A Simple Brain Break

I’m not a super user of the brain breaks, but today at my after school expanded learning director’s meeting, Sandy Slade from Skillastics had us do a super simple brain break that I thought would work great for any language level.

She had us put our hands on our temples and said, “When I say one, touch your right hand to your left knee. Let’s practice.  One. One. One.  When I say two, touch your left hand to your right knee. Let’s practice…” And then she led us through a series where we were touching our knees on her command at an increasingly fast pace.  We also did a more complicated one where we clapped our hands and touched our knees.   I have zero capacity to follow directions like this in any language because I have negative coordination ability, so I was way behind with all of the commands, but it was fun and got everyone moving and I can’t wait to try it with my students.

Tackling Pronunciation with Technology

At the end of last semester I was wrestling with how to work on pronunciation.  Alas, I was tired of hearing “Il essssssssssssst anglaissssss” and so I started to brainstorm ways students might be able to work on this problem without me.  This particular pronunciation issue is, in my opinion, an input and reading issue.  Students haven’t had enough input and then they are reading the words wrong.  Nobody ever makes this mistake before they see the word est. So how could I have them get more input, while working on their reading at the same time?  Or how could I get them to focus on the fact that when they hear “il est anglais” and they say “Il esssssst anglaisssss” that that’s essentially a reading error and how could they do this without me?

Here’s what I did.

  1.  I wrote/got/copied three short paragraphs in a Google Doc.  I wanted them to have typical reading/pronunciation errors that Novices make.  I chose one that I wrote, one that I barely “edited” of Cyprien’s Twitter page and one Tweet that had words we had not necessarily practiced with.
  2. I had students install the Read &Write Extension from Text Help.  This is an amazing extension that will read whatever is on the page in multiple languages.  (Well, it’ll read whatever’s on the webpage and you tell it the language.  So if you want to listen to bad pronunciation put up a French webpage and then don’t change the language to French.  Icky, blech!)  Read&Write Extension does a ton of other things that Eric Curts has explained on his blog Control Alt Achieve.
  3. Students used the extension to listen to the paragraphs.  I asked them to listen times.  Once just listening.  Once by silently mouthing the words as they were read to them and once speaking aloud as they were read to them and then to practice the paragraph themselves and listen again.
  4. Students used the Voice Typing Tool in Google Docs to record themselves reading.  This is where it got interesting.  I practiced using bad pronunciation and it typed out my bad pronunciation.  It was my hope that the students would realize that when they saw “Il a 25 ans” but they said “il est 25 anse” that they would realize that there was an issue that they could work on or re-do.
  5. Students filled out a feedback form so I could see if they thought it would be useful.  Overwhelmingly students said that they thought that this type of practice would be useful.  Some students reported that the Voice Typing “didn’t work right,” but when I checked what Voice Typing had written, it clearly wrote out their pronunciation issues.  The students just didn’t realize that they were saying it wrong.  I think that is an issue I can deal with and is just a matter of familiarity with what they are doing and why.

What’s not clear is whether the Voice Typing tool will adjust to their bad pronunciation and write out the correct words even if the student says it wrong.  What also isn’t clear is whether this type of work will be effective.  I know pointing out pronunciation errors of this type rarely has a positive long term effect, but I also know that if a student feels like s/he is making progress and has something “tangible” to hold onto they will make progress.

What I’m thinking I will do is for each lesson build a document with three or four short, comprehensible paragraphs that students can use for optional practice as part of their goal setting and homework choices work.  Even if the pronunciation work is less than optimally successful, they will certainly benefit from listening and reading more.

I’d be interested to hear how you have used Voice Typing tools to work on pronunciation.

Looking Back at 2017 and Forward to 2018

So far my 2018 has not started off fantastic.  I either food poisoned myself New Year’s Eve or had a stomach flu.  Either way, I’m on the mend today and ready to do some reflection.

My Blog

2017 was my first full year of my Language Makerspace blog.  I had over 50 posts, which I can’t even believe I managed and I participated in the #edublogsclub, which sent a prompt a week.  I enjoyed having the prompts of different topics, I wouldn’t have thought about like this listicle of my favorite tools.

Most Popular Post

By far my most popular post was 18 Mix and Match Activities to Talk about the Weekend.  It got shared and shared and continues to be the most viewed.  It has taken me by surprise how many people have seen it.

It Was the Best of Times and the Worst of Times…in After School

Since 2009 I have coordinated our 21st Century Community Learning Center grant.  In a way, it’s my baby.  I started our program and have seen it grow and grow.  This year was a tough year for  21st CCLC- in March President Trump wanted to eliminate funding for it entirely.  Luckily this fall Congress secured our funding, but it was a rough few months of worrying.  I blogged about my feelings in May.


This was a big year of firsts for me.

I made my first Tech Byte video series which involved making my first real YouTube Channel.   They are short videos that I sent first to my school and now to the entire district.

I was asked to present at the World Language Project/CLTA Summer Seminar in Santa Barbara.

I started using Flipgrid.  Please don’t ask me why I didn’t before.  There’s no reason for it because it is so simple and elegant and just basically fantastic. 

For the first time , I presented at ACTFL on my ideas about Ditching the Powerpoint for Interactive Slides.

I did my first ever interactive Google Forms presentation without Internet.  It went better than you would imagine for an interactive presentation on an Internet tool without Internet.

I went directly from one conference to another because…why not.

A goat in a coat placed a spell on me and I cleaned out my file cabinets.

I surveyed my class at the end of the semester and found out that they actually liked (gasp) the textbook and used it more than I expected; permanently ending my perpetual debate with myself about getting rid of it.

I got a PC.  This was a practical decision because I realized that as I was doing trainings, people would ask me questions about the PC and I didn’t necessarily have the answer.  It worked out well because MacBook Pro had to go back to be fixed because the space bar stopped working.  I named my PC “iPCPro” because I’m funny.  I’m committed to working on iPCPro exclusively until the college starts in February and I have to use accents again.  Because I can not.  For the life of me.  Figure out. How to make typing with accents as easy as it is on the Mac.  So far I like that I can sign in with my face.  I like that when I need to move the window of my goat to a separate screen it snaps to that screen size automatically.  And I’m excited to use OneNote which I have heard great things about.


Generally, I fail a lot at after school.  This year was no different.  I failed at successfully implementing our social media accounts.  This is in part based on my lack of interest in general in social media.  It was also because it’s just not that simple to snap a picture of students having fun and then to post it.  You have to go to the computer and check if anyone in the picture is approved for posting.  We have 2200 students.   I tried to get students to take the pictures for me, but then they would identify the students in the pictures as “Brittney, I think” which was not so helpful in checking in the system.  So I stopped because I couldn’t manage it.

I failed at getting my #actfl17 post posted before the end of the year.

I failed at getting to every teacher’s classroom in the first quarter to talk to them about if I might be able to help them with technology integration.  I visited about half of the teachers and it was worthwhile.  Next year, I’ll try to get to 75% of everyone.

I also failed at giving feedback to my students every week based on their Flipgrids.  I have a plan for that though next semester.  It is all loosely coming together in my mind, but I’ve got big plans.  Huge!

Ideas for 2018

I’ve always got lots of ideas.  Here’s my main ones for part of my job:

Improved goal setting activities for students involving powerful Google Sheets magic.

Hosting a 15 minute Tech Tool in my classroom once a week.

Spending ten minutes in each after school program at least once a week.  (That seems easy, but it’s not, there’s a lot going on in after school.)

Professionally, I am excited to continual to grow and learn from all of the great professionals I have met virtually and in person.  I am looking forward to a 2018 and all of the new possibilities and opportunities that may come-  Happy New Year!


Creating Individual Peer Review Forms

A colleague asked me to help her come up with a way for students to do peer reviews of projects using Google Forms.  The results had to be viewable only by the teacher and the student and all students had to have access to the links to submit the peer reviews for every student in the class.  The students also needed to be able to re-use the form.  I also added the criteria that the steps had to be easy enough that the average teacher could do it, because the things I found in my research were quite complicated even for me.

There are a significant number of simple steps for this, but it is well worth it if you will be doing a lot of peer review.  It will take you about 20 minutes to set up and about 10 minutes per class to have the students create their own forms.  You only need to do that 10 minute set up once per year per class. And – once you do the initial set-up, it’ll be ready for next year!

Essentially you create a generic form, force student to make a copy of it, then put then name on it and then submit the link to their now individualized form for others to use.

I have created a Google Doc that will walk you through all of the steps with images and links to copy examples of forms if you don’t want to make your own.  I also made a video that walks you through the entire process from both the teacher and student perspective.

Don’t let the number of steps intimidate you.  Lots of great things in life have lots of steps – like croissants and tamales and those are totally worth it.


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 explore.org 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.

Customize Google Chrome

You can customize which websites open up when you launch Google Chrome. Here’s a quick walk through.

You can view all of the Tech Bytes on YouTube.


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