Posted in English escapades, Google, homework, teaching, Uncategorized

Taking “L”s

The first month or two of teaching English was an adjustment and a challenge all its own, but I think I survived, and survived well.

I don’t know if it is the upcoming Super Moon or some manifestation of Murphy’s Law, but in the past couple weeks I’ve been “Taking L’s”. This is what “the kids say” when they are taking “losses”, real, perceived, or immaterial. I’ve been taking all of the above.

So to cheer me up, here are some “W’s” from the past few weeks and things I have planned coming up.

  • I planned a trip and took several high school seniors on a DAY trip nearly 250 miles away to watch a play in a real theater. We also went to a modern art museum. They saw real-live protesters on strike protesting their wages. We ate at Chick-Fil-A, and we did all of the above (minus lunch) for FREE. #WIN
  • I searched for and planned maker-spaces to go with all my units for the rest of the school year. Our Poet-TREE has been coming along well! #WIN
  • For our Informational Text Unit coming up, I’ve designed a survey using Google Forms to allow the students to pick the topics that we read about in the coming weeks. I’ll gather the results and choose our texts according to their interests! #WIN
  • This 6 weeks, our homework will be student choice using a learning menu. There are 12 options, and the students will choose 4 to complete over the course of the grading period. #WIN
  • I’ve got several exciting projects planned, but the most immediate one is an infographic project my students are going to be working on this 6 weeks. Stay turned for exciting stuff in the Spring!!! #WIN

So, L’s: I’ve got some pretty great W’s to balance this out. You don’t win. I don’t lose. This weekend wasn’t quite long enough, but it was plenty to remind me that I love kids, and high expectations are part of loving them and believing in them. Teaching is hard, and sometimes those stakeholders are more like “stake-throwers” while we navigate the seas of change together, raising the stakes. (How many “stakes” puns can I put in a paragraph?) I’m not mad, and as frustrating as it is, I’m not allowed to be hurt, either. I’m just moving forward and buckling down. Thanks for reading.


Posted in homework, Lesson plan component, Uncategorized

End of Year Sale!

I’m throwing a quick end-of-year sale in my Teacher’s Pay Teachers Store with some useful items for the end of the year in Spanish 1. Check it out! The sale runs from 5/25-5/28 this week!

Products on Sale: 

  1. Spanish 1 Autobiography Project: In this Spanish 1 project, Spanish 1 students use the different units they have studied throughout the year to construct an autobiography. They will:
    -describe who they are
    -their school life
    -friends and family
    -food preferences
    -likes/ dislikes
    -passtimes/ sports
    -memories (past tense) and
    -future goals (tener que, ir a, etc.)
    It is a great culminating project or end of course assignment 🙂
    The packet includes:
    -suggestions for the project product
    -guiding questions
    -project timeline (with blank dates for editing)
    -blank project calendar
    -and suggestions page with my sample calendar attached
  2. Spanish 1 Speaking and Writing Rubrics: Use these rubrics to grade Spanish 1 production tasks (Speaking and Writing) on a 15 point scale. (5×3 rubric)
  3. General Teacher Evaluations (for student use):  Each year, at the end of the year, I give an anonymous teacher evaluation to my students to see–right from the horse’s mouth–how I did. These forms are not age or subject area specific, so they are perfect for whatever you teach 🙂
  4. Blank Gameshow Board, for review games:  Use this blank game show board to increase student accountability during games, help students track review games for study purposes or allow students to create their own jeopardy-style game. Attached is also a page with suggestions for use!
  5. Spanish 1 Interviews:  Interview questions w/ suggested activities and one BONUS activity page for Spanish 1 students (semester 1) or Spanish 1 A.


Posted in Google, homework, professional development

Google Voice: Part 1- In The Language Classroom

Google voice has rocked my world this year. I had previously wanted to see what I could use Google Voice for, but, like most teachers, I didn’t have time for another “tool” to add to my list and make my life harder. After attending the ACTFL Convention this year, however, my perspective changed.

I sat in on a session by one of the ACTFL teachers of the year, Carrie Toth, who runs as she talked about different way she has added authentic assessment to her classes. She shared that when students have projects that many classes traditionally “present” (aka: waste 3 days of class time presenting), she instead uses Google Voice. In a room so crowded with people that I was in a corner on the floor, here I sat, suddenly engaged beyond measure. This woman had the answers to all my problems.

Any student who has ever sat in my classroom knows 2 things (ok, hopefully more than 2 things…)

  1. Mrs. Wilson doesn’t waste time.
  2. Everything we do has a purpose.

I literally refuse to waste even a second. And, if a student asks me “why” I usually have a dissertation like response of my thought process behind the request.

Presentations had always been an irritation of mine. They worked so hard… shouldn’t they present it? To be honest… these presentations aren’t going to be that great. Who listens to them anyway??? The class can’t hold their attention span long enough to hear more than one. UGH now we are a week behind 😦 

Instead, Carrie explains, that she has students call and leave their presentations using Google Voice. Genius. Students are then able to:

  • Speak with a lower affective filter.
  • Practice several times before calling.
  • Call again to record a better version.
  • Not waste 3 class days listening to their Spanish 1 classmates repeat all 15 words they know (ahem, I mean…. um… sorry!)

I was anxious to try this, and I was amazed at the results. My students did fantastically. They even worked harder on their accents, because they felt that me having a voicemail was more “permanent”.

Tips and Ideas: 

  1. Carrie suggested using some of the time that would have been spent on presentations to do a “museum” style walkabout, encouraging students to interact in the TL instead (Interpersonal).
  2. Use Google Voice for AP level classes to record their cultural comparisons.
  3. Google Voice voicemails cut off at 3 minutes. When students don’t have much dead space… that is actually quite a lot of time! But, be careful about assigning something that can’t be recorded in the time limit. For example, during their celebrity family presentations, I graded their project as a written piece, but asked students only to share the 5 most interesting things via voicemail.
  4. You can set up Google Voice to ring to a phone… but since the main use for it is voicemail (for a teacher), I recommend setting it to “Do Not Disturb”, so that it will automatically record voicemails.
  5. In your voicemail message, remind students to leave their name…haha, seems obvious, but you are a teacher, so you understand.
  6. Space your assignments out, so that your voicemail box isn’t clogged with too many assignments at once. One week I gave an assignment to Spanish 1. Once those voicemails had been graded, I assigned a Voice assignment to Spanish 3. A few late Spanish 1 assignments got mixed in, and there was a delay in grading them.

Have any ideas yet? 




Posted in classroom management, homework, teaching, Uncategorized

the struggle

So, there are some basic struggles that teachers with high standards are battling these days, and I find myself deep in some WWI style trench with a helmet on, trying hard to hold on to my principles. After a week like the one I’ve had, the tiny coward in me is asking if its worth it. I’ll clarify now and say: Yes. I know that it is.

Today, in a “high stakes” world where parents want the “high standards” diploma for their kids and the grades that show their kids meet the high standards… I’m finding that this does not necessarily mean that these same parents and students actually want to meet those standards. They just want the paper that says they did.

My thinking is that it doesn’t work that way… except that for many of them, it does, and it has for many years. These are students and families encountering instructional integrity (across the board) for the first time. I’m not saying they’ve never had good teachers. I KNOW they have. I’m not saying they’ve not learned anything; on the contrary, they are some of the more prepared students I’ve ever taught. What I am saying is this: They are finding that grades are reflecting their effort and learning truly, for the first time in their educational careers.

In the past, there was this idea that kids who did their work got an “A”. Kids who did most of it passed. Kids who did nothing failed. Believe it or not, that is not how it works–at least that is not how it should work.

So, I’m battling parents of “A” students who are used to this philosophy, wondering why their student did the work and got a B. Well, they did not demonstrate a complete mastery of the skills. Or, parents who want to know why a kid who passes every test still did not get a “B”–Well, said child or children, did not turn in any daily work. Or a complete journal. Or participate in speaking activities.

A grade is a dynamic, holistic thing.

The struggle isn’t just this. It is that the pressure for these high standards is driving my perfectly capable, perfectly intelligent, and amazingly equipped students to cheat, plagiarize and translate assignments in an effort to achieve the “grade” the “high stakes” world demands of them.

These are kids who’ve never been allowed to fail. Heck, they’ve never had the chance to suffer a “B” or a “C”… and now, I have a girl in my room after school saying to me, “I, um, I’ve just never not passed a test. I’m not sure what to do.” When asked if she studied, she said she didn’t think she had to. When asked if she studies for my class at all, she lists about a half dozen other things she does, “so she can get into college”.

Plagiarism has become such a problem that I’m literally considering not assigning homework at all anymore because I’m so tired of it. Every single homework assignment I assign gets passed around and copied and it makes it nearly impossible for me to a.) grade anything without wanting to throw a kitten and b.) give kids the language practice they need.

What is a teacher to do? Stop assigning out of class work–which compromises instructional integrity by not providing needed language practice… or Continue on the path, making cheating harder, but knowing that I can’t stop it…. and still assign about 5,000 zeros weekly.

Will it stop? Will I deter it? I honestly think not. I thought 11 weeks of this battle would prove that I was serious, but it hasn’t. In fact, it has picked up.

So, I ask myself, am I teaching the material? Yes. When I ask the students themselves, they tell me I did, but that they “ran out of time” to do that work, or that they didn’t understand, but their 16 sports and 2 jobs prevented them from coming to one of my 13 available tutoring slots per week.

What am I to do?