Week in Review

This week, more than some others had me working on all of my different projects.

Monday– I found out I had been accepted as a Google Certified Trainer.  I am beyond thrilled to be part of this group and so enthusiastic to see what opportunities this will bring.  That said, I’m nearly overwhelmed by everything there is to learn.  It felt a little bit like the starting gun going off in a race and I haven’t figured out what my stride is or had a moment to catch my breath.

Tuesday– Nothing worth reporting- except still trying to figure out if I will be using a textbook for the Spring semester at the college.  Given that this starts in two weeks, a decision is imminent.  At this point I feel like I just need to flip a coin.

Wednesday– Training for my work helping new teachers and helping two of our younger teacher facilitate a staff workshop on student centered learning.  They did great!

Thursday– PBIS Team work day.  This is an amazing group of leaders at our school who care very much about creating a safe and flourishing environment for our students.  And as a bonus, they are all freaking funny, so we get to laugh a lot.

Friday-Kara and Megan from Creative Language Class came to our district and gave a workshop on Performance Based Assessments.  No matter what other projects I am involved with, I think I am always a French teacher first and at heart.   This was by far the most exciting training day I’d had in a while.  What stuck was me most was Kara’s comment “You don’t sit on a park bench and talk about past tense.”  So true!  I’m going to use this as a litmus test on for activities.  I don’t think I have a ton of activities with my students where I ask them to sit on a park bench and talk about past tense, but it is always worth re-evaluating.


Start Planning Your Sub Plans Now

Inspired by a friend who had to be absent the week before finals because her husband had to have emergency surgery, I put together my best sub plans advice.

I am a sub plan master Ninja.  The last semester I taught, in an 18 week period, there were only two weeks I was there all five days.  When I was on a five day streak the principal told me the students were probably wondering “when this sub was going to leave.”  My principal’s got jokes.  Additionally, I never had a sub who spoke any French, so everything had to be independent.

We don’t want to be absent, but it happens.  Your kids get sick.  You get sick.  You go to the hospital because you have a headache and the next thing you know you’re having a spinal tap and are transferred to the regional hospital because they think you have a brain bleed, but it’s really just a headache and you’re out the whole week.  (That only happened once.)  My point is stuff happens, but you can start getting ready now for when you have to be gone.

Four things to do now to prepare for a sub:

  1.  Learn to screencast.  A simple option is the Chrome extension Screencastify. It uploads automatically to your Google Drive and you can share with students easily through Google Classroom and thereby bypass filter and network issues.  Create your slides and talk students through what you want them to do.  Narrate.  Teach.  Tell them to push pause and do something on a piece of paper.  Students can watch at their leisure or as a whole class. Very hard for a student to say they didn’t understand what to do if you’re telling them in a video.  Practice students experiencing your screencasting skills on a day when you are there.  Maybe a day when you’re going to go over an IPA.  Maybe a day when students are in and out registering for classes.  Maybe a day when you want half of them to do one thing and half of them to do another.  Most importantly, have students practice before you are gone.  A bonus is once you’ve learned to screencast, you can screencast your stories and lessons for students who were absent.
  2. Learn to EdPuzzle.  EdPuzzle allows you to take videos and ask questions with them.  Multiple choice, short answer.  You import the video and then make the questions.  You can even choose from videos that already have questions added.  EdPuzzle connects to your Google Classroom and you get a report of the answers students go right or wrong.  Take your screencast from #1 and add questions to it.  Most importantly, have students practice EdPuzzle before you are gone.
  3. Learn to Recap.  I’m sold on Recap.  Recap allows students to record video of themselves responding to a prompt.  You get to choose how long their response can be.  I used it this year when I was at ACTFL- I had students respond to two prompts and I left them feedback sitting in the exhibitor hall.  You can record a video for students to watch, but I found that a bit glitchy still.  If students don’t want to video themselves, tell them to cover up their video camera and it will just record their voice.  Most importantly, have them practice with this before you are gone.
  4. Put everything in Google Classroom.  I would argue that whatever students do should be in Google Classroom, so that you have a record of what they do.  A few years ago I was out a few days, but had planned “work days” for students to work on their Francophone Country reports.  The day before the report was due a mom called me saying her daughter was worried because she didn’t have Internet at home.  When I checked the revision history I could see that while she was present those days there had been zero revisions to her slides.  When I told mom this she said, “She’ll have it done tomorrow.”  Having students do work here can keep them accountable.  Plus, you only need to pop in remotely on a couple of students’ work in order to remind the whole class that you are checking up on them.
  5. Most importantly, avoid giving students a new assignment with new technology when you’re gone.  That’s a terrible, no good, very bad idea and that’s the experience talking.


#Edublogsclub – My office and classroom

I’m very lucky because even though I no longer have classes at the high school, I was still allowed to keep my classroom as my workspace.  This was partly because as the after school coordinator my room is used after school for a variety of activities and during the day as a meeting space for teachers.  Because of this, my room has an impromptu closet for after school robotics materials and ping pong tables, flexible furniture, a conference room table and enough cabinet storage to store all of the after school supplies.  I am extremely lucky.

Additionally, my room is connected to three other classrooms, though only one other teacher.  This is something else I feel extremely grateful for…adult contact.  As teachers we spend most of our day isolated from other adults and it has helped on numerous occasions to be able to walk into the other room just to be able to vent or talk to another adult.

My work area has transformed from my desk, 40 student desks, a desk for my projector, computer, overhead, papers, and photocopies for three different classes to a simple desk and hutch.  Not having three different classes to prepare for has made the job of organizing and keeping tidy so much easier!  Now I have a plain desk that I can actually clean off at the end of every day.  That never happened when I was teaching.

My favorite part of my classroom is my art wall.  At the end of French II I always had students do a huge cultural project.  One of their choices was to reproduce a famous work of art.  Many of the students let me keep their work and I have put them up with my copies of other works.  I bet you can’t even tell the poster reproductions from the student reproductions!  Just looking at the wall is calming and I am always impressed at the artistic ability of these students even years later.  I’ve never been much of a classroom decorator, but these posters serve me well.

art wall

My other workspace at the community college is what I have called the most boring room possible.  There’s nothing on the walls.  The desks are long and difficult to re-arrange.  It’s often smelly and the temperature is either hot or cold.  I’m not there very long and it reminds me how much I appreciate the workspace I have at the high school.  The lack of “interest” on the walls continually reminds me that the environment, while important, doesn’t in itself make the class engaging.  The students and I are the ones responsible for that and I think we do a pretty good job!

#Edublogsclub – My Blog Story

I saw this #edublogsclub a couple of weeks ago and decided to check it out.  I signed up yesterday so that I could challenge myself to write weekly about something even if I thought I had nothing to say.

So here’s the first one!

I’m definitely new to educational blogging.  I blogged for a while for friends and family about the crazy antics of my animals (dogs, ducks, chickens, and turtles) but I haven’t done that in a loooong time.  I’ve always enjoyed writing and I like trying to be witty and entertaining in writing and I’m trying to include some of that in my writing here (where appropriate.)

I keep up with blogs through Feedly and Twitter.  I read every morning while I ride my spinner bike and exercise.  I’m always looking for new blogs to add.  I follow blogs on all different topics- social media marketing, edtech, languages and even math and science.  Since my job as an instructional technology coach is to help all disciplines I like to have an idea what’s going trending in other subjects.

My goals for this #edublogsclub are to motivate me to post every week.  I have lots of ideas, but I know when I start back at the college in February finding the time to blog will be hard.  My hope is that having a prompt will prompt (ha ha) me to post something short and maybe that will help me keep up with my own ideas.


Stop Motion Video via Google Slides

I’m an expert at stop motion video.  By that I mean my classroom is next to the Computer Media and Pathway Academy (CAMP) film rooms and every year I get to participate by proximity as 60+ students film stop motion videos for a couple of weeks.  With that depth of knowledge and expertise, I set out to make a stop motion video intro for my new tech tip series for my school called “Tech Bytes.”

First, I knew I needed to draw.  I thought about using stock images, but I knew it would be just as easy to make my own, plus then I knew I had full rights to use them.  I tried Google Draw, but it didn’t have what I needed so I used Sketchpad.  Then I created my apple and copied it into a Google Slide.  I have zero actual artistic talent and I wanted to use the Slides to approximate the movement.  I pasted in apples in different slides in different positions until I had what I needed.  It took me an hour to figure out how to make a bite on the computer because I have zero artistic talent.  I wanted to ask the art teacher for help, but she was giving a final and that seemed rude, so I figured it out myself.

Once I had all of the slides together I could click through and see that I had the “animation” correct.  Finally, I downloaded each slide as a jpg and then imported them into iMovie.  Once I added the music, I asked the CAMP teacher to look at it and help me fix it because she’s the expert.  She, of course, had some very useful advice.

Overall, this was a moderately simple project and I think students could use the same steps to create an animated stop motion video themselves for projects or story telling.  Even if you didn’t have iMovie, publishing the slide deck and auto-advancing the slides would allow for the movement.  Students could make their own short films!

Here’s the very first Tech Bytes

2016 Reflections

I should just call this semester reflections since I only teach semesters now.  The biggest “change” to my teaching this semester is how I graded my French 101 class.  First, I ditched the weekly lesson quiz.  Did I care?  Nope?  Did students care?  Heck no.  Do I think it had any impact on student achievement?  Nope.  Students still achieved.  I still knew what we needed to work on from informal assessment daily.

The next change was in my unit tests.  I’ve always had a writing and speaking component, but this semester I did something completely different and I loved it.  Loved it!  In love!!  Here’s what I did.  First, I used Alice Keeler’s Rubric Tab Script to make a rubric for the unit test.  Depending on the unit I had four or five tasks: a “prepared” speaking, an “on the spot” speaking or conversation, a multiple choice quiz and a writing task.  Sometimes I had two writing tasks.

Let’s stop and talk for a minute about the Rubric Tab Script.  I don’t like to math by myself because when I do I get disastrous results.  The Rubric Tab Script creates a rubric for each student and then automagically adds up the score.  So my rubric had a “criteria” for each task: prepared speaking, writing, multiple choice, etc.  All I had to do was put what they had scored based on the rubric. (Note, I changed the scoring for the multiple choice because I realized it wasn’t fair if a student scored 59% on the multiple choice to earn a 0.)  I used a rather generic rubric here.  I had a more detailed one that we used for assignments for improvement.


I had no paper hanging around and my points were added up by themselves.  In fact, the first time I used it I had all of my students’ work graded for the first class within an hour.  And because I was using Google Forms Quizzes for the quiz as soon as students finished, I just went to their rubric and popped in the score!  Amazing.  Additionally, I liked that it was a global score and everything counted equally.  I used an iPad to view the rubrics and the computer to view their documents.  It just made it easier rather than switching back and forth between windows or tabs.

Now let’s talk about the actual tasks.  The first was always a “prepared” speaking.  What I mean by that is that I had the students prepare a slide deck on something or someone.  The last one was to talk about their family.  I told them put some pictures in a slide deck or show them on your phone.  Don’t care.  I’m a big fan of this type of speaking because I feel like, while they don’t get to use notes, forcing them to have something in front of them forces them to think about what they’re going to say ahead of time.  And how many times do you go into an important conversation (job interview, speech, difficult conversation) when you don’t know at least the topic and have thought about what you’re going to say.  For the last assessment, there was also a component to ask questions, so while students may have thought what they were going to say about their families they had no idea what questions their random partner would ask them.  I watched as they answered the easy questions and negotiated meaning for the more difficult ones.

For each assessment we used a grammar carousel for everyone to do their speaking.  Here’s how that works:  students sit at desks or tables across from each other.  You’ll have a two long lines of students. They use their devices to show whatever they prepared and talk and then after x minutes on side moves one down and everyone has a new partner and a new conversation.  I hadn’t ever done an “assessment” this way and the first time I fell in love.  I thought why hadn’t I done it this way?  So easy!! I walked around with my iPad.  I listened to students having conversations and I marked their answers.  Did I hear every conversation fully?  Nope.  Did I hear enough of each students to make an assessment?  For sure.  Additionally, the first time we did this the students were laughing and smiling and I thought they are enjoying themselves while taking a test!

Generally I just let students talk for about 3 minutes and hope that each student talks equally.   (I tell them, “If I don’t hear you talk you get a zero”, so they are motivated to get their equal time.)  For the last assessment I gave six minutes for each conversation and gave them a basic structure for who should be doing what when because part of the grade was to ask questions.  (I had to do that in a training I went to a few weeks ago and I liked that it gave a loose structure to our conversation so I stole it. )  Then once I heard everyone I said, “Stop.”  For about 20-25 students it took about 30-40 minutes.  Imagine!  Assessing 20-25 students on a presentation about their family normally takes hours and is #boring and makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a pencil.  At no point doing it this way did I wish for a pencil.  And the students themselves were all engaged at the same time.

Next we put the chairs and tables back and did the more normal parts of the test which was multiple choice and writing.  These were “passed out” through Google Classroom.  During this I called partners up or individuals and did the other individual or partnered speaking activity.  In one of the assessments, I used these infographics to assess numbers.  (We had practiced for days with a different one each time and I chose Le Louvre one for the assessment.)  The brilliant part (I thought) was that when I had the student who had already had French AP I asked him completely different questions than I asked the students for whom this was their first exposure to French.  I used my Rubric Tab Rubrics to input their grades immediately and I was done nice and quick.

The only (minor) hiccup came when I had a students “go outside to prepare” for one minute on a random subject and I forgot the last student was out there!  He came to the door sheepishly and said, “Can I come back in, it’s cold.”

My takeaway:  I will do all of my unit assessments like this forever.  Well, probably not forever and probably I could come up with a better way.  But for right now, this hits all the sweet spots for me and was so incredibly simple that I was kicking myself for having never thought of it before.

Now that I’ve mastered assessment (ha!- if only), I’m on to decide whether or not I’m going to use a textbook for French 102 next semester.


Collaborative Magnetic Poetry (French) – Interactive Slide

Collaborative Magnetic PoetryI made a collaborative slide activity for creating sentences.  Students drag the cards onto the slide to create different sentences.  It’s a round about way to talk about grammar.  Once the students get all done- the different colored cards can help facilitate a discussion about grammar.  What do you notice about all of the red cards?  The green?  The yellow?  I didn’t have a chance to test this out with my students – though I’ve done this many times with actual cards.  The benefit of the technology is more for the teacher in that you can change the cards easily and not have to spend all day at the copier and paper cutter.

Students all edit the same Slide deck so at the end you can cycle through all of their creations easily.

The subjects are all rather crazy- based on a story I tell at the beginning of the year.  Plus, the more “interesting” the cards are the more creative students get with their sentences.  They can tell a story or just write sentences.  This version doesn’t have any connecting words; just subjects, verbs and some prepositional phrases for the most part and so it’s meant for some pretty early Novices.  The “cards” are mostly off the slide so that there’s plenty of room to make sentences.

Collaborative Magnetic Poetry Interactive Slide


Verb Battleship

I’ve played verb battleship for years and it was always a bit of a frustrating experience because it always took at least 20 minutes to set up the boards and explain how it worked.  I can’t even say why I kept doing it, except I guess I liked all the practice it gave using the négatif and I was willing to sacrifice the time I spent explaining it in English.

This is an interactive slide version (based on a math version from Alice Keeler) that works way better than paper.  Like waaay better.  Click on the link to view.  There are directions on the first slide and be sure to share as “make a copy” in Google Classroom.

You’ll be asked to make a copy and then you can change the verbs to whatever you want!

Verb battleship

Verb battleship

Verb Battleship – Click to make a copy.

Homework Choices

I was out wandering the Internet a few weeks ago, when I came upon musicuentos.com’s Homework Choices and I said, “OMG, I need that.”

I was looking for something in my college class to get them to have some other cultural experiences.  I’ve tried different tactics in the past and most were not as successful as I would have wanted.   (Read: Good intention, bad idea.) I was all over this homework choices.  I particularly loved that some of the choices said listen or watch more than once.

First, I made my own French version which you can here here.  I added a category for students who had had French before because they needed their own category.  Then because I was no kinds of interested in actually counting up points, I created a Google Sheet that automatically adds up all their points.  I used data validation to create a drop-down menu of the choices in that category.  I shared the spreadsheet with students as “make a copy” so they could edit it.  My goal was that the total number of points would be visible in the thumbnail in Google Classroom, but alas, this was not to be.    (Maybe if I take out some of the rows at the bottom? I’ll try again next unit.)  The students are required to do ten points for one unit or roughly every three weeks.  I didn’t want them to have to do something every day, but a couple of times of week.  This is more about pleasure and exploring the language.

Homework Choices

Spreadsheet Template (You’ll be asked to make a copy)

Add up points automatically

Technology Obstruction

I didn’t have the intention of being a paperless class and I don’t believe that paperless is a goal within itself.  Nevertheless, last year, out of necessity, I became a mostly paperless class at the college because I had no easy access to a copier.  As it turned out last year I had it great because I ended up taking on another class near a copier so I was able to make copies if I needed them.  This semester my choices for copying are:

1.  Take personal time from my high school job to get to the college early enough to make the copies. Uh, non.

2.  When I’m done at 8:05pm, call campus police to ask them to open the building where the copier lives.  Drive to the upper campus, walk 10 minutes in the dark to the building where the campus police may or may not be waiting for me.  Uh, definitely, non.

3.  Take personal time from the high school in the middle of the day to go on T/TH to go make copies.  Uh, non, non et non.  The whole reason I decided to work a 13 hour day on M/W was to avoid going to the campus four days a week.

So I am committed to not making copies and highly motivated to find another way.

And so far this has worked out remarkably well.  Even great.  Necessity has definitely breeded invention.  Because I had to, I have evaluated anything I made copy of and have created a whole new way of delivering the content using different Slide decks.  However, last week, this no copy business failed.  Not so much failed, but the digital version just wasn’t as impactful as the paper version has been and I was sooooooo disappointed.

Here was the lesson- the end of the first unit has a reading of nine different “biographies.”  Using a graphic organizer, we read the first three, one at a time, and together and fill in a graphic organizer with “Nom, pays, profession, nationalité” with one word answers.  Then I divide the class into six groups and give each group a “copy” of one of remaining six biographies.  They fill out the graphic organizer for that biography.  Then I take away their copy  (leaving them with just their notes) and then they get assigned to a new group with a representative for each biography.  Each student is responsible for telling the group about his/her specific biography information so that at the end, everyone has the entire grid filled in.

It’s a great activity.  By making them fill in only one word into the graphic organizer they are pushed to say create language on their own when they get to the group.

Only this last time, technology made it not great.  I had “passed out” the copies in Google Classroom.  The problems were numerous.  First, for some reason Google Classroom assigned thumbnails to the wrong files.  So Group 2 saw the thumbnail for Group 1.  Next, because the thumbnails were wrong, when I checked the assignment before passing it out, I assumed I was missing one of them and ended up making two copies of the same “biography.”  So we didn’t get all six biographies and ended up with two of the guy from Québec.  Quelle catastrophe!  Finally, because I couldn’t “take away” the reading before they went to the jigsaw group, there was no urgency or incentive to make sure that they understood what to say.  The students simply re-read the biography instead creating their own language based on their notes.

I watched the whole activity in wonder.  I anticipated the last problem, but I didn’t expect the impact the technology would have as a whole.  I was incredibly disappointed because I’ve seen it work so well and in this case the technology just made it weak.

I wouldn’t say the technology obstructed the lesson, but I would say it definitely made it less effective.  It was the first time I’ve had that happen to me.  Next semester, I will make these copies at the beginning of the semester when I copy the syllabus because this is one tech based lesson I will not be repeating.