Sunday, December 30, 2007

Grade Conferencing

In reading "Seeing how good we can get it" by Kelly Chandler and Amy Muentener, there is talk about the idea of conferencing with students about grades.
They meet with students for a self-evaluation conference and go over four categories: reading, writing, use of time and participation (which they had discussed as a class a number of times). The teacher and the student came to the conference prepared with a grade and explanation for each of the categories. They apparently only disagreed significantly with a student three times. Cool.

I thought I might be able to do that one-on-one after an oral exam... but I have been grading them on a rubric for that... does it make a difference that I'm grading them?
Can that still work in the context of them giving themselves their grades?
Do normal, day-to-day grades (tests/quizzes/exams) fit into the scheme or does it necessitate that those are gone as well?

Or does it just matter that it can be a step in the "right direction"?

Friday, December 28, 2007

German 3/4/5

I think this class is going to be a good chance to really try some of my perfect classroom things out.

Here are some more things in my mind...
*Get speakers in from the community who are native German or speak German fluently. One per week would be fantastic (But would I have time for it? It would be authentic, but would it allow time for the curriculum?). Some of these could be exchange students. (I'll have three plus the Russian who speaks German.) This would be beneficial for myself as well as the students.

*Take the skills from each of the levels and put them into a shared thematic curriculum... differentiate by skills necessary.

*Formative assessment and authentic activities: Checklists, kid watching... dialogue journals and recorded dialogues and authentic texts.

*Have another go at the centers... just not as often and perhaps with more choice

*Critical friends? I like how Jamin and Jess use them. I need to be sure to model the appropriate behavior for them.

*Plenty of respectful community time so it doesn't fall apart. (This will be key as the semester progresses if this big class is going to make it.)

Yikes... I'm feeling like I should plan it all out right now while I'm feeling motivated... then again, perhaps I'm only feeling motivated because I should be cleaning my house and buying groceries for my upcoming full house.

Okay. Off to cleaning and shopping... life happens and at least I got some thoughts down.

I'm Ba-ack!

Whew. It's surprising what a difference it makes when you spend four days of break in a different state... I have a feeling that this entire break is not going to feel like much of a break. I think I'll have two days that actually feel like break... one was yesterday. During that time, I spent much of my time realizing that perhaps break time can be bad for me, because my brain begins to stress about all of the things that should be completed and/or worked on. I'm stressing about speech, Master's, research, my classes and next semester.

So I'm going to create a new entry to deal with my class for next semester...
And start pulling together my plans for the 3/4/5 class.

As far as speech stress goes, I think it's just because this year it's unknown. It's unknown how we'll do and it's unknown how things are actually going because things aren't the same as before...

Friday, December 7, 2007

It's been a while...

These past weeks have been somewhat stressful I think.

I had what I felt was a good observation.

I had a girl who I was afraid was moving toward suicide.

I had multiple IEP meetings that I felt went really well.

I had another moment with a German exchange student.

I've had three extra kids at my house every day after school.

That has been the clincher. I am surprised at how much of a difference that extra 30 minutes of picking up, dropping off, picking up caitlin, getting snacks, moderating arguments, cleaning up and everything else has drained me. Not having that normal time to myself (to do things like blogging) just really has caught up with me.

Today I am at home.

I rarely stay home. But today I am. I want to be sure it's peaceful and productive.

So I'm out!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An unexpected breath...

And I don't know what to do with it, to be honest.
I keep worrying that I'm missing something or not where I am supposed to be.

So I need to let go.
And just breathe.

For the first time since I can remember, I have nothing after school today. So I can correct, clean and plan. Awesome.

And this actually is coming at a good time because my German 3 class is getting a bit out of hand... losing the love and losing focus. So things need to be refocused for them. This is good to have this planning time... so I'm going to go use it! Tschau!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Buzz...

Today we had our first all-team meeting.
It was amazing!
The classroom was full.
The buzz was plapable.
And everyone was excited... including the coaches.

One said that this already seems like more fun than work. :)

I love it. And I love my job.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Beat of my Heart...

Or is it the beat of the African drums??
Nah... I'm pretty positive it's my heart beating so proudly.

German 3 today was fantastic.
And what was different, you might ask??
First: instead of grades on their quizzes, I matched them in groups of three... one high, one medium and one low. Their task as a group was to help each other so that everyone's paper was perfect. The amount of coaching that was going on... especially for those lower kids who seriously need it... was nothing short of amazing. Kids were looking out for each other... making sure they had enough time... making sure they asked the questions they needed to get the answers... and even more importantly, the high achieving kids were asking the questions for the lower achieving kids... and then they would go back and teach it!! It made me so proud... and I knew that what we were doing was good. HOORAY!!

Second: I split them. The kids who hadn't finished their verb conjugation had computer time to do so. Those who had split into groups and added to our wikispace about past tense verbs. This was SO meaningful... because the kids who had finished felt like their purpose on the wikispace was a privilege and they were working so hard to get the information that they understood onto that space. They even figured out inserting tables... and were having discussions about what the most meaningful way to write things was for people who were just learning. Awesome. Everyone working on their own stuff... one of those "productive buzz" moments.

Third: Positivity. I think I understand. This class needs a bunch of positive feedback. When theywere told that people from district were looking at the website... and when I said I was so proud of them for their coaching and so proud of them for the work they've done on the wiki... they just beamed. And then they got to work... really productive, meaningful work. Awesome kids. Thank you, SMU.

Whew. So that was awesome.

Tomorrow I have an IEP... and I'm the only general education teacher... and the student has an incomplete for last quarter. I don't know how this is going to go. We'll see.
Tomorrow is the last day for the week!
Happy Thanksmas!

P.S. I almost forgot. German 1 we looked at houses for sale online today. They did a good job of making up sentences and talking about the houses! I really want to continue meaningful exercises like this and bent objects. I like them and the kids have even asked to do more... Meike was the one who asked! Keep this up!

Also, note to self: try to add more ways to draw... everyone is asking for it... and denying that is denying a big piece of who these kids are.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What a downer


I have been such a downer lately. Like for the past six months or something... I swear. Maybe it's just a natural shift that happens as I'm figuring out that I don't, in fact, need to please everyone all the time... which is still hard, but I see myself standing up for myself in ways I never would have before because, although I yearned to be noticed, I didn't want to stick out. So I hope this is just part of the phase... and maybe it's because I feel loaded down... but the other day Liesl mentioned that she didn't like all the negative energy she had been giving out lately (which I hadn't noticed) and it really struck a chord with me. It is definitely true for me.

So here's my positive spin on today:
German 1 did some exit slips about how they were going to study. I think that I like the exit slip philosophy... but I also don't know if I have enough stamina to follow through with it on a daily basis (and is that really necessary?). Anyway, a number of kids said they were going to use the internet resources (podcast and online flashcards)... so Monday I am going to give the exit slips back and check back in to see how many actually did... and what they thought.
I was lucky that the class of kids I've had the longest is the class I had to miss today... because they know what to do and have fun. And one of the subs said she liked the clapping. Me too.
It's good that the doctor says that Caitlin just has the croup... and I'm sure he listened to my concerns before handing out this diagnosis.
German 2 had a very interesting conversation about sarcasm, and I was surprised to hear how many didn't appreciate sarcasm in the least... and I was very surprised at who said it.
I got to spend some time with my medicine loving baby today. She was so good at the doctor's office and afterward... a lady in the waiting room didn't think she was even sick.
The conversation with daycare from my perspective went really well. We have a conference on Monday and I think everyone knows the agenda... which is good: no surprises.
Tori and Hannah are super excited to start the speech season! (They saw me in the hall and said they were just talking about speech last night!)

So... all in all... an excellent day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bow chicka bow wow

Okay... mostly writing just so that I get this down with the hopes that I can use it as AR data. Today I offered the idea to the onesies that I make an MP3 of the vocabulary... asked what they thought. It was overwhelming. The mass responded very positively and I heard one girl say "Actually, that would be greatly appreciated." and others said things like cool! and mentioned that would be useful! So I had two boys agree to be the test pilots... told them where to go in order to download the mp3 and to let me know how everything went tomorrow. I made the mp3 at lunch... and uploaded it. So it will be there, ready for everyone tomorrow. I just need to remember to show everyone how to do it and talk with the boys about how it went.

Otherwise we're off to conferences tonight instead of the school board for the community of experts (which I am very excited about).

Finally, I'm surely running up the ladder and definitely not letting something go. Something happened at auditions today that I thought was just fine and had let it go... and then it was brought up again later with the statement "I don't want you to think you have to walk on eggshells with me." with someone who I've always felt didn't really get along with me (from their point... not mine). So now I'm having a hard time putting it to sleep. If they wouldn't have dug it back up, I would have (naively) thought it was just all in good fun... but the issue coming up again makes me believe there is relevance there that I didn't know about. ugh. We'll see.

Otherwise speech auditions were good again today. Everyone has been pleasantly surprised at the number of students who are coming in asking for public address categories. That is awesome. I'm wondering, Liesl, if you will see FS tomorrow. I don't want her to think we didn't do creative because we didn't believe in her writing skills. I don't want her running up the ladder, too.

That's it for today. Off to supper, conferences and the minute clinic for a sick Noodle.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

14 November

Wow. I just cannot believe it's Wednesday. So many times this week I have just been totally off on what day it actually FEELS like it is. I could swear it's Tuesday... and I would have sworn yesterday was Monday. AT least I'm keeping time... and being a day behind is always nicer than feeling it should already be Friday and it's only Monday. However I feel like I'm packing a lot of "stuff" into my hours. I rarely watch TV anymore and most of the time I don't really care. I never thought I would be "that girl"... maybe it's just a phase. :)

German 2: We did "Chairman of the Board". It sucked. There are so many reasons it sucked, but it was made extremely evident that it is not, in fact, a close knit community. So not worth the time with these kids. (But I have an inkling that it would be worthwhile with my German 1 class... I'm just a bit gun-shy at this point.) So then we delved into the book, notes and the like... and I think that is what these kids need. The "feel" in the class was better. Kids were on task. Having those standards is what this class needs. I feel like it's boring stuff... but apparently they need it. So we will be doing more. More quizzes, more writing, more check points. They need to be held accountable for their learning in a way that most don't. Call it lazy on their part... whatever. If that's what it takes for them today, then that is what they will get. The pleasant "hum" of productive work was nice. Otherwise I had even some of my good kids with other classwork in front of them... so maybe they were just bored. Isn't it weird how different classes need different things? This is when I'm glad that I'm not stuck in a position of trying to keep one class at the same pace of another.

German 1: They are just too cute. The house drawing is going well... I think I found a "shining star" spot for one of my SpEd kids... she came to class today (after just getting the introduction to it all yesterday) with her project 70% done. Apparently drawing and the like is beneficial for her... and boy is she shining. I want to make sure I touch base with her again tomorrow of how proud she should be of her work.

Speech auditions again today... I'll get back to those later... but we've already perhaps lost a couple coaches again today. I hope not. This is supposed to be a TEAM activity... maybe we need to look at the mission statement again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Meme again...

In an effort to sort through today (I still can't even begin to try to comprehend yesterday's huge discussion) I'm needing to go back to the Meme thing (shout out to you, Liesl!):
What went well:
Speech auditions! I am excited about the quality of kids we had audition and look forward to holding them to high (but fun) standards and really finding a lot of success... I am SUPER excited about Liesl's lightbulb about having a certain young man do extemporaneous poetry reading... Seriously. He will go to state. I am SO excited.
What went pretty well:
German 1 went pretty well today... I ended up telling more culture today than normal, but sometimes culture can go by the wayside and it is definitely not only already one of the standards of world language education, it's also inherent in many of the other standards. So no problems here.
German 3 went pretty well also. The new way of doing music was fantastic. We listened to it three times and for different things each time (degrees of difficulty scaffoldling throughout) and I asked what they thought. Even Dirk said that he liked it because sometimes listening to it the first time with all the lyrics and not knowing (or having to find out) what they mean is too overwhelming... and he's one of the best students in class. This is great feedback. I'm glad I learned the technique and I know it is pedagogically sound as well as effective! Awesome. They also did more conjuguemos today. Only 4-5 have passed it. They really are having a harder time with this than kids have in the past... but they all recognize how beneficial it is for them to do... despite the fact it might be frustrating. How do I know this? Because right after their complaints (Man, this sucks! I can't do this!), they verbalize things like (ugh. But I know I'm doing better already... or I know it's good for me Frau, but I swear, I can't do this). Then I cheerlead a bit and ask them if they've been having personal bests... and they always have been. So this is all good. We're not going back tomorrow. We'll save it until Thursday.
What could have gone better:
German 2. Seriously. The kids are being lazy. They are tired. They are just not excited... even today when I was excited! So today is an example of an anomaly of the theory that my excitement will always infect the kids. The discussion about the podcast didn't give the results I had hoped for, but perhaps another avenue to try instead. They mentioned an 8th grade class where they did show-and-tell... and could do anything as long as it related. I might just try this. We'll have to talk more about it tomorrow. I think I also need to just get them up and moving. More community building. Something. Maybe Chairman of the Board tomorrow??
Who I need to touch base with:
A colleague about speech team. And I'm not really looking forward to it, but maybe I need the mindset that it truly is painless and without judgment... ask it like Biener would.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wow... what a day.

Today as I was sitting around on my prep... wondering what I needed to get done. I had no idea what was ahead of me.

After school today a former student came in to talk. We've had conversations in the past and I thought she was coming in to just chat about life in general... well that wasn't the case.

After a discussion about rape, drug abuse, a completely non-supportive family and what seems to be manic depression... I walked away overwhelmed with everything. In the end, I had promised to talk when she needed... and that I would sit with her at the police if she needed to go back.

I'm still reeling... three days later.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Feeling overwhelmed

Yesterday as I was trudging out of school, I felt as if the holes for my mind-maze were outnumbering the safe paths. And allowing my mind to drop into one of those holes (about school, planning, fluency, M.Ed., family, speech, anything...) would be detrimentally depressing to the point of paralysis.

Things seem overwhelming and I feel like I'm drowning and just not doing the best job with anything right now.

So I've kept myself (and my mind) busy (and safe) by focusing on minutia. Simple things that I can do, create and plan... none of the higher level thinking I need to do things well.

So maybe it's a coping mechanism... but at least I'm coping at this point. Time for more D vitamins.

Vocabulary-Based Instruction

A former student was talking with a couple of my current students saying that my German courses were based so heavily in vocabulary that she felt like she missed out on some of the "other things" that others knew. This stuck with me. Maybe because it was criticism... maybe because it's hard to look at myself in that critical way, but the only way things in life can change for the better is if you can find and reflect on the honest truth.

So I've been thinking about this. And having minor conversations with colleagues about it.

Vocabulary is easy. Vocabulary is low level. And vocabulary is how I learned language.

I want to push it beyond that.

More into the skills of language.

But how can I assess that most efficiently and effectively so that it is the center of curriculum and consideration?

And how does this play into the concept of concept-based instruction? and backward design?

Do themes pull these skills in or do the skills pull the themes in?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Feeling out of sorts...

I just can't get into the swing of things.

Things are actually going pretty well.

I just easily fall down into a pit and can't seem to get out of it.

I know what I need to do... and I even know how to do it... I just don't care to.

I'm just feeling fully blue and I can't really figure out why (or really care to for that matter).

Maybe I'll try taking some D vitamins.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Today I found out that the girl who was murdered from the Craigslist thing was someone I personally know. I never had her as a student and she graduated the year before I taught at Park, but I have sat in many a judges' lounge with her discussing the world, her experiences, politics and future plans.

She was truly a dancing spirit. She vibrantly entered people's lives and left a footprint no one can forget... even after meeting her just once. Her short, curly red hair would bounce as she told of her experiences in Turkey and how she's trying to decide between programs and what do you think? Her blue eyes would flare with abstract processing as she took your words, a perfect stranger's words, to heart.

Someone killed her.

She was answering an ad to be a nanny. But it wasn't a nanny ad at all. It was a nineteen year old boy. And he killed her.

I can't get past this.
I see myself going through the stages.

Right now I'm just angry. And I want to blame it on anyone.
And I'm hurt.
And I'm scared.

She wanted to change the world. She was changing the world. And now the world is a sadder place without her. Truly.

Every once in a while my eyes will wander to the wall of senior pictures that I have and my mind begins to wonder about them... hoping, maternally, for safety. At least safety.

At least safety.

I remember that one of the last conversations we ever had was about one of her speechers. The girl was doing an informative piece on eyes: bringing in a lot of the sayings about the eyes being the window to the soul and what about eyes make people beautiful and how eyes read things and even to the scientific of how eyes work. Blue eyes versus brown eyes, eye placement, everything. She was so excited because it was going well and, truly, she was passionate about the topic.

I wonder what she saw through this nineteen-year-old boy's eyes and into his soul.

It makes me shudder to think.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heute... noch wieder...

What went well:
German 2: The lunch tray way of learning went really well. As we were doing it, I was reminded of the success I have had with it in the past... and I wonder why I don't do it every time. I think it's because I remember it as being something I had originally just dreamed up on the spot, so it must not be useful... but BOY it is! So let this stand as a lesson: DO IT EVERY TIME. The kids get to draw a lunch tray, then they get a HUGE list of food vocabulary and they draw the food they would like to eat (at least 5 things) and label the foods in German on the back. This is good because kids get to construct and use the knowledge that is meaningful for them. THEN we stand in a circle, and play "musical lunch trays". I play music and they pass the lunch trays around. When the music stops, they write down 1-2 words they didn't know in their notebooks. This is a great (and interesting) way for them to get a bunch of new vocabulary that their peers thought was (at the very least) interesting. Cool. It was cool and I need to keep this as a reminder that I should, in fact, do this every time that I teach food.

What could have improved:
My planning for 4th hour. It will all come together, but since I'm leaving early (for the doctor apponitments) I just started them on new vocabulary for our first movie. Bleh. Oh well. At least it is something that needs to be done.

Who I need to touch base with:
KT to see how it went today during 4th hour.

I got my musician's new songs!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


What went well...
German 1 was excited to get the packets... they worked ahead on their own... so I'm glad I didn't stop them! They also had done very well on their tests... All A's and B's with only like 2 C's. Sweet!

Reflecting back on yesterday, the PowerPoint with German 3 and the games and such. They were up and moving at variuos times, they interacted with the whiteboard and everything went really well. I like it.

What could have been improved...
German 2: It felt like we just weren't doing purposeful things. I feel like sometimes this arrangement of desks leads to that b/c the kids are so busy focusing on other things (like each other). (The desks are in groups/circles right now.) It's just frustrating. I also think it was a bit early to do the touch game with the vocab... since hardly anyone knew any.

Who I need to touch base with...
My German 1 11th and 12th graders... we get to play tomorrow! The sophomores are gone. I am looking forward to connecting with them personally... because there are only 7 of them. I think we'll play Cranium.

*Erin told me today that her song has been remastered and she will e-mail me the new version!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Memememe again...

What went well today:
The students in German 3 were really impressed with the "ambient learning" powerpoint that I had created to play between classes. They also seemed to think the SpongeBob trailer was alright. I'm wondering if I need to do a new ambient learning PowerPoint for the German 3 class, or if I can just add more... or if I even need to do that.
Splatsch also went sowieso well.

What could have been better:
Since I had let myself believe that I didn't have sophomores in German 1 today, I was just kind of off my game. We went over endings and they did what I wanted them to, but I just wasn't feeling the normal excitement. Then when they wrote 3 sentences about what they did in their freetime, I noticed that although we said the -e ending thing, the majority of them didn't apply that knowledge. So that tells me we need more practice tomorrow. I think the chart from today probably helped. But they probably also need to hear more and need to see more actual examples for them to just pick it up. This is something to think on, and maybe create a more practice-voll experience for them tomorrow. I wish I would have noted how many didn't do it correctly, but it felt like at least 70%. So that will be a place of need for tomorrow.

What/who I need to touch base with tomorrow:
Erin about her music: how's it going?
German 1 about verb conjugation.

*I'm noticing that it's easy for me to fall back into the routines of what I've always done. This does "get me by", however, I think it's more meaningful if I purposefully plan ever more new things as I implement that perfect classroom. The more I put in, the more I'll get out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back to memememememe...

What went well:
This morning in German 2, one of my students said that he felt bad for the Spanish students because their classes just seemed to be lame. Everyone was always quiet, sitting in their desks, doing their stuff, and every once in a while they would have fun. He then said that he would probably take French if I were teaching it, but if it's not me, there's no way he would take it. :) It's those kinds of things from a student who is highly intelligent but also definitely what one would call a "typical German"... not necessarily popular, verging on gothic and truly a free thinker. It is so good for me to have these badges of honor because every once in a while I wish I had those quiet Spanish classes... but I know I'm really reaching these kids where they need to be met... and that they appreciate it. That's awesome. I've had a girl who is also in that class tell me the same thing... and she took another language.

German 1, we learned spielen and some new sports today after the test. First of all, I felt good about that use of time (instead of just letting them sit around mindlessly), but second, I made the decision this year to teach the verb endings in German 2 so that the students can discover them a bit more on their own. Today I previewed the fact that we'll learn the "general rule" to how things go together, and one boy (whose sister is in German 3) was so excited that he already knew how because his sister taught him this past weekend! I think it will be great for the kids to "discover it" on their own. I'm excited about this move. Chapter 1 was full enough and this will bring some meaning to all the verbs in Chapter 2.

The Speech Team meeting went well. We had about 12-15 at the meeting... and others signed up. All of the coaches had a chance to talk, which is important as we create this team. Overall I think it went very well.

What could have improved:
In German 3 the past tense story was okay. The kids were listening and they drew well, but they didn't pick up on the words like the lady promised they would. Oh well. The rest of the hour was very productive though, and I found myself speaking a lot of German... I think it's because I had the opportunity to hear it again last week from "real" speakers! I decided internally that, like in the immersion programs, they can still speak in English when they need to, but I can still speak in German. This way they'll move into that German place when they feel comfortable.

Who I need to touch base with tomorrow:
Those 11th graders in German 1 because I don't think I'm going to have much of a German 1 class tomorrow. I don't know what we'll do... maybe I should bring a game. We'll see.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The conference...

On Thursday and Friday I went to the Minnesota language Teacher Conference. I went Thursday night, even though it was only from 3 PM - 6 PM. I went to a college in the schools meeting as well as one about the virtual item bank and also a German Idea Share. The CIS was good information to get and good questions to have answered. It was a panel presentation. The idea share was the beginning of a tradition and should be very exciting when it is used often. Overall, it was very very nice to hear German from adults again. It has been so long since I've heard a real level of German. Other than that, I was a bit disappointed at the conference. But I was looking forward to the next day.
Friday morning I was the only one from the district at the first meeting. It was about reading strategies for German music. There were some great ideas and it helped me realize that I can go further into analysis with the music before hearing it... AND that I should never ever, ever show the full text of the song... because WOW that is overwhelming! That is a great thing for me to remember. Do analysis and listening and everything with pieces of the song/text. Wait to give the entire text until you absolutely have to... if ever. I like the discussion about reading the text and then guessing what kind of song it is.
Then, before the keynote speaker, I saw the remainder of the district people. Almost none of them were planning on staying until after lunch (and some were leaving before lunch). That means that the district has paid $75-$100 per person for them to come for one session, lunch, and leave.
I finished the German music session and then was off to lunch and then a major letdown: "Bonding with technology". I was going there expecting to see/learn new ways of bonding with technology for foreign language. Instead I got to see an overview of a survey they have been taking of teachers... and was asked (not personally but very generally) what might help increase technology. It was hard for me to not be cynical and say that meetings like this that actually TAUGHT technology instead of just talked about it.
Then one that had ideas from various teachers from the Apple Valey/Eagan/Rosemount district. It was really nice and things that I can bring back and USE!
Finally one about iPods. Now this is what I'm talking about. She was a wonderful presenter and told her own story as well as talked pedagogy and gave ideas for technology/iPods in education! Way to go!! It made me leave with a good taste in my mouth.

Overall, I don't know if I will go again. I felt like, for the time spent, I got little out of it. It reminded me of how, in Champlin Park, I need to be excited and exciting... just like I am in class. I need to give the relevant information and tips that they came to hear and focus on what's useful. Make it and keep it interesting and useful!

A sad note: one of the really cool technologies I learned about in the final session doesn't work on PC's! Does anyone know of something that is similar to ProVoc for the PC???

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I don't really know what that means, but I saw Liesl's and thought I would give it a try!

What went well today:

German 1 was awesome (again) today. They worked well with remembering our work from yesterday and practicing their new verb (kommen). We did patty-cake today to try something different. One of the students even mentioned that she was singing the verb conjugation to herself the other day without thinking about it! Awesome! We also watched the Landeskunde video today and the kids did a great job of picking up on the age/how they get to school. I think I front-loaded it correctly with saying you won't get everyone... but listen for what you do get, leave some blanks and we'll fill them in as we listen more and more. They did great. I think they are listening well... not getting down on themselves when they don't know/hear right away... and being creative! That is awesome. I think I might implement the conversation groups with these kids right away. Keep those high standards high and let them scaffold the experience a bit. The babies of a new era.

German 3: We just could not get the German past tense down. Yesterday I had them tell a story about what happened on my weekend and only 2 or 3 had the past tense down pat. I was distraught. Yet I also didn't see them being creative or taking risks or anything... so I was hitting a wall. I knew I needed to do something... so I put the e-mail out to everyone with the hope that I would get some great feedback. I didn't. I think I need to explain it in the "I have done blah blah blah" words. Maybe that would help. But while I was waiting for other people to send me ideas, I came up with one on my own. I decided that I needed a purpose for them to make things easy. They needed to make an animated PowerPoint story that uses present tense and changes to past tense for the German II students to use when they learn past tense this fall. The beauty of this? The kids HAVE to keep it easy... they have every excuse FOR keeping it easy and not getting down on themselves! So they wrote their stories and did their thing. Tomorrow we put it on the computer. I think I just need to do more baby step scaffolding with them where they can feel proud of things at the baby step level... and then they'll move into the stuff they think they should be doing. But the key is I can't make it seem remedial. Baby steps are the way... better than not moving at all... "Habe keine Angst davor, langsam zu wachsen. Habe nur Angst davor, still zu stehen!"

What didn't go well:
German 2 must have been nothing spectacular today because I don't remember it. Oh yes... now I remember and this is a good place for it. We learned "Durch den Monsun"... not enough front loading... or perhaps not the right place for the song. They did not like it. At least the very vocal ones didn't... the same way they didn't like "Nie Wieder". Ah well.

Who I need to touch base with tomorrow:
Karsten and Edgar. Make sure they're still on track and feeling good about their past tense.

*One other note: Tave came in and worked on my LCD and such this afternoon for about 45 minutes... and the LCD projector works!! Now, seriously, we are just waiting for the SmartBoard!

*One MORE thing: I got approved for the conference and got everything figured out and sent in so I can go! WooHoo! I am looking forward to learning new tricks, tips and other things from educators just like me!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Updates... and Conferences...

Yesterday I mentioned how awesome the use of those pictures were going in German 1... and how I was excited about using those in German 3... along with the money.

So maybe I built it up too much. The German 3 kids weren't as creative as the German 1 kids. They said hardly 4-5 sentences for each one... and I was pulling teeth to get that. Bleh. And then we brought in the money idea... which was good that kids were policing each other... but they were a bit gamey with it... and loud... and playing around with the coins. And I noticed a couple kids who had run out of money (yikes!) and they just completely shut down. Ugh. I think it's important to keep it... and maybe they will settle down. We'll see. Let's get positive!!

So now on to the conferences... you'll take the good, you'll take the bad, you'll take it all and then you'll have the Facts of Life. Just kidding.

Conferences went well. I love conferences. It's SO nice to talk to parents... tell them how great their kids are... and have a nice time talking with them. So here are some of the highlights...

First, and truly most importantly, I truly felt I was able to have more meaningful conversations with parents about their child's actual language progression. Some of this is due to the "Snapshots of Learning" and otherwise it is due to just being aware... taking note of the kids and what they're doing and being proud of them... and making sure they are proud of what they are doing. I loved being able to have those meaningful conversations with the parents... and noticing the things myself. Awesome.

Next, a conversation with one of the parents... she asked if we had college in the schools. I told them that we don't have it at this point and that they are pushing AP, when we would prefer the college in the schools program. She asked who she could talk to as parents to help get this in motion. So I gave her a couple names... I hope that wasn't a bad idea.

And at one point, my principal came up and sat down... saying that she never knew I was the German teacher. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm thinking it's bad... but I suppose it could also be good... Ugh.

Finally, just a couple notes... warm fuzzies, if you will...
German 1 guardian: Her student said that "If everyone taught like her (me), I would learn so much more!"

German 1 parent (I've had both of her other children in the past... all are great kids but get mediocre grades): "I wanted to thank you for what you do for th ekids. All my kids really loved you...and I'm sure that's why it went all the way down the line... because of you."

German 2 parent (of a very quiet student): "I can tell he likes your class--he does the work." and "You keep him going! You keep him motivated!" and finally "You're always my favorite to talk to--that's why I save you for last."

I had almost all the other parents talk about how much their student loved German... how excited they were about it (especially the German 1s) and how much they truly enjoyed the class... and me.

SO I'm glad this blog is just for me... or I would feel ashamed of "tooting my own horn"... but I don't want to forget these things... save them for a rainy day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Plans: Part One...

I need to start planning for my 3/4/5 split NOW for next semester... that way I don't go crazy with 46+ kids and just cry (read: drink) on a daily basis.

So here are some thoughts I've been spinning around in my head:
*Thematic planning. It HAS to be thematic. I will not separate these kids from one another. Right now I'm thinking about planning it around history. (Specifically WWII and the East/West)

*Kids say they want a book. It's as if they don't think the vocabulary is "real" unless it's printed somewhere in a book. So I need to find a way to remedy this. Maybe print off "books" for the students of simply paper (like I used to get in college) so they know what they are looking for/at during any unit.

*KEEP DOING STUFF YOU'VE DONE IN THE PAST. If you re-invent everything, you will SURELY go insane.

*Keep the fluency (Speaking and dialogue journals)

*Talk to Jodi about her Comp/Conv class and great things she does in there

*DO the centers... just not every day... or maybe not at the end of the day... I think this group still expects their "Frau time" at the end of the day every once in a while. (Thank you, Laura)

*DO keep using technology... integrate it more.

Just some thoughts for now.

Holding On...

A few thoughts about holding on...

My German 1 students are so well behaved. They work hard... are super excited... and quiet down instantly when I do the hand! I see this and then get frustrated with my upper level kids for not quieting down in the same way... so I realized that I need to look at this differently. It's awesome that these kids are great and that things are getting done and they are living up to my expectations. Instead of getting down on myself about the others not doing the same (because they've been trained for a longer amount of time NOT doing that), I'm starting with the 1's... and holding on to it with them. They are, if you will, the beginning of a new era. And the others will be out within 2 years. By 3 years, it will be an entirely new crew! So I'm beginning the new era with these guys and it is good. I am really enjoying the class and the things we accomplish. For instance, today I showed them the bent objects powerpoint I had prepared for my 3's... and told them we needed to say as much as we could and prefaced the entire thing with it being "a chance to be creative". I was SUPER surprised at what they came up with! They were saying things I would have never even thought of. And to think that if I would have stopped them, or moved on after I heard the 2-3 sentences I expected, I would have never had the opportunity to be impressed and surprised! They are excited about verbs and excited to learn "haben" tomorrow. I want to keep building on this in a very fluent way. I'm excited about this.

Another bit of holding on... it is dark, dreary and (very) cold around these parts lately. My body is going into hibernation (AKA eating/craving fatty and sugary foods and not exercising). I hate this. I need to get back into the schedule of exercising at least. That helps. But there is a bit of stress coming up that I want to be sure I'm well taken care of for...

We have conferences tomorrow night, then Friday is there and Saturday/Sunday is another Master's weekend. So I need to finish my homework on top of the grading and meetings that I have in front of me already. I haven't gotten to that stressed/anxiety place yet about any of this... and, honestly, I hope I don't. So I'm trying to do it bit-by-bit so I can get some things taken care of ahead of time. Then we're back at school again next week... but at least we have conference days on Thursday and Friday. That should help with some of the stress... and should re-energize me!

I'm excited to go to the language conference. It's the first time for me and I know how energized I feel going to the speech conferences and the master's conferences... I'm excited to be energized and to make some contacts who are interested in the same things I am. So I'm holding on for that.

Finally, we talked quickly about circumlocution today in German 3. It was a good thing for them to be told about... they got it right away, and then we practiced (probably too easily) with some food words. But it was a good stepping stone. What they didn't know was that tomorrow, during "Deutscher Donnerstag", they are going to have to use some of those skills. I think it is a great stepping off point.

Tomorrow is also the first day of money. This should be interesting. The Spanish teachers have had huge success with the money. I am excited to give it a shot and have the students police each other (and myself!). I think I will also try it with German 2... and tomorrow we will not have a walk.... we'll keep it all inside. I would like to move the German days to twice a week for German 3... start slowly stepping it up. Spanish 3 is doing 30 minutes at the beginning of every day. We can do the 45 minutes at least twice a week! So, just keep holding on to this fluency... it will only keep getting better...

and I need that as a strong trick in my bag for next spring!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Just an idea...

Something I'm throwing around in my brain...
But want to let it simmer as to how it would actualize itself...

What if:
Students chose how they were going to be part of the "Team" that is known as a classroom. Each student takes their strengths and commits to using those strengths (drawing, singing, movies, rote memorization, usw.) to help the class.

I think it's a great idea... it's so much like real life where businesses hire different people to take on the different tasks in order to have the business run smoothly and at its best. Why should we, in education, be different? Yet, I think it might necessitate a few things:

Contract grading of some sort? Perhaps contracted services? I don't want students to not offer their service because they feel that it will be on top of work that might already be overwhelming.

A real use of their skills. Not just a one-time thing and a very minimal one-time-thing at that. It needs to be real... and it needs to be purposeful and fulfilling for the students.

All of this came to mind as I see the amazing artists I have in class and the student who writes and sings her own music... beautifully. How could I harnass that to give them pride in what they do and have German be a part of it?

So I want to think this through a bit more... and then try it on a small scale still this semester... because it might be something truly amazing for my ENORMOUS split class next semester.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I can hear you...

We got our microphone/voice amplification system today (or really last night). Mine didn't work for the majority of the day. Finally, it began working and I was kind of screwing around with it "talking whale". It was interesting.

Students didn't think it was necessary.

But then I did the "cover the mic" test and the kids in the back said it did make a difference after all. So we'll see.

I want to putz around with it for a while and see if I can figure out how to do the podcasting of the entire class.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ahhhh, the enjoyment of German 1... again...

Today we had another fantastic bout of discussion.

We did the history quiz and I had the chance to do my normal "spiel" abou the various questions on the quiz... and we ended up getting into a few discussions about various things... one was why people voted for Hitler. Another was genocide in general... and how America did it as well. We had an interesting conversation about the Native Americans as well as war today. I was able to meaningfully side-step a question directed at me about my opinion of war and discuss that we shouldn't have tunnel vision and that everyone needs to consider that question because it affects their future... which brought us to the discussion of a draft which would surely include both women and college students this time. A girl in the back teared up a couple times today... both during the Native American discussion and the discussion of the draft. She is so soft hearted and such a thinker.

I really enjoy these conversations.
And this class has been amazing for having these conversations.

P.S. on a brighter note, one of my 11th graders mentioned today that his mom says that German has changed him. He said that he used to be quieter and crabbier... and now he's just (and then he did this crazy flipping the pen dance with a big smile). I'm understanding that as a good thing. I asked if maybe he just finally felt like it was okay to be that person... he kind of nodded as he looked over and started to talk with his Tischpartner.

An idea...

Since the podcasting, in order to fully thrive on a large scale, needs to have multiple people recording at the same time, that project is kind of in limbo at this point. Perhaps I would be able to e-mail Al about getting more microphone headsets and then download audacity in a lab somewhere. Who knows.

Until then, I am considering a "weekly variety show" for everyone to participate in... with whatever they dreamt of.

*Must be in German
*Everyone has to, in some way, partake and be involved

*Music in German (singers/songwriters write and sing their own music)
*History corner
*Culture corner
*Other things?
*Vocabulary/Grammar corner


Surprise #1: After our first Thursday of just speaking German (15 minutes in 2 and 45 minutes in 3), I have had many students asking for and looking forward to that Thursday. On top of that, Annaliese asked me to ensure that Thursday we were going to go on a walk again with the German. Apparently the "real-life" application of seeing things and being able to talk about the things around us every day has been meaningful and other students asked for that as well. When I feared that we wouldn't be able to go for the walk (due to time) I asked if they wanted to just do the German in the classroom. It was unanimous that we should go for the walk. This time we stayed in the building. It was nice. I often get a couple stragglers, and the students look forward to the stamps if they just spoke German during that time (I tell them it is their own integrity and ethics on the line if they lie). The kids are reacting positively to this at this point. I'm glad I'm doing it.

Surprise #2: Last Wednesday was the talent show and one of my students wrote and sang her own song. It was AMAZING. I've been pestering her ever since about it... and she's doing some recording this week! I hope I can get her music.

Surprise #3: Friday after the carnival, each of the returning speech coaches found an envelope with a 10-page letter along with a personal letter full of gripes, complaints, venting and castigation. It was hurtful and did not make for the start of a good weekend.

Surprise #4: We returned a letter... and received a surprisingly positive e-mail in return. Alles wird besser... aber nichts wird gut. (Aber besser ist auch jetzt gut.)

So that's it for these parts! More about an idea in a moment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nichts neues...

Everything feels the same.

I was really enjoying that feeling of "something different"...

And now it's just back to the same.

however I will still keep up the "Deutsch Donnerstag" and "Foto Freitag"

That is at least one right step. (Can you tell I'm feeling a bit down?)

(But I am excited about maybe seeing some of my superstars in the talent show tomorrow night!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In der Sprache...

Yesterday we had done some "practice immersion" time in German 3. During that time, I asked if they would rather talk (today) for 30 minutes or 45 minutes. The vote was 6 to 13... in FAVOR of the 45 minutes! That is awesome!

So today I began with D2... we went for an "in building field trip" where we talked only in German as we walked around a bit of the school (and outside) talking about the different classes, teachers and nature. It was good. When we returned, I asked how many enjoyed it. At least 75% raised their hands. Then I asked who thought it was beneficial (whether or not they enjoyed it). 100% raised their hands!

So then on to D3... We began the hour with the 45 minutes of German. Some times were tough when we were trying to fully describe everything... and hope that everyone understood. But it was really pretty good! Only a couple kids were doing the English thing... and some of the time because they didn't even realize they were doing it.

The fantastic time came at the end of it... when we went over all of the stuff to be sure they understood... and Karsten (who had been advocating this when we first voted as well) said that next time we should just do it the whole time. The majority agreed with him! Saying things like "It can only help!" I agreed and told them how excited I was that they were excited about this. I did, however also explain the brain frying that sometimes happens... so we'll have to watch that carefully and not go so long that everyone's brain just fries. Because then it's not just not positive. It's negative.

They got it.

Overall: Exciting! I can do this! I AM doing this! Cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All wet...

So today I was sitting, minding my own business, when KT came in and asked, "How much would you cry if I told you that you were in the top two for the dunk tank (for Homecoming)?"

I didn't believe her.

I didn't want to believe her.

But then it struck me.

So I ran into her and Biener after German Club and asked who I need to bribe and what kind of lie I need to create in order to get out of this...

They said that the amount of change the kids had dropped on me so far (and today was the first day of voting) was going to be hard to overcome.

I was a wreck. An anxiety-filled wreck.

I called Liesl.

She helped talk me down a bit... also felt sorry for me... and really helped me pinpoint what the scariest part was for me: having a group of teenagers see wet clothes clinging to my body.

It's a crazy high school self-esteem thing... but it's there.

So she had to go and I called my mom. (In all fairness, with the words, "I need someone to talk me off the cliff.") And she said that she couldn't help me out because she thought I should be honored... and definitely not feel badly about my body. Thanks for the sympathy, mom.

Next it was off to Laura (do you feel that I was going a bit overboard here?). She laughed. And she laughed. And she laughed some more. She tried to hide and stop her laughter... but she just kept laughing. She apologized for laughing. But she just kept laughing. I told her it was the epitome of Schadenfreude. She told me she felt bad for me... and is also trying to help me figure out what clothes I will have to wear if, in fact, this nightmare does come true.

So here's to hoping that, by Friday, I won't even be in the race anymore.

But that probably won't happen...

So here's to having fun with what you've got.

Side note: the UbD is not on schedule... I'm stressed at the lack of "push" in especially my German 3 class. Ugh.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ich liebe meine Schülern...

Today in German 1 we had yet another amazing discussion... and a real connecting point with the kids. It was amazing.

We began with the geese (which the vast majority of THIS class actually had done...) and then, while we were still in a circle, moved on to "Wie Geht's" and how, in Germany, you only ask that question if you really want to know. It's not a shallow/polite thing to say just as passing conversation.

I then tell them the Cora story (about having an awful morning and someone in passing time asks how she is, but doesn't stick around to hear how she actually is... so she just ends up there in the hallway... talking to absolutely no one... before she realizes that person is gone).

This time we discussed the downfall of this in our society... and how they should try a social experiment and when someone asks... they need to answer "awful" (or really, just something other than "good")... and see what happens.

Then I challenged them. I challenged them to be more like the Germans. To not have meaningless or heartless conversations with others... to not ask if they don't care... and, if they ask, to stop, listen, and care. Because, as I said, we are all humans, and we all just want to be loved. Then the kids brainstormed what it meant to "actually care" and really found some meaningful answers. Simply put (according to the kids): Stop not caring, start caring, don't ask if you don't care, and be ready to listen with care if you do.

Then we practiced our "Wie geht's" question around the circle(and this is where, in the past, there has been a disconnect)... and we agreed that if people said so-so or not good or bad, we should ask why (so they learned the word "Warum")... and really listen. So we did. We also asked "warum" even when kids said that they were doing awesome! Because we wanted to know! But we allowed people, if they weren't feeling brave, to just say "good" and we wouldn't ask any more.

It was such an amazing connecting point. I heard students who had bad mornings, others who are having major problems with friends, others who bombed tests, yet others whose bones hurt because it is going to rain and even those who just "have a case of the Mondays". The fantastic thing is it gave the students an opportunity to care. Sometimes it's not "cool" to just start caring... and giving them this opportunity gave them the chance to care openly and not feel like they shouldn't ask or know. It felt amazing.

I just need to be sure to build on this and keep it up again tomorrow.

If I can't teach my old dogs new tricks... I can sure as hell teach the new dogs some pretty amazing ones.

What a great day.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vision Statement

The German classroom is a place where students are cared for and find meaningful learning experiences as they strive toward excellence in fluency.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It doesn't have to be hard...

Today we played the "Ich mag Leute..." game and again they LOVED it. It's always a little loud, but also a lot of fun. And best of all? The kids are speaking, listening and responding to the language!

Today I also started the routine of "Foto Freitag"... where I will bring in Fotos... and it could go anywhere from there. Today I described what the fotos were... then the kids had to guess, and then it came up on PowerPoint once they guessed it! So they were listening to the German, getting meaning, and remembering vocabulary. I think I will also bring in fotos for them to use to tell a story or to tell what is happening (I got an idea from Kate that I could bring in Fotos from my youth and then they could tell the story of what was happening... I love it!)

What's important here is that there is just more language happening. I need this. I love this. And I especially love how easy and fun it can be. It does NOT have to be hard. It should be fun. (Unsere geheimnisse Sprache...) now I just need to be sure that we reinforce that usage!

It is the baby steps of a big and exciting change. Baby steps that I need... not because I can't handle the big steps, but because I can get overwhelmed and depressed about the big steps... and really, the kids need the scaffolding just as much as I do.

So here's to baby steps. PROST!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Podcasting 101

Not enough front loading with 4th hour.

I just sent them on their way with minimal explanation. I need to remember that these kids won't know it unless you spell it out for them. So AFTER we got back from the computer lab, I had this discussion with them:

  • Remember everything we've been learning about learning styles for the past week and a half? Do you know how beneficial this knowledge is for you? You get to share it with others.
  • You are going to take your learning style and look more in-depth into it... then share that information with others.
  • This information is beneficial for EVERYONE! It can help anyone with anything!
  • Hopefully we can get people across the district (and maybe even around the world) listening to our podcast... so let's make them amazing!

I think they got it then.

I must have done something different with first hour, because they got it. I think the frontloading from yesterday (that 4th hour didn't get) made a ton of difference. Some of the more thoughtful discussions have come from 1st hour as well. I just end up sharing them with 4th hour.

And then I got to pay for some "sins"...

Yesterday I had told my 1st hour kids that they had done a better job with their speeches than my 4th hour kids... so I told my 4th hour kids that I shared that information with 1st hour.

TODAY a number of kids kept saying that they were hearing from their 1st hour friends that I said that they were "better than" the 4th hour kids. I told them that I was just talking about the speeches and that I had told 4th hour that I said that yesterday.

They seemed quietly down about it.

I need to figure out what to say/do to figure out how to make it not personal for them. It's true. First hour's speeches were better... Fourth hour didn't push themselves like first hour did. But that means nothing about who is "better". Maybe simple clarification will work. Hm.

WAR: What is it good for?

That question came up today... and not out of my mouth.
(and not even by a student who was making a pop culture reference... however old it may have been.)

It was a real question. From a real inquiring mind.

And the class went silent.

"That is a big question," I said. "A big question. Seriously. Such a big question that you will be asking that of yourself your entire life. I don't know. I still don't know. But I think about it. Often. That is what kind of an amazing, big question that is."


And all because of Nena's "99 Luftballons".

This is the first time I've ever discussed the song. In the past, I just feed them the fact that the German version is more heavily political.

This time we read through the first verse... and then stopped to ask, "What might this mean?".

It spawned beauty.

Before we talked about the middle, we talked about the end... and about taking a balloon, thinking of someone and letting it go.

I got an answer from a student (all about the prior knowledge here) who said maybe it was about the split of East/West Germany and how they couldn't see their loved ones (remembering the slide I have of "To: Astrid Maybe Some Day we will be together")

I hadn't even considered that. So I gave it kudos and let it sit. And we discussed.

At the end of our discussion we talked about the time period... Korea, the cold war... and the symbolism of red.

And it fell together with his comment of the loved one. It was beautiful. I couldn't have scripted it that way. Exhilirating.

And all because of processing time together... and those poignant, essential questions that everyone has on their mind.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Technology reflections...

Week one is done and the UbD has been going well... I planned too much for especially the first day... so I've had to do some rearranging... but otherwise it's good. In reflection, though, I'm seeing that until this point, it is heavily focused on technology and learning and perhaps less so on language usage. This will be a place for improvement for the unit, and those to follow.

So some quick notes on technology:
*PowerPoint: as we still don't have our "smart classrooms", I checked out an LCD projector from the media center. I have been doing the notes, agenda, city presentations and a bit of internet on PowerPoint. It has been beneficial to kind of keep me on track, and one student mentioned on the first day (before we even talked about learning styles) that he really liked the PowerPoint things because he is a visual learner... so he hoped we would have more of these. :) I think it's going well. It forces me to at least preview the plan for the next day and get things together and going.

*Audacity: We recorded our voices for the audio vocabulary section of the UbD. I exported it to mp3 and published it online. It took a bit of time to do the recording (just because there were so many people who needed to get up and to the microphone)... but once I had the file cut and exported, it was about 4.5 minutes. Everyone's voices sounded really good and I was inspired to do more with this because it truly is an authentic means of assessing their pronunciation and understanding (especially if they recorded conversations on it). I loved it. The kids liked to hear themselves and many mentioned that they downloaded it and "didn't sound as stupid as I thought I would". This is good. Step one in preparation for the podcasting. It should prove to be super beneficial for me... and they like it too! What else can you ask for? Great for step one!

*StudyStack: For our visual practice, I inputted the vocabulary into StudyStack for the students to be able to interact with online. We'll see how many actually put this to work and how seriously they are taking this.
Which brings me to some reflection about the quizzes...

Will the students actually take this seriously if they are not being graded on the quizzes? Do we need to have a discussion about the purpose? Is the purpose meaningful enough for them? I think it is interesting and good, but do they? And will a grade motivate them anyway? Should we have the discussion that a language is nothing without vocabulary?

I don't know. I was a little concerned about all of this tonight as I was thinking about the 120-240 words they will be studying for tomorrow... and how some might remember that just tonight... and then, instead of studying, just tell themselves that it doesn't matter anyway because they won't be graded...

that just might break my heart.

Heat Stroke is over...

Well, the great land of Minnesota has finally cooled down. Last week we had hit our 29th day of over 90 degree weather this year. (The average is 15 per year.) Being in school was horrific. We are without air conditioning and wilted is an understatement (for both me and the students).
It was amazing to see how significantly the weather affects me and my level of excitment. I especially see it in German 1 because I've taught it so many times that I have a good feel for the "normal level of excitement"... and it was definitely low this week. And you know what happens when my excitement is low? The kids' excitement is seemingly non-existent. I guess that explains why the upper level kids sometimes seem less than excited... happy... but not really "excited" per se. I guess it's because I'm not. Crazy.
The first week went well (as well as could be expected with the weather anyway). My kids are all rockstars. I am so excited and they have done a fine job... all of them! We did the "what are your goals" talks that moved into the "rules for the room" talk... and those turned out very... let's say... creatively. I like it. And after I let go of my idea of how they should look, I really wouldn't want them any other way. I need to get those printed on big pieces of paper for the kids to sign and we'll hang them up.
Friday night we met up with Jenn and Ahmed at Buca and had a great time. Then we were off to South Dakota for Brittany's shower. I was in charge of games, so they played the "who am I" game with names on their back, then found their partner (they were married couples) and with two other partnerships they made toilet paper wedding dresses. The community building there was actually great. Before the day began, I was second-guessing myself and the decision to play games that I knew the older ladies wouldn't be thrilled about... but I decided to just go with the plan... and I'm glad I did. I had at least five older ladies say "Thank you!" and one even said "That was so much fun! I haven't done that in years!" Whew. That made me feel good. It was great to see people meet each other and really connect. And all because I know how important all of this is because of St. Mary's! Thanks, Roger and Michele!
So looking forward to the next week... It should be cooler... and fun! I need to be sure to get the kids signed up for the computer lab (or some access to computers) on Wednesday. And we have open house tomorrow night!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Our First Day...

Wow was it HOT!!
It was 93 degrees outside today... and outside seemed cool. There is something about 90+ degrees plus about 2000 hot, sweaty, stinky bodies in a building with no air conditioning... it makes for an interesting learning environment.

First hour took a lot of time simply going over the rules and procedures... so much so that we got almost nothing else done. That stinks. The whole UbD thing is now going to be at least 3/4 of a day behind. I suppose German 3 will catch up tomorrow when the seniors all leave for senior class meetings.

Then German 1 was fantastic... it always makes me a bit off my game when I don't have German 1 first hour... but I think it was nice. And then some kids needed more copies of the homework and one of the "cool girls" came to get her homework and said that she is really excited about German and will look forward to it every day. I told her I look forward to it too. That is awesome. I can't wait to get those letters... they should be a good "pick-me-up"... and a good reminder of what good it does to truly be excited and share that with the kids.

So about halfway through German 3 (as everyone was looking really blah), I decided to just pull out the same discussions I had with German 1 and 2. It was like turning on a light. The kids were laughing and interested again. Reminder to self: keep up that excitement... nobody is ever too old for it and they are in your class to hear that and share in it. JUST DO IT! It will never seem silly or old.

Final note: I had so many students stop and talk with me today... even if they didn't have me until next semester. It was so nice. Then one student stopped me in the hall saying how sad he was that he didn't have German this year because he "wasn't supposed to have it last year and" he "didn't know how much he would enjoy it" so he hadn't signed up for it (He took German 1 in the spring). So it is nowhere on his schedule... but he promised "sincerely" that he would be in my class for a full year next year!! He was so honest and sad and excited... and said he would surely will still do German club. I'm so glad.

All in all it was good. I need to readjust some planning... but it was good.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I am just wiped. Yesterday was so motivating. Dr. Agbamu is an amazing speaker and really motivating. There is so much I need to blog about... I just have no brain space right now, nor do I have the intelligence to let it all out in a reasonable manner either!
Okay... so, until next time...


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dropping Concurrent Language Translation

From the apple website, there is a vodcast of the benefits of iPods and podcasting in the foreign language! Here are some things I want to ruminate...

1: Drop concurrent language translation!
It is the slowest and most inefficient way of learning anything... and especially language.
Instead you should use Preview/Review on either end of the actual language usage... and then s-l-o-w down and also perhaps use TPR, etc. Podcasting works as well... because it helps the access for acquisition.

2: Podcasting hints:
In podcasting: do 1:1 voiceover... keep it personal. Make the "next door effect". Stay away from the jockey voices and the teacher voice. Talk TO them as if you were with them... because you will be there with just them. Podcasting also is awesome when used with storytelling!]
Find community materials that are already out there... and then produce your own! Students should do it too.

3: Audio Only Podcasting:
The audio only podcasting is only beneficial (and pedagogically sound) for upper level beginners to advanced learners. TRUE beginners need more than just audio... otherwise you spend too much time doing concurrent translation (using preview/review helps this). Native speakers and native resources can be used here as well. (Although it says that almost all of the podcasts out there for beginning language learning are audio only and use a lot of concurrent language translation...)

Whew. This is feeling a bit overwhelming. But it should give me purpose and definitely things about which to ruminate. Perhaps this gives me an opportunity for a "next step". Definitely BEGIN... and then step up.

More web 2.0 tools

voicethread: a chance to do, essentially, digital storytelling... might be beautiful for online flashcards with voice!


Letterpop: a way (if you have a Flickr account) to make "staggeringly creative newsletters in minutes"... and they DO look amazing... they are like scrapbook pages as newsletters. I might have to look more into this... but I don't know if I want to sign up for yet another program (Flickr)...

Convince me that Twitter isn't just published narcissism...

So I signed up for Twitter today.
I gave in because, mainly, I wanted to see what was going on and why people love it so much. Perhaps it is simply because I don't have anyone else to tweet with... but I'm not understanding the purpose.
It seems like just an opportunity to journal and share those non-essential, ubiquitous things that no one really needs to know... yet publishing it seems to make everything one does seem important... or worthy of following.
And, perhaps, people will only follow it if it is worth following... but yikes. I guess I just don't get it.

We'll see if my perception changes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Online Portfolios and other ruminations...

Blogs as online portfolios... Hm... I like it.
I like the authenticity and I like the availability and I like the opportunities for reflection and sharing.
But how to do it authentically while maintaining privacy?
I thought dialogue journals online... but quickly dropped that because I would hate to put something so private into an online setting.
But perhaps the secondary one... the "buddy journals" could be online... Hm... Then they comment online and do so in their own time. Here's the question: how can I be sure they're not just using an online translator? I want it to be authentic... and it won't be if they use the translator... yet the anxiety for some to put it online might force them to translate. Hm.
Needs more rumination.

So I'm working on my opener for the weekly "In der Deutschklasse" podcast! I think it's going pretty well... I'm going to shorten it up a bit. It took me a while to figure out what to podcast about, but I think this "weekly letter home" template will be a great jumping off place.

Back to the virtual grindstone (as, of course, I continue "sharpening my axe"!) ;0

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A game of Reflective Tag

Okay, I was tagged by Liesl (and I have no one to tag), but I'll do it for the fun of it... :)

1. I am a good teacher because… I really connect with kids and find ways that match for them to interact with the subject and with life.

2. If I weren’t a teacher I would be a… Hmmm... this begins the incessant list of yore. When I was young, I would make lists upon lists of "what I could be" when I grew up. Note that it doesn't say what I want to be when I grow up... just what I could be. I suppose if I weren't a teacher... hm... I can't even imagine it to be honest. So much so that when we have that "what would you do if you won the lottery" discussion, my answer is always to keep teaching because I love it. A secretary? (mindless and done at the end of the day... but I know I would be bored of that at the end of one week... so I really honestly don't know.) A politician? (I would love to find more ways to change the world...but I'm sort of an introvert...)

3. My teaching style is… changing. Some because of age (and I'm finding that perhaps I'm not meeting the kids on the same plane I used to when I first began) and some because of theory. I haven't yet decided if these changes are all for the better... but I take solace in knowing at least most of it is.

4. My classroom is… busy. Not necessarily always busy with work. Not necessarily busy with personal lives. Just busy. There's always that "hum" that makes me feel at home.

5. My lesson plans are… getting better. Understanding by Design has made such a difference in my assuredness (is that a word?) of knowing that what I'm doing is purposeful.

6. One of my teaching goals is… to increase authenticity in the classroom. More authentic language practice and usage. More authentic assessment. More authentic opportunities for students to do what they do and to do what they want to do.

7. The toughest part of teaching is… meeting everyone where they are and giving them what they need.

8. The thing I love about teaching is… the kids, the fun we have learning a language together and the relationships we share.

9. A common misconception about teaching is... one and two star schools have bad teachers and sub-par things going on. The fact of the matter is that NCLB is bad, the testing rules are outrageous, and the schools that are honest in testing (all of their kids, for instance) are the ones who are getting screwed in the stars. Our staff is just as good, if not better than, five star schools. We just have a different clientele, and we're honest on testing day. (Instead of, ahem, ahem, not having certain groups of students test, or even show up, that day...)

10. The most important thing I’ve learning since I started teaching is… to find community. I can tend to be something of an introvert... and finding community has been so meaningful for me. The thing I wished and tried to create for my students, I had been missing out on. Community gives a place of belonging as well as a place of support... both for the trying and the joyous times, and we, as humans, need that.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Skype Language Lab

Skype as a foreign language lab... it's true.

Use mixxer to find partners or entire classes (I don't knwo how that would work with time constraints)


More to blog on this later.

I'm tired.

My newest technologies...

After much procrastination, I started futzing around with Audacity today. I was perhaps a bit afraid of hearing my voice on the software... unsure of what it would sound like... and perhaps worried that it would take SO much work to make it sound good that it wouldn't even be worth it. But alas. That was not the case.
After figuring out the crazy new way to do audio inputs with Vista, I first tried the Bluetooth. It worked! However it did not work well. So then I tried working with Shawn's Plantronics headset. It was most amazing. I sound like I'm in a sound studio and my voice sounds, excuse me saying so, amazing! It is actually so much fun! I've figured out cutting the audio file (to get rid of those onesie-twosie words that clutter an audio file), how to record:pause:record and how to place underlying audio tracks with other words or even music. Very exciting stuff. I think I will be doing the "audio track" for students to use for studying as their first podcast. Then they can see how easy it is. That way when it's their turn to record podcasts, they can do it super easy and should enjoy it! I'm excited. Now I just need to get something worthwhile recorded as my first podcast... and then work with uploading and publishing it so I can seem like a seasoned veteran when I do it in front of the kids. This is SO exciting. I find it exciting to hear my voice... I can only imagine how this excitement can spread when 25-35 kids have the same opportunity!

Well, once I had Audacity figured out, and had all of the audio input devices figured out, I figured I might as well sign up for Skype as well! So I did! Whew!

I'm pretty excited about the idea of "getting a Skype call" at any point (like I often hear happens to speakers at the educational technology conferences). Okay, I know that I probably won't have people calling me "at any point"... but the dream is there!

SO here's the exciting part: I was futzing around on Skype and found "Skypecasts". These are opportunities to set up a time (or find a "cast" of interest) and talk with people from around the world! I see definite possibilities in this for my German students. How cool would it be for them to talk with real Germans in this venue! Also, I could set up a Skypecast, plan it ahead of time and students could join as we talk. What would we talk about? I don't know... How to change the world? What about a "Stammtisch"? That's cool! How about a review session from our homes? I wonder if I will want to create a school account if I'm going to do that...


Very exciting stuff. I hope I remember to use it all! (And I hope I get technology IN my classroom one of these days!)

UPDATE: I set up a Skypecast for Monday, September 17 at 8:00 PM! Everyone can log in and speak/practice German! Is this going to be a cluster...? Who knows! It's all worth a try!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Do schools today kill creativity?

All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. -Picasso

We don't grow into creativity. We grow out of it. Or rather, we are educated out of it.-Ken Robinson

This is education guru Sir Ken Robinson. He makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. Sir Ken Robinson is author of "Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative," and a leading expert on innovation in education and business. (Recorded February, 2006 in Monterey, CA.) More TEDTalks at (more)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Before I forget...

I was reading Jeff's fantastic Action Research today and he was talking a lot about group work and collaboration/cooperation in the science classroom. There were a few things I really would like to be sure to meaningfully implement in my classroom (especially through my UbD unit), and before I forget (or put the post-it note somewhere in the netherworld of my collection), I am going to blog it.

Kagan and Kohn agree that competition needs to be significantly decreased, if not eliminated all together. It is harmful to the group dynamic and is the logical "not A" to the "A" of collaboration and cooperation.

Instead of prizes, there should be celebrations. It is a worthwhile bit of meaningful positive reinforcement... instead of prizes that just further stratify classes.

Finally, Kagan asserts that heterogeneous "home-base" groups of four are very meaningful for students in order to really feel a sense of community and a connection to the classroom. I want to implement these in a meaningful way and think I will do so via the modality groupings.

P.S. Brain Blast today: Goose Tesselations for the ENTIRE German program... make it the German goose family... or... wait for it... die "Gans"e deutsche Familie!
Hahahahahahahaha. I'm so clever.

Today in class...

Today Randy and Jamin were talking about a class they had taken this summer. The teacher in that class told them something interesting. He had noticed that the members of our class (and I find truth in myself in this... which is why I'm blogging it) often had the experience of finding the right answer the first time, but then abandoning it immediately upon the slightest glitch. They didn't just try it again... they abandoned the plan.

How often do I drop something or become so totally depressed about it that I have claimed it a failure (at least in my mind) (like the centers and center groups) just because of one slight glitch. That is silly... and not even close to logical.

I wouldn't tell my daughters or my students to ever do that.

So why do I?

Sometimes I even know it's the right thing to do... but I'll drop it, convincing myself that it was not, in fact, the right idea, after the slightest problem.


So need to remember to press on in what I believe... and find new answers and tweaks for what I know is right.

Fantastic New Boobs Analogy

Today at class, Liesl told me about something she had heard on the radio. The author, Lisa See, has said that boob jobs are today's foot binding! Liesl said that the largest group of people getting these breast enhancements are...

Wait for it...



Wait for it to sink in...

SEVENTEEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS constitute the LARGEST group (no pun intended) of people getting breast enhancements!

If that wasn't sad enough for you... wait until you hear this...

Do you know how they are getting them??


Their mothers are buying boobies for them so they can be sexier and found attractive by men!!

Tell me... how is this any different than footbinding?

I can just imagine that years from now people will be baffled and disgusted at what women/girls did in order to "make themselves attractive".

It makes me ill.

Women: WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER! Stop hating yourself and your body. Love you for who you are. YOU are AMAZING! Any guy who doesn't see it isn't worth your time... and here's the kicker...

Other women who are judging you (because it has often been said that women only really dress for other women) are NOT worth your time. Surround yourself with fellow women who understand they are in the same boat... and we won't make it through without supporting each other.

We're in this together... and we will do it.

Love you!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Quotes from Bob Sprankle

From his keynote speech at a teacher conference in Maine...

“Why are they engaged?
I believe that now they have purpose to their work…
There is so much we do in school that’s for that moment, or maybe for that task, or for… who knows what purpose… and maybe the students don’t know… and it’s gone.
And this stuff is gold and we don’t want to lose it!”

"A blog or a podcast is an excellent portfolio."

A quote from George Lucas (through Bob Sprankle) "How do we get schools to mirror real life? We're doing things for unknown reasons as a kid."

Schools as a no-reality zone.

A concise review of Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat "In short: the world is flat, everybody can compete on a level playing field. Asia and India are gonna eat your kids lunch and we gotta prepare our kids at a higher level so that they can compete."

And our kids are not even near ready.

Back in the swing...

Today I went back through my iTunes and re-began listening to the "Bit by Bit" podcasts from Bob Sprankle. It is incredibly motivating to listen to him... even his keynote speeches that last an hour long... because it gives me a chance to hear the history... and hear a real story about how things worked and how I can start it up!
I have let this podcasting thing get out of hand in my brain. So much so that I haven't even begun to record myself on Audacity... but listening to Bob reminds me that I actually already have so much taken care of by the simple act of blogging (and reflecting) and that the recording is the quickest part of it all!
So I went on to his website ( and had already clicked on Bit-by-Bit, so I wanted to check back in on Room 208 because it might be beneficial for my students to hear what these kids could do. And I was there! An e-mail I had sent at the beginning of the summer when I began this project was posted on the page! Look here! (the Maria is me!) It (oddly enough) was an exhilirating experience to see my name and my words on his website! And then for him to answer me! How awesome is this... I feel like a superstar! Just think how I can do this with the students! I want them to feel like superstars!
One of the stories he tells is of the new teacher who is now teaching his former 3rd (now 4th) graders. Ms. Bush said that she thinks she should teach them everything with podcasting because she doesn't have to teach them anything! She said she has never seen them this motivated to learn anything!
Listening to his stories are so exciting and inspiring...

Have kids teach the world...
Give them purpose...
And they will come...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Eureka! ... Maybe?

After the thoughts and questions the other day about making class "something more" without losing what I had... I was reading about monitoring voice in the classroom. The three voices that need monitoring are the learner, teacher and subject. This concept most succinctly put into words the experience I have been having. In the past, I have not been monitoring how the "Id" of the learner voice ("I want to watch movies! Tell us a story! Can we not do anything today?") overrule the subject voice...
However when we look at what goals the students have for the course, it is not doing anyone a favor to allow the "Id" to take over.
So how do I keep what I had, yet weave in the subject voice in an equally fun and exciting way (much in the way that the subject is woven in within the first two or three weeks of German 1)?
I think it needs to be a slow but constant build of language usage... both written and spoken. Perhaps it is most important to ensure that we have FUN language usage days.
(Detour:What if we create passports that can be used as reflective journals for the speaking days? Then students could see their growth and understanding over time... and so could I!)

Okay! Now that is something to keep simmering about.

Fortunate Accidents

I was just thinking about a conversation that was had yesterday at the Grillfest. Nikko mentioned that he didn't even know he was going to be in German class. Tyler Jones followed that up with the comment that he had actually signed up for Spanish 2 and 3, yet had been put in German class. (I never knew this!) I told him I was sorry! He smiled and said that if he didn't like it, he would have switched out after the first day... and beyond that, he wouldn't have continued into German 2 and beyond. I told all the boys there that these are what I like to call "Fortunate Accidents". Because it's true. Many of the awesome students I have gotten have been as a result of a seeming mishap. I'm definitely not complaining... and apparently they aren't either. That made my day.

(Close your ears... I'm doing a bit of shameless boasting here... patting myself on the back as I reflect on the meaning of this... don't worry... I'm already feeling the religious scorn and guilt for doing so...)
To hear that students who weren't planning on being in German stayed with it and have really, really succeeded is just an awesome testament to them and the wonderful things going on in my classroom. I don't want to lose that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Whew! What a day!
I was all prepared to go to Woodridge for the German Club Grillfest... running a little late, but generally okay! I even ran to Target and got out of there with 15 minutes to spare! I was driving away assuring myself that, in fact, things will be okay. Smiling as the sun shone into my car and "Hey there Delilah" streaming on the radio... everything was going to be great.
I got to Woodridge Park... to see vehicles pulled up to the building, someone grilling, tablecloths on all of the tables and even a big tub of beverages. People were there... seriously there. My stomach dropped and began to twist like someone wringing out a wet swimsuit. So I called Laura. We "problem-solved" for a while and she (the superstar) made some phone calls for me. We found out that only two parks in Cottage Grove were free for the day: Oakwood and Hamlet. So I discussed with the four boys who were there... and we decided on Oakwood. I made two signs and we hung them up: one on the porta-potty and one on the wood fence: announcing that we had moved the Grillfest to Oakwood. Whew. That was stressful--but the problem was resolved.
So we got to Oakwood and there was a group there as well! But we knew that they didn't reserve the space, so we decided we could fight them for it if it came down to it. It actually turned out really well. It was a very nice place to bring high-school students... relaxing and calm... plus they could go frolfing (which a few did). The people we shared the space with even ended up sharing some watermelon and cookies with us! It was very nice. And we were both concerned that we were bogarding the space! How cute... and how nice... seriously.
Seeing the kids was really nice... and they really clicked well together. I have to say that I am not really feeling that much more motivated to go back... but it was awfully nice to see everyone.
We talked about a lot of things and there was a good turnout... but the thing I really want to focus on is the comment made by Mitch. He spoke about how we didn't do much work until the last quarter of this last year. I was visibly offended, and he said that he meant that there was a lot of coloring, movies and fun times until the groups and worksheets and everything. Edgar agreed and said he was looking forward to German 3 until he got there and was surprised by how much work he had to do.
So it made me think...
1. How can I make the stuff we're going to do more "fun"... or perhaps just more "frau-esque" so the students think it is still fun and relaxing (yet I can get them to learn something!)?
2. How can I build the courses a little differently leading up to that point so that they don't come to expect "nothing" (or my perception of nothing)?
3. How can I make them see that the "nothing" that they must be perceiving is really something important?
4. How can I make the "nothing" more obviously "something"... yet keep it the same?

Interesting thoughts to ruminate about.
I really want this next year of school (and especially the split class in the spring... which I guess I don't need to fully be focusing on at this point) to be awesome. I want it to be amazing and meaningful... and I want the kids to feel that it was amazing and meaningful for them both as a person and (especially) as a German student.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I can do it... I can do it...

So I've been reading some other blogs today, like Will Richardson's and Doug Noon's. I really seem to naturally magnetize toward those who are thoughtful and seemingly quietly philosophical. I like them.

So, of course, I've been reading them (and probably now typing this) in an effort to ignore all of the work I have to do. I have SOOO much to do... here's just a short list...

  • RoL
  • AR Plan
  • Perfect Classroom
  • Backward Design: Sub ready
  • Ambiance stuff
  • 21 copies of 3 community building activities


  • Speech stuff: meet with the coaches, talk to Phil and Efe, think about the year ahead and begin to plan...
  • German Club: prep for Grillfest tomorrow! Check if there is a grill at Woodridge... buy the last things I need...
  • Planning: plan, plan, plan for school... get copies in and ready for copying

Wow... Okay... so the Planning can be put off and is, in part, taken care of with the work I'm doing for the Master's program... but the Grillfest is right in the VERY near future, and the Master's stuff is all so big that I need to be doing it big time for the whole rest of the week... even with everything else I'm doing this week. Okay.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

I will do this. I will do this. I will do this.

But first I'll plan supper.

Friday, August 10, 2007

It's coming...

The school year is coming!! I'm starting to get that little twinge in my stomach every now and then... which means that I'm picking up that "let's get going" anxiety for school! It's so exciting (yet, in too big of quantities, can be overwhelming), so I want to keep it all under control!
I was reading a blog today about the first week of school and how you can never be "tougher" than the first day, week and month of school. I disagree with this entire concept. I think that kids need you to be real... and be you... and really make connections with them starting on day one. They're nervous and unsure... and is a crabby teacher going to leave that great first impression? Everyone in life talks about first impressions, and I think it is especially important for students on the first day of school... and being extra strict and mean is just you being on an ego trip. Be real. Not cold and controlling. They need warm, loving and fun just as much as you do when you first walk into a new situation. You can (and should) still set rules and be clear and firm... but does that need to be tough, cold and stand-offish? No. Get over yourself and your rules. Be there with the kids and let them consider the rules... I bet they'll come up with the same ones you would have had anyway... and this way they are theirs... not yours.
That is what I am going to very purposefully try this year. We are going to look at it through the perspective of what goals we want to reach and what things will and will not help us. I'm excited about that... but need to consider the way of doing it even a bit more. I think I will have them freewrite their answers for about 5 minutes... then share with the class as we think of things we can agree to as a class. I really want to think about it because of the semantics of everything. I don't think I want to bring up the word "Rules" unless I have to... I want the kids to create an environment that is most beneficial for them... (mostly) whatever that contains (and I refuse to believe that "nap time" is beneficial in learning German...)! So then we would have to look at our goals again (and if their goal is nap time, they should take a different class...). Whadda ya think?

Our Grillfest is next week! I am looking forward to seeing these kids again! I am bringing hot dogs, etc... but wondering if I should be thinking of some games and such that we should play. I told them 11-1... so what will we do for two hours?
Face Painting? (ha!)

Who knows... that is something to simmer about...