Friday, September 11, 2020
Thursday, September 3, 2020
- making a list of activities students needed to do for each standard - This was always outside of normally assigned work. The problem with this is that it put exponential amounts of work on us to create these new materials.
- making a list of options for students for each standard - This was easier in that I would provide a choice of a general activity (e.g. make a comic strip of our most recent story), but still required extra work on my part. It also sparked questions and, on occasion, confusion for students.
- RRR days on a schedule - Originally I really wanted to do these days every other week. The problem I found was that some students developed a sense of entitlement that we'd have this day and they didn't need to pay attention or work any other day because they could just get me to explain it to them on this day. For other students, the entitlement came in the form of wanting a "day off".*
- Extra Grading - This was a major issue. I would find myself grading entire assignments just to move a grade from a 99 to a 100. Again, some sense of entitlement came out when, a few times, a student would say that I was preventing them from having a 100 or ruining GPA because I wasn't giving them a perfect score on RRR work: "But... I did the thing. That's a 100 right?"
- So does this mean we can't redo any work? No, not at all. There will always be opportunities for resubmission and opportunities to try again. It will, however, look different.
- What about free days? I think I may have laughed out loud. I'm not super proud of that.... but I did. I don't do movies 99% of the time. The exception to this is that I occasionally do a movie short and sometimes I'll show an episode of Class of the Titans (NOT Clash). Even then, they don't take the entire period. This is not a slight on teachers who do show movies. I have on occasion shown one. It is a reflection, rather, of what I think I can do better. I can do a better job supporting the students in my room. That is what I'm always working on: how better can I support the students I see in my room.
- But XX does RRR days!?!?! And that's fine. My teammates can still do RRR, and some do. For me, I feel I can meet my students needs better in a different way now.
- I always reserve the right to let students resubmit the exact same assignment at any time. If a student needs to fix something, or understands something new that they didn't before, of course I'm going to let them redo an assignment. I reserve this, however, and this is not available for every thing every day. This is simply for my sanity.
- Instead... I ensure that I make plans to reassess things as part of class. If I notice that a majority of students did poorly or missed something I will adjust and reassess again shortly after (see post: the fault in our plans)
- Sometimes I'll even say, "check your grades. If you are missing or would like me to reconsider your grade for Standard XX, make sure you turn this in.
- I set my focus on accommodations. My focus is becoming more and more centralised on what accommodations I need to make for any and all of my students. Some of these include small group or one on one instruction, alternative formatting, student choice, representation, etc.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Time for an update! I have done a lot of things since my last update--it's been two weeks. (See my first week entry here)
First, I continue to really enjoy the challenge. I won't pretend to be okay; no teacher is right now, in the midst of a deluge of anger, vitriol, and disregard. But I can find some sparks of happiness in my day-to-day purpose, and that is not a surprise. I am a teacher by calling, not by circumstance or necessity. It's my passion.
I love my students. I am getting the chance to get to know them and I am working on building relationships, even from a distance. I asked them to fill out a form today to just tell me "vents and brags," and while I haven't finished reading their responses, one of the best things has been finding out that all the work I'm putting into the digital lessons has been noticed. That wasn't the goal of vents and brags (a term I got from Bob Patrick), but it was so encouraging to read.
Keith Toda often quotes Carol Gaab, "the brain craves novelty." I have done my best to keep that in mind as I plan my digital lessons this year and create activities that are engaging and feel different every day. I have worked to make every plan feel authentic to the space we're in, instead of trying to translate my in-person activities directly, though that doesn't mean I don't take inspiration from things I've done in my classes.
All that to say, here is what I've been doing in Latin IV!
Latin II is not my own lesson plan right now, so I don't feel comfortable sharing it. But you can mod these templates to work for you. Many things are made to work with Google Classroom because it is magical. Others work with Zoom. Hopefully you can see ways to adapt all!
At the bottom of the page are a quick couple of videos, including one to demonstrate how to modify these templates to fit your personal needs. I know that it's not perfectly intuitive and I want you to be able to use these successfully.
Introducing the Story: Engaging Background Vocabulary
It's been a while since these kids have had Latin in a classroom environment and we were mostly winging teaching online starting in March, so to make sure they are prepared to read anything, I can't assume they all know the vocabulary they were "taught" so it was important to me to make sure we did some things to find out what they did know and to reinforce it. Yes, that included Gimkit, an online resource that is always evolving. But I am not willing to use it exclusively. Here are the other things I did:
- Vocabulary Know-it Board I filtered out the vocabulary that I knew was supposed to be new to
- Vocabulary Bricks I took the 25 important words I got from the Vocabulary Know-it Board and Vocabulary Highlighter Game but I needed a way to play in the current digital environment. So I created a game board with a goal space for two players and boxes for each word. Students choose a slide to pair up on, put their names as either Player 1 or Player 2, and listen for me to call out words in English. When I called out a word, students grabbed the Latin word and dragged it to their goal on the slide. We were on the Zoom meeting together, but we all looked at the slide instead while we played. (If you would like to add visual support, please watch the demonstration on how to easily do so on the video for Accidit Romae below.) This template is also easy to modify for your own use; simply change out my words for your own on one of the student slides, then copy that slide and paste it several times--enough for your class to be divided into teams of two. This game is best used shared with all students able to edit the same Google Slides.
- Vocabulary Puzzle This is one of the few times I literally took a game I play in class and put it
- Venatio Traditionally the school year for most of my classes starts with Circling with Balls. It's a
- Vocabulary Slides I have already made a post about this type of activity before. These are just the vocabulary slides I created to go with the beginning of this particular story. This is best used live in session with teacher leading and discussing in the target language.
- Vocabulary Scenes Instead of OWATS, which can be easily collaborative (I am still always
- Sentence Frames So this idea is honestly one of my early ideas with manipulatives. I still think it
- Picture Story This is a link to the the story I told to my class using pictures. We are starting a
series of stories about Andromeda, the Ethiopian princess rescued by Perseus, but told from her point of view. Circling (asking questions to emphasize and reinforce vocabulary) is clunky at best in this setting, so instead I did my best to elaborate using the picture as a jumping-off point. To make your own, this is more labor-intensive, in that you will need to create your own images and take pictures and insert them or draw images on an app and insert them. However, images are useful not only for clarifying a story but for creating discussion. This is best used live in session with teacher leading and discussing in the target language.
- "Choral" Reading I need a better name for this. We did not read chorally. I was inspired by choral reading to create a space in class for me to find out who knew the story, who understood the story, and yet still make sure that I was clarifying the meaning. What I did, which worked very well, actually, was highlight a section, ask students to type the meaning in the chat (which I have programmed in Zoom to only send to me, so it is not public. This has been a wonderful feature because students who are sometimes afraid to speak up in class are much more comfortable in this setting), and then clarify the meaning after I got student input. It was slow, but that was also kind of nice for students who are slow processors, and it allowed those who are fast processors to get their answers in there asap and be proud they were able to write everything probably before everyone else. Then, afterward, I just opened the chat log (which I have Zoom set to save) and I had a grade ready to go! Prep is easy--a nice, large font version of your story! This is best used live in session with teacher leading and clarifying the meaning in English.
- Accidit Romae (and question template) Okay, so stay with me here. I was inspired by the Lasvideo below to show you what I mean, and how to run the game. It was very successful! If you teach another language, watch the modifying templates video to learn how to change this game to work with your own language. This game is best used shared with all students able to edit the same Google Slides.
- Andromeda Prima: Interpreting the Reading Finally, after reading the story twice and playing
Friday, August 21, 2020
Yesterday evening I gave a three-minute "comment" at my board meeting to try to make a case for protecting students, staff, and faculty, while slowing community spread, by maintaining digital learning until scientific data shows the time is correct for opening schools. It is hard to fit all of that into three minutes. I have embedded and linked a video of my speech below, and beneath that is a full transcript of the speech for the hearing impaired or those who prefer to read.
Thank you for hearing me. My son is a Gwinnett senior this year, and he has worked very hard to create his perfect senior year. Starting in his Freshman year, he has taken extra classes so that he could create a schedule with room for two musical courses, Latin, and an environmental engineering course that he has been excited about since January. Seeing his senior year ruined is enraging. My son has repeatedly made hard choices to arrive here.
You have made choices to arrive here too. Some have made me proud—such as the bus-based food distribution program—and some have shamed me. Throughout the entirety of the summer, you chose not to address the county’s virtual infrastructure so we could teach digitally with success. You chose not to purchase enough chromebooks for students without home devices to provide equal access to digital learning. You chose to sit and hope that instead of increasing, the cases of Covid would decline, and you could simply open the schools.
You chose inaction.
And you chose to justify your inaction with two-month old surveys, outdated research, pandemic advice from an OB/GYN, bully tactics, and an increasingly incredulous obliviousness of the experiments already running in Paulding and Cherokee County.
By opening schools, you are making a new choice. A choice to ignore the current science. A choice to ignore the CDC’s recommendations for—not even the “best-case scenario,” as it is worded in your own reopening plan—but the bare minimum for safely reopening. A choice to put teachers and their families at risk. A choice to put bus drivers and school staff at risk.
But most importantly, and the reason I cannot comprehend how you can claim to care about the well-being of the students you govern, this is a choice to put children at risk. A choice that will result in child illness.
Yes, there is risk in everything. But there is a difference in driving a car with the knowledge I might someday be in an accident and driving a car knowing today is the day.
Statistics are clean. They are faceless. But know that in this room are people who have lost family members to Covid-19. Look at our faces and tell us you choose us as your sacrifice. You choose our families.
You choose our children.
My son’s senior year should have been his best. But I choose his life over his convenience and momentary happiness. I choose people over politics. My hope is you can choose the same.
Saturday, August 15, 2020
Look, I don't want you to see my title and run away because it's so positive and you're already worn out by the peppy, faux-positive, "we can do this" posts that paint teachers as go-getters who conquer all obstacles because we're just so darn selfless.
That's not me. I'm also angry.
But, I like challenges and puzzles and technology, and here I am, with a huge Gordian Knot plopped in my lap, and I can't resist the chance to pull at the edges, work the thread, and pry it until it starts to soften and reveal what's inside. Plus, my kids deserve great teaching from me.
And if I can deliver great digital teaching, doesn't that prove that perhaps we can wait to open schools until it's safe?
So I have a lot of reasons to work on this.
If I'm truly honest, though, I am more excited about teaching than I have been in a while. I have missed the intellectual challenge of a conundrum this big. I love the kids, so emotionally I have been fulfilled. But figuring out how to create digital community is fun.
Okay. Enough about me.
Making a Google Classroom
When I started posting about how much I'm enjoying my digital days, people started asking if I would share the things I'm creating. My answer: absolutely! Why should anyone else have to create stuff again? So if you already have a Google Classroom, skip the video below to the couple of goodies. If you don't, watch the video below to find out how to create a Google Classroom in the quickest way possible.
Assignment Option: Favorite Things Introduction Slide
So my main goal overall this first half week of instruction has been to help students get used to Zoom, get on my Remind, join my Google Class, and learn how to use Google Classroom effectively. That means that we have done some simple activities to help them learn how to use different functions. The video above discusses the Stream and assigning questions and material.
This assignment is meant to be assigned as a copy for all students. It's independent work. I was inspired by a video like this one to think about how I could make things editable for the kids without them messing up the parts I want them to leave alone. There is a second approach aside from inserting the image in the background, by the way. I made this slide and the following one by editing the slide in Master View because it lets me add more elements. Then I added the parts I want them to be able to change in the regular view of the slide.
I also wanted to try out the concept of a shared document that students all edit together. Honestly, this spawned from the fact I wanted to build class community, but I will get to more of that later. Below you will find what I created as a result:
an Opinion Board. The opinion board construction is based heavily on things I learned from this video, and it honestly was so much fun. I asked questions in Latin, students moved tokens to their preferred answers, and eventually started moving each other's tokens. If you worry about them posting inappropriate things on a shared document like this, Google's "version history" is what protects you. Just click the link at the top that tells you when the "last edit" was made and you will be taken to the version history of the document. It will list when every student edited the document and whenever you hover over a name you can see what their contribution is. I warned students this was the case so they wouldn't get carried away. I also used this to keep restoring the document to my original version to "reset" it so we could ask another question. The students laughed and enjoyed themselves and one class was inspired to trade social media account information. This created class community on the second day of digital learning.
To change the options on the Opinion Board, open the Master View and edit the words there.
Final Thoughts--For Now
I have a lot of these. Honestly. First of all, I love what Google Classroom is letting me do. I could gush on and on, but I won't. I will just say that it feels like freedom.
But. More importantly. The biggest mistake you can make when trying to create digital lessons and digital classes is to think of it as simply taking your regular, face-to-face classes and putting them on the computer. That way is pure frustration for you and your students. The setting is different. You're different. They're different. The best thing you can do is recognize that.
Instead, think, what is the point of this activity that I would normally do? What is its function? What are its key components?
Then look for ways to fill those needs with technology. It will feel more authentic.
Lastly, I named this Part 1, because I plan to keep sharing what I learn and what I make. This is a year where we will all be trying new things, learning as we go, and hopefully becoming better teachers against all odds and with public opinion, as always it seems, against us. We can at least support each other!
(I wrote a follow-up with more templates! See Part 2 here)
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
This year I am teaching Latin I again. I am so excited, but we are starting, if briefly, online. Total Physical Response (TPR) is still part of our plans, but we need to be creative. A few realities:
- We cannot, in any way, see 30+ videos all at once to ensure that students are hearing and understanding us.
- Some students may not have their video on (a point for another time).
- We are using web cams and it will be difficult to get them to film us doing actions.
- Gauging comprehension is going to be... interesting. To say the least.