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)

Mixxer: http://www.language-exchanges.org/

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 www.TED.com (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 (www.bobsprankle.com) 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...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


I got back from Omaha last night and hadn't had a chance to update this...
I am getting more and more excited for next year. Last week we found out that Rob Bach, former chemistry teacher, is going to be an assistant principal next year at Park!! I am very excited. I think it will have the most profound effect on Park to have our new administration and I am truly excited for what it will look like this year!
We were supposed to have a concept club meeting at Park tonight, but I checked on my room last night and realized that I don't have anything new in my room at this point! That is scary stuff. I know that they are looking at the beginning of the school year to be finished, but I didn't realize that it would be this close. Faith, Maria, Faith.
I got an e-mail from a woman whose nephew from Germany is staying with her for this school year and his primary language is German. He will be (hopefully) joining the German club and will be (hopefully) a great resource for me and my kids with German!
Grillfest is next Tuesday... I need to get some plans solidified!