.  Their motivation drives them to become more creative.

Looking forward to learning more this summer and implementing my findings this coming school year!
¡Qué pasen un buen verano!

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Introduction -- Kristin Pontarelli

¡Hola a todos!

My name is Kristin Pontarelli and I am a Spanish Teacher at East Greenwich High School in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.  For those unfamiliar with the United States, Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country.  It is 45 minutes from Boston and 2 hours from New York.  The summers here in RI are beautiful and there is always a beach to visit!

I am currently teaching Spanish 1, 2, 4 and 5 at the High School level.  I have taught middle school for 5 years and I have also taught introductory courses at the college level at the Community College of RI and at the University of Delaware, where I attended for my Bachelor's and Master's.

I became interested in flipping my classes after having done some research online last summer.  I needed something new and fresh in my teaching, so I decided to give it a try.  I am currently flipping my Spanish 2 and 4 courses.  I have made several tutorials and posted them to the Sophia.org website.

This blog that I already have highlights my journey thus far with my flipping.  I am excited to learn more about how to integrate technology in my classes with this MOOC.  I am also very excited to meet new people from other parts of the world who share similar interests.

One last thing, if there are any teachers who are in Hispanic countries and teach English as a foreign language, or knows someone who does, please let me know.  I would love to start an intercambio with my upper level classes and maybe even some day have an exchange program with a sister school.

¡Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Control Freak in the Flipped Classroom

I've rearranged my room.  Not any easy thing for me to do.  I really don't like the look of it and the fact that students are in groups.  Pedagogically and with the new flipped class, I know that this is the best set up.  However, I have been teaching for the last 15 years with all students in rows and facing forward.  If I saw that someone wasn't paying attention, I could easily give him or her a stern look and get their immediate attention.

In two of my courses, I have given "week at a glance" sheets with activities, assignments and tutorials for them to complete within this time frame.  While this is allowing for students to go at their own pace, it is also organized chaos.  Some are calling and leaving me a message in the hallway, some need to use the computers in the language lab to watch a tutorial or to fill out a Google Form, some are working on activities, some are working one on one or in small groups with me, or they are on one of the computers in my room working on their activities.  When I'm not working one on one, I am circulating the room checking their progress, making sure they stay on task, making sure they are speaking in the target language, etc.

I've stated this before and I'll say it again, one of my biggest obstacles to overcome has been myself and my controlling nature.  I liked the neatness of the traditional classroom, of moving from one activity and transitioning nicely into the next.  I liked the rows of students with them looking directly at the board.  I have found, though, that the flipped classroom offers so much more than the traditional classroom offers.  And that is why I am trying very hard to overcome my inner control freak.  I just need a clone of myself!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

One Full Month Flipping

Looking back at the last month and a half of trying to implement a fully flipped class in 2 of my courses, I can say that I am truly exhausted, but delighted.  I'm not overwhelmed with the exhaustion because I know that all of the tutorials that I have made so far, I will be able to use next year.  All of the packets that I have created so far, I will be able to use next year as well.  Therefore, while constantly having to plan way far ahead, and anticipating problems that may arise and by constantly surveying my students to see how they are doing, I know that in the end, it is worth it.  I kind of feel like a first year teacher all over again!

I have been constantly reflecting on how I can make the flipped class experience more beneficial to my students.  I haven't been giving units of work for students to do, rather a "Week at a glance" sheet to make it more manageable for them and myself.  Per students suggestions, I've changed the format of the activity sheet to be more user friendly.  From their Google Form comments, I have learned that in some cases, I need to slow down when I record my audio, I need to speak up, I need to translate more into English (not going to happen!) or that I have done a good job at clearly communicating the grammar point to my students.  I have also been surprised at the quality of the questions regarding the grammar points being studied as well.  In the 15 years that I have been teaching, I don't believe that I have ever received such high quality questions from students of all ability levels.

The one thing that has surprised me the most is the institutionalization of our students.  Just as it was difficult for me to give up control of being in front of the class delivering the instruction, they were uneasy with me NOT being up there delivering the instruction.  Based on their feedback, I have tweaked the order of the class.  The beginning of the class is always dedicated to questions and review of the topic.  Then activities that they work on at their own pace while I am circulating the room.  Sometimes we come together to do a listening activity or speaking activity together in the language lab. Lastly, we come together in the last 10 minutes of the class to review an activity together and for questions.   In these last 10 minutes I have also been having my students text me using Google Voice the response to a prompt.  I can immediately, even before the bell rings, send them back a text with feedback.  With these changes, which I am sure will change again, it seems as though they are beginning to feel more comfortable.  And so am I!