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#iFLT18: Kicking off a Week of Inspiration!

Welcome back, CI Peek followers! After a brief summer hiatus, we are back in full-force! You are in for a real treat as we begin a new series: “FOMO CI Peek Blog Series” by Arianne Dowd! We will sail into the new school year with weekly insights from Arianne based on what she learned during the #iFLT18 Conference in Cincinnati! 


iFLT Welcome

What a wonderful kick off to iFLT 2018. Carol Gaab gave an inspirational speech. Carol stated “At iFLT, you will see people that will inspire you. They were not born like that! They worked very, very hard to develop their skills. There are no superheroes here. YOU can do what they do. It takes hard work. You can do it!” This resonates with me because about three years ago I lost my flash drive that had ALL of my materials on it. Since that moment I have had to rework EVERYTHING I do in the 3-4 different classes I teach. It HAS been hard work, but all of the rewards I have seen in student engagement, growth in numbers as well as proficiency has made every drop of sweat worth it!

Carol Gaab set the positive and collegial tone of the conference during her opening welcome. Carol talked about how we as professionals need to be collegial and respect each other’s ideas and opinions even if they may be different from your own. She referred to collaboration and how we work better when we are together as opposed to being an island. This is one of the reasons why iFLT is such an incredible conference. It is the meeting of many like-minded, creative and passionate minds in one place! When we surround ourselves with people who inspire us, it can only make us better. Finally Carol explained that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt said this in reference to human nature. We can not help but compare ourselves to our peers. However life is not happy that way. We are NOT our peers. We have our own experiences, triumphs and tribulations that create who we are. We are each unique. We are on our OWN journey. We must embrace where we are and continue moving forward no matter where we are on our path.

Carol also gave awards to some pretty amazing people. She started by giving Diana Noonan a Leadership Award. Diana has been instrumental in creating an innovative TCI program in Denver Public Schools. She is also a co-founder of iFLT. A few other participants I ran into yesterday said that Diana Noonan was a consultant in their district who helped change their program over to CI. She certainly deserved this honor! Congratulations to one amazing lady!

Teri Wiechart received the Service Award. As co-director, she is an instrumental piece of the incredible “behind the scenes” planning at iFLT. It would never run as smoothly as it does without her hours of dedication and expertise. She is also responsible for the excellent and positive coaching program that happens at iFLT. Her warm smile can brighten anyone’s day.

Next, the very talented teacher-author Kristy Placido was given the award of CI Innovations. She is someone who ALWAYS inspires learners AND facilitates acquisition. ALL of her resources create serious student engagement. I love coming to iFLT to see what her latest innovation will be! As Martina Bex tweeted, “Thousands of teachers are using her books and materials and have benefited from her training!” Right on Martina!

Finally, Carol crowned Dr. Stephen Krashen the Captain of CI. This conference would not exist without his research and dedication to a field that many mocked for years. Krashen’s perseverance is an inspiration to us ALL!


Speed Debating with Gurus or Concentric Forums:

Speed Debating was a fun way to see a. the different perspectives of AND b. ask questions to the many gurus in the CI community.   Teri Wiechert said it would be fun and oh boy was she correct!! My partner was Travis Murray and we had a lot of fun talking to a variety of CI experts. There were tables set up of different experts. The participants got into small groups and sat at a table with an expert. There was a timer and when it rang we moved to the next expert. Here are some pieces of wisdom and advice that were passed onto us.

Grant Boulanger: We asked him with what he did with his students today in the language lab. He had some great insight into how to get students to feel comfortable. He said that most students started seated in the back of the room. Normally he would assign students to sit in the front at the beginning of the year but this year he waited until he built relationships with the students. He did this by shaking their hands, high fives and learning their names. He also formatively assessed how much Spanish students in the class knew as they wrote it down on a piece of paper. Later he asked the students in the target language to move up. His gentle approach worked well. In his words, he said he wanted to “get students on (his) side before bossing them around.” He ended his class with a One Word Image.

Linda Li had a great idea about target language use. She said that she has a monthly contest, similar to Annabelle Allen. She counts how long students can stay in the TL before using English. Each class competes monthly for a reward they enjoy. I love this idea and will be implementing it this coming year. She also talked about how the walls of our classrooms are one of our most important tools. I will probably write a post on her amazing session about this with more ideas later.

We talked to Annabelle Allen about Movie Talks and she directed us to her amazing blog post here. She also told us what some of her favorite Movie Talks are. I am excited to look up this one by Lauren Tauchman. It even has free resources to go with it!

We talked to Faith Laux about building rapport and building relationships. She talked about the importance of noticing what makes us angry in our classrooms. If something is not right and you find yourself angry, then you need to train students to do something different to fix it. We can not ignore our anger because it is like a weed. We need to pull it out when it is small rather than wait until it gets really large and difficult to pull.

I really liked what Rachelle Adams had to say about the role of language teachers in creating equity and inclusion in our classrooms. She said that we are poised to be leaders in diversity. She explained that teaching with stories can lend itself to stereotypes. She suggested that when developing characters with students, we steer clear of physical attributes and to instead develop the “character” of the of the character. This will lead to more interesting and complex characters too.

Adrienne Brandenburg was a wonderful resource to learn more about heritage speakers. She explained that her school changed the name from native speakers (which implies students who just arrived to the USA from another country) to heritage speakers (students who were born here a few years ago or were born here and grew up around the language but are not very literate.) She explained that heritage speakers have the basic interpersonal communication skills but need to get the cognitive academic language and for this reason her #HeritageCurriculum program is based on literacy. I am excited to talk with Adrienne more in the future to help develop our school’s heritage speaker program.

Finally we spoke to Mark Mallaney. I observed his teaching labs last summer and enjoyed every minute. He said that this year he would be teaching levels 3 and 4 in Denver Public Schools and that his level 4 was pre-AP. When I asked him what his curriculum entailed he said that he has a list of structures to cover. He has the freedom to teach what he enjoys most. He prefers to use music-based units or something based on culture.

The highlight of my day was meeting Dr. Krashen! Overall, this was an incredible experience and I would love to be able to do it again. Thanks to Teri Wiechart for organizing it and Travis Murray for being a great partner!

Arianne Dowd has been a Spanish Teacher at South Brunswick High School for the past 18 years. She is committed to lifelong learning. She holds dual BAs in Spanish and Psychology with a minor in International Studies from Montclair State University. She has two Master’s degrees, an MA in Spanish Literature from Montclair State University and a MAT in Italian from Rutgers University. She is passionate about delivering Comprehensible Input in order to engage and interact with all learners. Arianne enjoys collaborating with colleagues through social media to create compelling and comprehensible units comprised of cultural knowledge. She has begun documenting these activities on her blog.
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