Review at the Beginning of the Year?

Teachers and students are excited and afraid at the approach of a new school year, especially with a new level and new teacher for language instruction. What if I can’t reach them? What if I don’t remember everything from last year?

Just as we have turned our lessons upside down with backward design, authentic resources, infographics and reading as a starting point, we need to turn the idea of review upside down.
-Greetings, age and activities: 1st conversation (level varies quantity and quality)
Picture story [text + illustrated words]: Pick out cognates, ask simple questions
-Picture of current events [Tour de France, World Cup, Vacations]
Song […]

These are samples for day 1 or week 1. So the students won’t remember everything and might be nervous – especially if they prefer the concrete review that a ‘packet’ or ‘chapter’ might imply.

But here’s the trick: ASK them what they remembered and need help remembering.

Don’t plan a review that might not be needed or might put them (and you) to sleep.


What defines a teacher in 2014?

So, what a loaded question! Among the social and political turmoil, teachers appear damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Are you a test giver, a test criticizer, a challenger of students, a compassionate caregiver, a voice for the quiet, a healthcare advisor, a coach, a snack giver, a listener, an imparter of discipline, a scheduler, a multi-tasker, a clothes provider, a furnisher of school supplies, an academic counselor, a recommendation writer, a job creator, a community member, a technology specialist, a writer, a planner, a musician, an athlete, an artist, a portfolio creator, an evaluator of data, a reader, a professional, an expert in the field, a life-long learner, a drinker of coffee or tea, tired, energized, intelligent, certified, diligent, multilingual, prepared? Yes! How many more nouns, verbs and adjectives come to mind? And what does it matter if no one appreciates educators anyway?!

It matters because there is a lot of misinformation circulating about our schools: about educators, leaders and students. We are bad; we are devoid of morality; we are lazy; we earn too much money; we are never fired for poor performance; we have all kinds of vacation; we don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance; we give too many bad grades; we give too many good grades; we don’t ever do our work; we are always disrespectful; our parents are always antagonistic.

So if the emerging question is-what is a teacher, really? If it is all or most of the first paragraph, isn’t that a great list and can’t we just do our jobs? How many times do folks say, “If I could only just teach?!” So we don’t and we can’t but how do we show what we do, what we’re proud of and what we’d like to do to transform schools? Is money the answer? Yes, and no. Research shows that money is not the end all; however, textbooks or computers, safe buildings and salaries are necessary and so as we are suffering multiple years with budget cuts and no raises, money would help, but what else is needed? Targeted goals are great but test scores are not proper educational goals and have no impact on educational readiness in the first place. If reading matters, we must all read. Teaching parents to read with their children, having library activities, staffing reading specialists that have time to talk with classroom teachers, parents and students is key. Fostering a combination of reading for pleasure and for information is vital. Do we want students to be ready for a global economy? Then we need teams-of language, history, math, science and elective teachers who don’t feel like they have to compete for students and jobs. This requires insight-not top down, latest fad, write a grant and then use the money for other purposes kind of insight. No, just ask a teacher. Just ask some students. This is such a simplistic response, yet it can be so profound. Look how a student responded when he was asked to look at community maps and data ( from around the U.S. and create a community public service announcement.
Watch how the same student responded when he was asked to speak at graduation. This is only one of many intelligent, creative students we’ve worked with in just one school year; this is not an isolated case of achievement. Think how his teachers must have inspired him and others and how we should take time to talk.

If people at the federal, state and community level would really listen to teachers and students (i.e. listen, then honestly discuss and implement some of the proposals-regarding budget, school climate and academic structure) after posing certain questions:
How can we improve this school?
How can we improve the profession?
How can we improve our community?,
I believe we would be astounded at the real changes that could occur. We would not be perfect, but we would be better. It’s starting (CTQ and but we must consistently and loudly raise our voices above the din, and when the extraneous noise threatens to overwhelm and destroy a spirit, we must think of the good we know and push for these new teacher and student-centered models. And then we will have to come back and continue to tell our stories: loud and clear so that the world would know what schools, educators and students are really all about. And yes, this takes time, so give teachers time -for their students, their schools and their communities -not just for their tests.

Reflections from EdmodoCon

35 million Edmodo users worldwide!

Snapshot feature for formative assessment; adding Va SOLs soon. Questions preprepared and then next group of Q comes up based on students prior performance.

Get Edmodo App for Android and new app for Iphone Includes creating, viewing polls in very near future

Edmodo avatars

Will continue to be free for teachers, students, districts but can upgrade to premium for snapshot, see reference above

Edmodo apps in apps store

Edmodo connect directly links to apps so yet another password is not required

Testpolicy or Classpolicy from Microsoft to lock down computers to keep from opening other browsers

@nathangarvin middle school teacher in Texas

top 3 apps from him: Edmodo googledrive

writing/reading revising editing

Garvin Cup-lasts 4-6 weeks teams of 5 w/ name 3-4 competitions w/leader board-all teams get pts. 2-12 per content evaluations ; last year Writing Olympics; did whole 7th grade 73 teams; did medals (5 rather than 3) ; kept counts on google doc; and then ninja board for individual competition during diff 9 weeks; move up chart w/ achievements, can use badges from Edmodo as well; to move up as they revise

Prompt: do on google doc ; some class time ea. week; make list of common mistakes on a google doc; see most recent version; schedule live google doc appointments via google calendar; use badges labeled by skill [intro, thesis, support, grammar, punctuation, conclusion] Can be earned in any order; can be taken away

Me: Brainstorm language badges: communication of idea, accurate vocabulary, sva, rich description, accurate aa
Just added and planning to use in coming year.
Use local pics to add intro questions to begin lesson. Remember during exchange visits and Local Colors. Voicethread w local pics as well.

Add ‘famous students’ to your class for students to communicate w/. I.e. Marie Curie

Students find one image that represents topic of study; post and and explain link.

Language teachers might like to know about a community on G+ that coordinate Language hangouts,, your class can get your language hangout posted and you can talk with Native Speakers & Classrooms around the World

@PowToon Cartoon App No Red Ink… 2 to check out Watch for prompts for writing or discussion or creative response, but be sure to preview

Educreations (for iPad) and SKitch evernote/skitch for drawing annotating w/ arrows and then students speak story. Used 3rd grade to teach younger grade levels