Wow, two months have flown by and teaching three preps, certainly keeps me on my toes. There are few moments of my life that I am not thinking about my classes and what I could possibly do to help students or better engage them in class. For me, this has been even more important during these winter months or what I call the Winter Blues, not mention the upcoming month of March when all are counting the days before spring break. In addition to the many blogs and Facebook groups that I try to keep up with, I am fortunate to have an amazing group of teachers who meet monthly in our local comprehensible input-based PLC: Professional Learning Community – click here for a list compiled at http://teachingcomprehensibly.com/plcs/ of PLCs.
For so many this PLC provides 4 hours of conference like learning locally, which I know is so important for professional growth. So many of these teachers are not able to attend conferences. (If any administrators are reading this, please allow your teachers to attend professional conferences offered by the associations in your state, region (there are 4 annual world language regional conferences) or national level or summer conferences like NTPRS or IFLT). It is so sad when funds are only allotted for the “tested” subjects. Our field has changed so much over the past 15 years that if teachers are not engaged in professional development that is specific to world language then their students and possibly teaching practices are being left behind.
Fortunately in Northeast Ohio for five years now, we have had a Personal Learning Community that was spearheaded by French teacher, Christy Miller. Christy and her team have made professional development free for area teachers. Christy has encouraged other teachers to present two-hour sessions or to share shorter sessions through teacher-shares. Not only are we in Northeast Ohio providing our students with better instructional strategies, but teachers are now becoming presenters at state and regional conferences because they now have a place to get their feet wet as presenters. What I also find great about this model is that I can attend a monthly session and quickly adapt an idea to my teaching the next week; this even applies to many ideas that I have heard about or even done before and have perhaps forgotten.
For example at this month’s session, Christy Miller presented on how one set of mini-flashcards can be used for at least 10 engaging student activities. Now in the past (from another PLC meeting), Christy and I learned about this activity from the very creative Vicki Antequera, and over the years Christy and Vicki have continued to create new ideas to use with their mini-flashcards. In the true sense of a growth mindset, we are all growing from one another’s best practices and then trying to take ideas to new and different levels and making the practices work in our classrooms.
As I said, I have seen various presentations on this topic and have actually used this technique [this year in fact] but it has yet to become a staple in my class. Why not? I do not know. It is truly a great practice for my Spanish II students because it does require active learning and focus. Christy Miller has outlined these directions for using the mini-flashcards to front load structures/vocabulary, play games that require students to listen to comprehensible input and even use the flashcards for retelling.
Using mini-flash cards for many activities to front load your vocabulary and engage students – provided by Christy Miller
- Give Students your vocabulary words/structures in your Target Language on ready-made flashcards (you can simply use a table on a document; here is a Blank Google Doc version)
- Have students cut the flashcards & write the English meaning on back (or put picture on back)
- Play some games with the flashcards, students will do the following:
- Alphabetize your flashcards
- Categorize – Separate into 2/3 categories – Tell teacher why your chose your various categories
- Lift up the card teacher calls out & translat
- Point to the card teacher calls out & translate
- Use with prepositions – Put the “soup flashcard” NEAR the “chair flashcard,” Move the “chair flashcard” into the “living room flashcard”
- Bingo – Lay out your flashcards 5 x 5 – no free spot – Flip over when teacher calls it
- Answer Questions – Teacher can write questions about students using the new vocabulary; then students find the flashcard with a word from the sentence and write student answers the question on the flashcard [for example Did Paul see the movie Black Panther? Students guess an answer and write yes or no].
- Form Sentences – Have students line up 3 or 4 cards to make sentences
- Put in Order – Tell a story and have students put the flashcards in order of your story
- Match your flashcards to a storyboard / picture based on what the teacher is describing