In January, while on Twitter, I came across an education book called Start. Right. Now. I purchased the eBook and began reading. It was so positive and really made want to challenge myself. I have decided to take some of what I learned from reading Start. Right. Now. by Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul & Jimmy Casas. There were so many things that grabbed my attention. My focus is to “grow each day”. With that in mind, I decided to try some new things.
Because I enjoyed the book so much, I am facilitating a virtual book club on it through the staff development department in my district. I set out to do this not even sure if anyone would sign up. A few friends of mine were the first to sign up. Now, there are nineteen educators (many of whom I had never met before) in my district signed up and we just began our first week of discussion. It is already a very lively and active group. The conversation has gone beyond our little Google Classroom and spread to Twitter. I am beyond thrilled that I decided to try something new and go for it. I am learning as much as, if not more than, my book club members. Reading the book a second time has also given my new insights. If you are an educator, you should start reading this book right now (sorry, I couldn’t help but be cheesy there!)
It was just a couple of months ago that I started blogging. I am finding my ‘blogger voice’ and I couldn’t believe that when I posted about creating digital breakouts, I had over one thousand people read my post. And, even more gratifying was having one of my blog posts published on the CI Peek Blog by Fluency Matters. Check it out here. And, if you are a language teacher and not subscribed to this blog, get on that!
This school year has been one where I have been seeking the ‘joy’ in my teaching. (While at home with a pretty awful sinus infection, I binge watched some old episodes of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and in one episode, a doctor who serves as a leader/teacher/mentor to the younger doctors on the show was telling them to find the joy. Funny how that struck me to be so relevant.) I have been moving towards a more comprehensible input based classroom. I started using Fluency Matters novels in my ninth grade classes. My students are acquiring more language, without even realizing it. I have nearly abandoned homework (thank you Alice Keeler). In my AP Spanish Language classes, Friday’s are now ‘Book Club Friday’s’. There are no tests on our book club books. Just focused collaborative group work in class. Sometimes it is #BookSnaps (thank you Tara Martin), sometimes discussion and comprehension questions to guide them (thank you Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell for your amazing eBook guides for Cajas de cartón & La Ciudad de las Bestias) or group reflections with endless creative options (this week, I have students who are creating screencasts & writing raps - the rap idea came from them!) What I find amazing about these Friday’s is that they pretty much run themselves. Of course, I go around to different groups and interact, but I was home sick last Friday and things went just as smoothly with a substitute. The best part is that my students are reading in Spanish and enjoying it without worrying about a quiz or test.
Tech coach extraordinaire Jen Fischer has been offering ‘drive through PD’ weekly in the school library, so I have been checking in to hear about new tech tools. About two weeks ago, the topic was Flipgrid. If you have not tried out Flipgrid yet, I suggest you do. I currently have Flipgrid One (the free product) and the teacher sets up a topic (this can be written or include a video) and students get a link which can be shared on a LMS like Google Classroom. They open the link, click “add a response” and record a video of themselves (for up to 90 seconds), using Flipgrid and the camera on their computer, responding to the topic. Once the video is recorded, they can then take a thumbnail photo to go along with it. Unlike submitting individual recordings via a platform like Google Classroom where only the teacher would have access to them, all students can see the videos of their classmates and ‘like’ them (this is similar to what most of our students do on social media sites like Instagram). Initially I was concerned that my students might not want to share with their peers this way. As it turns out, they LOVED it. The videos were adorable. And, I had students begging for more. The prep work for this is minimal. So, more they shall have! I used it as a way for students to react to the documentary we just watched called ‘Landfill Harmonic’ (which is currently being shown on HBO Latino). If you have never heard of this orchestra from Paraguay, consisting of children playing instruments constructed from recycled trash, check out the YouTube video below - it is phenomenal. The sound that came from the oil can cello is unbelievable and comes in the first ninety seconds.
Hoping to keep the positivity coming. I will continue sharing about my journey here. And, if you’re looking to try something new, start right now - ok, I will stop doing that!
High school Spanish teacher in NJ. Google for Education Certified Trainer. Always looking to try new things in my classes. Technology junkie.