Friday, December 11, 2020

Top 5 of 2020

Yes, it is that time of the year for me to list my top-5, most-viewed blog posts of the year. I cannot believe that 2020 is coming to an end, because I feel like I view time in 2020 as either Pre-Covid or Covid. I also feel like March never ended, as April and May became like March 53rd, March 54th, etc. Then once we started up school in August, I was always in a state of flux and transition from 100% digital to a weird, hybrid blend of in-person and digital students simultaneously. 

Here are my top-5, most-viewed blog posts of 2020 (notice that many of them relate to digital learning):

  1. Picture/Sentence Matching on Google Forms
  2. Using Google Forms for Reading Comprehension Assignments
  3. Is Latin Exclusive and Elitist? The Desperate Need for a Remedy
  4. Listening/Matching Activity
  5. My 2-Week Digital Lesson Plans

What a past 9 months this has been, and I do not expect the first half of 2021 to be much different. However, I do now have 9-months of experience on which to build and to continually adjust.

I will be on blog hiatus for the rest of the month and will start blogging again in January 2021. Thanks for being a part of my blog journey - I appreciate you for thinking that I have something to say.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Being an "Adequate" Teacher is SO Freeing

I am finishing up roughly my 4th month of digital, hybrid teaching, and with only two weeks left in the semester, I am finally reflecting on this whirlwind of a semester. I can honestly say that I have survived it somewhat unscathed with very little battle scars and wounds and looking back at it all, I can say that I am pleased. My secret to all of this: from the very start, I purposed in my heart just to be an adequate teacher when all of this began during pre-planning.

For some of you, what I just stated in that last sentence is blasphemous - how dare I advocate that adequacy is okay? But let me be honest: I am an overachiever, and now that I have had to take a step back from teaching the way in which I have been accustomed and must now teach in a completely different way in this weird hybrid setting, I realize that I have two options:

  • I can drive myself to do the best I can and to be the best, because I feel that I have to, regardless of the situation OR
  • I can do enough just to get by and learn to adjust as I go

I have chosen the latter, and it has made all of the difference. 

As I said, by nature, I am an overachiever, and it is very easy to always operate in that mode and it starts to feel normal, but in actuality, it is not. If achieving is what is giving me pleasure, purpose, and a feeling of self worth, and if the need for achieving is what is driving me, then I need to back away from that., because that is not healthy. Back in March, when we suddenly had to switch over to digital learning, I was all about making videos and tons of resources for students, but I also burned out fast as a result. This semester, I purposed not to drive myself to do this, because I refuse to burn out again and to lose myself in all of this. Quite frankly, it is not worth it, or maybe better stated, I have always put too much worth in it, and I am aware of that now. 

Being an adequate teacher in this weird time of teaching has been so freeing. Let me also say that as an overachiever, my idea of "adequate" is probably most teachers' idea of "very good/excellent," so it is all relative. Many may feel that I am still overachieving. However, I have learned that it is okay and quite honestly, VERY NECESSARY to be selfish during this time and to put myself first in this time of crisis. 

To put things in perspective about teaching hybrid during this time:

  • This is something which most teachers have never done before. We have never received any type of training or ever anticipated that we would be teaching like this. We are learning as we go, so it is natural to feel like you have no idea what you are doing.  
  • This is something for which most school districts had never planned. Should they have? For one of my grad school projects, I had to investigate my district's emergency contingency plans, and although the plans had provisions and anticipations for every type of natural disaster (flooding, tornado wiping out the area, blizzard, power outage, hurricane/tropical storm), there was nothing regarding a pandemic. Quite honestly, whose school district had on its radar the possibility of any type of pandemic in its contigency plans prior to Covid?
  • Hybrid learning is new for students also, so they are learning to adjust to it and what it entails.
  • There are no true metrics yet regarding what is considered effective and ineffective teaching in a hybrid situation. In other words, we are the pioneers of this. Honestly, this is freeing to me!
  • You are probably doing your best to keep your head above water as a teacher, and in these situations, that is success!
  • It took me YEARS to learn and to feel comfortable as a CI teacher in a normal classroom setting, so being a CI teacher in a hybrid learning situation is not going to happen overnight either.
Do I like hybrid teaching? Not at all. The majority of my students are digital, and even when on Zoom, I have no idea who is actually paying attention and is engaged since they all have turned off their cameras and microphones. I feel like I am shortchanging my in-person students, because I now teach solely from my desk behind a computer screen and plexiglass guard. I am completely stationary and by no means am I teaching like I want to. However, the situation is what it is, and there is only so much which I can control and only so much energy and personal effort which I am willing to exert in all of this. 

So when lesson planning and creating assignments for both synchronous and asynchronous sessions, my test is simply this: are students still receiving understandable messages (and repetitions of these messages) in the target language? If so, then I have achieved my goal. Even though there are times where I feel like my lessons are so minimal in nature, if students are still receiving some form of comprehensible input, I am doing my job. I am just not going to drive myself to be the teacher which I was pre-Covid, because the two situations are completely different.

So those are my thoughts and what is directng me as a teacher in this hybrid situation. I have never felt so free as a teacher, and I am so grateful for this change in perspective and for setting personal boundaries. I am also looking forward to when I can teach again like I did face-fo-face pre-Covid. That time will come - I just need to be patient.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Wishgranter - Movie Talk

This is a Movie Talk which I did last year pre-Covid. In my Latin 3 classes, we were reading the novella Perseus et Rex Malus, and I wanted to preview the words conatur (tries) and iacit (throws). Yes, considering that it was just two words I could have previewed these words much more quickly, but I really like doing Movie Talks! In addition, because this Movie Talk involved so many words already known by students, it allowed me to concentrate on these target words while reviewing known words in a new context. To me, the best animated movie shorts are those which contain tons of repetition in them, so this one worked perfectly for what I needed.

The plot of the animated short is simple: a "wishgranter" attempts to grant the wishes of a young man and woman who both throw coins into a fountain. Something goes awry, and that is where the wacky fun begins!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Movie Talks on my Blog

So I have added a new page to my blog: my list of movie talks from this blog! I have listed the movie talks with target language and links to my blogs posts. You can find this page along the vertical dashboard at the top of this blog, but here is the link to that page:

List of Movie Talks

This list only represents the movie talks which I have posted on this blog, but I have SO MANY more that I will add and update to this list. Hope you can use some of these!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sanjay's Super Team - Movie Talk

Here is one more Movie Talk which I would like to share with you: Sanjay's Super Team! It is now one of my all-time favorite animated shorts. Sanjay's Super Team is a Pixar short from 2015, and quite honestly, I do not remember this one at all when it came out (it was paired with Pixar's The Good Dinosaur in the theaters in 2015, and quite honestly, I do not remember that Pixar film at all either). Anyhow, I needed to preview a number of religious-related vocabulary words, such as pray to, worship, divinities, and temples (again, very specific upper-level Latin themes), so I was so glad to come upon this Pixar short.

However, a downside of this particular Movie Talk is that Sanjay's Super Team is only available on Disney + for now (it is not currently on YouTube in its entirety). Essentially, the plot is about a boy named Sanjay who loves watching superheroes on TV, but his father says that it is time to take part in a Hindu worship ceremony. Sanjay half-heartedly takes part in the worship ceremony to these divinities, but he really would rather watch superheroes on telelvision. That is where the action ensues! 

Targeted Words

colere - to worship

precari - to pray to

pupam - action figure/doll

veretur - is afraid

numina/numen - divinity

miratur - is amazed

servat - saves/rescues

ingens/ingentia - huge

templum - temple

English script

Latin script


  1. What a great multicultural animated short! Most students had not seen this Pixar short, so it was nice to be able to introduce this to them. 
  2. Once again, this movie short naturally lends itself to lots of vocabulary repetitions.
If you have Disney +, there are a lot of Pixar shorts there in its catalog which were new to me, and I am already looking for ways to use them!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Sand Castle - Movie Talk

Once again, like my previous blog post, this may only relate to the teachers in the Latin community, but I hope that other language teachers may find it useful.

So like I stated in my previous blog post, in teaching upper level Latin, we find ourselves having to address some very specific vocabulary, especially words related to war, empire, and imperialism. I shared my Royal Madness movie talk with you which introduced a number of war vocabulary words, and here is another one which addresses many of these words: Sand Castle.

Target words
arma - weapons
gens/gentem - nation
imperium - empire
procul - far away
acies - battle line
delere - to destroy
occupare - to occupy
cancer - crab
dux - leader
eques - cavalry man

English script

Latin script


  1. Another great movie talk which lends itself towards lots of vocabulary repetitions.
  2. As a Latin teacher who has to deal with very specific words such as cavalry, battle line, leader, and weapons, finding this animated short was a godsend!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Royal Madness - Movie Talk

This blog post probably only relates to the Latin teaching community but hopefully other language teachers can use this.

I have been teaching upper level Latin for the past few years, and if you do too, you know that we start to get into some very specific vocabulary themes in the upper levels, such as war, imperialism, Caesar in Gaul, empire, etc. I have also found that there are not a whole lot of school-appropriate movie shorts involving war vocabulary which I can use as movie talks to preview these words - there definitely are a lot of movie shorts out there about war, but they are either overly violent and gory or are WAY too emotional for the classroom (I once did the Robot and the Grandma as a movie talk and was told by students NEVER to do that one again, because it was way too sad!). Finally, however, I was able to find a movie short which I could manipulate to fit those war words which I needed but was still light-hearted: Royal Madness.

Target Words

appropinquat -  approaches              

bellum gerit - wages war

exercitus - army

imperator - emperor

in dolore - in grief

in proelio - in battle

mortua - dead

non iam - no longer

pax - peace

vicit - has conquered

Latin script


  1. This animated short lends itself naturally to TONS of target word repetitions!
  2. This was the first movie talk which I did this school year, and it was done completely in a digital teaching environment (before we went hybrid). Since I had not physically seen students since March and honestly, since I could not say with confidence that students actually "acquired" any Latin during that time of distance learning in the last half of the semester, I approached this particular movie talk very gingerly and assumed that this was completely new material for students. 
In my next blog post, I will share another movie talk which I did following this one which previewed more "war/imperial" vocabulary.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Using Vocabulary Know-It Boards as a Formative - Google Slides Manipulatives

As I continue to embark on this hybrid environment of teaching both digital and in-person students simultaneously, I am learning how important formative assessments and observations are in informing me as the teacher how to proceed when for most students I cannot physically witness their progress. My colleague Rachel Ash introduced me to Google Slide manipulatives, and she has demonstrated a way in which students can let me know how well they know their vocabulary: Vocabulary Know-It Boards (look for the specific activity on the page - you can actually make a copy for yourself from her example).

Essentially, from the list of 25ish provided words, students will drag the word to the quadrant which best describes their knowledge of the word: I Really Know It, I Know It, I Kind of Know It, I Don't Know It.

Student Examples:


  1. This is a really easy way for students to "check-in" with me about what they feel like they know and what they do not know.
  2. The downside of this is that the vocabulary words are presented in isolation, so in some ways, it may be that students actually do know the words when they see them in context but in isolation, they do not.
  3. Using Google Classroom, this is so easy to assign, because I just "Make a Copy for Each Student" and then they can "Turn It In" when finished.
  4. I do manually tally what words are most commonly being placed in the "I Kind of Know" and "I Don't Know" quadrants. These become the words which I target.
  5. I do make this an assignment for students to ensure that I receive feedback from every student, but I also give them a 100 as a completion grade.
  6. I do this assignment every 3-4 weeks to see what students feel like they know and what they feel like they do not know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Multiple Stories - Put the Sentences in Order - Google Slides Manipulatives

I am continuing to experiment with Google Slides manipulatives, and here is another activity which i was able to adapt to a digital environment. It is Multiple Stories - Put the Sentences in Order but now converted to an individual virtual assignment (see my blog post about how to create Google Slide manipulatives). 

Due to teaching hybrid classes in this weird digital environment, I have being going deliberately slow and almost painfully overdoing the amount of repetitions of stories in different ways to increase vocabulary and language structure exposure for students. An activity like this allowed for me to consolidate the stories into one assignment as a review. Below is a picture of what the assignment looked like for students - it is based on two Movie Talks and an ongoing story about Augustus (can you tell that I have to introduce war-related, imperial vocabulary this year?):


  1. I love that in Google Classroom, I can assign this as a copy for every student and that when students submit it, I can immediately correct the assignment and then return it with comments.
  2. Again, this is a great higher-order thinking activity, because it forces students to distinguish which sentence is for each story and then to determine the correct order of the sentences.
  3. The "draggable" nature of the assignment lends to its novelty and definitely appeals to tactile learners.
  4. Students did quite well on this, so from a formative perspective, this let me know that they were ready to move onto new vocabulary.
  5. This is a great assignment for an asynchronous learning day (if you are able to do those)!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Using to Deliver CI

Since I have a degree in Instructional Technology and am furthering my graduate studies in this field, many times I get asked by other teachers, "So what are some web app tools which I can use in my classroom?" Especially now in this time of digital teaching, teachers are searching for new novel ways of delivering instruction. Quite honestly, so am I, but I am actually very selective in what new web app tools which I want to introduce into my classroom. 

When reviewing web app tools for student use in the classroom, here is my primary test: Does it require that my students create an account for them to log in for use? If it does, then I most likely will pass it over. I know for many that sounds like a flimsy reason not to use a particular web app tool for instruction, but hear me out for my reasons:

  1. Practical reasons - I do not need students having to keep track of what log-in IDs and passwords which they are using for all of the various web app tools in all of their classes, because there will always be those few students who cannot remember their information and then cannot take part in the online activity. Even though students in my classroom have a district email account, I am amazed at how many still do not know what it is. 
  2. Student privacy information issues - As teachers in this digital age (and as required by federal laws COPPA and CIPA), we must do everything we can to protect student privacy and any online information which students may knowingly and unknowingly transmit when using digital tools for classroom purposes. The less information which students can provide web app tool companies, the better in my opinion. My district has a list of 3rd-party online vendors which we are allowed to use for classroom purposes, because those companies' student data collection procedures align with my district's guidelines. 
Currently, the only web app tools which I use that require student log-in are Google Classroom, Remind, and GimKit (and I am not happy that GimKit now requires student log-in!). I applaud web app tools such as EdPuzzle and Nearpod which allow for open classroom usage and do not require students to create an account.

With that in mind, last week Meredith White (who is also a teacher in my district) shared a great resource with a number of us: Whiteboard.fiIt is a free web app tool which turns a user's device screen into a digital whiteboard! Best of all, it does NOT require students to create an account or to log-in to use. Yesterday and today, my colleague John Foulk and I have been using it for a drawing dictation, which is how Meredith told us she used

  1. I love how, like the Draw This function in Nearpod, I can see in real time what students are putting down on their whiteboards on my screen! This is a great formative tool for me as a teacher. 
  2. I like how easy it is to set up a "class" and that I can do it at that moment!
  3. This tool works great for a hybrid class (in-person and digital simultaneously), because the focus is on individual device screens and does not require me as the teacher to share a screen/divide my attention. 
  4. After students completed a drawing, I "pushed" some of their drawings onto the class's device screens so that others could see them. 
  5. does not save what students draw/write on their device screens, but you can download everyone's whiteboard screens to a PDF prior to clearing them if you wish to have a record. If you are wanting a whiteboard web app tool which will store images, then consider using Jamboard
  6. The URL for Whiteboard is - if you are curious, the fi stands for Finland.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Using Nearpod to Deliver CI and Higher-Order Technology Use

If you are like me, you are teaching hybrid classrooms - a group of students who are physically in your classrom and those who are in a digital Zoom environment all SIMULTANEOUSLY! Recently, I have begun to implement Nearpod again in my curriculum, and it is really making a difference. I had used it before many years ago and had even demonstrated its use at conferences. Once PearDeck came around, I began to use that (in my opinion, PearDeck is the next generation of Nearpod), but for some reason, i stopped using either of these web app tool in my classroom. Fast forward to this new normal (and the fact that my district has a Nearpod account), I am now using Nearpod again. And I am wondering, "Why did I ever stop using this tool (or PearDeck)?!" 

If you are not familiar with Nearpod or PearDeck, they both are web app tools which allow participants to engage in live interaction with a presentation in real time (you can also have it set for "student-paced" mode). As the presenter, you can pause throughout your presentation and take "time-outs" for comprehension checks through shorts quizzes, ask participants to predict what they think will happen next, take opinion polls, ask participants for comments, ask participants to draw something in particular, etc. And the best part is that you as the presenter control what participants see on their device screens!  

Recently I used Nearpod as an introduction to an expanded, embedded Latin reading, where the base version I had introduced earlier the week before. Although this was an embedded, expanded reading, I still treated as if it were a sight passage, so my goal for students was comprehension. Below is the Nearpod which I created - it is a passage on Augustus which I wrote, and it is patterned after the sentence structures found in Emma Vanderpool's novella Kandake Amanirenas: Regina Nubia, which I will be introducing later, as well as influenced by my district's mandated vocabulary list. You can view it below in the Student-Pace mode, but I played it as live mode in class digitally via Zoom. NOTE - because this Nearpod was the first day of viewing this fuller reading, my goal was comprehension, therefore, my questions and answers were in English.

1) Go to
2) Join Code: 5FYZ9

The last page of this particular Nearpod is a Collaboration Board, which I have turned off in Student Pace. I posited the statement: According to Augustus in the passage, he brought peace to many lands. Do you agree/disagree? Why/why not?

  1. When used with a live audience (whether it be live or digital), Nearpod rates on the highest level of the SAMR technology model, which evaluates the level of critical and higher-order thinking involved in a particular implementation of technology. It ranks at the Redefinition level, because it is allowing for an outcome which is INCONCEIVABLE without the use of technology, so in this instance, live real-time interaction and feedback from participants during a presentation which can immediately inform the presenter how to proceed.
  2. Students were quite engaged in this activity, and the many breaks in-between passages with different types of questions and activities broke up the monotony and contributed to the novelty of Nearpod. We actually went for a whole period doing this in a hybrid class, and a number of students commented afterwards "Wow, that was fun!"
  3. I liked the Collaboration Board at the end as a discussion board. I hid student names to keep the comments anonymous, but it gave students an opportunity to voice an opinion in a safe environment and for them to read others' opinions. 
  4. I showed all of the drawings which students did during the "Draw This" portion of the Nearpod, and this is where students were the most engaged.
  5. Because this was an embedded, fuller reading of an earlier version of the story, students were still receiving understandable messages, along with a recycling of the former vocabulary now used in new sentences. With 2/3 of my classes doing digital, I erred on the side of caution by overdoing the amount of limiting vocabulary and getting in vocabulary repetitions, since I really have no idea what students are acquiring when they are not in-person.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Comments - Whoops!

For the past two years, I have not received any reader comments on this blog. Although getting any type of feedback as a blogger is helpful, I just figured that no one had anything to say, wanted to leave a comment, or had questions. Quite honestly, I was okay with that and from the page view statistics, I could tell at least that people were reading my blog. 

Cut to last night. While going through my blog settings, I came upon the Comments section, and to my surprise, I found over 125 comments there from the past two years awaiting moderation approval - my moderation, that is! Apparently I had not included a forwarding email address for comment approval so these comments have just been waiting for me who has been clueless that they were even there. Granted about 50 of these comments were from spambots, but oh my gosh, what a treasure these other 75 comments are! 

So to those of you have left comments and never heard back from me - I heartily apologize for this! I cannot thank you enough for the kind words and encouragement which many of you left as comments over these past two years. I feel so validated! Many of you left questions about certain activities, and considering that they are from 1.5 years ago, I hope you figured it out. I was not ignoring you at all - I was not even aware that you had left a comment! Feel free to ask again, and I will address it.

Anyhow, I have changed the comments settings so that although it will still remain as an "awaiting moderator approval" section, I will now receive notifications that there are comments waiting for me. Feel free to leave comments now!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Digital Pictionary Dictionary

Here is another use of a manipulative using Google Slides which I have learned about recently: the Digital Pictionary Dictionary. Pre-Covid, I would have students hand-illustrate 15-20 vocabulary words as an intrapersonal review of words which we had been targeting. Students liked it because it was an easy classroom activity which they could do in-class on their own at their own pace, and I certainly enjoyed the break from teaching on those days. Now that we are teaching in a digital format (even if in-person, I am refraining from using traditional pen/paper methods as much as possible), this activity can easily be adapted to an electronic setting. It does take a bit of preparation on your end.

Creation of Template
  1. Pick twelve vocabulary words which you wish to target or to review. 
  2. Create a manipulative Google Slides template like below (see post here about creating manipulatives). I overlay the "Insert a picture, GIF, bitmoji, or drawing here" and not as part of the background template so that students can delete this. Below is an example of a template which I created based on words which students informed me that they "kind of knew/did not know" from last year

  1. Students are to find digital images of TEN of twelve vocabulary words, whether it be pictures, GIFs, bitmojis, memes, or drawings, and to insert them on the template.
  2. I assign this on Google Classroom so that each student has a copy of the template to manipulate. As a result of using Google Classroom, they can also turn it in electronically.
  1. Although there is some time spent on creating the template on my end, I love the creativity of students in their choice of digital images. While many are just doing a Google image search of vocabulary words and then just cutting/pasting the first image they find, many are actually taking their time to personalize their images. From an instructional technology standpoint, personalization is a very high-level demonstration of critical thinking and creativity! Below are some examples where students created themes of images as a demonstration of personalization:

2.    Allowing students to use digital images such as GIFs, memes, emojis, bitmojis, etc., 
       gives students the opportunity to use tools with which they are familiar and to apply in 
       different ways. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Conducting a Live Movie Talk via Zoom

I am a huge fan of doing Movie Talks, because I feel that they are a great way to preview vocabulary and language structures prior to a targeted reading. As much as students will complain about me stopping the movie clip to narrate it and to ask questions, when we go over the actual reading of the movie clip in various ways, they actually like the fact that they have a visual image in their heads of the passage already and know what to expect. However, in the digital learning classroom environment, the question for me has been "What is the most effective way to conduct a Movie Talk via a Zoom session (or Google Meet, Microsoft Team, etc) with a class of 25-30 students? Is it even possible?"

The answer is both yes and no. Yes, it is possible to conduct a live Movie Talk via Zoom, but in some ways, it is going to be different from how students fully experience it in the physical classroom. There are going to be some aspects which are identical to a classroom usage, but at the same time, there are other aspects which you will have to sacrifice and therefore will have to address in other ways.

The way in which I conducted a Movie Talk via Zoom was through the use of Google Slides. Now this is actually not a new concept at all, because I know of many teachers who have been using Google Slides for Movie Talks for years. When I created the Movie Talk Google Slide, I actually liked the layout very much, because everything which students and I needed was there on the slide itself. The layout of the slide was very basic and only had the list of target words and the video clip itself (directions for inserting videos into Google Slides). Below is my actual Google Slide for the Movie Talk (it is an active Google Slide, so you can push/play pause to see how it works):

I used the screen sharing function so that students could view it on their computer or device. 

  1. Asking questions and having students respond back and forth does not work too well in a Zoom session. I tried doing this, but since students were already muted, it took too much time for students to unmute themselves and to respond. As a result, it ended up being more of a Story Listening experience. I guess you could make it like Dora the Explorer by asking a question, pausing, and then answering it yourself.
  2. Having the target words on the slides is very helpful, and if you set the cursor for "laser," it helps draw attention to which word you're pointing and pausing at.
  3. Because I was not asking questions, I repeated the sentence an overly amount and used different variations of sentences using the target words to get in repetitions. At the same time, sentences need to be simple and short and full of repetitions with pointing and pausing to work in this environment.
  4. Whenever I pointed and paused at a target word using the laser pointer function, I truly had to pause and count to 4 in order to allow for student processing.
  5. In many ways, you are talking into the nethers. I found myself talking extra slowly and self-defining a lot of words as I went along to ensure that students were understanding. 
  6. I had A LOT of screens and tabs open for this (Zoom, Google slides). This made it kind of tricky at times.
  7. if possible, use the chat function for student comprehension check. They can enter in a number of 1-5 letting you know their comprehension level. Make sure it is set only to "Communicate with host." At the same time, depending on how many tabs/windows you have open, it may be too much.
  8. I would set "students cannot unmute themselves" during this, because I had a student who kept sneezing and there was a lot of background noise from students who were unmuted.
  9. This took about 25-30 minutes - maybe too long for a Zoom session, since it was just a listening activity? I told students get comfortable before we did this.
  10. My colleague John Foulk suggested that we use Google Slides for doing Movie Talks when students return face-to-face again. I tried it out by projecting it onto my classroom screen, and I really liked having everything there that I needed on the one slide. 
How is your Movie Talk experience going in a digital environment?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Creating Manipulatives Using Google Slides - Picture Sentence Matching

School has now been back in session for 1.5 weeks (albeit virtually), and my technology goal for this year is to learn Google Classroom. Even though my district uses the Brightspace learning management system (with which I am familiar using it as a grad student so I understand the student perspective), I have been wanting to learn more about Google Classroom, especially since we are currently teaching in a digital environment. Wow - why did I wait so long?!! Although there is a definite learning curve involved, I really like it!

One of the tech tools which I am learning how to implement is using Google Slides to create manipulatives - thanks to my colleague Rachel Ash for introducing me to this! It is a wonderful way for students to interact with material and to manipulate it in a digital environment. Even better, it lines up perfectly with Google Classroom, because I can assign it to every student, who then can work on it and turn it back into me all within Google Classroom. On her blog, Rachel has written about how she has used manipulatives to create a My Favorites and Opinion Board assignments for students (which I too have implemented in classes with great success thanks to Rachel!). 

Just recently, I did a Movie Talk with my classes via Zoom (it was an interesting experience). As a post-reading activity, I created a manipulative for students to interact with the story in a basic way - basic, because I myself am still a novice at this. Using screenshots from the movie talk clip, I created a 5-slide manipulative where from a list of sentences, students had to drag the sentence which best described the picture. 

Rather than write out a list of directions of how to do this (it is kind of complex to write out), let me show you to do it. Once you learn the basics of creating manipulatives on Google Slides, it is not difficult. 

I hope you found this helpful, and I have a ton of ideas now about how to use manipulatives, so I hope to write about them here. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Different Ways to Use Google Forms for Digital Learning

I originally sent this out on Twitter, but I figured I should post it here so that I have a record of it.

Since a majority of us teachers are starting the school year in a somewhat virtual environment, personally I have found it very overwhelming to learn lots of new web app tools. As much as I want to implement them, I also know from experience that it is best to learn 1-2 new tools and then to master them. I also know that I also need to take the web app tools which I do know and to learn new ways to facillitate them.

In the spring, when we abruptly had to change to digital learning, I knew how to use Google Forms, so here are different ways in which I milked Google Forms for all that could I during that time. These were set up as self-grading quizzes. Students could do these up to three times, and I would take the best grade. These forms are based on the Latin novella “Perseus et Rex Malus.” Students would receive their scores immediately upon completion, but I did not provide the correct answers.

A key component: in order to get in repetitions of language, i did 3-4 of these activities for the same passage. Students were able to get in necessary repetitions of language and to interact with the messages in different modalities without it being repetitive.

Some of these examples are better than others, because some of these I just threw together to create something for students to do when I couldn’t think of anything else. However, I do plan on adapting many of these for better usage. I have written up directions for many of these activities on this blog - do a search in the side bar for "technology":

  1. Reading Comprehension/Sight Reading 
  2. Picture/Sentence Matching 
  3. Character Matching 
  4. Support the Statement
  5. Emoji Sentences
  6. Derivative/Cognate Matching
  7. Using Video Clips
  8. Using Audio Clips (I would suggest using Formative for this instead. When you create this using Google Forms, your audio clips are stored in Google Drive, but Google Drive has a daily download limit of media. I found this out the hard way when many students could not access the audio files.

Friday, July 31, 2020

GoFormative - Get a Taste!

I have been playing around with Formative, which is an online assessment tool. When we had to switch abruptly to online teaching, I heavily used self-grading Google Forms for various ways of assessing students (and have written here about those uses). However, now that I have learned about GoFormative and as I am beginning the school year again in a digital environment, I am going to be using this web app tool, as well as Google Forms. 

I will post more about Formative here on this blog, how to use it in conjunction with Google Classroom, and how I plan to use its various functions in a classroom setting, but if you wish to experience it yourself as a student, here is a quiz which I just made as I was playing around with it. The majority of the quiz is Latin, but if you do not know Latin, you can at least see the various ways of assessing students. 

Go to
Code: 6J845M

Formative is not free, but I used the 30-day free trial to create this formative assessment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Integrating Technology: Explaining TPACK Theory

As we educators are faced again with the possibility of teaching 100% online in the fall, we can be better prepared for this undertaking than in March. As I said in my previous blog post, remote teaching requires a completely different set of skills and knowledge than classroom teaching. I have posted here on this blog about the SAMR model which is a good way to envision technology usage and the creation of new meaning in a Bloom's Taxonomy way. Although the SAMR model is understandable, critics argue that it focuses too much on a finished product at the end of a unit and that educators rush up the SAMR model to get to the higher levels, when in fact, like when using Bloom's, it is okay for teachers to focus on lower levels of critical thinking as needed. As this blog post title states, I am going to focus here on TPACK theory. 

Like the SAMR model, TPACK theory is another way to view the application of instructional technology to the classroom. TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge. Formerly known as the PACK theory before Technology was added to the acronym, this theory is a Venn Diagram of three domains: Technology Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge:

  • Technology Knowledge - Do I have a working knowledge of various information and web app technologies? Do I understand instructional technology theory? Do I have an understanding on instructional technology design?
  • Pedagogical Knowledge - Do I understand learning theory? Do I understand how to teach my content area in a developmentally-appropriate manner which is suitable for all learners? Do I understand how to facilitate and to scaffold lessons for the development of higher order thinking in students and for the creation of new meaning? Do I even adhere to a particular learning theory? 
  • Content Knowledge - Do I understand my subject area?  
When these three domains intersect properly, the TPACK is formed. The goal is that sweetspot in the center where all three domains intersect and where educators present subject material through the proper use of technology for the development of critical thinking in preparing students to be 21st century digital citizens.

So often, even without a knowledge of TPACK, we educators attempt to implement all three domains but fall short usually with only two intersections:
  • Pedagogical/Content - Educators know how to present their content with an understanding of learning theory and how students acquire knowledge but continue to implement 20th century tools for its delivery. We need to remember that today's students are 21st century learners who need to be using 21st century learning applications. 
  • Content/Technology - Educators know their subject material and know their technology but do not understand learning theory or how to use technology properly for student learning and the development of higher order thinking. I call this "throwing technology at students" and results in either disconnecting students or just entertaining students without engaging them.
  • Technology/Pedagogical - Educators know how to implement technology to instill critical thinking in students but address subject material in a very limited scope due to a lack of knowledge. This does not occur often.
Do you see yourself in any of the above examples?

Although the TPACK model looks good on paper as a Venn diagram, the major criticism surrounds: What the heck does that center sweetspot even look like in the classroom? At least with the SAMR model, there is a finished product or artifact at the end which illustrates the end goal! While I confess that I too do not "know" what that sweetspot looks like, however, I will continue to implement TPACK as a planning guide. So as I begin to look ahead now to the possibility of teaching 100% online again and begin to create online lessons, I am asking myself these questions IN THIS ORDER:
  • Content Knowledge: What is skill or content do I need to teach? Do I know what I am teaching? As educators, this is probably the easiest of the three knowledge domains for us.
  • Technological Knowledge: What technologies do I want to implement for this lesson? Does my use of technology line up with instructional technology theory? If I were to be teaching 100% online, I would have to address this question before addressing pedagogical knowledge. However, many times, the technology will naturally lend itself to the focus/goal of the lesson, while other times, it may be necessary to seek new ones which will support your goal. 
  • Pedagogical Knowledge: How can I implement Comprehensible Input in this lesson? How can I ensure that I am addressing the learning needs of all students? What are my student learning goals for this lesson? Is my lesson addressing higher order thinking in students? When addressing these questions, in many ways, one must also ask if the use of particular technology can achieve these goals. This is where Technological and Pedagogical Knowledge overlap. 
Examples of TPACK thought process in lesson planning:

In many ways, I hope that I have not oversimplified TPACK theory, but hopefully this theory can help guide you when creating online lessons or even in-person lessons for the classroom. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Looking at Online Learning

Yes, I am back! I had envisioned that I was going to take a long respite from blogging, because I did not feel the need to blog anymore and just wanted to take a break from it all. Looks like I only lasted a month. Now that there is a huge national debate raging about schools re-opening for the fall, and with many school districts giving parents the choice for their children to attend school either in-person or online, suddenly, I want to blog again and to add my voice to this debate, using my Instructional Technology knowledge and degree. I am only speaking for myself in this post and not for the online learning community as a whole. 

One of the main arguments which I am hearing for schools re-opening in person is that both parents and students had a negative experience with online learning when schools closed. And to be honest, what else can I do but to agree and to congratulate them on their remarkable perception, because most likely, they are correct: Parents and students did have a negative experience with online learning. However, the blame should not be on online learning per se, i.e., online learning in and of itself is not bad. Rather we should focus on the fact that most teachers have never received any type of training related to remote learning. As an Instructional Technologist, I will say that teaching online requires a completely different set of skills and knowledge than teaching face-to-face in the classroom. When schools had to abruptly switch to digital learning, most districts were caught off guard. Although many districts had learning management systems (LMS) set in place, teachers never anticipated the necessity to implement them as their primary means of instruction. To be honest, I had only really used my district's LMS for housing CI stories for students to review prior to exams and for the occasional snow day lesson. So when suddenly faced with having to deliver instruction solely in a digital manner, most teachers simply took their face-to-face lesson plans and set them in an online environment, as if a 1:1 complement existed (which it is not at all). This is not to say that teachers were not doing the best they could in the situation - I was definitely thrown off by it all, even with a degree in the field and being a doctoral student in Instructional Technology! In addition, toss in the fact that many districts did not set up clear grading guidelines or student accountability, an uncertainty for how long this digital teaching would occur, and a lack of technology access for students. It is no surprise to me at all that many parents and students do not have a positive view of online learning.

So some terms to define, since many districts are tossing them around, and the terms can be confusing or be misused:
  • Blended-learning - This is a mix of face-to-face and online instruction. The idea is that half of a student's instruction comes from physical in-person classroom time, while the other half is delivered in a digital environment. The flipped classroom is an example of blended-learning curriculum. If you teach in a traditional classroom and have a LMS, this is how on paper a curriculum should be delivered, but most likely, teachers still implement 90% of their instruction face-to-face, with the LMS serving solely as a supplement or storehouse for past class notes or activities. 
  • Online/remote/virtual/digital learning - This refers to a 100% online delivery of instruction. A student's curriculum occurs solely in a digital environment, where "face-to-face" instruction occurs in a variety of ways: screencasts, YouTube instructional videos, Khan Academy, Zoom meetings, Google Meet, Microsoft Team, Blackboard, etc. One of the major benefits of online learning is that it allows for a learning environment no longer bound by physical space or time, i.e., students do not have to adhere to a specific meeting space at a specific time. Within prescribed deadlines, students can learn at their own pace according to their own schedule. As a result, online learning is not meant to have daily assignments but rather a list of prescribed tasks and assignments to be completed by X time.
When schools closed suddenly, immediately teachers had to switch to a 100% online delivery of instruction overnight. The biggest problem with it was that teachers had never been trained properly in how to teach online, and most were struggling to keep their head above water with it all. Many schools (mostly private) required students to continue their daily schedules as before except in an online environment such as Zoom, so these teachers were able to continue face-to-face instruction. On the other hand, since I teach in a public high school which is not 1:1 but rather BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), I did not feel comfortable setting up face-to-face sessions, primarily because I had no guarantee that all of my students even had access to technology or home Wi-Fi. 

As we see COVID-19 numbers spike dramatically in almost 3/4 of the country and as many district are having to consider 100% online learning again, if we wish for our students to learn in the best way which we can offer digitally, then I propose the following:
  • Districts need to provide educators with proper professional development in online learning. Just as there are learning theories for the classroom, learning theories exist for digital environments. Educators must understand how to best to address the learning needs for all students, which includes instructional technology learning theory and instructional design theory. As an online graduate student, I will admit that there have a number of courses which I have taken that have been quite boring. At the same time, there are other courses which I absolutely enjoyed and had an incredibly positive learning experience. In my opinion, the difference was due to the professors and how they had designed the courses. In the same way, provide educators with the correct tools and information for how to design an online environment backed by proper learning theory. 
  • Districts need to provide the necessary technology for all students who need it so that they can take part in online learning. 
  • Districts need to provide take-home hotspots for families who do not have Wi-Fi at home. Pre-COVID, a large number of students relied on school Wi-Fi and other Wi-Fi hotspots in the community to complete their assignments, but during the shelter-in-place ordinance, these students lost their sole access to Wi-Fi. Districts should also consider mobile hotspots on school buses, such as Kajeet SmartBus, and park them throughout the community for students. Once we return face-to-face instruction, then students can continue to use the school bus Wi-Fi during their transportation to and from school.
Let me finish by saying that there is no substitute for face-to-face instruction. During the shelter-in-place, I greatly missed my students and interacting with them. I missed the relationships and getting the opportunity to teach them in person. As language teachers, so much of student learning is dependent on student interaction with the language and with you as its deliverer. However, in this current COVID time, until there is a vaccine, safety of my students and my own self-preservation are my primary concerns. Therefore, if necessary to go 100% digital learning again, we need to be prepared and armed with knowledge which will help our students best learn in an online environment. We need to make the best of this situation and to adapt as we can.