Friday, August 26, 2016

Co-Teaching: 6 Models and their Uses

Do you remember your student teaching experience?

It really makes me mentally cringe to go there.  It was a great, life-changing experience in many ways, but it was also SO. HARD.  Overwhelming.  Draining.  Terrifying.  The 16 week experience of slowly processing the harsh realization that all the book knowledge you have doesn't equate to being a great teacher.  There are intangibles to consider.  Even when I had a supervising teacher who became a friend, with the best of intentions and the sweetest personality didn't mean student teaching went smoothly.  I felt like a failure most days.  And looking back, I'm glad I don't have to do it again.

But, since taking a step back from the classroom, and looking for ways to still stay connected in the world of education, I have taken on a role of working with area student teachers.  And I am both comforted and challenged by the fact that these individuals will have a much different experience than I did (only 5 years ago, thank you very much).  I was asked to be the college supervisor for Grace College student teachers who are seeking a license in Spanish Education.  I did it last spring for this rising star, and now have the opportunity to do it again this fall for two young ladies.  And as we hit the ground running this school year, Grace provided an intentional time of training student teachers, classroom teachers and college supervisors on how exactly this experience will be different than what many the generation before them experienced.

Traditional Mindset on the left, Co-Teaching Mindset on the right. See the differences?!
You see, Grace is no longer doing the "traditional" method of student teaching.  You know, the one where the supervising teacher shows you what to do for about a week, then heads to the teacher's lounge as you "figure it out" and "sink or swim" on your own? Yeah.  That worked until we met the R.I.S.E. evaluation and the increased teacher accountability.  Then, classroom teachers weren't so fond of the idea of being absent all semester. So, Grace College adapted a new way of training student teachers involving the practice of co-teaching.  Since this topic is generally new, and altogether misunderstood often, I sat through a training on 6 different effective methods of co-teaching.  Welcome to the modern student teaching experience.  *does a happy dance*


Model 1: One Teach, One Observe
Sounds obvious, but there's something often overlooked:  The "Observer" is not passive.  They are not glancing around and then grading the occasional paper.  Before the lesson, the two teachers meet and discuss what needs to be observed and recorded.  Perhaps a student or group of students' behavior.  Maybe the amount of wait time given before calling an answer.  In my case, use of target language.  As one teacher instructs, the second teacher is actively gathering data on that topic and then both teachers meet later to discuss how that data will change their future teaching.

Model 2: One Teach, One Assist
This time, one is instructing and one is drifting about the room keeping students on task, answering questions as they arise, and doing whatever the first teacher needs them to do in the moment.  In my experience, this is the one most commonly used in our area schools.  Oftentimes, a para-professional or a special education teacher takes the "assist" role for classes with multiple students on their case load. 

Model 3: Alternative Teaching
After the initial lesson has been presented, many times certain students need the topic re-taught or paraphrased one more time.  This model of co-teaching is perfect for that.  First the lesson is taught by one teacher.  Then, the second teacher selects a small group of students and reinforces the lesson in a different way with discussion questions, review and formative assessments.  The first teacher remains with the larger portion of the class that might be able to do work more independently.  For example, this approach might work well if you have students that specifically struggle with reading comprehension.  After an introduction, one teacher takes those lower students out in the hallway and walks them through the questions step by step.  The rest of the class, however, is working in pairs at their own pace with the supervision of the first teacher.

Model 4: Station Teaching
In this model, you divide students into 3 similarly-sized groups.  Your classroom will have 2 stations led by teachers and 1 independently run station.  The best scenario here is that all stations involve different aspects of the same standard or topic.  That way, they are reinforcing each other without depending on the knowledge of the other stations (since each group will do them in different order).

Model 5: Parallel Teaching
If two teachers are teaching simultaneously, and covering the same material, they are essentially parallel teaching.  These teachers may be using slightly different lesson plans, but they are teaching the same lesson overall.  This is best used when interaction with students needs to be at a maximum and therefore the student to teacher ratio should be lowest.  I imagine this could be quite distracting depending on how the physical space in the classroom is divided, but I still think it has its place.  For example, there have been schools who have experienced a lot of success in dividing students into gender-separated classrooms.  With parallel teaching, one teacher could focus on instructing the boys in a way that is appropriate for them, and the other teacher could pull aside the girls.  Or, depending on the standard, the class could be divided into high/low groups and although the teachers go over the same content, they could tailor their questioning to the level of their group.

Model 6: Teaming
This is by far the most challenging way to co-teach.  It must involve two adults who know each other well and work very well together.  In this approach, the teachers essentially divide the instruction and add to, clarify and rephrase each other's thoughts.  So, one teacher may begin the lesson and then the next teacher might jump in with an example she thinks makes the point more comprehensible.  Obviously this approach would need careful planning and communication of expectations, but I could see this model being one of my favorites if I had the right teammate.


Not only are these six expectations that Grace has for its student teachers as they learn from their supervisors, but these methods would also be practical in any classrooms with teaching assistants, paraprofessionals, or two teachers of any kind.  I'm sad to say that I can't imagine many school corporations paying for two teachers to a classroom, and I haven't seen this in action in any foreign language classrooms to date.  However, in my former school there was a growing trend of getting the special needs teachers into the language arts and math classrooms to co-teach with the content area teachers.  Plus, our corporation also had math and language arts coaches at the district level and I could see them coming alongside some classroom teachers in these instances.  Even the history teachers down the hall from me were including some of these practices on their own by occasionally combining their classrooms and teaming up or dividing their joint students into levels and then each taking one half for a more focused lesson.  This could work for teachers who exchange their prep period to help their coworker and then switch the following day....the possibilities are endless if you are willing to get a little creative.

I am excited to see these models in practice as I observe my two student teachers this fall.  And I sincerely hope more veteran and experienced teachers start implementing more of these practices as well...they are ALL designed to benefit students more than one teacher alone.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

E3 Technology Conference: Day 2, 2016

It's been almost ONE MONTH since I attended the E3 Technology Conference that Warsaw, Indiana offers.  Which means this second installment of my conference summary is only a month overdue.  *facepalm*  Here it is at long-last!  If you completely forgot what I learned about the first day, it's worth another read.  This conference never disappoints!

On Day 2, our keynote speaker started our day off unlike any other keynote speaker I had ever listened to.  Kim Campbell kept us laughing and laughing as she told numerous stories of how to find humor in our daily lives.  I always get jazzed when I meet someone who CLAIMS middle school.  Like, it's not a stepping stone for their aspiring high school career, or the only job that was opened in the district, it's their passion.  Kim's profile literally says, "proud middle school teacher." Um. THANK YOU.  She reminded us that our relationship with our students is everything as it relates to correcting behavior, engaging students and maintaining our sanity.  She told us of a few different management nightmares she had experienced as a teacher and principal...and her response was always unconventional, shocking, and hilarious.  Kim reminded me not to get uptight about kids being kids.  And although her keynote wasn't necessarily focusing primarily on technology, she helped us view a lot of what we would later learn throughout the day through the eyes of relationship and a sense of humor.

My first session was learning all about Genius Hour with Janelle McLaughlin.  I have been wanting to hear more about this topic ever since reading how Laura Sexton uses it in her Spanish classroom.  Janelle taught us in a way that assumed nothing:  we started with this article that helped us learn the very basics of genius hour.  This session was a great starting point and a gathering of many helpful links and resources as I continue to search out this concept further. I was hooked after 1 hour! I think this practice has a place in any classroom at any level.

After a yummy lunch, my sister and I headed back to a GREAT session led by our keynote presenter, Kim Campbell.  Although her keynote was lighthearted, this session was absolutely jam-packed with activities to get the middle school student moving about the classroom.  She gave us SO many concrete suggestions for partnering our students, initiating brain breaks, and adding simple movements to our everyday lessons.  I literally could not possible write down the amount of ideas and quotes she was giving us!  I will post links from her here soon.

The final session of the day was the topic I felt least informed about.  Jenn Brower taught us all about digital maker spaces.  As a matter of fact the term "Maker Space" was brought up a LOT all throughout the conference.  Essentially, the overarching theme was that it is no longer good enough for students to use the internet to get answers.  They should be creating material to contribute to the internet so others can learn, too.  Jenn gave us countless platforms, websites, and apps  to allow students space online to archive, share and organize their projects.  She had SO many resources inside resources that she didn't have time to share it all with us, but I definitely saved her notes for future reference.

This conference never ceases to challenge my preconceptions of what is possible with technology, and more than that, what is best for our students.  This year, it was a huge added blessing to see the conference through the eyes of my sister there for her first time.  Just two nights ago (nearly a month after the conference) she called with excitement in her voice to tell me of a successful implementation of one of the apps she learned about that magnified student engagement to a whole new level.  I'm so thankful for Warsaw Community Schools and the Indiana Department of E-Learning for organizing this opportunity for area educators.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

I welcome your suggestions...what should I present in the future?  What conferences have you been to that you recommend?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

E3 Technology Conference: Day 1, 2016

On the final Monday and Tuesday of July, Warsaw Community Schools hosts a technology conference called "e3Tech" as a part of the "Summer of eLearning" conference series from the Indiana Department of Education. Educators from all over the state gather together to learn and be encouraged about the role of technology in education immediately before the school year starts back up again.

I have attended e3Tech the past three years, and my fourth year did not disappoint!  Last year I decided to present 2 different sessions:  1 on a video editing program called EdPuzzle and 1 on the power of Twitter chats.  This year, I was asked (WHAT?!) to present my Twitter chat session again, and I was happy to do so.  Not only am I extremely passionate about this topic and the opportunities it provides to our teachers and students...but I also get 2 days of this wonderful conference for free because of my presentation! Win-win, as they say.

My lovely sister is getting ready to start her second year teaching at Faith Christian Academy in Lafayette.  She was able to come, have a sleepover, and learn a lot with me during these two days.  I loved having her and discussing all we learned together in the evenings.

On the first day we got there early, grabbed some coffee and then headed in to the Warsaw Performing Arts Center to hear from our first keynote speaker:  Rushton Hurley.  His presentation was titled "Singing Songs of Success" and included sporadic singing from all in attendance (I instantly liked him!)  He emphasized how technology can be utilized to tell stories.  He opened up Today's Meet so that at various points throughout the keynote he had us pause, converse, and add our thoughts to this ongoing conversation.  I picked up so many hidden ways to better instruction just observing how he delivered his keynote...let alone listening to what he included.  He pointed us to so many online video resources he has on his website that I felt nearly every teacher in the building could benefit from. There were so many thought-provoking quotes and reminders I took away from his session.

After the keynote, we headed to our first session, "Connecting Classrooms to the World" by Matt Miller.  We had so much fun learning about "mystery skype" and the many ways that video chatting can be used in each level of education.  This session was so practical because not only did we get to participate in a mystery skype session at the beginning, but our surprise guest shared tips for getting started:  start with someone you know, practice ahead of time, have a map/atlas in front of you, discuss good types of questions, etc.   If I had a classroom to go to in a week, I would feel equipped to try this out in the first couple of months of the school year.

Then we enjoyed a DELICIOUS lunch (Panera...woot woot!) and conversation time.  We headed to our second session after that.  I chose to attend "Twitter 102: Riding Solo" with Lorinda Kline.  I had been to this session before, and am very familiar with Twitter and the huge benefits it offers for teachers, but I wanted to support a close mentor of mine as she presented and become familiar with the Twitter-comfort level of the majority of the attenders.  I so value how Lorinda approaches this topic:  she never assumes that others should have it figured out and she instructs them through the basics in a way that makes people feel safe and respected.  Many teachers created Twitter profiles for the first time thanks to her!

For the final session on the first day, I presented #chat.  It was one of the same presentations I did last year.  Honestly, I was initially disappointed at the very small turn-out, but when I think back I realize that there were so many good sessions to go to, it was a hard choice for me each time.  I really tried to emphasize the potential that lies in student-focused Twitter chats.  After talking with the creator of the first student chat I know of (#SciStuChat), Adam Taylor, I was re-inspired at how powerful this learning could be...but at this point I can only find TWO student Twitter chats (shout out to the awesome #SpanStuChat!). Period.  I'm shocked!  I truly hope more teachers find a way to incorporate this network of professionals, ideas and resources into their classrooms at every level.  For all the resources I offered at my presentation, see the links attached to this post.
The following day held a variety of learning and reflection.  I'll be back to share my thoughts, soon.

Monday, July 18, 2016

3 Skills Every Student Needs (Inspired by Aaron Hogan)

As I prepped to participate in one of my favorite Twitter chats (#tlap), I found a blog post that truly resonated with me on many levels.  Aaron Hogan wrote a post titled, "4 Skills Every Student Needs" that highlighted the importance of the vital dispositions our students accumulate in our classrooms that may never be in our textbooks. I found this to be an especially timely post in light of the tragedies, violence and conflict in our country and across our world. I would HIGHLY encourage all teachers to read his post thoroughly before heading back to school, as the summer can be a perfect time to intentionally map out the "soft skills" we want to prioritize in our classrooms.

Here are my honest reflections after reading Aaron's post:
  • My greatest weakness, personally, of the skills he listed is that all too often I tend to disagree with people, not ideas.  Ugh! I hate even writing those words. It is an important distinction that my passionate heart and language-loving-mind tend to ignore.  I want to model this. I want to teach this. I want to find this in more people.
  • The concept of seeing multiple perspectives should be an easy fit into a world language classroom!  I love how he mentioned it's involvement in literature, but I couldn't help but think a classroom that elevates learning another's language has to be the embodiment of this value.  This is one way I tried to bring up this skill in class. My inspiration came from articles like this one & quotes like this one...
Find pin here.
  • If we do not plan these conversation, they simply do not happen.  After all, they are tricky to write about when I have hours to do much more challenging would they be to suddenly initiate out of no where?  When there is a tragedy in your community, discuss it.  Process out loud with your students in an age-appropriate manner.  Set aside your curriculum and show them that these types of things matter even more than their upcoming vocab quiz.  Be real.  But, in addition to planning conversations around these points in response to an event, we must be prioritizing these lessons this summer for the entire year.  I think we would all agree our job is much, much wider and deeper than our content area.  So, shouldn't the time and effort we put into these lessons reflect the level of importance we claim they have?

Inspired by his articulate reflection of often intangible concepts, I wanted to add 3 skills that I believe every student needs in addition to what Aaron wrote.  So...

3 (more) skills every student needs:
  1. Defend your beliefs without becoming defensive.  To do this, students must first and foremost know what they believe.  This might involve researching the issue above and beyond repeating what their parents or more vocal friends have said. In addition, students need the ability to listen to and understand people who oppose their thoughts.  Finally, this skill takes a lot of thinking on your feet!  Being "put on the spot" is stressful sometimes, and a lot of people react by raising their voice, attacking the other person or shutting down. Perhaps in our classrooms we can stage debates and play "devil's advocate" just enough to coach students through these scenarios.  I am a firm believer that after the scheduled conversation or activity is completed, though, we talk to kids about what we just talked about.  Verbally walk them through why you just directed the conversation in that way.  Or, re-frame a point that was brought up so that it really sinks in to the class.  Help them learn to be well-informed and confident enough that they can have conversations about their firmly-held viewpoints without getting their feelings hurt.
  2. Ask pertinent, thoughtful, and thought-provoking questions.  To really listen well, understand other perspectives and learn at a deep level, students will need to know how to know what they don't know!  Instead of coming up with the questions to scaffold one of our students to success, why not let another student volunteer that information?  I love trying to peak student's intelligent curiosity as it relates to cultural concepts.  Or, as we often try to fabricate real-life conversations in our language classrooms, let your students gain that practice of thinking and writing deeper questions.  Open-ended questions, by the way.  Opinion-inducing questions.  This is difficult for many people in our native-tongues...even more so as we learn to ask these questions in a different language.
  3. Honestly reflect and alter personal weaknesses.  We talk a lot about "self-motivation" or "self-paced" curriculum.  And our culture greatly values independence and self-reliance.  But, in many of our middle school, especially, there are students who have never been taught how to take an honest (read: HARD) look at themselves and evaluate what they should change.  They allow our feedback to replace their own self-evaluation.  We can change this!  This skill can relate to Spanish class (vowel pronunciation, word order), school in general (organization, friend choices) or it can be much larger than that (fitness habits, relationship with parents).  How can we lead students to begin a life-long journey of admitting shortcomings, forming a plan to fix them and persevering until they are no longer problems?
After reading Aaron's post and my thoughts, what would you add?  How are you going to bring up these important topics in your classroom? Let's truly "facilitate thinking, support struggle and engage minds"!

Pin here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Brave is Vulnerable

As mid July fades to late July, school stuff tends to be on the minds of many a teacher.  While some spend hours prepping their classroom and some pack their summer full of activities they never get to do during the year, sooner or later everyone will be thinking How should I start my year?  What do I need to do to get ready?  What do I want my students to learn from me from day one? And although I really want to write a detailed activity post later, I want to dedicate this post to a larger, more all-encompassing idea:  being brave.

You see, I read this post from Spanish Mama earlier this week and it really struck a chord.  She talks about many different ways that she wants to be brave:  in the classroom, with her children and with Spanish.  She even shared one of my all time favorite quotes:

Because those with accents speak at least one other language better. Think about it.

She caused me to reflect on the ways that I, as a teacher, should dare to be braver.  Ways I should lead by example.  Should set the tone in my classroom not in level of perfection, but in desire to learn.  So, I wanted to encourage YOU to do the same.  Spend time before the school year starts deciding how you are going to be brave in front of your students on a daily basis this year.  In my school we use the terms "growth mindset" and "life-long learner" a lot.  But how valuable are those words if we are not living them out?  Have you shown your students that you are learning something?  That would mean getting up in front of your class and potentially *gasp* making a mistake.  Looking foolish.  As teachers, we should be demonstrating to our students that sometimes being brave is being vulnerable. In language learning, in other classes, in life!

Here are some ways to be vulnerable with your students:
  • Tell a failure of a study abroad story.   Be specific.  Tell them a time you messed up pronunciation or couldn't remember a word.  Find a picture to go with it.  Don't skim over it:  tell them what you were feeling and how the situation was (or wasn't) resolved.  
  • Start fresh with another language. Many Spanish teachers may be at a point where Spanish is second nature to them.  I know I had personally lost part of that frustration or "it's on tip of my tongue" problem...until I tried French. Or Turkish! *face palm*  Then I remembered my frustration very vividly.  Use Duolingo or another tool to try a language you are completely unfamiliar with and then relate it to the issues they are having in your class the first few weeks.  Share with them a few sentences you are learning to say and the phrases that you can never remember.  Tell them how long you're practicing and what your goals are. (You can read how I incorporated Duolingo into a lesson here!)
  • Demonstrate a hobby that has nothing to do with your class. Bring in your clarinet or put your hand-lettered canvas under the document camera.  Tell your students how long you have been practicing and show them some before and after evidence of your progress.
  • Challenge yourself to really USE your Spanish once a week and report to the class.  I have known many Spanish teachers who are so skilled in the classroom and their level of content, but don't have the time or intent to use their language outside of their school.  Call a friend, go to a local restaurant or volunteer to translate somewhere.  Whatever makes you a little uncomfortable to commit to because you might mess up or it doesn't suit your it. Then tell your students details of how it goes each time. That's being vulnerable. That's being brave.  
This Pinterest board might come in handy as you push yourself and your students towards braver steps this year.  Maybe you could print one out each week and put it at the front of the class to initiate a class discussion about your individual bravery goals.   

And perhaps the ultimate leap of vulnerability  for a Spanish teacher is the commitment to daily teaching Spanish in Spanish.  Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell posted a really though-provoking article about her position on how much target language should be used in classroom and when/how.  It is definitely worth a read (or two!) as we approach the school year.  It will shake up some of your preconceptions (it did mine!)  I am still working on my position statement and I truly think we all should be.  May we see our role as teacher as a platform from which we can (and MUST) model life-long learning by being bravely vulnerable.

Original pin here.

P.s. The title graphic at the top is one of my favorite examples of being vulnerable.  The girl with her back to us and the girl we can't quite see are two of the students that traveled with me to Spain earlier this summer.  This is a picture of them in El Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid striking up conversation with a woman who was shopping there to ask her questions about why she comes to the market and what her life story is.  Pretty BIG conversation to strike up out of nowhere.  No teacher waiting to help.  No manual on how to go about it.  Just two girls on their first day of language immersion learning being brave by being vulnerable.  And they got an AWESOME story out of it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Teach by Video

¡Buenas noches a todos!

I QUICKLY wanted to share a great resource with you tonight.  I know many of us have tomorrow off because it is Good Friday, and for some that will start Spring Break, too.  Perhaps over your long weekend and/or break you could check out this website and see how it could benefit your students.

Introducing:  Language By Video!  This website has a tab labeled "Countries."  From there, you can click on any Spanish speaking country and pull up a list of videos (sorted by Spanish level) that people from that country have made.  For example, I used this video when I met with my class who was preparing to go to the Dominican Republic and knew from past trips that conversations in the markets were challenging.  The video is extremely short and is conducted completely in the target language.  Out to the side, they have a transcript in English and in Spanish of what is being said.

Overall, I think this website provides a lot of videos I hadn't found on YouTube that show authentic, country specific language being used in a variety of contexts.  Other than that, I have been a bit disappointed in the other resources (or lack thereof), but I think experienced teachers can come up with ways to use these videos as the basis for discussion, as a quick warm-up or intro, or even as a homework assignment after a lesson.

Take a look and let me know what you think! 

Friday, March 11, 2016

World Language Week: Polyglots (and what they can teach us!)

Today is the FINAL day of the week set aside to celebrate World Languages. I hope you have sparked some enthusiasm in your students, your coworkers and throughout your sphere of influence:  Languages ARE influence.  Languages are power.  Languages are connections and communication and change.

Here is my last suggestion for celebrating languages (yes, MORE than just Spanish) in your classroom:

Introduce your students to the AMAZING reality of polyglots!

If you hadn't heard the term before, polyglots are individuals that can communicate in multiple languages (often used to describe people who know more than SIX).  In the most incredible cases, these individuals know more than 12 and are called hyperpolyglots.  Yeah, #mindblown.

This can be a really fascinating discovery for your students that value competition, records, trivia and hold themselves to high expectations or like to be known for something they can do that no one else can (um, hello every middle school student ever).  Here are some fun resources you can use to wow your students with the perfect representative for this week of celebration:  The Polyglot.

  • This article gives basic information on what a polyglot and hyperpolyglot really is, as well as lists some amazing, living examples.
  • This blog post includes 5 mini-interviews with polyglots where they share language learning myths, their favorite technique to learn a new language and things they wish they would have known when they started their journey.
  • Tim Doner began teaching himself languages when he was 13!  Here is a video in which he demonstrates many different languages, and here is a Ted-Talk where he discusses the issues in our school system when it comes to language education and gives us many ideas of how to improve it:

  • And this final video is of a young boy,Ravi, from India who uses an AMAZING amount of languages to sell things on the street. Genius.
I love the intrigue that discussing individuals such as polyglots bring to our class.  It's amazing! It astounds us!  We immediately think of how difficult just one or two languages has been for us, and we think How in the world did they do it?!  This is a great place for your language learners to be:  curious, motivated, and challenged.

How did you celebrate this week?  Please reach out and tell me; I would love to hear from you!