Saturday, September 29, 2018

Time hack for Google forms

I use Google forms every day, and frequently use more than one Google form per day. They're great for doing quick vocab checks, listening comprehension, reading comprehension, dictation, and lots more stuff. I like them because they provide immediate feedback to students, and it gives me a way to monitor their progress without spending hours grading. I only use them for formative assessments, so I'm not recording grades from them, but I do use the forms to assess participation, as a way to make sure that students are doing what they're supposed to be doing during class time.

This will super obvious to many people, but it took me a year to realize that my current method of checking Google forms wasn't sustainable for me in terms of time. I had the forms set to collect email addresses, but then when I went back to check for completion/comprehension, the forms were
listed in order of submission, and there's no way to change that. So it took me a ton of time every week to go through my Google forms because submissions weren't in any coherent order. But there is a very quick work-around.  I started adding two questions to my Google forms this year:

1.  What class are you in? (with a dropdown list of all of my classes)
2.  What is your last name?

Then I can go to the response tab in the Google form, click on the spreadsheet link to make it into a spreadsheet, and then go to "Data" and select "Sort range."  I select the "header row" option, and then tell it to sort by what class students are in, and then I add students' last names as a second criterion for sorting. Et voila! All of my Google forms are now sorted alphabetically by students' last names and class periods, so it just takes a few minutes to go through and check for completion.  (Also this year I have an amazing TA who's checking my Google forms for me, which I am ridiculously excited about!)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Infographics for reading comprehension

One of the struggles with working on reading comprehension with authentic resources for low-proficiency language learners is that a lot of stuff is just too text-heavy to be a really good reading comprehension activity...if you have to gloss most of the words for students to understand it, it's not really helping them learn to read in the target language.

One of my particular challenges this past year has been creating my own curriculum and materials for Spanish 1, Spanish 2, and Spanish 3/4 with 55 minutes of plan time every day. (Hint: This is not possible. I get to school before 6:30 every morning and usually leave after 5, and worked both Saturdays and Sundays most weekends last year.) This meant I had to work very quickly, and couldn't spend a lot of time scaffolding more complex reading assignments, but I still wanted to get students reading at least a little bit in Spanish. Enter the marvelous infographic.

I'm a big fan of pictoline (@pictoline) because I appreciate the artist's sense of humor, but the infographics are also great to use for teaching. They're created for native speakers of the target language, and since they're designed to be interesting, they tend to engage students more than other types of reading assignments. The use of visuals helps students figure out meaning from context, and the limited use of text keeps the reading from being overwhelming. During a food unit last year in Spanish 1, for example, I had students read this infographic about food coma. They were able to deduce that "mal del puerco" (translated literally: "evil of the pig" or "curse of the pig") meant "food coma" without looking it up.

To keep it simple, I put questions in a Google form, and I always have at least one question asking students to guess at the meaning of a word or phrase from context. Students get immediate feedback and can see how much they understood as soon as they submit the form, and I can see pretty quickly how much people understood (though the ability to do a question-by-question view would be really helpful, Google).  I don't take grades for them since we're working on building our reading comprehension skills, but I do check the Google forms to see how much they understood (and to make sure that they were staying on task...I use the form completion as part of my participation grading criteria).