Fear should not dictate our lives

Everyone should watch this.  I know the video is directed at women, but everyone can learn from the message.


The Work at Home Life Day 3 :)

On Monday, the children began school, and I began my first week as a Work-At-Home Mom.

I was nervous for Monday because it also happened to be my children’s first day at a new school and my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. Thankfully, one of my close friends is on maternity leave, and she made sure I was taken care of on that milestone day. BOY AM I GLAD SHE DID! Why? Because my sassy 5-year-old was the one child in her class to put on the full waterworks, clinging to Mommy, begging to go home act. It was SOOOO fun to leave her, let me tell you! Needless to say, when I picked her up, she raved about school, as did her big brother.

Today is Wednesday. I woke this morning a little tired–our whole family had been on a night owl schedule all summer, sleeping in until 9-11am each day (yes, even the 5-year-old)–and decided to have a chill day at home and clear out the DVR. It’s just past noon and I’ve watched only 1–yes 1–reality show (America’s Next Top Model, anyone?). Why? Because today has been a crazy-awesome, blessed, Plexy day! I have had 2 people decide to sign up on my team and have been contacted by 2 regarding products and possibly becoming a customer. I’ve also had to call my aunt Kristi for some cooking clarification (hey, I’m new at the this staying home, cooking gig).

So now I’m off to do some more messaging before the maids arrive and die of shock at how together our house is.

I hope all of my teacher friends are having a great first week of school and that you have all been setting the tone!  If not… Read this, also this, and this.  There’s more, but just go back to posts from last August and/or September (2013).

Mindset graphic


Are you sitting down?

After 9.5 years in the classroom, I have decided to resign from my teaching job and work my side business (Plexus anyone?) from home while being there full time for my family. This news has seemed to shock many, but it’s what is best for my family right now.


Here’s a chair for you

While I am sad to leave my students, and I am excited to be room parent, go on field trips, pick up my children from school in that awful carpool lane, keep them home when they become ill without thinking twice, have dinner ready at 6 instead of walking through the door after 6pm, et. We can do their homework at 3:30 instead of 7pm–if you’ve read this blog or follow me on Twitter you know how anti-homework I am, but until I can get everyone on board, I am stuck with it for my kids.

I will still be around as I have a passion for language acquisition and proficiency based learning. I am even looking into registering for ACTFL out of pocket–that’s how you know my passion is for real :). I plan to stay relevant by attending workshops and professional development so that if I return to the classroom, I will be ready. :)

Ted Talks: The World’s Killer Diet

This semester, we have been discussing health choices in Spanish 2H.  Jane Shea found this awesome Ted Talks video that was short and relevant to our topic.  Here is her awesome lesson that I totally stole!

1. Students watched this video and took notes in English or Spanish (the video is in English).

2. Next, students were divided into groups to respond to this prompt (in the target language): “Why is what we eat important for our health?”

3. We relocated to a collaboration space.  Students collaborated to come up with the best response to the prompt.  As a part of their teamwork for excellence, each student had to write the same exact essay response as the other group members.  They had 25 minutes to complete the task.

4. Then all papers from each group were stapled together and turned in to me.

5. Finally, I edited, graded on our presentational writing rubric and gave detailed written feedback to each group.  For each class, I had 6 papers to grade instead of the normal 31+.  While I only edited 1 per group, I did flip through to make sure everyone wrote everything.  I had a few slackers who earned lower grades than their other group members, much to their dismay.

This provided a quick and meaningful way to give feedback prior to our formative assessment tomorrow.  We’ll see if it helped :).

4 Corners Continued!

So after this post, I continued the activity at the end of the next class period.  I had the students write an exit card on a post-it note that explained what their favorite meal is and why.  Students then posted their card on labeled butcher paper hanging on the wall in the hallway.  Each class period got a different color post-it.

The next day, each class was allowed to pick 1 post-it of a color different than his/her class.  The students stuck it to a sheet of paper and wrote why they agreed or disagreed with the person’s opinion.  Today, the students got theirs back (it would have happened Friday but I had to leave to take my daughter to the doctor) but due to a lack of time, only had time to read them and discuss with a partner before we went onto another AMAZING activity by Jane Shea that I will discuss on my next post :).

25 minutes: reaching the full potential

I stole this activity from a presentation by Jane Shea and Greg Shields.

1. Have your students participate in an interpersonal speaking activity and record them for 5 minutes.

2. Have students make a T-chart.  Students should listen to the recording and take notes on their partner and themselves.

3. Give the students 2 minutes to take additional notes. (I added that step)

4. Have the students put their pens/pencils down and look over their notes for 60 seconds.

5. Record the students in a 2-minute presentational speaking (comparing and contrasting themselves with their original partner).

6. Playback the recording with some guidelines on what to listen for (like vocab usage, details and elaboration) or give them a copy of the rubric you typically use to grade them to assess either themselves or another (they can trade headsets).

This entire activity took 25 minutes and covered the following:

  • Interpersonal Speaking
  • Interpretive Listening
  • Synthesizing Information
  • Presentational Speaking
  • Self or Peer Evaluation

We clapped for ourselves and patted ourselves on the back for an awesome half of a class period. :)

4-Corners Brainstorm

4-Corners Brainstorm in the collaboration space

4-Corners Brainstorm in the collaboration space

The other day, with only a few minutes to spare in class, I wanted to see what food words my 2H students remember from Spanish 1.  I placed butcher paper in the 4 corners of the room (after 1 class, I relocated to a collaboration space).  Each piece was labeled with “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” “Dinner,” and “Snack” in the target language.  I gave the students 30 seconds to get to a corner.  Then the groups had 3 minutes to write as many foods as they could that related to the meal.  After 3 minutes, groups rotated.  At the next corner, the students read what had already been brainstormed and added to it.  They cycled through the remaining two corners before we gathered whole group.  At that point, I went through each of the foods and the students yelled out “healthy” or “unhealthy” in the target language.  We got cut off by the bell, which I felt was  perfect timing.  They left Spanish excited and energized and were ready to continue on with the next part of the activity.  To be continued…

A World Cafe Jigsaw

I know, you are probably thinking, “What?!?!” but trust me, this combination of two activities really played out nicely and happened to work in both Spanish 2H and Spanish 3 on the same day.  In Spanish 2H, we were reading one of the Blaine Ray novels (El viaje de su vida) and in Spanish 3, we were reading an article about the Moors in Spain.

1st, we went into one of my school’s furnished collaboration spaces. Students were allowed to create groups of their own choosing; however, in each class (based on size) I limited group sizes.  For example, in my classes of 32-34, I said groups could have no more than 5 students but also no less than 4.

2nd, the groups read a specific section of the text and took notes over pertinent information, including listing out new words they figured out from said text.

3rd, one representative stayed at the table and everyone else shifted over a table.  The representatives shared the information they learned while the new people took notes.  Then the visiting group shared what they learned.  Throughout this part of the activity, students shifted tables 5 more times and learned about all sections of the text.  Representative stayed put and learned as the groups cycled through their table.

This is a useful alternative if the traditional jigsaw is too complicated.  I like to mix things up, so I plan to still use both methods.  Soon I am going to do a true World Cafe activity.  More on that later :).

Intelligence is Irrelevant

This fall I attended an awesome professional learning day led by my coordinator Greta Lundgaard.  This day was spent teaching us about current brain research over mindset.  We took a survey to see where we fell on the spectrum between fixed and growth, and I was not surprised to see I definitely have a growth mindset now.  Google “mindset survey” and you can find documents and online surveys to assess your own mindset.

I spent an entire week setting the tone with my students last fall, and while I do not have that time this semester, I wanted to do something to set us on a positive path.  Thus, entire the mindset survey.

I began the class with my normal Tapa del Día, which randomly related perfectly (I have them all saved on PowerPoints and just change the dates year to year).  Then, I announced my new mantra: “Intelligence is Irrelevant.”  I gave the students time to Think-Pair-Share, and every class had different opinions/insights to this idea.  My 6th period in particular took the discussion to deeper levels than I had even contemplated.

Next, I introduced the idea of mindset and handed out the surveys.  The students took several minutes responding and scoring.  After learning where they fell on the spectrum, we discussed what exactly fixed and growth mindsets are, what research says about mindset and success, and how it is possible to change from a fixed to a growth mindset because mindsets are learned.

I followed up the mindset lesson with a quote about how a teacher answered the question “when will I ever use this?” that I read at my professional learning day.  So how did this guy respond?

* “‘Never.  You will never use this.’  Then he points out that people don’t lift weights so they’ll be prepared should, one day, somebody knock them over on the street and trap them under a barbell.  ‘You lift weights so that you can knock over a defensive lineman, or carry your grandchildren without being sore the next day.  You do math exercises so that you can improve your ability to think logically, so that you can be a better lawyer, doctor, architect, prison warden or parent.  MATH IS MENTAL WEIGHT TRAINING.  It is a means to an end, (for most people), not an end in itself.'”

If I were a math teacher, I would have that hanging in my classroom.  As it is, I am fashioning my own version of this with regards to learning a language.  Stay tuned as I will share it on this blog once it gets done :).

We ended class with an exit card in which students wrote one thing they learned and why it resonated with them.  Here are some of the responses I received:

“I learned that intelligence is irrelevant.  Throughout a lot of my life I thought if I was smarter I would be better at school.  I am smart, I just have to try harder.”

“People with a growth mindset learn more.”

“I learned that we will probably never use what we learn in class, but that is not the point of learning.  The point of learning concepts is to make your brain always be ready to learn new material no matter what it is.”

“Keeping an open mind is good for learning.”

“I understood that what we learn doesn’t have to affect our lives directly to allow our understanding to grow.  It is the way it helps us to think that makes a difference.”

“Growth mindset people do better because they think they can.  Mind over matter.”

“This lesson really struck me. I should stop comparing myself to others and believing that intelligence is innate.  I need to work harder.”

“I learned that math is a means to an end.  It doesn’t matter if it is useless in and of itself; it still helps indirectly.”

So from now on, intelligence is irrelevant in my classroom.  It’s about hard work and never giving up.  There are no excuses, success is in our own hands.


*from Selections from Teaching that Sticks, Heath & Heath


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