Thursday, November 27, 2014

Highlights from ACTFL 2014 / Social Reading

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Another great benefit of attending ACTFL was the exposure to a number of different teaching tools that I was previously unaware of. Before going any further, I think it's important to admit that as far as using technology in the classroom is concerned I am woefully behind. I began teaching with CI/TPRS two years ago and I have, since that time, have concentrated almost solely on the effective delivery of comprehensible input. However, I do understand the importance (and value) of taking advantage of the tools that technology has to offer and sought out sessions in San Antonio that would shed some light on some of the more effective apps/websites out there. The first really mind blowing (again, I'm new to this tech stuff) strategy/tool I learned about was social reading. Basically, the idea behind all social reading applications is that you provide a space for students to read, annotate, and comment on a text together thereby helping one another to decipher meaning and understanding. These tools are an obvious asset in the English Language Arts classroom but, I would argue they're even more valuable in the Foreign Language Classroom, especially when students are exposed to authentic texts. There are a number of social reading applications out there for you to explore in order to find which works best for you and your students. Some allow you to upload your own text and others require you to choose from a selection. Below are some of the social reading apps discussed at ACTFL (if anyone knows of any others, I'd love to hear about them):

(I've also included this June 2014 article on the best apps for classroom use. Many of which I'm unfamiliar with but hope to blog about my successes with them later!)

All of the presenters at the session on social reading I attended were World Language faculty members at a universities around the country and because they are in higher education not all of their ideas seemed to me to be readily adaptable to the middle school level. However, one of the panelists, Joshua Thoms from the University of Utah, described a project he and his students completed using classroom salon that I thought would be really fun to try with my own students.

(1) The activity is a group project and so the first step is to assign groups of four.
(2) Each group was assigned a different text and had to read the text using the Classroom Salon app. They were also instructed to annotate the selection and to comment on each other's work. (This step requires getting author's permission to use their text on Classroom Salon.)
(3) Groups then had to generate 10-15 different interview questions for the author of each text.
(4) Finally, the groups conducted Skype interviews with the author in the target language and those interviews were later played for the entire class.

I remember reading a blog post long ago about Cynthia Hitz doing a skype interview with her students and Mira Canion and thinking then how cool that would be to do with my own kids. We will be reading "Hija del sastre" by TPRS publishing later this year and I'm planning on bringing in some authentic texts about the Spanish Civil War and having students do the activity described above.

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