Category Archives: Technology

Fox Steals Phone story

A few things from today: first, we succeeded in videotaping because Lizette Liebold sent me a camera and a microphone. More on that exciting news later.

Next, I keep realizing the power of going slowly. In fact, along the right sidebar, you’ll find Terry Thatcher Waltz’s super seven verbs as recorded by Haiyun, and a Spanish beginning story post by Mike Peto on his sweet sixteen Spanish verbs. Maybe if I can keep myself to focusing on just these verbs in Russian 1, I will be able to do the whole year comprehensibly!

Finally, I am just delighted by the fact that when I googled (in English) the news story I’d found (in Russian) about the phone and the fox, a video came up in a Huffington Post article! I bet you can find it in other languages too, if you like the story.

We’ve been doing the “girl steals dolphin from pet store” story in every class, not yet quite making it to a parallel story and the reading about the fox, but we will get there, and now I have a video. This is all because Laurie and Martina taught me to google the structures and even individual words that we’re doing. Sometimes I come up with songs, other times videos, and often strange and interesting news accounts. Kids always do exactly what I did when I was in a Martina culture demo: I said, “Wow! This song has all the words that we were just using!” Duhhh…I did feel silly, but when my kids say that, I just act surprised by the news and pleased that they noticed.

Another Ppt tweak for storytelling

We’ve been working with the storytelling dictation/writing with pictures again, and I discovered just one more tool.

If you set up pictures with the story, you can make the transitions work so that the last click of the story makes the words disappear, so that the students can be challenged to re-tell the story!!

Take a look at our stories from today (you have to set the presentation in motion, and then just click through our first few slides). As you click, the pictures will appear and then the paragraph will disappear. I can’t wait to try this tomorrow.

Games without tears

Today was the last day before spring break, and I’m not exhausted yet! Usually the day is crazy, but I was ready for student energy today.

I used the MSU Clear site’s Quizbreak  to set up Jeopardy-style games. I’d forgotten that I had Quizbreaks until I was looking for links to the ClassTools site, and discovered my Jeopardy game on Moscow. It didn’t take long to set one up for St. Petersburg, so I did that last night. As I mentioned before, I make the game work for the whole class by giving out whiteboards to any number of teams and individuals. They all get to write until the team that is “on” is done; then everyone has to hold up boards with the answers. I tell them how much they make. The team that is “on” gets double if they’re right, but they have to make their answer a question as they ask it. is also fun: I used the Arcade game maker with lists I already had, and it generated four different games and a flashcard set for each list (try out the link to the geography, even if you don’t know Russian!). I sat a kid at the keyboard and the group shouted instructions. Fruit Machine and Dustbin also look as though they could work well.

What was really fun was having the same questions on both types of games. The kids didn’t necessarily notice that they were getting a double dose of information. And best yet, they have to read!


Lab day/Embedded reading

It was lab day in Russian 1 as well as in the intermediate class yesterday. The beginners had four different tasks on their Edmodo class site.

The first two were to click on links in the “Beginners” column of my class website page, just to explore what they might be able to do there, and report back to me about what they liked and didn’t like.

Then they had to re-read two of our class stories and send me ideas for tweaking the stories. One of the stories was the cat and mice story.

The suggestions were lots of fun: the mice tease the cat, the mom takes too long to see the cat, the mom and the cat go to Taco Bell, it’s a snake instead of a cat, the cat eats the mice, the mice get revenge, and so on.

I wrote about five different, increasingly lengthy, versions of the story, expanding slowly with some new adjectives and verb structures that I wanted them to have while incorporating more and more of their ideas.

Ordinarily, we put some time and different activities between story versions. I did have them read, answer my questions, translate by groups and pairs. I didn’t have them act anything out. That’s for tomorrow: they’ll read and gesture each word possible in groups of three.

Instead of putting days or at least major activities in between the versions, we pretty much read straight through, because once they saw some classmates’ ideas in the text, they wanted to find out whether I used all of their ideas (couldn’t, quite honestly!) and pressured me to keep reading.

Since when does that happen?!

Lab day

I love projects that work. This is one that I’ve mentioned before.

We’re reading Brandon Wants a Dog, which my Russian exchange student is translating from Spanish to Russian. (No, she didn’t speak Spanish before she arrived, but it’s really easy, perfect for low readers. Also, note that we do have permission from Carol Gaab to translate; I’m testing it with my kids.) 

The novel is on google docs. While it’s going to need adaptations before we turn it in to make it lower level, right now it’s  about right for the second-third-year class. That’s ironic, right? Day one of Spanish, year two of Russian. Oh well.

The levels in this group are very different. I assigned each kid a page or two. The lower-level kids got the “easier” pages, and the higher-level kids got the more complicated language, or they got bigger chunks. 

They copy and paste each sentence onto a slide in Google Presentations, then find a picture that illustrates the sentence. It’s amazing how creative they can be! Here’s just one slide from a kid; the sentence means, “Jake’s dog helps his family!” 

I wander around and watch them, helping some, but mostly laughing at their funny interpretations. 

They link their individual pages to one slide that I’ve created to collect them all, so that we’ll be able to read the first few chapters in pictures. I want them to reread, and this will give us all motivation to do so. 

Technology success

We had the lab today. I am happy…

We had read chapter 8 of New Houdini in Russian Intermediate yesterday. I took to heart the kids’ complaint that I had been dragging them through the book. They said that the repetition was making them learn, but that they enjoyed the reading only the first time.

So I had an assignment that I can use only once a quarter, I think…

I told them that they need to practice typing to be getting ready for the AP Russian test (it’s true, but obviously not all will take it).

They had to find and type (in Cyrillic) the ten sentences that told the whole story of the chapter. They called me over if they finished. I corrected any typos with them (they type a в instead of a б; that sort of thing, except for the kids who don’t know that Russian has capital letters to begin sentences…huh??).

Then and only then I would tell them that they could make a PowerPoint slide to illustrate each sentence.

This was much better than telling them that the final project was a PP, because then they all do the bells and whistles first and the writing second. It required them to re-read and find sentences that gave a complete picture, and it required them to write correctly. It might not be the coolest thing, and it looks like a lot of our projects, but it kept them rereading the whole period. I have to look back at our list of ways to get kids to re-read.

Here’s a link to the project that is my favorite of the bunch. If you know New Houdini, chapter 8 (in which Brandon and Jamie get locked out of the car after they’re surprised by the grandmother’s being there), you’ll be able to understand the pictures, even if you don’t know Russian.

iPevo document camera…new world!

I know some of you already have one of these, but I haven’t had one, and I do now. It took five minutes or less to open the disk, install it, and figure out how to work the camera, and I can see that my life is going to change…yee, haw!

It’s amazing to be able to slip a tiny picture that a kid drew under the camera and have it show up on the big screen. And then…I can take a picture of it and save it! We are going to be having even more fun now. I found some wonderful ads that I can show now, and there are pictures in old books, and …

That’s it for now! Our First Friday group is welcoming some Yupik instructors in half an hour, and I have to calm down.

PS If you haven’t been reading Laurie Clarcq lately, DO!! See the link on the right sidebar. You do not want to miss it.

Using tech for reading

Two classes went to the lab and did projects that they posted on web pages. This has worked well before, so it’s a repeat assignment. It’s faster the second time.

This particular project was aimed at having kids re-read vacation stories; they put in pictures to illustrate them. You can see how I set it up for the kids. It mostly went smoothly, except for the kids who don’t read the directions. I showed them a demo to start with, and walked them through the directions, but I think my directions need some work.

The ones on the left are off to a pretty good start. The ones on the right require re-doing. All of it requires technology training…

The best thing is that the kids all read one another’s projects to see how they were presented.

Using the lab for more reading/Movie Talk presentation

I am happy with the results of yesterday’s lab day. I put together multiple activities that encouraged kids to read the Alma story over and over. I set up a vocabulary quiz with the story above, and when they asked about word meanings, I said, “Just re-read the story, and I’m sure you’ll figure it out…but tell me if you still need help.” They would read and then they would smile. “Ohh…”

You may not know Russian, but you can understand the point of the quizzes and activities on this page.

Whenever a kid got an A on a quiz, I recorded that. It didn’t matter how many times they took the quiz.

In this posting, I’d also like to blow the MovieTalk horn a little. I am just home from our monthly TPRS/CI meeting, and I barged in and presented MovieTalk with a little video that I hadn’t actually prepared, because I’d left the one I’d intended to use at school. Luckily, I had used this one once, so I knew what was coming. (I also re-read MT directions for the millionth time.)

I explained that this is a technique ussed primarily for ESL, and that it hasn’t been tested much either in World Language classrooms, or indeed in levels below college. But it is perfect for our students, as very few of them rise above Intermediate Mid, the level to which MT is trying to bring students. I have been practicing with it this semester, and am still trying to work out how much time I can actually use it in a class period or over the course of a week, given that I also want a few of the alphabet skills to develop. I can absolutely say that I credit MovieTalk with the early strength my students show in Russian.

I felt very tentative, strutting my stuff without the usual support of vocabulary on the wall for the teachers, but as the time went by, I became more confident about how well the group was understanding.

The challenging part was the questions afterward. I definitely didn’t know all the answers. Do MovieTalk teachers also use reading? I didn’t think so. Do the students write? If they don’t, how is it that their reading skills improve so much while they’re doing MT? I was able to say that, at least in its “pure form,” MT doesn’t have an assessment piece. Still, when another teacher asked, I was able to give the group a mock T/F quiz, and it sounded as though they’d all have earned A’s.

There were some lights going off for people. One teacher has been trying to figure out how to teach a travel unit, and she said she would use a video. Others were talking about which movies they would use, and how they could show just pieces of them if other parts weren’t appropriate. I was able to share that the guidelilne is about 18 minutes of video in an hour of class. I had my own breakthrough, because I was able to add prediction into the video presentation. One teacher said that she’s been trying to figure out how to do this. She thought that kids would be totally bored by watching just moments of a video, but found herself completely interested in the little cartoon, wanting to know what happened next. She also said that it’s been hard in the past for her to learn Russian through TPRS, with the words on a page on the wall, but when she could see the video, the storyline was clear.

All that interest and feedback made me feel ever more certain that this is the right track. We can still personalize with MT. We may have to figure out how to keep HS kids from zoning, but on the other hand, we can help them have the picture in their minds in a much stronger way by using MovieTalk.

The group also suggested that we know who to invite next to present at the AFLA conference: Ashley Hastings! Since none of us is on the committee, we’re going to have to start making noise. Maybe the best thing would be to ask him first whether he’d be willing to come to Alaska in September or October.

Read Martina’s blog!

Go to Martina’s blog and read about Textivate. You will have no time to come back here and read anything else, and I don’t have time to write, because my available minutes are now going to be spent playing there.