Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Digital Trifecta for Common Core

First let me start by saying that I LOVE MY JOB (I teach high school Spanish)! I love it even more now that our high school is 1:1! There are now endless digital options at our fingers tips for communicating in the target language!  You may be thinking "BUT I'M NOT A FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHER." Fear not! I am certain this post will get your creative juices flowing as to how you can incorporate the digital features mentioned here into your own content area.

The last four school days my students participated in activities to support Common Core & ACTFL's 4 skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking by using multiple digital tools.
Click HERE for Alignment of ACTFL & Common Core Standards

Part I:  Listening for Understanding (Google Docs, Vocaroo & Padlet)

I started with using  Vocaroo to record four separate listening activities.  I then copy/pasted the four listening activities onto a Padlet wall I created.

Students accessed a Google doc in which they used a graphic organizer to record information they heard.  The listening activities were presented for 4 levels of understanding (basic, proficient, mastery, advanced). While each of the listening activities spoke of the same alien description, as students moved through the levels of listening more details were heard.  If students found the basic level too easy they moved on to the next level of listening.  However, if students found a level too difficult then they could listen to the levels prior to the level they deemed difficult.  As students listened, they filled in the graphic organizer according to the directions seen below:

Part 2: Writing for Understanding (Google Docs & Comment Feature)

Students were then presented another graphic organizer on the Google Doc.  However, for this activity students brainstormed Spanish vocabulary for their own alien creation.  Students then composed Spanish sentences from information in the organizer.  Students SHARED their Google Docs with me so that I could add descriptive feedback as they wrote using the Comment Feature.  This allowed students to immediately catch errors and correct mistakes.  Here is an example:

Part 3:  Speaking for Understanding (Vocaroo & Padlet)

After revisions were made students created their own Vocaroo recordings of the writings they composed.  Students embedded their Vocaroo links onto the class Padlet wall.  Before I proceed further, here are some helpful things to consider when using Padlet for students to post:
  • create one padlet wall per class so that your recordings are grouped by hour
  • use the Privacy features to assign a unique code and/or limit functions to:
    • can view
    • can write
    • can moderate (use this feature if you want to share editing features with another teacher)
  • also don't forget to check the feature that allows you to "approve" all submitted recordings before they are made available others to see/hear (you never know what crafty kid might get silly and post something unrelated to the project)
Part 4:  Listening for Understanding

Once you listen to the recordings and approve them for your class to listen then consider replacing student names with assigned numbers (as seen below). You can have classes listen to recordings of other classes so that students do not know what class they are listening to as well as who they are listening to since only assigned numbers appear instead of a name.  Again, as students listen they can fill in a graphic organizer or try to draw what they hear!

A picture says a thousand words, but even better I have embedded one of my class walls so that you can see it in action!

Potential for Other Content Areas:

  • Social Sciences & Communication Arts:  Students can write from the perspective of a character, famous person or tell about an event in history using Google Docs.   Then use Vocaroo to record their compositions.  Other students can listen to the posted recordings on the Padlet wall in order to compare/contrast characters or learn about other people or events.
  • Science, Family Consumer Sciences & Math:  Students can compose a writing regarding a process using Google Docs.  Then they can record their composed writings using Vocaroo and post them to the Padlet wall.  Other students can listen to the posted recordings on the Padlet wall to learn about a new process and/or follow process in order to create a product.
The ideas are truly endless!

In short, Google Docs, Vocaroo & Padlet is a Digital Trifecta for implementing Common Core's four anchor standards of listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Balancing Grace, Gratitude & Grit: Rekindling Your Professional Passion

This post is dedicated to all teachers who balance grace, gratitude and grit.  On a broader spectrum, the careful juggling of these three is what creates positive momentum regardless your profession.


Let's face it, we all have a lot on our professional plates.  Often times the jobs we are tasked with can create drag on our desired need to move forward.  In the midst of having full plates, it is important individuals process frustrations. Notice, the focus is on processing frustrations versus venting frustrations as there is a fine line between the two.  When the focus is on processing we can then grant grace to ourselves and/or others.  We must employ graceful listening so that we can unveil the compassion and dedication underlying initial frustrations.


As compassion and dedication bubble back to the surface so too does our gratitude.  We can now see beyond our full plates and remind ourselves why we are in the profession we have chosen.  Gratitude renews our spirit!  It cleans the lenses with which we choose to look through!  Making amends with your own frustrations will release the resistance you were feeling thus allowing you to move forward again.


Hang in there! You got this! The last ball to juggle is grit! Grit is your ability to persevere through frustrations and circumstances. How you go about it is completely up to you.  You get to choose what and how to dig your heels into moving forward.  Choose something on your plate that you are passionate about!  Perhaps it is investing your creative energies into an amazing lesson for students or a committee project you believe in! For a moment, put aside all the other items on your plate.  You will find that by successfully implementing or completing something you are passionate about will reveal new insights to other projects. Tapping into your passion will renew your efforts to tackle what is on your plate. Once you have jumped back into the trenches it is inevitable that you will again feel frustrated, overwhelmed by your full plate or even become stagnate with progress.  It is a cycle that touches everyone. Grit is the act of picking up the dropped balls to find balance again.

Indeed this takes the act of juggling! However, if we each continually juggle grace, gratitude and grit we will find ourselves always looking forward to what is possible versus focusing on what is not.

photo credit: Jakob Hans via photopin cc (remix by: Charity C Stephens)

Monday, September 16, 2013

EyeJot for Foreign Languages

EyeJot is a video messaging feature that allows you to send video messages that are 5 minutes or less.  I use EyeJot in Spanish class for students to:  learn vocabulary, practice pronunciation, communicate in the target language, re-teach concepts and to listen for information to other student created video messages in Spanish.  Hopefully this post inspires you to integrate EyeJot into your language classroom!  The best thing about it:  it is free AND it does not take up space on your computer since it is housed on the web!

This is what you can do to get started:

1) Go to to "Join Now"

2) Follow the directions to set up your camera and microphone.

3) Model EyeJot for your students with something like this...

4) Patience is a virtue...the first time you launch this with students it takes a while for them to set up accounts, cameras and microphones.  Once you see that a student has successfully set up his/her account task him/her to help help others.  Soon enough there are multiple experts in the room helping one another.
  • I highly recommend that students join EyeJot with their school email address so that, if you choose, you can easily find them on EyeJot. (We must teach students digital citizenship. An important lesson is that they should have separate accounts for personal v school and when joining sites for school emails should be utilized.)
5) You may be wondering what you might do with EyeJot so here are some student examples (students granted permission for me to share these videos):
  • Vocabulary Practice & Teaching Vocabulary
  • Communicating in the Target Language

6) How can you see videos made by others? There are options:
  • EyeJot has a feature in which you can send messages to "friends" on EyeJot.  This is nice in that all videos will be stored on EyeJot v your email inbox. (The YouTube video below details how to set up "friend groups" on EyeJot so that you can set up groups by class.  It further shows you how you can track if students have viewed EyeJot videos that you required them to watch.)
  • Have students email you their videos.  To limit the number of emails you receive you can have students share a computer/video message.
7) Want more detailed information on EyeJot? Check out this well crafted video by "PeakDavid" on YouTube

I firmly believe in starting simple.  I started with practice for students (no grading for perfection, simply practice with some descriptive feedback).  I also began with students emailing me their videos (let's face it, it takes time to set up classes for over 150 student emails in starting small and having them email me I could quickly dive into using this awesome tool).  

Happy EyeJotting! And special thanks to the students in these videos that allowed me to share them!