Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

November 2, 2018
by leesensei
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Word Sneak? Phrase Sneak!!!!! Oral Storytelling & Listening

A very detailed story waiting to be told!

Okay I needed an activity. I wanted to provide choice but reinforce key structures. Often if we have students ‘use’ something we are worried that it is being done correctly. How could I encourage creativity but ensure the structures were properly in use? I had seen lots on Twitter about the idea of ‘word sneak’ as a vocabulary game (a post by Catlin Tucker outlines the idea). But I didn’t just want ‘words’ – so ‘Phrase Sneak’ was born…here’s how it worked…

The ‘key’ phrases/words

First – I set out the key phrases/vocabulary  they needed in the story. I picked 8 and asked each pair what these would be in the TL. I gave them a small notecard to write them down. Then we reviewed as a class. I also use a lot of visuals in class and envelopes with some of those visuals and blank cards were in their baskets on their tables. You could do this just with blank cards. (I like the idea of visuals as keys to remember what to say.)

Then the instructions. They were given 30 minutes to construct a story (not written down – to be orally told) using a minimum of 6 of the 8 key structure items. And they had to include 3 that I designated as key (they’re the ones with the dots beside them in the picture). I recommended visuals for the key parts – and most used ones we had already (and supplemented with hand-drawn ones).  They were reminded that both partners had to participate in telling the story – that one partner could not do all of the speaking. That was the extent of the instructions. (Note: my colleague whose kids did quick sketches for every picture took much longer to prepare and will tell their tales in the next class).

Just before we set out to share each team got a post-it note. They were instructed that as they listened to a story, and heard the group use the key phrases in telling it, they were to record (a check mark) that they heard it..(They wrote the initials of the group that they were listening to and just put check marks as they heard). My peer tutor also suggested that, when students heard the required phrases, they could indicate that with a ‘star’ instead of a check – I like that extra level of listening.

A story waiting to be told!

Then they set out to tell. After each pair recounted their story they stood up and looked for another group that was done. Then they told it again. And again. Most groups retold the story at least 3 times. You could always do the retell the next day (and allow followup questions from the listeners if you wish. That would be a great extension).

It was a different way to reinforce structures, be creative and have some fun! I’ll do it again!

C

May 17, 2018
by leesensei
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One Piece of Paper – Sketch, Share, Listen, Speak….Repeat…

I’ve written before about my use of what I call “Sketch and Share” – a way to combine visuals with sentences to practice a particular structure (and avoid the dreaded worksheet). My Year 1’s (Grade 9) have just finished using this in an expanded way…

Day 1: It started with the idea of adding details to a sentence – a day of the week, a person,  a person to go with and a place to go.  One one side of the paper the images that make this up (blue). A coin purse (Friday – character for gold), a person, Mom, and a restaurant.  On the other – the sentence (green). “On Friday, I go, with my Mom, to the restaurant.” 

Day 2: We worked through the structure points and each person checked their work (and their partners) for what needed to be in the sentences.  Then on to the “Share” part – a challenge to a partner to say the sentence. It’s also a practice asking if student’s don’t know what an image is (in TL). Students circulate and challenge 4 people to “say” 4 of your picture sentences.  Then it comes in for me for feedback with only a few needing any tweaking.

Day 3: A chance to work in transportation words. A story and practice ensued. Now students are asked to add a transportation word to their original picture and their original sentence. Circulate and challenge again. Then into me to double-check that you’ve added that element.

Day 4: We began to work on the difference between ‘to a place’ and ‘at a place’  (yes – it is a whole lesson for Japanese!). Again a story and related work in class. Students then were asked to add another sentence to the one they had already written. This time they were adding what they will do AT the place the original sentence went to.  Again this came to me for feedback.

One piece of paper. Four days – 4 chances to write, talk, listen and repeat key structures and obtain feedback…I like it…

C

May 4, 2018
by leesensei
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Talking the Talk- Eliminating the Word “Test” from My Learning Environment

I’ve been working to reform my classroom learning environment. This is a long-term project, aided by a wonderful colleague in my department (who I won’t name – she doesn’t like the spotlight). We are working hard for students to see that the classroom is a learning and feedback environment. That we are not going to ‘mark’ your learning. That the only thing that is ‘assessed’ is what you have mastered at the end of a unit. I’ve altered my conversation around marks gradually – shifting from numbers to descriptors and adding proficiency descriptors. I’ve changed how I ‘grade’ work we do in our classroom. I’ve even altered how I evaluated using pop check in’s to help students assess if they have mastered an area or not.

In the past few weeks though I noticed a holdover from my ‘past’ teaching practice. The word “Test”. So many kids cite anxiety about a ‘test’. Teachers use it as a ‘hammer’ and a ‘threat’ in their belief that it will get kids to do work. “There’s a test” then becomes the impetus for kids to study and learn. And it is held up as the measure of how well they are learning a subject.  And yet I continued to use the word. It suddenly felt so wrong and so incongruent with my current teaching practice. For a while I settled on the word ‘evaluation’ as in “you’re learning will only be evaluated at the end of the unit”. It was a step up but still to me smacked of the idea of a ‘test’. So I put my attempt to eliminate the word ‘test’ out on Twitter to the #langchat crew. And the lovely Wendy Farabaugh replied that she uses the word ‘assessment’. Wow…assessment …great word.  A simple snapshot in time of their mastery of certain skills. Not a punishing ‘right/wrong’ list of what students can’t do but an assessment of what they can. We ask kids to self-assess and I constantly assess my teaching – and now I’m making sure that my work with them is viewed via that lens too. Update: After reading the post a great reply from #langchat amie Natalia DeLaat. She uses  “assessment” for more summative activities and “learning check” for smaller items – I’m going with that!!!!

So out with the words ‘quiz and test’ and in with the word ‘assessment’. It’s aligned with what I believe and what I am trying to practice. The only issue, beside my self-monitoring to make sure I no longer say the words, is the need to change the ‘wording’ on the cover of previous ‘tests’. And that’s an edit I’m happy to make!

C

April 29, 2018
by leesensei
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Is This For Marks? Well…Let’s Talk About That…

So welcome to my class – I know you may not have been here before – and I know already you have asked me about how hard I ‘mark’ and if there is a final and more. You’ve even asked “is this for marks?” about something I’ve asked you to prepare for class…You’ve been well-schooled by the ‘if it has a mark attached it is important’ idea from your classes. So let’s just stop a moment and review ‘marks’ in my class…here we go…

Is this for marks? Will this count? Your class is a daily opportunity to learn and receive feedback on that learning. I know you may not get that yet. You’re expecting everything I ask you to do that has any ‘value’ to have a mark. So I’ll give you a mark for it. In fact everything you do, everything I ask you do prior to the summative is worth 0.5 marks. Yes. 0.5. Almost seems not worth it does it? I mean why not skip a class, why not choose not to do something for class? Why bother. It’s not worth much. But the sum of all those experiences, all those chances to learn, all the feedback you receive will ‘count’, will impact your summative assessments. Your summative assessment is worth ‘everything’ in the unit. It’s a look at where you are..at the end of all the learning, feedback, check-ins and more. Each summative also increases in value over the course of the year – so later summatives are worth more – more chance to slowly develop your skills and bring in your past learning as you add on new learning too..

You didn’t do what I asked you to do in preparing for today’s class? You just didn’t bother? You wonder if you can ‘make it up later’? Sure. Of course. You will not get a “0” for that. It will be recorded as ‘incomplete’ in my book until it is done. Oh but it was something I asked you to prepare to use in class and if you don’t have it ready….you won’t be participating in the activity until it is…Yes you could have done it…but you chose not to. So until you are ready you’ll be sitting this one out…and missing out on a chance to get feedback for your learning…

Did you really think you knew something but found out you didn’t. Well chances are you did it via a pop-check in. You were asked to show what is in your head about a concept – without ‘warning’ or ‘studying’. Did you not understand as well as you could have/thought you did? While after the check-in, while you were in class, I took the time to go over it with you, we talked about what you do understand and reviewed what you still aren’t sure about. And then you do your ‘revisions’ and hand it in for that whopping 0.5 point credit. But now you have shown more understanding than you did before…

You did something I actually ‘tested’ and it didn’t go so well? Was it a lack of understanding? Did you just have an off day? Would you like the opportunity to show me that you have learned the material. Yes you can. Life happens and sometimes you need another chance. (Sometimes…if we’re at every time we’re having a chat!). Please email me a request to do so telling me when you’d like to do that. Happy to provide that opportunity.

So sure ‘it’s for marks’….just not how you think it is…

C

August 30, 2017
by leesensei
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Read, Reflect, Respond…Or…No Reading the Syllabus on The First Day of Class…!

It’s almost my first day…and I am excited to see my students again. I enjoy the first day – especially since I made the decision to NOT spend any time reading the syllabus (or outline as I call it). I got this idea from the amazing Martina Bex…and this year I have updated/altered my questions to suit the new style of syllabus that I have designed. It’s an all ‘graphic’ syllabus now…including a Path to Proficiency and my recent “Skills You Develop in Language Class” infographic as well.

So what do I do with this ‘piece’ of paper that is a syllabus? Well…I ask them to take it in hand…read it and answer some questions that require they ‘reflect’ on what they read… This email assignment also ensures that they know how to contact me! (After all they have to do this to complete this!)

Here’s what I ask my 2nd and 3rd year students to consider….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m looking forward to their replies…

Colleen

April 26, 2017
by leesensei
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Got Minimal EdTech Resources/Access? Tech Ideas/Tools For Supporting Learning

Note: Currently I am on a self-funded leave until September 2017 – so I am not blogging regularly. Language Sensei will be back – refreshed & ready to go – with new posts in late summer. In the meantime….

I have documented, occasionally moaned, about my access to using technology in my classroom (we did not have wifi for student use in classrooms until this semester) and apps and 1:1 devices are still a dream. But a query from Joe Dale (one of the first people who I followed on Twitter!) made me realize that, no matter what your ‘access’ situation, technology is always available to support your teaching. Below is a collection of blog posts documenting  the variety of edtech tools that I have used to support learning in my Japanese language classes…in my edtech-minimal school. Each includes the title, tools highlighted/used and a link to the post!

The ‘Virtual Trip’ 3 days in Tokyo – using Quicktime, Inanimate Alice, TripAdvisor Japan, the Rikai-chan/Rikai-kun kanji reading extension, Google street view and more….

3 Small But Vital Tech Bits for my classes – TinyScanner, Export to Video (Keynote), SaveFromNet downloader:

Marking online/Oral Feedback with Kaizena – Kaizena Online Marking/Feedback add-on,  Google Docs:

Flipping a Lesson – Instant Feedback with Flubaroo – Google Forms, Flubaroo Automatic marking:

Cool Tools – My Favourite Extensions etc – Kaizena Docs Add-on, Rikai-chan/Rikai-kun, Evernote Webclipper, Texthelp Study Skills docs add-on, Clea.nr  Videos add-on and more:

Using/Making A Unit Slideshow/Video – Keynote, Quicktime video: Using Their Info To Make

Generating Your Own Authentic Resources Using Student Data – Google Forms:

Collaborating & Team-Building With Kahoot:

There are more – and more being added all the time. As for me ..next up is to implement Seesaw so students can curate their learning online..I’m looking forward to it!

C

January 18, 2017
by leesensei
1 Comment

And now…a short teaching break!

I am 6 working days away from time off. For the second time in my career I have put salary aside (over 4/5 years) to take a self-funded leave for 1 semester.  Yes – from Jan 30 to the start of the school year in September I will be giving myself some time. What to do? Oh there is the planned cruise with my husband & family (never been on one!) and the potential to sleep in past 5:30am. But there is more…there is time to relax, to unwind and most importantly to think, to reflect, to alter what I don’t like.

Just before I take my time off I’m heading to the TellCollab in Seattle. I’m so excited to learn what I can from this experience. Although I won’t be taking what I learn back to the class right away, I will have time to think about implementing what I learn. I will continue to blog when I want to sort something out – or when I have something to say to myself! I will try to learn some new skills like Movie Talk and the idea behind better story-telling in class. If the Canadian dollar doesn’t totally crash (we’re at 75cents vs. the US$) I hope to go to ACTFL in Nashville.

I am very lucky to work in a district where self-paid time off is possible. I am very lucky to have the time to really sit back and think about how the last 5-6 years of my teaching career is going to look. I am really fortunate to be a teacher who wants to keep getting better. And I am most grateful for the #langchat and wider teaching community who continues to share and inspire…

Look for me on #langchat, I’ll see you via the blog and I’ll be back in the trenches sooner than later. In the meantime ….meanwhile I’ll get used to being able to, if only for a little while, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee in the morning…

Colleen

December 30, 2016
by leesensei
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Top Posts of the Year – #1 – All About The Interpersonal Proficiency!

I don’t think it is surprising the most read posts of the  year were about something we are all looking to help our students improve – their proficiency in Interpersonal Activities. The post below is a combination of several new and older posts…and my collection of ideas in helping my students be more eager & confident speakers!
Group of Friends with Arms Around Each OtherSupporting Interpersonal Interaction in Class – What Helps Them Stay In The TL? What allows you to walk out of the room, run to the copier and come back and still have them talking? What allows you to send them out to record a conversation and know that they won’t script? What is it that makes them confident to use and sustain a conversation in the Target Language? If you know – please share! This is an ongoing quest for all of us. I have been trying, as you all have over the years, to imbue in my students the ‘confidence’ to risk, to try, to talk.  Here’s a few of my ideas on what helps them out.. what I find helps them want to not only talk, but to sustain their talking in the Target Language….Read more…

Thank you again for your input, and eyes, on my posts. I’ll return in the New Year with more things I am thinking about on this language teaching journey!

Colleen

December 22, 2016
by leesensei
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Top Posts of the Year – #3 – What Is An “Oral Final”

What a year it has been! A year of change and growth for me as a teaching professional (it never ends!). For the next few posts I am looking back at what resonated with readers of “Language Sensei”.

58db2d0e2c1397f19cc3fd65bcffa2daThis post generated some interesting comments – and almost deteriorated into what I don’t like – the “There is only 1 way to teach” argument. Some disagreed with the idea that ‘imperfect’ language is okay and thought that I should be involved (as the ‘perfect’ language???) in the mix. Others took issue with the ‘real world’ idea. For me the ‘real world’ is them using the language in casual conversation with someone…not in a classroom and certainly not with a teacher there. I think the misunderstandings may also have stemmed from readers not seeing that this post was about my oral FINAL – not orals in general. So if this is a new post to you – again  – this is my FINAL…. 🙂

What should an oral final look/sound like? I’ve been thinking about this as I continue to try to take away the ‘unnecessary’ – and get to the necessary – in my classroom.  And I’ve thought a lot about what the ‘summative’ part means. This is the ‘last’ oral interaction – especially for some of my juniors (not going to Yr4), and all of my seniors, that they will have in the Target Language. This is a significant moment and I want the legacy of this moment – the impact of it – to be felt by them. I want them to leave my program with the confidence to take an opportunity to use, or further develop, their skills and choose to act upon them. It may be the end of their class journey but I hope it’s not the end of their learning. So I’ve rethought what a summative oral should be and I’ve gone in my thinking from ‘testing what they know’ to ‘establishing what they will hopefully do…’…’ Read more…

December 16, 2016
by leesensei
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Top Posts of the Year: #4 – Note to Self – You Are Doing Enough

What a year it has been! A year of change and growth for me as a teaching professional (it never ends!). For the next few posts I am looking back at what resonated with readers of “Language Sensei”.

Source: Morguefile.comOf all the posts this year this one was the one that garnered a lot of activity. It was shared on Facebook a number of times – which I take to mean that people shared it as a personal thing – not a professional item per se. It certainly was personal to me….and I am amazed that in my 22nd year of teaching it still is something I am worried about…

“I’m not doing enough!!!!” Learning to Say “Yes I Am…” – Oh I love Twitter and #langchat. It has revolutionized my teaching. Really it has. It has challenged me, helped me and sometimes (okay more than sometimes) pushed me to ‘stretch’. But with growth comes, I’ll be frank, panic. Sometimes I feel very very inadequate compared to what other people are sharing, advocating, leading on #langchat. Sometimes I feel like there are not enough hours in the day to ‘change everything’. Sometimes I feel that I am not doing “enough”. That some teachers are way ahead of me in how they teach. That some teachers appear to “know” when I don’t.  Read more…

Next Up – #3 – An “Old” Standby – Defended…

C

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