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!


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!


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.

To Flip or Not To Flip?

After a year as a Curriculum Coach, I have decided to return to the classroom. I miss the students. I miss the feeling of accomplishment. I miss creating lesson plans and developing activities. I just miss teaching! The thing is, however, I am not only returning to the classroom in a new district but a new state!!! Because of this, I am not totally sure if I will flip my classroom next year.

I first flipped my classroom during the 2012-2013 classroom and there were several benefits as well as several things I was looking forward to changing before I took my current position. My biggest concern is that I am not familiar with the school and am unsure as to what means of technology or buy-in I will have. I also don’t know if all teachers in the department are required to follow the same (exact) lesson plan. I am concerned that the parents and administration may not be opened to this methodology.

I have visited a school in the district in which the principal is trying to provide his entire staff with professional development on flipped classroom (would be an easier decision if I was at the school); so, I know that the district staff would be on board. However, I have to make sure that I am following the expectations of my immediate supervisor.

So…here I am contemplating…thinking…pondering…debating…do I flip my classroom next year? Maybe I will just take a year to get my feet wet and then proceed to go out on a limb…decisions, decisions. I guess I could just spend the first semester with a traditional classroom (easing in aspects of the flipped classroom) and flip during the second semester (new classes, new students, new beginning). Hopefully I can decide soon because I have lessons to plan…

Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind

I recently attended a professional development session with Eric Jensen, the author of Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind and other books about brain-based learning and teaching. Although I had skimmed the book Teaching with Poverty in Mind, I was prepared for a long day! When I walked in and saw the tables filled, I immediately sent my husband a text saying that I did not know if I was staying after lunch. I was already and exhausted…I preferred to stay in bed and allow my body time to heal. During the first five minutes of the presentation, my mind was changed completely. I immediately got a cup of coffee and water when I got the first chance and prepared to stay for the long haul. And boy am I glad I did!

Not only was the information that Mr. Jensen presented was relevant for my current setting, it also made me think of my personal experience growing up in poverty. I sat there and thought “Now I  understand why I was so angry”, and “Man, am I glad I had great teachers”.  While I know my teachers contributed to my success, the presentation made it even more evident that I was very fortunate to have teachers that taught the students in the class instead of their circumstances.

Mr. Jensen’s extensive research is centered around how the brain learns and students in poverty. He presented several success stories from the schools he researched for his books. He also shared strategies to overcome many of the obstacles that teachers face with students in high poverty schools. If you haven’t had a chance to see him speak, you are missing out! I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and pondered on whether or not I should return to the classroom.

I will post more details about the workshop at a later date. To learn more about Eric Jensen, visit http://www.jensenlearning.com.

Flipping the Classroom & FAQ

flipped-classroom1When I tell people that I am implementing the flipped classroom model, the first thing most of them want to know is how much prep time is involved. Initially, there is A LOT of prep time involved. You have to create and/or search for videos for the content you want to present to the students. This is more difficult when you are trying to flip more than one class at the same time. The number of units/concepts you have will dictate how many videos you have to create from the onset. You also have to determine what other activities you want to integrate. If you are using PBL (Project Based Learning) in conjunction with the flipped model, you have to establish guidelines and create rubrics while creating your videos. For many, this process is extremely overwhelming.

My suggestion, for teachers who teach more than one subject area, is to try flipping just one unit and see how it works. Really take the time to reflect after the unit so that all subsequent units are more effective. My downfall has been flipping four classes at the same time and having these classes during the same class period! I had to have 4 units prepared at the same time for each class! This became overwhelming and my upper level classes were not as prepared or engaging as my level 1 class. As a result, flipping has not been as effective for those classes. For Spanish 2-4, it was almost counterproductive! Needless to say, my summer will be spent reflecting, re-organizing, and creating…not much different from my previous summers!

Finally, do not feel intimidated by the flipped model. There are many videos available that can be used if you are not comfortable with the video-making process. Most importantly, use activities and projects that you already integrate instead of re-inventing the wheel. This cuts down on time you will need to create supplemental assignments.

If you have any additional questions, please email me at ktlorenzo@aplausos.us.



The Home Stretch

I am nearing the end of my my first year flipping and I am contemplating on changes I want to make during the upcoming year. I know the first thing I will do this summer will be to record my lessons with me in the video (following the FIZZ model from NC State). I currently use voice-over PowerPoint presentations that I have used for years. This has worked for the most part. However, I want to include more examples to give the students more opportunities to hear pronunciations since I am no longer giving direct instruction.

Another change I anticipate is the organization of the unit activities. I am not completely sure how I want to do this…I don’t even have any ideas on how I want to present the activities. I do know that there were parts that were not as effective as I would have liked for them to be. I will closely look at this aspect as well as restructuring the pacing/curriculum guide.

Each semester presents a new learning opportunity for me and I will continue to capitalize throughout the year. Nothing is ever etched in stone!!! I am a firm believer that if it isn’t working, I need re-evaluate and change what needs to be changed. Hopefully, next year will be more productive and students will be more engaged.


So, I have been thinking a little bit about my vodcasts. Right now, they are either PowerPoints or Standard Deviant videos. I want to change the format and follow the FIZZ lecture board concept. Basically, the teacher will actually be in the videos using prepared lecture boards with content. I have to go find someone to cut the boards to the right size. I will probably beginning recording Spanish 2 videos because that level needs the most attention next year. Most of my upcoming Spanish 2 students are already familiar with the flipped concept so I need to continue to build that foundation. Below is an example of one of my current videos:

Any thoughts?

First Grading Period (2nd Semester)

So, the students are still having a hard time stayinng focus. I am implemented a revised version of PBIS to hopefully motivate the students to move at a steady pace. So far, the majority of Spanish I is about where they should be. However, Spanish II-IV is still lagging behind. I will need to focus on these upper levels over the summer (I may get a head start during Spring break). The good thing is that Spanish I will have a solid foundation when they move to the next level.

I have implemented a couple of different interactive activities. We have also played a couple of games in Spanish I, which we didn’t get a chance to do last semester. I still have a few ideas that I am hoping to try before the end of the semester. Time to pull out some resource books…