Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

October 19, 2016
by leesensei

Pre-Bell: The Short Vocabulary Video Intro/Review…

First off we don’t have bells in our school. But we do have time when students are in the room prior to class starting and I want to use this time to set the environment for learning. This year with my Year1’s I have started experimenting with a video to either reinforce or introduce a concept.

Today this involved the idea of counting how many people there are. We use it a lot in our “What Is Your Family Like? What Are Japanese Families Like?” unit. It’s a pretty simple and easy concept. Instead of embedding it in a story to introduce…I chose a more ‘direct’ visual approach. I searched YouTube for a video – ‘counting people in Japanese‘ and found a fun one including visuals, subtitles and an annoyingly catchy tune. Note that, due to wifi unreliability I download the video from Youtube. Then, I put the video into Quicktime (or a similar program) and set it to play on a loop. As students entered it played, over and over, and when we were ready to begin I asked the class, in the Target Language, “How many people at this table?”. They all responded. We went around with variations and then extended it to “How many people in your family?”…done…easily, in context, and without my direct teaching of it. We went on to use the information in class activities. As they finished up some ‘next day preparation’ I played the audio on a loop as well….Finally prior to leaving I asked them to tell their partner how you said “one person” or “two people” in Japanese. All could…

Another example – Days of the month – which in Japanese involve a variety of special words for the days 1-10, 14, 20 and 24. I want them to be able to say their own birthday but at least to recognize a classmates date of birth when they hear it. So I found a wacky video made by some students in Australia. Again it played on a loop…Again we used it afterwards via audio to reinforce.

Instead of vocabulary you could use a commercial or other short piece of video that highlights a particular language concept. I looped a small scene from the drama we watch yesterday in order to pull out the phrase related to ‘intend to do’. There are a wealth of videos out there for almost any topic in almost every language (I do find that it is vocabulary that is most prevalent). This is by no means the only way that students will encounter these words/concepts as we will use them in embedded readings and more activities. But it is a quick way to introduce and/or reinforce…and hopefully engage…


PS – The day after the ‘counting people’ video I put it on at the start of class again. And what happened? Singing. Yes – almost the whole class singing the song…then I turned off the projector and they sang with the song audio…then I turned off the audio and they sang. Finally they counted with their partner…I’m off looking for more ‘quick hit’ videos!

April 14, 2015
by leesensei

Flip, Flubaroo and Fly….. Reinforcement with Instant Feedback…

flipI’m starting a new story unit this week and experimenting with ‘flipping’ the small grammar points that are new, but occur over and over in the text. I admit that the idea of flipping came to me after much angst about how much time I was going to need to introduce the points in a TPRS-style story before having them read their actual story. So – whether you agree with flipping or not – I wanted to use the ‘flip’ as a pop-up grammar lesson. But I wanted to go further and see ‘if’ they were getting the concept and ‘how well’ they were getting it. Oh – and I wanted them to know right away as well if they were on the right track. I remembered something about automatically marking items and the word ‘Flubaroo’ had stuck in my mind (and my Evernote ‘tech’ notebook). This might be, I thought, the perfect  chance to try it out. Here’s how I did it.


Make or Find the Video: Using my tablet/computer I used Snagit (my district has a license for it) to record me annotating/talking about the point – it’s not exciting in any way (keep in mind they have heard these words before but not looked at ‘how’ they are made). I then uploaded this to my YouTube channel – Snagit will do it directly but if that doesn’t work you can do this from YouTube.

Link to a GoogleDocs Form: To see if the students were ‘getting it’ I wanted a quiz to reinforce the points. I created a multiple choice GoogleDocs form in the target language. Remember to ask students to input their first name and an email contact (this will be critical for later). Make sure this is the form you want – in the form you want – as once you activate Flubaroo you can’t change it. Once my form was done I went to ‘view live form’ and copied the url. Then in the “basic info notes” section of the video (you can access this by video manager) I included a message for students with a link to the form.

Activiate the Flubaroo Add-On: First I suggest that you complete the form for yourself – this will be your answer key for the ‘quiz’ you have created. Then from the forms section go and get the Flubaroo Add-On. This is a GoogleDocs add-on – and easy to activate. Once activated I chose to ‘mark’ and used my answers as the key. There are several options for how feedback is sent. I chose to not send the correct answers to students. I then went back to the live form and did a sample answer, as a student and I received feedback in my inbox almost instantly. As a teacher – I could go to the bottom of the response spreadsheet and click on the ‘grades’ tab – to see how individual students did (and what was still an issue for all – requiring some more teaching attention from me).

THE RESOURCES TO DO THE TECH STUFF:  I used Sylvia Duckworth’s awesome tutorial and the excellent Flubaroo site to walk me through the steps. Easy to follow and duplicate!


Students loved the ability to watch the video several times – and the instant feedback. They asked if they could ‘re-do’ the quiz after revisiting the video – and asking questions of me if they still didn’t understand. We decided that they would get two attempts at it – before I marked it for completion. I note that most students did attempt a second time – showing improvement in how they did. To be honest I want them to check sources (and each other) to try to improve their understanding – this isn’t a ‘test’ – it’s all about mastery!

This is not my typical style of teaching and I don’t like to rely on explicit grammar teaching but in this case its a useful alternative to help to deliver the material. So if you are interested in trying to ‘flip’ a lesson and ‘assess’ how it goes based on student feedback this might be a an alternative. Merci encore Sylvia for your support!


March 6, 2013
by leesensei
1 Comment

The Value of Being “Forced” to Make Lemonade

What happens when your ‘traditional’ way of doing things in class doesn’t “fit” with the times or the situation? I confronted that this week. In prepping my Japanese 12 students for a debate on the value of a school uniform I traditionally take a few days to introduce and practice the patterns/structures that they might need.

Unfortunately this year’s unit (or fortunately!) begins 3 days before we start a 2 week spring break. What to do? Compounding the time frame my class of 18 is being reduced to 9 next week due to other school programs and trips. How did I react? Well it was a classic case of the 5 steps of ‘grief’ – there was denial it was happening, there was rage at my program being inconvenienced, there was bargaining with the teacher taking the majority of my students away, a bout of depression and then finally accepting it was going to happen – so what was I going to do about it?

I finally realized that I had been given a gift. I was being forced to face my ‘previous’ style of teaching and could use the tips, tricks and tech that I have gathered from my #langchat PLN to do what I needed in a much more modern way.

So now…on Day 1 we’re using #authres (authentic resources) to gather information on uniforms. The ‘grammar’ we’re needing will be woven into the project – and the key concepts introduced via video the night before in ‘flipped’ lessons. Comprehension will be checked via student ‘decided’ homework. Finally on Day 3 students will use a ’round table’ format to discuss scenarios and reasons to explain their choices – with a twist of adding some 21st century features. My absent students can also complete the activity and, instead of  participating in the round-table can narrate (using a 2.0 source) the visuals.

So thank you teachers for taking those students out of my class. I may not have been a pretty sight as I worked my way through the process but my students are certainly going to enjoy the lemonade we’ve made.




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