Annemarie Orth

This bio is from Annemarie in Maine. The more of these I read – and thank you for personalizing the blog so fast in response to my request – the more I feel like we can really build a comfortable community where trust is paramount and these bios are a key piece of that vision so thank you again. I hope to post a lot of these in the next few weeks.
Well, well, I never thought I’d be teaching Spanish in a classroom. I worked “in the field” as an Outward Bound instructor and expedition-based high school educator (same school as Elissa) for about 6 years. I never thought the traditional classroom was where I belonged. But…I needed a a job and I got one at a fabulous public middle school in Portland, Maine (which is also an EL-expeditionary learning school.)  Even though I still feel a little weird and out of place in a classroom, it’s a very reasonable schedule for having a 2 and a 4 year old.  And it sort of pays the bills, the child care bills anyway.
I didn’t really know what I was doing my first two years of teaching. I tried a lot of projects, social justice stuff to do with Hispanic culture. Had some awesome moments and conversations with students, but never in Spanish. I always knew I was missing something because I couldn’t figure out how to speak Spanish in the classroom and have the students understand me. My 3, 4, and 5 year of teaching are all a blur because I was either just about to have a baby or just had one and did anything I could do to get through the teaching day (this involved lots of coffee and muffins.)
Then….then, and the end of my 5th year I went to a 3-day Von Ray  workshop with my friend Elissa and I was psyched because I knew this method was much more up my alley compared to what I had been doing.  That was in June and so in September I started doing stories, but I didn’t really know what I was doing and why until I took your workshop last October (2010) in Maine. Then the pieces started coming together.
Some of my teaching highlights from last year: one of my students told me and the class about a dream she had in Spanish; one of my classes, starting from last year, sings this line from a song every time someone walks into the room, “Te quiero, te adoro, mi vida”  giving all our visitors warm fuzzies; and this year, students attempting to speak Spanish to me before class starts as they come in the room. Oh, oh, I just thought of another one. I had written a dictado on the board for students to correct their own dictado. We did a choral reading and translation of the sentences (which were from the circling with cards) and then I asked questions about the sentences. WIthout any prompting, one of my students created a new story in Spanish on the spot by combining  aspects of the 4 stories written on the board. WOW. I was BLOWN away.
I still have doubts and major downer moments, but I had these before, too, and my students were learning a lot less Spanish.
This year is the first time I’ve started with Circling with Cards and I’m really enjoying it as are my students.  I’m doing it with my 6, 7, and 8th grade classes (I have two 40 minute classes of each grade everyday, in three different classrooms.)
Also, this year I’m participating in a PLC (Professional Learning Community) which focuses on student engaged assessment. So, I will be delving into how to most effectively assess my students with their help in my classes.  I came up with some general learning targets as a way for my students to evaluate themselves and their progress in my class once a week (I’ve attached them-the last one might need more explanation – I asked students to share with me a strength/positive attribute they bring to the class that can help create a positive classroom culture and help all students succeed.) Please, any feedback is welcome. The “I can” language is a school wide initiative we are using – you know, kid friendly language.  In fact, all the  teachers at our school are creating learning targets in their classrooms for the students to see on a regular basis.
I feel very lucky to work at my school because I have the freedom to teach how I want in the classroom. My principal completely supports and is fascinated by TPRS.
So there you have it. Outside of teaching I rock climb, I sing in a choir, and read lots of fiction.  Gosh, I sound kind of boring, but honestly it’s all I can do to hold it together somedays what with  working full time and taking care of my kids!
Annemarie Orth
Spanish Teacher
King Middle School
Portland, Maine



13 thoughts on “Annemarie Orth”

    1. Here it is.
      Class Participation Self-Evaluation
      4=exceeds target
      3=meets target
      2=partially meets target
      1=doesn’t meet target
      ____I can let the teacher know when I don’t understand something by signaling
      ____I can understand 80% of what the teacher is saying
      ____I can respond appropriately to the teacher with “ohhhhh” and “oh no oh no” and “tengo un secreto.”
      ____I can raise my hand to suggest details to add to story.
      ____I can use only 2 words of English in class.
      ____I can help create a positive class culture in which everyone succeeds.

    1. You’re welcome. I have each student fill one out once a week. I had them tape their first one into their notebooks so that they can remind themselves of the targets and also to note their progress as throughout the year.

  1. You know I’m a tinkerer, right? Annemarie’s rubric gave me an idea to adapt this for Interpersonal Communication. (I can’t give an academic grade for “citizenship”, so I have to grade to the standard of Interpersonal Communication. I also use a 5-point scale.) Here’s my adaptation, which I will try with my students this week:
    Interpersonal Communication
    Self-Evaluation Rubric
    5=exceeds target
    4=meets target
    3=partially meets target
    2=doesn’t meet target
    1=there’s a target?
    ____I let the teacher know when I don’t understand something by signaling
    ____I use body language to show engagement in class communication
    ____I respond appropriately to the teacher’s statements and questions
    (e.g. with “ooohhh” or “oh nein, oh nein, oh nein” or “Meine Güte”)
    ____I suggest appropriate details to add to the story or class discussion
    ____I use German to communicate
    ____I follow conversation conventions (e.g. listen to others, don’t blurt out)

    1. Robert, Annemarie, this is great stuff.
      I like this formatted to the Standard. I wondered about a 5 pt rubric for Interpretive Communication might look like.
      I think it might include these:
      *I let the teacher know when I don’t understand something by signaling
      *I identify and isolate (underline?) words that hinder my comprehension
      *I use my energy to try to understand what I’m reading or listening to
      *I document new learning
      Any other descriptors you can think of?

      1. In reading Assessment for Learning, I just learned that the descriptors in the rubric themselves can be the Learning Targets and that is what these look like to me. I love it. I just never thought of a rubric that way before.

          1. descriptive rubrics increase achievement more than quantitative or evaluative rubrics and the descriptors themselves can each be a learning target, just like you have above.

  2. Thanks Annamarie and Robert. I formatted Robert’s version into a table layout that I can distribute out to everybody tomorrow. I just had a big reinforce the procedures discussion with a German I class today, so this will help create accountablity there.

  3. FYI: in 1999 Annemarie and another teacher and I had our first Spanish teaching experience together. We knew that the way we were taught in school didn’t work so we planned a 3-week Spanish immersion program in our school (Shackleton School). We had no idea what we were doing, but we knew that students being immersed for 3 weeks beat a year of 40 min. (non CI) daily classes. If only we knew then what we know now! 🙂
    Annamaria– I’m so grateful to be sharing this teaching experience with you again even from afar!!!

  4. Just an update. We have a rotating extension period (extra half hour attached to each period on a rotating basis – to be used for review, discussing assessments, remediation, etc.). Yesterday was extension for my German 1 class – the one I’ve been having issues with about talking in English, etc. I went over my grading and the three modes. Then I had the students fill out their self evaluation for interpersonal communication. Most of them either coincided with my observation or were harder on themselves. The one or two deviations can be discussed, but I have this as a backup when I enter grades; I can say, this is the grade your child agrees is appropriate. I will be doing this with all my classes as their their extension period rolls around. (That means I will be doing it less than once a week but still on a regular basis.)
    After doing the interpersonal communication, I went over citizenship and work habits, then asked students to do a self evaluation but didn’t collect it. They now have a rubric for citizenship and work habits as well.

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