Now that ACTFL's annual conference is more than a month behind me, I've finally got a moment to catch my breath and organize my reflections from this powerhouse learning marathon. This was my 3rd ACTFL conference, and my 3rd time presenting. The excitement began right at the gate at Logan airport in Boston, where nearly every passenger was a world language teacher headed to New Orleans. My sense of anticipation was high because I'd finally meet Natalia DeLaat in person (see above, photo credit: Thomas Sauer). Although we'd been working together virtually for months to put together our session, I was anxious to see this woman en chair et en os and get a sense of how we'd get along, say...presenting in front of a national audience (spoiler: it all went great!).
I attended many, many sessions and also made time to relax and enjoy the beauty of New Orleans. My only forays into the American South have been for ACTFL conferences, and I was astounded by the architecture, history, and cuisine. Getting a private walking tour of the French Quarter (because no one else showed up!) and eating beignets for lunch were among the highlights.
You can read my notes on various sessions, many with links to the presentations themselves, here. These weren't written for an audience, but I typed them up from my handwritten notes so that I'd remember key ideas going forward.
A month out, here's what I'm still chewing on from the conference:
1. Get students deep into interculturality by having them study a topic with students from the target culture, and then present their stereotypes to one another. Manuela Wagner presented on this with Boston-area German teacher Joan Campbell, and I was intrigued by how they had U.S. and German students read about one another's cultures, make observations, and even write stereotypes. Then students asked questions of the other group, and recorded how their ideas changed.
2. Paul Sandrock and Donna Clementi's session on interpersonal communication was tremendous. Megan Budke blogged about it in detail here, and definitely read through the full slideshow to learn from their wisdom. In a nutshell, too often our students understand paired speaking tasks to consist of "I ask a question, you answer, we're done." This pair pushed us to take it much further, by explicitly rating students on looking at the speaker, asking (and teaching!) clarifying questions, staying in the target language, and more. They also tied their work to Bill VanPatten's work on Tasks and gave a beautiful example of a Task that accompanies an authentic resource that I already use in my classroom:
3. Rich Madel gave a fantastic presentation on teaching culture. Not only did he engage the audience during a tough, late-afternoon slot by using a simple hold-up, but he also presented the IMAGE model for teaching culture in the most approachable manner I've seen. Some of his simple ideas that I plan to use are:
• Ask students to compare a cultural product or perspective in an authentic resource to something in their own culture
• Ask students to name a cultural practice in a text and explain the perspective that motivates it
• Create a T-chart where students can record practices in one column and perspectives in the other
4. Rhashida Hilliard and April Broussard spoke about intentional representation in the world language classroom as part of providing a culturally relevant education to today's students. Their session was described in depth by Jenny Delfini on a recent Inspired Proficiency podcast - check it out here! One of my main takeaways from this session is that I need to continue to learn about my students' racial, religious, ethnic, and linguistic identities so that I can integrate their cultural backgrounds into my class activities. This was the only ACTFL session by African-American women that I have ever attended, and I hope that ACTFL will increase its outreach to bring excellent presenters of color to future conferences. While I'm on that note - I believe that intentional representation is a professional obligation, and I would like to see that impact ACTFL's choice of keynote speaker at future conferences.
5. Although I joined Megan Budke and Karen Nickel's session on IPAs late (due to no-show presenters elsewhere), I was impressed by the depth of their work on this important topic. Check out their Google Drive for some really wonderful resources, including a step-by-step guide to creating an IPA, sample IPAs and essential questions by proficiency level, and - BEST OF ALL - a long, rich list of sample inference, author's perspective, and comparing cultural perspective questions.
I really can't say enough about the professional opportunities that attending this conference affords. Whether you're giving a session, attending a session, meeting colleagues by chance or on purpose, ACTFL's conference is a jam-packed, mind-blowing event.
You can find the slideshow of my presentation with Natalia DeLaat here. Thanks to everyone who attended! I have blogged a full description of the unit, Les maisons du monde, here. Here are links to 3 other units that incorporate social justice for Novice students of French:
L'école, un droit pour tous? (study images of global classrooms & pitch a crowdfunding project that supports needy schools in the French-speaking world)
Les vêtements et le shopping (study of where students' clothes are made, by whom, and under what conditions, as well as how and why to buy sweatshop-free clothing)
La nourriture et la faim (explore where and how hunger exists in the world, and study French-speaking organizations that fight hunger)
In proficiency circles, I'd heard that ACTFL's OPI training was a game-changer. Since I've devoted the past four years to changing up my teaching game, I desperately wanted to do an OPI workshop to make sure I knew my proficiency levels backward and forward. Although I'd spent time learning about proficiency from Chantal Thompson and reviewing OPI interviews with experts like Greg Duncan and Thomas Sauer, I needed to see and process more examples in French for the levels that I target and teach: Novice High through Intermediate Mid.
Through a series of minor miracles and some heavy lifting by my department head, I was able to get funding and permission to fly across the country to attend a 2-day French MOPI workshop in Seattle at the very end of the school year. I got my classroom packed up before school closed, submitted my grades early for the first time *ever*, signed my husband up for a series of complicated drop-offs, classroom performances, and pick-ups at our kids' elementary school...and off I went to pursue my proficiency dreams!
The learning began right away:
As much as I've worked to align my curriculum with proficiency targets, I still have room to grow. For example, this tweet about the use of register in relation to the speaker's proficiency level points out that my students may not be accurate with vous and tu for years to come. Yet this topic often comes up in the first chapters of French 1 textbooks. Over and over again, I have to comb through my curriculum and consider how what I'm teaching compares to my learning targets for students. If I want to get my French 8 students to Intermediate Low, I need to hone in on those structures and prioritize them. Getting distracted by Advanced skills won't help anyone.
We revisited the famous proficiency tree and its component parts early on in the workshop. I loved the presenter's reminder that an autumnal tree sans leaves is still a tree! Later on, ACTFL presenter Ryan Rockaitis asked us how much grammar is essential for a learner to reach Novice (eg to make lists and speak at the word level). The answer? NONE. But how much grammar do we teach in introductory courses? Quite a bit, it would seem. This takeaway made me, yet again, want to revisit the structures I currently teach in a systematic and intentional way, in order to see how they align to proficiency descriptors. I think I can get rid of more than just direct and indirect object pronouns by using this standard! And, I'd like to focus more on those key structures that allow a learner to reach Intermediate, especially question-asking. I interviewed a really solid questioner for my practice OPI, and that skill added so much to his proficiency.
Comprehensibility was a big focus of the workshop. Since I can get tripped up by expressions like "accustomed," "unaccustomed," "native," and "non-native," I found it helpful when the presenter simplified things a bit: Novices are understood with difficulty, even by their teachers. Intermediates are understood by their teachers. Advanced speakers are understood by monolinguals. In a department meeting earlier this year, a French native colleague said about a student's use of circumlocution, "My mother wouldn't understand that." So I imagine Christine's monolingual mom now when I consider if my students meet the Advanced standard for comprehensibility. False friends? Incomprehensible. Anglicisms? Incomprehensible. And so on...
Learning to be an OPI tester involves knowing when to ask which sort of question, as I wrote in this tweet about the general logic of question-asking and proficiency levels. Dorie Conlon Perugini does a very nice job summarizing the order of an OPI here, and you'll see from her infographic that once you've figured out what to discuss with your interviewee, the major focus becomes which questions to ask him or her. One helpful pointer from the workshop was to either change topic or level when asking a new question, but never both at once. So if you're asking Intermediate questions about vacations, you can go on to ask Intermediate questions about sports for instance, OR you can stick with vacations and move up to an Advanced question. But no jumping to Advanced questions about sports - that's just too much all at once.
I found it hard to get out of asking yes/no and either/or questions during my interview, and I saw some of my colleagues struggle with this, too. I'm hoping that watching and analyzing more recorded interviews will help train me to ask the bigger, deeper questions. One tip from our French trainer was to ask "Quels sont les avantages/désavantages de...?" instead of asking if the interviewee likes something. I never use this chunk with my students, but you can bet I'm adding it to my repertoire for September! Open-ended questions like "Comment est...?" and "Parle-moi de..." were winners for eliciting answers from Intermediates, but we had some tight-lipped interviewees who did not bite. You can bring a horse to water, my friends, but ...
When it came time to "probe" (aka see how much further one could push up toward a higher level) and find out if an interviewee were Advanced, narrations were the top priority, hands down. We were told to elicit two to three extended narrations from a speaker, mostly in the past but sometimes in the future. In one interview that I observed, a speaker was able to narrate in the past but not in the future - which I found shocking! All to say that you need to elicit evidence of both in order to be sure: hearing is believing. Another suggestion from our trainer was to ask for cultural comparisons as a way to elicit Advanced speech (see tweet above). I am constantly asking my middle school students to make comparisons, and I was thrilled to see how these concrete, simple comparisons are putting them on the road toward Advanced.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway was the role of evidence in determining a speaker's proficiency level. Having recently become a National Board Certified Teacher, I have spent the last few years collecting evidence of my students' learning. I also just finished my first year using standards-based grading, so I have studied student work for evidence of various rubric descriptors on many occasions. But this is new stuff for me - documenting and studying evidence was just not part of my practice until very recently. And yet, it is so important to our work as teachers! At times during our practice interviews, participants would say, "Well, he was so shy, that's why he didn't give longer answers" or "She didn't like France, you could just tell. That's why she didn't say much." But we didn't know any of that for sure...all we knew is what we heard. We can and must assess a speaker's proficiency based solely on the evidence we can elicit. When we stray from evidence, we risk misjudging a speaker. Before hearing some of the practice interviews, I would not have thought it possible for a speaker to ask interesting questions yet speak in less than full sentences. I had to hear it with my own ears to believe it.
The MOPI workshop concluded with a rich presentation by Ryan Rockaitis about applying proficiency principles to classroom instruction. Here are three great takeaways from his talk:
I'm sure I'll be digesting my MOPI takeaways further in the days and weeks to come, but I can say that the training met my expectations and gave me lots to consider as I contemplate my teaching for proficiency. Have you attended MOPI training? What did you learn and how have you applied that learning to your classroom setting?
I have a confession. Very few of my middle school French students are excited to write for me. I get it - that’s what they do in every class, all day long. And I try not to take it personally – I’m just not an enticing audience to them. But what if they were writing to a peer in a French-speaking country? I have been astonished to observe some of my reluctant writers, as well as students who rarely complete work outside of class, rally to communicate with their ePals. If you’ve heard Laura Terrill’s adage that the most successful students on a language exchange are those C students who aren’t afraid to make mistakes, extend that logic to an ePals exchange. Sure, it’s not as grand as a two-week trip to Paris, but ePals have allowed my students to play video games against one another across the Atlantic, chat weekly on Instagram, and even try to meet up while traveling abroad. ePals are a relatively straightforward route to authentic communication, with an authentic audience, for an authentic purpose. Here are some basics if you're considering a communication exchange in the future, or if want to enhance the one you've already got in place.
How do I get started?
ePals is a free website where teachers can find collaborating teachers with whom they’d like to plan a communication exchange or other project. For my situation, I sought out English teachers in France who had similar numbers and ages of students. If you’re familiar with Facebook, the interface is similar: you create a basic profile about your teaching setting, “friend” the teachers you want to connect with, reach out to them via a messaging function on the platform, and wait to hear back. It took me less than a week in late August to find two teachers who were ready to embark on a year-long communication exchange with my 5 sections of French 7 and 8 students. As long as you sync your search with the school calendar of teachers in the target culture, it should be easy to find partners.
Don’t be afraid to be picky. My first year, I agreed to have my 8th graders exchange with a younger class because I was so relieved to find an interested collaborating teacher. BIG mistake. Writing to 11-year olds was not cool enough for them, and their pop culture preferences were mismatched. I would have done better to wait for Monsieur or Madame Right before committing to an exchange. Also, if you’re bent on using tech, make sure you mention that when reaching out. Most French classes can only access technology by visiting a computer lab, so communicating exclusively via Internet will limit the frequency of your exchanges. Committing to an all-snail mail exchange, on the other hand, will be slower and costly. I suggest doing at least one round of old-fashioned letters so that students can compare handwriting and experience the excitement of a package arriving via the post The rest of the time, if you can get your collaborating school up to speed with the tech, save time and money with online communication.
Initially, I ran my exchange separately from the thematic units that we were studying in class. Then I got an idea for how to use ePals to deepen a unit theme from Natalia DeLaat on #langchat. She had her U.S. students describe how they celebrate Thanksgiving by posting short videos on a Padlet. French students watched the videos and posted their questions about this cultural practice. It is so powerful and motivating to build on course themes via authentic communication! Natalia's example inspired me to weave ePals more tightly into my curriculum. This past year, for example, my students polled their ePals and their classmates about their style preferences and spending money, and then analyzed and compared their findings as part of a unit on shopping and money. They shared their winter holiday traditions and learned about those of their ePals (see below). Their ePals wrote to them about “mystery” remarkable women from around the world, and my students tried to guess who they were (see below). Each of these exchanges gave students the chance to communicate with an authentic audience, and thereby to engage in intercultural communication via interaction.
Above, examples of Google Forms data generated from a student-written poll about shopping and spending money. Below, examples of Padlet communications. Below left, French students described remarkable women for my students to guess. Below right, my students described how they celebrated the winter holidays and French students responded with questions about their practices.
Google Docs (for sharing letters), Google Forms (for polling) and Padlet (for posting anything where we wanted a response) were our principle tech tools for the exchange, and next year I hope to take advantage of Flipgrid now that it’s free of cost, too.
For today’s students, I found it important that there be a strong visual component to any online exchange. Just looking at a block of text left students a bit cold, as compared with times where they could see photos/video of their ePal.
Why should I try it?
When I made the switch from traditional assessments to performance assessments, I felt most comfortable with assessments in the presentational mode because they were the most familiar to me. Although I’d been giving publisher-written unit tests for at least a decade, my students had also done plenty of projects: a fashion show, a famous French person cocktail party, a poster about one’s favorite sport, baking Alsatian bredele from French metric recipes, etc.
Then I heard a question (likely from Thomas Sauer at MaFLA Proficiency Academy) that made me stop in my tracks: “Who gets to see your students’ work besides you?”
Well…no one! I mean, sure, students did a little peer reviewing before submitting their final projects, but basically every project was for my eyes only. And while I often subjected students to listening to every classmate’s presentation (with apologies to my middle school students 1998-2013), they didn’t really need to do anything with what they heard – other than take notes on a grid. Which was basically a classroom management tool to keep them quiet while their classmates droned on and on. What was I thinking!?
To sum up, my old projects shared the same weaknesses:
• Lack of authentic audience
• Lack of audience purpose
While there are many ways to infuse presentational tasks with authenticity, and I hope to learn more ways this summer when I attend the Buck Institute for Education’s PBL (Project-Based Learning) training, I suggest trying ePals as a relatively simple way to add authentic audience and purpose to every presentational task you do throughout the school year. Why bother to describe your home? Why say how you spent February vacation? Why explain how much allowance you get? One compelling answer can be to share personal experiences with French students, and to learn about French perspectives from actual peers today! This learning can then be extended into a follow-up interpersonal task, or an authentic video/reading on the theme, etc.
What else do I need to know?
• Each school system has its own policy about communication exchanges, so you’ll need to work with your administration and/or technology department to devise an appropriate permission slip. In my district, for example, we made it clear that we were not responsible for communication that took place outside established channels (eg via social media), and that families needed to decide if they would allow their children to share their social media handles with their ePals.
• French schools have an elaborate calendar of many long vacations, so time your communications to avoid extended wait times between exchanges whenever possible. October, December, February, and April are particularly challenging for this reason. Think about using French vacation periods to have your students create something to share – and letting the French students generate their work during the months when they are mostly in school.
• Be ready for some bumps along the road. Everything takes longer than you think it will, and while you’re waiting on those two last posts from students who’ve been out sick, time will pass. Sharing permissions on tech tools and different file formats can be tricky across continents. At times you will need to be tenacious in reaching out to your collaborating teacher in order to make the next exchange happen. And at times, you may drop the ball and will receive a nudge from him/her. All in all, though, I hope you will find that ePals gives your students a powerful reason to produce language for peer consumption.
For those of you already engaged in communication exchanges, what are your tips and tricks for success? Please share them below in the comments section!
This is my third and final post in a series about seeking sanity during the intense teaching month that is #MarchMadness. In my first post, I invited teachers to put down the red pen. Next, I encouraged teachers to step back and allow students time to reflect on their progress. I also popped over to Path to Proficiency to share ideas about feedforward with student-led ideas for growth. To wrap up, let's talk about the power of our best lesson go-tos.
My absolutely least-favorite household chore is adding to the grocery list for my share of the week's meals. What on earth are we possibly going to eat this week, I fret. I frown at the dozens of cookbooks on our bookshelf. I pick up the pen. And put it back down again. And then I go back to my years-old list of standard go-to dinners that everyone (pretty much) will eat. I just can't be bothered to invent at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning as my husband warns me he's about to head out to Trader Joe's. I need to get it done and move on.
And that's why we eat the same 18 meals all year long, at least from me. And you know what? They're GOOD meals! I can make them fast. They are healthy enough. And did I mention that everyone will (pretty much) eat them?!
So goes it with teaching in March, dear readers.
When you're as tired as many of us are at this time of year, it's time to savor your go-tos. You know what they are: those activities that give students repetition without being repetitious, that get them moving (ideally), and that push them to use their language in purposeful ways. Good stuff and lots of it. Like fajitas or baked potato bar chez Blouwolff, but in lesson format.
If you've been teaching awhile like I have, your go-to list is probably so long that you can't even remember all the powerful teaching moves that you keep in your back pocket. So my third March Sanity tip is to catalog and savor your go-tos.
Here are my Top Ten Go-Tos, arranged by mode.
1. Edpuzzle (here are recent ones I've made on la qualité de vie and les Jeux Olympiques)
2. Textivate (here's one for a simple fingerplay about family)
3. Tweets (here's an example where students learned je suis allé for narrating in the past)
4. Sequencing tasks (putting song lyrics in order using paraphrased English sentences here)
5. Taboo (students sit in pairs with one facing board and other facing away; sample list & circumlocution sentence starters here)
6. TALK conversation stations (blogged here)
7. Ask, ask, switch (students ask & answer questions, changing which questions they ask as they go)
8. Interview a clock partner (sample table for recording answers here)
9. Popplet double-bubble mind map (here a student compared 2 rescue pets up for adoption using the Popplet app, though a paper version would be just dandy, too)
10. Mannequin challenge write-up (follow Annabelle's directions here, then have students watch the video and write up a brief narration of it)
Now I'm going to go print out this list and tape it to my desk so that I can rinse and repeat for the rest of March. What are your go-tos for #MarchSanity? Share a few in the comments section, and maybe when April arrives, we'll have enough oomph in our step to experiment with something new!
P.S. Just for kicks: Here's the recipe for crispy Korean pancakes and another for squash tacos. Because great teachers need to eat. And sometimes, we have to feed other people, too.
Welcome to my second post during the interminable and challenging month of March. While we're past the half-way mark, veteran teachers know for a fact that the second half of the month feels at least twice as long as the first half. N'est-ce pas? Therefore I'm sharing strategies to combat March Madness and promote March Sanity, because March drives me a special kind of crazy. In last week's post I encouraged readers to try putting down the red pen and assessing student work without marking it up. Has anyone taken the plunge? What'd you think??
When I'm not too grumpy or busy to notice, March actually turns out to be a great month for taking stock. Therefore my second sanity tip is to provide an opportunity to celebrate your students' progress. Now is the time to step back and appreciate how far they (and you!) have come. We need celebration to fuel us forward into spring, to help us believe that we're getting somewhere, and to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Here are some ideas for taking stock:
1. Ask students to journal (in English) about what they've learned this year. What can they do now that they couldn't do back in September? What are their hopes and dreams for the rest of the year? Reading this kind of journal entry and writing a bunch of short, upbeat responses always buoys my spirits.
2. If you have access to student work from the beginning of the year (Google Classroom? Anything you might have copied for your teacher evaluation process? Students with overstuffed binders they've never cleaned out?!), give students the opportunity to review a piece of their own beginning-of-the-year work alongside a current piece of work. Ask what they notice. Ask how they feel.
3. Have students revisit the goals they set for themselves in September, if they've done this with you (and if not, here's a great website that will help you do this next year). Have they met their goals, or perhaps even exceeded them? Maybe it's even time to set new, more ambitious goals to meet before year's end.
4. If your course has a proficiency target, review what the target looks like in your language, and have students review a piece of recent work according to that standard. In what ways are they showing characteristics of Novice High / Intermediate Low / Intermediate Mid / etc. learners? How are they advancing on the Path to Proficiency?
I hope this sanity tip will encourage you to "hop off the hamster wheel" just long enough to see all that you and your students have achieved this year. All that growth helps us hold our heads up a little higher so that we can plow forward.
Keep reading for more sanity tips later this month.
Is this what you look like when you grade student work past your bedtime? Taking home grading has been a major source of stress for me, and my biggest roadblock when trying to create thematic units and effective lessons.
This (long, long) month, I thought I'd blog about some of the practices that help me be a more sane teacher. I'll be sharing my tips to foster March sanity, and avoid March madness. Because usually, March is a month that drives me absolutely mad. So let's dive into my first pro-sanity tip: grading without a pen in hand.
As Laura Terrill asked at a workshop back in 2014, "How would you rather spend your time: planning or grading?" No contest there: planning wins every, single time. While I've made several changes to streamline my feedback process, one of the most transformative has been to put down the red (well, purple) pen. I was inspired not only by Laura Terrill but also this post and video on Musicuentos (which doesn't say NOT to give corrective feedback, but rather that the research on its effectiveness is inconclusive: all things being equal, why bother?). When I'm assessing my students' presentational writing, I now hardly make any corrective marks for accuracy on their papers. Instead, I might point out a particularly strong complex sentence or cultural example, and leave the rest for the rubric.
Here are three reasons that I find skipping corrective feedback to be a useful practice:
1. My students can't (or won't) process all those marks, even if I do make them. It's just way, way more than they can take in.
2. As an assessor, my brain can't stay focused on key rubric domains such as text type, vocabulary, and culture if I'm marking up every mis-conjugated verb, every missing article, and every wrong preposition. In the past, when I did make corrective marks, I had to read each essay several times in order to comment on each domain. Now, I can read through once (okay, maybe twice) and get a good sense of where the writing falls in terms of our rubric domains.
3. Corrective marks serve little purpose, unless I'm going to have my students rewrite the entire assessment with corrections for accuracy. They are a good example of feedBACK rather than feedFORWARD. I'd rather have my students focus on proficiency in terms of text type, vocabulary, and culture. I am working to trust the SLA process and believe that with more input, they will eventually become more accurate, comprehensible French writers!
Stay tuned for more tips to combat March madness.
As some of you already know, I spent most of my free time from 2014-2017 pursuing National Board Certification. I can't believe it, either. I wrote about my experiences with Component 2, Differentiation in Instruction, here and Component 3, Teaching Practice and Learning Environment (where you film yourself teaching), here. Last year, I worked on Component 4, Effective and Reflective Practitioner, and Component 1, Content Knowledge (a big, computer-based test that you take at a center).
While I will describe my work on these Components in detail later on in this post, let me begin with a spoiler: I am now a National Board Certified Teacher! As promised, it was a very challenging, and at times overwhelming, experience. I felt deep self-doubt and was scathingly critical of my own teaching some days; other times, I felt like I'd climbed the highest mountains of my practice. Ultimately, National Board is a very rewarding process that forced me to stretch my teaching in many new directions. Here are a few of the ways that I've grown, phrased as Can-Do statements:
• I can describe my teaching in terms of national standards and best practices
• I can analyze my teaching, planning, and assessing in a deep way
• I can forge professional relationships with experts and peers to seek guidance and grow
• I can present at conferences, give workshops, and write for professional publications
• I can be disciplined and focused in finding more...and MORE...time to do this work
I also want to make it clear that becoming a NBCT will not crown you Queen (however: check out these sashes shared on Twitter after score release...jealous!), nor cure your case of impostor syndrome (thinking, If I just become X, then I'll finally know and believe that I really am competent).
When I began the process, I remember thinking that I wanted to either find out, or prove, how good I was. Having an audience of middle school students for nearly 20 years may have created that hunger in me. During the application, I often felt like I was facing all of my weaknesses head-on. Now that it's over, I still feel this endless striving in a few ways. For one, I now appear to wear a permanent set of "laser vision" glasses that allow me to see all the weak spots in my planning, instruction, and assessment. Before I was blind to some of the areas where I wasn't intentional or effective - no more. I can choose to cut corners now, of course, but I see the consequences very clearly. Secondly, the Component that I completed last, when I ostensibly had learned the most about the process and improved my teaching the most, was by far my weakest score. Somehow I managed to spend far more time on it, solicit help from a larger group of experts, and yet - totally screw up! As a result, I feel like I still don't know if I "get" this business about being a Effective and Reflective Practitioner. And I really, really want to get it - so that I know that I know what I know (are you still with me?), and so that I can coach others who want to complete this process. So that is frustrating. Right now, all I know is that I don't know that I know what I know. And I like to know what I know, people!
Here's a description of my work on these two Components, likely only of interest if you're preparing these yourself:
Component 4 has many, many parts, and I spent months trying to understand what I was expected to do. It was by far the most involved component and the hardest for me to wrap my head around. I worried a lot about questions such as: Which parts needed to connect to one another? What evidence was sufficient to demonstrate my actions, yet without revealing my identity? How could I possibly explain all of this work in just 12 pages? I began by creating a profile of one of my French 8 classes based on many sources (eg French 7 teacher, school data, student surveys, parent surveys, observational data, state testing results). Then, I gave a formative assessment (in my case, a quick write/fluency count) to those students, analyzed the results, and asked students to self-assess. Next, I planned instruction to help students improve their writing with a focus on reaching the course target of Intermediate Low. Finally, I gave a summative assessment (in my case, a polished written letter to ePals) and analyzed students' growth. A whole second portion of the component wasn't directly tied to any of this: I also needed to identify a professional need and document my participation in PLCs and the outcome for student learning, so I focused on assessment by mode; and identify a student need that required advocacy, collaboration and/or leadership and show how I collaborated with others to meet it, which I did by working to increase contact with authentic resources and authentic audiences so that students could focus on real-life communication skills.
Although I wish I could say that the hundred(s) of hours I spent on this component changed my practice and for the better, I think I was mostly spinning my wheels. Nonetheless, I can say that two new professional collaborations yielded rich learning for me. One was very close to home (actually, someone IN my home!) and the other was a totally new face.
From my husband, who's a research scientist:
• I learned how to record data about my students
• I learned how to share my findings in table and chart format
• I learned how to use Microsoft Excel
This was the first time that we ever worked together on anything professional, and I loved it! We each got insight into one another's worlds, and we had something totally new to discuss at night once the kids were in bed.
From our district's data coordinator:
• I improved my ability to write in a descriptive way without judgement
• I learned new ways to show the impact of my teaching through
This very generous woman spent hours brainstorming with me and then editing my drafts. She was able to point out places where I was unconsciously revealing my own biases, and she scaffolded a lot of my data collection so that it was focused and purposeful.
Component 1 is a half-day test that I only began studying for once I'd submitted Component 4, and I suggest that you do the same. I had from late April to early June to prepare, and that was it! I was quite intimidated by the idea of this test because: 1. I hadn't taken a standardized test since the GRE in 1998, and 2. I'd never taken a computer-based test before (other than the OPIc). However, my 30+ years of French learning, traveling, friendships, and 20 years of teaching built up a depth of knowledge that made this a relatively painless experience. Because one's proficiency in the language is now assessed by the OPI for NBPTS, Component 1 is about language, language acquisition, language teaching, and culture. I found that I was able to answer most questions with confidence because I'd done so much reading about the standards and SLA as part of my work on the other components, and because I'd brushed up on my French for the OPI through speaking with natives (whom I found on The Mixxer) and reading and listening to French in a more regular way (podcasts of France Culture, reading 1Jour1Actu & Okapi to find articles for my classes, reading short novels & memoirs). On the day of the test, I came in well-rested, did some light exercise, ate healthy snacks, drank a lot of water, took advantage of the free earplugs, and did my thing. It is amazing that this short, rather pleasant experience counted for far more than the cruel slog of Component 4!
And that, dear reader, is the end of my National Board saga. See you in 2023 when it's time to renew my certification!
You can see the entire slideshow for my presentation here.
Grit handouts for students, written by the Wellesley Middle School Classical & Modern Languages department, are available here: how to study, test-taking strategies, being resilient, getting the most out of classwork, attending extra help.
My go-to movement breaks are on Pinterest here.
Learn to use the TALK rubric for group interpersonal speaking tasks here.
Teach students about ACTFL proficiency levels with this lesson plan.
Do EPIC goal-setting with your students by using this sample document.
Speaking mat to support students during interpersonal work can be found here.
Tips for writing in French offers introductory, connection, and concluding expressions.
Strategies for interpretive & interpersonal tasks offers practical tips for students.
This blog post by Colleen Lee-Hayes, called "Thank You for Having an IEP," explains how teaching diverse learners helps us become more effective teachers.