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Deskless classroom activities

30 Apr

I have gone to the deskless classroom and I LOVE it!!  I just ended my 18th week of no desks and have noticed the following improvements:

  • We can get into partners or groups in 30 seconds.
    • I timed them and they loved the competition with my other classes.
    • With 37 desks in my classroom, getting into groups was frustrating….
  • We are doing much more listening and speaking.
  • My students cannot put their heads down.
  • They cannot hide their phones under the desk.

Student writing is a challenge but I have my personal size whiteboards out if they need something firm to write on.
I do have two tables in my room.  One of them is for students who need a desk (I have one accommodated student who uses an iPad).

I know many other teachers are going deskless.  I would love to know what routines and activities you have designed since.  I am trying to mix things up a bit and get some ideas together for summer planning.  Also, having just attended the Comprehensible Input conference I would like to have more of those types of activities.  Please share below!!


Teaching verbs in WL classrooms

13 Jan

This is really just a quest to find out how World Language teachers are teaching verbs and phrases without using verb charts.

I have brought it up lately to my colleagues.  We are curious about how it is working.  I have been giving it a try.  The students are definitely more conversational and have learned a lot of vocabulary with rehearsed phrases and question/answer conversations.  This is what ACTFL says is the novice learner…

What I have learned so far from those of you who are not teaching verbs using the conventional verb charts (at first), is that you use a lot of speaking activities and authentic reading to help with this.  I have also heard that you do teach the verb chart, possibly sometime in the second year after students have been using verbs a while without it.

What I would like to know is the following:

  • What are some of your favorite speaking activities?
  • Do you have some great authentic reading resources for first year?
  • We appreciate any tips that you might have.

I thought it might be easier to ask this way so I could get comments of more than 140 characters.  I appreciate any input.  I want to make sure I am doing what is best for the students.

Gracias, Penny


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How Can I Be a Better Teacher Next Fall? | Edutopia

17 May

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How Can I Be a Better Teacher Next Fall? | Edutopia.


Great blog post on evaluating your year with the help of students.

Saving in my blog to refer back to  🙂


6 May

Jing is a great program that I have been using for a very long time.

It was a life saver when I was teaching elementary and creating my own worksheets, flashcards, etc.

It is used to create screenshots and screen recordings.  You use the crosshairs to outline what you want to capture on the screen, which is an improvement over the Print Screen key on your keyboard that captures everything.

Once capturing what you wish to save on your screen, mark up your screenshot with a text box, arrow, highlight or picture caption.

You can choose to save the image/video or simply copy it for quick use.

Some of our Special Education teachers are using Jing to record them teaching new material.  The program records the Power Point and their voice for students who need to review later or students who are absent.  You are limited to a 5 minute recording for the free version of Jing.

Try it out!  Gracias, 


Now using centers

24 Apr

With the start of a new trimester I began using centers in my classroom.

The main reason I am using centers is because I have many more students in my classroom with Individualized Educational Plans.  This is because 2 years of World Languages are required now to graduate in Michigan, beginning with this year’s Freshmen.

Our high school World Language classes have typically included mostly college bound students who are in the top 20% of their class.  We are all happily learning to differentiate and accommodate learners of all skill levels.  I have found with centers that I can accomplish this in many ways.

1.  I can be available to all students by monitoring the classroom and checking in on their work.

2. One of the centers is occasionally just for students struggling with the current concept.  These are not just students with IEPs, I include other students as well who can use some extra guided practice.  We sit at a table together and go through the material together in a variety of ways.

3. It is a great way to differentiate student work.  All groups have the same objectives, but can complete them in different ways.

Prepping for centers is a lot of work for the first time through, but I have found it to be very much worth it.

I have gotten great ideas for center work form the Creative Language blog.  These gals have great ideas!

Let me know if you have some great ideas for centers in a World Language class.

Gracias, Penny


Great Expectations

9 Apr

Central High School is very excited to have accomplished our goal of being a Progressive School for Great Expectations.  We are the first in the United States to accomplish this.  It has been a long journey which continues in our goal to become a Model High School for Great Expectations.

Great Expectations is a program that gives a culture to your entire school.  Their 17 practices and their Tenets are shared with all teachers and are expressly taught to the students.  

It is now very uncommon now to hear students say “Well, Mr. Adams lets us do this” or “What rule?”.  

As a bonus, our four year journey has caught the attention of Harvard University. They have visited us twice this year.  The first time to see what is going on to have raised our test scores and lower our discipline issues.  They did a case study and praised us exuberantly about the rapport between staff and students, staff to staff and students to students.

They are here again this week filming.  They are creating a video documentation of effective teaching and establishing a culture of caring in our school.  My class was videotaped yesterday while students were doing verb cards.

I just had to share my excitement.  I will be training to teach other teachers the Great Expectations way this April and June in Oklahoma.  When asked about Great Expectations, I like to say that it has taught me to make connections instead of confrontations.

Congratulations Central High School!

Gracias, Penny

Seamless Teaching : Navigating the Inclusion Spectrum

23 Jan

Seamless Teaching : Navigating the Inclusion Spectrum | Teaching Tolerance.

One of the many items to consider when planning lessons is how to accommodate students with IEPs.  This is a good article with many thoughts to consider.

In schools across the country, students in special education and general education are increasingly learning together in inclusive classrooms. This is a significant civil-rights achievement, but it also means students in special education are being taught by general education teachers who may not have the training and skills to best serve them.

Click on the link to find out more under these headings:

What General Education Teachers Should Know

Teaching to All Learners

The Inclusion Spectrum

Starting a new year: Greeting and Getting to Know One Another

12 Aug

I have just returned from vacation.  Other than some “Words with Friends”, it was pretty much tech-free.  Now I am ready to dive into the new year.

I missed a great #langchat while I was gone.  If you are a World Language teacher, you should get involved in our Twitter chats.  They are Thursday nights at 8pm.  A moderator shares the topic for the night and guides us in that topic.  They do a great job.  At the bottom of this post I will share my tricks for participating in a Twitter chat.

The topic I missed last week was “Greeting and Getting to Know One Another”. 

The first week is a challenge for me.  I have mentioned that there is not much content that happens and not much Spanish speaking in my blog post “Flipping the First Week of School”.  Nonetheless, it is an important time for establishing connections and procedures.

Here is the link to the 2012 #langchats.  There are some great topics.
Here are some of my favorites posts from the “Greeting and Getting to Know One Another” chat:

* @dr_dmd and @ZJonesSpanish both like to put music on in the classroom and greets their students at the door with a handshake and a smile.
*@dr_dmd likes using an activity he calls “Hand it to You” where he has students draw an outline of their hands and write one piece of information on each of the fingers. Students then pair up to interview each other before passing their hand tracing to next person. At the end of the exercise, all the hands are collected and displayed together as a “quilt.” As @dr_dmd put it, the beginning of the year is the time to establish a culture of community and collaboration in the classroom.  Hmmm….  maybe this would be a way to share what life’s principles we excel in….

*@Marishawkins and @tonitheisen talked about making Facebook and Twitter-themed bulletin boards on which students can “post” and “tweet” – both fun and relatable for their generation!
*@Elisabeth13 always shows her students a funny target language commercial or video at the end of the first day of class; she wants them to leave laughing.  (This is one of my favorites)
*@SECottrell polls her advanced students to find out what they are interested in doing and learning so that she can tailor assessments to their motivation.
*@Musicuentos suggested an activity to familiarize students with proficiency levels and to help students gauge their own. A description of the activity can be found here: If students understand proficiency levels, they will better understand teacher expectations. As @tmsaue1 reminded us, teachers can take the secrecy out of language learning starting day 1!

I hope if you have already started school, that it is going well.  Michigan has a state law that prohibits school from starting before Labor Day.  I will need every day left to get ready.

If you have never participated in a Twitter chat, there are some tricks I have found:
1.  Open up the site “Tweet Chat“.  Type in the hashtag you would like to follow (#langchat)You will do your posting there.  Tweet Chat automatically adds the hashtag for you.  If you do not use Tweet Chat, you will have to remember to add it.
2.  When someone shares a link, do one of two things.  Either mark it as a favorite so you can check it out later; or right click on the link and open it You will miss a lot of posts in the chat if you look at it too long, so check it out later.  Leave it open in a new tab.
3.  Make sure you favorite posts you want to come back to.
4.  Follow people who share great ideas.  You can always unfollow them later.
5. Participate!  Ask questions and share your ideas.

Twitter is one of the best PLNs anywhere.  I hope if you haven’t been involved with the chats that you will begin.

Gracias, Penny


Flipping the first week of school

29 Jul

I just mapped out my first week of school.  There is never any Spanish content involved. At least, not from the chapter they will begin with.

Here is what I have.  It’s about the same as last year.  I am just trying to decide how to make it flip-like so as to start the year the way I intend to teach it.

Day 1: Syllabus; Participation grade; Introduction to our classroom; notebooks (headings, dating, grading); Spanish rhyme; everyday Spanish class phrases.

Day 2: (In computer lab) Pre-test; Introduction to collaboration with classrooms in Maryland & California; Schooology, Edmodo & Skyward (and probably more as I get organized).

Day 3: 8 Expectations; Life Principles; 17 practices.  These are a part of our school’s culture.  We use the Great Expectations Model school wide.

Day 4: Multiple Intelligence testing; Discuss flipping; Demonstrate the best way to watch videos, read sections & take notes; Forming a great question.

That is my first week.  We begin with a 4 day week.

My initial thoughts about how to approach week one, are to disseminate the information and have students do activities to demonstrate understanding.  This is how it will work in succesive weeks, so I would like to start off that way.  I jusst haven’t ccreated the details yet.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Gracias, Penny

Flipped Classroom daily routine

28 Jul

Here is how I imagine my 70 minutes of Spanish in my advanced classes using the flipped approach.  Eventually I will teach all classes using the Flipped concept.

Following the advice in the “Flip Your Class”book I will begiin class by answering questions.  Students are required to form a relevant question while watching the video or reading the section of the book.  I had thought maybe I would ask them as I was walking around, but then I figured that either there will be lots of the same questions or students would learn from the questions other students had as well.

After that, I plan to run through the current set of Quizlet flashcards.  Then students will start where they left off the day before in their progress towards finishing the chapter.

While students are working, I will be walking about the room.  I will have a clipboard with the list of student names with me.  Across the top of the chart will be a list of all of the activities they are required to do.  As I look over notes, questions, worksheets and other learning activities, I will either put a check next to their name for full credit, or write in the number of points earnedd.  I believe this chart will be very valuable because I can tell how far ahead some students are (they may be able to peer tutor for a class period) as well as how far behind some students are (the ones who need tutoring).  

When I mapped out a full chapter, it appeared that we will finish a chapter a lot more quickly this way.  I have scheduled the lab for Wednesdays for taking qquizzes online and doing some collaborating with our classroom friends in Maryland and California.   They may also need that time to do some research foor the proficiency project and their culture project.  

I feel I will have to have a lot of sponge activities available.  I am still thinking through that.  I also am getting rid of my teacher desk in the classroom and amm working on the class set up.  As I said in my last blog post, I need to figure out a way to direct students who are working on the same activities to thhe same area of the room.  It seems the configuration of studnt placement couldbe different everyday.

This is my proposed routine.   As always, I would love to hear your ideas.  In my next post I will share my ideas for the classroom set up.

Gracais, Penny


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