Saturday, March 28, 2020

The New Normal

This post is rather long.  If you want to just get to the "what I taught" and "how I set it up", click for Continuous Learning Plans.
If you want to read about what the on-line teaching portion of my new normal was like, with resources, read this other post on The New Normal Part 2.

Wow.  I don't know about you, but there is NOTHING normal right now.  Honestly, I have been a mess. Between the earthquakes (thanks, Earth. Like I needed to worry about something else.), elderly parents,  being asthmatic, and watching parts of our society on the verge of collapse, it has been rough going.  

Like- really rough.  I have been barely functioning, to be honest.  

I really admire those amazing humans who are making videos and sharing them: Annabelle Williamson, Sarah Breckley, Andrea Schweitzer, AnneMarie Chase, Bess Hayles...and more!  I tried...and ended up crying every.single.time.  

Update- I got one video up! And because I am feeling better, more will be coming soon.  I mean-who can resist a story about this cat?    

Is he happy? Sad?  What does Diego want?  

 I am incredibly thankful for those amazing companies (Sr. Wooly, Comprehensible Classroom**, Fluency Matters, Immediate Immersion, TPRS Books, Spanish Cuentos, Mira Canion, etc.- sorry if I forgot someone!) who are making SO many resources available for free.  (And who are also standing firm on copyright. You rock.)  

Thank goodness for them because I am using them very heavily right now as I wrap my head around this new "normal".  
This is how I feel when teaching online. 

I mean, I never, ever wanted to be an online teacher.  I really hate sitting in front of a screen.  While I am thankful for my incredible online community, my weekly PLC (Professional Learning Community) meetings (three years running!) via zoom with teachers from other time zones, and my amazing team members at the Comprehensible Classroom (all over the US and beyond), I am a people person. 

I am a face to face person. I am a classroom teacher. In fact, one of the biggest reasons I left my last job and decided to become a teacher was because it was a desk job, and I realized that just wasn't working for me.  

And now, I am an online teacher. So are most of us. Surprise! No warning!  Insane requirements! Students with no internet! It seems like every school, every district, and every state is expecting something different from their teachers, and we are all muddling along as best we can.  And some people are trying to homeschool their own kids. (Saints.)  It's crazy.  Seriously.  

So, after a good long time grieving (for my classroom, for my kids, for my SUPER awesome lesson plans that I started blogging about because I was so excited about them and then trashed), I started feeling a little bit like I could stick my head above water.

Then there were more earthquakes and aftershocks. Then one of our cars died forever and the other wouldn't start.  Then rocks fell out of our foundation.  And then I went back to bed.  With wine.

On to the practical details of the new "normal":  

However, no matter how I feel, I still had to have "continuous learning" plans up on my learning management system page for 3 of the 4 levels I teach, plus live meetings.  I still have to do my job, at least for now.  So, I started sifting through the amazing resources and feeling...overwhelmed.  

I mean- which particular free resource should I use?  They are all so cool, and I already use some of them, and it would be really fun for the kids if they could...and I have 3 levels and the kids in that class would really like ....and...and...and....


Minimal new tech
 (Like none if I can help it.)  Students already have access to Garbanzo and Sr. Wooly in my classroom- they are my go-to sub plan so ideally, they should all be able to access these with little or no trouble.  Of course, that isn't how it worked AT ALL, but that was the idea.  

Reasonable expectations for me
  Seriously.  I have no idea how to do this, so my expectations for myself are super low.  That doesn't mean I am not doing my best- but if my live lesson is a fail, well, hey,  I tried!  If my on-line assignment was a fail, same thing. Oh well. And I am not spending hours prepping this stuff if it is optional for them to do.  And let's be honest.  I am not going to return emails constantly.  I will have office hours, and what I can't get done...gets done tomorrow.  I am not super human.  I can have boundaries.   I really *need* boundaries.  

I plan on using things that we already know and/or love.  For me, this means Wooly, Garbanzo, Revista Literal, illustrating class stories, re-using stories from other classes, and chit chat/small talk.  

It means taking the lesson I was going to do on Monday and tweaking it so that instead of students walking around the room with clipboards, they are reading and responding on a zoom meeting, and STILL getting the input.  (More about what I *was* going to do and what I did do here.

Input Focused

It means STAYING FOCUSED ON THE INPUT!!!!!  Remember, if students are getting input that they understand, they WILL acquire the language.

Easy differentiation
Instead of creating 3 separate lessons for each of the 3 levels that I need to work on (my 5th grade class is another story, and not one for here), I am creating 3 assignments TOTAL and letting the kids self-differentiate or use different stories, depending on the level.  And one enrichment page for all of them!  

Like so many things, giving students choices in their own work is going to motivate them.  Resources that let teachers select options and let kids select from within those options are ideal in this situation- because as a teacher, all I have to do is decide what their options are, then students can choose within that menu.  Please note- these options are all focused on INPUT.   So, for example, I can unlock 4 or 5 stories on Garbanzo that I think are appropriate for the level, and students can choose 2 of them.  Does it really matter to me which ones they read? Nope- all that matters to me is that they *are* reading, and understanding.  

IMPORTANT: I don't want to offend anyone, but I don't think that most "choice" boards that I have seen are input focused. Sure, they are cool and families think they are great (watch a movie in the target language! Listen to a song in the target language! Change your phone settings to the target language!), and students enjoy them, but most have little actual comprehensible/comprehendED input value.   

I encourage you to look at potential assignments with a critical eye. Is it input focused? Is it focused on something else? It's fine if there is another purpose to it, but I would argue that at the moment, focusing on input that is comprehensible/ comprehendED (and thus building student confidence) is the most important thing...I mean, we are still supposed to be teaching, right?  I am not going to suddenly send home a grammar packet, right?  

Continuous Learning Plans

That being said, here are my plans for this week for you to see.   My requirements right now are:  3 assignments + enrichment suggestions, plus one 30 minute live meeting/teaching session per middle school level.

This first week, I am doing the EXACT same thing in each level, but using a different text for the class story illustration.  

1) Do 2 readings on Garbanzo.  
                     Since I can see their work from the app, they don't have to submit anything.  I did create  an assignment in my online grade book so I can mark who did the work or not, per admin request, but it is all complete/incomplete.  

2) Read one story from Revista Literal and pick one option for response.  (For the free resources from Comprehensible Classroom, click here
                    For submission, I decided that all their work needs to be handwritten and they can take a picture of it, then upload it to my learning management system (CANVAS).  Canvas makes this very, very easy.  All I did was create an assignment in Canvas, change the submission type to File Upload, and voila.  I can see their assignments no problem.  Again, this is complete/incomplete.  

3) Read one class story (Spanish 1 Honors, Spanish 2 Honors, Spanish 1B and other 1B) and illustrate it. Students can choose to make a mural or a comic with 9 frames.  
                   They will take a picture of it and submit it to the assignment I created in Canvas.  

Enrichment: They can play on Duolingo or Lyrics Training. Since I don't really think either of those are particularly valuable for input (although I have heard that Duolingo Stories are pretty good), it is optional, not graded, etc.  I also put up some awesome videos from the aforementioned awesome teachers, and students can watch them and write a brief summary in English.  Or not.  

Next week, I am branching out a bit more- as in, each level is going to one different assignment each,  but still keeping it SIMPLE.  

I am adding one new thing (edpuzzle) and that's it.  And the reason I am adding it is because I really liked the resource (from William Edward Langley) and have been thinking about teaching it anyway.  

Click on this post: The New Normal Part 2, for a discussion (and resources) on what the ONLINE teaching portion looked like this week. (Coming soon. I am sick of looking at screens!)   It wasn't perfect.  It wasn't even smooth. But, I do feel like it was ok.  


  1. Thank you. Honest. Simple. Perfect for this season we are living :) <3

  2. Muchas gracias. It is very explanatory.