Interdisciplinary – Study Skills

One of my favorite aspects of teaching Foreign Languages is the fact that we can be creative and teach just about anything! Language is communication so, we communicate when we talk about grammar, but also when we talk about math, literature, the environment, or even science.

I run into this excellent article from El País. Immediately, it made me think about my students. Knowing how to study is key. Some students have the skills to be successful, but they struggle with their academics due to a lack of organization or a lack of understanding about how to study.

Please feel free to use this article as a means to approach study skills in the classroom. There is also a video, so you can also use it to develop listening and speaking skills as well. Enjoy!

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Oculus Magicus

Oculus_Rift_development_kit_2

This is how they look

Magic comes to class when you pull out those bulky, cool, trendy Oculus Rift. As soon as I found out that we got two of those in my school, I knew that I had to use them in class. It turns out that it can be a great tool for the Foreign Language course, and many ideas come to mind as to how they could be implemented in the classroom, so here I am sharing it with you!

But, first things first, some of you may have never heard about this. What are the Oculus Rift? According to their Website, the Oculus Rift is a new virtual reality headset that lets players step inside their favorite games and virtual worlds. A gamer’s dream, as you may think, but what about a learning motivator to add some spark to your course?

Certainly, the Oculus have plenty of potential. In my case, I have decided to make them become my own “language lab”. Since I do not have a language lab close to my room, I think that this tool could be a good temporary solution.

It is quite easy to start using them. Check out this link for a step by step explanation.

Tuscany Demo

Tuscany Demo

The Oculus come in with a Demo. In my case, I had the Tuscany Demo already on them. I have not downloaded any other game yet, but I am sure that there is a world of possibilities out there if  you decide to go over the options provided in their system.

So, given that this is a house and you get to walk in it, what can we do with it in the Foreign Language class? You got it, house vocabulary, prepositions, directions! That’s what I did.

When wearing the Rift, you can turn and look around, but you cannot walk. In order to do so you must use the keyboard in your computer. So, I used this to my advantage requiring students to indicate the directions they wanted to go to next. Yes, an excellent way to apply the command tense (L’impératif) and prepositions. This is how I proceeded:

1. Teaching the impératif.

2. Reviewing prepositions.

3. Reviewing the parts of the house.

4. Multiple exercises in class prior to using the Oculus.

5. Oculus listening and speaking!

* Since I only have 1 oculus, I made sure that my other students had exercises to work on while I was conducting the speaking assignments.

In #5 these were the requirements (all in the target language, obviously):

1. Students describe the scene.

2. Students respond to teacher’s questions: Where are you? Do you like it? How is the weather? What is to your left? What is in front of you? etc.

3. Students direct the teacher to wherever they want to get to in the scene.

4. Toward the end of their experience, student locates an item in the house.

5. Student explains to next student how to get to the item that he located (scavenger hunt type of way)

6. Next student tries to find the object and confirms with previous student if it was the item that he had selected for the “scavenger hunt”.

Note: When using this demo, I highly advise you to limit each student’s intervention to a maximum of 4 minutes. Most of us (including myself) get motion sick after 4 or 5 minutes. I do not know if this happens with all games in the Oculus, but this is my experience with the Tuscany Demo. Also, please make sure that you tell students to let you know if they want to stop at any time if they are feeling sick.

Do you want to see it in action? Check out this video created by my favorite Educational Technologist, Lee Howell, and check out her blog here.

And you, have you ever used the Oculus Rift in your class? If so, what did you do with them? If not, how would you like to use them? Please, share and comment below.

Have a wonderful, oculus magicus lesson!

Fun Friday!

It’s Friday.

We are all tired, and ready for the weekend. Sometimes at this time of the week students cannot focus unless the learning comes easily to them. We, as educators, must disguise the learning so that they are acquiring the content without really realizing about it. Can that be done? Yes! So what’s the deal?

Yesterday we started to learn the vocabulary of the song ¨In Summer¨ from the Frozen movie. As you may know, students are going crazy with this movie, they just love it. So this song came in handy since they AND I like it too (it makes me think about Summer). Talk about a treat for the teacher! We also want to have fun on Fridays, right? 😉frozen

 

I cut the lyrics of the song and had them put them in order. That is the way in which I started the activity with this song. Students struggled a bit but most of them got it right after listening to it around 3 times. The 3rd time I made sure to stop after every other line in order to give them time to proceed. Some of them were a bit confused at first, but at the end they found it fun. I think this is a good exercise to hone their listening skills.

Next, we just listened and enjoyed the song while singing it at the same time.

So, today, we started the class listening to it twice and reviewing the lyrics in the target language. And then, the fun began. We played freeze dance, but with a little twist. Students had to freeze whenever I stopped the song but, also, had to be paying close attention to the lyrics. When I stopped, I would choose a student randomly, and would ask him what the last word he/she heard was. The student had to tell me this word in the target language and, also, translate it into English. They loved this game and wanted to play it many times. The winners received some candy, this made the competition even more fun for them – you know how much they love food!

freeze

bingo

We continued the lesson with a bingo game. They had to include the terminology from the song and from the latest chapters. We were playing the In the Summer song in the background. One student led the bingo activity. It was a great way to review the vocabulary and to practice their listening and speaking skills.

That is, a Fun Friday!

 

Let’s GoAnimate!

GoAnimate is an excellent tool for almost anything! This site has a lot of potential. I am so glad that my school got a membership! The options are just unlimited…

Click on the image. It will direct you to GoAnimate's site.

This year I decided to use GoAnimate in both my 6th grade Spanish and French classes. We are currently reading a very fun and engaging TPRS book: Noches misteriosas en la Alhambra/Nuits mystérieuses à Lyon written by Kristy Placido and published by TPRS Publishing – totally recommended, find it here.

So… this book leads to a lot of projects! My students are thoroughly enjoying it. Last year I used the free version of GoAnimate. It is great, since students can create mini project with cute characters for free. But, the paid version is obviously better. With the paid version there are more character and movement options and, the best part, students can create longer movies.

We are currently in the chapter 3 of the novel. I wanted my students to review the vocabulary and events of the story while at the same time showcase some creativity. Therefore, the requirements for this project were to summarize one chapter’s event and creating an alternate chapter. I gave students a document with the following instructions:

You will be creating a long video in GoAnimate in which you will summarize the events that take place in the chapters read so far in our class novel. You can choose to just represent one chapter or more than one BUT you must also include a continuation made up by you. This continuation is the most creative part since only in this section you will not be following the events that actually happen in the novel, you will be making up your own!

You will have one day in class to write your script, another day to be trained on the tool, and three days to work on the project. Once done, do not forget to publish it!

This assignment is due on Monday, March 10th.

Please see the rubric for more information.

So, as you can see, I made sure to scaffold the process:

– Script creation.

– Tool training.

– Project development.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this scaffolding practice. Students tend to get lost in the technology. And GoAnimate leads even more to this ¨lost in the technology¨ situation. The tool is very appealing to students: the colors, movements, and little accessories that they can add are just countless. It is almost like a game for them. The teacher must make sure that students work on the nitty gritty first, this is, the content; later on they can get lost and play with the little cartoons, colors, and accessories.

I am sharing my rubric with you. Please feel free to modify it: GOANIMATE_PROJECT_RUBRIC.

Pros of this tool:

Versatility. This site can be used for almost anything! All you need is imagination. Examples: students projects such as creative writing in any course, even math, government or history class; flipped classroom, created by teachers or students; listening exercises or tests, perfect for language courses. Can you think of any other option? Please post it in the comments field under this post entry.

Audio. Students can record their voices. This is a feature that I specially value in my Foreign Language course since it can be used kind of like a language lab.

Feedback. Students have the option to comment on each other’s projects. You could make this a class activity. I assigned it for homework. They had to watch at least one project and then comment on it in Spanish/French.

User friendly. Very easy to used. If you are not too techy, no worries. Check out this tutorial.

Cons of this tool: Very few, but there are some cons:

Game appeal. Students may get overexcited and may start playing with the cartoons instead of focusing on the content. This con can easily be fixed. All this takes is extra monitoring from the teacher, and scaffolding, scaffolding, scaffolding! Provide due dates and grades per due date so that students are forced to follow your deadlines.

Audio issues. This always happens, not just with GoAnimate but with any tool that has an audio feature. The problem is not as much the website but the student’s computer: their microphone may not work, they may not have Flash installed, they may be using the wrong browser, etc. The good news is GoAnimate has an excellent customer service line so, if problems arise, you can always contact them and they will work on their end in order to fix the problem.

Lastly, I would like to share some of my students projects with you! They are outstanding and very fun, they are so creative and engaged. GoAnimate is a treat, for students and educators alike.

GoAnimate in Spanish here!

GoAnimate in French here!

Draw My Life in ELE and FLE

As you may know, there is a ¨Draw My Life¨ trend in YouTube. It consists of recording a video of your life while drawing in a whiteboard. It’s quite cool and entertaining. Obviously, most of your students most likely have heard about this (my 6th graders all knew about it before me!)

Students drawing

Student recording

So, I wanted to create something similar in my class. We have not     learned past tense yet in 6th grade so talking about their lives may       have been too hard for their level. Instead, I had them create a story (creative writing in the target language). In this story they       had to use vocabulary and structures previously learned in the course. Creativity is always highly encouraged! Also, it was required to integrate some cultural aspects of their ¨country of adoption¨. This is, their Hispanic/Francophone country that they are assigned at the beginning of the school year in my class. Students had first to research  about some cultural characteristic that they would later incorporate in the storyline.

Students using Imovie

The story creation was the first section of the project. While doing this, students were not aware yet of what they were going to do with their story afterwards. I do not want for them to get distracted with technology, so I gave them a few days to create their own, personal story in the target language. I shared a rubric with them to make clear my expectations for this part of the assignment: Writing_RUBRIC

Once the story was completed and graded by me, I explained the Draw My Life idea. I gave them the option to use index cards, some students are more technological than others, so I differentiated and made sure that each student was in their comfort zone. I also shared a rubric with them, you can find it here.

And the results were, as usual, outstanding! All students were on task, enjoying every minute of the assignment. They were helping each other record and they were proud with the final result, so was I!

Check out these links to find some examples of the projects that my 6th graders beautifully completed for our World Language Class. Enjoy!

In Spanish:  http://vimeo.com/81144850 and http://vimeo.com/81144849

In French: http://vimeo.com/81144851 and http://vimeo.com/81144852

Global Citizenship in the 21st Century Classroom

My dear colleague Maria Dona-Morice and I will be presenting a session at ACTFL titled: ¨Global Citizenship in the 21st Century Classroom¨. This session was selected by FFLA attendees as Best of FFLA (Florida Foreign Language Association). In this presentation we will be giving examples of projects implemented in our courses (French and Spanish). This should be useful to any Foreign Language Teacher.

It is our responsibility to promote diversity and culture awareness in our class! Enjoy the Power Point below and drop me a line if you want more information. Bon voyage!

We are the world

Global Citizenship in the 21st Century Class (1)

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th to October 15th: Hispanic Heritage! Let’s celebrate it and embrace the culture of traditions of the Hispanic World!

hisp

This year, I decided to approach this as a collaborative project. Not just fostering student collaboration, but teacher collaboration as well. This time, our project has taken place between grades, ranging from 6th grade regular Spanish class to 8th grade Honors class. What a challenge!

Ms. Villa and I thought that implementing this project in our Spanish class would be very educational and fun for our kids. This is the first time that I do an activity with students with so many different levels. Ms. Villa has 8th grade Honors Students while I have 6th grade kids, some of which have never learned Spanish before…. this may look a big crazy BUT it has been done AND the outcome has been tremendously gratifying for both students and teachers.

hispanicFirst off, I started by teaching my kids the most common food and restaurant vocabulary expressions. To this end, I found some very useful slide shares on the web. I found these very easy to visualize and very well explained:

Restaurante Presentation

Comida Presentation

We went over all this vocabulary for two weeks. In the meantime, we reviewed it with games, listening, dictations, readings, and speaking assignments. Students loved to share with the class their favorite foods (using me gusta/no me gusta) and restaurants. We also discussed about:

– Tipping culture in Hispanic Countries (Spain, in particular)

– Traditional foods from Hispanic Countries

– Traditional Hispanic restaurants in our area

At the beginning of the year, I gave each student a new Hispanic “origin”. They are very proud to be from another country for one year! I have some students from Peru, some others from Spain, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, etc.

Before creating our menu, students from both classes had to decide what the name of the restaurant would be. To this end, I created a survey in survey SurveyMonkey. Students voted and we came up with our Restaurant name!

For this project, students had to team up in groups of 3. Each group had to create a menu and bring a 3 course meal. Each dish from the course will be from each student’s country. We ended up having a menu with an appetizer from Peru, main dish from Argentina, and a dessert from Uruguay: a great cultural melting pot!

Check out this Google doc to find out more about Project Instructions and Rubric

I was impressed with the results. My 6th graders mingled in with their 8th grade peers as if there was no language barrier. My students were perfectly prepared so they felt proud and confident to have the required conversations at the restaurant.

With this assignment students learned to implement vocabulary in real life situation. The classroom became the best immersion scenario. Mixing food, traditions and culture was just the perfect melange, the perfect melting pot.

Foreign Festivities in the World Language Classroom

We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams. – Jimmy Carter.

Tolerance is a key component of a World Language class. To learn a foreign language is to open oneself to others; this includes to open oneself to other beliefs and cultures. That is why I try to integrate culture awareness whenever possible. Canary Islands day (on May 30th) is a great opportunity to implement a fun, educational and cultural lesson plan.

Since I am from these islands, students get really excited with this plan; there is a personal connection with this place. They receive first-hand knowledge from a Canarian native: me! I always do this at the end of the year. Not only it is a perfect set of exercises for those last days of school, but also it matches the real Canary Islands day celebrations on May 30th!

This the lesson goes:

1. Does the word Canary Islands sound familiar? Does it sound like a beautiful place? Let’s check it out with this amazing video:

and this one:

2. Exercises about video:

a. What is its main idea? Do you like the islands? Why?

3. Now we will learn the geographical location of the islands. I point at a map and I give an oral introduction (a bit of English, a bit of Spanish) about its location and the particularities of each island.

4. We will be doing some research online about the Canarian Museum and some key Canarian words. Students receive the worksheets (below). Note: Please make sure that the research is done using http://www.google.es

5. San Borondon Legend. Reading and exercises (below)

6. Homework: What are “Pintaderas Canarias”? Students must research and write a paragraph about their importance. They will choose their favorite one and will explain its meaning.

pintadera-41  pintaderas

7. Receta de las “papas arrugás¨.

papas

Worksheets: Dia de Canarias

8. What about some music? Let’s sing and dance while we learn the vocabulary with this song. Here is the video: 

9. May 30th: Canary Islands Party! We will be eating Canarian Food that students have previously researched and cooked at home. Some of the food that we will be having will include bananas, papas arrugadas con mojo, gofio y tortilla española.

We also sing the song ¨Vivo en un Archipielago¨, and we will listen to traditional Canarian music while we dance Canarian Folklore:

This is an easy song to dance:

La Punta y el Tacón Lyrics

10. We will be coloring and researching Canarian drawings. Students will choose two drawings from the ones provided and will explain to the class their importance in the Canarian culture. Here they are.

11. Today we will be having a Skype conference with the Museo Canario! This is the power point that they will be showing us. We will also be able to see real Guanche materials, live!

Presentación del Museo Canario.

12. For homework, students will search current events in the islands. They will write a summary of one of the news that they find most interesting using one of these two Canarian newspapers: Canarias7 or La Provincia.

13. Lesson plan finale: Tshirt painting! Students will design Canarian Tshirts as a way to wrap up everything learned these days. They can choose to draw a pintadera, lucha canaria, the islands or even Canarian words. Creativity is always highly encouraged.

I hope that you enjoy this lesson plan and that you are able to incorporate it in your course. Students certainly have a blast, and I enjoy teaching them my culture and language. ¡Feliz día de Canarias!