Transcript of Episode 31 with Maris Hawkins

Transcript of Episode 31: Blogs, Novels, and Teachers Sharing their Work with Maris Hawkins


[background music]

Stacey Margarita Johnson:  This is “We Teach Languages,” a podcast about language teaching from the diverse perspectives of real teachers.

I’m Stacey Margarita Johnson. Today on episode 31, Maris Hawkins is here to talk about how she uses technology, novels, Teachers Pay Teachers, how her blog works, how she got started in blogging — just a wide‑ranging conversation on a lot of topics.

Thank you so much for being here today, Maris.

Maris Hawkins:  Thanks so much for having me. I’ve been following your podcast since this summer, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Stacey:  I am so glad to hear that. It’s exciting to actually have you on the show. You’re one of the first people who reached out and talked to me on Twitter and said that you were [laughs] listening to this show, so thank you so much.

Maris:  You’re welcome.

Stacey:  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know your blog though, since I met you, probably, in August. I actually recently assigned some of your blog posts to my graduate students in my teaching methods course.

Maris:  Oh wow. Thank you.

Stacey:  [laughs] Awesome. How is it that you teach between 8th and 12th grade? That seems like a big spread.

Maris:  I teach in an independent school. So, what happens was, by last year just being a middle school teacher, I developed my blended class which needs two days online. They have, actually the Latin teacher is their proctor. I watch the Latin students, so to start to mimic what they would do if they were taking an online class but with some guidance and help from an actual teacher being there. After that, I moved to the upper school, and so I still continued to teach my blended class.

In the past, I taught just level two, or I taught level two and three. This year, I transitioned to teach level one so I could teach level one without a textbook. I blended classes level two, and then I’m also developing level five class. I have ended up with a much bigger span of languages and ages. I enjoy it because you can do different things with upper schoolers; they’re more independent. But, yeah, that’s how I ended up with all the different grades.

Stacey:  It seems like a lot, especially since you’re doing a no-textbook class, then planning all the way up to fifth year. [laughs] I can’t imagine teaching that big of a span.

Maris:  One of the best things I did, especially with level five, level one there’s always a lot of materials to find, but level five, I’ve been using a lot of resources from Kara Jacobs. She’s done a lot with culture development.

In all levels, I’ve also done novels which I think also helps to base a curriculum, because you have all that already written and then it’s just supplementing.

That’s another great thing about teaching now, is there are so many blogs that are out there and most of them share their resources. Or you can go on Teachers Pay Teachers, especially when they’re having a sale, pay under $10 to get a great unit that will last a month or so.

Stacey:  One of the, maybe, downfalls of Teachers Pay Teachers is you really have to know that the materials are high quality and they come recommended. Do you have any teachers that you would recommend people looking into if they haven’t gone on that site before?

Maris:  Martina Bex ‑‑ I’ve bought a lot of materials from her ‑‑ Kristy Placido, and Allison Weinhold as well, who does Mis Clases Locas. There’s a lot. Also Kara Jacobs as I mentioned before. The CCC Spanish Store is another…

Stacey:  “Si, si, si” as in S‑I, S‑I, S‑I?

Maris:  No. The letter is CC…It’s, compelling comprehensible cultural connections. That one has been great as well. Those are the ones that as I’ve been making the transition, I’ve used a lot of their materials.

Stacey:  That’s really helpful. I’m really interested in the whole teaching with novels thing. There’s just a lot of momentum behind leveled novels right now. I would love to know what your experience has been with that.

Maris:  When I really started to dig into the culture behind the novels that they have, “Frida Kahlo”, which has all the art and all of that within it, has been a great one. The “Agentes Secretos” is also great. It has Guernica and Spain and the civil war.

All of those have allowed me to start bringing that culture in. When I could bring more culture in, that has been able to make it more engaging for students.

I found, especially when I do a class novel, if I do a somewhat easier novel to read, then all of the students are more engaged because they can understand it. I can also assign them some pages that they can read without me, which I think doing whole class readings, at least for me, became a bit monotonous for the students when they were always just relying on me to read to them.

When we are not reading novels, I’ve started doing a lot of free voluntary reading. That allowed me to have students pick what they wanted to read. Also allowed them to read harder books or easier books. Reading all of that Spanish has been really helpful and great for them.

Stacey:  Do you have any check‑ins with the free voluntary reading?

Maris:  Usually, I’ve done a booksnap where they take a picture. Seesaw is an online journal that they can use to post all their work. That’s one way that all my students can do it or they can take a picture with Snapchat and then add a caption. Some of them will add their bitmojis, add pictures to it, but just to see what they’re doing.

Some other people have started to do a bit more of keeping track of what their students are reading, and I would like to try that. It’s just a fine line between wanting to hold them accountable and not wanting it to be something that they don’t look forward to.

The other thing that I do that keeps it successful is even in my upper levels we’d just read for about seven minutes. I’m hoping to extend it throughout the year, but they haven’t done a lot of just sitting and reading in Spanish. I think as we continue to read and develop more, I think it’s important to start small and then increase the time.

Stacey:  One of the things that I often have wondered, when you are using novels or free voluntary reading, is if you’re in, particularly maybe for the lower grades, where you might have more developing or reluctant readers, for instance in middle school [laughs], I’m wondering how you motivate people who have difficulty with reading or people who find it to be very challenging. How do you motivate them to get involved with free voluntary or novel‑based classroom activities?

Maris:  The book that I’m reading in my middle school class is actually the Senor Wooly graphic novel.

That’s was the book that I started with my Spanish Two last year when I had a lot of those reluctant readers and I hope also that graphic novels in Spanish and other languages too would really take off because when you talk about comprehensible input, you can talk a lot around the pictures and what you’re seeing, and give students more input that way.

As far as words on the page, it’s definitely not as intimidating as some of the novels can be. I found that graphic novels sometimes are a good bridge.

My levels-ones today, I just put out a lot of books and they read for three minutes. It wasn’t intimidating to them. I think they think, “Three minutes, I can do this.” One said, “3 or 30?” I said “Just three. ” You know, getting their feet wet.

I think keeping the time manageable, making sure that the book is almost a little too easy for them, specially the first book that you’re introducing, you can’t go wrong because then they all feel like they can understand it and that they’re successful.

Stacey:  Yeah, that’s great. Great feedback. You’re doing a lot of exiting things in your classes. It’s fun to get a peek into how all of these concepts are playing out for you. One of the things I really wanted to talked to you about today is your blog.

A lot of the things you’ve talked about today, you’ve put those ideas on your blog. You share glimpses into your class room and how those things are really working for you. How did you get started blogging? What made you want to do it? How did you get entry into that world?

Maris:  I started out loving cooking blogs. I enjoyed cooking and that was my entry into the blog world. I also always wanted to write a book, so blogging seems like a good intermediary thing. Although I love to cook, I am not an excellent cook. No one would read [laughter] a blog about my cooking, so the only thing that I really felt like I knew a lot about was blogging about what’s happening in my classroom and being a Spanish teacher, although it’s always intimidating putting yourself out there. You also wonder, “Would anyone even read this? How long do I have to write a blog until someone tweets at me, or makes a comment on it, or my numbers start to jump? How many people have actually read it?”

It can be intimidating to do that, but luckily for me, everyone I found has been very kind. Even if they give me feedback because there’s a typo, or one time I had a picture with some graffiti that wasn’t the best. I was just putting up pictures and not really paying attention. Anyway, someone said, “Just so you know, you might want to take this down.”

Everyone always starts out with, “Thank you so much for what you’re doing.” I’ve gotten so many great ideas. They always start off positive. As far as worrying about people hating what I was doing or hating my blog, it didn’t happen. That definitely helped me continue to blog.

Stacey:  Awesome. How long have you been doing your blog now?

Maris:  I started January 2013.

Stacey:  Oh my gosh. It’s been almost five years.

Maris:  Yes, it’s been a long time. It took me a while before I really started to see more people. As I started sharing more on Facebook and starting doing more on Twitter, then I was able to talk to more people and bloggers and things like that.

Stacey:  If there’s someone listening who has thought about maybe doing a blog and isn’t sure if they should get started or how they should get started, what advice would you give to them?

Maris:  I would say definitely to go ahead and get started and trying to blog because initially not that many people will find it. You can write a couple of posts, and then when you’re ready to share it with everyone, then you can go on Facebook and share it in a Facebook group or go on Twitter and share it there.

You can wait until you feel like you’ve started posting a couple good ideas and then share it with everyone. The other thing that I’ve noticed take off this past year has been Facebook groups. It seems like when I first started teaching, there was a lot of sharing going on via different emails, Yahoo groups, and things like that.

I’ve noticed that’s toned down and people have more moved to sharing on Facebook. I would say if you’re not sure about if you want to blog, you can always share a post or an activity that you’re doing on Facebook as well to get to that same community and go from there.

That’s a way to get your feet wet if you’re not ready to start a whole blog.

Stacey:  I also think just participating in a variety of Facebook groups around language teaching gives you an idea of what topics people are talking about and how you might be able to contribute to the conversation before you go out and start blogging, right?

Maris:  Exactly. I don’t think you necessarily have to have a grand purpose when you start blogging. Just sharing what’s happening in your classroom is a great start. It doesn’t have to be a specific theme or a specific niche that you really want to focus on. You can develop that as you go along.

I am a prolific blogger. I think for me, it helps to reflect on what I’m doing in the classroom, and then it helps me organize because for example, I’m starting the graphic novel again with my middle school students. Last year, I blogged day‑to‑day what I was doing.

This year, I pulled up the same post. I’m changing things up, but it’s a way for me to reflect. I think that’s why I am so prolific. For other people, they don’t have to be worried that they’re not posting enough.

I don’t think you have to post every week, every month. It’s just when you have a good idea, when the mood strikes you. We all go through busy times in our lives. One thing that I use also is Bloglovin. I can just have all of the blogs there and anytime someone shares a new post, it’ll pop up.

Stacey:  Is that an app for your phone?

Maris:  It can be an app. I just also use the web version as well.

Stacey:  Well, this was a wonderful experience for me. I’m going to follow up on so many of the resources that you’ve mentioned, all of the teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers, all of the resources like Seesaw and Snapchat.

[background music]

Stacey:  I’m going to make sure to put links to everything you’ve mentioned in the show notes as well. Thank you for being here today.

Maris:  I enjoyed it.

Stacey:  If you would like to comment or give feedback on the show or be a guest on the show yourself, let us know. You can find us on Twitter @weteachlang. You can comment on any of the episodes on our website or you can send a text message or leave a voicemail on our Google Voice number, which is (629)888‑3398.

If you leave us a voicemail, we may even play your question or comment on the air. Don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues about the show. Thank you so much for listening. Bye‑bye.

We Teach Languages Episode 31: Blogs, Novels, and Teachers Sharing their Work with Maris Hawkins

In episode 31, Stacey chats with Maris Hawkins, a middle and upper school Spanish teacher who has used class novels, graphic novels, and free voluntary reading in her classes, as well as a variety of technologies to make student learning visible. Maris is also a prolific blogger and discusses how we can all share what’s happening in our own classrooms as well as get ideas and resources from other teachers sharing their work.



You can read the transcript of this episode here.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

You can find Maris Hawkins online…

…on Twitter @marishawkins

…on her blog

…or on where she is a contributor

Here are the authors and bloggers mentioned on the episode…

Kara Jacobs

… Martina Bex The Comprehensible Classroom

CCC Spanish Store

Kristy Placido Language Store

Allison Weinhold Mis Clases Locas

Here are some more links of resources mentioned on the show…

Seesaw online portfolio tool

Snapchat social photo sharing/editing tool

Bloglovin for keeping up with blogs

novel for language learners Frida Kahlo

novel for language learners Agentes Secretos

graphic novels from Sr. Wooly


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Transcript of Episode 30 with Patrick Murphy

Transcript of Episode 30: Fear of Failure, Twitter, and Virtual Reality with Patrick Murphy

[background music]

Stacey Margarita Johnson:  This is “We Teach Languages,” a podcast about language teaching from the diverse perspectives of real teachers.

I’m Stacey Margarita Johnson. Today, on episode 30, Jose Luis de Ramon Ruiz interviews Patrick Murphy about how his teaching has changed during his nearly 20‑year career teaching language courses at the university level.

It’s an exciting, wide‑ranging conversation that I think many of us will relate to about how radically technology has transformed, and about how important it is for teachers to be fearless in their risk‑taking sometimes, and really model that behavior for students as well.


Jose Luis de Ramon Ruiz:  I’m really excited to be here today with Professor Patrick Murphy, who is a senior lecturer of Spanish at Vanderbilt University. He has taught elementary and intermediate level, reading and translation courses. He has led study abroad, groups in Cuba, and in other countries in Latin America. This semester, he’s also the coordinator of the Spanish 1103, an intensive Elementary Spanish class.

Thank you so much, Patrick, for joining us today.

Patrick Murphy:  Thank you.

Jose:  Why don’t you tell us about the class that you are teaching this semester? Who are your students? What’s their level?

Patrick:  Currently, I’m teaching a class that’s, we call it Spanish 1103, which is an intensive course for beginners. Essentially, we take Elementary Spanish and we have students who are typically high‑beginners. That’s what we like to call them because they’ve had some experience with Spanish. They come into our class and we basically go over the elementary function of the language.

We try to get them ready for the intermediate course, which would be the next step of matriculation here at Vanderbilt.

Jose:  Nice. I think you started teaching in 1999. I was wondering how your teaching practices have changed over the past years.

Patrick:  My practices have changed greatly and I would say that is due to the advances in technology obviously. I think when I first started teaching, I was using an overhead projector with a dry erase markers and chalk on a daily basis. I was making tons of photocopies, bringing handouts to class typically. Those days [laughs] are long gone at this point.

I think the biggest difference has been the technology that I use in classroom now every day. Not just in the classroom, but with the assessment. I don’t collect a lot of work anymore. Most of the work, they’re submitted online.

Homeworks, they’re submitted online. Compositions and essays, they’re all submitted online. Writing assessments, writing assignments, they’re all submitted online.

I project on the overhead, everything I use is either something I can pull up from an online resource, or it’s a document that I have that I can project, or we use social media in class. There are a number of advances in technology that I have taken advantage of in my teaching, especially in the last five years, that have made significant changes in how I teach from when I started in ’99 to now for sure.

Jose:  Obviously, we live in a technological world. I agree that we should make use of all the resources available to improve language teaching. You mentioned social media. How does Twitter, or Facebook, or any other social media platform help your students achieve their goal in class?

Patrick:  One of our goals is to make cultural connections. As nice as the book will tend to present cultural information, I think our book in particular we use for the high‑beginner course does a nice job with cultural information. It can be outdated the moment it goes to print. We want the students to be connected to the culture that is happening in real time.

The best way to do that, and the way they are very familiar with, is through social media. I use Twitter specifically in my 1103 class because it allows students to get information quickly and a lot of information in real time. They can look at the information. They can read it. They can make a personal connection to it. They can correspond with whatever topics we’re talking about in class.

Whether it’s related to a specific country in a Spanish‑speaking world or it’s related to the topic for whatever chapter we’re studying. They’re able to connect to those topics and those other cultures in real time, and it’s been really fascinating to watch the students connect that way without having to use the textbooks all the time for cultural information.

The other thing we use it for is for writing. I like to do exercises with Twitter where the students can write things in real time and tweet it so I can project it.

We can filter through and look at it together on the overhead and on the projector screen, and actually look at what they’re writing, and then make error correction explicit, error correction while we’re in class, and we can see their tweets live. It’s been a really useful tool for writing as well.

Jose:  What would you say to professors or instructors who are wanting to implement technology, who are wanting to use Twitter in their classes for the first time? Could you give them any piece of advice?

Patrick:  My best piece of advice for that is to try it, to make the attempt. I think the scariest thing for me as an instructor has always been trying new things. It took me a number of years to ever want to try new things because I was always worried about failure in the room, in front of the class. I never wanted to fail or look like I didn’t know what I was doing in front of my students.

That fear would impede my evolution as an instructor. What I started to do, and I started it with Twitter, was just to throw it out there and see what happens. As scary as it was for me at first, it altered the way I teach because I just started to see what worked.

The very first time I started using Twitter in the classroom, it didn’t work very well. It was very confusing for the students on how to use the hashtag, or what to tweet, or how to find the information. It took a number of weeks and even a few semesters before I finally found a system that worked. But now, it seems to work so well. It’s opened my eyes to many other things I can try to do with technology and anything in general with any part of my teaching, is to just try new things.

If I could give a piece of advice to any upcoming instructor, is don’t be afraid to try new things. Make sure you push the envelope because that’s how we evolve. That’s how we become better. That’s how our students will become more confident and comfortable with the language in the world we live in today. I really think so.

Jose:  That’s a really good piece of advice. I agree that we learn through trial and error. I think it’s important to be OK with making mistakes, yes. Try new things, see how they work, and then we can make changes from there. That’s very true.

We have been talking about some really interesting and effective teaching practices. I was wondering if you could define excellent teaching for you. What does it look like?

Patrick:  For me, excellence in teaching is innovation and evolution. What I mean by that is innovation is trying to be creative with how you teach because my goal was for my students to become intermediate speakers. I want them to be comfortable and competent with the elementary basics of Spanish.

In order to do that, I try to innovate ways to help them become more competent and more comfortable and enjoying the language. For me, excellence in teaching is pushing that envelope, pushing new ways, becoming a better instructor that way.

Jose:  I completely agree. Finally, before we wrap up the interview, I would like to ask you, what are you most excited about in your job right now? Is there anything in particular that you are very…?

Patrick:  Actually, there is. I am pretty excited because there’s new things I’m thinking about all the time, but right now, I’m actually thinking about how to incorporate some virtual reality technology in the classroom, which is really cool. The genesis it is for me anyway was we got a pair of virtual reality headset. We got some VR, the goggles, and we got it last year as a gift for my son.

I started to just fool around with him and play with it and realized that this could be something I could use in the classroom with my teaching. It’s so immersive because you can literally put the headset on and you can travel to just about anywhere in the world with a lot of the different applications. What I would like to do is figure a way that I can incorporate that into class.

It’s actually really exciting because there are people here at Vanderbilt that are actually kicking this idea around as well. We have a working group here at the Center for Second Language Studies that’s actually meeting this afternoon. [laughs] We’re going to start talking about how we can actually practically use this type of technology in the classroom. I’m super excited about that.

Again, it’s probably going to be something that I will trial and have a lot of trial and error with. I’ll give it a shot. Maybe this semester, I might try to pilot an activity or two with one of my classes. Maybe implement it a little more next semester and just see how it goes. It looks really cool, so let’s see.

Jose:  It does look very cool. I’m looking forward to hearing more about that in the future because I would love to try that myself as well.

Patrick:  It looks pretty fun.

Jose:  Thank you so much, Patrick, for doing this interview with us today.

Patrick:  Yeah, great. Thank you.

Jose:  It was a pleasure to talk to you. I hope you have a great rest of the semester.

[background music]

Patrick:  Thanks, you too.

Stacey:  The two main technologies that Patrick mentioned in this interview were Twitter and virtual reality. We’ve actually had a couple of guests talked about how they use Twitter in the classroom. We’ve had many guests talked about how they use Twitter for professional development. But, Twitter in the classroom for language learning specifically was brought up in episode 13 by Noah Geisel and then again in episode 14 by Lisa Shepard. I’m going to put links to both of those episodes in the show notes.

If you haven’t listened to that far back, if you’ve just started recently, you can go back and check out those two episodes, which happen to be two of our most popular episodes of all time also, definitely worth checking out in any case. I think this is the first time we’ve had someone mentioned virtual reality as part of a language classroom.

I wanted to mention a few things that I’ve come across recently that are related. One actually was a couple of years ago. October of 2015, I was at a conference for the Midwest Association for Language Learning Technology, MWALLT, at Valparaiso University in Indiana. I got to go to a presentation by a faculty member named Carlos Miguel‑Pueyo, who’s an Associate Professor of Foreign Languages there, who presented on how he is working together with other units on campus to provide immersive virtual reality opportunities for his students. The presentation was called When Content Comes to Life ‑‑ Using Virtual Reality to Teach Spanish Civilization. I put a link to Carlos’ faculty page at Valparaiso University in the show notes. In case any of you guys would like to follow up on some of his work, maybe check out some of his publications on similar topics.

I also recently ran across a blog post, like a press release sort of blog post from the University of Texas at San Antonio, describing how last fall some of their language classes were using virtual reality in the classroom. There’s a really fun picture on the site. If you follow the link, there’s a really fun picture of all the students in class wearing their goggles, their virtual reality goggles. [laughs]

I think there’s a lot of opportunities to give students the feeling of being able to travel through virtual reality. What I’m most interested is how are people applying virtual reality in really pedagogically interesting ways. Not just as value added but really integrating it and making it something that’s encouraging language learning in very specific ways.

If any of you out there have experience with virtual reality, have concerns about virtual reality, or maybe have ideas for how it could be a really pedagogically effective tool, I would love for you to use Facebook, Twitter, or particularly actually the comments section of the website underneath this blog post that contains the episode.

I would love to get a running list of how people are working on this or thinking about this. We can have a site that I or other people working on this issue can go back to over time, and maybe get some great ideas and inspiration, and follow up with people and ask questions about what’s currently going on.

Very closely related to virtual reality is the idea of augmented reality.

This is the Pokemon Go phenomenon. You see a picture of what’s really there but your screen augments it with other things that aren’t actually there. I found a really interesting funded research project from Indiana University. It’s in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning vein, which is definitely my jam. That’s I’m all about, [laughs] the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

You get to read the entire 23‑page proposal at the link that I’m going to share on the show notes. This is a really fun topic and I would love to hear all of your thoughts.

Please leave comments on the website, or just add us on Twitter, or post on Facebook. We would love to hear from you. All right, if you are interested in being a contributor just like Jose Luis, please let me know.

My highest hope for the podcast actually is that we feel like it belongs to all of us. Hence the title We Teach Languages and that teachers who know teachers who are doing really cool things will interview them, and then submit those interview recordings to the show so I can turn them into podcast episodes.

[background music]

Stacey:  If you are interested in being a contributor, in interviewing someone, and having your interview on the show, please let me know. You can email me at You can @ us on Twitter @weteachlang. You can really find us all over the place, so reach out.

I would love to share with you how you can become a contributor and get someone that you know and love as our next guest on the podcast. Thanks for listening. Bye‑bye.

We Teach Languages Episode 30: Fear of Failure, Twitter, and Virtual Reality with Patrick Murphy

In episode 30, Jose Luis de Ramon Ruiz interviews Patrick Murphy about how his teaching has changed during his nearly 20 year career teaching language courses at the university level. In their conversation, they touch on how Patrick uses Twitter to connect students to real-time culture as well as his future plans for virtual reality as a learning tool. Patrick also discusses how being afraid to fail can keep teachers from taking important risks in their classrooms.



You can read the transcript of this episode here.


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.

You can find Patrick Murphy online…

…at his faculty profile

…by email

…or on Twitter @murphyfall2014

You can find Jose Luis de Ramon Ruiz online…

…by email

To learn more about the other virtual and augmented reality projects mentioned on the episode, here are some more links…

…faculty page for Professor Carlos Miguel-Pueyo

virtual reality for language learning at University of Texas San Antonio

…Indiana’s funded SOTL research project on augmented reality

We have heard from other teachers on the show who have used Twitter in interesting ways in their teaching…

Noah Geisel on episode 13

Lisa Shepard on episode 14



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