Recycled Instrument Orchestra in Paraguay

[connecting across disciplines: Music | ACTFL Standard 3.1]

Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados de Cateura (Paraguay)

On the outskirts of Asunción, Paraguay, the residents of Cateura live alongside a landfill. Quite by accident, a local musician stumbled upon an idea — how to take advantage of the items thrown into the landfill to fashion instruments for the local youth. The idea caught fire; now Cateura has a youth orchestra that plays Beethoven, Bach, the Beatles, Michael Jackson (among others) on flutes and saxophones made from pipes, bottle caps and coins, violins and cellos formed from oil drums, guitars of industrial-sized food service cans and many other instruments crafted of materials reclaimed from the landfill. They have also done some touring to share their music and story.

A feature-length documentary (Landfill Harmonic), slated for release in 2014, will tell the story of the Cateura Recycled Instrument Orchestra, its founder, the musicians, and their families.

What an inspirational story to explore in the classroom! Here are some links (Spanish and English) to learn more about this story:–ganchero–en-Cateura-a-lutier-de-orquesta


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LTMOOC Week 4: Effective Assessment Tools and Methods

[I’m participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for language teachers worldwide that focuses on blended learning in the World Language classroom. This blog post is an assignment for that course.]

Effective Assessment Tools and Methods

Assessment was the topic for Week 4 at the LTMOOC.  I listened to Kathryn Murphy-Judy of Virginia Commonwealth University and read four articles: Assessment (Flinders University), Assessment of Collaborative Learning Project Outcomes (EDUCAUSE), Conduct Assessments of Learning and Teaching (Carnegie Mellon University), and Classroom Assessment Techniques, CATs (Carnegie Mellon University).

What a rewarding week it was! — So many good ideas and concepts. Here’s a recap:

Dr. Murphy-Judy – 3 big take-aways:

1) Technology strengthens the possibilities of language and teaching.

> The ability to slow down TL audio allows students to focus on listening to and listening for common word groupings and phrases.

> Anonymous error correction activities promote greater risk-taking by students.

2) Recycle a written or audio piece for different purposes.

> Possible ways to recycle: Listen to sounds, later listen to vocab, focus on nouns or verbs, look for/listen for cognates, look for/listen for cultural aspects.

> Choose authentic samples with this “recycling” purpose in mind.

3) Online learners need to learn the skills needed for autonomously learning online.

Flinders University – A well-designed assessment is:

  • Authentic and realistic for the learner group
  • Relevant to classroom activities
  • A productive use of student and teacher time
  • A learning experience in its own right
  • Flexible enough to allow degree of student choice and differentiation

EDUCAUSE – Recommendation for collaborative projects with collective outcomes

Establish an accountability contract which spells out specific roles and areas of responsibility for students and teachers; protocols regarding communication, documentation, and technology; timelines; quality standards (rubrics); and accountability checkpoints.

Carnegie Mellon University – Two tools for assessing learning and promoting self-assessment

CATs: Formative assessments that make visible the learning that has occurred during the class period, solicit lingering doubts, encourage student-involved assessment, and uncover relevant prior knowledge.

Exam wrappers: To encourage students to process their graded exams more deeply, faculty members devised exam wrappers, short handouts that students complete when an exam is turned back to them. These exam wrappers direct students to review their performance (and the instructor’s feedback) with an eye toward adapting their future learning for better assessment results and overall study skills.

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Posted by on 19 May 2013 in Self-Directed PD



LTMOOC Week 3: Social Interaction and Blended Learning

[I’m participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for language teachers worldwide that focuses on blended learning in the World Language classroom. This blog post is an assignment for that course.]

Social Interaction Aspects of Blended Learning/Online Learning/Distance Learning

This week’s readings and expert interview discussed the social interaction aspects of online learning. This focus was very interesting and it was beneficial to think of how the social/interpersonal mode can be applied in the online setting.

I listened to Ed Dixon of UPenn and read two articles: Social Pedagogies (Indiana University-Bloomington) and Incorporating Interaction Into Your Distance Learning Course (Worchester Polytechnic Institute, WPI).

What are the three types of interaction the WPI article discusses?

1. Learner-to-Content Interaction – students examining course content and participating in class activities

Examples of Strategies for Incorporating Learner-to-Content Interaction:

  • Use clips to provide expert perspectives (note to self: cultural perspectives!)
  • Content in multiple formats provides variety and eliminates monotony

2. Learner-to-Learner Interaction – interaction among students

Examples of Strategies for Incorporating Learner-to-Learner Interaction:

  • Group work
  • Students take turns moderating discussions
  • Build sense of community

3. Learner-to-Instructor Interaction – intended to reinforce student understanding and provide feedback

Examples of Strategies for Incorporating Learner-to-Instructor Interaction:

  • Instructor maintains presence in discussions, but doesn’t post too much
  • Public feedback – compliment students on quality contributions
  • Private feedback – written comments on what student did correct and what did wrong

How does social interaction relate to student motivation?

I noticed overlaps in the recommendations and observations by the three expert sources. For example, they advocate the use of authentic resources:

  • Ed Dixon – authentic interactions based on real life of students (in place of textbook-created)
  • WPI – simulations, web searches, wiki assignments, research reviews, case studies, etc. that require students to interact with content
  • Indiana U-Bloomington – engage students by using tools and creating products for real audiences

Similarly, they see social interaction as motivational and engaging:

  • Ed Dixon – the focus on interaction encourages students to study the language but, more importantly, to use the language
  • WPI – interaction provides students with the feedback they need … students become more actively engaged in the learning process, leading to higher levels of learning.
  • Indiana U-Bloomington – because their efforts will be viewed by someone other than the teacher, students feel more accountable for the quality of their work.


LTMOOC Week 2: Inputs and Outputs

[I’m participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for language teachers worldwide that focuses on blended learning in the World Language classroom. This blog post is an assignment for that course.]

Inputs and Outputs and Language Proficiency

Reaction to Fredricka Stoller’s piece on Content-Based-Instruction:

How exciting to be able to build proficiency in a second language and take-away so much more! Ms. Stoller makes the case that language teaching (and study) yields many benefits: cross-curricular connections, enhanced abilities in the L1, critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, deeper learning, ability to apply knowledge to real-world problems, enhanced self-confidence and motivation, and preparing students to be life-long learners and more knowledgeable citizens of the world. I agree and this is what is so exciting!

Reaction to Input – What it is and why you need it by Tomasz P. Szynalski:

I’ve heard many adults comment that they studied a second language in high school or college, but regrettably cannot sustain a simple conversation in that language. It’s likely that they were exposed to a grammar-focused curriculum. Mr. Szynalski believes input is the most important ingredient in learning a language and explicit grammar instruction is not needed. He advocates heavy doses of listening and reading in the target language to build a large store of sentences and words, so that you “will use them automatically, without thinking. Correct phrases will just appear in your head.” This perspective is very similar to Stephen Krashen’s comprehensible input ideas.

Reaction to Input vs. Outputs Activity

Authentic (native) content is vital. Students are more motivated to work on real, “here and now” tasks – they can see right through the artificial ones.



Connecting Across Disciplines

I’m enchanted with the opportunities a World Language classroom offers to connect with other academic disciplines. This provides a way for students to acquire, reinforce and extend understanding of topics typically formally taught in other classrooms, such as art, geography, science, poetry, nature, robotics, health, storytelling, character analysis, drama, statistics, music, consumer science, and the like.

I also see it is as a way to support the efforts of my colleagues in other disciplines. It may even be more fun for me to mix things up and search for ways to keep things fresh and engaging!

I’m keeping track of the wonderful resources that I come across — many thanks to all who so generously take the time to share their materials and expertise! Look for resources to start appearing very soon!


Welcome to Connect & Extend!

I recently enrolled in collaborative online course for language teachers worldwide that will focus on blended learning in the World Language classroom. One of the assignments for Week 1 is to post an introduction via a personal blog. Before I could post an intro, I needed to establish a personal blog. So, lots of learning going on here!

I live in metro Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA and am very close to completing post-baccalaureate coursework at Marquette University. I’ve chosen to make a career switch to enter education as a Secondary Spanish teacher (grades 6-12). During the advanced methods course, I was introduced to the comprehensible input, proficiency-based world language classroom. It was a true eye-opener. My years as a formal student of Spanish were spent completing worksheets, diagramming verbs, and memorizing lists of vocabulary and grammar rules. There was essentially no practice with speaking or listening; the curriculum followed the textbook page-for-page. During my first trip to a Spanish-speaking country it was easy to read street signs, tourism information and items posted on bulletin boards, but if I tried to ask a question, get directions, make a purchase or hold a conversation, it was a true struggle (often comical, I’ll admit).

If all goes well, I’ll complete the required student teaching during Jan-June 2014 and will then begin as a licensed classroom teacher in August/September 2014. 

I hope that this online course (LTMOOC) will be the first of many opportunities to connect and collaborate so that I can extend my knowledge and learning. The objective is to become an effective Spanish teacher as quickly as possible for the benefit of my future students! I’m also hoping to participate in the summer institute organized by my state’s professional organization for language teachers.

As for interests, I’m a big fan of robotics. My sons participate in FIRST robotics and I’ve coached two teams at the FIRST LEGO League level. I’d love to teach at a school that participates in FIRST.

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I’m very happy to be participating in the LTMOOC and look forward to connecting and extending!

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Posted by on 15 April 2013 in Self-Directed PD




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