Teaching Proficiency to Students

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I taught my students proficiency levels today! I know this may seem pretty much common sense to most World Language teachers but this is the first year that I have actually explained the levels and had my students actually discuss samples.

Let me ‘splain! I left the classroom in 2013 and became an Instructional Coach at a middle school. During my time as a coach, I supported every content area but World Languages. Right before I left the classroom, North Carolina was beginning to change their standards to proficiency-based standards. As a result, I never completely made the transition to a primary proficiency-based classroom. I spent a year as a coach before I moved to Georgia. During my first couple of years, I had to reboot myself and become accustomed to a different student population, new standards, and new responsibilities. After two years  in  my new position, I feel now that I am ready to make the jump and transform my instruction even more than I have already done!

I am not saying proficiency was never a priority but it was a priority in a different way and I NEVER explained to the students how they should be setting and reaching goals towards becoming more proficient in Spanish. Because we now have an AP Spanish Language and Culture class and the enrollment in our upper level classes are increasing, I told my department that now is the time to move towards  the way language instruction should be.

SO, how did I teach this to my students?!

Let me preface by saying my plans were not perfect and the process changed throughout the day. However, I feel that I am in a good place and I am confident that my students can self-evaluate and progress towards their goals.

  1. I began with explaining what proficiency was and how we were going to track proficiency throughout the semester. After I gave them the definition, they had to add it to this sheet in their own words. I had some of the students share what they came up with.IMG_0851
  2. Next, we went through the proficiency levels but I only went up to Intermediate High. I let them know that the other levels existed but this was not our focus so I didn’t stress it too much. targets
  3. We completed this activity (this isn’t my activity) in groups so that they could see first hand the descriptions. I just changed “Kentucky State Fair” to “The Olympics” because it was more relevant for my students with the closing ceremony still fresh in their minds.IMG_0842
  4. After they discussed each level in groups, we shared out. As they shared, they had to read the descriptors and the rest of the class had to fill in their chart with the information for each proficiency level. IMG_0853They shared their examples with class and we discussed whether or not we agreed with the example.JPEG image-0DF6F76000B8-1
  5. We proceeded to review samples that I found on ACTFL’s website. After reviewing each sample, we discussed which level the sample demonstrated, why it was that level, and if they were at that level.
  6. After we went through all of the samples, students then had to self-evaluate and determine at which level they would placed themselves based on the descriptors. This was really informal. We will do more formal pre-assessments this Friday when we go to the computer lab (I have all of the can-do statements in an Excel document on which they can check off what they can do and begin building their Digital Portfolios).  They used this Path to Proficiency handout to document where they are currently and glued it into their Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs).IMG_0845
  7. The final step was for them to create a language goal for this semester. I gave them a SMART goal worksheet to help guide them. Some of them have to rewrite their goals because they were not language or proficiency-based.JPEG image-BDD21293465E-1

The entire lesson took 35-40 minutes (time well spent) depending on the questions the students asked. Some of them had really great questions and observations! We did A LOT of discussing and I continuously did comprehension checks to make sure they understood.

The lesson was done in English because we did the same lesson and used the same resources in both our Spanish and French classes. The only difference was the actual samples that we used to demonstrate the levels.

Overall, I think the lesson went well. Even one of my students gave me the thumbs up and said I did a good job (I wish they got that excited when we are actually discussing topics in the target language).

How do you teach proficiency to your students? I am open to suggestions because I have to do this again next semester and am looking for ways to improve.

Thanks for reading!


Back to School Giveaway


Who doesn’t like free stuff? To help you get ready for the new school year, I am hosting a giveaway. I am giveaway 2 prizes. The first prize is a $10 Gift Card for Teachers Pay Teachers to use for any store your heart desires. The second giveaway is $10 worth of product from my store for you AND a friend. Enter below for your chance to win. The more entries you have, the better your chances are to win!!!! GOOD LUCK!

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2015- 2016 Reflections – Part 1


At the end of each year, I always spend time reflecting on the previous year. I use time during the summer, tweaking lesson plans and creating activities. I think about what worked and what didn’t. I ponder my students’ performance and how I will try to motivate them during the upcoming year. So, how was the 2015 – 2016 school year? What will I do differently? What things will I refuse to change?

AP Spanish Language and Culture

This was my first year teaching AP Spanish and I must admit, it didn’t go as planned. I went into the year looking forward to the class but after the first couple of weeks, it went downhill. Partly my fault and partly my students’ fault but I will assume all the blame. I thought I had an idea of how I wanted to run the class but my students didn’t share my enthusiasm. Sadly, I let this affect me and I did not do as well as I could have. To save time, I won’t go into class makeup and such…that’s a whole different post. For now, I will focus on the things I will do differently.

1) I need to implement simulated conversations much earlier in the semester. We did speaking practice but I did not introduce actual simulated conversations until the third week. I began with the listening practice because that was a weakness for them in the lower levels.

2) Because my students are coming to me from Spanish 3 instead of 4 or 5, I need to add much more rigor in Spanish 2 and use AP-type assessments throughout the year.

3) My intentions at the beginning of the year was to administer a sample test from beginning to end. Time flew by and before I knew it, we were already in April and days away from the test date. After speaking with my students, I know I need to find time make this a priority.

Even though my students did not do as well as some people would have liked, I was proud of them. They felt that the practice activities were beneficial and prepared them for the test. I have connected with a couple more AP teachers and we have formed our own little PLN. I know next year will be more productive and more successful.

Grading and Timely Feedback

I regret that I had so much going on that it prevented me from providing more timely feedback. This is one of the most important aspects of teaching and I dropped the ball. To make it easier to grade and provide feedback, I will use much more technology and have students submit more assignments electronically. This has worked well for me in the past but I abandoned this practice when I switched schools. There are several tech tools I will use but Office 365 will be my go-to for most things.

Flipped Classroom

I first flipped my classroom during the 2012 – 2013 school year and it was the best thing ever during that first year. It worked well, my students learned, and I was well organized (for the most part). For the past 2 years, however, I have been met with some tough challenges. The primary issue has been students coping each other’s notes instead of watching the actual videos. As a result, they still don’t fully grasp the concepts and are unable to communicate or complete class activities. If they were unprepared for activities, this totally defeats the purpose of flipping. For the upcoming year, I’m going to be using EDpuzzle. With EDpuzzle, I’m able to embed questions to check for understanding while they are watching the videos. I sometimes have them answer a couple of questions when they get to class but was not consistent. Next year, I will people to determine what they didn’t understand before they get to class and I can adjust my lesson plans as needed. They will be required to complete the videos through EDpuzzle and will receive a grade for their notes and for complete the comprehension checks.

Wow! That was long! If you read to the end, thanks! There will definitely be a part 2 because even after 12 years, I have tons of room for improvement.

Happy Reflecting!


My Five Favorite Tech Tools/Websites


As you may or may not know, I teach Spanish (more on that in a later post) and I LOVE technology. I have decided to share with you some of my favorite tech tools/websites. Keep in mind, this isn’t an exhaustive list of what I use, these are simply the ones that I probably could not live without (ok so maybe that’s an over exaggeration but you get the point). Some of them are totally just for personal use while others I use with my students to keep them engaged or for classroom management. Now that I sit and type this post, I am quickly beginning to see that my list should be much longer than
5…ummm…I guess that means there will be an extended list coming soon. So, in no particular order, are the first 5 that came to mind when I impulsively decided to blog about tech tools.office365-3.pngx

  1. Microsoft OneDrive (well, Office 365) – OneDrive is Microsoft’s Cloud Storage/Online Apps. It’s Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps. The proper name is Office 365 but I call it OneDrive because I log on to my personal account using http://oneDrive.live.com. With Office 365, you not only get cloud storage space but you are also able to edit and create documents such as Word And PowerPoint Online. I am obsessive when it comes to saving files. I will save them in multiple places because there is always a fear of losing said space (online, hard drive, or flash drive) so I save and save and save again. With OneDrive, I have found that I can breathe more easily knowing that once I save it, I will always have it. I love OneDrive so much that I currently have 5 OneDrive accounts (I know a bit excessive, but hey, that’s me). Site: http://www.office365.com51801c6614f09201f200026b-1367350375
  2. Pinterest – So, this one is probably pretty obvious. I mean, who doesn’t like Pinterest?! I use Pinterest for both personal and professional reasons. I tend to post recipes I never use or activities I never have a chance to implement but it is full of great ideas and I always consult the site when I need inspiration and guidance whether I am meal prepping or lesson planning. Site: http://www.pinterest.com/ (Shameless Plug: You can always follow me at http://pinterest.com/teacherlorg for professional or http://www.pinterest.com/klthoma for recipes and crafting ideas)
  3. Remind – So this is one that I actually use with my students. Remind is a texting site/app that allows teachers to send messages to students (or parents) without exchanging personal information. Everything is done on the Remind site or app. What I like about it the most is the ability to download transcripts of all the messages to sent to a class or an individual student. This has saved me during one or two conferences when students have told parents that they were unaware of due dates. When I have a little extra time, I try to schedule out reminders in advance so I don’t have to worry about forgetting. If you are a secondary teacher and are not using Remind, START NOW! Site: http://www.remind.comquizlet_logo_large
  4. Quizlet Live – I had a quizlet account years ago (when it was totally free) and I used it often. After a few years, I stopped using it and it stopped being free. However, a couple of months ago, I wanted my AP students to practice vocabulary independently so I once against turned to Quizlet. I paid for the account and got so much more than I anticipated. Quizlet is a web-based game that allows students to work together in teams as they practice vocabulary. The first time I played with my students you would have thought that I had given them all As just for showing up. They immediately fell in love and because they were learning and practicing in the process, we would play multiple rounds in one sitting. Site: https://quizlet.com/features/liveclass-dojo
  5. Class Dojo – A lot are probably thinking that I’m crazy because Class Dojo is for elementary students and there is no way it could be effective with my high schoolers. Well, you’re wrong! High Schoolers are just big kids so it totally works. I could go on and on about how I use Class Dojo in my class but that is a whole other post (coming soon?). It is great for not only classroom management but for motivation. With Class Dojo, teachers have the ability to award (or deduct) points as need for various behaviors. What’s even better is that teachers are able to customize behaviors and point values. For example, my students LOVE to use the trash can as a goal (often missing and leaving paper on the floor) so one of my negative behaviors is “Using Classroom as a Basketball Court”. Occasionally one or two students will try to toss it if I cam preoccupied with helping a student).Yes, I did include it and it works (For the most part. I really don’t use the negative points as much because I really want to focus on positive behaviors. They receive various rewards based on the number of points they accumulate (think PBIS but classroom level).  My students covet each Dojo Point is worth a million dollars so it’s worth its weight in GOLD!  Site: http://www.classdojo.com


Honorable Mentions (Would have definitely been on the list had it been longer): Quizizz & Kahoot – There will be more on these two tech tools when I discuss formative assessment and technology.

Happy Techin’! (Yes, I probably made up a word…you’re welcome!)


4th of July Giveaway and Sale

I have teamed up with Tidy Teacher and other fabulous TpT sellers from Georgia. To get ready for the upcoming year, head over to my TpT Store Teacher Learner to purchase my Teacher Binder and my Teacher Lesson Plan Book. Grab one or both of these products before the 2016-2017 update. With just one purchase, the products is updated each year and you will never have to pay more, even when the price increases. These products and my entire store is on sale!

In celebration of Independence Day, Tidy Teacher is hosting a giveaway. Click the link below to entire the giveaway with a chance to win $40 credit.




🎉Don’t forget to ENTER the GIVEAWAY 🎉
for your chance to win INCREDIBLE TpT resources
from the Tidy Teacher Store and these other TOP TpT authors for your classroom!
Happy Shopping!

Becoming a Reflective Teacher


As a young teacher starting out, I thought it was normal for teachers to think about ways activities and lessons could be improved. This has to be what they taught in Education courses…right? Having sought the alternate licensing route, I had no idea about what it was to be a reflective teacher and neither did my colleagues with Education degrees.

What began for me as just a means to reach my students, became a very systematic process I gradually went through at the end of each semester, then at the end of each unit, and eventually at the end of each lesson. As I type this blog, so many ideas and changes I want to make for the upcoming school year are already running through my mind!

So what does it mean to be a reflective teacher?

Being a reflective teacher is actually look at data and instructional practices to make the necessary changes. You may think about what went well and what could be improved upon as far as instruction goes. You may ponder what parts caused misunderstandings for the students. You may also need to hone in on why students are misbehaving during a particular lesson.

Happy Reflecting!



How I Used a Classroom Version of PBIS to Manage Classroom Behavior

1796418_263377700506392_1025098475_nA few years ago, I was presented with a set of classes that were somewhat challenging. All of my previous classroom management strategies just did not seem to work with this crew. I wrecked my brain (and the internet) to research other alternatives. As a high school teacher, I never shied away from using elementary strategies for my high school students. After all, they are still children and they should have rewards as well as consequences.

The system I decided on had to serve two different purposes: award individual students AND manage groups (my students were seated in groups most of the time). I wanted to teach the students the importance of collaboration and teamwork.

I got to work and created a behavior chart. Each of my groups had a number and they were placed on the behavior chart in the middle at the beginning of each day. This is very similar to the way elementary teachers monitor behavior for their students. Because I taught 90+ students instead of 30+, I had to make adjustments. The groups moved up and down the behavior chart as I saw fit during the period. I NEVER moved the cards; I always had a member of the group move the card. Wherever groups ended that day determined what reward or consequence the group received. I made sure to exhaust all of my options in the classroom before contacting administration (I never had to contact administration).  Students moved up and down as many times as needed. Because I wanted to really focus on the positive behavior (PBIS), I rarely moved the students past neutral. My intention was to REWARD much more than issuing consequences.

The next step was to set up a reward system for individual students. As a class, we brainstormed types of rewards that the students would like to “purchase” from the class store. Don’t be alarmed!!! Most of the rewards we chose did not require me to spend a lot of money! After compiling the list, I assigned values depending on the type of reward. Students earned “pesos” when I wanted to reinforce a particular behavior. When we had visitors to the class, they even had the opportunity to pass out “pesos” if they saw behaviors with which they were impressed.

I must say that this worked very well for my students! The groups began holding other members accountable and the students as a whole went the extra mile to make sure they were on their best behavior and to help one another. You would be amazed what high school students would do for a stick of glue! I don’t necessarily recommend this system for all classes and many educators are firmly against behavior charts. However, in that moment, I needed to do what was necessary to ensure that learning was always taking place in my class.

New Site Transfer

Hi all! I am in the process of fixing the issues with my site. Please be patient as I try to upload all of the images and files that were contained in the posts. I hope to have it all resolved over the next few weeks! There will be some dead links until all information has been transferred over to the new serve. Thanks!

Implementing Interactive Student Notebooks Part 2: Adhesives


Now that you have decided on what you are going to as your ISN, it’s time to decide how you are going to adhere the handouts, foldables, etc. As with the notebooks, your choice of adhesives will depend on what works best for you and your students.


Glue Sticks: Although this is my top choice for adhesive, it is not always the best choice. Why? The glue does not always stick as firmly as needed. If you choose to use glue sticks, I recommend Elmer’s glue (the purple one). I have found that this sticks better than all of the other brands that I have tried.

Liquid Glue: As far as securing documents in your notebook, this is probably the most practical choice. The glue sticks well after it dries and I have not had issues with papers falling out later in the semester. The problem with liquid glue is just that, it is liquid and it makes a mess. Even at the high school level, students have to be taught how to use glue. Most teachers teacher the 5 dot-rule (if that’s a real thing), students place a dot in each corner and in the middle. With double-sided pages or if gluing in multiple pages, I tell my students to fold back one side and place a thin line of glue down that side.

Transparent Tape: I neither like nor dislike using transparent tape. I have found this to be an expensive choice if I can’t buy the tape in bulk.

Staples: I tell my students not to use staples…I hate them. Why? Because when I am not paying attention, my hand or finger sweeps across a staple and the next thing I know I’m bleeding! I also think that the notebooks don’t look as neat with staples because unlike me, my students don’t take the time to make sure pages are lined up before stapling them together.

Double-sided Adhesive (what Scrapbookers and Crafters use): If you or your students can invest in cheap double-sided adhesive, this is a great choice. Often times its repositionable and you can easily remove the adhesive off of the sheets if needed.

Washi Tape: Washi tape is like a decorative masking tape that crafters use. I LOVE washi tape because it can add a decorative (not really more functional) aspect to your pages. A lot of my female students like to use washi tape to make their pages “pretty”. This option is not really economical but I allow students who purchase their own to use it.

I hope that sheds a little light on adhesive. Let me know if there is something you can add to help out teachers trying to make that decision.

Happy Notebooking!



Implementing Interactive Student Notebooks Part 1: Introduction & Choosing a Medium

I first began researching Interactive Sudent Notebooks during the summer of 2008. I was about to enter my fifth year of teaching and I was frustrated with the lack of organization skills and the apathy that my students had towards turning in notebooks. I would only have half the class turn in the notebook. And of those half, only half of them had all of the materials that were important to the class and the majority of it was not in order so they couldn’t not readily find what they needed. In other words, the notebooks no longer served their purpose: to aid the students in learning and retaining the information. As always, I took to the Internet to search for alternatives and stumbled across teachtci.com and was introduced to Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs) for the first time. What I found was not just a way for students to organize the information…but a way for them to interact with the information to guide them to understanding the content. We were already utilizing many of the activities that were used as “left side activities” so it seem like an inevitable match. Even after seven years, I am still learning how to make ISNs work best for my students and for me!

Over the next few weeks, I will try to give you as much information as I can to help you to successfully implement ISNs. There will be several parts because I want to keep the posts informative but also as short as possible. If I don’t answer your questions at the end of the series, don’t hesitate to email me!

So what are ISNs? When I first tell people about INTERACTIVE Student Notebooks, they immediately think that it has to deal with technology! Simply put, it is a way for students to take the information that the teacher gives (input) and complete some type of hands on activity (such as a foldable, graphic organizer, drawing, etc.) that demonstrates (or improves) their understanding of a concept (usually utilizing higher order thinking skills and/or incorporating multiple intelligences). The ISN essentially becomes an portfolio of student learning. We will get into more detail about left vs. right and setup in a different post…so don’t worry about that part just yet

Like choosing a vehicle in which to travel back and forth, choosing a medium for your ISN is all left up to functionality, need, and personal preference.

Spiral Notebooks: This is my personal preference for high schoolers. I stress to my students to make sure that their notebook measures 8.5X11 because it makes adding in handouts easier. With anything else, they will have to do extra cutting or they will have pages hanging from the notebook. I suggest Five Star College-Ruled Notebook (I use 3- or 5-subject). This notebook is the right size and the cover is sturdy enough to last after being thrown in a locker a few times. CON: If the student is too rough, the pages will tear…especially if they use heavy weight construction paper for their activities.

Composition Notebooks: After using composition notebooks for one semester, this is probably my least favorite. However, when I train elementary teachers, I usually suggest composition notebooks. The size is PERFECT for younger students and there are not usually as many handouts at that level or endless pages of notes to add. The notebooks do not tear as easily and will probably last the entire semester or year. Finally, the cost of a composition notebook is not just appealing to teachers but also to parents. CON: The size!!!! If you have handouts, you will have to resize the pages to make them fit and there are ways to do this by using your settings on your computer or just reducing the size when you make copies. However, I like to print as is, glue/tape, and keep it moving.

Binders: Many people prefer binders. The greatest (and worst) thing about binders is that you can add and take away paper as needed. I have stayed away from this option for the most part (except that one semester I tried with my Spanish 3/4 class). With binders, you can still have your sections and only choose to use a certain section as your “interactive” part. With my class, I only had them do left side activities in their grammar section (not the best idea but hey, at least I tried). CON: The chance that students will not have the information in order is pretty high. Additionally, the pages rip from the rings easily if they are not reinforced when you start gluing or taping stuff in (if you choose to do that).

3-Prong Folders: I have done a couple of trainings during which we set up a mock ISN in a folder and this option could be very useful. If you choose to do individual units, this would be perfect! I imagine that the students will store their folders in the classroom at the end of each unit to use as reference. CON: Due to the nature of the folders, you will not be able to add a ton of content because you will not be able to expand but so much.

So there you have it, a brief introduction and some information about what your options are for housing your ISNs. Use this information to decide which choose you will use because by the end of this series, we will set up our very own ISN. During the next part, we will look at the different adhesive options!

Happy Notebooking!