So You’re Thinking of Presenting At A Conference

I have a colleague and very good friend who asked me about my presentation at the SCOLT conference in Orlando (see this post). Her main question was, “How did you get to do that?” It’s a question I have gotten from lots of people since my first time presenting last year (see this post).

Attending and/or presenting at a conference is a great experience for any teacher at any point in their career. I have made friends and met colleagues that I would not have otherwise met. I have also met people I have only spoken with online through #langchat or other social media. When I met Laura, Keith, and Megan, I was completely star-struck. But the thing is, they’re normal people who want to be the best teachers they can be. Just like the rest of us. So come out to a conference and see what it’s like, then try and submit a proposal. The worst thing that could happen is they’ll say no. Last year, ACTFL rejected a proposal for a presentation. It was not very nice to feel the rejection, but at the same time, now I know what I need to do differently to maybe present there next year.

So What To Do?

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Summer is Coming…And It’s Time For A Tune-Up

Summer is usually a time for re-evaluating the work I’ve done throughout the year. In summers past, I have spent the whole time completely re-working the curriculum based on whatever interesting things I find from the awesome blogs I read and teachers I follow on Twitter. This year, though, will be quite different. Rather than reworking the entire thing, I will be working on small parts. The main style of instruction and the things that I will be presenting in the coming year are not going to change very much, if at all, but there are individual parts that need tweaking. Unlike in past years, I will not be throwing away everything I have. I will not be starting again from scratch. It’s a good feeling.

Tuning the Engine (aka Curriculum) Instead of Rebuilding It

The only thing that will be getting a major overhaul is assessment. I’ll spend the summer looking at what worked from the year and what didn’t. There was a lot lacking this year, if I’m totally honest, in the way that I assessed the students’ proficiency. I know that they can write and I know that they can do all right in a very basic conversation, but I’ll be using the time off in the summer to find ways to really figure out what the kids are able to do with their language. 

My goals for the summer are to figure out the best ways to incorporate proficiency assessment. I have the Can-Do Statements and Standards and everything else I will need to build better rubrics and informal assessments. I need to have more than just a gut-feeling about where the students are. I plan to know very well where they are. If I had to break down the students by proficiency level, I’d say, broadly:

  • Novice-probably about 65% of the students
  • Intermediate-Probably about 30% of the students
  • Advanced-around 5% of students

But I have no way of really knowing. That’s where proficiency assessment comes in. Hopefully by this time next year, I will have a much better idea of where the students are. This is my goal and I will be working through the summer to figure out the best ways to find out.

Confidence

This has been the year of results. Kids in middle school could sit down and write stories from scratch.  4th and 5th graders were writing bullet point summaries of stories that we read in Spanish. They had never been able to do this before. CI instruction methods are a completely different approach to learning a language (not learning, acquisition). The fact of the matter, though, is that regardless of what the classroom looks like (hectic, chaotic, silly), the kids can speak so much more and understand so much more than they could in past years. It’s kind of staggering. (And I’m not even very good at what I’m doing…I can only imagine what it will be like after a few years more practice!)

There were so many great things about this year, but there are so many ways that they can be even better. These results are confidence-boosters. As they say, success is the best motivator. This year, more than any other, I am feeling very successful.

The Key: Find What Works for You

Maybe all this confidence is getting to my head, but I feel like I can tell you what the key to success and confidence in the classroom is: Find what works for you. If you are having trouble with your curriculum, think about ways to change it. Go to a conference, attend a webinar, chat with us on Thursdays and Saturdays during #langchat on Twitter. This answer seems obvious, like a cop-out, but if you really think about it, usually the simplest answers are the best. That being said, it is a simple answer, but an incredibly hard task. Be open to new things and make sure that you have fun. If we aren’t having fun with our work, why do it? I found TPRS and I have run away with it. It has been a home run for me and my students’ success. It won’t necessarily work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something out there for everyone.

I’m Still Here, I Promise!

Every once in a while, a blog I read goes dark, that is, there are no new posts for a really long time. As a blogger myself, I definitely understand how this can happen. It has currently happened to me! This post is just to let you know that I’m still here and I have lots of new content for you in the next few weeks.

Friday is the last day before our Spring Break. It feels so close and at the same time, it feels so far away. The run up to Spring Break is always hard–kids get antsy, teachers get burned out, and everyone is anxious to have some time off. Our break is based around the Easter holiday, so most of the other public schools in the counties/districts around us have already had their breaks and are back in school…and we haven’t left yet.

The hectic time of year plus a new part-time job have been taking their toll on me, time-wise. This accounts for the lack of posts, comments, and interactions in the world of TPRS/CI blogging.

Come Friday, though, my schedule will be considerably more open. You can look forward to posts about all kinds of things, including, but not limited to:

-New free stories that I have created to use in class (for various levels!)

-Reflections on assessment

-(More) Best practices that I have learned for using CI and storytelling in the FLES classroom

There is a lot of information to share and I hope to get it out as soon as I can.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments!

I am active on Twitter (@Mr_fernie) and Facebook and my email is senorfernie@gmail.com. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have comments, questions, or suggestions!

#oneword – Preparation

I am lucky that I have found a method that fits so well. If you look back through my posts, I have nothing but good things to say about storytelling as a method of language acquisition: it is fun, interesting, motivating (for me and the students), and it’s effective.

If there’s one problem I have with it, though, (and it’s more of a problem of my style than the method as written and presented by the developers of the TPRS method), it’s that it allows me to be lazy…Maybe lazy isn’t the right word, but it’s the best that I can think of. I am not lazy in terms of my time in the classroom, preparing original stories/reading stories from the Look, I Can Talk book, or grading work.

It’s not laziness as much as it is comfort.

I am very comfortable being in front of the room and improvising. I began the year with Circling questions written out beforehand for every part of the story. As I have continued using the Circling method, though, I have pretty much stopped doing that. I have been simply telling the stories, doing a lot of improvisation (I try to let the kids guide the stories as much as is possible), and asking questions as they occur to me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been working well, but I think it could be so much better. By planning out my questions beforehand, I can make sure that I get the amount of repetitions of language terms that is required for true acquisition. I can also make my stories more interesting for the kids and more motivating.

I can walk in a room with the bare bones of a script and have a good class, but how much better could it be?

My thinking now is that it could go from good to great!