Monday, July 13, 2015

Raising Student Trust in the Classroom, guest post M. Stampfl

Here's a guest post from Monica Stampfl, a fabulous Modern Language teacher at Presentation High School (where I also work). It's about an important teacher goal: raising student trust (or lowering the affective filter) to ease students classroom anxiety and worry less about making "mistakes." It's a great read with lots of real-life examples. Many thanks to Monica for sharing this post, which she first posted on LinkedIn here.
What do you do to gain students trust and provide a "safe" place to learn? Please share!      
Like many teachers, I use my summer off to refresh my mind, body and spirit after 10 months of being on a treadmill.  There is no need for me to explain how busy I am during the school year, every teacher is, no matter how long they have been teaching. 
My day starts with a coffee and a browse through social media to catch up with my friends and family from all over the world.  I do not subscribe to a particular newspaper or online material, so I rely on my friends to post articles about world events that they find interesting.  It gives me insight on what is important to them and it nourishes my intellect.
At the beginning of June, I discovered  It is a website that gives teachers tips and suggestions on how to be the best educator possible.  Sometimes the articles are based on research, but most of the time, they are good sound advice from experience of being an effective teacher.
Today's article is You're Gonna Hear Me Roar: Overcoming Classroom Stage Fright by Todd Finley.  Every teacher gets stage fright from time to time.  Even after teaching for 22 years, there are days that I still get nervous before class starts.  Many times, external factors are the culprits, but there are ways to overcome a case of stage fright that he mentions in the article.
Finley's  article touches on something else that is so important in the language classroom.
fun and learning image
Probably more important than anything is lowering the affective filter. There are many articles written on the topic and much research conducted, which can be confirmed by personal experience.  Students need to feel like they can trust you and the class before they will risk making mistakes in front of you and their peers.  They must feel comfortable and trust that you are not going to embarrass them or hurt their feelings.  They too get stage fright and the way that you handle it will make all the difference in how they perform in your class.  If you do not make your classroom a "safe" zone for each student, you will lose them forever.

There are many ways to make the classroom a safe zone.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.
1.  Establish routine.  Students appreciate having a classroom routine because they become comfortable in the routine.  They know what to expect and know that there are no bad surprises waiting for them.  My classroom routine starts with hello and then I ask them questions based on their level that they can answer.  In French 1, it might just be how are you?  In upper levels, they might share what they did or what they may have read or saw recently. This gives me a sense of where everyone is that day and brings them into the lesson and our community for the day. It also gives me the opportunity to know my students and have the best rapport possible with them.  I know their likes and dislikes and can relate content to them.  
2.  Share the lesson objectives and map with them.  This way they know what they are responsible for during the lesson.  You don't have to list every activity, but they should know what they are expected to know at the end of class.
3. Make learning fun.  This does not mean that they need to be playing a game every second of the class period, but show that you enjoy your subject matter and they will enjoy it to.  Laughter definitely lowers the affective filter.
4.  Share a little bit of yourself  You have an opportunity to every tidbit of their life, they will find you more relate-able if they know a little bit about you.  I usually share my outside of school interests, movies I have seen, funny things my pets have done or even sometimes use my family members and their pictures in my lessons.  Teaching language makes this possible without crossing that student teacher line.
5.  Reactivate prior knowledge.  Every single lesson can incorporate and review prior knowledge in language classes.  Reactivating or reviewing prior knowledge makes them feel comfortable in knowing that they know something about the lesson on that day.
6. Check for understanding and learning often.  A teacher's repertoire should be full of these.  The importance of checking often is so that you know exactly where each student is with the material.  Do they need more practice or more individualized attention?  If the whole class is struggling than the material needs to be retaught.
7.  Apply content to real life.  I cannot take every single one of my students to a French-speaking country to have them practice vocabulary and grammar.  What i can do is create a French-speaking environment for them.  Once they have enough vocabulary, I expect them to communicate with me and their classmates in French whenever possible.  Even the conversation between activities must be in French.  I speak French 95-100% of the time depending on the level.  I use authentic documents and videos (created for French-speakers) whenever possible.  And most importantly, my students participate in situational simulation activities during and a the end of every chapter and concept.  Global simulation would be ideal but not practical with my current teaching schedule, but I can get close.  These are the activities the students enjoy most. And the content becomes more meaningful.
There are many more techniques to lowering the affective filter. Perhaps the most important factor is that they enjoy your class and look forward to coming each day because they know that they are cared for and will learn something meaningful.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Video of the Year Voting open NOW!

Here's a note that appeared recently in our friend Rushton Hurley's newsletter... Click the link, watch the videos, and please vote now!

We'd love for you to focus a little of your time helping us choose the Videos of the Year for the best submissions from the 2014 contests. Intrigued?

There are thirteen videos across the three strands, and each follows the rule of being no longer than 90 seconds (with up to another 60 seconds for credits). Voting on every strand should in total take less than thirty minutes of your time, and it'll be a half hour that should provide some cool ideas for you.

Why do this? Mainly it's a chance to do what is all about - highlight creative approaches to learning something and celebrating those who put in the work. However, this is also a good opportunity to see what others have done and get some ideas for projects you may do once school starts again in the coming months.

Are you in? If so, click here for the links and the ballot. Please cast your vote by the end of day (US Pacific time) on July 26th. We appreciate the help!

2014 contest images for newsletter

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TechWomen - what is it? And why you should care!

I had the pleasure to participate on a Google Hangout with Eileen Brewer, who represents TechWomen. What IS TechWomen, you ask?

TechWomen is an organization that empowers, connects, and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East by providing them the access and opportunity needed to advance their careers, pursue their dreams, and inspire women and girls in their communities. They do this through a mentoring program in the US, after a rigorous vetting process for the potential mentees.

Eileen Brewer is a director with Symantec Corporation, who has been volunteering as a mentor through the TechWomen organization here in Silicon Valley. Please take a few minutes to find out more about TechWomen as you watch this video.

Find out more about TechWomen through their website, too. If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can get more directly involved!

Here are a couple more links that may be of interest...

Girls Who Code – “working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors”
Women’s Alliance for Knowledge Exchange – “links high-impact, innovative women’s organizations to technology tools and expertise from leading companies to help organizations accelerate their impact and scale their work”
Notable Women in Tech – supporting “educators around the world who are working to inspire women and girls to consider or continue careers in computing”.

Thanks to Rushton Hurley, the president of the Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley, of which I am also a member. Rushton leads interesting programs each week on a wide variety of topics, all in support of Rotary's motto "Service Above Self."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Using Photos App for Great Student Outcomes

The convenience of having a smartphone or tablet is multiplied by the fact it has a camera.  We use the camera for more than recording family events and nature’s beauty – the flash makes a great flashlight and its ability to zoom doubles as a magnifier.  It's a multi-functional tool that has great value in the classroom too.

The iPad Photo app may be one of the under-rated native apps on the tablet.  Spending a little time on organization on a semi-regular basis is not a bad idea.  It is a sleek way to curate those treasured images.  Albums are easy to make and a great way to memorialize class parties, field trips, presentations and other student events. 

Taking some time to discuss proper photography techniques with students is a good way to ensure successful outcomes.  The Rule of Three, backlighting, shadows, and movement are all issues that can make or break a photo.

Images can also be integrated into student work as a way for them to show what they know.  If you are in a Google App for Education school, any image in the Photos app can be uploaded to Google Drive.  Students who create work in apps that save to Photos (Shadow Puppets, for example) can easily upload that work to Drive (or Google Classroom) to share, add to other work, or simply store.  This is especially important in classroom where many students use the same tablet.
Here are a few apps that students may enjoy using to build outcome with photos…
  • Flipagram – students can upload photos to tell a story with text and voice (free)
  • ChatterPix – Give any photo a voice (with a moving mouth!) and let it tell the story (free)
  • Waterlogue – takes images and makes a beautiful watercolor ($2.99)

If you have other photo apps your students like to use, let us know!
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