Looking forward

Today was the last day of my 2016-2017 school year – and I am already looking ahead to next year.  Why? Well, I have quite a challenge ahead of me – but one I am ready to take on!  Next year I will be once again teaching split classes, but in a way I never have before. I have had a split class every year I have taught, my most advanced classes have always been combined. This hasn’t ever come as a surprise to me and I have developed a system to cycle through two (or three) years of curriculum to keep the course interesting and exciting for students.  However, next year, my splits will be new to me. I’ll be teaching levels 1 and 2 combined, and levels 3,4 and 5 combined.  This will be difficult, but I am determined to make this a successful and positive experience for all of my students.  And being the type-a teaching personality I am, I have already started planning.  I want to do this really well and to me, that means I need to start thinking about it now.

I plan* to write about this experience because I want others who find themselves in this situation to have a resource of someone who has done it.  I have not found a single blog out there from someone who has taught multi-leveled splits before and I really wish I could! I wish I could read about someone’s experience about what went well, what didn’t, and what made this experience smoother. (On that note, if you know of someone who I could chat with, please let me know!) The weekly twitter conversation #langchat has definitely given me some great ideas and I’m thankful I had their brains to pick. So hopefully, if anyone language teachers out there in the future find themselves with new splits looking for ideas, they’ll find my blog!

That’s my update for now, happy summer and please share ideas if you have them!

*I say plan because I fully expect this to be a time-consuming process and writing may slip my mind… I’ll write when I can, and want to share content also!

Frau Riedy Investigates: Target Language Use in the Classroom – Part 1

I love everything mystery: novels, movies, podcasts, documentaries… I can’t get enough.  I love the journey to get to the bottom of a puzzle, examining all the evidence, and (hopefully) coming to a final conclusion.  With that in mind I’m starting a series here – Frau Riedy Investigates.  In this series I envision I will investigate all sorts of topics, both ed-tech focused, and also general pedagogy focused.  I’ll start with something that I want to know more about, and see what I can investigate and discover both in research and in practical application.  I want this to be a collaborative investigation – so please join in! I want to hear your questions, opinions, and suggestions.  So grab your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat and your magnifying glass, and join me.

In this investigation series, I’m going back to basics. As I’ve mentioned before, I am primarily a language teacher, and as you might imagine it is very important to use the language you are teaching in the classroom, aka the Target Language.  ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) recommends using 90% Target Language during instruction.  I have known that is the goal since I started the journey to becoming a language teacher almost ten years ago.  I also know that is very challenging and I’m not sure if it’s always realistic.  In the middle school/high school world there are announcements, assemblies, standardized testing, and classroom management situations. There are kids who are in class to become fluent in the language and there are kids who are in class to meet their graduation requirement.  I’ll be honest when I say I know I don’t always get to 90% TL. However, I know that I want to use the TL more in my instruction. This investigation will look into two questions: 1. How much TL use in the classroom is right for me and for my students and 2. How do I use the TL effectively to engage all of my students, and in a way where they understand me?  

This investigation first started with a twitter survey, shown below.

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As you can see, the majority of participants agreed with ACTFL’s 90% goal, but there are certainly other opinions out there.  I should have asked people who responded ‘other’ to follow up, if that was you please let me know what you mean by ‘other’! One participant also directly messaged me saying that they know 90% is the goal, but they agree with me that it isn’t always realistic.  This shows me I’m not alone in my search for the right balance.

The next step in my investigation is to search for information. I am currently taking a research methods class for my masters and I greatly appreciate that my instructors wanted us to choose a research topic we are interested in for our final project.  Obviously, I chose to examine TL and native language use in the classroom.  As I gather information I’ll share it here. A great inspiration point for me has been @MmeFarab on twitter and her blog post, 90% TL, Just Do It!.  I came across her blog post on pinterest and I’m so glad I took a pinterest break from homework and saw it. Traditional research is important, but so is reaching out to those who are out there teaching languages daily and I’m excited to see what other resources and connections are out there on the world wide web.  If you have opinions or ideas on native language/TL use in the classroom, please reach out to me – you can find me on twitter @riedycl or via email at claudiariedy@gmail.com.
I’ll report back soon, until next time!

Endless, fun vocabulary practice with Quizlet Live

As a language teacher, I am always looking for new ways to help my students practice vocabulary. And if  that practice method doesn’t elicit groans and sighs from my students, then that tool receives an A+ from Frau Riedy. Quizlet has done just that with their new feature, quizlet live.

I have loved the website quizlet for years – I wish that a tool like this had existed when I was in high school! (now that I think of it, I wish a lot of today’s technology had existed when I was in high school…) And now quizlet is even better with their new ‘game’ type feature.  All students need to participate is a device – any device. All you as the teacher need is a quizlet vocab set. (At this time, you also need a teacher’s membership, but I feel that it is worth the small cost). **UPDATE! : Quizlet Live can actually be used by anyone who signs up as a teacher, even if they aren’t a paying member. **

After you open up your vocab set, click on ‘live’ to create the game, and students join using a code.

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Students are then placed into teams,

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And then the game begins.  Each team has a vocab word from the set they are trying to define.  Each student is sent a list of some (but not all) of the terms from the vocab set. Only one student in the team has the correct meaning/match.  Students must work together to select the correct meaning/match.

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Competitive students will especially love this game because the class sees a live stream of each team’s progress on your projector screen.  They race to answer all questions correctly. If they answer incorrectly, the team gets sent back to start.

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Let’s break it down — reasons why I love quizlet live:

  1. Students love it. They request it, and then never want to stop playing (aka learning).
  2. It makes my life easier. I can use sets I have already created, or sets others have created and shared, and create countless practice activities. Which means I can spend more time interacting with my students.
  3. Students have to collaborate with others to succeed, but they also need to know the vocab on their own. No mooching off of other team members here.
  4. It works for any content area. Do your students have vocab lists? Dates of important events? Anything to memorize? Then you can use (and benefit from) quizlet live.

Find me on quizlet – my username is fraumdeutsch1. Organizing my sets is on my summer to-do list, and I will be adding more!

 

References:

Here is the full video demo from the quizlet website: https://vimeo.com/161809345

All pictures taken from the quizlet video demo linked above.

 

 

 

Helping students grow with Formative

Like many teachers, I’ve been using summer vacation to reflect on this past year, and brainstorm ways to make next year better.  One of the best tools I discovered this past year was the website and assessment tool, formative. Formative helped me meet my goals for last school year, which were:

  • streamline my assessments to have more time with students
  • focus more on student mastery of content
  • create more authentic assessments

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 5.57.36 PM I have never found an assessment tool/technology that is so customizable.  I love that I can change the scoring settings to let students  immediately get feedback, and then allow them to edit their responses when I want to focus on mastery.

Another great feature is how much teachers can interact with the assessment.  I can watch students complete the formative in real time, see what they’re doing well and give immediate help on questions they’re struggling with.  I can also pause the class at that very moment if I see they are all struggling with a concept. Before discovering this tool I had to wait until I had already graded their assessment and their scores were already put in the gradebook. Now I can help them refine the skill and give them another chance to show what they have learned. I also appreciate that I can edit the automatic scoring to give partial credit, and I can also set multiple correct answers to account for special characters and accents (I teach German and very few assessment tools offer those features).  Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 5.59.36 PM

Giving assessments that are authentic and test real-world interactions with the language and culture is a huge part of my curriculum as a language teacher.  Formative has added so many options for types of questions and prompts, I can now add pictures, like the school schedule shown below for students to interact with, and I just read on twitter that I can now embed videos, sound recordings, and interactive reading passages. These new tools will give me even more ways to improve my instruction next year. The creators and moderators of formative are so helpful and communicate often with users. I have had such a positive learning experience with this program and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Formative recently created a community for teachers to collaborate and share resources, find me in the community! – Claudia Riedy

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Teaching Reflexive Verbs using Embodied Cognition and Pedagogical Knowledge

This semester  my MAET course is focused on how students learn in school and in other settings.  This week’s assignment was to create a lesson plan integrating a learning theory as well as a demonstration of pedagogical knowledge.

This lesson plan is designed for German 2 classes and focuses on the grammar point reflexive verbs. The big ideas include vocabulary (reflexive verbs), reflexive pronouns, sentence structure, and differentiating between using reflexive verbs and non-reflexive verbs.

Reflexive verbs are taught in this unit in the context of routines/getting ready for an event. Examples of reflexive verbs taught include brushing teeth, washing face, shaving, getting dressed, and looking in the mirror.

Essential Questions:
-What do the reflexive verbs mean?
-How are reflexive verbs used in sentences in German?

Standards reached in lesson:
World Language Standards:

1.3 Presentational Communication – Students present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics.

4.1 Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own

Common Core:
Language 1 – Students can demonstrate an understanding of grammar when writing and speaking
Language 4 – Students can clarify meaning of unknown words or phrases with context clues and word parts.

The lesson plan is as follows:

Warm up/activation of prior knowledge: Students will spend 5 minutes reviewing meanings of reflexive verbs on our class quizlet page. They will use student-created picture flashcards.

Next, we will review as a class how reflexive sentences are constructed. I will lead the class in creating a few example sentences, then I will give students sentences to translate into German.

After reviewing the grammar/sentence structure, the class will do a TPR-based activity (Total Physical Response). I will say reflexive sentences in German and the students will act them out. First, I will act the sentences out with students. Then, students will act out sentences without me. Finally, students will close their eyes and act out the sentences without being able to use cues from other students. This activity acts as a formative assessment. If there are many verbs/sentences that students are acting out incorrectly, I will go over them again.

Finally, students will complete a summative assessment for this topic. Students will be given a sentence using reflexive verbs. The student is challenged to teach how to structure this sentence to a learner. They can choose how they teach this sentence (showme, iMovie, screencast,…etc) but they must use their iPad. Students will work on this lesson during remaining class time and will finish for homework.

This assessment will show me that students can answer the essential questions for this lesson. This will show me they understand the information. If they create an accurate, detailed lesson, they will be able to identify the meaning of the reflexive verbs in their example. They will also be able to demonstrate how reflexive verbs are used in a sentence. This assessment also gives students the opportunity to edit, re-do and move at their own pace if they need more time and practice.

The most challenging part of this topic is that it is so different from English. In English, one would say “I wash my hair’ but in German, it is more like ‘I wash myself my hair’. Students often want to translate directly, which does not work and it can be very difficult for them to accept that what sounds so wrong in their native language can be 100% correct in their second language.

In this lesson, I wanted to incorporate many strategies and activate many learning styles. The picture flashcards will appeal to visual learners. The TPR activity will appeal to kinesthetic/hands on learners. The class review will appeal to both visual and auditory learners. The final assessment will allow students to demonstrate their learning according to their learning style and how they learn best.

I chose these techniques to appeal to as many of my students as possible. I also like to give choices to my students whenever possible. I have found that when they have control over their learning, they try harder, create a more quality product, and more students achieve mastery. I also wanted to incorporate repetition. The best way for students to learn a new grammar point, especially one that is so different than their native language is to practice over and over. In the past I have done lots of worksheets and drills and students have not been engaged. The activities implemented in this lesson offer repetition in new, more engaging ways.

The TPR activity is influenced by the cognitive approach, more specifically the theory of embodied cognition. The activity in my lesson is based on the idea from Cognitive Perspectives on Learning (2007); “we learn with our whole bodies” (p. 1). By attaching a word whose meaning is an action with the actual action, the students will later reperceive this activity and have a better chance of remembering the meaning of the word. In a study by Kuo, et. al (2014), students who participated in an Embodiment -Based TPR activity (similar to the one in my lesson plan) had a higher retainment of new vocabulary than students who used other vocabulary learning methods. Kuo explained that this is due to a connection between language and motor processes in the brain. Students  make a gesture that represents the meaning of the vocabulary word while practicing that vocabulary word. Those students later reperceive that action when attempting to recall the meaning of the word. The reperception aids the student in remembering the word meaning.

Students will use a variety of apps on the iPad to complete their assessment. My school has 1:1 iPads, so this is why they will use this device. I gave them the choice of apps so they can have control over how they express their learning. This lesson could be done without the iPad, but students would not have as many creative options. Students would still be able to teach this concept to other students, but their products would likely represent more traditional methods. Students would also likely create very similar products. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I like that the variety of apps available to them increase their options and also increase their creativity.

I look forward to implementing this lesson in the coming weeks, and I will write an updated post with the outcome.

References:

Cognitive Perspectives on Learning. (2007). 1-5.

Kuo, F. , Hsu, C., Fang, W., Chen, N. (2014). The effects of Embodiment-based TPR approach on student English vocabulary learning achievement, retention and acceptance. Journal of King Saud University – Computer and Information Sciences 26, 63–70.70.

CEP 812 – My Passion Quotient and Curiosity Quotient

For my final CEP 812 assignment, I was challenged to make a multimedia expression of my passion and curiosity as an educator, and how I encourage my students to be passionate and curious. I chose to make an iMovie that depicts my curiosity, passion and how I encourage my students to find their own passion. To me, my passion and what I am curious about are one and the same. I am a German teacher and I am also a German learner. I will always be curious to learn more about my passion; German language and culture.

In his article for The New York Times, Thomas Friedman writes about the passion quotient and the curiosity quotient, which according to him are just as or more important than an individual’s intelligence quotient. He writes that for individuals to be successful, not only do they need to be intelligent, but they must be willing to try new ideas, and learn for a lifetime (Friedman, 2013). I express my passion quotient and curiosity quotient as a teacher every day. I eat German food, read novels to improve my German vocabulary, take graduate level courses, and reach out to my professional learning network on twitter. To me, German is not just a subject I teach, and it is not just my job. I will always be a German learner and I will always want to improve.  My passion quotient and my curiosity quotient go hand in hand: my curiosity about German language and culture drives my passion, and my passion drives my curiosity.

I share and encourage passion and curiosity in my students by the way I act during school and the assignments I give them. I show them my passion and curiosity for German and encourage them to find passions of their own. I challenge them to plan a dream vacation to inspire their curiosity for new places. I give them choices in homework and summative assessments so they can discover and deepen their own passions. My students make iMovies about their bucket lists. I share authentic cultural experiences with them when we make German Pretzels as a German club and create our own German art museum in class. I aim to give my students many opportunities to discover and share their passion with each other. From this sharing they often discover new curiosities and new passions.

Passion and curiosity are a large part of my life and a large part of how I teach. I love that I have a job where I can express my interests with my students, and encourage them to develop their own passions.

iMovie created by Claudia Molter using iMovie software.

References:

Berg, Q. (Producer), & von Donnersmarck, F. (Director). (2006). Das Leben der Anderen [Motion picture]. Germany.

Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. The New Your Times.com. Retrieved March 5, 2014, fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0

Link, C. (2002). Die Täuschung. Germany: Goldmann.

CEP 812 – Failure is an Opportunity to Learn

In my last post I shared the rough draft of a project I have been working on for CEP 812. In this project, I worked with one of my MAET colleagues to approach the wicked problem of failure as an opportunity to learn.  In this project, we discuss this problem, and give a suggestion for how we can move towards solving this problem.  Check out our blendspace to see our final product, and how we suggest using google docs and peer feedback to learn from failures.