Thursday, August 22, 2019

Post-Reading: Circle the Wagons

I have wanted to try Carrie Toth's "Circle the Wagons" post-reading activity for some time and I found the perfect unit to do it: Abuela Grillo: A Bolivian Legend About the Exploitation of Water by the CCC Spanish Store.

Abuela Grillo is a water scarcity unit designed for upper levels. I'm using it in level 4 this year and my students are loving it!


First, we learned background vocabulary using the suggested activities in the unit. Next we read and played some games to make sure everyone was comfortable with the content and order of events. Once we had watched the video of the legend and I was certain everyone was able to make at least basic statements we tried our hand at Circle the Wagons. I was floored by how well everyone did!

The set up:

  • The night before, I created a variety of screenshots of the video. I intentionally made more screenshots than students so there would be plenty of options. This took very little time! 
  • I printed them at school the next morning. 
  • Next I gave very basic instructions in Spanish to choose a picture that you would like to talk about and make 2 to 3 statements describing that picture. 
  • The next step is important and I think key to getting everyone involved: two students had to ask questions of the speaker about their photo. They could be as simple as: who is in the picture? what happened before this picture? What happened after? Why did this happen? How did this occur?

I am very lucky to have 3 students who participated in Indiana University's summer study abroad Honors Program for Foreign Languages this past summer (their abilities literally EXPLODED, by the way!) who very naturally helped lead the discussions. This is a large section of Spanish 4 and I was afraid that if I made just one large circle, not everyone would have the chance to speak. I am also very lucky that due to a scheduling fluke, these students have been in class with me for four years and are willing to try just about anything I throw at them! 


It's also VERY important to remember that this is spontaneous speaking, so correcting grammar was not high on my list of priorities. However, providing a safe environment where students are willing to try speaking IS my priority! Correcting content errors is fine, but correcting every little grammar error (at this point) is only going to make the class stop communicating altogether. This activity isn't the place for that, in my opinion.

I was so proud of how well they did! They took turns and helped each other out when someone forgot a term and were very encouraging with each other. If you teach upper levels, you should try both Circle the Wagons and Abuela Grillo! I know you will love them as much as I!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat


We all know that repetition is key to what we do in the classroom. We instinctively repeat our instructions in hopes that everyone hears at least part of what we are telling them to do. We also repeat our targeted structures in stories, Movie Talks, Card Talk, Picture Talk, and more. In conference sessions, workshops, and webinars, you have likely been told to go slow and repeat often.

But why?  Why do we repeat so much?

Paul Nation reports in his research that a person needs to come into contact with a word 40 times before it is cemented into memory. Other researchers have said 35 times or 50 times. I've heard the number 75 come up in conversations with colleagues. Whichever number you choose, that is a lot of repetitions to get in of a single structure. Compound that by the all the structures you hope your students acquire by the end of the year... how on earth can we do it?

Salience

Last year at the Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association annual conference, Dr. Stephen Krashen was our keynote speaker. He took the time to mentor me and my partner in crime, Leslie Phillips, on this very topic: repetition of targeted structures. I left with a new understanding of how the brain acquires language.

It all has to do with salience.

Look at the image below:


Before reading any further, ask yourself these questions: What does this image mean to you? Does it cause any emotions? Does it spark a memory? Do you see all the peppers? Or just the red one?

For me, it is a glorious reminder of my favorite food to eat: anything spicy! For someone else, however, it may spark a memory of something they dislike. I am drawn to this photo due to the red pepper (by the way, there is a whole body of research on colors the human eye prefers and guess which color is numero uno? Yep! You guessed it, RED!).


I am drawn to this photo due to its salience to me. But the thing is, what is salient to me, isn't necessarily salient to someone else. What I learned from Dr. Krashen that day was a single mention of a word may be all it takes if that word is salient to the listener

Folks, this is why we repeat and repeat and repeat our structures. This is why we shelter our vocabulary and not our grammar. This is how our brains acquire language: structures repeated in a variety of contexts so that we hit on the ONE SALIENT MOMENT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL STUDENT.

That is so important, I'm going to repeat it again:

This is how our brains acquire language: structures repeated in a variety of contexts so that we hit on the ONE SALIENT MOMENT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL STUDENT.

(See what I did there? I repeated it...)

This is so important to remember. What is salient to me might mean absolutely nothing to Joe Student sitting in the back of my room. I need to provide the structures he needs to be successful in our Spanish program in a way that is salient (compelling) to HIM. That means Story Asking, Movie Talk, Picture Talk, Novels, thematic units of study (like Mar de Plástico by Carrie Toth), music, and more.

Don't just repeat a word or structure for the sake of repeating. Repeat your structure in a variety of compelling, salient contexts. One of those repetitions will be the one his brain has been waiting for.




Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Student Evaluations - A Valuable Reflective Tool

Do you ask your students to evaluate you? You should!




I took a self-coaching class with Karen Rowan from Fluency Fast earlier this year. She told us that in addition to keeping track of the number of questions we ask in each class and the amount of time we spend in the target language, we should also be regularly asking our students to evaluate our class. Karen provided a daily evaluation sheet, which you can get by purchasing her Guide to Self-Coaching here. (I highly recommend going through this process - I learned quite a bit about myself and ways to immediately improve my instruction).

Why Student Evaluations are Important

1. Course evaluations give students a voice.

Students can respond anonymously. This gives them the power to inform you of issues you may not be aware of in class (another student's behaviour is prohibiting them from acquiring language, for example).

2. Used correctly, evaluations build classroom community.

If you use the evaluations to reflect and improve your teaching, students notice. The more they notice you caring about how they feel about your class, the more involved they become. The more involved your students are in class, the more language they acquire. Win-win!

3. Evaluations provide students the opportunity to self-reflect.

A question or two that require students to reflect on their own performance provide the needed tools to recognize and change certain behaviors. Knowing that one is in charge of one's learning process is very empowering. A question on Karen's form asks students to gauge the grade they should receive for that day's class. Surprisingly, students are pretty honest on this question! A few think they deserve much higher grades than their actual participation showed, but overall, students will mark their grade as much lower than you would.

4. Changing your teaching as a result of honest feedback makes you a MUCH better teacher.

I have presented at many conferences this. In every one, I have made the following statements:

"Slow and steady wins the race. If you think you are going slow enough for students to process your words, slow down. If you think THAT is slow enough, slow down even more. And when you finally think you are going slow enough, SLOW DOWN EVEN MORE. Language acquirers really do need that much time to process what you are saying."

That is the number one thing attendees comment on; they just didn't realize how much time it takes to process the second language.

Guess what? On their final course evaluation this year, one student actually told me that she wished I would slow down because sometimes it takes her longer to process what I'm saying. I wish I had known sooner - apparently I need to practice what I preach! Had I not handed out that evaluation, I would have never known and I wouldn't be able to be a better teacher when I come back in the fall.

*By the way, "slow" looks differently in each level and even in each class.  You will get a feel for what each class needs based on their ability to answer questions or how well they do on daily quizzes.*

5. Regular evaluations reinforce course and behavior expectations

In addition to very regular (in some classes, this mean daily) oral reminders of how you expect students to behave, a class evaluation is a different way to remind students what they need to do to meet your expectations.

What evaluations are NOT

I do not advise quitting sound, research-based practices because students complain. Let's face it, kids whine! And some are going to dislike everything about your class simply because they are disgruntled teenagers who want to be entertained every moment of the day. I have found, however, that once they understand that certain things about my class simply are going to remain, their critique becomes a bit more genuine. 

An example: 

When I first started FVR (we call it Free Voluntary MANDATORY Reading in my class because they really don't and should not have the choice to decline!) I had a lot of students return the weekly or bi-weekly evals with very negative comments about hating to read. I explained the research and told them that either they could read OR they could read. As Tina Hargaden says, if your book sucks, go find one that doesn't suck so bad. They understood quickly that reading was here to stay. However, a valuable piece of information I received after we had been doing FVR for a few months was, "sometimes you get caught up in your book and don't realize we have read for much longer than the goal of 5-7 minutes." (I always read while they read. ALWAYS). I took that little nugget and began using a timer. That way, the kids who really feel like they are suffering, know that I will only make them "suffer" for a short amount of time.  

You can download my End of Course Evaluation here.

Please make a copy and adapt to your needs.

An End of Course Evaluation is given, as the name implies, at the very end of the year. I really want to know what sticks out as the "thing" they liked/didn't like. This year, I only teach levels 3 and four. For the majority of my students, this is their final opportunity to critique. Guess what? Not a single student wrote that reading was the thing they didn't like. They informed me that they don't like when we do traditional Movie Talk with the pausing during the action of the video. I already knew this, which is why I change it up and only sometimes do it traditionally and most of the time I make screenshots of the video into slides that we discuss.

If your school year is winding down and you have the opportunity to give student evaluations, I hope you do so! You have all summer to reflect and decide if the student is just whining or if a tweek needs to take place to make the activity more palatable.

Happy teaching!


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Fight the Good Fight


Teaching with CI may not be a popular choice in your building, district, or region. You might even find yourself the target of some pretty nasty efforts to discredit you - especially if you experience a lot of success... and you will have great success using CI! So, if you find yourself in this position, remember to.... 


You know the research.

You know that grammar drills and talking about a language in English do not lead to acquisition.

You see every day that students love being in your class and that they have no fear to speak the language you teach.

Like me, you may have students who already make more money than adults at their jobs because they can communicate in their second language.

You see both baby steps and giant leaps in language usage gains.

You are fighting the good fight.

However, others may not see this. Seeing and hearing the laughter that comes from your classroom, rather than understanding that you are making connections with compelling content, joy is mistaken for goofing off.  Hearing the music you introduce to your students being played at track meets, dances, and prom is interpreted as you showing videos all day and not teaching. There is a complete lack of understanding about how language is acquired so the wonderful results your students earn on proficiency tests can only mean that you and they are cheating. 

But remember, you are fighting the good fight, those who are out to tear you down don't have the courage to try what you are trying. Jumping into the ring, putting yourself out there, and trying new things mean you are opening yourself up to vulnerability. Making connections with your students makes you vulnerable. Not everyone can open themselves up to this vulnerability.

They fear the ring.

They don't have the courage to put themselves out there.

They are too scared and too embedded in their ways to try something new.

Their words and personal attacks are a reflection of who THEY are, not of who YOU are. 


Those who are out there, conquering new landscapes, following research, well - their words mean something. And you know what? They won't attack you. Because they know what it's like to be in the ring. They, too, have courage.

Keep fighting the good fight.



Monday, May 13, 2019

Join me at iFLT

I'm presenting at iFLT!!!



You can download the full brochure here. iFLT takes place in St. Petersburg, FL from July 15 - 18, 2019. It has sold out early in recent years, so if you are planning on going, you'd better register now.

I will be presenting a session about how the brain acquires language called Designing the Classroom with the Brain in Mind: Brain-based Language Instruction. You can see the full presentation that I gave with Leslie Phillips at the IN-NELL Spring Conference here. I am very passionate about sharing my life-altering CI transformation (in case you hadn't noticed). This presentation provides a lot of background on how the brain just soaks up language when it is provided in a way that pleases the brain... and that's Comprehensible Input, folks!

I attended last year with my daughter as a student in Profe Mallaney's advanced Spanish class. She loved it and so did I! My favorite part was being trained in how to be a coach for others who want to give CI a try.

If you go, look me up - I'd love to connect! I'll be in the coaching area, or... generally wherever I'm needed. :)

Let's get this party started!
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Indiana Certificate of Multilingual Proficiency



The results are in and FIFTEEN of 31 students completing the STAMP 4S attained Intermediate High (the ACTFL level required) or better! One student even earned a 9, the highest score, in reading! Only two of those students are heritage speakers of Spanish - the other 13 began learning Spanish in 9th grade! 

Indiana has only offered the Seal of Multiliteracy Proficiency for three years. According to the Indiana Department of Education, the seal is to recognize students who have "attained a high level of proficiency, sufficient for meaningful use in college and a career, in one or more languages in addition to English... Multilingual proficiency refers to having a functional level of proficiency in each language: the level of proficiency is not necessarily identical for both languages."



Last year

Last year was our first year to give the STAMP 4S. At that time, only two students earned Intermediate High, and that was with retaking one or two sections of the STAMP 4S. The two who earned the award were VERY high fliers - one was the Lily Scholar (a very competitive scholarship given in each county in Indiana by Lily Corp.) and the other was equally talented academically. These kids are going to succeed at everything they do because that's who they are. They only had one year of CI instruction, and that was their senior year. I was very nervous for them because their speaking skills were not as strong as their other skills.

This year

Of the non-heritage learners of Spanish, one is again the Lily Scholar for our county. The difference though, is that this student, and the other twelve, have had three years of CI-based instruction. They commonly reported that the most difficult part of the test was listening, and NOT speaking. What's more, 11 of the 15 students earned Intermediate High on their FIRST TRY! I am convinced that it is comprehensible input that has made the difference in the results!

To break this down a little more, and to show the true power of using a CI approach to language instruction, take a look at the following details:
  • These students' first year of CI-based instruction (their sophomore year, Spanish 2), I also jumped head-first into a Master's in Second Language Acquisition. I planned my classes minutes before students walked in and relied 100% on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Facebook, Look! I Can Talk (TPRS books), and The Comprehensible Classroom. To say that every lesson was a learning curve for me, would be an understatement.  But, as they say, a bad day of CI is better than any day teaching from a grammar-lead curriculum.
  • Year two for these kids, they figured out they were my guinea pigs and were happy to be along for the ride. I also had 220 students and no planning period (which you can read about here). By spring break of that year, I was flat D.O.N.E. That was one of my hardest years of teaching yet, and I'm not sure how I survived. Needless to say, my level of instruction wasn't as good as it could have been... and yet, these kids acquired a TON of language!
  • Enter year three. As seniors, this group is super confident in their second language skills. They can chat in Spanish, defend opinions, and write essays. They also recently gave 10 minute presentations where they weren't permitted to have more than a few words on any given slide. This year has been, by far, my best year of CI instruction and you can tell in their language skills.
I cannot take credit for these amazing results, because clearly I have been learning how to teach using this approach at the same time their brains have been happily acquiring language.

But wait, there's more!

Just in case the above story about acquisition on the fly hasn't convinced you to try CI, what if I tell you that this year's seniors earned this award with fewer than five total days of homework in THREE YEARS!!! I promise it is true. My first year I was busy with my own master's degree homework and simply couldn't assign student work. My second year, I wasn't about to assign homework to 220 students - who has time to kill all those trees??? And, since we were doing so well acquiring language without it, I made it a formal policy this year.


With results like these, I believe more than ever that it is input that leads to output (Krashen), not fill-in-the-blank exercises and explicit grammar instruction (textbooks).

So, what's stopping you?


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nailed It! Mexico


It is no secret that I love using this show in class!

We have learned so much about Mexican culture with this show. One of the episodes is dedicated to the legends of El Coco, La Llorona, and Chupacabra - all of which we have studied in class. So we had SO MUCH to talk about and to refresh our memories!


How I Use a Series in Class

First of all, always preview whatever you are showing. What is appropriate for some, just may not work for you. Read about how I learned this the hard way here.

Nailed It! Mexico is easily comprehensible to my level 3's and 4's so I show 1/3 to 1/2 of an episode each time we watch (about once a week) Movie Talk style.  If you haven't done a movie talk, you basically pause every so often and make it comprehensible. We talk about the show, and don't necessarily follow the dialogue. You can read more about Movie Talk here.

This show would be easily adaptable for lower levels, as well. The beauty of Movie Talk is that you pick the target structures and guide the discussion. 

When we Movie Talk, I have two levels of questions: 1) Whole-class response, and 2) Questions students ask/respond to each other. I have found that a healthy dose of the second category has really helped class discussion in other areas. I write the questions on the board, model how it should be asked, and then practice once with the class. I also model and practice how to respond. For example, for the question, "If you were able to participate, would you?" I start with asking the question. Then I have students read the question from the board. THEN they turn to a neighbor and ask it. Before I set them loose, we also practice the response, "Yes, if I were able to participate, I would because..." or "No, if I were able to participate, I would not because..."

What We Discuss

  • Introduce the subjunctive 
  • Food and kitchen vocabulary
  • Culture
  • Comparisons 
  • Future
  • Conditional
  • Form/Defend opinions
  • Who is your favorite contestant and why?
  • Describe this person/cake/cookie
  • Practice circumlocution

How Will I Use Nailed It! Mexico in the Future?

Yet again, we are at the end of the year I have no idea why I can't fit in 4 more units! Next year, I plan to introduce Nailed It! Mexico in my level 3 classes in the spring, right after Spring Break and March Music Madness. I will build in enough time to make it a weekly lesson that culminates in our own Nailed It! competition.  Perhaps we will create something related to Billy la Bufanda of Sr. Wooly fame!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Add the Adjectives!

Get Creative with Adjectives!



I noticed this year that my students were using the same, boring adjectives ALL. THE. TIME.  "How are you today?" I would ask. And without fail, I would get, "tired," "good," and "bad." It didn't matter that we had worked in quite a few more interesting words into stories, Motie Talks, and more. They were stuck in a rut and my ears were tired of it!

So, I bought a rainbow pack of card stock and started printing. The more words I printed, the more excited I became!


I printed two words on each piece of cardstock and cut them in half. Then I hung them around my room.


It is worth noting that I also banned the words tired, good, and bad.

The results have been amazing!! Students were immediately excited to see them and started playing around, making sentences that included as many adjectives as they could fit. Stories became much more interesting. Quite frankly, they have breathed new life into our stories and routines.


This was a super easy addition and the payoff has been wonderful!

Here is the link to the list I used. Please make a copy and add/delete as you desire!

Happy teaching!

Monday, March 25, 2019

7 Super Strategies to Boost Classroom Community

Spring break is finally here and I want to share some of the ways that I build classroom community. Let's face it, if you don't have a strong foundational relationship with your students, those few weeks before spring break (and leading up to the end of the year) can be downright torture!




Classroom community is so important to build. If you can put students at ease (lowering the Affective Filter), their subconscious will do the job of absorbing grammatical information like word order, verb endings, and mastering the subtleties of the subjunctive.

1. Music
I used music in my classes even before I taught using comprehensible input, but now it has much more purpose!


  • This year we built on our March Music Madness by using it as a tool to form, express, and defend opinions about music. Humans are opinionated and love to share what they think. Music is a safe outlet that allows for healthy disagreement without hurting feelings. We took our discussions about the songs in this year's bracket (read about it here) up a notch by first writing down WHY we felt a certain way about a song and then discussing with our nearby classmates. Those that wanted to share with the class could (and many did!) as the final step. 
  • Instruments! In a former life, I was a Kindermusik teacher and still have a bag full of toddler-sized instruments. I will pull out the bag from time to time (not too often, I want them to LOVE using them!). Playing an instrument breathes new life into a song and will free students up to dance.
  • Serenading special people in the building is one of my favorite ways to have fun and make people feel special. We have sung happy birthday to the librarian (every. single. class. period. of. the. day!), the office staff, the wonderful cooks in the school kitchen, other staff members, and the most important people in the building - the janitors! It only takes a few minutes of our time but students feel very proud of themselves for helping to make someone's day special.

2. Special Guests

  • When learning about vallenatos and serenatas earlier this year, I discovered that one of my students has a special connection to an instrument commonly used - his grandma plays the acordeón! Of course I invited her in to play for us. This was hands down one of the best, most fun days we have ever had in class! You can read more about it here.
  • I have a friend who is a theatre director in Spain, Adolfo Simón. He is kind and loves to share theatre with children - especially those in a rural community like ours. He specializes in performance art and when he came to Indiana last fall, he shared a special piece created just for my students. Did they understand all of it? Nope! But that wasn't the point. They experienced something most of them will never do again and we have had MANY conversations about it since.



3. Get Distracted (in the target language)

  • If a conversation goes "awry," go with it! Students think they are getting me "off track" and that "we aren't doing anything" when this happens. But, the joke's on them! There is nothing more challenging in the target language than maintaining a spontaneous conversation! They don't happen too often, but when they do, I inwardly cheer and roll with it. 

4. Laugh and Have Fun 

  • The biggest gift of all is laughter! If you can laugh at yourself and allow yourself to be the butt of the joke you are doing much more than chuckling with your students. You are 1) showing that you are not perfect and that you do make silly mistakes, 2) demonstrating that vulnerability is OK, 3) drawing attention to YOUR imperfections which in turn draws attention AWAY from others' imperfections, and 4) modeling appropriate reactions. Laughter takes the sting out of comments meant to be critical and removes their negative power. It is SO HARD to learn this! And, trust me, I give students ample opportunities to laugh AT me! 

5. Praise (but not falsely)

  • Everyone wants to feel smart and accepted. EVERYONE. On a daily basis, I tell students they are so amazing and intelligent. They have a LOT to be proud of. They can effectively communicate in a second language- something their parents' generation likely cannot do. They WILL be successful because of what they have already accomplished in their short time in our classrooms!
  • Praise is important - but remember that students can see right through false praise. So use it frequently, but not so much that it loses its power.
  • Remember that students come to you from a lot of different situations: they may have just failed a math test, or forgotten to do a homework assignment that is sure to lower their grade, or they may have relationship problems. I want to be the teacher who lets them know that failure is an important part of learning BUT that it doesn't define who they are. I think I'm pretty good at this because I have had students who wrote in their anonymous evaluations that my class the first class they felt smart in!

6. Games

  • Games are fun! They reinforce learning and cause that wonderful, healing reaction called laughter! I sprinkle my lessons with games that are appropriate to the activity.
  • I try to stay away from games where only one or two people are actively participating while others are waiting around for their turn, bored and not engaged.
  • See AnneMarie Chase and Martina Bex blogs for some awesome and easily adaptable games! 

7. Puntos!!

  • This idea comes from La Maestra Loca, Annabelle (Allen) Williamson. I adapted it and have used it for 2 1/2 years. My students love it! If I forget to give them points for something great, they remind me by snapping their fingers (instead of clapping, it's quieter!) and calling out "puntos!" The funny thing? The points actually mean.... NOTHING! I award them for positive reinforcement and always randomly. But there is never a party or anything attached. Just bragging rights that their class has more points than some other class! Adding a few (or a million) points to the board awakens even the sleepiest of classes!

What are your favorite go-to strategies for building classroom community? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, March 8, 2019

March Music Madness!

I am such a fan of March Music Madness!  Anything that relates to basketball in March in Indiana (go Hoosiers!!) is SURE to be a huge hit!!


I do not know who originated the idea, but boy, have they made a difference in the dull weeks leading up to Spring Break in my classes! I first heard about this on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Facebook group.

Last year I purchased the TPT unit from Spanish Plans. You can read about how it went, here and here. It truly saved my sanity last March and the students STILL connect with the songs outside my class... on a regular basis! They include them in the school dance playlists, have Spotify playlists for studying, and we play them at GSHS Track and Field meets!

I chose to go my "own way" this year only because the new March Music Madness 2019 had several repeats from last year. And while I know that in basketball the same powerhouse universities are in the tournament year after year, it is seldom with the exact same teammates. Plus, I knew that if I didn't bring something fresh and hype to my classroom, mass exodus would ensue!

Here are the songs I included in my playlist:
(braketed completely randomly, btw)

Si tu me quisieras - Mon Laferte
Un año - Sebastian Yatra y Reik
Asi Soy - Maite Perroni
Madre Tierra - Chayanne
No soy como tu crees - Ana Mena
Fiesta - Kalimba
100 años - Ha'ash y Prince Royce
Limón y Sal - Julieta Vargas
Celoso - Lele Pons
Apaga y Vámonos - Ventimo
Dime Cosas Lindas - Dame 5
Chocolate - Jesse y Joy
Completa - Corina Smith
Amarillo - Shakira
Ella - Álvaro Soler

I included Si tu me quisieras by Mon Laferte because she is quirky and definitely marches to the beat of her own drum. I wanted to show my students that if they, too, are unique and just don't fit the 'cool kid box' that that makes you even more beautiful and successful in my eyes.

Our Spring Musical, Newsies!, is next weekend, so in honor of my theatre kids, I chose Asi soy by Maite Perroni. Our theme this past fall for Vaudeville (variety show) was 'Under the Big Top', so a lot of songs from the movie The Greatest Showman were naturally included. I have a TON of students in the spring musical (we have about 140 students in our 700 student building participating!) and wanted to show them that their love of theatre is a love that crosses cultures.

Dime cosas lindas by Dame 5 was a song I knew most of my students would love to hate! The rhythms are so off in this one! Having quite a few music students in class, I knew the conversation would open up to what you definitely DON'T want to happen in a song or concert. These students had the rare opportunity to be the experts in class and others followed their lead and learned WHY they didn't like the song.

Madre Tierra by Chayanne is in there for a couple reasons. 1) It's Chayanne! I have loved his music for a long time. :) And 2) I have two students who are studying in Mérida, México this summer through IU's Program in Foreign Languages. This video has many images from Mérida, TONS of culture, and a great message. And, 3) did I mention Chayanne???

Celoso by Lele Pons is a song that I introduced my students to in January with a chorus activity. They only knew her from her comic bits and had not idea that she could sing. Many had a change of heart about her due to hearing her music and have already added this song to their personal playlists.

Completa by Corina Smith is a song with a powerful message that failed in sending this message out to the world with an average and very typical video. I wanted to be able to discuss ways to show we are empowered that are a-typical and outside-the-box.

The best part of March Music Madness 2019 in my classroom? It has to be the fact that my students are now music critics. We have in-depth conversations about the pros and cons of the videos and how NOTHING, EVER will compare to Robarte un beso as far as musical quality and video storyline. We make comparisons. Students form and defend opinions. We have just as much fun, but they have super high expectations of music. The typical scantily-clad chica wagging her booty just won't cut it in this crowd.

I ask you...

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... what's not to love about March Music Madness???

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Nailed It, Mexico!!

I am so excited about Nailed It, Mexico!


I have been on the hunt for a comprehensible TV series that I can use in class and I finally I found it! (You can read about why I am sooooo picky about what to show in class here - let's just say, I've been burned!).

This show is fun, witty, comical, whimsical, CLEAN, and chock-full of Mexican culture! We watch about 1/2 an episode each Wednesday, Movie Talk style (pausing every so often to discuss the action and make it comprehensible).

I show it in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. Double the input for my students!

My favorite part of Nailed It, Mexico!? The all out belly laughs... even from the most stoic students! It is so compelling that students are riveted to the screen. The language is so comprehensible for my level 3's that I do little explaining. In fact, after learning the most basic kitchen vocab, I have paused fewer and fewer times. I pause even less for my 4's.

Ways I have used it in class so far:

  • Compare and contrast original cakes to their "copies"
  • What would you do if...? questions (subjunctive/conditional)
  • Learn cooking/baking/kitchen vocab
  • What's your favorite...? questions
  • Who will win? (future)
  • Who won and why? (past)
  • Learn about everyday Mexican culture!! 
  • What problems do you see? And, why is it going to be a problem? (ir + a + infinitive) Who is it going to be a problem for?
  • Could you bake that? Would you bake that? (conditional)

Students have already asked if we can have our own Nailed It, Mexico! competitions.

Why, yes, I think we can!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Post-Reading Activity

I love having a variety of post-reading activities "up my sleeve." Keeping things novel in the classroom is important because the human brain quickly adapts to whatever stimulus is provided. Fun, exciting activities become old and boring very quickly. When various activities are used sparingly, your language classroom stays shiny and bright.

Recently, Martina Bex created customizable ¡Cataplún! cards. Knowing that everything she creates is a huge hit with my students, I went directly to her TPT store and purchased my own set!

I am so glad I did!


My favorite post-reading activities cause students to go back and reread the text. The benefit to reading is READING, after all. I spent a few minutes after school yesterday customizing and printing enough sets that students could play in groups of three or four. Each set was a different color (to make the sorting easier for me at the end).


You can see that students all have a copy of the reading on their desks.

I altered the directions a bit because 1) I'm all about simplicity and 2) I can never remember the rules if there are more than just a few!!


When it is your turn, you select a card from the pile. Answer correctly, keep the card. Answer incorrectly, the card goes in the discard pile. Teammates fact-check answers by rereading. If your card says "¡Cataplún!"(kaboom! in English), you lose all your cards. The student with the most cards at the end of class, wins.


I love this game for many reasons:
  • SUPER easy to customize, print, and cut out.
  • Adaptable to MANY classroom review activities.
  • Students STAY in the L2 the entire class period with zero prompting from me!!
  • The game runs itself - I have very little to monitor.
  • You can use it to lighten up a heavy topic (we are studying the Spanish Civil War... it can get a little depressing!).
  • As with everything from The Comprehensible Classroom, all the hard work was already done for me!!
  • Did I mention how easy it was???
What are your favorite post-reading activities?


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Training Opportunity in Southern Indiana

I am so excited to announce that my friend Abby Whicker and I are putting together a one-day acquisition-driven instruction conference!!! We are two like-minded gals who LOVE to share the story of CI!



Abby teaches German at Mater Dei High School in Evansville, IN. She has presented at IFLTA and attended iFLT last summer in Cincinnati, OH.

We will have door prizes and lots of fun learning and sharing!

The conference is on Saturday, April 20, 2019 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Sessions include:
Storylistening with Leslie Phillips
Card Talk with Janet Holzer
Using Whole-Class Novels with me, JJ Epperson
Special Person Interviews with Christy Lade
Assessing Proficiency with Abby Whicker
Monitor Theory with me, JJ Epperson

There will be two workshops available, as well!
Games in the World Language Classroom with Leslie Phillips
Acquisition Strategies for Newbies with Abby Whicker

I light breakfast and catered lunch are included in the $20 fee.

We hope to see you there!!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Am I Doing This Right???



I read variations of this question on the iFLT / NTPRS / CI Teaching group page almost daily. Making the change to CI can be scary and intimidating.  When I first began, I didn't know how to let go of the stress of covering X grammar rules in a semester. Using a textbook was "safe." It provided the step by step process for teaching about language in a methodical and BORING way.

However, I know from my own experience that learning about language doesn't mean our students will be able to use it in meaningful ways. So, I made the leap into CI. For me, it was a summer TPRS seminar in Indianapolis. I knew without a doubt that I would go back to school in the fall and change up everything. 

Along my journey, I have asked myself many times if I was doing it right. Often, the answer was a big, fat NO! At some point, someone said to me (I don't know if it was Laurie Clarque in a session at Central States, Michelle Whaley at iFLT, Carol Gaab, Kristy Placido, or my CI buddy in crime Leslie Phillips - probably all of them did!), "do your best until you know better; then when you know better DO better." Those are powerful words! And the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders.

To this end, I thought I'd share a little of my journey.

YEAR ONE
My first year of jumping whole-hog into CI I also jumped whole-hog into finishing my MA in Second Language Acquisition.

Can you say...?

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That means I relied heavily on the TPRS Look, I Can Talk books, Martina Bex's Somos Curriculum, and any and every idea I came across on the iFLT / NTPRS / CI Teaching group page. I only knew how to pause and point, circle, assign jobs, and original Movie Talk. I literally had no other skills.

None.

Zero.

Zilch.

Nada.

And guess what? In spite of my lack of experience and haphazard planning my students acquired a TON of Spanish!! I had no clue if what I was doing was correct procedure and I frequently questioned my own language skills. Many days I would get on the Facebook page, find an idea, and run with it. (As a side note, recently, several of my level 4 students have commented how much fun they had and could we do some more of those spur-of-the-moment lessons!)

YEAR TWO
My second year, my administration decided to give me all of level 2 and 3 and then asked if I would give up my plan to teach the first-ever level 4 section. I had just finished my Master's with a study abroad class in Spain, so I felt like I would have a TON of time. What I didn't know when I agreed was that I would have record number of students (220 - you can read about how I survived that here) and that I would be invited to return to Spain to present at an international playwright's conference.

So, once again, I was planning by the seat of my pants, I gave absolutely zero homework because there was no way I could touch 220 pieces of paper on a regular basis, and I relied very heavily on the facebook page, Somos, and novels.

And guess what? Once again, in spite of myself, my students acquired a TON MORE Spanish!! All I had to do was ask a few questions and all the Spanish they had acquired the year before came flooding back and we could immediately build on it.

YEAR THREE
And now we are in year three. My level 4 grew from a single section of 9 last year to two sections totalling 37 this year! The students could see the progress they were making and were sticking with it! Almost all of my level 4 students have been with me for 4 years and had one year of a traditional grammar syllabus. I never did add homework back in because they were so successful without it last year.

Almost all of my level 3 students have been with me for 3 years. Unless they came from another teacher or school, they have never had traditional grammar instruction. They can quite literally run circles around where my level 3's were at this same time last year.

This year I also changed my curriculum foundation to be 3 novels at each level. I target the structures I know they haven't had yet using Movie Talk, TPRS Story Asking, music, and more.

And guess what? The gains my students are making are undeniable. Every time we finish a novel, their writing improves dramatically and their speaking improves moderately. They can use more and more language daily.

I still ask myself, "Am I doing this right?" The answer to that probably depends on the day and the responder. I have good days, mediocre days, bad days, and awesome days. I never stop trying to improve my teaching and I try more and more ways of making my content compelling.

Will I ever reach the day when I can say without a doubt that I am "doing it right?" The answer is, "maybe." There will always be a way to improve, new gains in language acquisition research, and new and amazing ways to present language.

And you know what? I'm OK with that. I will always do my best until I know better. Once I know better, I will DO better.  

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Does Your Teaching Need a Micro-adjustment?

I have read a lot of posts lately about making big changes to curriculum, classroom management, teaching style, and more. I have written about some of the big changes I've made to my teaching over the last three years. Big changes can be good - especially if they involve moving from a traditional grammar-based program to a brain-based, comprehensible input program.

Today, however, I received a huge benefit from a micro-adjustment and it got me thinking... what if what you need isn't a huge overhaul or serious change? What if the thing that will make an enormous difference in your classroom/life is just a teeny-tiny, little, micro-adjustment?



First, I need to give you a little background story...


We are vacationing with our horses in Tennessee. You guys! If you haven't visited the foothills and mountains of Tennessee on horseback, you need to add it to your bucket list! This place is gorgeous. And if you compare the weather to Southern Indiana, it's downright divine.

Our first day riding was quite painful for me. I assumed it was all my doing for two reasons 1.) I'm out of shape and 2.) I have never had official riding lessons (that should translate to: I have a horse and a husband who take very good care of me!). I have no idea if my stirrups are adjusted correctly, if the saddle is tight enough or too tight, etc. There are about 582 different ways to adjust a saddle and I don't know any of them. I do know that I have always been a little uncomfortable riding.

Well, this first day out was just plain awful! I was in so much pain that I almost cried for the last 45 minutes of our roughly 5 hour ride. My knees were killing me. I have had problems with them the last few months so I assumed it was a combination of my fitness level and bad knees.

We discussed a multitude of possible causes and solutions (different/new saddle, new stirrups, changing the stirrup length, and more) and in my head they all boiled down to: I'm doing something wrong and I won't be able to fix it.

[Stick with me, I promise I'll get to a connection to comprehensible input soon!]

The next day was forecast to be rainy all day, so we made plans to go to town and do some after-Christmas shopping. On the way out, my husband suggested I find some new boots that weren't as wide (I was wearing hiking boots because my cowgirl boots aren't warm enough for this time of year) and that had a little heel on them. They didn't necessarily have to come from a tack shop or boot store. Just a comfortable boot.

I was willing to try anything.

We went to town and I found boots right away then we completed our other "bargain shopping" and returned to the cabin.

Today, I wore those boots out on the trail. You guys, that teeny, tiny, little change made a WORLD of difference! While I wasn't pain-free, I was definitely in less pain riding than I had been in a very long time. And it got me to thinking....

What if the change we need in our classrooms is also a teeny, tiny adjustment?

If you are struggling with classroom management, try thinking about what students need rather than what you need to change. Maybe they need more routine - as in the same thing every, single class period - or classroom jobs.

Or, maybe you have too many Alpha Dogs in one room who are all fighting for power. Think about what kind of power you can give them and go about doing it systematically. Classroom jobs can come in handy here, also.

Maybe you just have one Alpha Dog and he/she is fighting with YOU for the power. (You can read about how I won over just such a guy here). What is the one, tiny thing you can give him/her to make your life easier?

Your students complain about the class novel and say it's boring. Maybe the tweak you need to make is variety. That can seem like a big one - but really, committing to providing a variety of input methods and post-reading strategies may be all you need. You can read about how I approach novels here (Teaching a Whole Class Novel and Using Novels with Novel Ideas).

Maybe, you are like me during my first year with CI and you have no focus and no clue where you are going. The small thing you need to do is to backwards plan from where you want to end up. This also seems big, but the few hours it will take to do it will seem tiny in comparison to the increased focus of your lessons.

Or, maybe you just can't get the hang of storyasking (not as easy as it looks!). The tiny change you need to make is switching to Movie and Picture Talks. You can still target your structures and you can take out the yells and guessing that so often threw me off track.

Rather than thinking about what you are doing wrong or the next, big, great idea you need to incorporate, take yourself out of the equation and ask yourself, "what do THEY need to be successful at acquiring Spanish/German/French/Japanese...."


Friday, December 28, 2018

Reflections of 2018: Most Positive Change and Least Effective Activity

In continuing with my reflections of 2018, I felt it was important to share my most effective change to my teaching as well as my least effective activity.




I had a lot of positives this semester! 
  • I have had the same students for three and four years in a row, something that won't likely happen in the future, and they have reached levels of understanding and use of Spanish that I never dreamed possible in this amount of time. 
  • We have gotten completely "off track" in multiple classes but stayed in Spanish... (who really won this one? The students who controlled the conversation or me for keeping them 100% in Spanish????) 
  • I met and was mentored by my intellectual idol, Dr. Stephen Krashen!!!!! A dream come true!  
  • I successfully presented at CI Midwest and at Indiana's annual conference, IFLTA. And I strengthened bonds with friends Leslie Phillips and Christy Lade in the process.
  • Did I mention that I met Dr. Krashen????

[I also had a few failures that you can read about here. Definitely not my best moments, but, hey! I am proud I survived and ready to move forward. :)]

Most Positive Change

MY single most important success came from a simple suggestion at iFLT from Kristy Placido. (If you are thinking of attending this summer, in sunny FLORIDA no less!!!, I highly suggest it.)

That success was: anchoring my curriculum with novels.

It seems so simple, really, to give your curriculum a solid foundation in reading - but I just hadn't considered doing it before last summer. I added FVR several times each week and we are tackling three class novels. This gives my lessons a focus that was previously missing. I am not particularly strong at creating my own materials to use in class so we went from Movie Talk to Movie Talk to Embedded Reading to music... all without a solid connection. As such, we learned a LOT of targeted vocabulary but not a lot of content. I was committed to using high frequency words, so the vocab has carried very nicely throughout their years with me. This year, though, we are rocking the content!  What I lack in original material creation skills I make up for by seeing connections and synthesizing the amazing materials of others.

In Spanish 3, we have studied global issues of poverty and pollution in the oceans with amazing materials from Martina Bex, Carrie Toth, Kara Kane Jacobs, and Kristy Placido. You can read more about how I set up my semester here


I have noticed some unexpected benefits from all this reading:

  • Student writing is more focused and complex.
  • Students spell better.
  • Students have more to say!
  • Student vocabularies are expanding (just like Dr. Krashen says they will!!). 


Least Effective Activity

While I had amazing success with my level 3's, somewhere along the way, I got lost with my level 4's. For some reason, we actually started practicing for the STAMP proficiency test they will take in the Spring. For some strange reason, and I can't even imagine why I thought this because I KNOW BETTER... but at the end of the semester, we read some really difficult texts in the name of preparation for "the test."

Complete waste of time. 
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PLEASE DON'T EVER DO THIS! 

The frustration level was up and engagement was down. Hmmm... I wonder why? (She says sarcastically). Up to this point in their Spanish lives, they had only experienced leveled readers that they were very well prepped for. What was I thinking? I can only claim momentary insanity (that, sadly, lasted several weeks).

There you have it. My most effective and important change as well as my most "facepalm" moment. What did you implement this semester that was really effective for you? Is there a class activity that you wish you hadn't completed?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Reflections of 2018: Final Exams

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how I was going to assess my students for final exams. Today, I want to reflect on what was good (or even great!) and what I can make better next time.


First of all, let me share my own personal beliefs about finals:
  • They should not penalize students.
  • They should reflect what students can do (proficiency), not test discreet knowledge about a topic (especially grammar).
  • Most students should be able to finish the exam with time to spare.
And, most importantly:

GRADING THESE TESTS SHOULD NOT TAKE HOURS OF MY PRECIOUS TIME!

I have 120 students. I consider this to be a very manageable number of kids - the classes are just big enough that there is always someone willing to speak, but yet they aren't so big that I fight the classroom management battle. (For an in-depth look at how I survived almost twice that may students last year, read this!) I also don't want to spend a single minute of my break grading. I want to be done by the time I leave the building, grades entered, ready to relax and plan for the next semester.

Level 3
I am so pleased with this final! 

The reading was manageable for all of my students. Using the last chapter of our class novel worked perfectly for us. I saw smiles and looks of surprises and heard gasps as they discovered the final plot twist in the novel, Noche de Oro by Kristy Placido.



When I called students back in groups to chat with me, the conversations all began with students commenting on how much they loved reading this book. I specifically called them up in groups of similar abilities. This made them all feel comfortable - no one felt left behind in the conversation and (from reports, anyway) no one felt like they had to hold themselves back for the sake of someone else's comfort. And they ALL want Kristy to write book #3!

After discussing the novel, I gave students the chance to show what they could do with everything they had learned this semester. We talked about world pollution, poverty, and about how grateful we all are to live in the Midwest. It was a great set-up that I will definitely use again.

For the writing, using their best Spanish, students could choose any world issue we had covered in class and describe it in as much detail as possible, offer a solution, and offer an opinion. This was a great prompt! Students were able to really show off their abilities.

In the listening section, I found a 45 second commercial about a sauce we had tasted earlier this semester. It's from Costa Rica (the setting of the book), so it fit in with our general theme. Students completed a cloze activity (no word bank) and an ordering activity. The visuals from the commercial really helped! I will definitely do this again.

Huge success!
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Level 4

What can I say about my level 4 final? Not much!

I'm happy with the format; it was the same as my level 3 final. The elements of the exam? No so much. When your star student (the one who loves Spanish so much that he completed a 6 week summer honors program through IU in Chile and runs into your class every day because it is the highlight of his day) looks at you and asks, "What are you doing to us? This is WAY too much new vocabulary!" Well, let's just say, you know you did a TERRIBLE job of creating this final!
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Sometimes that happens. They actually did a fabulous job on the final, but the frustration level in completing the reading was palpable - you could cut through it with a knife, it was so thick! I simply chose the wrong thing to read. Sometimes I forget that me understanding an article perfectly does not translate to my students being able to do that.

Lesson learned. Next time, I will make sure I plan a novel to end right at the final so they have a familiar context and lots of familiar vocabulary. Research shows that how you feel at the end of an experience is the criteria your brain uses to create the memory of that experience. I do NOT want my students remembering the pain and torture of a poorly created exam as the basis of their memory of my class!

I promise, I'll do better next time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Reflections of 2018: It's Not ALWAYS a Walk in the Park!

I am so passionate about using CI in my classroom. I have seen amazing results and I know that I know that I KNOW it is the way to acquire a second language. I want to share my results far and wide. To that end, it would seem that it's important to share my successes. However, I'm a bit more realistic than that... some days, well, let's just say......



Life never is. Social media has made "keeping up with the Jones'" a thing of art! Perfection abounds everywhere. We all need a good dose of reality and to realize that practicing our craft and reflecting on our failures are important to continued success. Honestly, teaching is like everything else: good days, bad days, incredible successes, and sometimes, epic failures. To that end, just so you know that not everything is a bed of roses in Señora Jota Jota's classroom, I'm going to share a few of my failures from just this semester.

There are actually quite a few. Especially for one semester!

1. I had an epic presentation fail. Truly epic. I was presenting at an international conference and had a complete technology failure. I'm not a newbie at presenting, I know that technology isn't always going to be my friend. But this time, well, let's just say that I didn't handle it well. To understand my horror, you need a little background info.

You see, there was a gentleman in the audience who had previously spent three entire days berating my Spanish when I presented last year in Spain. He was mean. When we first met, he spoke about a billion miles an hour. I did what I always advise my students to do and has always worked for me in the past, without fail, all around the world: I asked him to repeat himself and to please slow down. What ensued were three excruciating days where every time he saw me, he mocked me and addressed me in exaggeratedly slow and extremely loud Spanish. I was very embarrassed and it caused my affective filter to be raised the entire three days. 

So, I was nervous heading to the presentation because I knew he would be there. Then the technology fail. In an attempt to help, the professor I was presenting with turned to me and told me to just explain it. Just tell them what my movie, that I had worked weeks on, was about. Simple right? I mean, I'm a Spanish teacher after all. Surely I could explain my presentation - even if it was in simple, broken Spanish. But you know what? In that moment, I had nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Not one single word would come out. 

My tongue was lead and felt three feet thick. With crocodile tears in my eyes, I got up and quickly walked to the bathroom... I locked myself in a stall and cried and cried and cried. I was so embarrassed by my reaction and by the fact that I was only capable of crying. I knew what I would tell ANYONE else - don't let it defeat me. I knew I HAD to go back out there, but at that moment, I was literally glued to that stall. Worse yet, everyone knew it. Even the mean guy.

Epic fail. 

2. The following day I took my level 4's to the same conference to speak with a dramaturg (we have a very strong theatre program and I knew he would have some good advice for them) and to watch a play. The day was beautiful; the students were upbeat, engaged, and having fun. We attended the dramaturg's session and ate lunch. Then we went to the play.

And this is where failure #2 occurred. I was told (in writing, no less) that this play was PG and would be OK for me to take my students to see. Have I mentioned that I teach in the "Bible Belt" and that my community is very religious and conservative?

Guess what? That play was not rated PG but, rather, rated R! It was a one-act, one actress show. If I had been there by myself or with my family, I would have really loved it. However, that was not the case and the actress, in the flash of an eye, disrobed. 

Completely. Nude.

Failure #2.

3. This semester, I have also been accused of stealing someone else's ideas and work. Literally stealing. I am the first to say that I use and adapt other people's ideas and lessons. I liberally purchase, use, and adapt lessons from Martina Bex, Carrie Toth, Kristy Placido, Christy Lade, Kara Kane Jacobs, Sharon Birch, and others. Any time I adapt a lesson, I always put on the paper I use in class (or in my blog) from whom the idea originally came. This accusation came as a complete shock to me because 1.), it came from someone I thought was a friend and 2.) I was accused of stealing ideas from someone I met 6 years ago at a conference and spoke to for like 20 minutes. To my knowledge, that person doesn't put anything online and has never shared a single lesson or lesson idea with me. I was completely baffled. And it was said to many people in my area - which is not so big geographically.

4. It seems that I have moved to the bottom of the list of people that other adults in my building want to be around. I have encountered eye rolls and worse this semester. I have been told by multiple students in multiple grades that there is someone in the building who says I am stupid. Literally stupid. And that my classes are stupid and more. I'm not really concerned what this person thinks of me or my classes; they are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But still, the words sting.

So, why am I sharing all this? To get sympathy? Definitely not. I have given myself plenty of pity parties!!

No, I'm really not looking for sympathy, but rather, I want to share that EVERYONE goes through these kinds of failures and struggles. Every single one of us has challenges that we must get through each and every semester that we teach. It's not always perfect and it's definitely not ALWAYS a walk in the park! 

The important thing is how you react! Each of these experiences was a hit to my pride and ego. So much so, that I crawled into my little safety zone of a classroom and didn't come out for a while. I am the kind of person who ruminates on my failures - I chew and chew and chew on them until I have an understanding of what happened and how I can be proactive to ensure they don't happen again. None of these have to do with CI per se... however, you can sure bet they did affect my teaching and energy levels! I am generally a high energy person and the way that I teach CI reflects that. Being distracted by these issues drained me of the extra energy that I usually pour into my lessons.

So, how DID I react???

I did make it out of the bathroom the night my technology failed. I did go back up and I did get through it. It was not pretty, but I am proud that I went back and faced my fears. I shared with my students the next day and told them that THEY were the reason I went back out there. I had to show them that the important thing sometimes is just facing your fears and finishing what you start.

Naked actress in the play? I immediately called my principal and informed him of the situation. I had a parent email already drafted by the time we arrived back at the school. I got out ahead of that scandal as quickly as I could and I took full responsibility for what transpired.

Accusations of stealing? I just have to trust that anyone who knows me also knows that I would never do something like that. This is one of those situations where people will believe what they want and I can only hope that they want to believe the best of me.

Not being everyone's favorite person in the building? Well, that's life, folks! Not everyone is going to love us every minute of the day. Some may never care for us and there isn't a lot we can do about it. Every single one of us sees things through our own lens of how we think, feel, and believe. That means that everyone has their own experiences that color their viewpoints. I can only change my views, not those of others. So, I will continue to do my best to show love in the face of adversity.

While I sincerely hope that none of you has to face a failed presentation with a bully in the audience, a naked actress, false accusations, and more, it is important to know that you will face adversity and you will get through it. Don't let it steal your love of teaching. As the song goes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!

Post-Reading: Circle the Wagons

I have wanted to try Carrie Toth's " Circle the Wagons " post-reading activity for some time and I found the perfect unit to ...