10th grader For The Day

My Monday began in a new fashion, where I found myself curious about how my day would be. There were no meetings to attend, lesson plans to review or phone calls to make.

Today was new and quite different because I was going to school to shadow a 10th grade student and experience what a day is like in the shoes of a Pascack Valley High School student.

I was nervous yet excited to experience high school again but this time through the lens of an educator. What would be my biggest takeaways and what would I do differently going forward after such a unique experience?

Takeaway #1: High School is Hard.

With a seven-period day and common lunch, I found myself exhausted at the end of the day and luckily there were no clubs or sports scheduled after school. In each class period, there were different expectations and I had to demonstrate my knowledge in a variety of ways. I found myself to be quite challenged in my chemistry class but at ease in Honors Spanish (naturally 🙂 Each teacher found different ways to connect his or her students to the goal(s) of the lesson and I appreciated the collaborative classroom dynamics but also rigor I encountered from each learning experience.

Takeaway #2: The LMS works.

Canvas, an LMS or learning management tool, was used in almost every class which made it easy to access documents or links needed for the day. With all of my teachers using the same tool, there was no second guessing where to go to find what was needed for the day or week. I had immediate access to all documents, videos, links, etc. that I needed and this was a relief. I didn’t have to spend time searching or wondering where teachers placed our tools, it was simple to access and made me feel comfortable, being that it was my first time in that class.

 Takeaway #3: Our Kids are Happy.

Throughout the day and in my discussions with my new peers, students were positive and had comments of content/happiness with their high school experience. Students were open and honest about their schedules, exams and upcoming deadlines. It made me consider the mental wellness initiatives that the district has explored and the Wellness Centers made available to the student body and also the unique schedule. I appreciated seeing how the students respected their teachers and were able to joke around with many due to their comfort with the individual. It was clear that students felt at ease as we all shuffled together throughout the day and the rhythm that it is to be a PV high school student. It is a unique rhythm filled with opportunity, challenges, and comfort. 

As my day came to an end with the dismissal bell at 2:51pm, I began to process what I had experienced. I thought a lot about each of the above takeaways and how we can continue to do our best for our students and their futures.

Classes that inspired creativity and collaboration were my favorite of the day. When I was able to put either my hands or brain to work, I felt that the class period truly flew by. Starting my day with Culinary Arts was certainly refreshing! The accessibility of content and information through the district-wide LMS assisted me locate what I needed and what I had to do. This provided me with both comfort and a sense of ownership/time management skills. And finally, knowing that the school culture that I experienced was both friendly and positive, I felt proud to be part of such a culture.

So, as an educator, create lessons which will inspire creativity & collaboration amongst your students. No more spoon feeding or lecturing, let them discover the knowledge needed and use it to problem solve, create or justify their findings. The best classroom experiences were the ones in which I was able to work with my peers and learn with one another. The teachers made me feel comfortable and helped to guide me. The collaboration piece was empowering and I appreciated the dialogue that I had with my “peers”.

Looking ahead, examine your own lessons from the lens of a student- How engaged would you be if you were experiencing your own class? Would you want to be a student in your own class?  Take time to build positive, trustworthy relationships with your students and make sure that they are in the forefront of each experience you create, each day.

It is easy to forget what life is like as a high school student. I encourage all educators to get back in the classroom and take time to see what life is really like, from behind that student desk.

For additional ideas & insight, visit http://shadowastudent.org/

*A special thank you to NZ for her patience and assistance throughout my day. She is an extremely respectful, kind and diligent 10th grader. It was an absolute pleasure to shadow and learn from her. 





#becausewecan Reflections

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting quite often about teacher empowerment and leadership. I think about the dedicated individuals who serve our students each day and the growth amongst those who are willing to share and learn with others. We do, what we do, #becausewecan.

This year I am organizing and coordinating two upcoming professional development events that a few years ago, did not think were possible. Two events that will hopefully inspire growth and improvement in teaching methodologies, instructional activities, and proficiency-based assessments within world language classrooms. Two events that wouldn’t be possible without other volunteers and like-minded colleagues who believe in the power of collaboration. Two events that are taking an incredible amount of my own personal time but will hopefully be well worth it, for everyone who attends.

Ultimately, each event is unique but in both circumstances, my own personal motivation to work as tirelessly as I do to create such learning opportunities for teachers, is the same. In this profession, you can’t “know it all” and it is impossible to feel that you did an outstanding job with every single aspect of your instruction and assessments. In education, there is always “something” we can try, “something” we can explore and “something” that we can share with our colleagues. It is with this curiosity or rather thirst for knowledge is where I find myself. I continuously look at how I can improve, how I can better reach/engage students and ultimately, how I can instill a love for communicating in another language with all my students.

I am asked, “Why are you doing all of this? Why are you so involved?” The answer is simple: I want to help teachers. I want to share, learn and grow with everyone. I want to help empower teachers to feel equipped with their own set of “tools” and “tricks” when they walk back into their own classrooms. I want world language classes and programs to have great meaning within communities. I want our students to graduate and think about how amazing their world language class was/how useful it was to pay attention in class when they land that bilingual position. I want our students to continue their love for languages as adults.

When you surround yourself with passionate, creative and hardworking educators, great things CAN and DO happen.

I’m looking forward to the 2016 WL Tech Institute (@WLTechInstitute) and EdCampWL (@edcampWL). Two events that are possible #becausewecan.

WL Tech Institute LogoWL Tech Institute Flyer

Screenshot 2016-06-21 18.43.19  *If you are interested in starting your own #edcamp, check out http://www.edcamp.org/ for great resources and ideas! I love how schools are using the #edcamp model with both teachers and students! Talk about empowering all learners! 😀 


GIFs for Output!

Once again, a colleague shared with me an amazing, free website that made me jump up and down with techie excitement!

GIF or Graphic Interchange Format are short, video files that have been compressed and are usually quite entertaining.


For creative output, try the following activities with your students:

-Use GIFs to teach new vocabulary/spark vocabulary knowledge

-Students add their voice or text narration to a presentation with GIFs; create a personal vocabulary journal using GIFs

-Teacher created screencast using GIFs, students view and write a dialogue between the characters

-Display a GIF, students write a sentence or short story (before, during video, after) for each video prompt

-GIF Gallery Walk: Set up barcodes around your classroom, linked to different GIFs, students must write a descriptive sentence for each video viewed

-Have students create a digital story using GIFs

-Present a series of GIFs to the students, they put the GIFs into order and explain why

-Embed files into a Prezi, students view the prezi and compose an email to the main character asking about his/her day

-Challenge your students to create and narrate their own GIFs using this site

Please feel free to share your own ideas and comments below! 🙂

Using @canva!

I always love coming across technology tools that make my life easier! 😉 Recently, thanks to a colleague, I was introduced to canva.com. Similar to glogster but better!

I created a few flyers/posters for upcoming workshops but the possibilities are endless for world language classes!

-Class Syllabus
-Class Announcements
-Character Analysis
-Vocabulary study
-Family Trees
-Blog Post
-Shopping lists/costs
-A funny meme
-Student’s favorite quotes
-What does this image represent to you? Writing prompt
-Creative note taking

Canva.com provides you with options on creating an image for social media, a presentation, poster, facebook cover, facebook post, blog graphic and more! Think about the different ways students can demonstrate their learning through the simple creation of their own social media image or blog graphic. With a few simple clicks, students can create their own visual representations with text of what they are learning or want to share about!

The website was easy to use and had many “free” options. You can download the document as a .PDF or .JPG file or share it right from the website by making it “public” or through Twitter/Facebook.

Best of luck exploring Canva.com everyone! Please share any additional ideas below!

The Power of Social Media – NECTFL 2016 Flyer

Get #techified! – FLENJ 2016 Flyer

Top Ten Formative Tech Tools – FLENJ 2016 Flyer

Using “Emoticons” for creative output

*An interpersonal communication activity*

Interpersonal communication is the hardest skill for our students to gain confidence. How can we better prepare students to have meaningful interactions in the target language?

“Emoticons” or those little images have been part of our student’s texting conversations for some time now. Then, it struck me, why not use these fun little symbols in our classrooms?

The idea is to transfer the usage of the “emoticon” into a conversational activity for our second language-learning students. If you try this activity and have other suggestions, please share below!

  • Bravely find a volunteer to assist you and have an emoticon-only conversation or use a message generator tool to create your own.
  • Take a screen shot of your conversation an email it to yourself.
  • photo
  • Display for students to view. Ask questions about what the different pictures mean in the target language. For example, point to the happy expression: ¿Está feliz or está triste? Allow some time for creative brainstorming, no note taking needed though! A true interpersonal communicative activity means students use what they can, based on the input acquired.
  • Students pair up, at their desks or in a circle/line formation, to have their own emoticon translation conversation.
  • Students rotate to a new partner, same image displayed, more creative output occurs.
  • After a fair amount of rotations, display a “key” of emoticons for the class to see. (http://www.iemoji.com/ or http://www.secret-emoticons.com/twitter-emoticons )
  • Have students message one another using only the emoticons. Have one student take a screen shot of their conversation and post to the classroom learning management system or share with you via email. *If there is no technology on hand to use, have students pass back & forth a 5×7 index card and draw the emoticons they would like to communicate with.
  • Using the newly student created emoticon conversations, continue the next day by having students use each other’s conversations to spark some creative interpersonal conversations. You can also follow this up by having students create a story using the emoticon conversation as their spring board- what will happen next? 🙂

My Techie Adventure in Philadelphia: Digesting #ISTE2015

My first experience at #ISTE2015 was, in one word, awesome! I learned about so many neat tools, met some amazing educators and walked away from this conference feeling excited for the start of the new school year- even though it is only July!

Today, I would like to share with World Language folks, some of the best tools & tricks I learned about that can help enhance a language-learning journey. I did also tweet out ideas using #langchat and #ISTE2015 throughout the conference.

Get global!

#ISTE2015 kicked off on Sunday with Global Education Day. With an array of forward thinking, innovative educators, I was mesmerized by their creativity and determination to create global connections with classrooms from all around the world. As World Language teachers, this is a natural win-win for our discipline. Not only do we make the use of the target language truly authentic but we create a real sense of purpose in learning how to communicate in a different language by helping to form new friendships. The hashtag #globaled15 was used to share all things Global Ed on Sunday. Also, this Google Document allowed educators to organize and break out into their own roundtable discussions. I attended another session focused around “The Global Classroom Project” which shared tips and ideas in which teachers connect with other classrooms. The founder & CEO of Pen Pal Schools, Joe Troyen (@joetroyen1) was present and shared his website with all for free use! In addition this site to connect, recommendations were also made for using Skype in the Classroom, Google Hangouts/Communities, Twitter, Tackk’s Global Connections, Digital Promise Global, If You Learned Here, 7 billion Others and many more!

The mind-blowing world of Google

I have always loved the simplicity and ease of Google Drive and all things related to Google. The GAFE Summit/EdTech Team and Google for Education sessions were where I found myself hopping in between and trying to sneak in as much as I could! Big kudos to Monica Martinez and James Sanders for the multiple, thought provoking sessions on how we can explore Google education tools & apps. Some neat Google creations include: The Google Art Project, Google Expeditions and Build with Chrome (LEGO). I had the pleasure of also seeing Rick Kiker’s session and must share his Google Dashboard. Listening to and learning from all of these educators, has inspired me to obtain a Google certification. Thanks to Google’s updated Training Center, I can finally work towards achieving this goal! 🙂

Formative Assessments- Woah!

Continuous formative assessments are key for both students and teachers. There were so many neat tech tools to help educators collect data and see student growth! Here is my list, feel free to add your own!

A Web Whiteboard: An easy way to gather feedback, my students use expo markers and write their responses on a page protector with a white sheet of paper inside. These were our “whiteboards” and although, low tech, worked fantastically! If you are one to one in your classroom and want to use that same idea but electronically, check out a web whiteboard!

GoFormative: Want to see all of your students responding, simultaneously, on the same screen? And then…give them feedback right away? Check out GoFormative soon, this is one tool I would love to use with students.

Socrative: With an updated look, Socrative aims to deliver with their quick assessment tools. Space Race happens to be a crowd favorite!

EduCanon: Still one of my personal favorites for embedding written or audio questions into a video. Use any Youtube URL or upload your own!

Kahoot! : Another crowd favorite- a neat way to game-a-fy your approach to assessment! Already developed Kahoot!s let teachers and students share with each other!

Kaizena: Give audio comments to your students through Google!

Vocaroo: Looking to get audio feedback from your students quickly, this site lets you do that in three simple steps! Record, label, send!

Another #ISTE Highlight~#langchat-ing in person! 

I was attending ISTE this year for the first time and wanted to connect with other World Language folks, so I went to Twitter! After a few tweets and direct messages, we organized an in person #langchat at El Vez! It was enriching, fun and collaborative! It was great to meet @theprofspage, @c2westy, @jmattmiller, @NZKLawrence all in person!

What’s next?

As the summer continues, I have on my agenda:

-Attend #langcamp to connect with great WL educators!

-Learn through the Google Training Center!

-Attend NTPRS in Reston, VA soon!

-Continue to plan the first #edcampWL in Piscataway, NJ on Saturday, Sept. 26th! If you happen to reading my blog, check the @edcampWL twitter account for the website & registration details!

-And, continue to plan for another great school year! 🙂

For all of my #ISTE2015 notes, I used a Google Doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PxyZe5umtWqyVJxuHSZXP8o5BRHN7W-sT9YkWgftQVE/edit?usp=sharing

*WiFi was unfortunately not working at certain times, so more updates to come on the above Google document.


Techie Tools for Formative Assessments

Scratching your head wondering whether or not your students really comprehended what you were sayingoh no!

The best to know if students are “with us” and comprehending the message they are receiving is to ASSESS…frequently! Formative assessments in the form of thumbs, flashcards, wipe boards, emojicons and other techniques do provide the teacher with feedback. However, if you are looking to spice up your assessments by using technology, here are a few websites to try:

Flashcards, Games, Quizzes:
QUIA: http://www.quia.com/ This website has been around for a while and has awesome capabilities in terms of flashcard creation, games and quizzes. The website offers a free 30 day trial for any interested users. To me, it was worth the year long subscription because I used it so often. I also like doing a search of already created activities by topics, for students to practice with from home.

QUIZLET: http://quizlet.com/ Quizlet is flashcard heaven- for all subject areas. When searching, I will select a topic and choose purposely “Sets with images” since I am a strong believer in students making connections with visuals as opposed to an English translation. Just as we learned our first language, images are key. The students can also play “space race” or “scatter” using quizlet.

Game-based response:
KAHOOT! https://getkahoot.com/ It is easy to see how fun Kahoot! can be after signing up for a free account. It works with almost any internet enabled device and is easy to use. Students play “against” each other individually, in partners or as teams. Students can also ask their own questions.

SOCRATIVE http://www.socrative.com/ After watching a short video, Socrative shows you how simple it is to create a quiz, poll, space race game or exit ticket. A classroom “number” is used for students to enter your space.

Responses using video:
EDUCANON https://www.educanon.com/ Do you have a video that you would like to show, but gain instant feedback as to whether or not students are engaged and are understanding what they see? Give eduCanon a try- there is a free account and with a paid subscription, the teacher can set up even more unique question types.

BLUBBR https://www.blubbr.tv/ Creating a trivia game around a video clip is simple using Blubbr. There are also many games that other users share & you can use!

Discussion Spaces:
PADLET http://padlet.com/ If you are looking to have a full class discussion, but silently, check out padlet.com for a plain or decorative board space students can add to. Students need the URL and off they go with adding their thoughts, answers or questions to this space.

TODAYS MEET https://todaysmeet.com/ With back channeling, everyone has a voice! Students receive a unique URL with the room name and teachers can set how long the room is “open” for. It can be open for one hour, one day, one week, etc. At the end of your discussion, you can print or take a screen shot of the discussion had in the target language.

TWITTER https://twitter.com/ Create a unique #hashtag for your class. Watch a video and have students react/ask a question, use Twitter as an exit slip for your classroom, ask students to write a tweet as a famous Spanish speaking person, ask students to actually contact a famous Spanish speaking person…the possibilities are endless! But…all tweets in less than 140 characters 😉

Avatar Creation
VOKI http://www.voki.com/ Students can share their thoughts by creating their own Voki and posting it to a classroom site or submitting it as part of an assignment.

BLABBERIZE http://blabberize.com/ Make any image- speak!

*Please feel free to share any other techie tools you use in class to formatively assess students! ¡Gracias! 🙂