Saturday, October 27, 2018

Grammar In My Books + What Is the Difference Between My Books On My Website Vs. My Books on Amazon?

Vocab and grammar topics from what I like to call the "pain and suffering" chapters in Expresate 2 (chapters 3 and 4.) I wrote a lot of twisted skits with this set. :)

Getting this question or similar ones a lot this past week, so I thought I'd post it for all to read if needed.


Q: How do you teach grammar/how much grammar is presented in your lesson plans?




Grammar:
In levels 1 & 2 the grammar is mostly embedded in the skits and activities with occasional grammar-specific worksheets sprinkled throughout my books. I use a lot of grammar resources outside of my lesson plan books for explicit grammar instruction - you can find a list of the workbooks I use and like on this blog post:


In levels 3 and 4, I wrote "Big Lists" of grammar notes, lots of grammar homework assignments, and of course grammar embedded in the skits and readings as usual. I still use that list of of grammar workbooks for explicit grammar instruction that I mentioned above. I did grammar worksheets or lessons along with skits or culture presentations almost daily on the 90-minute block schedule. Now that I'm on a 55-minute daily traditional schedule this fall, I'm doing grammar about 3 times a week.



Q: What is the difference between the lesson plan books for sale on your website and the lesson plan books for sale on Amazon?

Difference between the books on the different sites:
The books I'm still selling on my website are my backstock of the spiral-bound books that I had printed this past summer with CD-Roms of the supplementary documents for an "electronic" version. I am no longer personally selling and shipping the levels I have sold out of - Spanish 1A and B, and Level 4, from my personal website. The books for the levels I have left are $79.95 each with CD rom, and I will continue personally shipping them until I run out completely.

The books on Amazon are being printed on demand (and shipped) by Amazon/Createspace. The printed versions are professionally bound like a paperback book instead of spiral-bound, and they are $39.95 each. The ebooks (if you also want an electronic version) are $9.99 each. So if you want both, you're ending up spending about $50 instead of $80 per book. My level 1A and B and 4A and B are only available on Amazon now since I sold out of my printed backstock here at home for those levels.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The "Focus Worksheet" for Job and Life Stress

I am a Worksheet Queen, and not just in class. :)
All right, my friends, it's the middle of the fall semester, and I'm feeling the burn. Working on weekends planning and creating student-centered materials for hours on end, just to try to have some semblance of instructional skill in class [They are begging to watch music videos? I gotta make or find a cloze activity that isn't horrendously impossible to fill in for unmotivated, easily distracted 1st semester Spanish 1 students. They won't sit still and pay attention to skits? I gotta make translation exercises to give them comprehensible input and upload the exercises to Google Classroom so students who hate physical writing will at least type on their school-issued MacBooks. They have no clue what the complicated textbook grammar explanations are trying to say? I gotta find or make simplified grammar worksheets and notes that make sense in class. And the list goes on.] And we all know what happens when you work all week and then work a lot on your weekend as well...stress overload, exhaustion, the feeling like your whole life is consumed by your job.

That is NOT my idea of the life I want to live. I'm guessing yours either.

So, as you might know, I'm kind of obsessed with Tony Robbins at the moment. I signed up for a free 30-minute Life Coaching session on Tony Robbins' website a few weeks ago and got an hour and a half call with a coach. (It was an awesome coaching call, and though for now I've decided not to invest in ongoing sessions, it's definitely something that I plan to look into at a later date, time and finances permitting.) The coach who connected with me has followed up by sending a couple of short teaching videos from the Tony Robbins library, which is very kind of him, considering he's hand-selected them based on our coaching conversation and both times the videos have been dead-on exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

The video I got this weekend was titled "How to Take Advantage of Uncertainty" and was about 6 minutes long, but I watched it three times and then journaled about it all morning this morning.  Then, I put the knowledge into action, created a Focus Worksheet in order to process my own problem areas, and used the worksheet to map out a plan for change this next week.

Let me explain how it works.

Step 1: Figuring Out What I Can Control


In the video, Tony Robbins said to "tell yourself the truth, feel the uncertainty, and then take action anyway," rather than allowing fear to keep you complacent in your current state. Stress comes when you feel like life is controlling you rather than you being in control...."Events take control unless you focus on controlling what is between your ears, not the events you can't control."

So, I found a 2-column worksheet I made a long time ago called "Potentially Stressful Situations I Can/Cannot Control," marked out the "potentially stressful" part of the column headings to make it more inclusive, and started filling it in (pictured above.)

For example, I can't control the work hours for my job. I must be in my classroom teaching and managing students from 9:00 - 11:03 and 11:55 - 3:01 every weekday. But I can control how I use and manage my time outside of those hours.

Step 2: Clearly Defining What I Will Focus On (and Not Focus On)


From this worksheet, I saw that focusing on the drudgery of the inflexible work schedule, the behavior of students, the noise level in the Freshmen Academy, the meeting load, the data entry load, and how much of a clunker my school-issued Dell laptop is, is not productive. Tony also said that if you focus on the past or what's missing from your life you'll drag yourself down and increase your stress, so I added the details of those items to the "Non-Focus Areas" side of the worksheet.

For example, sometimes I get caught up in thinking about my past mistakes and failures, unhappy or embarrassing episodes in my dating life or family issues; I also spend way too much time lamenting my less-than-perfect health and lack of freedom to pursue my passions (writing, cooking, traveling.)

On the other hand, since I absolutely CAN control how I manage my time outside of my job schedule, the fact that I don't exercise enough [and therefore my increased back, neck, shoulder, jaw, and foot pain] is really on me. "But I don't feel like going outside in the morning, and I'm too tired after school," I find myself saying. Well, then I need to rest more as well. Rest, exercise, diet, play time, self-care time--those things are all within my own sphere of control. I added all those things to my "Can Control/Focus On" side of the worksheet.

Tony said in the video to also focus on things like the difference you can make, what you want, and what you already have in your life that you're grateful for. I journaled and made lists of those things on the back of my worksheet, under the heading, "More Focus Areas."

Step 3: Creating an Action Plan For This Week


In order to address my work stress, daily pain levels (feet, jaw, back, neck, and shoulders,) and fatigue, I need to shift my focus more fully to what I can control: my time outside of work.

For example, if I get out of bed, make a cup of tea, and sit on the sofa journaling for 30 minutes first thing in the morning (like I LOVE to do,) I'm in pretty severe pain for the rest of the day. On the other hand, if I get dressed in gym clothes and go walking first thing, that pain will be greatly reduced (though right now, the pain never goes completely away. I've got a longer-term plan to address that situation, no worries. :))

I know that I can also greatly affect how I feel if I do some yoga after school every day as well as hang on my inversion table to separate out those arthritic vertebrae in my mid-low back and neck.

I also know, from experimentation, that I feel way better and enjoy life more if I buy vegetables and cook all my own food rather than eating out or buying frozen meals.

I do tend to pile a bunch of extra chores and activities on my own plate, just because there are so many things I love doing or feel the need to do, but right now some of those things need to be managed differently so I can reduce stress and not be in so much pain and emotional gloom all the time.

So Here's My 6-Step Action Plan:


1. Get up, drink water, and go walk for 30 minutes every morning. 10-15 minutes of morning walking just isn't enough to alleviate my aches and pains right now, and I saw a YouTube video a couple nights ago that said 30 minutes of walking daily was one of the best workouts you could get for overall fitness and health. It's been too chilly and damp here for the past month for me to enjoy walking at 5:30 in the dark, so the obvious answer is getting on a treadmill at the apartment gym and watching/listening to a podcast so it won't be so dreadfully boring. I did it this morning, in fact, and my low back was out of pain completely when I got back to my apartment, and even now is still way less painful than it was all day yesterday and last night.

2. Hang on my inversion table 5 minutes twice a day. It seems particularly helpful to hang on the table for my back pain right after I walk because my spine is warmed up and loosened up by the exercise. Those vertebrae can separate and stop irritating the nerves that run between them, and I get can some lubrication in the discs that lasts most of the day. And I already like hanging on it after work to relax, revive, and refocus. Since I discovered I can play on Facebook while I hang there, the five minutes goes by in a flash. :-)

3. Do the back and neck exercises my chiropractor in California recommends every morning. I call them my "Bergman Back Exercises," a standing spinal twist back and forth 100 times, a foot/calf stretch on a block, and a neck exercise with a roller behind your neck. Total takes about 5 minutes, makes a huge difference all day.

4. Do at least 10 minutes of yoga after work. This is one of those things that I find myself whiny about doing because I'm "too tired," yet 10 minutes is nothing, and I always, always feel 1000% better after doing even just 10 minutes of yoga. The breathing (and I like to inhale essential oils and rub them on my feet before doing yoga) combined with the stretching and releasing of tension just honestly can't be beat. It's both energizing AND relaxing, the best after-work stress reliever I know of (besides a glass of wine, and that's just not on my diet plan right now. :-)

5. Reduce Errands, Chores and Paperwork. I've taken a hard look at all the little organizing, cleaning, and household business tasks I do every day and decided to make some changes that as a Certified Neat Freak I never thought I'd make. Here's a summary:
  • No going in grocery stores or health food stores several times a week. Use the Walmart Grocery Pickup app or order specialty/supplement items online if at ALL possible.
  • Clean the apartment for 15 minutes per week, either Friday night or Sunday sometime. (That's enough time to clean the toilet, vacuum, and straighten and put away things. I just look around and determine what the three most critical cleaning needs are, set a timer, and tackle those first.)
  • Make two piles of Clothes Types: 1) a pile of walking and yoga clothes on the boxes in my closet (a pair of yoga pants, a pair of joggers, a couple of t-shirts, and a sweatshirt;) and 2) a pile of pajamas and sleepwear on top of my dresser. I can't tell you how much time and effort these two unruly-looking piles have saved me during the week. I just grab what I need from them and pile them back on the pile when I take them off, and eventually the various items make it to the laundry basket when they aren't fresh enough to reuse anymore.
  • No more printing out statements and laboriously balancing my checkbook, for now. Just let it go. Monitor the balance via apps.
  • Look through bills once a week, see what's coming up due, pay online when possible/easier.
  • Write if/when the mood hits AND I have plenty of energy and time, or an awkward slice of time between appointments. (I bought a new backpack that will hold my laptop that I can carry in my car and then stop at coffee shops to write on if I want between school and chiropractor appointments, etc.)
6. Get in bed at 8:00pm. I can read or whatever until 9:00, but aiming for an 8:00 get-in-bed time has helped me get caught up on and stay caught up on rest this past week. Whatever I do until 8 is up to me...if I want to spend 2 hours cooking and cleaning up the kitchen, so be it. Or if I want to heat up leftovers and play Xbox, fine.


Okay, I think that's the plan I'm going to try this week. I found a new, quiet spot to spend my lunch break at school this past week...the school library...where I can get out of my classroom, put in earbuds, and write if I want. That will hopefully alleviate the need to try to find coffee shops to go write in after work, which makes it harder to squeeze in a yoga routine and a home-cooked meal, much less stopping to get on my inversion table.

I'm hoping my pain levels will reduce again soon because my low back and jaw have been worsening quite a bit since school started, to the point now that I'm feeling kind of depressed about it. But more updates soon!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Spanish 1A Lesson 9 Story Video

All right. Enough of this spending hours trying to make pre-animated people look like they are doing something besides just standing there waving at you. I decided to just try narrating my story with my own stick figure drawings and this little video is what I came up with. (And yes, I AM a big dork, as you will see and hear for yourself!)



I was cracking myself up with my attempts at voice acting, plus my camera work is admittedly pretty homemade, but hey. This only took me about an hour to produce (two takes) as opposed to five hours last Sunday with Powtoon.

I tried to slow the narration down quite a bit due to feedback I received from my students on last week's (Spanish 1A Lesson 8) animated video. I'll debut this new one in class this week and see how it goes. They weren't super thrilled with the animated story video in terms of being able to learn from it, but seemed to love the vocab one, so I made another vocab one for Lesson 9 with Powtoon:


This is definitely a work in progress, but so is teaching itself, so...welcome to my journey. :-)

Monday, September 24, 2018

My First Animated Video! Spanish 1A Lesson 8 - El muchacho que juega a los videojuegos


Guess what I spent all day yesterday doing? Yeah, um...teaching myself how to make animated videos. Here's my first attempt, which took me about 5 hours.

Why?

I'm desperately seeking new ways to present comprehensible input in huge, rowdy, loud classes of Spanish 1. Specifically, ways I can do less work in class while my students do more (learning-centered) work. I need to conserve my energy and my voice, both of which by the end of some days have taken quite a beating. Also, I don't know about you guys, but I've noticed more and more over the past 8 years or so that sometimes it's just hard to get students to focus on a skit. It's hard to corral your actors; it's hard to get the "audience" to pay attention. The generation we have now is so media-oriented that if it's not on a screen, they just can't seem to focus on it. (Am I the only one having this issue???)

Also they have the attention span of a flea, so I'm thinking a 3-minute video is about right.

And if you know me, you know that I am ALWAYS looking for ways to make this job easier. If I can spend 5 hours on Sunday making animated videos and then relax in class, I'll do it.

I also made this video to introduce the vocab for this story:




And this video quiz/worksheet that I'm selling on Teachers Pay Teachers to go with these two videos. It has 33 total questions, 18 of which are about the animated story. My plan is to show the vocab video first while they write down (or type) the English on their Spanish vocab lists, then show the animated story video once, then pass out the video quiz, maybe have them write down whatever answers they can remember, then show the animated story a second time while they check/fill in their answers. Then they can answer the 15 "Preguntas personales" (PQA-style) at the end, and then we can go over that. (Will update later with my results!)

If all goes well, my plan is to do two animated videos per week plus video quizzes and upload everything as I go. You can follow me on YouTube and/or Teachers Pay Teachers if you want to teach Spanish 1 along with me and enjoy the crazy ride. :-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Choosing the Meaning That Serves You

Sticky note psychology. It works.

To continue on with things I've been learning from Tony Robbins...this.

I went to work one morning last week, sat down at my desk to figure out what I was doing that day, and thought about behavior issues and how I was going to address them. [Some examples of my students' behaviors at the moment: playing on phones and/or having headphones or earbuds in when they are supposed to be listening, watching, or working on something; asking to leave my room (bathroom, etc.) and then staying gone for 15 minutes; sitting there doing nothing when they are supposed to be working on a written assignment.]

I asked myself, How am I going to deal with these behaviors today?

All of a sudden, the obvious answer came to me, forcefully.

"It's just the meaning you attach to it." ("It" = the behavior.)

I wrote that down on a sticky note so I could see it all day. It wasn't my original idea--Tony Robbins has a teaching about life and business mastery where he says that we are all engaging in three behaviors, all the time: 1) focusing on something, 2) assigning meaning to it, and 3) deciding what to do about it. I've heard him discuss this same concept in various YouTube videos over the past few weeks, and I guess it was time for me to really understand how to apply it.

What Does This Mean?

Me assigning meaning to the behavior meant the ball was in my court, because I have control over how I choose to interpret the classroom behaviors I observe.

Some students play on their phones a lot, and some of them keep doing it even after I've asked them to put their phone away. Meaning? I'm a terrible teacher? They don't respect me? They aren't interested in my class? My class is a boring, unimportant task they are forced to endure?

If it's just the meaning I attach to it, then I can choose the meaning I attach. All right. Then I will choose a meaning that serves me. I wrote that down on the sticky note.

Choosing a Meaning That Serves Me

If I'm choosing a meaning that serves my goal of keeping my positive energy flowing as I'm teaching, I need to choose well. I decided to attach this meaning to to behavior of them playing on their phones during the lesson:

Phones and the worlds within them are fun and interesting, and they give you a brain/energy break from the mundane, long school day. You get attention from friends, you get entertained, and you can relax and just enjoy yourself. Even I feel this way about my phone, so I can understand the addiction. I want to play on my phone too. Occasionally I check my phone during long meetings and trainings, when I should be engaged instead. It doesn't mean the presenter is terrible or I don't value the learning or disrespect the person leading the meeting.

Therefore, assuming that the 4 or 5 students per class that I have to remind to put up their phones pretty much daily, sometimes two or three times per class each, are being disrespectful, hate my class, and hate me, is almost guaranteed to be false.

Case in point: one girl that I have to constantly ask to put up her phone, and who rolls her eyes when I do so, also cheerfully and eagerly greets me first when I pass her in the hallway or see her in the commons between classes.

Which brings up a follow-up meaning I can choose concerning phones: students who roll their eyes or scowl when I ask them to put up their phones do not necessarily hate me. They just haven't been taught or don't care to hide their in-the-moment emotions at being corrected or caught doing something off-task.

I encourage you to experiment with these concepts in class:
  1. Realize that how behavior affects you is simply a product of the meaning you attach to it.
  2. Understand that YOU choose the meaning.
  3. Choose a meaning that serves you in your goals. Set aside your judgment of whether what they are doing is "right" or "wrong," for your own sake.
And please let me know how it goes! Teaching is always a journey of trial and error, and we're all in this together. :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Power of Noticing

This little note completely changed my perspective.

I'll be honest with you guys, when this school year started I was already exhausted from the two weeks of training plus the summer's farm adventures gone wrong.

I was not in the mood for teaching five back-to-back classes full of freshmen, sprinkled with a few done-with-freshmen upperclassmen. Freshmen energy + volume level = a full 11, while my energy and volume level = -2.

Corralling them enough to get a lesson taught completely drained me of all energy by the end of each day for the first two weeks of school, and my attitude wasn't the greatest as I began each new day, which meant I started falling into a downward spiral that fed on itself.

Then, for some strange reason, I picked up an old book I've had for years and never completely read--Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins. Yes, Unlimited Power, I told myself half jokingly. That is exactly what I need, if it exists.

Well, Tony Robbins definitely believes it exists, and I've been a closet fan of his for years just based on the few tidbits of information I knew about him, brief YouTube videos of his interviews and speeches, and what little bits I had read from Unlimited Power in the past.

There is much more I could say (and will probably get around to it) about how spending two weekends immersing myself in Tony Robbins' teachings started turning things around dramatically for me, but right now I'll just share this particular revelation, because it's simple and yet powerful.

I was listening to an audio of Tony on YouTube where he had the audience look around and shout out everything they saw that was brown. Then he said, "Close your eyes. Okay, now, shout out everything in the room that's red." There was no shouting. He said, "Okay, now open your eyes and look around--shout out everything you see that's red." The shouting resumed, and when he got their attention again, he said, "Are you surprised by how many things around you are red, that you couldn't recall at all when you had your eyes closed? Why? What happened?"

The answer of course, was that they were focused on everything brown before he said close your eyes.

This hit me like a ton of bricks. What was I focused on during class? The one or two (or three, four, or five) students who were off task, distracting others and me, being loud, wandering around the room, yelling out and interrupting, etc. There was a sea of other students out there, NOT doing those things.

I scribbled the note in the picture above the next morning when I got to class. It was a Monday, my worst teaching day in terms of energy level, enthusiasm, and resolve. I planned to notice on purpose every time I saw a student doing one of the things on the note, and make a little tick mark beside that action, so I could see in real time how often the things I WANTED to see were happening.

The first kid of the day walks in, a girl in my first Spanish 1 class. "Hola, Ms. Waltman...¿Cómo estás?" she called out cheerfully, before I had a chance to greet her.

I looked down at my note. There were too many things to check off. She was showing growth, risk taking, joy, learning...heck, all of them. The next student walked in and struck up a conversation with me about my weekend, so I asked her about hers, and we had a great conversation about California, dance, Spanish class, and other things.

The next kid came in, and the next. I noticed everything on my note, for the entire class. Then I noticed everything on my note, constantly, for the entire day.

And then I laughed at myself that I hadn't made a single tick mark, because it was impossible to keep up. I left that day feeling better than I had in weeks.

Are the negative behaviors in your classes capturing your entire focus, to the point you can't see anything else? I challenge you to make a note. Lay it on your desk. Try to make tick marks. And then please let me know how it went in the comments below, because I am really curious. :-)

Happy Tuesday...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Back in Oklahoma - My New Classroom!

New job, new carpet, new furniture, and a new big screen on the wall.
I moved back to my home state of Oklahoma this summer (without a job) and was unexpectedly offered a position at Norman High School! (Why yes, thank you, I WOULD like to come in for an interview...)

My original plan in moving back was to take a year off to work on my book business full time, but the inexpensive little farmhouse I bought in Southwest Oklahoma just didn't work out for this city girl. There were too many pests and predators in the vicinity--chiggers, (I couldn't wear shoes for two weeks due to festering bites!), snakes, scorpions, mice, rats (yes, actual rats,) wasps, black widows, skunks, and men.

All I knew when I got the job at Norman High was that apartment life suddenly looked real, real good, and that I wanted something new, clean, and way up off the ground. Something that no skunks could crawl under and set up nests. Something with locked doors and gates, and plenty of people around to hear you if you yelled for help.

New, clean, safe apartment secured, I turned my attention to setting up my classroom. They gave me a room that had just been remodeled and had not been used as a classroom yet--everything all new. I didn't have much time to set up before I had to report for new teacher orientation on August 2nd (and I had to make a road trip to close on the sale of my farm August 1st,) so I chose not to worry about putting anything on the walls and just focus on the 14-foot bulletin board on the north wall of the room.
This gorgeous orange bulletin board didn't need a thing but border and a few posters.

My sweet mom drove down from Colorado and helped me shop for supplies including this cute black and white border, as well as helped me unpack the classroom stuff I'd quickly boxed up in May not thinking I'd be classroom teaching for a while. I was relieved to see I'd kept most of my essential props for skits, my Spanish children's books, and my favorite DVDs.
It's not perfect yet, but I have my stacking trays with handouts all set up and baskets of props ready to go. Also, notes and pictures from students in Colorado brighten my workspace and help me remember why I do this job.

The individual tables and chairs are designed to be able to form groups, so after school started I actually had one of my classes help me put them together into groups of 4. I'm planning to play around with different arrangements until I see what I like best. For now, it's been fun just to have all new "toys" to play with in a new environment.
Objectives on the board keep me organized while I'm teaching. These aren't written in a "standards-based" format - they are practical and to the point.

Technology cart with laptop and a document camera that project to the screen. Thank you Norman Public Schools. :-)

I'm really enjoying teaching at Norman High, although learning a new system/school/culture has been overwhelming at times. I've been in Colorado for 15 years, and there are some very clear cultural differences that I'm readjusting to now that I'm back. Oklahoma students are louder and more active (so, a little more draining on the energy levels!) They are also warmer and bond with you faster, and many of them have already completely stolen my heart.

Thankfully we had a 4-day weekend (Friday off) for Labor Day and I had a chance to recoup some energy as well as be productive. I also got out and went on a little mini-vacation in Norman, walking around downtown and having lunch at Earth Café. It's still very warm and lush and green here, and as I walked around enjoying the humidity (yes, ENJOYING it!!! Colorado is high, dry, chilly desert,) I had a peace come over me that everything is going to be all right. :-)

Don't forget to check out my author page on Amazon to get $10 ebooks of all my lesson plans - and $40 print versions too!