The Great File Cabinet Purge Day 2

The Internet…

Day two of the Great File Cabinet Purge began prematurely. I had planned on taking it slowly and doing a couple of drawers a week leading up to finals.  But then on I got an email from Google who kindly suggested I click on and explore something.  I thought I was going to find geography and maybe a bit of la France I could use or pass on to teachers.  No. It led me directly to a livecam of a Great Dane Puppy Nursery.  Puppies!

That wasn’t what got me.

The puppies went outside and so I searched around for something else interesting and found the Farm Sanctuary Turkey Barn – a live webcam of a turkey barn on a farm in New York state.  I have my own turkeys and would gladly live on a farm surrounded by ducks, chickens and turkey (no geese), so I was immediately drawn in.  Then it happened…a goat, in a coat, in a wheelchair, busted his way past some hens into the frame.

The goat got me.

Realizing I needed to take immediate action before I lost all hope of productivity, I moved the Turkey Barn to its own screen and I got up and started emptying out drawers.

Image capture from the Turkey Barn webcam 12/12/2017


The purge itself was easier than I had expected.  None of it was sentimental.  Most of it was class sets of copies of textbook activities.  Not hard to get rid of.  It was more difficult to figure out why I even had all the copies.

I haven’t taught level 1 at the high school since 2011, but I have taught it 8 times at the college so everything for that is digitized.  Anything that was level 1 went into the trash.

I told myself that anything that I wanted to keep I could scan or take a picture of and so into the trash went most everything from my drawers.

Easy Peasy.

Day 2 Gems

The Oath of the Horatii -On overhead!!
When I was young I had energy to plan stuff like this….
You gotta do what you gotta do.

The Great File Cabinet Purge – #edublogsclub

It is my goal that by the time I go on Christmas vacation I will have cleaned out my file cabinets. The catalyst for this purge is the fact that my file cabinets live in an after school room and because of where they are they create a little cubby area where students like to try to test my one butt per chair rule.

On day 1 of the Great File Cabinet Purge I got through two drawers and threw out two bags of trash.

Then and Now

I started teaching in 1999.  It was fluke that I got my job as a French teacher.  I’m pretty sure after my interview they would have hired a French bulldog to teach the classes had they been able to find one.  Lucky for me they couldn’t and I stepped into the classroom, with a degree French and in Linguistics (English as a second language emphasis) and having done my student teaching in English.

As I was throwing away papers I was struck by the most significant change since I started teaching: technology.

When I was doing my studies in language acquisition, the professors emphasized the importance of our “image bank.”  This was the collection of magazine pages that you kept in labeled files:  girls, boys, weather, activities, etc.  In my first year teaching, someone gave me a book of black line masters that had illustrations of most words you would need for teaching.  It was revolutionary.

The Google Image Search could possibly be the biggest technical advance in my career.  It’s something I use daily.  Multiple times.  Need a picture of beach?  No problem.  In fact I’ll choose a French beach.  Two seconds later…done.  This is so simple and yet so impactful.  Project it on the board and suddenly the whole class can see it.  With the Google Docs, share it with students and suddenly they’ve got a colored culturally relevant image with which to use some language.

Even yesterday I was grateful for this, maybe more so because I was feeling nostalgic about what it was like before image search.  Yesterday I pulled up an image of une chaîne-stéréo which is a completely stupid word in the textbook.  I don’t even know what une chaîne-stéréo is in English.  Stereo system?  Stereo? I don’t know and I don’t care because it doesn’t matter.  I tell students it’s a like radio.  But yesterday I needed a picture and so voilà I pulled up a photo of une chaîne-stéréo.  Last week in class in one of the activities there’s an illustration of a guy who looks like Sloth from The Goonies.  A student used image search and on his slide deck inserted the image.  He also didn’t like that one of the girls looked sad, so he gave her a happy face.  We talked about it for five minutes in the target language.

There are lots of other important technological advances, but the image search I think is the one I appreciate the most.  Simple, yet impactful.

Yesterday I also threw out a lesson from 2002 on internet translators. In 2002 the conversation was about how crappy the translations were.  Don’t use this kids, look how terrible it is.   We can’t say that anymore because like it or not, the translators are pretty darn good.  Our conversation has to change.  How do we use them and why would we use them?  Why wouldn’t we use them?  Language is innately about human connections and nobody is going to meet, fall in love and create a family with an internet translator.

Going through the first of my files yesterday reminded me how lucky I am to have all of the technology that I do.  I’ve realized in the past few months that what I like best about using technology is that it allows me to be creative.  I can create the lesson I envision in my head for students.  The time I used to spend combing through magazines for less than perfect images large enough for students in the back of the room to see, is now spent differently.

One last share from yesterday:  The overheads from my very first CTLA statewide presentation ever.  Overheads!!


Favorite Tool #edublogsclub

I am so far behind in my #edublogsclub blogging that I’ve given up caring.  I’ve not given up blogging them, just given up caring that they weren’t blogged during the week assigned.   However,  I am determined to finish before the end of the year.

My Favorite Tool

By far, my most favorite tool right now is Trello, an organizational tool that I find works really well for me.  Here’s why it’s my favorite tool.


My work is divided between After School, Instructional Technology, teaching, World Language support, instructional coaching, PBIS, and what feels like 15 other categories and Trello keeps me sane and organized.  It is essentially a board made of lists, made of cards with all kinds of information.  Cards can be moved between lists or boards.

I have a to-do list in Trello with lists for each category that I’m working on.  I create a card with a something I need to do, add an attachment or link, label, and a due date.  With the “Power-ups” I use the calendar view to see what I need to get done.  I can add notes and a to-do list for each card or task and check them off as I go along.  I love that I can easily re-name my lists, so I can have a list based on category, or when I’m really busy a list that says “priority.”  Drag and drop to move the cards.

Trello has an option to email to board.  I try to get to “Inbox zero,” so if there is an email that I need to act on, I forward it to Trello and add a due date.  I have all of the information and attachments that I need and my inbox isn’t cluttered.  You can get super fancy in the subject line to automatically add it to boards.  Trello also has a gmail Add-on that allows you to create cards directly from gmail.  This hasn’t been turned on yet for me in my district, and I’m enjoying walking the fine line of asking every day and annoying the people who actually flip the switch.

Cards can be shared so that if you work as a team you can see who has done what and its status.  Most of my work is for my Team of One, so I have not used that feature much.

Project Planning

In addition to my To-do list board, I also have a board for the after school program that includes what needs to be done month to month.  In the case that I am no longer the after school coordinator, someone would just need to look at the after school timeline to see what needs to be done and when with all of the relevant documents attached!  So simple.  (They’ll thank me later.)

I have also planned out our Freshman summer bridge program in Trello.  Everything is included as a card with attachments and notes so that when I go to start planning in March, I won’t have to search for documents or wonder what to do next.  As it comes to planning time, I’ll create lists that say “this week”, “next week” and “today” and move the cards to the appropriate lists.


I broke up with bookmarking webpages a few years ago because I just felt like I had no good way to organize them or search for them or share them across accounts and I just wasn’t using the ones I had bookmarked.  At the beginning of the this year I even went through and culled all of my bookmarks so that they fit on the bookmark bar because I was so tired of looking at them.  Then, I had the idea of using Trello and it works magnificently!  With the Trello extension, I click and add my webpage to my bookmark bar to the appropriate list (topic) and voilà, a beautiful bookmarking system that works for me.

With Students

I’ll be blogging about my updating of the “town” unit soon, but it centered around a public Trello Board with links to various websites and maps for about 11 different French cities.  Click here to view my Villes en France Trello Board.

The best part about my favorite tool?  On Thursday I think I convinced the principal to start using Trello.

Is it…Guessing Game

This last summer I spent some time with my six year old cousin. He has some speech issues and sees a speech therapist weekly and is not, in general, a great talker…yet.  However he loves playing the Guess Who game.  Do you know this game?  You have cards with images on them that you slide into a game apparatus and then you choose one of the images and then you ask your opponent yes or no questions to try to figure out which one they selected.

I was in love with the language that this little guy was producing and hearing.   “Does it have sprinkles on top?”  “Is it cold?”  And less anyone think this game is just about language, there is also a clear strategy, as I learned after I lost the fourth straight game in a row.  Carson is a Guess Who game master ninja.

My students can do that.  I can make that.

So I did.

I’ve made a slide deck with three different games.  I had a fourth of people, but I realized that all of the people were, uh, well, all the same, uh, color.  And while it represented me, it didn’t represent my students, so I deleted that one.  I’ll try to make a better one.

It’s simple, share with students and then they drag the circle onto the image they select and the x’s onto the ones that are eliminated from the questions they ask. Repeat. Repeat.  Repeat.

Click on the image to go to the slide deck to make your own copy.

Conference-ganza 2017

This week has been crazy for me.  I started off in Apple Valley, then went to Pasadena for the CETPA conference, then from there directly to Nashville for ACTFL.  I’m tired of walking around with a backpack.  I’m also sick of looking at my computer.


CETPA is the California Education Technologist Professional Association.  This is the third year I’ve gone and it is one of my favorite conferences.  First, the entire tech department is there.  The data guy. The blinky lights and switches guy.  The guy who makes the decisions about the data and blinky lights and switches.  And  then me and Jed, the teachers.  (When I say guy, I literally mean guy.  There’s never a line in the women’s bathroom at CETPA.)  It’s nice because I get to interact with all of the cogs of technology that have an impact on instruction.  In one of the sessions, I learned about new updates to the SIS (student information system- where you keep your grades) that will have huge impact for our CTE Pathways and how they pull data for interventions.  I also went to a session given by lawyers about the rules and regulations regarding drone use on campus which impacts instruction for the teachers who want to use drones.  I learned more about 508 ADA website compliance for schools’ website.  I even coded with Swift Playground app on the iPad.  Or, I learned how to show the elementary after school teachers in my district how to use Swift Playground with their students because I HEART STEM for KEN DAVIS. (He’s our ASES Coordinator- and only for him would I go to an elementary coding session.)

CETPA isn’t a conference where my creative side gets fed, but it’s information that helps me better serve teachers as my school and therefore very valuable.


I left the lawyers and regulations and coding and flew to Nashville.

On the plane I read George Couros’ The Innovator’s Mindset.  I only had this in my bag to read because the guy who leads the Technology Leader’s Network in the Inland Empire wanted to do a book study and he was so enthusiastic about it, I decided that no matter what I’d get that book read just for him.  I read it on the plane.  The whole thing.  Because it was that good.  George Couros said to ask yourself if you’d want to be a student in your classroom.  Well, I took one look at my lesson for next week and decided I didn’t even want to be the teacher in that classroom.

More on that later….


ACTFL, oh, my goodness, ACTFL.

Everyone is so creative!  I went to some great sessions on culture, reading, and engagement.  I’ll have more information about those in a later post.

I presented on Saturday and I was nervous- even though I had presented on Ditching the Powerpoint at the CLTA conference.  I didn’t know if people would come or if they would be interested.  But they came, and kept coming and filled up the room and then sat on the floor in every available space!! And stayed!  Everyone had such positive comments.  I had a handout- which I’m putting here, but it was just to get people to the website I made with resources.  If you came to my session thank you!  And if you didn’t here’s the link to my website with resources.  

And now I am ready to ditch my backpack for a week!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Actfl Handout

Bingo with Classroom Objects

Who doesn’t love a good game of Bingo?

I created an interactive slide deck for Bingo with the classroom objects.

NB: In the textbook a bicycle and car are listed in the classroom objects section.  Who am I to judge?  There’s also an mp3 player and a CD player.  I just make fun of those.  I also purposely chose the old cell phone image because that’s what’s in the book and we laugh about that.

NBB: On Wednesday, my college class created this list of supplies needed for French class and then math class.  Look at the first thing they said for math class.

Xanax!  I almost fell over laughing.  They said math class is really stressful, so it’s helpful.

I digress.

My bingo game is meant for student to drag nine objects of their choice onto the grid and then I will describe the object.  So for pencil I might say, “You guys think it is necessary for math class, but it’s not Xanax and it’s not a calculator.”  Then they’ll place a yellow dot on the object if they have it.  If they get Bingo they’ll tell me what they had.   Then they can choose nine new objects and play all over again.  If we have time they’ll play in groups and take turns being the one to call out the objects by describing them.  There won’t be time for this.  This is the type of thing there is never time for in college class.  (The memory game is in French, but if you watch the workflow below you’ll see how to change it to your language!)

In the slide deck is also two version of Memory.  Let’s not kid ourselves that memory produces extraordinary language or is anything other than well, a memory game, but it’s fun sometimes.  It could be a finish early activity.  Students move the box on top of the grid to find the matches.

Click on the image to make a copy of the Bingo.

I’m always asked how to edit the master slide and make these types of activities so I made a workflow in case it’s helpful for you.

Je sais pas – Let’s ask Google!

Sometimes I’m a little late to the technology party.  Until yesterday when I had to reset my phone, I’d hardly used the voice tools on my phone.  And then yesterday I fell in love with Google Assistant. Though the whole idea of talking to an object feels odd to me, I am super excited about having a new assistant to do things for me. “Ok Google. Enter grades in the gradebook.”

In the summer I discovered that I could talk in French to my computer and ask Google questions by using the Search by Voice feature and that it would not only find the answer for me, but sometimes it would talk to me!


I thought what a great activity for questions and spent way more time than I should admit asking it silly questions.  Only it was summer and I had to wait around until last week to do anything with it.

The Techy Side

For this to work you have to change your language settings in Google Chrome.  My students have all different devices and the students who were using their phones had issues.  Some of them were saavy enough to figure out what to do on their device, but their solutions were all different.  “Change it in the app.”  “Change the keyboard settings.”  “Touch your nose three times and tap the home button twice then jump out of your seat.”  Too much work.  Just encourage students to use a computer.  I had them work with a partner or told them find someone with a computer.

First, search anything.  Literally.  You just need to get to the page with the language settings and that’s not on the first Google Search page.  Then click settings and change the language.

Finally click the little microphone.  Google will even tell you when to talk!  And it will visually show you what you are saying.  Try it out- it’s pretty cool.

The Lesson Side

I was going to do this on Monday, but decided that I wanted the students to have more structured practice with questions before I sent them out to big wide world of Google to ask questions that it might not recognize because of their accents or lack of structure, so I held off a day.  This ended up being the 400th billion activity we had done asking questions.

If you ask Google a question it will sometimes actually tell you the answer and sometimes it just pulls up a search page.  I don’t know how it determines whether it’s going to talk to you or not.  I wanted Google to respond to my students, so I spent some time finding some people that Google would talk about.  Some of my first choices didn’t merit spoken language, so they were out.  I always try to have a variety of people and nationalities (plus Céline Dion- always Céline Dion), but this got a bit limited because of the talking part.  I also wanted people with names that would be relatively easy for Novices to produce to reduce their chances of being misunderstood by Google.

I put up this slide of Emmanuel Macron and since none of the students knew who he was we asked Google.

Then, I walked students through changing their language and showed them this slide and told them to find out some information.

And then there were giggles and laughter and a whole bunch of fun as students asked questions.

Because Google writes out what it is hearing it’s quite ideal because it lets students see if they were understood.  Some of the students had to try a few times to get Google to understand- which is good.  They had to negotiate their own meaning with Google.  There was not an issue with Google picking up the voices of the other students.

I wasn’t sure how well this would work so I didn’t plan an elaborate activity, but next time I’ll have them write out their answers and then report out.  Next week students will be asking questions about a cultural reading and I think I might have them test out their questions by asking Google.

On a separate note, is there anyone out there who also thinks that Emmanuel Macron looks like the grown up version of Petit Nicolas?




Higher Level Thinking with Novices

When I was doing my student teaching (in English) our methods teacher said something like, “The complexity of your language is a reflection of your complexity of thought.”  While I can get behind this statement for a native language, this isn’t true for a second language.  I mean, I’m entirely capable of complex thought, but I certainly can’t express that in Spanish.  Depending on the topic I may be able to express a complex-ish thought in French.  And on any one day, I may or may not find complex thought expression in English a stretch.

This makes it easy to say oh, those novices, they can’t do any critical thinking.

Not True – Beyond DOK 1

Here is a simple activity, that I did not invent that asks students to think critically with very little language.  Let me start out with that in the first hours of French, I tell this completely ridiculous story about a crab who has its heart broken by a chain smoking rabbit and who is ultimately consoled by a snail.  It’s riveting.

This activity is actually what I think of as disguised input.  (I suppose some people would argue that the best comprehensible input is disguised, but for me it means that this is not an input activity per se.)  This activity is meant to give students the opportunity to hear the words chien, chat, lapin  several times in a meaningful context and it asks students to think critically without producing a lot of language.  They need to say impossible, possible, probable (with the French pronunciation-ish).

I put up the slide and then ask in the TL, “Rabbits eat carrots? Yes, that’s pretty logical.”  “Dogs eat hamburgers?” You’d be surprised by the answer to that one. “Dogs eat cats?! What?! Dogs eat cats! Nooooooooon.”   “Dogs speak French.”  “Snails eat lettuce.”

You get the idea.  We go through many, many possibilities.  You’ll notice that the second row is all cognates except fleur, which is like a half cognate.

Enter Google Forms

This year I’m taking this activity to the next level with a Google Form.  I asked students to read the statements and then answer and some of the statements were different than the ones I said outloud.  And then you know what we did?  We practiced numbers by talking about percentages of people who think it’s probable that dogs eat cats, etc.  Because there is never not a good time to use numbers in context.

I didn’t do this next step because we didn’t have time, but to extend the activity I could ask students to make their own sentences that (im)possible or probable.  Or I could ask them to move sentences and categorize them.

And then…

I make enough work for myself, so I love when I can re-use things I’ve already built.  The next activity involves the students using aime/adore/n’aime pas/déteste with the same slide.  Additionally, we re-tell the whole story by using aime/adore/n’aime pas déteste.  This year I added in parce que for the students and they made amazing sentences for such limited hours of French.

I’m not suggesting that my silly story and activity will leave students enlightened, but it does allow for them to think critically and respond to a complex question with simple language.


#edublogsclub Advice for New Teachers

In my myriad of roles at work, I get to work with new teachers often. When I saw this topic I thought what a great opportunity!  Here’s my best new teacher ideas.

  1. Plan.  As I work with more and more teachers I am absolutely astounded at the number of teachers who don’t have a thoughtful lesson plan.  It’s not ok.  “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  It’s amazing how a little thought will have effects on any number of classroom issues.
  2. Use your textbook.  Throwing out that textbook is quite sexy right now.  Sure it might seem like all the cool kids are ditching their textbook, but right now, as a new teacher- hold onto that book.  Get your bearings first.  When I was at the CLTA Summer Seminar I saw someone had a sticky on their computer that something like, “Use the textbook and supplement the f%^k out of it.”  Try that.
  3. Two Hour Limit.  When I did my student teaching my master teacher told me that she tried never to work more than two hours extra per day.  This has always stuck in my head as a personal check.  It is easy to spend hours after school getting ready and planning, but balance is key to being healthy.
  4. Find a role model.  On any campus there’s a variety of characters.  Look at who they are and why.  Who has the respect of the leaders?  How are the leaders moving the campus and students forward?  Are there bullies who push everyone into accepting their ideas?  Who are the grumpy grouchy grumblers?  Who do you want to be?
  5. Remember our impact.  Every day we have the ability to impact a child positively or negatively.  It’s easy to get caught up in all of the things we have to do.  It’s worth remembering that we are in the business of people and students are people.  Kindness and fairness go a long way towards creating a lasting impact.