Saturday, June 6, 2015

Summer PD Reading List

Despite what many people may believe, summer is a time when teachers continue working. It is during this season that we have the opportunity to reflect on our practice and our student performance as well as create lesson plans, help with summer school and reach out to former students to see how they are doing. I find it helpful to create a loosely put together list of the books I would like to read and set some larger goals for my practice, below you will find the list ;0

BOOKS with amazon links 

1. Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner

Book about language acquisition through a learner's perspective with a focus on using SRS or spaced repetition systems. Lots of resources to increase tech in class too. Amazon link

2. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown 

Destroys myths about learning with research from cognitive psychology and suggests new means of creating understanding. Told through vignettes.  Amazon link

3. Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: "No Retreat, No Surrender! by Rafe Esquith

This makes the list for the author, Rafe Esquith. My favorite teacher once told me the best book she ever read on teaching was his book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire. It is supposed to address more of the practical issues of day to day teaching like how to teach when you can barely get out of bed because you lack motivation. Amazon link

4. How Teachers Can Turn Data into Action by Daniel R. Venables 

PLCs are required by our county and have been a recent and reoccurring item on our School Improvement Plan. This past school year, admin took steps to improve PLCs by asking the teachers to talk about and reflect on student data. It was somewhat successful but seemed to lack a long-term effect. I am hoping this book will not only inform me but that I can take the findings to admin.  Amazon link

As always, feel free to comment below about books and goals you are interested in for the summer. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fluent Forever Student 1st Impressions

I know a few people asked about how students would react to the book Fluent Forever so when one of my A+ students finished her county exam early, I handed her Fluent Forever to begin reading. Her 1st impressions of the book are below:

I've read up to page 26 so far and I think it's a really good book. I love how it explains the ways you should follow when learning a new language. It was interesting how the narrator told the readers his experience with learning new languages. I was impressed by his attempt of learning 4 languages: German, Italian, French, and Russian. It's amazing how he is interested by different kinds of languages from different countries and it influenced me to learn more languages. I knew how to speak 2 languages, such as Korean and English, and now I know how to speak, read, and write Spanish. This book influenced me to give me a determination to learn more new languages. Also, I love how it shows what kinds of books you should get if you want to learn languages and gives you tips on what you should not do. This book gave me a good impression and I would love to purchase this book and finish it during the summer. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fluent Forever Book Reflection 2

I finished the book about thirty minutes ago and I didn't even want to stop reading to reflect because it enthralled me. I will try my best to bring you some highlights and thoughts in a logical, chapter by chapter manner. 

Chapter 3: Sound Play 

There are a crazy amount of sounds that compose languages across cultures and you can only hear the sounds that are recognized within your language. Wyner supports this claim with the research of minimal tests or the ability to recognize a small difference in sound between two items i.e. the letters l & r. To train your ears to hear the differences you must learn how to pronounce your target lang (TL) effectively. According to Wyner, this includes the use of not only your ears but your mouth and your eyes. Finally, he talks about a good accent as being important because "it is the ultimate gesture of empathy. It connects you to another person's culture in a way words never can, because you have bent your body as well as your mind to that person's culture" (p. 65). To achieve a good accent, he recommends the following FREE sites:  Forvo  & Rhinospike. I introduced my Ss to forvo and they are amazed with it :D 

Chapter 4: Word Play & the Symphony of a Word

"Translations strip the music out of words" (p.85) so we must stick to teaching meaning through the context of the targeted vocabulary words. As I interpreted it, he argues that we should then plan teaching the symphony of our language through frequency lists as they will foster an almost immediate gratification for student (S) effort. He warns against using the frequency lists found all over the internet and recommends purchasing a hardback edition. As teachers resources can be expensive so here is the link to a Spanish frequency dictionary he recommends that you can probably slowly print off at school ;) According to Wyner, we should be able to recognize 75% of what we read if we learn the 1st 1,000 words that we read. This sounds GREAT! I plan on comparing my county vocabulary lists to this one and seeing which words I need to add. P.S....If you also use Avancemos feel free to message me or comment below so we can collaborate :) 

Wyner also speaks about how to create STRONG multi sensory memories for words by combining the following 1. spelling 2. sound 3. meaning 4. personal connection. He recommends using google images to search for words in the TL and looking through the images to discover the meaning and to select which image you will use to remember it (the one you can reference on a flash card). 

Finally, he addresses the most dreaded part of instruction by Ss:grammar with the mnemonic imagery game. In this game, you visualize parts of speech or grammatical rules doing things. As an example he says when learning vocabulary imagine all the masculine nouns exploding, all the feminine nouns catching fire & neuter items shattering like glass. 

Chapter 5: Sentence Play 

"First you learn the instrument, then you learn the music, then you forgot all that s*** and just play" -Charlie Parker 

As language educators we know and Wyner restates that 1. input must be comprehensible for student buy in and 2. we follow the following developmental stages when we learn a language as an adult or as a child: 1. simple sentences: sleep, eat, run 2. the -ing of verbs 3. is -ing 4. irregular past tense 5. regular past tense 6. 3rd person present tense. Wyner also highlights that TEXTBOOKS & CURRICULUM DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ORDER and although Ss may be able to skip this order they can only master something on a workbook page NOT IN SPEECH because speech is too fast and it requires us to follow this lovely order. The key to helping in the progression is not throwing away your grammar instruction but by giving Ss lots of input with just a little of the meta language this is how we form the regular tense instruction. On the S side, Wyner argues that Ss should create cards with sentences containing blanks for these grammatical concepts I.E. My homework was _________ by my dog. These type of cards will help with abstract vocab i.e. of & by. 

The best way to improve your grammar and vocab is through writing Wyner states and even better when you make mistakes doing it. He encourages using those mistakes to further your knowledge of the language by playing a "what is wrong game" with your own mistakes after they have been corrected and explained. 

Chapter 6: The Language Game 

This chapter is FULL of input strategies outlined in brief. 

  • Audiobooks: How did you acquire your knowledge of vocab in English? Reading! Weyner suggests reading a book the Ss already know in the TL with the audiobook playing in the background. This is a wonderful opportunity to find out about which books the kids have read and maybe re-introduce them to some of those kids books that they LOVE when compared to reading Othello. 
  • Popular TV shows: Watch shows after making sure the Ss have character knowledge by exploring the Wikipedia page in English then in the TL. Don't use subtitles because then the kids are practicing reading NOT listening. 
  • Taboo!: Play the game using your vocab words. This is the game where you must describe the word without saying it to try to get everyone in your group to decipher what word it is that you have. Teaching circumlocution in a game!
  • Chats: Verbling, Live Mocha & italic are all sites to practice with native speakers. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND doing this only with parental permission and heavy monitoring. 

Chapter 7:Epilogue 

Reasons to learn a language. Great first day of class homework reading? 

On a side note, I want others to collaborate with me about their thoughts on the book as I know (through twitter) that some teachers were inspired to buy it based on the quotes I uploaded to twitter, @Sralandes #followme #ifollowback.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fluent Forever Book Reflection 1

Today my Amazon order of Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner came in and is already changing the way I teach language. (Amazon link to book). Before jumping into what I have done to use this research to inform my practices, let's review Wyner's 5 principles of memory and a brief summary of each.

  1. Make memories memorable. Hebb's Law states that neurons that fire together, wire together so we MUST use all 4 levels of processing (structure, sound, concept & personal connection) to maximize memory. 
  2. Maximize laziness. Extra repetition only helps retain information for a short period of time and we only "overlearn" to do well on a test. This is not for languages. Bye bye drill & kill. 
  3. Don't review. Recall. Don't waste your time re-reading a word list for class, use the extra 5 minutes to write down on a blank sheet of paper all the words you recall from the list. Doing this 3 times is proven to be more effective than extra study time OR by doing it once. This recall helps your brain release dopamine and fosters a chemical love for learning languages :) 
  4. Wait, wait! Don't tell me!  If you test yourself everyday, you will have great short term memory of language but if you test yourself right before you forget, you will increase your ability to remember something. 
  5. Rewrite the past. When we see a word or phrase for the second time, we connect it to the first time we saw it and essentially re-write our 1st experience to now be linked to the 2nd and vice versa. 
To make sure we satisfy all these objectives, Wyner argues that we must used an SRS or Spaced Repetition System in which we are asked to recall only the words that we are about to forget so that we remained challenged and get that lovely dose of dopamine from the AHA! moments. This is not, however, a system which we can create for our students as they must make personal connections to the system. Hence why they MUST create their own decks and these decks are non-transferable. Wyner affirms this need on page 45, stating "One of the reasons why language programs and classes fail is that no one can give you a language; you have to take it for yourself. You are rewiring your own brain. To success, you need to actively participate." This quote is particularly useful to share with students as it fosters a growth mindset in which the students drive their learning not an IQ assigned to them before entering your classroom. It also reminds them that they must participate in class to succeed.

To create these, Wyner gives a detailed account of how to create them by hand in the appendix of "Fluent Forever" but advises you to try the online website: :) I am going to work on my italiano and have my kids do this the first weeks of school next year. Thoughts? comments? 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Teach. Reflect. Learn. Repeat.

I am currently reading "Teach, Reflect, Learn" by Pete Hall & Alisa Simeral and my school year is quickly (and sometimes slowly) approaching its end. This puts me in reflection overdrive thinking about not only what can I improve from class to class but what can I do to increase language proficiency and engagement with my classes next year. I am still looking to increase the use of the TL in class but need to find ways to do it within the grammar driven curriculum of the county. I want to continue to use tech but really delve into nearpod and socrative and see if it is something we should be using. I also may want to look at doing duolingo again next year and blogging more. I hope however that my blog becomes more interactive with other teachers as I want it to be a place to collaborate not to passively read others musings on teaching. That's all for today. Feel free to share your goals below :) Adios!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Comprehensble Input Update

This week has required lots of explanation. I am teaching time and holy moly questions arose when we got to the "menos" part of time. I found it helpful to tell them to count backwards and minus an hour from the one stated. For example, if I say "Son las dos menos quince/cuarto," they should do 2-1=1 and count fifteen minutes counterclockwise. This helped the kids tremendously although we didn't have enough practice with the menos so we are working on it tomorrow. I am thinking I will do a time bingo, some review sheets and an info gap between partners so that the kids stay in the TL even if I have to explain in English. I thus have concluded that if I know I will have to do lots of explaining in English, the kids need to do most of the output. Thoughts?

Also: rediscovery of made time WAY more clear :)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Teacher Observations AKA Freak out!

So like a crazy person I decided to VOLUNTEER for an evaluation. That's right I said it, volunteer. Every year our admin staff has to "calibrate" themselves by visiting classes and comparing eval notes. The goal is for everyone to have the same notes and scores. As a teacher, the evaluation doesn't go on my record but gives me the opportunity to go through the process and hopefully become less freaked out. Yeah... we shall see how that goes. Here are my plans for the 40 minute class tomorrow for Spanish 1. I would love feedback and of course, feel free to use, change and reproduce my plans posted on here :)

Objective: I can talk about time in Spanish and classify time as am/pm by applying knowledge of numbers and grammar.

Theme: Escuela y los horarios de escuela

Entrance Card: Count 1-10, grab differentiated warm-up (if they answer correctly, they must write the numbers 1-12, if they answer incorrectly, a word bank is provided.

Warm-up: Turn & Talk about answers

Objective: Have student read objective posted on board and copy onto "learning diary" paper located here

Questioning: Ask why the warm-up would require students to translate numbers 1-12 with the theme of time and how does that relate to our more broad theme of school? (Turn & Talk, Share out)

Frase de la semana: ¿Qué hora es? Class repeats. Think about what it means (Act out) . Think time. Call on random person.

Challenge for the week: Re-write the times on your schedule last week to be in Spanish  (10 min)

Lesson truly begins...

Reloj analog review: big hands v. little hands  (2 min) hands up with big hand

Scaffolding: First, we are going to focus on the hours…

Have students show hours on clocks purchased at the dollar store. I will go over 3 numbers and then  the students with post its on desks will call to the class.

Introduce two words when doce appears
*el mediodía (noon) pm*
* la medianoche (midnight) también es un sandwich cubano  am*

Scaffolding: Next, we will focus on the time of day (5)

Show picture and they tell you de la mañana, de la tarde, de la noche. Have students repeat sounds. Say english, they hold up Spanish and cold call on kids to read. Copy of pics

Scaffolding: Little hands. Finally, we will focus on the minutes 12-60. Remind students that we just combine the tens and one place after 29. 

Choral response numbers 20, 30, 40, 50, 60

Silent Study: 3 min individual student looks over words. I used the h/o from Amy Lenord located here

Card Coach: Quiz partner on cards (3 min/partner)

Exit ticket: Twiccionario from ZachJones (

De la manana, de la tarde o de la noche (AM/PM doesn’t exist in Spanish countries including México)

Tarea: Reflexión on your diario de aprendizaje