Investigation is no longer just an assignment.

In the past when given an assignment to research a teacher network I would have cringed. Ugh, more reading and investigating. BUT, NOW…I am more aware and eager to explore the resources provided by all teacher networks available! I was going to write about the rich knowledge that the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) provides for world language teachers, but I decided to highlight a different network.  English language learners (ELL’s) are a growing population, but also a population that school districts still know so little about.

I am currently working towards my M Ed. in Literacy with a concentration in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and technology.  The TESOL courses require 12 hours of field work. The field work can be intimidating, especially when working with novice/beginner student. While preparing lessons for ELL tutoring I discovered ¡Colorín Colorado!  ¡Colorín Colorado!  is a FREE, bilingual, national website serving educators and families of ELL’s.  The organization provides a newsletter, webcasts and can be followed on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google + and YouTube.  The webcasts mimic a traditional reading conference led by experts who study ELL’s and suggest readings and provide discussion questions.  ¡Colorín Colorado!  is a bilingual site, Spanish and English, that supply toolkits that include lesson plans, activities and resources for non-native speaking parents and/or guardians.  Due to a lack of professional developments provided by school districts on ELL’s I find these toolkits to be very useful.  Maintaining parental contact is a struggle for me.  Now, while communicating with Spanish-speaking parents is achievable for me, I believe this site is a beneficial tool for educators and administrators lacking the means of communication with non-native speaking families.

All of the resources on the site can be shared and printed for FREE! In the past few weeks I have been following ¡Colorín Colorado!  on Twitter and their blog.  Dr. Diane Straehr Fenner is contributor to their blog.  She recently wrote about Common Core and ELL’s.  Again, this is a great way for educators who have ELL’s in their class to get supplemental materials and ideas in order to better accommodate their students.  Some recent Twitter discussions have included recent accomplishments with ELL’s in school districts, booklists for ELL’s and administrative action taken in order to strengthen ELL programs.

Investigating teaching networks is now an exciting time in my teaching career. The resources and discussions available to educators are beneficial, motivating, but more importantly obtainable!!!

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My JUNIOR supporter!

According to dictionary.com, a mentor is an influential senior sponsor or supporter…

This week I decided to highlight a friend at work, who also plays the role as one of my mentors.  I will admit that sometimes I laugh at myself for calling her one of my mentors.  Now, it’s obviously not due to her expertise (because it is evident that she must provide some sort of knowledge and aid if I can call her a mentor). I laugh because she is 6 years younger than me.  Until this course, I always related the word mentor to an older, veteran teacher.  Amanda has been and will continue to be a wonderful asset to the world language department as well as to my professional development.  Her knowledge in technology and motivation to utilize it in a meaningful way is intriguing.  I pick her brain as often as possible and strive to implement her advice. If I am unsuccessful when implementing technology instead of feeling defeating I run to Amanda and she redirects me.  In a recent discussion, in grad class, I stated that I didn’t feel like others in my department were givers, only takers, but taker does not describe Amanda. She has been a successful matcher.  Amanda spends her morning teaching levels II and IV of Spanish. After lunch, from 12 noon- 3 PM, she is in her classroom, but serves as a cyber school instructor. I’m constantly asking Amanda about her Cyber School experience.  Becoming a part of the Cyber School community has come up in discussion during department meetings. I have some hesitation when going in that direction, which is due to my lack of knowledge of what can truly be accomplished. I have taken on the role as a traditional teacher and find it scary to stray from that path.  This week’s entry will highlight some aspects of her job and what she does to make her classroom, both cyber and traditional, as well as her students successful!

If you could re-design the world language department what would it look like?

The world language department would be based on a Flipped Mastery style curriculum. Students would have certain standards that they must master in order to pass the course and a set of additional standards for students who are more motivated or move quicker. All lessons would be videos/presentations that students would watch at home, and class work would be speaking-based or project-based, but moving at the pace of the individual student. When a student feels ready to take an assessment, they would be able to do that at any time, and once they complete the assessment with the appropriate proficiency, they can move onto the next topic/standard, regardless of where the rest of the class is. The teacher would be available in the class to work with students on a deeper, more individualized level, because he/she would be freed up from doing the whole-group teaching, as that would be done in the form of videos.

Do you attempt to merge what you do in the cyber classroom with what you do in the regular classroom?  What does that look like?

Yes, I do. This year Oct moved to the use of Schoology, which was very easy to adapt to activities and lessons I already had made for the Cyber School. It is not the same learning management system, but because I was familiar enough with online teaching from the Cyber School, it has been much easier adapting lessons and activities from Oct to work online. I also think that the manipulatives and group work that I can do with my Oct students, influences my cyber teaching – I see the benefit of these activities in the traditional classroom, and then go to my computer and try to make something similar for my cyber students.

How do you implement iPad usage into your daily lesson planning?

I often record videos of my lessons for my students and then create a tasked-based lesson plan. As the students come into the room they have a group activity that gets them thinking about whatever concept we are covering that day. After that, they are given their task list for the day – assignments, lessons and practice they have to complete in order to get class participation points. They are allowed to work individually or with partners to watch their video lesson on their iPad. They often have drills or practices that are manually graded either by an app or Schoology, so I can monitor how much they have practiced, but do not have to grade every students practice sheets. They are able to get immediate feedback this way. I have also tried to incorporate more games because of the iPads, using websites like Kahoot.it for review games, and Duolingo as an accelerated learning strategy.

Pros/Cons of Cyber School

Intrinsically motivated students are able to move at their own pace and be in control of their education. They have access to their teachers whenever they needs, and are able to finish schooling earlier than their peers, and focus their education on their own interests, while learning digital literacy. Teachers are able to focus their attention on the students who are actively looking for help/guidance while also improving their digital illiteracy skills.

One con of cyber school is that not all students are created equally, and they do not all have the same home-background. When students come into a traditional classroom, you *usually* have their attention for 50+ minutes. With cyber school where students are working from home, the teacher has no idea what other things may be happening at the moment you are speaking with the student. Because you are not looking at their faces, it can sometimes be harder to form a bond with a student you have only have “texted” with. Students who are not intrinsically motivated sometimes do worse in a cyber school because they do not have that direct interaction with their teachers in a school setting each day, and struggle with time-management and good choices.

Pros/Cons of traditional classroom setting 

A pro of the classroom setting is that you are physically meeting with your students every day. There is something to be said for the small talk that you are able to have with the students before the bell rings. The students are removed from their homes and put in a designated “learning” environment, so I think it helps the students who are less motivated to focus on their classes more (think about the student who does work in your class each day, but never does homework – how would they do if their whole class was to be done at home?).

A con of a traditional classroom setting is that if the class is not based on ability (and even if it is), the teacher often is stuck teaching to the middle of the class- there are always students who need more time or more practice, and always some who are finished before the directions have even been fully explained. A traditional setting with a high ratio of students to teachers does not allow for much individualized instruction. Both groups of students who fall above or below the “mid-range” do not get the type of education they deserve.