French Enrichment Program

I was asked to create a 4-month French Enrichment Program, taught to students from Kindergarten to Middle School.

Creation of such a program proved difficult, having to choose what to cover after the obvious basics, while including a good amount of relevant culture and anything related to the area (place-based learning).

The program I came up with went over very well with students and parents alike. I intend to post it this fall (2015). It could be adapted to offer as a short language summer camp.

I, as a recovering perfectionist (which is very difficult for a teacher to be!), was rather pleased with the outcome. Students had fun, and learned some French language and culture! What more could you want?!

It was actually one of the most enjoyable teaching experiences I have had to date, and I was teaching French again! Not having the homework grading and (major, fast-paced) lesson planning was such a blessing for me. I intend to share more on that later, as I believe my experience and time in the teaching world would be relatable for many young, aspiring educators!

A Few Tips for Teaching Learners with Special Needs

A few months back during an in-service, we had a workshop on working with students with special needs in an inclusive setting. Often times, tips like these can help a majority of your students.

  • Use chunking with assignments – break down projects and other big assessments into smaller “chunks”. Even adapting project guidelines into smaller sections with more instructions can help students who have difficulty with anything from short to long-term memory transfer, to ADHD, to students with organizational difficulties.
  • Visuals – accompany everything with more visuals than you might think necessary. If you have a project, give an example, and create visual reminders in the classroom (from a display of exemplary past work, to a date-board reminder, to a calendar with upcoming work due. This may seem obvious, and I think that foreign language teachers tend to use more visuals than other teachers, but I may be wrong. Smartboard and other technologies have helped make it easy (and help save time for the teacher) when preparing these visuals.
  • Put the schedule on the board – this goes along with having visuals, but putting up a daily schedule at the front of the room, or if you have a pretty routine schedule, make sure that’s posted somewhere readily visible. Letting students know what to expect for class that day can help alleviate confusion, anxiety, create a sense of familiarity, and save time in helping create transitional habits. You may also want to list the OBJECTIVES for the day, or week, or unit, in addition.
  • Use clear, concise language (and be explicit) – I’m still surprised now and again that I hadn’t thought something through well enough (though I guess after 2-3 decades of teaching as opposed to 2-3 years of teaching you would hone in on this skill). Think through every detail when giving a project or study guide to best aid your students (and save yourself trouble later). Be very specific when creating projects, and remember to create and do the same with grading rubrics. (You see how these tips would be useful for any type of student- think of your concrete sequential learners!)

As I’m reading and writing this, I think it seems like the above would all be good tips for any student. The second part of this section of in-service also brought up good ideas for using appropriate language. Below are some words to use in discussing behavior, and other aspects of the classroom environment.

More PC/friendly “verbage” to use in the classroom, or in discussions about students (with colleagues and especially with parents)

expected vs. unexpected

appropriate vs. inappropriate

“weird” thoughts instead of “bad” thoughts

You see what I’m getting at? It reminds me of the first class I had on “exceptional learners”. I had a great teacher. One of the first word-choice things I learned, which has stuck with me, was to say “a child with autism” instead of “an autistic child”. It makes sense and can help lessen labeling, isolation, negative connotations, etc…

Boy, do I need to get more posts up! 🙂 It’s the weekend, yahoo!!!

Obama to makeover “No Child Left Behind”?!

I read this article from the New York Times today: “Obama calls for remaking of No Child Left Behind“, which shows a picture of our president in a classroom with some students, in front of a Smartboard with a picture of Duke Ellington on it, with some writing (hard to make out) and his signature. Looks nice, but a lot of things look nice on the outside…

The article is full of inspiration and political jargon-isms, like Obama encouraging “lawmakers to ‘seize this education moment’.” It’s not only a great thing that Obama wants children to know they’re a priority, it’s more needed than ever. In this touch economy, high school students feel more pressure to do more (and do it better) in school, to get into a good school with scholarships. And even if they get a college degree, there’s no guarantee for jobs. I’ve talked previously “kids these days”. Education these days is bad off. Linking teacher pay to student test performance is a bad idea. I read another article earlier where someone said teaching is the only profession where there aren’t pay raises based on performance (something like that). Well, how are we to be held responsible for a lack of parenting, or, previous teachers who haven’t upheld the high bar of standards.

The article addresses this new concern by saying that Obama wants to give more power to state and local government in education, hoping to “improve the quality of testing, demand increased standards and increase accountability by principals.” I quoted that because all of those things sound like empty political platforms. Nice ideas, but I’d like to see his specific ideas for increasing principal accountability or an explanation of which standards we need to be increasing. Standards like standardized testing that can’t possibly accommodate all the diverse types of learners there are in the student population today? I have so many problems with testing, I wouldn’t know where to begin, but, teachers probably have a lot better perspective than the people who will end up making these important decisions.

It’s really unfortunate. Here’s that article I read about an algorithm developed to measure teacher quality, which glaringly showed wrong outcomes right off the bat (yuck, yuck, yuck).

Obama rounds out his inspiring speech by saying something about how a budget that stiffs education would wrong the youth of today, adults of tomorrow. Again, it sounds nice, but, I won’t keep my fingers crossed. There are still wars being funded and corrupt institutions being bailed out. I guess I do have some strong opinions. And, once again, I don’t know exactly how I’d do it better, but I guess my main point is that this article seemed to be full of empty promises. Is there another election or a poll coming up or something?

No Child Left Behind definitely needs to be improved, as it was a complete failure, and I believe in Obama more than I would have Bush, but, it’s the government. I’ll be interested to see the follow-through with this.

My (and Your) Dreams Are Coming True!

As I’m working at my new maternity leave job, trying to figure out what to do with some of the worksheets left to me, without hard copies, I realized I have had a tool at my house all along that I could be using to easily scan documents, and then upload and create PDFs. This site’s tagline is “My Teaching Experience from Student to Professional with Lesson Plans“, after all, isn’t it?! I’ve put up a fair amount of information, but the lesson plans and resources at your disposal are lacking.

Well, now everything’s changed (or it’s about to!) One of my most frequented posts on Bloom’s Taxonomy recently received a comment saying they wished there were a PDF. And voilà! (I just added it, hopefully my reader checks back)

Update: here is a downloadable PDF of this Bloom’s Taxonomy sheet!

Bloom’s taxonomy word list

I imagine plenty of people will enjoy that, and, as time permits, the other PDFs I’ll be uploading. I must admit, I had to trace over the letters so it’s not as beautiful as a concrete sequential perfectionist might like, but it’ll do for now considering I’m only making money day-to-day teaching, and not even getting benefits anymore 🙁

But, in a dream I have, I have a half-time job, and the other half of my job and income are from writing, blogging, sharing, etc…making catchy educational French songs.

A woman can dream.

My plan is to create categories- French worksheets, Educational information, and Lesson Plans. Then, when this blog does become a hobby I have much time for, I’ll create spectacular powerpoints and other fun resources and activities. A dream I truly have is to one day be able to put up a ton of stuff, and either offer it for free (if I got enough traffic or won the lottery and didn’t direly need more income), or, for an affordable price (as a teacher I know sometimes I really want these resources people have, but don’t have ANY extra money to shell out), or, for a donation…we’ll see. For now, I’m going to start adding some freebies!

Grammar Reminder to Foreign Language Teachers

I was tutoring a student to help her with a French project for school. She had been sick for a few weeks so she missed some important grammatical concepts involved in her project. I was trying to give her a quick overview of some concepts, such as direct and indirect object pronouns, and other subject pronouns, but it was difficult to do it quickly.

I was again reminded of how important it is for students to understand first of all the grammatical vocabulary in English, and then the grammatical concept in English, before expecting them to understand it in a different language.

That’s something good FL teachers should remember and be sensitive to. I know that in public schools you cannot spend too much time going over grammar that should be taught in middle school level English, but sometimes you have to in order to avoid having to repeat it again and again for students who won’t get it.

I also don’t know the best methods of teaching them, but I guess that a lot of examples building on other material they know would be best. I will report back on these thoughts, findings, and in-the-classroom studying as a I find it. Until then- remember- make sure the kids know and understand the grammar in English first.

Cooperative Learning Techniques (notes on)

These are some notes I found about cooperative learning techniques- what is involved, questioning levels, methods, activities, etc…

-a powerful method of learning
-divergence in questioning prompts a variety of responses (open-ended)
-convergence in questioning prompts a more specific response (close-ended)
-keep in mind student backgrounds and strengths and weaknesses in deciding what types of grouping to do
-bridge a cooperative learning technique, starting with developmentally appropriate instruction, and then slow it down to work with information they already know
-involve graphic and advanced organizers
-ask “juicy” and “skinny” questions and vary the levels
-questions should be both in lower and higher level of Bloom’s taxonomy
-vary convergent and divergent questions, use prompts and probes, and wait-time
-planning effective questioning is an important part of guiding the process
-timing of activities is usually about 30-45 minutes: most of it is very interactive, with higher-level thinking
-CL activities do not involve a lot of new content, rather, they are a way to help students understand material already covered
-they can consist of a few activities in a larger framework, and may involve a set induction
-must be put together well: concrete, orderly, with a logical progression between levels of questioning
-base the cooperative learning technique and activities on one or two solid objectives (include standards)
-plan both formative and summative assessments

California Implements a Statewide Homeschooling Ban

I am very saddened to hear that California is trying to ban homeschooling. Yes, it’s important that the parent or whomever the teacher is should have “credentials”, but that sounds like more political and technical jargon mumbo jumbo. By mumbo jumbo, I mean that this misunderstanding is being taken way too far. It started with a welfare case because an unqualified mother tried to keep her 8 children home and home-school them.

You cannot move from some protests and a few court cases, to a state-wide ban on something that is the only way some kids will ever enjoy or experience true learning. How can you take away this beautiful process from over 160,000 people. I’m sure some of them may not be the most qualified, so maybe a high school degree could be a basic requirement. They can also have the students and teacher check in with the local Education committee. But they can’t put it into a rigid lock down and force bright, creative people to get “credentials”.

I see part of their point as logical, but that is disgusting that they are banning homeschooling. It’s just not right.

And part of the judges’ ruling involved quoting a case from 1961: “ ‘A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.‘ “

Does anyone else see something weird about that? A lot of kids who would prefer to be homeschooled are turned off to schooling because of this brainwashing mentality. Teaching students to obey the law and to never question authority is not good education. Teaching students to be individual thinkers who critically reflect on different areas of education and how they intertwine with society and moral and political codes should be the hard-to-achieve goal in the minds of educators. Teachers should want to challenge students to think creatively, and on higher levels (some students’ lack of ability to do so is a completely different subject I will address later). Critical thinking in education should encourage students to examine all aspects of their education, their upbringing, their society, and the values held by any given culture they are in.

Forcing some students to go to public schools is like a death sentence- to their spirit and creativity.

Laws like this = NO!

It is unnecessary and unjust. I have several good friends who are still recovering from the academic wounds of being required to go through traditional schooling.

Critical Reflection components

 These are notes to elaborate on my previous entry about Critical Reflection in teaching and learning The steps are Name, Reflect, and Act. Below is an elaboration of the Reflect step.


 -desire to recognize more than one side of an issue (multiple perspectives)

-to be able to question even our firmest beliefs

-require us to place ourselves in the shoes of others (multiple perspectives)

-forces us to see all possible explanations (hypothesis, praxis)


 -desire to actively search for the truth (searching for pattern)

-requires us to apply information gained to productivity

-solve problems (searching for pattern, hypothesis)

-applying theory to create a solid basis for decision-making (praxis)

-implies that we engage in thorough and thoughtful examination of patterns of behavior (searching for pattern)

-(kid’s behavior is predictable, in a pattern, not random)


 -implies that we overcome fears and uncertainties (multiple perspectives, searching for pattern)

-requires a willingness to examine our own thoughts and feelings (multiple perspectives)

-the ability to put all our energy into the task at hand

-“There are no neutral moments in teaching. I must be purposeful in all interactions”

-what should you do/not do “think before you speak/preach”

 Critical Reflection

 -examine the issue (event/concept) or dilemma that you named

-identify the stakeholders (who was involved)

-place yourself in the shoes of each stakeholder (put yourself in the others’ shoes)

-consider the broader perspective (environmental, family, social, economic, organizational, etc)

-identify patterns

-look within- how are your own thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs and/or experiences impacting this issue


Communication Modes in Teaching a Foreign Language

Interpretive– students take in new foreign language input by a variety of means (read, listened to, watched movie)

Interpersonal– communicate with other people about interpreted information (in a class- this could be through group discussion; in other social context- discussing a movie over coffee after seeing it)

Presentational– (more unique to classroom)- summarize and share the information with the class, lectures are also presentational, students should have the opportunity to present learned info and go from interpersonal to presentational

These communication modes can be applied to in and out of classroom situations and a variety of subjects. The goal is to have a variety of all three. If, in a foreign language, the student is only dealing with the interpretive mode of learning and communicating, they are less likely to enjoy the language and find it relevant to their everyday life.

Qualities that make a poor Foreign Language Teacher

After discussing the Qualities that make a good Foreign Language Teacher, we discussed the flip-side, which the teacher called the “disablers”, and yes, you could argue a lot of the opposites of that post would fit, but here are some additional things no one likes in a teacher:

  • no real-life application, teaching by the book with no supplemental or diverse activities
  • not having mastered content, having a bad accent
  • no scaffolding or helping with in-between, bridging
  • not challenging enough, on the flip-side is too much challenge especially with grammar and spelling for example in introductory language classes
  • lack of preparation, not having answers for student questions they’re interested in
  • no clear, appropriate expectations, unequal, poorly laid-out instruction
  •  lack of passion

Look at the good qualities to get more examples of what to do vs. what not to do, and, as always, use students’ input to see if your specific methods fit for them.