Kristy Placido

What an amazing experience being at iFLT has been!  I have met so many of my favorite Spanish teachers!  I am completely star struck!  Today I got to attend the powerhouse session of Kristy Placido,  “The Wonderful World of Intermediates”.

She shared her goals for her students.  She pushes to get her students as far into the intermediate level as they can or even to approach advanced low.  She strives to ignite in her students a passion to continue their language study for life.

Next we explored what intermediates are like.  I learned that they are very special because as Kristy says, they are like the middle child of the family.  They are not new and exciting like novices.  You can not see the progress they make at times.  Nor are they like AP students who can show you their test results at the end of their path.  At times it can feel like intermediates are not progressing at all.  They make many mistakes.

When Kristy investigated ACTFL intermediate proficiency guidelines, she realized her expectations for her intermediates were too high.  She makes a wonderful point.  We must be familiar with the proficiency level guidelines to know what we should be expecting from our students, especially before grading them.

Kristy says that another goal of her language classes is to bring her students to the point where they can begin to understand some “authentic” input.  When they reach this point they can continue to improve on their own.   It is not our job to get students completely fluent.   We can provide a path to proficiency but at some point they need to do something else to get to the next level.  It is not all on us.  I found this very comforting.

We were able to have a glimpse into what Kristy does in her classroom to push her students to the depths of intermediate or beyond.  She backwards plans the novels she teaches from levels 2-4.  She pulls out any kind of subject matter because it is ideal for intermediate learners.  She suggested content such as culture and geography.  She enjoys the fact that her job is more about teaching content because she has the freedom to teach about many different topics.  (Her novels are evidence of this!)  The best part of teaching this way is that language acquisition doesn’t have to feel like a “typical language class”.

I was really excited that Kristy explained SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) in her classroom since I will be incorporating it this year.  She starts students in level 2 with about 5 minutes approximately 2 times a week.  Her library is full of TPRS novels and authentic resources.  If students do not enjoy the text they are reading, they can get up and get a new book.  Sometimes kids don’t like reading but her rule is that students remain quiet and look at the book in front of them.  If words are in front of their face, it is likely they will eventually begin to decode their message.  She gave us some examples of different materials she uses for FVR.  They were:
-Buy magazines where there are other languages offered, perhaps in an international airport or vacation and stock up!
-Explore Ebay.  It can have books for a low price.
-Use Scholastic books from Club Leo if you are a Spanish teacher.  Check it out here.
-She even has auto repair manuals that are very popular with boys and girls during SSR.
-Non-fiction articles from Martina Bex’s “El mundo en tus manos”.
-A variety of books on topics such as dogs, snow boarding, etc.  When she finds a student with a specific interest, she tries to find a book to match that interest.  Great idea!

We also learned about resources to help intermediates become better listeners.  Kristy uses storytelling, audio recordings of novels  and the song of week.  She loves connecting music to the theme she is teaching.   She spends a week and a half with a song and does closes, stories and more!  Check out her TPT store to learn more about how she uses music.  It is amazing!)  She shared a few fun anecdotes, one of which showed the lasting impact of music on her students.   Her son is in the school band where she teaches.  She chaperoned their bus ride to the football game they were to play at. Even though the majority of the students had not had her class in two years, they played Spanish music on their phones and knew the lyrics better than she did!  They loved the music and still had not forgotten it two years later!

Kristy allowed us to explore her “in class discussions”.  She revealed that she does most of the talking.  She asks comprehensions questions, gets into opinions or “what would happen if” questions.  Most students give short answers without complete sentences.  However we must remember that acquisition does not result from output but from input.  She tries to take a chunk of student output and spin it back to them.

Other wonderful tools to use with intermediates:
-Readers theater
-Short authentic listening such as Youtube commercials.  She mentioned one that I used in my class this year.  It is about the Costa Rican food, Natuchips.  My students really enjoyed it.  She reminded us that the commercials are not only about the audio piece but that students now have something new to talk about.   Even in “El internado” she can talk about characters’ motivations.  She uses this authentic resource but presents it a comprehensible way.  One episode can take 7 different class periods.  Most of their input is coming from their discussion and not from the telenovela.  She also gave a shout out to Dustin Williamson and his resourceful blog here.  Something super fun that he recently posted is a BreakoutEDU for el Internado, but he has a ton of other resources that you can use with novels, movie talks and more.

She explained the structure of timed writings and grading in her classroom.  Her gradebook is 80 percent summative assessment and 20 percent formative.   Timed writings are every 1-2 weeks for 10 minutes.  She gives the students a topic and asks them to write 100 words.  However,  she does take points off for English.  Kristy tells her students that if they can not say it in Spanish then they probably need to say something else.  This is because to be an intermediate you must prove that you can circumlocute.  She does not correct errors and does not give a penalty for mistakes however she does comment on the CONTENT.  I also love the fact that she allows students to come back and add more to their timed writings if they did not make 100 words the first time around.  I strongly believe in retakes.

I especially enjoyed when she explained how she grades participation.  She said that she has tried many different methods and finds that not grading it is best.  It makes many students feel safe to know they do not have to participate for a grade.  She focuses on real life conversation and interesting contexts.

In conclusion Kristy reminds us that speaking and writing have two purposes in our classrooms which are:  assessment and satisfaction.  Honestly, every time I watch one of Kristy’s presentations I feel inspired.  She has a wonderful way of injecting her contagious enthusiasm for teaching in anyone she presents to.  I am super excited to watch her present tomorrow about “Nitty Gritty Novels”!

Blog post by Arianne Dowd, our official blogger of #iFLT17!


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