Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Simple Cultural Comparison Activity About Christmas Trees

I FREQUENTLY LIKE TO BEGIN MY CLASSES WITH A QUESTION OR POLL, something simple that my students of any ability can answer and engage in. These types of activities are particularly great for novice learners as there is entry for all. During the month of December I like to ask about decorations and traditions my kiddos are doing at home (I teach in a district where all students celebrate Christmas, even the few Jewish families, who celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah), so I don't run the risk of leaving any little friends out.

OF COURSE, I AM ALWAYS LOOKING FOR A CULTURAL CONNECTION whenever possible, so I reached out to friends and colleagues in and from a variety of Spanish speaking countries to find out about what type of Christmas tree is most often put up, real or artificial. I put the results into a simple infographic that can be used to extend the question: Is your tree real or artificial, yes or no? I have purposely kept the text simple so even Novice Low students can access information. The circles are a general representation of the breakdown in each country represented (don't quote them as exact statistics :) ) A huge THANK YOU to all who helped me with this project!


Cultural Comparison of Christmas Trees in Spanish speaking countries

I ALSO RECORDED ONE OF MY 3RD GRADE CLASSES ANSWERING THE QUESTION ¿Has armado un árbol de navidad en casa? You can see the video here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas E Cards to Download in Multiple Languages

NEW CHRISTMAS E CARDS FOR 2017! Last year I debuted our FREE downloadable e cards, and have been hard at work making this year's set, featuring more languages! You can grab last year's if you missed them by clicking here :)

JUST CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW EACH E CARD, download and send some holiday cheer via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email to family, friends and colleagues! Once again let's fill cyber space with multicultural and multilingual joy :)

French Christmas E Card
Click here to download
Spanish Christmas E Card
Click here to download
Russian New Years E card
Click here to download
Spanish Christmas E card
Click here to download
Bon nadal E card
Click here to download
German Christmas E Card
Click here to download

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Illustrated Chorus to the Traditional Villancico Campana sobre campana

I JUST LOVE THE SONG CAMPANA SOBRE CAMPANA, it is such a huge part of my Christmas each year, and I try to make it meaningful for my students, too. In 3rd and 4th grade, my students learn the chorus-it's easy, concrete, and repetitive, the perfect ingredients for an authentic resource for novice learners. I created this infographic which you can download for FREE by clicking here. During our winter assembly my kiddos sing the chorus, and hum the rest of the song. I use the version from the book/cd 'Villancicos' by Constanza Basaluzzo (available on Amazon), but there are many other wonderful choices on Youtube (I've put a few below the infographic). Enjoy and have fun!

Campana sobre campana letra ilustrada

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tips for Assessment Part 2 - Ideas for Elementary Foreign Language Classes

ASSESSMENT IN ELEMENTARY FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES is a daunting task, especially when you have literally hundreds and hundreds of students, and you need to manage tracking data in order to provide reliable and valid grades for report cards. In Part 1 of this series, I shared some ways I assess which have been successful (click here to read this post!) and in this one we're going to look at some ways to keep all that data straight (Part 3 deals with rubrics and determining a grade-coming soon!).

SO, GOT DATA? I SURE DO! On average, each of my classes has anywhere from 17-24 kiddos, and I am grading them on 5 standards (with sub categories under each one) and 3 work habits. I am sure you are faced with a similar number...and you just can't keep all that information in your head! (Or, at least, I wouldn't recommend it :) ) I do assessments for the 5 standards at the end of each theme I teach, plus a variety of mini assessments through out each theme. I also record formative assessment grades on a regular basis, both for the standards and for work habits. I will say, we grade on a 4 point scale (4 being Above and Beyond, 3- Meets, 2- Needs assistance, and 1- Area of Concern). We send out report cards at the end of each trimester, which is to say by the time the first one goes out at the beginning of December, I have seen each of my classes a total of approximately 12 hours (not factoring in holidays, field trips, assemblies, etc). That's not a whole lot of time to be grading a kiddo... but I digress...

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

LACK OF TIME NOTWITHSTANDING, I MARK DOWN DATA EVERY CLASS, whether it be for work habits, or a formal or informal assessment. Here are some examples of how I keep this data organized:

*CHARTS: Yes, we all use them! I started using this mini charts a few years ago to track work habit data. You could use them to track any type of formative data (or summative for that matter) over time- I like them because they are small and easily portable. Even though I am no longer on a cart, this is still a big consideration for me! #oldhabitsdiehard The ones in the picture below are for work habits (Using time wisely, taking care of materials & room, being focused & taking part in activities).  If you would like to download them for free, click here!

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

*REUSABLE DATA COLLECTION CHARTS: I had used a variation on this for a few years but found it time consuming to make new names, so switched to this creation this year and am loving it. I got some library pockets, marked each 4,3,2,1, & absent, then made strips with my kiddos names on them (one folder for each class). Sometimes it is challenging to get to my computer to input grades in the moment, so this system is fantastic as I am circulating around the room. To make it even easier for me, I used two colors, yellow for girls and blue for boys-searching for a name is quick and painless! I just stick their name strip in the appropriate pocket as I am grading, then input the grades later in my computer. And, if I want to make a particular note on a student, I can do so on the name strip. TO MAKE: Use file folders, such as manila ones (or super nice ones from Staples or other supply store!) and stick library pockets on the inside-be sure you have the openings pointed upward when the folder is closed on BOTH sides!. Label each pocket with a grade, along with one pocket for absent kiddos. Label the folder for the homeroom teacher-make one for each homeroom. Cut strips of paper and write kids names on them- I house them all in the 3 (Meets) because statistically most kids perform there, and therefore I only have to change a small number of kids-unless a large number bomb the activity, which prompts me to look at the assessment and try to figure out why! #maybeIneedtoreteach

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

*I LIKE TO SEE HOW MY KIDDOS ARE DOING OVER TIME,  especially with vocabulary we use on a regular basis. This is a great way to show growth over time-identify a vocabulary set which you consider key content, incorporate it regularly so kids practice it frequently, and track their responses. You should see an increase in responses, as well as more accurate responses over time, which you can then use to show growth. A set of vocabulary that lends itself particularly well to this is greetings, emotions, and mini conversation vocab. My kiddos do a greeting activity at the beginning of every class in which they greeting someone else and ask how she/he is doing. Over the course of the program, more and more vocabulary is added so kids have many choices and can express a variety of emotions and modifiers. I track their responses every class, using a simple system of checks (no prompt needed), a P (prompt is needed for kid to say phrase/word), - (even with prompt kiddo can't express in Spanish). Each class I have 6 kiddos take a turn (so we don't use all of class for this activity)- I use colored markers so I can see responses for each round. This gives me an idea of when they start adding new responses, which frequently happens over time. Here is an example (the T3 is for Trimester 3):

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

and one with P's- note how those change to checks over time:

Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

Interested in this chart? You can download it for free here.

*AND SOMETIMES I MAKE NOTES ON STICKIES... every year I say I am going to get away from this practice, but there are those times when you just want to make a quick note and the stickie is the best way to go!

I hope this has been helpful! Please share your data tracking tricks in the comments- I would love to learn from you!


Monday, November 6, 2017

Cultural Connections: Comparing Turkeys in México & US as part of a Thanksgiving Theme in Spanish Class

WANT TO BRING CULTURE TO YOUR SPANISH CLASS AROUND THANKSGIVING? Here's a simple activity that is perfect for all ages- comparing TURKEYS! Those of us who live in the US are very familiar with the wild turkey of our woods and fields, relatively drab brown and once a contender as the national bird, but have you ever seen photos of the Ocellated Turkey of México? It's feathers are reminiscent of a peacock, with blues, purples, mauves, and more, making him quite a looker! This fancy turkey is a great way to infuse some culture into an otherwise very American holiday celebration, and little kiddos LOVE to talk about animals so you can be sure your students will be interested! (I have a picture of this turkey outside my classroom all year round, and my students regularly comment on it!).

Thanksgiving Turkey Comparison Activity for Spanish Class


*START BY SHOWING A PHOTO OF THE US WILD TURKEY; your kiddos will most likely be familiar with it! Ask some simple yes/no questions about him such as 'Is this turkey from _____ (insert your state name)? Do you like to eat turkey? Do you have turkeys at your house? (If you live in a rural location this is probably going to resonate with your students! We have them in backyards all over the place here in Maine ) Then, place him on a large map using a smaller picture (you might want to have several since there is wide distribution across the states)

*NEXT SHOW A PICTURE OF THE OCELLATED TURKEY- can you believe this is a turkey, too? Indicate where this turkey lives (NOTE: Ocellated Turkeys also live in Guatemala!) and place a small picture on the map in México/ Guatemala. You can find pictures of both turkeys on line; I have a few of the Ocellated Turkey (el pavo ocelado) saved on my Pinterest board here.

Thanksgiving Turkey Coloring Page Cultural Comparison for Spanish Class

*REVIEW COLORS BY IDENTIFYING THOSE OF EACH TURKEY (US & México)- project pictures of each turkey on a smartboard or have them printed out and ask kiddos to name the colors of each turkey. You can list the colors named underneath each turkey, and/or put them on sentence strips.

*LASTLY, KIDS CAN COLOR THE ACTIVITY PAGE, coloring each turkey appropriately. This is a great way to bring the learning together. You can download this activity page for FREE here.

*AS A FOLLOWUP ACTIVITY you can create a writing center activity with the photos and have the kids label the colors on each turkey.


Thanksgiving Turkey Activity Pages for Spanish Class


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mystery Pictures Listening Comprehension Activity

I'M A HUGE FAN OF LISTENING COMPREHENSION ACTIVITIES, I will admit! Yes, I want my kiddos to speak, and I think as teachers sometimes we are so eager to get our students talking that we scrimp on the listening practice, but the two really go hand in hand and giving our students plenty of listening comprehension activities is key to good foreign language teaching at any level. Here is a simple game you can adapt to any age or proficiency level by simply changing up the descriptions to suit your class.

Listening Comprehension Activity for Foreign Language Class

SELECT A SET OF IMAGES THAT COINCIDE WITH YOUR THEME and/or vocabulary you would like your students to practice. Write up a simple (or more complex) description of each picture, using target vocabulary. I like to choose some pictures which are similar to each other so that students really have to consider the entire description and the answer isn't always readily apparent. Arrange the pictures on a large piece of paper (or as a slide on Google Drive to be projected) and number each one.

Listening comprehension Activity for Foreign Language Class

YOU'RE NOW READY FOR CLASS! Read a description out loud and instruct students to write down the number corresponding to the picture they think you are describing. I have mini white boards which I love to use for this activity. Once everyone has written their answer, I go around the circle quickly and ask each kid to say out loud the number they have chosen-a great way to incorporate numbers!

Listening Comprehension Activity for Foreign Language Class

I THEN DISCLOSE THE CORRECT PICTURE, and we start again! Once students have gotten the hang of how to play, you can call up kiddos to choose a mystery picture and describe it to the class. You can play along for more fun-it's always hilarious when I am wrong!

LOOKING FOR ANOTHER FUN LISTENING COMPREHENSION GAME? Check out how to play Gato (Tic Tac Toe) with your whole class here!

Have fun!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes PART 1

I RECEIVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW I DO ASSESSMENT IN MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH CLASSES, and I see it mentioned regularly in professional forums online. With the sheer number of students most of us carry, and the limited time we have with them, assessment becomes a significant challenge, especially if we want it to be valid and reliable. On top of that, we want it to be MANAGEABLE! To that end, I thought it might be helpful to gather together some tips and resources that I have found helpful; because it is such a big topic, I decided to break this into three posts-in this post I focus on TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS that I have found effective and accessible. Part 2 focuses on ways to TRACK DATA on large numbers of students (click here to read!), and Part 3 will tackle WRITING RUBRICS and DETERMINING GRADES. (Post 3 coming soon!)

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

BEFORE WE MAKE A FORAY INTO TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS, let's be sure we have done our backward planning. Before you start a theme/unit, identify key vocabulary and skills that you want your students to acquire by the end of the timeframe. This step is crucial; if you don't know what your expectations are, how will you know if your students have met them? And, how will you even know what to teach? Eeekkk! Whether it be students demonstrating comprehension of a key set of vocabulary (listening comp), or being able to answer a set of questions on a familiar topic, or writing a short description of their pet using adjectives and full sentences, be sure you have this laid out ahead of time. This will then help you determine what TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS will work best to glean the data you need.

OK, SO TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS...what kinds work well for elementary level? Here's a bulleted list of ones that I have found effective (and are generally those that are used at many levels! :) ).. I also think they highlight the WHAT I ASSESS also:

*EXIT/ENTRANCE SLIPS: I like these for quick formative assessments- they serve to practice reading comprehension of simple questions that recycle old vocabulary. I use these mostly for my 4th grade classes, with questions such as '¿Cómo estás? (How are you?), ¿Te gusta el guacamole? (Do you like guacamole?), ¿Cuál es tu color favorito? (What's your favorite color?) and so on. Sometimes the questions are directly related to the theme we are in, such as ¿Cómo eres tú? (What are you like?) when we are learning 'I am ___' phrases or ¿Qué escribe Arturo con el lápiz mágico? (What does Arturo write with the magic pencil?).

*LISTENING COMPREHENSION TASKS: At the elementary level, these typically run the gamut of very simple instructions to hone in on a key vocabulary set (Point to the ___, put the dinosaur on the ____,  etc), or 'Draw your favorite food and label it', etc. This also includes asking questions orally and having students answer verbally or in writing (A TIP with oral questioning- you can do this two ways- a) an open ended question that has many answers to it or b) questions which have a predetermined answer such as those tied to a story you are reading or are fact based such as 'What color is an elephant?' In the second scenario, you can develop a set of questions that all assess the same skill of comprehending a question based on a familiar topic, and rotate the questions so you don't have students just copying what the last person said. You can also rotate the questions over the course of a few classes so students end up answering multiple questions.)

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

*SPEAKING SKILLS- I find these the most challenging to assess individually due to time constraints, so I try to get as much bang for my buck when doing them. For example, with my 1st & 2nd graders, I will frequently do polls, tables, and graphs which elicit personal information from my students such as 'What's your favorite color?', Which fruit(s) do you like?,  Do you like strawberry ice cream? Which flavor ice cream do you like the most?, How many brothers/sisters/cats/dogs do you have? etc. I keep charts (see my post on tracking data) over a certain number of classes so I can tell whether they are able to answer a series of questions. With the ice cream questions, for example, I might ask that question (changing the flavor) three, four, or five times (with the answer choices being: yes, I like it; yes, I like it alot; no, no I don't like it, etc). By the fifth time, I have a good sense of whether each kiddo can answer the question appropriately or whether they still a prompt.

Another speaking assessment I do is to track the answers kiddos give during our greeting activities. Since we do a greeting every day, I can get a fair amount of data over time to be able to gauge whether they can answer the question 'How are you?', and for my older kiddos, if they can engage in a mini conversation with someone else. If you would like to see/use my tracking data sheet for Spanish class, you can download it free here.

*WRITING- Yes, writing! I am firm believer in giving students opportunities to write in the target language, even if it is as simple as labeling a picture by using a word bank. Writing is another mode of practice, and I see my students building on spelling and reading skills by doing writing activities. I do not expect my students to have perfect spelling (or even be able to spell out words, I just don't have the dedicated time to get to that point- two 30 minute classes a week), but I do expect them to use our resources to copy words, and piece together sentences based on word banks.  At the end of some themes, I have students bring together what they have learned in a writing/ sharing 'mini project'. For example, at the end of our Pet Theme in 3rd grade, students write a simple description of their pet using full sentences. As they write, I circulate around the room, monitoring their progress and giving prompts as necessary. I can easily grade kids since I am amongst them, paying attention to who needs help and who doesn't.

*CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE- I also assess cultural knowledge at different points throughout my grade levels, most specifically facts about countries, people, and/or celebrations. For example, in 2nd grade my kiddos learn about Days of the Dead, and then illustrate/label 4 Datos sobre el Día de los Muertos (4 Facts/Aspects). If they can identify FOUR aspects of the holiday (such as marigolds, sugar skulls, candles, monarch butterflies, etc) they meet the expectation. Simple but effective :) Another simple assessment I do is for my 4th graders, at the end of our salsa theme, to illustrate the ingredients and label them. In First Grade my students identify 4 Datos Sobre Venezuela (Four Facts about Venezuela), again illustrating and labeling things they have learned. Another great way to assess at this age level is to do a Venn Diagram, such as the one my First Graders do comparing Mexican hot chocolate and hot chocolate in the US. All of these are culminating activities that we do in the course of the theme, rather than as separate stand alone assessments, which is to say, they are activities to do in and of themselves, I just happen to assess them, also :)

Assessing Culture in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

THIS IS BY NO MEANS AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST, but I hope it has sparked some ideas for your classroom! Be on the lookout for my next posts coming soon-follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you hear about them first!