Let’s Talk at TELLcollab Seattle!

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Give yourself the gift of professional rejuvenation!  Reserve your spot now to join state and national leaders in world language education as we come together January 21st and 22nd, 2017 for TELLcollab Seattle!  This “unconference” is a different type of professional learning experience where according to Thomas Sauer “whoever comes are the right people” and “there are no attendees only participants.”


Catherine Ousselin and I attended this unconference in Austin, Texas in June 2016 and we left inspired, invigorated, and we would like to personally invite you to join us for a weekend of collaboration.  Check out my blog posts about the experience.

For more information go to the website and register here http://www.tellcollabseattle.org/.  The cost is $99 + $6.44 processing fee for advanced registrations. At the door it will be $129 + $8.09. The Washington Association for Language Teachers (WAFLT) is providing free clock hours. Morning refreshments and lunches are included. There will be an optional evening activity on Saturday night to further network, make friends, and show off our beautiful city to the out-of-town participants.


Organizer Michele Aoki states “This is a unique opportunity for teachers. Not only will you have access to two of the strongest leaders in K-12 World Language education in the country from the TELL Project, Thomas Sauer and Alyssa Villarreal, but you’ll have their expert facilitation to help us get the most out of our own local expertise. In other words, it’s not just new information about language teaching and learning, it’s a new personal experience in learning. WE EDUCATORS need to continually refresh ourselves so that we feel inspired and ready to inspire our students.”

This is a great way to take a leadership role and bring a different kind of professional development experience to your building. So, please register, come, and help spread the word among your colleagues.   Check out the flyer here  tell_collab_uw_2017.

Let’s Talk Story

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My roommate at Central Washington University my freshman year was from Hawaii. She did not like the cold weather in Ellensburg, Washington, was not used to wearing shoes and socks, and was homesick for her family, friends, and culture on Oahu.  To get through that snowy winter of 1979, she would buy a six pack of Lowenbrau and say to me… let’s talk story.

On a recent trip to Kaua’i, I came across this little bookstore in Hanapepe called Talk Story.  My mind immediately went to Kim and our times together away from home, sitting in our corner of a four person dorm room, talking story about our lives, fears, and dreams. That’s the purpose of what we do, to teach people to interact in the target language, to talk story.


The brain is wired for storytelling.   Throughout time, a culture’s history and legends have been passed along through stories. We love to hang out with family and friends and embellish our experiences.  As we were traveling around Kuau’i, local tour guides kept pointing out locations of over 100 different movies filmed on the island. The entertainment industry makes massive money based on great stories.   If you are going to a social engagement, just go see the latest new movies and you will instantly have something to talk about with anyone.


One way to get students to talk story is through “movie talks.”  Movie talks were used by Dr. Ashley Hastings to help intermediate level university students comprehend full length movies. But the technique has been adapted by many language educators and is used with short films, commercials, public service announcements, movie trailers, television shows, and websites with gags and pranks, even at the novice level. Talking about things we have heard, read, or viewed with others is authentic communication.

Around the end of October, I like to use the short film El Monstruo del Armario.  It is a great way to get started with this technique.  I use the same film with my French  classes and just narrate in French.  Some popular videos for movie talks with resources on Teacherspayteachers are Wildebeast with a free script in Spanish, Partly Cloudy, Destiny , Crazy Carrot, and Alma.  I movie talk Senorwooly videos, especially the beginning of PAN were I describe the entire family, their actions, food and table settings.  I also movie talk the old DVD’s I have collected from Teacher’s Discovery over the years to get more input out of the videos.  Check out this website with 55 clips and my Pinterest page for more movie talk ideas. Blaine Ray has a new  CD with story scripts for $50.00 called Look I can Movie Talk in French and Spanish.

Although not a video yet, here is another visual, an old Powerpoint, that I start my year with to teach students how to do stories.  Get The New Girl here free in French La Nouvelle Fille and in Spanish La Chica Nueva.  We add details all year long as we learn new topics and information about the new girl and her story.  Let’s give them something to talk about. What’s your story?

More Games to Support Spontaneous Interpersonal Communication

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Apples to Apples is a great board game to get kids talking.  Students take turns as judge. The judge turns over a topic card and the other players select a card they think would best go with the topic, and place it face down, anonymously. The judge picks their favorite response. The player who submitted the chosen response scores a point and keeps the topic card.  There is a free editable version here in French and Spanish, and some pay options.  Teach students common game phrases like: Who’s turn is it?  It’s your turn, It’s my turn, Who’s next, Pick a card.manzanas

Guess who is another old favorite game appropriate for practicing interpersonal communication.  Players try to guess their opponent’s character by asking and answering questions. There are free versions at Teachers Pay Teachers in Spanish and French  You can make your own version.  Get different character sheets free, go to Google images and type in Guess Who. You could make your own with personalities from the target cultures. Here’s a blank form to get started, guesswhoblank.  Check out this free version using pumpkins.



And then there is giant Guess Who….






guess-who-imagesI collect old board games at garage sales and thrift stores, or buy them on sale after Christmas, so I have several sets of Scrabble.  I keep them on hand for fast finishers, stations, or sub activities.  Students can practice the alphabet while placing tiles on the game board.  I let novices spell words in English as well as the target language for double point value.  They can use dictionaries to check for possible words or correct spelling.  I really like the giant floor scrabble idea and see a project in my future.  I saw this in a post by Karen Christiansen to French Teachers in the U.S. on Facebook.





Here are the 98 letters you need to make.



Make your own giant Jenga out of empty soda boxes.  Or make your own using this wooden toppling from Amazon.com.  Check out the ideas for assessing interpersonal speaking using Jenga or Uno by The Creative Language Classroom.



Watch Ellen play Giant Jenga and check out my Pinterest board for other giant game ideas like Memory, Concentration , or Zap.



Childhood Games, Celebrity Favorites, and Circumlocution!

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Common games we played as kids like Catch Phrase, Taboo, $25,000 Pyramid, or Password are popular again with celebrities and great for practicing circumlocution to stay in the target language. Mix them all together for your own variations like fishbowl or 30 segundos from the Creative Language Classroom.


There are free Taboo games in French, and Spanish on teacherspayteachers.com as well as lists of useful phrases in French and Spanish, and posters in Spanish.  There is also an app called Head’s up from Ellen Degeneres in English and Spanish.

You can also buy the game here or make your own with headbands and index cards with words in the target language.  I bought these and am using them to make sets in French and Spanish.



Here is a example of the game password with Jimmy Fallon.

I am going to play a variation of Password in teams so students can brainstorm the one word clues and take turns giving them to the team member who is trying to guess.  With novices, I am going to  start with the free Taboo cards above and let them use the words that are normally prohibited in the game Taboo as password clues to get the game going.

Another game for practicing circumlocution is Catch Phrase.  Here is another example of celebrities playing the game.


Jump on the celebrity game craze and have fun while practicing circumlocution.

Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project=Tpep

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Oh joy, it’s that time of year again, Tpep pre-evaluation conferences.  This is the fourth year of the Washington State Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project and my year for Comprehensive, which means I get evaluated on all eight.  There are eight criterion, and you are either on Focused or Comprehensive Evaluation.  When you are on a Focused year, you choose two criterion to work on (or one + student growth goal).  But everyone has to have a Comprehensive evaluation at least once every four years. Every public school teacher in the state of Washington is observed and evaluated twice a year.  Then we get a score on a scale of 1-4:  1=Unsatisfactory  2=Basic 3=Proficient 4=Distinguished.


Although everyone is evaluated on the same eight criterion, there are three different frameworks districts can choose from as an evaluation instrument.  They are the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model, the CEL5D+ Teacher Evaluation Rubric (commonly referred to as the UW model), and Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.  The Danielson framework is used most with 53% of the school districts, the CEL5D+ is used by 33% of school districts, and the Marzano model is used by 24% of school districts in Washington state.

Because I present workshops to teachers around the state on Tpep, I decided to compare the three frameworks and see where they are similar. Here is the document I created. criterion-cross-referenced



As I go through the Comprehensive Evaluation process, I am going to do a series of blog posts on each of the eight criterion.  Please join me and share your ideas here!  Until then check out my former posts on each of the Tpep criterion.


Progress toward Proficiency: Supporting Student Learning.

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After a learning experience, I try to reflect on ideas I want to incorporate into my teaching.  This blog post is a reflection of the Tellcollab Unconference I attended in June.  I decided to do three blog posts: preparing for student learning, advancing student learning, and supporting student learning.  I also decided to publish one in June, one in July, and one in August, so that I would revisit and refresh my memory and carry it into my school year which starts after Labor day. Plus, this area is the one I most need to work on, hence it took me the longest to write.  So here is part three, what I learned at Tellcollab about supporting student learning.

Supporting student learning, it’s a shift. This year I am going to focus on what students can do, not what they can’t.  It’s about growth and opportunities to compare their current performance to their previous performance.  Progress is addicting and I want to get them hooked.

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How do I provide more effective feedback to push that progress?  How do I get students to provide quality feedback for each other?  They need to see quality feedback modeled, and have meaningful practice on how to assess peers.  One suggestion is to watch the television show The Voice and listen to how the judges give specific descriptive feedback.  I posted this before but I LOVE this example of descriptive feedback called Austin’s Butterfly.  tiger

Critique their peer feedback sometimes, not necessarily just their work.  Find ways to link feedback to spontaneous output, and for them to reflect on it! Possibly record themselves and transcribe for homework? Have them ask how did I do? What do I need to do to get to the next step?  Provide in the moment feedback… to get to the top layer you need to…


Other ideas from the unconference: give the students a punch list of 5 things and score your partner. Provide demonstrations on quality feedback and practice activities like fish bowl, think a-louds, and Socratic seminar. I want to create a list of comments students can say to provide feedback to each other in French and Spanish.

Technology has made it much easier to record students and easier for me to provide feedback.  Check out this Google form for self-evaluation from Catherine Oussselin.  Students can call google voice and respond to a prompt, record, and keep all their recordings in google classroom from Sept to May to show growth. Other recording options include Flipgrid, WEvideo, and Vacaroo.

My biggest take away from the unconference is that this year I am going to use more student reflections.  This can be as simple as highlight something you are proud of, or highlight something you are not sure of in a different color, or write me a question.  Reflecting on learning is higher order thinking.

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I plan to introduce quality reflection processes to students at the beginning of the year.  I want to keep a running dialogue with students about their progress in their interactive notebooks.


Don’t forget to use these self assessment and feedback tools from the Tellproject.org on yourself.


Progress Toward Proficiency: Advancing Student Learning

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Now that we know where we want to go, how do we get there?  How do you advance student learning?


Well you build your arsenal of activities, curate authentic resources, continually add to your tool box of techniques for providing comprehensible input, and provide opportunities for students to be autonomous learners.  A really good place to start is at Tellcollab.org/Startalk.  There are videos of classroom vignettes, interviews with veteran teachers, essays, self-assessment tools, and my favorites, the infographics!

An interesting activity that I just added to my arsenal, is the day two opening activity of the Tellcollab Unconference called Powerpoint Karaoke.   Prepare slides with various random pictures that can be described in the target language.  Give each student a minute to describe the images and vote on the best one by audience applause! See the video on twitter #TELLcollab.


Teaching grammar in context was one of the session topics.  Here is an example of how I teach grammar in context.  I prefer to use the pace model and storytelling, Teaching-Grammar-in-Context.  How do you teach grammar in context?

To keep students in the target language, provide lots of practice in circumlocution and clarification techniques.  To teach circumlocution, there are a couple of phrases that are very helpful:  It’s a thing that… It’s a person that…. It’s a food that…Play the Pyramid game.  Have one student with back to board, the rest of the team takes turns to get through list of 6 words.


Another tool I intend to incorporate this year is Interactive Student Notebooks.  In the target language, we will set up interactive notebooks with proficiency charts and their first day writing sample.  In the first day lesson, the students do a 5 minute write, if possible they describe themselves in the target language or list all the words they know.  If they don’t know any French or Spanish I have them write about themselves in English which also gives me information about them and their writing abilities.  I write the proficiency level on the paper and it becomes evidence of student growth for me, the student, the parents, and my administrators.  Here are more websites with information on interactive notebooks. Here is a blog in french and this one too.  Here is one in Spanish and this one.  Most importantly, interactive notebooks are not craft projects. It’s about students organizing and reflecting on their learning and becoming more autonomous.

Check out the TELL videos on Youtube and below are links to those infographics I mentioned.


Progress Toward Proficiency: Planning

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One of our first tasks at TELLcollab was to describe an effective language educator in three words. It was amazing how many different variations there were, I chose progress toward proficiency.  This would be a great activity to use with students. Use three words to describe yourself, three words to summarize a reading, three words to describe an event, simply share out, or create memes and post to a padlet page.progresss 3

It’s not what the teacher knows it’s what they do.  What are these things the teacher does that make them more effective?  The TELL framework divides these things into seven domains.  These seven domains fit into three categories: planning for learning, advancing learning, and supporting learning.


Planning for Learning: Goal #2 How do you get started?

My opening routine allows me to start from day one, minute one with 90% of the class period in the target language, however this year I am adding a refined focus on the learning of the proficiency levels which might require a little more English, but I think it will be worth it.  After modeling the greeting and singing the song of the week, I get a writing sample to determine the starting level for each student.

Then, I do a proficiency level demonstration in the target language introducing my family. First, I give examples from novice-low with just relationship words like my husband, my daughter, my sons, and then give another demonstration at the intermediate-mid level describing each person.  This year, as a comprehension check, we will use English to have students demonstrate knowledge of the proficiency levels by describing Seafair to someone who has never been to Seattle, this could be done with any topic like a circus, or a school environment. Here is my day one lesson plan, Progressing Toward Proficiency Curriculum by Lynn Johnston, and practice activities, Progressing Toward Proficiency.  Also, check out the resources at SCS world languages weebly and the Creative Language Classroom.


Step one, set targets and educate students and parents about the proficiency levels.  Step two, monitor progress toward goals.  Another thing I am going to try this year is proficiency bulletin boards.  I like the idea from the Creative Language Classroom website of having the path visible and as a manipulative for students to celebrate their progress.


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Other hot topics at the #TELLcollab unconference under the planning category included: staying in the target language 90%, using comprehensible input, using authentic resources, designing thematic units, and using Integrated Performance Assessments, check out the resources at tellproject.org/tools/startalk for more information on these topics. I really like this infographic.


At the end of the first day we were asked to tweet out our learning or take way for the day.  This would also be a great closure activity with students.  You can see these on twitter at #TELLcollab.  My take away is that we are all progressing toward proficiency and we are never done learning.


#TELLcollab 2016

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What is Tellcollab?


Wednesday, June 22, was my last day of school this year, a full work day for me, and I still had to get the groceries for my mom’s birthday dinner that evening.  Thursday, June 23, I spent the day traveling to Austin, Texas for the Tellcollab conference June 24-25.  I arrived back at my home in Seattle last night at 11pm, and I am up today, Sunday, June 26th at 6:00am excited to design my new first week of school unit, teaching the students about the path to proficiency.


What inspired me to start planning the next school year before I even had a chance to celebrate the end of this one?  The Tellcollab conference on Teacher Effectiveness in Language Learning has me excited to take my students away from points, and focus on progressing toward proficiency instead.  This is going to be a huge shift after 33 years of playing the points game, but after this conference, shifts gotta happen.


The Tellcollab conference is an unconference where the attendees set the schedule and collaborate around goals.  We started by identifying something we wanted to learn and something we could teach to others.  We wrote them on sticky notes and created sessions on common topics. There were no presenters or powerpoints, but like-minded educators sitting around a table discussing and creating to improve teacher effectiveness in World Language education.  You can check out the information shared at the conference and the hot seat speakers by clicking on the schedule links to the google documents that were created at the conference.

The Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning (TELL) Framework establishes those characteristics and behaviors that model teachers exhibit. There is much more information and loads of teacher tools at tellproject.org.  You can follow the conversation on twitter at #tellcollab.


The framework is made up of seven domains that reflect the crucial characteristics of an effective world language teacher.

I am creating my first unit for next year teaching the proficiency levels to students and parents. I like the idea I heard from Alyssa Villarreal of having students describe a circus to an alien by proficiency level. So the group with novice-low can only use words, novice-mid can only use words and phrases, novice-high uses single sentences, intermediate-low uses sentences and connectors etc.  See her complete lesson plans here.  There are some other ideas posted here.

Over the next few days I will be sharing my learning on preparing for student learning, advancing student learning, and supporting student learning.  Two other fabulous resources are the Path2proficiency website and the SCS World Language Weebly.


One of the first activities was to record your self on flipgrid with your goals for the unconference. My original goal was to learn about the unconference, how it is structured, the benefits.  I left with so many new goals I didn’t even know I had before Friday.  Goal number one achieved.  Now on to creating student badges!

Saving Animals in Danger

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nuestroEndangered animals are the perfect way to lead into a unit on saving the environment. I found these beautiful books in Spanish.

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I have students watch these videos and fill out these Google forms in French and in Spanish.

Then I like to have kids do a quick search for an endangered animal and post a picture with a sentence to my padlet wall.

I created my first thinglink on endangered animals in French.  This is a great website in French.  Have students search for websites in the target language on endangered animals and post them to a thinglink or padlet wall.  Students now have reasons to discuss why we need to conserve water, energy, and trees!