16 January 2016

New Year, new teaching

New Year, new teaching...

One of my New Year's resolutions was to improve my teaching.  Even though I have been teaching 16 years, I am always looking to improve upon what I've done in the past.  Friends of mine have said, "after all these years, you should just be able to teach auto-pilot" or similar statements.  I have re-used projects or even some lessons but I every weekend, without fail, I sit down and plan for the week.  I want to stay current, fresh, relevant and I don't want to be bored.

Something new that I've tried this year was a QR Code Scavenger Hunt.  I don't remember to whom I owe the credit for this.  I think that it was the result of networking on Twitter or from someone's blog. I wish I could thank the person who created it because my students are having such a great time with it! Basically, what I have done was to create an initial QR code which has clues to where they can find the other QR codes throughout the school.  The clues are all in the target language.  In teams, the students run (some, literally) through the school to find the other codes.  Each code they scan has information they must find or a task like taking a selfie of the whole group with a certain administrator or food. I have used the QR Reader app on my phone to create the codes as well as ClassTools.net's QR Code Treasure Hunt.  Here are some pics from a recent scavenger hunt. You can even scan my code to see what I used!


I am so grateful to my students from a few years ago who set me up on Twitter. Before Twitter, I would do what I was used to doing in order to prepare for my classes--scour the internet for research, articles and ideas.  That was time consuming (even if it was worth it).  Enter my period 5 class insisting that I make a Twitter account.  I've been hooked ever since.  Now, I follow some great educators and take part in some awesome chats like #reflectiveteacher and #langchat.  It has never been easier to network ideas (if there is a better way- let me know!)

I'm excited to start using some of the new ideas that have been shared. I'm looking forward to implementing some tools like ClassTools.net's Random Name Picker and using Twitter to have students chat.  My love of music helped me to learn language more than many other activities and I try to bring music into my classroom any chance I get.  I have done the standard cloze-type activities where student fill in missing words they hear.  I have analyzed songs with students, translated parts of a song or had students make music videos.  I even use music videos as #twextracredit.  (#twextracredit is my way of giving my students extra credit through Twitter.) This year, I have tried to be more creative having students go on a scavenger hunt within a song.  I give them lyrics to a song, play the song continuously and ask them to find certain items like verbs, tenses, synonyms/antonyms, certain vocabulary terms and so on.  Basically whatever I can pull out that ranges in difficulty level.  I have had students work together and separately and usually reward the first to find all items.  It's a fun way to have students look closer at language, hear authentic language and for me to share my favorite artists with them.  I use songs in my Kahoots that usually give a clue if they're paying attention closely.  I'm always looking for ideas and would like to thank @SraSpanglish for her blog posts, especially the one on Pop Song Practice. Nice to have some new fresh ideas.

One idea I'm especially excited about didn't require me to go far or even sign in to Twitter. An advantage of being married to another teacher is that you get to bounce ideas off one another all the time.  My wife is an elementary school special ed teacher and recently we were talking about ideas to improve our teaching and she was saying that she wanted to give her students the opportunity to teach their classmates about things they enjoyed.  What an awesome idea! Even though my students might be a bit beyond show-and-tell, the idea is great.  I'm hoping to implement a version of this where my students will submit to me a topic they would like to teach the class about- sports, music, dance, whatever- and will prepare a mini lesson in the target language. I will work with them separately (in and out of the class) to prepare and each student will have their time at least once during the year. 

Another idea I'd like to "steal" is that my wife's students have written their own "books" and she keeps them in her library.  When students have free reading time, they love to read their classmates' books. How cool is this! Now my wheels are turning...  

I'm already feeling motivated to get going on improving my teaching. That's one resolution being worked on and this post is another-dedicate more time to my blog. Feeling accomplished! 
Risultati immagini per smile

02 January 2016

New Year's Resolutions...

New Year's Resolutions...

I'm not sure that I really believe in making resolutions or not. I know that they are intended for making me a better me and there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be a better version of yourself but will they end up making me feel bad about myself if I don't attain them? I did a small activity with my students before the Winter Break where we watched two videos of Italian teenagers talking about their resolutions.  I did it as part of a listening comprehension activity followed by a brief writing activity.  I think they enjoyed the videos. I know they could relate to some of the ideas like trying to use your cell phone less.  The video really captured the attachment many of my students (and probably many adults) have to their phones.  Check out the video here.  After they watched the videos, I told them to write a short list of 4-5 buoni propositi per l'anno nuovo, New  Year's resolutions.  Before writing, I told them that they didn't have to necessarily be  "resolutions" but maybe goals, instead.  I also asked them to jot down a few things maybe they thought should be goals of mine as their teacher.  We reiterated some of the ideas from the two videos and I told them my own, which were as follows:

1.  Migliorare il mio insegnamento, Improve my teaching.   This one fits into the category of goals as opposed to resolution.  I am always striving to be the best teacher I can be. I am always open to new ideas and always searching for the best way to get my students engaged. At the start of this school year, I was not using as much technology as I could've been using but I have since implemented many aspects of technology, like Google Classroom and EdPuzzle.  I'm excited that Duolingo and Quizlet now let you set up classrooms for your students so you can monitor their progress and post assignments directly from their site onto your Google Classroom! My students have enjoyed Kahoot! immensely and I have definitely noticed a difference.  But there is always more that can be done, even without technology and it is my goal to search out whatever that more is and bring it into the classroom. 

2.  Fare un gesto di gentilezza ogni mese (anche di più),  Do an act of kindness every month (or more often).  I do believe in "paying it forward" and I do believe in karma. If you want good things to come to you, you know what you need to do. This may seem a little trite but I do think that it's a good goal.  Sometimes, it's too easy to get caught up in negativity.  

3.  Fare più esercizio fisico, Exercise more. Ugh, this one. This is usually a list-topper for many.  It's not a bad idea but so easy to not follow through with.  Food is too good for me to really be on a diet. A life of eating grilled chicken and salad might be ok for others but it's just not a lifestyle I could embrace. It screams of boredom and depravity. So, the only logical alternative is to get moving. I think that this goal might be attainable because the emphasis is on the idea of more as opposed to something so specific like: lose 20 lbs, go to the gym everyday or run 5 miles a day.  Life happens and sometimes, you just can't go to the gym everyday (I'm sure there are plenty of people who will say you need to make the time and it's true but everyday is not feasible for many so I prefer a goal I can meet- just do more than I already do).

4.  Dedicarmi di più al mio blog, Spend more time working on my blog.  Again, here the operative word is more.  If I say, write a post every day, week or even month, I could soon feel like I've failed at my goal.  However, I do enjoy this blog. I don't know how many readers I really have but this experience has been really helpful. I have been able to connect with other teachers and bloggers and it has helped me gain some focus.  Focus on what I do and focus on what I want to do.  If it inspires other readers, that's great too!

5.  Spendere meno, Spend less. This is a tough one but I have to try.  I have always been of the mindset that if I work hard, I deserve to have some of life's rewards.  Don't get me wrong, i am certainly not extravagant and do not need to have expensive things but if I don't want to cook one day (or maybe two), I'll eat out.  If I go into a bookstore to buy a gift for someone, there is almost no way I'm coming out of there without at least one book for me.  Simple, little things.  But these simple, little things all add up and I have to keep my eye on the prize.  If I spend less, I will be able to have the big things, too.  My wife and I dream of having a property in South Carolina and a property in Italy. And we will have them. I just have to spend less to have more. I just read Frances Mayes' book Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life and in one chapter, Frances begins a paragraph with: "ITALY IS ENDLESS." This is so true. I have traveled extensively in Italy and I know I have just grazed the surface.  I want to have my own place in Italy so I can spend the rest of my life exploring endless Italy. 

View of Vico del Gargano in Puglia
Off the beaten path and a great discovery on our family trip in 2014
Well now I am on the road to incorporating these goals into my 2016. This is my first post in the new year. I wish everyone a great year and hope you can reach your goals as well. Now, I'm off to better my teaching - lesson planning awaits. I have so many ideas for the rest of this school year I can't wait to try out.