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Website Review #1

Mis Clases Locas, reviewed by Maris Hawkins

Allison Wienhold is the blogger extraordinaire behind the comprehensible input blog Mis Clases Locas.  She teaches in Iowa, has dropped her textbook and is a department of one- which means she does it all! Even though she teaches Spanish in high school, she teaches all levels (1-4), so her blog is applicable to both middle and high school teachers.  She even has had her high school students teach elementary classes, so she has blogged about lessons for younger students as well.  (And fear not French teachers, she has even started making some resources in French as well!)  

One reason I always rush to read Allison’s posts when I see them on Bloglovin’ is because I always learn something new from her lessons.  For example, I use novels in class over a month time period, so I was fascinated to read about how she taught a book in one week recently.  Allison also creates great lists around holidays on how to incorporate them into your own classroom.  In a recent post about Thanksgiving, she included some of her own resources and bulletin boards with resources from other blogs and authentic resources to use in class.  I also really appreciate her honesty in her writing. Recently, she discussed her own challenges in self-care which I know we all can relate to on some level.

In addition any time I start a new novel in class, Allison’s blog is where I go first for ideas.  First, she has written many book reviews for a variety of Spanish novels.  Some of the books I hadn’t heard of before reading her blog, and I always want to buy more books after reading her reviews!  I consulted these reviews when I was also trying to decide which books to incorporate into my own curriculum. She has also written blog posts with introductory information on a wide range of topics such as how to start a novel to how to assess a novel.  These are perfect if you are just starting to use books in your curriculum, but they also give teachers new ideas about how to change up their novel routine if you have been using novels for years.  In addition, she has written about specific resources that she uses for up to sixteen books!  In many of these posts, she details cultural units to include, projects and ideas for specific chapters.

Allison has also started a sensation around the country called baile viernes.  She finds the choreography video such as Just Dance or a Zumba video to play as a fun way to start the class on Friday.  On her YouTube playlist, she has over 100 songs to use for this activity.  If you haven’t tried it (or read Allison’s amazing blog!) give it a spin!

About me:

Maris Hawkins is an upper school Spanish teacher in Potomac, Maryland.  She blogs at marishawkins.wordpress.com and has become involved as a contributor to the podcast We Teach Languages.  She loves conferences and has presented at NECTFL, GWATFL and Comprehensible Online.  Her resources are also available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Podcast Review #1

The Language Latte, reviewed by Jeff Pageau

The Language Latte is hosted by Becky Morales, a passionate ESL and Spanish instructor. What I enjoyed most about her podcast was that it has a broad appeal to all language teachers. Her podcast is about to celebrate its one year anniversary in February. During her inaugural year, she has engaged her listeners in a variety of relevant issues impacting language teachers. Topics in her podcast library include student retention in language programs, new teacher support, and comprehensible input to name but a few. The podcast is recorded twice a month and each episode features a guest speaker for an inciteful, academic interview. This podcast is an absolute must for all language teachers. Each episode runs approximately 30 minutes, make it accessible to a teacher’s busy schedule. I would go even further to say that I received more valuable PD in the 2 hours I explored her podcast than I have by PD offered by my district (which had nothing to do with language education).

The Language Latte is supported by a social media presence and website. All links and resources referenced in the podcast are housed on the website (kidworldcitizen.org). She also manages a Facebook page (Language Latte: Chatting About Teaching World Languages) where group members can share ideas, articles, and simply engage with other language professionals.

I recently listened to her October 3, 2018 podcast, Retaining Students in Our Language Programs. In this episode, she shares her common sense thoughts about retaining students through advanced level classes. She began the podcast by sharing data to support the needs of language programs in our schools. In the USA, more than 50% of Americans have a weekly interaction with individuals who’s first language is not English. Yet, only 9.3% of Americans are proficient in a second language! In this podcast, she advocates for the need of second language programs in our schools. What language teacher wouldn’t agree? Strategies language teachers should implement to support enrollment growth include implementing CI strategies and motivating students by making the course relevant and accessible. Direct grammar-translation methods will disengage students faster than anything. Furthermore, students need an internal motivation to function in the language. She correctly argues that in an ESL setting, this happens more naturally. However, in L2 classrooms, we need to show students that proficiency is obtainable and once they do, they will likely continue in the language. In short, language teachers are in complete control of the success of their language programs. I found this particular podcast very validating because her thoughts were very much in line with my own.

Grab a cup of coffee and tune in to Language Latte. You’ll be glad you did.

Jeff Pageau is a high school French teacher in North Carolina. His podcast, The Collaboration Café, with Carolina Hocutt is available now!