NYSAFLT Summer Institute 2013

Richard, a friend from last year's SI, me, and Sarah, a new friend

What better way to spend 4 days in August than at a conference meeting new people, catching up with familiar faces, and gathering scores of new resources to use in your classroom?  Last year I was fortunate enough to receive the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers (NYSAFLT) Summer Institute Scholarship, and so I attended the Summer Institute in Oneonta, NY, for the first time.  I loved it so much I decided to return again this year.

SI is so different from other conferences I have attended.  It's sometimes referred to as "Summer Camp for LOTE Teachers," and the name fits.  At most conferences, there are so many attendees, it's easy to get lost in the mix.  What's nice about SI is that there is a better opportunity to build relationships with other attendees, because you see them so much throughout the week.  It's also very hands-on.  Not only do you walk away with 30 PD hours (and 30 hours worth of ideas and resources), but even at meals there are rich discussions going on at every table.  Maybe we should get credit for those too? ;)  I love the immersion reception on the last night.  It was a great time to speak French with fellow colleagues and also keep up with my Spanish, which I don't have as many opportunities to speak.

Having the conference at the beginning of August helps set the tone for getting ready for the year ahead.  It's time to refresh my lessons from last year, prepare materials for September, and start thinking about what else is left to do.

If you are a member of NYSAFLT (or live in New York and are thinking of becoming one), I can't recommend this conference enough.  If you have an opportunity to attend a similar type of conference where you live, I'm sure you'll find it rewarding as well.

An overview of the workshops:

Marie Campanaro presented on Differentiation in the LOTE Classroom.  She walked us through how to plan a lesson so it meets the needs of all the learners in the classroom and shared best practices on how to give students choice in assignments.  It served as a good reminder that we have to remember that our class is not one person with a so-called "average" ability, learning style and needs, but rather 20-some individuals that each have varying abilities, learning styles, and needs.

Laurie Clarcq presented a two-part workshop on literacy in the LOTE classroom, with a focus on Embedded Reading, a strategy she developed to help her students become better readers.  Embedded reading is a form of scaffolding a difficult text to make it seem simpler to students.  The teacher takes a text, and creates a simpler version, a more complex version, and a final version, each with the text before it embedded in it.  Instead of digesting the whole text at once, students get the simplest part first, which they can use to help them understand the more complex ones.  I'm really excited to try it out this year with my students.  Visit Laurie's site, EmbeddedReading.com, for more information.

Carmen Campos presented on web 2.0 tools.  I am already so excited to use many of the tools she introduced, such as Rhino Spike, a site where you can have a native speaker record a passage for you, Sparkol, a site where you can make cool videos that look professional, and Blubbr, where you can make a quiz game out of a YouTube video.  Carmen also has a fantastic Pinterest you should go and follow right now!

Valérie Greer and Wendy Mercado presented on group and partner games and activities in the LOTE classroom.  They had some pretty neat ideas for reviewing both grammar and vocabulary, and we even got to play them in groups.  I was having a blast, so I know my students will too when I use these this year.  Visit their WikiSpace to see some of their resources.

Mary Holmes presented on Comprehensible Input.  I have seen Mary present before, and she never fails to engage.  She used Chinese in her lesson to put us in the same position our students (since most of us didn't speak Chinese).  I was amazed at how many Chinese words I had acquired by the end of her presentation.

Joshua Cabral presented on interpersonal communication.  Not only was Joshua a dynamic presenter, but he did a great job of showing us how we can make partner and group activities more spontaneous and less memorized.  He has a fantastic blog you can visit with many resources!

Beth Slocum presented on poetry.  She encouraged us to move beyond our comfort zone and explore this genre that many teachers avoid.  We explored poems in several languages and partook in activities that we could use in our own classroom to engage students in poetry.

Toni Johnson presented on creativity.  She shared current research on creativity, encouraged us to think outside the box, and showed us ways we can allow our students to be creative in the classroom.  She showed some impressive videos produced by her upper level students, one of a students playing every character in an episode of Astérix, and another of partakers in the French Revolution being interviewed by journalists.

Christy Frembes Boise presented on kinesthetic oral activities.  During much of the presentation participants were able to get out of their seats, have fun, laugh, all while never breaking out of the target language.  Many of the activities were based on theatrical techniques used by actors.

Lisa Dunn presented on how she uses iPads in the classroom.  Even though I don't have iPads in my classroom, I thought about how I could adapt some of the activities she presented to be low-tech.  I loved her idea of making a listening activity by using a colleague's voice and YouTube ring and answering machine beep sound effects to make it sound like a real answering machine message!

Finally, Nancy Ketz presented on aligning LOTE to the Common Core.  This is now the third time I've seen Nancy present, and I learn something new each time.  She gives participants lots of concrete examples of how to use authentic media to satisfy common core standards across reading, writing, listening, and speaking, all while embedding culture into the lesson.

Whew!  By the end of the week I was pretty tired out (in a good way of course), and once I came home I began filing away my newly acquired ideas and resources into Evernote folders so I won't forget them.

I should also mention that Candace Black, the chair of the conference, did an excellent job of putting workshops together that ran so seamlessly in their ideas.

Me with Spanish teachers Diana and Karen

Me with Spanish teachers Wendy (to my left) and Sharon (in front of me) and French teacher Valérie.  Valérie and Wendy presented on partner and group games and activities.

Me with conference chair Candace Black

Me with Spanish teacher Marie, who presented on Differentiated Instruction

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