Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Post Covid/Hybrid Student

The following are my observations and by no means represent anyone else's views other than my own.

This past month marked the three-year anniversary of the lockdown. Since then, we as teacher have endured the sudden switch to digital learning during that time, the subsequent year of the hybrid classroom, and then last year's return back to full in-person teaching. I have noticed much about the post-Covid/Hybrid student and how much that student has changed since pre-Covid. Quite honestly, I am absolutely perplexed - here are some observations:

  • Technology has changed the way in which students view assignments and classwork. I am all for using technology in my classroom. I possess a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, so I understand the educational theory behind integrating technology into one's curriculum for the purpose of creating higher order, critical thinking in students. In other words, I am not one to just assign digital work for the sake of assigning digital work. Plus, I never assign homework which students must complete outside of class - I always give students ample time in class to do digital assignments. Also, this past year, my school went 1:1 with Chromebooks as a result of being unprepared for digital learning during the lockdown and hybrid teaching, so all of my students have access to technology. HOWEVER, in my observations, students seem to think that anything technology-related gives them the license not to complete work, to put it off for completion at a later time, or not to participate. If I ask students to fill out a quick online survey, to complete a digital assignment, or to take part in a digital activity, it is such a hassle to get them to complete it. However, if I give students something on paper to complete physically which they must turn in or we do a in-class group activity, then it does not seem to be an issue. I noticed this prior to hybrid teaching even as early as 2017, but it has magnified greatly since our return. 
  • Allowing students to turn in missing work and to retake assessments have shifted expectations. I firmly believe that we need to give students retake opportunities and remediation so that they can demonstrate proficiency and minimal mastery of the material. Once a month, I devote a classroom day to making up/retaking assessments and providing any needed remediation prior to retakes. Students also have until the end of the semester to complete any digital work. But in doing so, have I unexpectedly and unnecessarily created an expectation among students that they do not need to be "present in the moment" when it comes to turning in work and being accountable for knowing material? I will admit that during hybrid teaching, the name of the game was survival, so we teachers were allowing students to turn in late work, half-completed work, anything (!) just so that we could assign these students a grade of some kind and get them to pass the class. Are we as teachers still furthering this model which we created and in a sense are enabling students to further this behavior? Have we conditioned students to expect this? To be honest, there is a limit of how much grace which I can give students on my end.
  • I am seeing a lot more student absences than I did pre-Covid. More importantly, it is not a one-day absence, but more of a weekly "2 days at school, 3 days absent" pattern for certain students. Is it because the expectation now is that since much of student work is digital, students think that they do not need to be present in class any longer? As I stated earlier, I am all about giving students an opportunity to make up work and to retake/resubmit low-scoring assignments and assessments, but it is very difficult to do when students are not present in class.
  • I am definitely seeing an increase in student failures. The no-fail, CI-model which my Latin program had established years ago and had seen much success pre-Covid is no longer operational. Students cannot pass if they are not doing their 50% or are not present in class on a consistent basis. 
  • I have never had to battle cellphone and earbud/AirPod usage in class before like I am now. Daily I begin each class with my cellphone ritual (where in Latin I tell students to put away their phones into their bookbags) - because I do this daily, students know the routine. Plus, I put my phone away too in my bookbag along with them to model this expectation. However, I am amazed at how often I still have to tell students to put away their phones, to remove their earbuds/Airpods, and if they are wearing hoodies, to lower their hoodies so that they cannot hide these listening devices underneath. I am finding that personal devices are distracting students to such a degree that they feel like they cannot be without them at all times.

I write all of this not to complain but rather to ask myself the following questions: Where is it that I need to manage my expectations and to adjust them to have a more realistic outlook about today's students? Last year, in our return back to in-person teaching, I adjusted my expectations of what students should know, moved the goalposts of how much material I would cover, and devoted the year to filling in any knowledge gaps. Do I need to continue? On the other hand, where is that students need to manage their expectations and to realize that the educational model which we had set up during hybrid and last year's rebuilding efforts were temporary and are no longer the norm? 

I do not profess to have any answers here. What are you seeing in the post-Covid/Hybrid student?

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Quick Grid BINGO Review

In my last blog post, I wrote about attending the Voces Digital Online Spring Conference and how I attended many great sessions and learned many new strategies. Here is one which Kara Jacobs demonstrated: Quick Grid BINGO.

This is an activity which can be found on Martina Bex's website, and it is a very easy to facilitate. The video below is Kara's demonstration of the activity in which I participated online, and yes, the Keith whom she is addressing in the demo is me!

I tried Quick Grid BINGO this week as a post-reading review of a chapter of Orpheus et Eurydice. Since I was trying this out for the first time, I focused on making it a review of the text as cloze sentences as well as some comprehension questions. Below is the list of terms which I projected at the beginning:

Below are examples of the questions asked:

  1. Wow - students were really engaged in this! I think that it was because although the ultimate goal was blackout, students could still get "BINGO" along the way (much like Kara demonstrated).
  2. This activity lasted around 30 minutes! I was able to get in a lot of review both in Latin and in English.
  3. In her directions, Martina Bex gives lots of different ways in which this activity can be used. I look forward to using this activity in those ways.
  4. This is a great way to play BINGO beyond just vocabulary, to use it as a review of a text, and to make it a more purposeful communicative activity. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Voces Digital - My Continued Need for Professional Development

Last week, Voces Digital sponsored a free weeklong (3-evening, 1-day) online virtual Comprehensible Input conference. Since I would be part of its CI Summit conference team this summer, I attended to support the company. However, I did not expect to get SO MUCH from attending! There were many great presenters (yes, I still fanboy over so many of them) and presentations - I attended Zoom sessions led by Allynn Lodge, Eric Richards, Paulino Brener, Annabelle Williamson, Bryan Kandel, and Kara Jacobs - I even learned how to make dumplings with Haiyun Lu! I am sure that I will blog about some of what I learned once I try out their strategies!


  • This online conference could not have come at a better time. If you are like me, you hit the February slumps where teaching is just plain HARD! School is burdensome for both teachers and students. This is always the time of the year where I annually question why I am a teacher. However, learning new strategies/activities and being among other CI/ADI teachers were very uplifting and motivating! Plus, with it being virtual, I could attend at home sitting at my kitchen table.
  • I was able to attend as myself. I was not Keith Toda - presenter. I was not Keith Toda - coach. I was simply Keith Toda - attendee and participant. In other words, I had no other responsibilities other than to learn and to be present in the moment with no other distractions.
  • We all need our CI/ADI cups filled and constantly refilled. Although I have been blogging about implementing CI/ADI for almost ten years, have attended numerous conferences, and have delivered numerous presentations on the topic, I am still constantly learning afresh so much about it. I am so grateful that there are people out there from whom I can learn and who motivate me to become a better CI/ADI teacher. I am also reminded that community is SO important - I need to be around other CI/ADI facilitators who "get me" pedagogically and can encourage me.

I challenge you to consider attending a CI/ADI conference this summer (here is a starting list), whether you are a beginner, dabbler/seeker, comfortable implementer, or advanced practitioner. I will be in-person at both the CI Summit and Fluency Matters Conference this summer - I hope to see you there. Get your cup filled along with others!

Friday, March 3, 2023

Social Emotional Learning - Post Hybrid/Covid

Since our return to full in-person instruction in Fall 2021, my district has been big on the term social emotional learning (SEL). If you are unfamiliar with the term, without oversimplifying it (it is big!), one of the components in a nutshell is that when students feel emotionally engaged with a subject, their peers, and their teacher, then they are more emotionally open and apt to learn from you the teacher and from each other - essentially, the building of a community and the creation/management of emotions needed to maintain it. Years ago, I had written a blog post about how I learned about social emotional learning from Betsy Paskvan at NTPRS and how she had used it in a Japanese lesson with us.

In light of students' return to school after a year of hybrid teaching (and for many students, it was roughly 1.5 years since they had actually been physically on campus since March 2020), the push in my district has been social emotional learning. When we began school last August, my district mandated that our first TWELVE days were dedicated to students doing video lessons learning about its importance (by day 2, they were tired of it already! Honestly I felt that these video lessons had the opposite effect for students, because they HATED them) and that we as teachers needed to dedicate time to incorporating SEL in our classrooms due to what students have experienced these past 2-3 years.

Recently in a live Acquisition Boot Camp session, I shared that while I do agree with the idea of social emotional learning in a post-hybrid/covid classroom, for the most part as CI/ADI language teachers, I firmly believe that we have been facilitating this concept with our students FOR YEARS way before that term became a buzzword - we just never called it that. Through Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs), we have been interacting with our students in the target language to learn about their interests and their lives. We have been personalizing our stories to include them by making them the main characters. Through TPRS/Story Asking, we have included students in our story creation process by asking them for suggestions. We have been delivering understandable messages in the target language to our students, implementing the establishment of meaning in L1 through pointing and pausing, associating vocabulary with gestures and signs through TPRS, creating a safety net for students, taking time out for brain breaks, etc. - all for the purpose of lowering students' affective filters. All along, our goal has been to create a classroom community for the purpose of learning.

So the next time your administrators and district leaders start pushing social emotional learning and that you need to attend professional development to learn more about it, tell them that you have been way ahead of the curve on this already!