Saturday, July 21, 2018

How to Adapt My Lessons for 50-Minute Classes (Instead of 90-Minute Blocks)

Making it fun on whatever schedule you're on!
I just received the following question from a teacher regarding modifying my lesson plans to fit schedules other than 90-minute block:

Dear Jalen,

Thanks for the helpful info and answers to my questions!  I will be meeting with our Spanish teacher tomorrow and will be presenting your lesson plans to use in our hybrid homeschool setting. The class will meet 2 X a week for 50 minutes. She may need to adjust what she tries to accomplish.  I really love all the hands-on and interactive activities you have in your lessons. If you could suggest a prioritization of the activities when we don't have 90 minutes, that would be helpful.  We will have 30 class periods (50 min. each) for 1 st semester.

In answer to your question, I ran across your lesson plans on Amazon as I searched for High School Spanish curriculum.



My response:

Hi! Well I'm excited my Amazon pages are getting some hits because I just started selling my stuff on Amazon this summer and I wasn't sure if it would get much reach at first!

Ok, so if you're only meeting twice a week for 50 minutes, I would suggest:

Class 1:

Warm up quiz

Intro new vocab


Grammar or Graphic Organizer/writing activity

Class 2:

Warm up quiz

Read the reading that goes with the skit from Class 1

Grammar or Graphic Organizer/writing activity (whichever one you didn't do in Class 1 above)

Culture activity and/or conversation practice OR...

Sometimes if the mood is right and I have kids who enjoy giving me crazy ideas for a plot, we make up a new/improve skit to practice the vocab one more time, and that can be a blast. :)

I'll be teaching on traditional 55-minute periods this school year and the above plan is what I'll be doing on alternating days. More on my new teaching job soon!

Don't forget to follow me on Amazon to see all my latest releases:

Summer's not over yet, so let's get out there and enjoy it! (Since I changed states and jobs this summer, I report for New Teacher Orientation August 2 >>> :-0 <<< Is anyone else reporting back to work early August? Post a comment below with your start date...I'm curious!)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

My Spanish 1A Lesson Plans Available As Ebook on Amazon for 9.99!

Okay, don't pass out, but...I finally worked out how I could make my lesson plan books available as ebooks as well as 8.5x11 paperbacks on Amazon!!!!

My Spanish 1A 2009 ebook is available for purchase now for 9.99. You can download my book, then download the Kindle e-reader for free to any mobile, tablet, notebook, laptop, or desktop device. If you want to project the quizzes, vocab, etc. to a screen just go to the lesson or page you want and enlarge it so students can read it.

You can also now order the gorgeous, professionally bound printed version of Spanish 1A 2009 on Amazon for $39.95 (and right now the Amazon page for the print version says "free shipping!")

I will be putting all of my lesson plan books on Amazon over the next few weeks. Follow me as an author on Amazon and you'll get notified every time I publish a new lesson plan book. Here is the link.

Please let all your Spanish teacher friends know that they can get their hands on my lesson plans both electronically and in print for a greatly reduced price now that I am not personally handling the printing, packaging, and shipping of my own lesson plan books. Hallelujah!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What To Do When Students Won't Sit Still and Pay Attention to a Skit

I got this question on email this week about a problem I deal with myself in class as well: what do you do when you're trying to narrate a skit in class with actors and a) students in the "audience" are talking, playing on their phones, not giving you input or participating, etc. and b) the "actors" are more of a distraction than a visual presentation because they also are talking, messing around, not listening to your stage directions or the narration, etc.

In my teaching situation, I have noticed this problem growing worse and worse over the past 8 years or so. With the new generations of students who are coming through our classes, TPRS (or telling a skit) just doesn't work the same way as it used to, 10-20 years ago. I have tried to address this reality, with varying levels of success, in various ways. I think it helps a little bit if you let the class choose the actors because that makes the skit into a little more of a "game." I think it helps if you don't do "circling" (asking 8-10 questions about every statement in the skit right after making the statement) or anything else that drags out the skit. I think it helps if you set up the class routine of skits right away at the beginning of the year and you coach and nag and cajole about how you want them to behave during a skit, first day.

But even with all of those ideas, some days, I just get too frustrated to keep trying to refocus a class that simply can't sit still and pay attention to the skit.

So here is what I do. When I reach that frustration point, I sit the actors down and have the class get out a clean sheet of paper so they can translate the skit. Yes, it's for a grade. Yes, you have to do it if you don't want a zero. I then project the Word document (but you could have copies of the skit prepared in advance) of the skit on my screen, enlarge the font, and set a timer for 5 minutes. "You have five minutes to translate everything on the screen into English on your paper. Go." Then all I do is stand there and tell them what a word or phrase means when they ask. And feel instantly less stressed out. Now they are doing all the work instead of me.

When the timer goes off, I tell them to draw a line so I can see how much they got translated for that section, then I scroll to the next section and give another 5 minutes. We proceed with this process until the whole skit is translated, or until the bell rings. Either way, at the end, I have them count their words. I then base their points on word count and/or whether or not they got all of each section done. (You might need to adjust the timer for a section based on how many "fast" students were able to finish in the five minutes, by the way.)

My TA alphabetizes the papers and I flip though putting points in the gradebook. Done. Next class, we get a fresh start. Either they can focus on the skit and participate, or they can translate again.

Is this the best way to provide comprehensible input? No. Is it a reasonably good secondary way? I think so. Can I preserve my sanity with this backup plan? Yes.

I hope this helps those of you who are dealing with this same issue. Let me know in the comments if you have experienced this and if you have figured out any other hacks!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Spring End-of-Year Classroom To-Do List

Around here, it's time to print out that final End-of-Year Checklist and start wrapping things up before summer (yay!) so I thought I'd share the to-do list I use to leave my classroom well-organized and ready for Fall.

I posted my Start-Up Fall Checklists last August with this post. Some of the things on that list are unnecessary and/or fast and easy "checks" if I take the time, before I leave for summer, to do everything on my Spring End of Year list.

I have a week and a half left with students plus 3 teacher work days left, so now's the time I look at my list and see what I can start plugging away at and marking off when I get moments in my classroom to myself.

Here's my list--feel free to modify as needed to meet your own needs!

Jalen’s End of Year To-Do List Spring 2016

·       Set up gradebook for Final Exams and Final Grades
·       Grade Email Replies (Writing tests) and enter into Mastery Manager
·       Grade Speaking Tests
·       Enter Final grades in IC
·       Post Grades including TAs
·       Print gradebooks and attendance
·       Reorganize/clean out filing cabinets
·       Organize/purge AP files
·       Clean/purge/organize room top to bottom
·       Clean/organize office
·       Clean out folders in email (AP, etc.)
·       Clean desktop files, P drive, and other temp files on laptop
·       Organize/clean out props & visuals
·       Unhook all cords to laptop cart and wrap/tape neatly
·       Unplug/wipe down/open refrigerator
·       Get signatures and check out with main office
·       Celebrate!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #7 Not Giving Clear Directions

My final classroom management I still make here and there...and one that never fails to cause a little chaos. This is:

Mistake #7 - Not Giving Clear Directions

Okay, think about the last time you went to a professional development training or meeting of some sort, particularly one you weren't that crazy about attending (which applies to approximately 99% of them, right?) Was there a moment when the trainer(s) told you to do something, everyone started talking and working, and you had to look around at your colleagues at your table and say:

"What are we supposed to be doing again?"

And then your colleagues tried to explain it, and you still didn't really understand it, so you started messing around, laughing and talking, checking your phone, wondering if it would be a good time to go to the restroom, etc.? Is it only me???

Well, that's what happens to my students in my classroom when they don't fully understand exactly what I want them to do. Now, I could say, "You should have listened the first time!" and just get mad, but that doesn't help them get on task and stop messing around any faster. No, it's best to pre-empt this problem by following these steps:

1. Get very clear in my own head what I want them to do before I say it.
2. Get the entire room's attention and eye contact (using Teacher Voice) before I explain the task.
3. Explain the task clearly and simply, say why I want them to do it, and then explain it again.
4. Go around the room and explain it again to students who are still off-task, without sounding cranky about it, which will either put them on the defensive or just make them laugh.

I promise you, half the time that your students are acting squirrely when they are supposed to be working, is because at least part of the room doesn't really know for sure what you wanted them to do. Even though you said it, and you thought you made your wishes known. You can avoid a whole bunch of headache by giving crystal-clear directions, following my steps above. Without getting upset about it.

Now, if I can just follow my own advice this coming week! Ha.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #6 Getting Upset

It happens so fast. You're conducting your class, then all of a sudden a student crosses the line, and you're seething. Or hurt and offended. Or caught off guard and just don't know what to do. But whatever you do, I'm going to recommend you avoid showing it because this is:

Mistake #6 - Getting Upset

I'm not going to tell you I don't get mad, hurt, offended, or intimidated in the classroom. I do. But when I feel it coming on, I do my dead-level best NOT to let those emotions get elevated, and if/when they do get elevated, I don't let it show. I might, at the most, raise my voice and tell a student to "please stop doing that." But after I address the behavior, I go back to my normal tone and keep smiling and teaching the class like nothing happened. As if nothing really fazes me.

Why? Because the generation of students we're teaching right now has a strange reaction to displays of anger, frustration, or hurt. They won't feel guilty that they made you mad or pushed you to the end of your rope. They won't settle down or change to make you feel better. If you show real anger and frustration, they'll just look at you like you're crazy. They'll possibly laugh, and will often try to make you even madder, because they think it's funny and fun. And then guess what. Your emotions get even farther out of control, and it's an endless cycle.

When I'd get to the absolute end of my rope in a class, I used to do things like just say, "Fine. I'm done teaching today. You guys do whatever you want," and go sit at my desk and pretend to work. (Not very often, but I have done it a few times over the past 15 years.) Fifteen years ago, if I did that, the class was deathly silent, not sure what to do until I decided to stand up and teach again. The last time I did that (in 2009) they just laughed it off, started talking and playing on their phones, and enjoyed the fact that they "won" the game of trying to get me not to teach a lesson so they could have free goof-off time.

I also had been known to give a class a "serious talk" the next day and let them know how frustrated and upset I was with their shenanigans in the last class, and basically plead for a change in behavior, etc. Again, that tactic did work for me 15 years ago, but now I'd be wasting my breath. Now, instead, I put all my energy into making sure they never see me sweat. They don't see me getting upset, feeling frustrated, hurt, angry, or unsure. I address the behavior and I just keep right on going with my lesson as if it's no big deal.

Over time, you really do get more accustomed to all the crazy, silly, obnoxious things that students do in class. You've practically seen it all, and it really doesn't faze you as much. But if you're a newer teacher, you want to get to that point now at least in your outer appearance. Fake it 'til you make it. Use your teacher voice, tell them to settle down so you can teach them some Spanish, and march right on with your lesson. Don't be or act surprised by the audacity of their behavior. Act like you've seen it all before. Say the names of individual kids and tell them specifically to stop talking, stay in their seat, stop picking on so-in-so, or whatever, until you can teach your lesson. Be relentless in getting that lesson taught. Have a "We've got work to do and we're doing it!" attitude, positive, firm, fun, and unruffled by their silliness.

That's my advice!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

7 Classroom Management Mistakes - #5 Not Having a Well-Prepared Lesson

Okay, I hate it that this particular thing affects my classroom management so much, because it's a lot of work, but this is:

Mistake #5 - Not Having a Well-Prepared Lesson.

It never fails. When I'm bumbling around at the front of the room trying to figure out what I'm doing because I don't have a well-planned lesson, my class senses a weakness in the Force, and things start going awry. They get louder and more talkative, less willing to do what I ask, more whiny, more rowdy and restless.

Or, maybe I have part of the lesson well-planned, but then there's dead time in the middle or at the end, and it takes me a few minutes to regroup and transition to something else. Or, I never do really figure out what I'm transitioning to, and it's just simply too late. They've already gone haywire.

So how do you make sure you don't get caught fumbling around trying to figure out what you're doing? Different teachers do this different ways. Some people have ready-made filler activities and games they whip out at the last minute. Me, I wrote 4 levels of lesson plan books because I hate not knowing what I'm doing and where this is all going so much. For me, a well-prepared skit lesson with smooth transitions basically runs like this:

1. A warm-up/review of the material from the last class.
2. Read something that reinforces the vocab and grammar from last class.
3. Conversation in Spanish about a question of the day or some sort of given topic, preferably something that also reinforces the vocab they have been learning. At the beginning levels, this would obviously be very scripted and guided.
4. Introduction of new vocab/vocab phrases.
5. Skit.
6. Q&A about the skit, me asking questions and them answering either as a group or getting called on one by one (if only a few are answering out loud as a group.)
7. 4-minute break.
8. Grammar, either intro of new grammar topic or a continuing practice of one that we've been working on.
9. Go over homework/new homework assigned.
10. Telenovela (right now, I'm showing Un gancho al corazón in level 3 and Al diablo con los guapos in level 4. We're all very addicted to these two shows. : - ))

Now, part of what makes me well-prepared when I run this lesson is that I do it almost every day, exactly in the same order. So my students are accustomed to this routine and so am I, and it runs pretty much like clockwork.

(For my Spanish 4/AP culture lessons, substitute the culture topic/reading/writing/conversation for #4, 5, and 6 above.)

You may need to experiment with your own lesson sequencing and content to find your sweet spot in terms of lesson planning, and you may also hate doing the same routine and need to shake it up more. I don't shake much, and that works well for me.

Another great source of lesson planning ideas is Martina Bex's awesome blog. She has a TON of resources, ideas, lessons, units, and activities there, so check her out!

What ideas do you have for last-minute activities that always go well in class? Share in the comments below!