Friday, January 31, 2014

The Road To Green and the Longest Week Ever

I almost forgot to post this week!  It's going to be hard to get in the habit.  One of my goals for this year is to become a greener teacher.  The biggest chunk materials wasted is paper.  I started by making the notes books to save kids from having to have an entire notebook for my class or scrambling for a scrap piece of paper for an in-class assignment.  It has also helped keep them on top of their note-taking.  I don't know what it is about having those little books, but they are much better at writing all of their notes down in them than when I tell them to take out a piece of paper or get out their spirals. 

Step two in becoming Green was to start making my quizzes online, rather than making 150 copies every other day.  Google Drive and Google Forms seems to be a pretty solid way to make easily accessible multiple choice quizzes. It's a pretty easy way to do short answer, but it can't self-grade if the quiz isn't multiple choice.  I am also learning to use the PRS "clickers" and hope to use those soon.

I fell back on traditional paper and pencil tests for their chapter exam.  Our technology isn't reliable enough to take a full test online yet.  I am still looking for a website that is compatible with the students' phones and tablets that is also mostly cheat-proof.  Has anyone found a trustworthy, easily accessible test makers online? 

For the down side of this week: IT HAS LASTED FOREVER!  I had a week where every day I was wondering if it was Friday yet.  Thursday I almost wore jeans to school because I was so certain it was a Friday. On top of that, the kids have been CRAZY this week.  I don't know what makes students go through these waves of attitudes all at once.  My mom always tells me it's the full moon but I can't even use that as an excuse this week.  One day, they were all little zombies.  They just sat there with glazed over looks and didn't talk... or do anything... at all.  It took a lot of coaxing to get them to just sit up and take notes.  The next day, all of my classes were hyper and out of control.  Kids couldn't stay in their seats, couldn't stop drumming, moving, shouting, bouncing, rocking, throwing things, and GOING GOING GOING!  You might think I teach elementary students by how the day went.  My 14-18 year old students were acting like they were five!  More than one class had to give up playing review games and go back to doing reviews on paper and online alone at their tables.  Yesterday was all attitude. I had students literally throwing things around in their fits of rage.  They would get upset with me for telling them not to talk when I'm talking.  Or when I told them to put their phones away.  What is it that makes them collectively decide to make poor decisions?

I have some really awesome kids.  I have students who go above and beyond what they're asked to do every day they're here.  Today, two boys stayed after class to help rearrange the mobile laptop lab and make sure everything was plugged in and where it belongs. And I work in an awesome school where I don't have to break up fights between every period or struggle all alone through my first year.  I have the best administrators anyone could ever ask for, but man!!! It was a TOUGH week!  Hopefully next week will be smooth sailing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

First Year Firsts


As part of my New Year's Resolutions, I am trying to keep up with a blog, for once.  If not for anyone else's entertainment, keeping track of my own year and progress.  I am a first year Spanish Teacher in Texas.  This year I have all Spanish 2 kiddos, five regular classes and one accelerated.  It has already been a year of MANY challenges.  All of the classes, student teaching, pre-school prep, and planning still did not prepare me for the reality of teaching.

So.  After my first semester of struggles, I changed a lot of how I'm structuring my class.
Goal 1: Do more translation.
Goal 2: Go green!
Goal 3: Teach for retention.

I realize the last one seems like a given, but I thought that's what I had been doing.  When we came back from Christmas break, they were all back at square one.  It was like the whole first semester never happened.  This semester I'm having the students make "chunk books" that I found here.  Instead of staples, I did an easy foldable to keep the books bound.  Day one, the kids wrote down their objectives for the chapter so when they say, "What are we doing?" the answer is right there on page one.  This also lets them know what we will be learning for the chapter when we start, and check back at the end to see if they reached these goals.  They also took some notes for a review of the chapter we did before the break.  End of notes for the day.

Day two we took notes over a small chunk of the vocabulary, went over those, and took some notes over direct object pronouns.  After each set of notes, I try to do a few practice exercises.  The great thing with the Notes Book is they don't have to take out a piece of paper, unprepared students asking for paper from other kids, barely-used paper being left on the tables and the floor and all over the room.  I tell the students to turn to the pages we designated for practice and use those.  No more asking if scrap paper is okay?, Are we turning this in?, Can I write on the back?, Do we keep this?

So far, so good.  Teaching small chunks of different concepts seems to stick much better than the text book's suggestion of teaching all 60 vocab words one day, teaching all of the grammar another day, and doing "drill and kill" worksheets in between.

For quick assessments, I have started making quizzes on Google Drive.  Much less paper, much less running around to make copies and finding a jammed copier, MUCH easier to grade.  Almost all of my kids bring their own device to class each day.  I post a link to the quiz on the overhead or write it on the board, they open the form and take the quick quiz right from their phones. No passing papers out, collecting them, stacking them up on my desk.  After kids take the quiz, Google Drive automatically creates a spread sheet with all of their answers.  You can easily add and edit an array formula and grading formula that will give you the kids' grades instantly!  I can't tell you how easy and wonderful this has been.  The kids really like it too!  They feel like they're being tech savvy and smart using phones to take quizzes.  For instructions on making your own quizzes on your drive, check out this page.

The past two weeks have been successful so far.  The students say the books help a lot.  It really helps them see how much they've learned and how far they've come.  For this first chapter, I am taking the notes for a grade just to give the students a little more incentive to keep up with their books and take good notes.  As of right now, ALL 143 students will be taking home progress reports with an "A" in Spanish.  Hopefully, the good grades will continue.

First blog post on my first blog: Done!  Tune in next week for an update!