Breaking out: Vector novel style

In the summer, at iFLT in Chattanooga, TN, I attended a session by Leslie Davison on BreakoutEdu.  I had read all about breakout boxes but I’m a visual learner and something just wasn’t clicking for me.  I needed to experience it to really understand!  Leslie gave us just the experience I needed.  My team didn’t break out in our 45 minute time limit but we had a great time trying!

Knowing what a breakout looked like helped me see its place in my classroom.  I went to breakoutedu.com and got the list of supplies for a DIY breakout box, I ordered from Amazon and started working on our first class breakout.

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A breakout box has a hasp with four locks: One 4 digit code, 1 directional lock that can have a combination up to 6 different different directional slides, 1 5 letter word lock, and a key lock.  In addition, there is a small box with a three digit lock code.

I wanted to create a breakout as a final activity for my Vector novel.  Making the clues and making them hard enough but not too hard is the trickiest part of a breakout!  Let me tell you a little about our breakout and the feedback I got from my class.  These are the things that will guide my writing in the final breakout that I create!

I started with the word lock.  The problem with the word lock is that each of the five spinners has a limited number of characters.  I went through the text considering all of the key words that contained 5 letters.  My choice of words “canal” was impossible with my word lock so I tried several other combinations.  Of my list of 8 choices, only one worked: “panel”.  Now that I had a word, I needed a way to give the clue.  I settled on a code.  I created a code of symbols, one for each letter of the alphabet, and then made wrote the clue (in Spanish) using the symbols.  Decoded, it said “you read this to get information in the museum”.

I locked the symbol key in the 3 digit code box and put the clue to decode in an envelope with a note that explained the problem.  The students were going to try to stop the worst premature explosion in the canal construction.  The explosion at Bas Obispo on December 12, 1908.

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Now that I had important information in the 3 digit box, I needed a code.  I found out that ships brought 60,000,000 pounds of dynamite to Panama to be used in the construction.  I also found that a ship could carry as much as 400,000 pounds of dynamite in a shipment.  I printed these clues out (in Spanish) labeling the first A and the second B.  I also placed an equation in the room: A/B=?  Students had to figure out that they needed to divide 60,000,000 by 400,000.  150, the answer was the code of the 3 digit box.

I hung a series of images from towns along the canal in the early 1900s on my board.  Behind the image of Bas Obispo, I hung the key to the lock box.  I put dates on each image to give some possiblities for 4 digit codes.

I also hung a poster advertising jobs in the canal construction zone.  It was dated 1908 and invited workers to Bas Obispo. My hope was that between the photo museum and this poster, students would google Bas Obispo and find the date 12/12/1908. The date of the explosion.  I think I made the clues too easy because they didn’t have to use their technology to figure it out.  1212, the code on the four digit lock.

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Finally, I had to give a clue for the directional lock.  I was determined to find a video that showed a transit of the canal with clear turns north, south, west, and east… but there were way too many twists and turns to use any of the videos.  What about a map?  I found a map, drew in some arrows, and gave some written instructions on how to navigate the canal.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be my worst clue.  The combination of arrows and written instructions was confusing.  I had to give an extra hint to help them get through this clue.  Definitely needs reworked!

The group broke out with 23:27 to spare!  We spent some time discussing the good and bad of the breakout.

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Here is some feedback I’ll be working with as I redesign this breakout.  I thought it might be helpful to share as you’re designing your own breakouts.

  1. Our class of 24 is big so we didn’t all have something to do all of the time.  Some of the class was just watching.  Maybe we could break the clues up into groups in order to solve the locks.
  2. The clues were almost all too easy.  We figured the first ones out so fast that it might be nice to have to do research or figure more out on our own.
  3. The directional lock is really hard when you don’t know the number of movements in the combination.  Maybe this could be a clue in invisible ink.
  4. It would be fun to have the clues depend on us looking them up with our iPads.

Review for exams with Groupardy

It’s that time of year again… EXAMS!  My class is so proficiency based that it is hard sometimes to find a way to review the language in the same context they’ll use it in on the final!  So I invented “groupardy”… just a fun twist on good ole’ Jeopardy.

I’m attaching the full rules of play but I’ll tell you all about my review as well!

In level 1 and 2 we are taking an exam with listening (a sound clip from a native speaker friend introducing herself and a story read by me), reading (both an article from our scholastic magazine and a story created from class vocab), speaking (retell a story from class), and writing (retell a story from class).  How do you even review for that??  It seems to me that the main thing is to be sure students are comfortable and confident with the verbs and vocabulary that we’ve used to build our language proficiency this fall.

My 6 categories in both levels are:

I LOVE GRAMMAR, DESCRIBE IT, SUPER 7, CULTURAL CORNER, PEOPLE WE KNOW, ACTION and ADVENTURE

The grammar category will just reinforce those popups we have had this year, describe it will focus on drawing out details about stories we’ve told, in Super 7 we will focus on the key verbs we’ve used to drive communication, cultural corner will be questions based on our units of study, people we know will be questions about characters from our novels, and finally action and adventure will focus on things we have done in class that they’ll remember as our class jokes or insiders… For example, in Spanish 2 when we were storytelling “El Banco” we were all victims of a bank robbery laying on the floor of the classroom.  I might ask them (in target) “Why did the class have to get on the floor of the bank?”  They would answer that the bank robbers were all trying to rob each other.

Adaptable for any review, I think Groupardy will be a fun way to get our classes freshened up on our semester’s worth of material before we tackle those exams on Wednesday!

 

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The Power of a National Conference

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In 2010, I joined my state language organization for the first time in several years.  I taught alone, in a rural school, and it seemed to me that the only reason to belong was to get a lower price for fall conference registration… BUT I WAS SO WRONG…

Since 2010, I have been 2nd Vice President, President Elect, and am about to take the presidency over in January… and I have some big shoes to fill!  What I’ve found through my service as a board member is that ICTFL is fighting the good fight for Illinois teachers.  Linda Egnatz, our immediate past president, brought us the Seal of Biliteracy… which is literally sweeping the nation and advocating for our language programs in a way that will have a lasting impact on our field.  Todd Bowen, another past president and board member of many hats, has brought us teacher leadership training through TALL-IL and valuable OPI training to help teachers understand how proficiency really develops!  This organization is fighting to have IL dump the language standards from the 90s and adopt the national standards, it is working to provide training to teachers around the state to help them build strong language programs, and it is connecting teachers to their region as a member of the Central States conference on Teaching of Foreign Languages (CSCTFL) and the nation as a member of ACTFL…

Being a member of all 3 of these organizations and attending all 3 conferences is incredible.  To see the number of teachers hungry to learn about using comprehensible language to teach their classes, to build high proficiency in language learners, and to reach out to the maximum number of language students possible is heart warming!  I saw sessions on film making, using commercials as comprehensible input, creating assessments that really assess proficiency, social justice, global engagement, and more!   As a profession, we are moving in an amazing new direction!  We are bringing the world and the language alive for our students and I love it!

 

I know that finances are always tight at school (and at home) but I want you to make a pledge to yourself.  Before you retire, you’ll take one opportunity (at least) to attend the regional and then the national conferences.  Imagine learning along side 8500 other language educators… Present, attend sessions, visit exhibitors, but most of all network!  Meet like minded teachers who will help you continue to grow as a teacher! In 2010, I thought ACTFL was a building in DC that housed books of state standards… Today I know better.  It is a living thing… It is tens of thousands of teachers working together to share, learn and grow.  And it is unbelievable!

Review Balloons

After finishing the first four chapters of Brandon Brown wants a dog, it was time for a review!  I selected 12 important events, printed them out, and cut them into strips.  I put one strip in each balloon (throw in some empty balloons for a fun and frustrating challenge)

In two teams, students raced to pop the balloons and bring the strips back to their team’s basket! 


Once all papers were collected in the basket, teams had to order the events as quickly as possible. 


It was a fun and fast (5min) interpretive reading with a twist!  

Novels, Stations, and Tech via Aurasma

One of the ways to connect students to the novels we read in class is to front-load some of the culture.  While we, as teachers, have a lot of life experiences that give us a broad view of the world, our students often have no prior knowledge on which to draw as we share problems, products, practices, and perspectives from the countries where our language is spoken!

I am about to start the novel Esperanza and my sophomores will get their first real foray into using language to talk about a deep topic.  But I have to keep it comprehensible and I have to arm them with the necessary facts if they’re going to feel comfortable and confident.

A few years ago, my friend, Kristy Placido, was about to do some high tech centers with her class to kick off a unit.  I expressed my jealousy since I had NO tech… and she took no excuses.  She told me if I wanted to, I could come up with a way to use stations too.  Even low tech!  So I did!  I created 7 stations for the novel we were about to read with videos I downloaded to my own laptop, memes that I printed, activities from the novel’s teacher’s guide, and music that accompanied the study.  It went GREAT!  The best station was the speaking station where students were able to spend one rotation just talking to me!!! I was able to feel them out and see what they already knew before we even started to read!

I’m in a new position and I have LOTS of techy stuff now… so the bar is raised!  How will I use what I have to further engage students and deepen their acquisition of the language!  I don’t want to use these 1:1 iPads just to fill in digital worksheets!!!

I decided to create 3 stations powered by the Aurasma app.  Here’s what I did and what I didn’t do but should have:

Station 1: Speaking Station (I should have sat out one rotation so I could have solved some tech problems earlier on!)

Station 2: Students read an article that gave them some background on Guatemalan Trash Miners and answered three questions (all in English).  We will take this base knowledge and build TL skills over the rest of the week!

Station 3: Students looked at a picture of a family in their home in Guatemala and wrote 5 strong, detailed Spanish sentences about what they saw.

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Station 4: Students read a slideshow from the Teacher’s Guide for the novel about houses in Guatemala.  They had to summarize what each slide said in 1 line of English.

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Station 5: Students had a map of North and Central America.  When they held the Aurasma app over the map, over Guatemala, a video appeared as a layover.  They watched a silent film of all the sites of Guatemala.  When they finished, they had to write about what they saw… What is there in Guatemala?

Station 6: Students had a map of northern Central America.  When they held the Aurasma app over the map, over the capital, the trailer for the movie Reparando appeared as a layover.  They watched the trailer and in ENGLISH wrote a paragraph about how actions of the past have affected Guatemala even today.

Station 7: Students had a map of the United States.  When they held the Aurasma app over the map, over California, they saw a YouTube video called “Which kind of Asian are you?”.  Kristy recommended the video to me and it is great!  It is NOT what it sounds like.  Students watched the video and then in ENGLISH wrote a paragraph about what this video says about prejudices and stereotypes in the US.

AURASMA LEARNING CURVES:

  1. Easy to create your “AURAS”… Go to aurasma.com.  Upload your image and then upload your overlay… BUT before you save, the default is set to PRIVATE… you need to click on SHARE… then SAVE.  Now it is a public aura and your students will be able to see it.
  2. When students download the app, they have the option to “skip” making an account.  This is what we did at first…. but when they tried to read the auras, nothing happened.  After some investigating, my Network Specialist (at my school even) husband discovered that they MUST make an account AND they must follow YOU!  Then they can see your Auras.

The first time you do an Aura in class, I recommend not tying yourself up with a speaking station… I had a very hard time keeping up with my responsibility there AND trying to troubleshoot kids with the iPads.

I plan to make a LOT more Auras… Now that I know the tricks, I can think of lots of ways to use it!

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Planning for Proficiency!

Here I am, putting the finishing touches on a new room I never expected to be moving into… And I am SO excited to be taking this journey toward proficiency with a new group of students!  I have a smart board, 1:1 iPads, co-planning time with my colleague… It is going to be a great year!

For these students new to my ways, I wanted to create a clear path to proficiency so I moved my bulletin board!


Then I hung my proficiency descriptors and some words and expressions that will help them climb the ladder toward our final goal of becoming independent learners and users of Spanish! One thing that has stuck with me after IFLT was Dr Krashen saying that our classroom time isn’t going to allow us to make them as fluent as natives but we CAN get them enough proficiency to continue learning via reading, listening, and travel!  And I think this is true for a slower processor as much as a super star student!!!  (words and expressions are available in my TPT store  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Somewhere-To-Share)


Looking forward to lots of fun with and without technology this year as we begin our first steps toward seal of biliteracy and dual credit at SCHS!

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This has been an amazing week!  I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many wonderful educators and am so excited to see so many people ready to go back to the classroom pushing students toward proficiency!

I am blogging about the sessions I saw today on CIPeek but I promised my session attendees that I would share two documents.  First,

Grading Rubric Class Discussion

And second:My performance descriptors

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Thank you guys so much for coming and for making this conference so much fun!