Leveling Up Comparisons with Cyber Sandwiches

Today I’m sharing another strategy that I use throughout my classes to scaffold student interaction, moving us from input to discussion, and finally, output. Not only is the Cyber Sandwich an excellent tool for scaffolding language, it also supports collaboration and comparison/contrast. As with many of the strategies in my classes, I love that it is a low prep/high yield tool easily adaptable across levels, languages, and units.

The Cyber Sandwich protocol is from the book Eduprotocols is explained in detail here (including a helpful explainer video). The highlights are:

  1. Students read/view/listen to a source of content and take notes on it. The content can be the same for both people or can represent differing viewpoints.
  2. They meet in pairs to discuss that content & create a Venn diagram
  3. They individually write a summary paragraph that incorporates content from both participants.

The activity is run through Google Slides, so it is easily adaptable to any version of the in person – remote teaching spectrum.

While at first glance this activity seems like something that teachers have been doing for a long time in their classes, the template with scaffolding for writing is what sets this version apart for me. Injecting sentence starters and connectors–much like in roving paragraph frames–supports ALL students in taking the next step on their language journey. Struggling students get help in getting started while more advanced students get help in creating more complex output. Another important point to consider is that working with structures like this throughout the curriculum is incredibly helpful for students who continue their studies through AP and IB classes (and their teachers too!).

You can download a copy of the slides with the Spanish sentence starters + connectors here. A request: If you teach a language other than Spanish and adapt it to your language, would you share it back? I’ll post it for others to access as well.

Update 4/19/21: Thanks to Stephanie Kasten (@amulsolo) we have a French edition too! Grab a copy here.

Leveling Up with a Sentence Framework

This is an update and addition to previous presentations/documents in collaboration with Erin Carlson around the topic of supporting and scaffolding student output. See more about her work here, including an article she wrote for The Language Educator.

In previous posts (including the one above) I have shared a handout that I used in my classes to walk students through the three formulas that Erin recommends for elevating the complexity of sentence construction, even for level 1. While that form is still helpful, I wanted an edition that was editable by others–including students–to make it more effective in remote & hybrid environments. You can download a copy here. Thank you to Rebecca Blouwolff for her suggestions in the re-imagining process.

There are two versions in the file: the first version has touches of Spanish; the second version is completely in English. Both are set up to print OR be used in a digital environment. Teachers can edit anything by editing the master, and students can write directly in the document using the text boxes provided.

I hope you find them helpful :). Thanks for reading!

Leveling Up with Roving Paragraph Frames

One of the things I have been missing most in virtual classes–and now in hybrid classes with restrictions on movement–is the active interaction between students as we go about our work of collaborating and growing our language skills. Roving paragraph frames is a strategy that I learned about from Sally Barnes at ACTFL 2020, and is based on work in Anna Matis’ book 7 Steps to a Language Rich Foreign Language Classroom. I love this activity framework because it promotes reading, speaking, listening, and writing while scaffolding growth for all learners AND giving us a chance to move.

Roving paragraph frames are a low prep, high yield strategy that can be used in any unit, class, or level. They combine sentence starters as scaffolds and end in a student-written paragraph. The general outline goes like this:

  1. Students are partnered up
  2. Teacher provides a sentence starter connected to a class topic–on a handout or projected and students copy it down
  3. Pairs collaborate to finish the sentence and write it on their paper
  4. Find a new partner
  5. Each partner reads out loud the sentence they wrote with partner #1. It’s important to read all previously written content with each new partner.
  6. Teacher provides a new stem to continue the paragraph. Pairs collaborate to make a new sentence without repeating any content from their original sentence.
  7. Repeat steps 4-7 as many times as teacher desires. I would use 4-6 total rotations for lower levels, but perhaps increase that number for upper levels.
  8. Send students to their seats to edit/wordsmith their paragraphs that they have now created with their sentences created during this process. This should be a smooth process due to the injection of structure and academic language provided by the sentence stems.

A sample frame for a lower level class might take shape like this:

  • It’s important to travel because…
  • Also…
  • And in addition…
  • I would most like to visit…
  • However…
  • Most of all…

There is no one set formula–the sentence starters can and will change according to the topic and complexity of the content. Here are my top 10 favorites to mix and match:

Using sentence stems gives all students a helping hand by giving them ideas to get started–an often overlooked part of the learning process. It also adds in a layer of more sophisticated language that starts to approximate the gap between their ideas and their target language production.

So… reading, writing, speaking, listening, interacting, and building confidence and language skills… what’s not to love? Not much, but I couldn’t figure out how to do the activity within our social distancing guidelines. Until I saw this tweet and realized that Google Slides could be our answer:

… and an adaptation was born.

I used Google Slides to make a template to convert this framework into a small group review assignment for one of my upper level classes. (Find the template here) Update 4/28/21: here’s a template all in English

The general idea is the same, but without the movement & change in partners. The steps went like this:

  1. Students were placed in groups of 3-4 and were provided a copy of the slide deck. One person opened the file and shared it with the others so that they could work simultaneously. The slide deck is currently set up for groups of 4, and no real adjustment is needed to have smaller groups–just skip the additional individual slides.
  2. Students reviewed the assigned content, then completed all 10 sentence starters on an individual slide in the slide deck (slides 3-6).
  3. At the designated time, they “met” as a group at slide 7. They took turns sharing their individual sentences and as a group they selected the strongest option and recorded it into the frame on slide 7.
  4. After working through slide 7, they were then tasked with reworking their sentences into a cohesive paragraph on slide 8 that summarized their views. Each group submitted one collaborative paragraph for review.

I really liked this activity for many reasons:

  • It’s versatile and very easy to set up
  • The students are doing the work and it is a confidence builder.
  • It promotes collaboration and language skills.
  • I heard students saying things like “we need to add more connectors” and coaching one another through improving their writing.
  • It allowed me to circulate through the room and offer timely feedback.
  • It was easy to execute in a hybrid environment with some students in person and others at home.
  • It was an effective way to review recent content and extend it by writing about it.
  • It complements other strategies that we’ve used in class like our level up framework.

All in all, it’s a keeper!

Scaffolding Student Output: SWCOLT 2021

This weekend marks a first for me: attending and presenting at SWCOLT’s conference. As an east coast resident I don’t make it out to the SWCOLT region often, and I’m excited to hear the work that teachers in that region are doing. Thanks for welcoming me!

I’ll be presenting on Sunday, March 28 in the Oklahoma Room at 4:15-5:00 p.m. EDT/3:15-4:00 p.m.CDT/ 2:15-3:00 p.m. MDT /1:15-2:00 p.m. PDT /10:15-11:00 a.m. HST and am grateful to share what I have learned and classroom tested about using chat mats, sentence starters, and sentence builders to support students in having the confidence to say what they need to say in writing and speaking. The handout for the session is available here. I hope to see you there!

Scaffolding Conversation, No Matter the Distance

One of the challenges in our current teaching context is that our time in class has been significantly reduced–for me, I see my students for about 90 minutes a week instead of 90 minutes a day. One of the casualties of this change has been the multiple scaffolded conversations that we would pepper in to class, from “talk to your partner” and “find someone who…” to taking a deeper collaborative dive into what students read/heard/viewed. I’m feeling this loss. We talk every period, but it’s just not the same, even with breakout rooms. It’s particularly easy for intermediate students to stay in the comfort of novice-level speech, but I want more. I want to continue to cultivate conversational skills and connections among my students, but am trying to figure out how to do this when I can’t be everywhere at once AND I want them to build their self-sufficiency with their language skills.

My favorite resources to use and create are ones that are flexible and versatile so that they are easy to adapt to multiple units. In an effort to support intermediate students in maintaining TL use in conversations, I’ve made a slide deck that can be used to spark/scaffold conversation after any reading. Each slide also has some sentence starters to help students get started speaking while remaining open-ended enough to allow them to include their thoughts. I’d like to send a shout-out to Sally Barnes (@MsBSpanish) because her ACTFL presentation reminded me how powerful these sentence stems can be for students!

The progression for this activity is for students to read/annotate a piece of text before coming to class, including preparing three discussion questions about what they’ve read. Once in class, I put them into small groups and provide them with the slide deck. Then as a group they talk through the questions with the goal of sustaining TL conversation. I rotate from group to group listening and assisting as needed. While it isn’t a total solution, it is helpful in supporting student growth and risk-taking with the language. Hopefully it will help you too!

Visitas Virtuales (Adapting Strategies to Remote Learning part 3)

I have a love/hate relationship with field trips. On one hand I love the deep, experiential learning that takes place when we go out exploring. I love the change of pace and renewed energy that comes with stepping outside our classroom. I hate the stressful time leading up to the trip itself, especially in a day where the field trip paperwork takes longer than the trip itself.

But a field trip in a pandemic? Yes. I would venture that “field trips” are especially important in a pandemic. When we basically haven’t left home in months, the opportunity to “travel” is so enticing that my students & I can’t resist. And here’s the good news: some field trips that were previously out of reach are now totally accessible thanks to virtual options. Here are some to consider:

Be creative about what defines a “field trip”. For second quarter in my AP classes, students will choose one of five options to attend. They have a menu here and the followup is in the form of a Google form that asks them to note products, practices, perspectives, and comparisons with their home culture. One of the things that I’m most excited about is that some students have stepped forward to be the guest speakers for others. For example, a girl who recently had her quinceañera will present about the tradition and experience for her “field trip”. Other students can elect to attend her presentation to count as theirs.

Some other options from our Visita Virtual menu:

Peace Corps (see site here). The site has a ton of resources, but we hit the gold mine by collaborating with a returned Peace Corps volunteer in our area. She and I recorded a presentation about the highlights of her experience in Peru. Students watched the video in advance and took notes about the products, practices, and perspectives that they observed and learned a bit about what the Peace Corps does. They also prepared five questions each. Then our volunteer came to class via Google Meets and hosted a live Q&A session with our students. Our students LOVED it. It also gave us the opportunity to hear from different voices. Our volunteer is African American and served in a region of Peru that is primarily AfroPeruvian and shared a wealth of perspectives and experiences that I have not had and therefore cannot share with my students. We have turned that experience into extended discussions as well as the basis for two FRQ practice questions for the AP exam. We are currently working on scheduling our next speaker from another country, and I am hoping to offer this experience multiple times throughout the year with a variety of countries that I have not visited/lived in.

National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood (site here) When I lived in Chicagoland we went here every year for the museum’s Día de los Muertos exhibits. Their exhibits and docents transform the experience into one that highlights the depths of the symbolism, culture, and history associated with this celebration that is too often addressed superficially. I moved to the east coast over 20 years ago and have been trying to figure out how to make it work to get my students here to go to the museum there. Enter this year’s virtual visits for the answer. I “took” a group of students on a live private tour with a docent and it was fantastic. The private tour cost $100, but was worth it every centavo. (I will request a reimbursement grant from our PTA.) If you teach La Calaca Alegre, las mariposas monarcas, and/or know Hector Duarte’s art, you will definitely want to check out his ofrenda installation in this year’s exhibit.

Local museums while visiting NMMA is super cool, be sure to check out what your local cultural institutions are offering. The art museum in our city is offering virtual mini tours focusing on three works of art in the collection. We worked together to choose the pieces, and they put together the lesson plan. Win, win, win!

Each of our trips so far has been well-received by students and are excited about the prospect of OPTIONS. They are tired of being cooped up in the same four walls and so are we. This style of field trip has many of the rewards of an in-person trip with a fraction of the headaches. It’s a nice change of pace for students AND for teachers, and reinforces the idea that there is so much to explore and learn beyond our classroom.

So… where will you go on your visita virtual? Let me know if I can help!

Peer Review of Email FRQ in AP (Adapting strategies to remote learning, part 2)

One of the strategies that I find helpful in working with students to improve their writing performance is peer reviewing. Using it as a step between “first draft” and “hand it in to the teacher” has been beneficial in reducing oversight errors and improving the overall product.  I want to continue using it even though we are at a distance.  My first attempt this year crashed & burned because I made it too complicated.

Thankfully, I have a group of experts who are willing to help me grow & improve: my students. When it was clear that what I had designed (pairs in Google Meets–18 of them running simultaneously) was NOT going to work, I asked for their help and we recreated the design together. And it was much better.

I shared the resulting document (which you can find here) with students via Google Classroom, making a copy for each student. Due to our current tech limitations, we abandoned the required video conference, but the feedback was still good.  There are directions in the document that are specific to our class and our logistics. You can easily edit them for your context, and I opted to leave them in to give you an idea how it worked in our class.

Do you remember? (Adapting strategies to remote learning, part 1)

This is the first in a series of posts on strategies I’m adapting in my classroom during remote digital learning.

My current school schedule is on alternating days (A day/B day) with 55 minute periods .  As a result, we always have 2 days from one class to the next, and sometimes have 3 or 4 if we have a long weekend.  That’s a lot of time for new content to fade!  When we are face to face, Puedos help to bridge the gap, but our current technology limitations don’t always allow us to use them in a way where the ends justify the cost in time.

Enter retrieval grids.  The idea is somewhat similar to Puedos, but with a bit of a longer term twist.  Whereas Puedos are built around a particular unit and its I can statements, retrieval grids are designed to draw attention to the most current lessons AND key content from previous units in order to keep it fresh.  I use Puedos as warm-ups, but see retrieval grids as being warm-ups, transition activities, and self-checks.

I plan to put students in their small groups and use a grid as a bit of a review as we wind up our first unit.  While this grid only has content from the first unit, future grids will pull in content from other units.  Here’s an example of my grid for an intermediate unit on community service & volunteering in the community:

While the activity is currently set to be a small group social task, this is also a good benchmark of our progress through the unit so far.  It would be easy to convert these into a series of brief assessments, and my hope is that students will gain confidence in seeing that they can do the tasks outlined here.

 

Tech Vocab for Maintaining TL Use in Distance Classes

Last week I realized that we had a hole in our class vocabulary: tech terms necessary for functions associated with distance learning.  When we are in class together, we don’t need terms like “mute” and “unmute”, but we certainly do in a remote setting, especially one where we are trying to maintain a high level of comprehensible and comprehended TL use.  Since my classes are levels 4 and AP this year, I’m striving to use Spanish for the vast majority of our time together, “saving” English only for when we need it the most.

After input from my Twitter PLN, I’ve made a resource to support students with some high frequency terms.  In addition to sharing this with students in class, I’ll add it to our digital tech notebook for their reference.  You can get a full size copy here.

Essential tech vocab.001.jpeg

Update 8/23: The power of the PLN is strong!  Ada Morley (@MmeMORLEY) has made a French edition, which you can access here.