Friday, March 16, 2018

Sr. Wooly's La Casa de la Dentista: Reading with Students

With only 1 copy of La Casa de la Dentista last semester, I used a document camera and read the story to my students, along with sound effects and dramatic character voices.

This semester, I have a class set of the books and my plans for reading it went as follows.

1. I showed the video to Seis Veces al Día when it was released in February and they have seen it several times since.

2. I used the powerpoint slides of the story from the Teacher's Guide of La Casa de la Dentista to read the first part of the book with my students. I designated two students in each class to be the 'sound effects technicians'. After reading the text on each slide, or for the slides that didn't have text, I paused to allow the students create the sound effects. In one class I held auditions for the sound effects, which really made the students up their game to be chosen for that job.

3. We read to page 54 on one day, and the following day we re-read that but at a quicker pace - both days using the powerpoint slides.  

4. Today, students had to write 10 sentences to summarize what had happened thus far in the book. They said the sentences to me; I wrote them on the board; and the students copied what I wrote.  (This marking period, I'm making a deliberate effort to have students write each day - sometimes a few sentences, sometimes a paragraph or two.)

5. Then I distributed photocopies of teeth and students had to write two things on the teeth:
 - What question do they have about what has happened?
 - What do they think is going to happen.

6. I read the students' questions and predictions and we briefly commented on them.

7. Afterwards, each student picked up the novel La Casa de la Dentista and they could choose to read it alone or in a small group. If they chose to read it with a partner or in a small group, and to remember to include the sound effects when reading.

This is what ENGAGED reading looks like which is a reminder that is doesn't have to be SILENT reading. 

8. When the student below finished, I heard her reaction to the book and then I asked her if she would share that reaction/opinion on video.  Then I showed her the note from Sr. Wooly on the last page of the glossary because she hadn't seen the note. 
Make sure your students don't skip over that promising bit of information!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the way we read the book this semester is different than before, and both ways were engaging and enjoyable for the students. However, I may tweak it a bit and implement a slightly different approach next time, PLUS I'll include the cookies again - something I did last time but forget this time. :(

Thank you Jim Wooldridge for writing a compelling story and for the sweet "promise" on the note in the glossary. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spanish Teacher Resource: TikTak Draw

If you are not aware of the YouTube channel, TikTak Draw, and you teach Spanish, especially the upper levels, it is time to check it out.

There are hundreds of videos (well over 400 videos) in Spanish! There are videos about famous people, holidays, popular cartoons, food, mythical characters (dragons & unicorns), mirrors (yes, on mirrors), animals, scene  heroes, legends, shoes, ninjas, Big Ben ... on pretty much ANYTHING! 

Check it out - but, be forewarned, you may end up spending a lot of time on the site so set an alarm to monitor your time - LOL. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Change Parent Newsletters to Parent NewVIDEOS with Apple's Clips app

Up until January 2018, I was committed to creating newsletters for the parents of my students to keep them informed of what their son/daughter is doing in Spanish class. I used to spend h-o-u-r-s creating the newsletters, formatting the information into nice pretty columns, adding photos, and trying to balance the content on the two pages.  

Pictured on the right is the September 2017 Spanish 2 newsletter. I was pleased with how it came out and the information that was shared until I talked to a parent that mentioned, yes, he had received the newsletter by email, but he didn't have the time or take the time to read it yet.

That's when I realized, I would have done the same thing if my son or daughter's teacher would have emailed a two-page newsletter to me. It doesn't make me, or you, a "bad" parent, because if it would, be assured there would be many "bad" parents.  Who has time to read newsletters these days? People are more likely to watch a short video than to read two pages about their child's class.

Clips App
Last month I went to PETE & C, a tech conference held in Hershey, PA. The first session I went to was a presentation about Apple's Clips app. It took roughly 25 minutes of the hour presentation for the presenter to create a short video that could be shared with parents about a recent field trip, and, he did that while explaining the steps and the app to the attendees. 

A few days later, my colleague, Krista Kovalchick, showed me a practice "clip" that she made at home wth the app. After that, I decided it was time to experiment with the app. 

That was about three weeks ago and since that time I have made two parent "newsvideos" which have garnered more responses and comments from parents than I have in the last five years of writing newsletters.

HERE is an example of a Clip I made, specifically for this blog. The actual videos I sent to the parents are better with short clips within the video of the students singing, collaborating on a project, participating in an author Skype with Mira Canion, and loads of photos of class activities. (Since they are created specifically for parents, I have more freedom to include photos and videos of the students.)
Screenshots of Clips video.  There's also an option for text with solid background.
Apple's Clips app has been described as the iMovie app for the next generation. I like to think of it as the iMovie for the older generation because it is much more user-friendly than iMovie. There's less of a learner's curve which means you can create videos in less time and with less headaches. 

For my next parent newsvideos, I'd like to include a few clips of students' commenting on the book the read, or a fun activity they did in class, or a few sentences of a story retell. 

Some of the features of the Clips app are:
- animated text
- emojis
- fun stickers
- Star Wars, Disney, & Pixar characters
- artistic filters
- music for background (that automatically fits the length of your video and lowers the volume when there is other sound on a video or slide)
- and the ability to easily share the video 
There are even more cool options with the updated version for those who have a  an iPhone 10.

Using the app for parents "newsvideos" is only one small application for this app. I know you'll have fun using the app and finding other classroom uses for it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Resources for International Women's Day or Units on Women

Are you looking for resources for a unit on women, or more specific on Hispanic women, to showcase their role in history and their contributions to society in science, medicine, exploration, sports, etc? 

In my Spanish 4+ class, I have a unit simple titled "Las Mujeres" which introduces my students to several hispanic women that they most likely are not aware of, and also provide reading material for them in Spanish on women that they have learned about in their other classes such as art, Frida Kahlo; social studies, Sonia Sotomayor and Marie Reiche (originally from Germany); science, Ellen Ochoa; and music, Gloria Estefan & Celia Cruz.

These are some of my favorite sources and how I use them in class:

Cinco mujeres latinas que tú debes conocer

This is a resource from The Comprehensible Classroom (Martina Bex), that I purchased from TeachersPayTeachers last fall. The biographies are of Rigoberta Menchú, Michelle Bachelet, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Eva Perón, and the Mirabal sisters.

First, I printed out the pdf of the powerpoint slides and posted them around the room.  I divided the students into five group, with 2-3 students per group. (I used this with my small class of 13 students. **For larger classes, read the comment at the end of this section for suggestions.) Then I gave each group 5 pieces of construction paper - each group had a different color.

Each group went to one of the posted photos and information and read the information. Then they decided which fact/sentence from the information they wanted to sketch on the construction paper. They completed the sketch, underlined the phrase or sentence that they sketched, and taped their sketch next to the posted information.

After students had circulated through the five stations, they returned to their seats and we talked about each women, with one person from each group explaining how their sketch related to that woman's life.

The materials also include documents with a shortened version on each woman with short comprehension activities for students to complete. 
**If my class had more students, I would have altered this activity either by providing those documents and having students complete them in between completing the sketches, OR half of the students would have completed the sketches and the other half of the students would have written two comprehension questions per woman and the students would ask those comprehension questions to their classmates.

Frida Kahlo, by Kristy Placido

The novel, Frida Kahlo, is the backbone of my "Las Mujeres" unit. It is a 58-page biography about Frida Kahlo in which Kristy took care to include aspects of Frida's growing up years that will be of special interest to high school students (such as Frida caring for a family of rats, the mischievous acts at her school, and her struggle to "fit in" with high society). 

This is the first semester that I have the Frida Kahlo Teacher's Guide from Fluency Matters to use when reading the novel. It is packed full of extension activities, Can-Do Statements, comprehension questions that elicit higher-order thinking, Reader's Theater scripts and a fun, interactive section called Shake it Up! and more. To my surprise, I only realized after using the teacher guide for a few chapters that there is also an Online Supplement to the Teacher's Guide, especially useful for teachers in 1:1 schools. You don't need to come up with the ideas - they're all provided for you with detailed explanations. You'll save yourself hours of planning time with this resource!

In addition to the Teacher's Guide, many teachers have freely shared their ideas and activities to go with this novel. The first two are my current favorites and the others are additional resources to check out:

Kristy Placido - Incorporating Selfies and Self Portraits with Frida Kahlo unit

Somewhere to Share, Carrie Toth - Snap Chat with Frida Kahlo novel

Several posts from this blog
- Autorretratos inspired by Frida Kahlo novel
- Novels, Making Connections

Mundo de Pepito - Frida Kahlo in the Elementary Classroom (get inspired from these activities and adjust them to work in a secondary classroom)

The Feisty Language Teacher - Frida! Frida! Read All About Her! 

Vidas Impactantes, by Krista Placido 
Vida's Impactantes is another novel in which you will find biographies of hispanic women that have made a notable impact on society. You'll find information on Celia Cruz, Maria Reiche, and Azucena Villaflor. I've read this book, several times, and I'm in the process of pulling biographies of several people and inserting that into other Spanish 4 and Spanish 4+ units. I don't have the Teacher's Guide yet, but I know it will also be an invaluable resource.

As a side note, as you can see by the photo of the book cover on the right, this book also has 3 biographies of hispanic men!

A-Z Reading resources
If you have a subscription to A-Z reading, you automatically have a nice selection of online readers of famous women.  My students do SSR several times a week in which students choose a novel to read. During two weeks of the "Las Mujeres" unit, I request that students read the stories on A-Z reading (you can print them out or upload a pdf of the books to a learning management system such as Schoology).  

Several titles of books that are in Spanish are: Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Gloria Estefan, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Hillary Clinton, Hispanoamericanos Famosos, Mujeres Estrellas (Mia Hamm, Venus & Serena Williams, & Bethany Hamilton), Primeras Damas (Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Hillary Rodham Clinton), Ruby Bridges, Sally Ride, Sonia Sotomayor. See, I told you there were a lot of books on women!

I'm sure these resources are only the tip of the iceberg! 
If you have favorite resources related to hispanic women, please share, as I'm always open to learning!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Non-Targeted Input in its Pure Form

 After class yesterday, I took the below photo of my classroom board. If I had to describe my idea of a perfect class/lesson, this would be it.

The writing on the board is the result of a 60-minute class entirely comprised of non-targeted input. Non-targeted input, in a very basic explanation, is teaching in the target language without any preplanned targeted vocabulary or grammar structures. In non-targeted input, teachers put the emphasis on communicating in the language in a natural way. 

Do the words on the board look random? They should, because they are random. Natural conversations are free-flowing and the direction of the conversation changes with something as slight as a laugh, a side comment, a reaction, a person entering the classroom, or even a hiccup. It is completely unrestrained.

Consider this: Did you ever have a conversation with a friend and at some point in that conversation you ask, 'How did we get on this topic?" Then you backtrack from where you are in the conversation and how you arrived at that spot and you see how the flow of the conversation weaves and wiggles and moves from one topic to another.

That is what the photo of the board shows. In fact, it was non-targeted input in its purest form because I didn't even plan to have non-targeted input today; didn't plan to "story listen" or to create a character; my plans were to read a story and later watch a brand new video (by a very important person!). As students needed vocabulary to express their thoughts, I wrote them on the board. You'll see that there are sketches, some by me (obviously I can NOT draw a fork, tenedor, well), and others by the students that sketched things to help make themselves understood. Along with the sketches on the board, there is a command, a verb in the subjunctive form, the past tense, present tense, various unrelated nouns - totally random but imperative to the conversation.

What were the students and I doing that involved such a random grouping of words and structures? At the beginning of class I noticed that a student didn't seem to be himself, so I asked if he was ok. He then proceeded to show us a bandage on his hand and then told us, in Spanish, what happened. At times he needed help with some words. When that happens, I pause to see if any of the students know the word and I give them the opportunity to say it.   When the student was finished, we knew what had happened and why he had a band-aid, and the photo he showed us on his phone perked up the whole class. 

From that one conversation, a handful of other conversations were born. Another student then told us about one time when she was hurt, then another student, and pretty soon several students had their hands up and there was a wait list to take their turn to talk, in SPANISH! They couldn't wait for their turn! We heard about a girl that didn't see a kite string and she ran into it and it got caught in her braces; about a girl when she was little was trying to go up a down escalator, and so much more. 

It was like watching two old men try to outdo who has the most health problems, but it was my students instead, sharing about their mishaps, one story outdoing others. 

After twenty-five minutes had passed, I knew my lesson plans were not going to be of use to me that class period because the momentum continued to grow. There was NO WAY I was going to interrupt that, (not even to show a new music video.) The students were interested and engaged in what their classmates were saying, laughing, and taking ownership in the teaching and learning taking place.  

Midway through the class period I instructed all students to look at the back of the classroom, away from the board. Then I asked them to tell me some new words they heard from the conversation that they didn't know before. I realize they may not have acquired the words yet, but they have a powerful start in doing that.

It's after those types of classes that I leave school on a teaching high. BUT, that doesn't happen every day and I make no claims that it happens every day. It's the right combination of the mix of students, what has happened in their day before they come to my class or what they're looking forward to later in the afternoon, how they feel physically, and emotionally, and how they react to what their classmates say and to what I say. As teachers, we ALL have not so good days, good days, great days, and days that we can't wait to share with others.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

ESPERANZA the novel: Ideas and Resources

Esperanza novel  - Fluency Matters
One of the novels in my Spanish 4 curriculum is Esperanza, written by Carol Gaab. I selected this book for Spanish 4 because:

1. It is an easy read for my Spanish 4 students. I chose it as our first class novel of the semester because I want the students to feel successful right from the start of Spanish 4.
2. It is based on a true, compelling story about a family that fled Guatemala.
3. Using it at a higher level allows me to include resources about immigration, strikes, etc. that need minimal scaffolding.
4. I love learning about Guatemala, a country that is on my bucket list. This semester is really fun because two of my students went on mission trips to Guatemala with their church, so we're able to learn from their first-hand experiences.

For Esperanza, I rely heavily on the Teacher's Guide by Fluency Matters. I especially like the cultural readings and suggestions for discussions before each chapter.

In addition to the Teacher's Guide, here are several lessons and activities that I use before reading the book and during the reading.

1. Discussions (in Spanish) on strikes.
    - Ask students to write two lists; in one list write 5 businesses/organizations that you would not care if they went on strike and 5 business/organizations that you would be upset if they went on strike. The students readily participate in this conversation.

     - Watch or tell the story "Clic Clac Mu, Vacas Escritoras". I use the video on   Discovery Streaming. Then we follow-up with what would happen if farmers went on strike; the effects are far-reaching!

      - What would happen if your mother went on strike? The Canadian mother in THIS ARTICLE did. Before we read this, I ask students what they do to help around the house, who in the family does the most house work, etc. 

2. Previous knowledge of GuatemalaAsk students to make a list of things they already know about Guatemala. Then show them Ricardo Arjona's music video "Mi País". THIS is the Pepsi version but there are others of the song without Pepsi products shown throughout.
This morning I learned about this video by Gaby Moreno filmed in Guatemala

3. Guatemalan LegendThe currency in Guatemala is quetzales. Quetzales are mentioned when the aunt gives the mother money and again when the mother pays the men on the bus. 

After reading chapter 5, I "story listen" (story tell) the Guatemalan legend, "Quetzal no muere nunca". Telling this story, usually takes 30 minutes or more. After I tell a part of the story, I pause, tell students to tell their partner in English what happened, and then I chose one person to tell the whole class what happened, in English. If you want to try telling this story, don't get hung up on the fact that they're retelling increments of the story in English. It is actually a refreshing break for them and it ensures all understand. 

There are many ways to review the story after telling it if you want to recycle the words and structures again, such as Marker Partner Plus. One of my FAVORITE follow-ups with this story happens when a student is absent on the day I tell the story. Since the returning absent student has not heard the story, I  put the entire class in charge of telling the story to the student in Spanish. The student that was absent and I are the only two that can talk in English. 

Two days ago my Sp4 class had to retell the story to two students that had been absent. I was amazed at what they remembered and how well they worked together to tell the story in Spanish. Out of 20 students that were present to tell the story, I think all but 3 at some point joined in the retell, many times several students were raising their hands to continue the story where their classmate had stopped. Granted, that type of participation in the retell doesn't always happen, but when it does - WOW, sit back and enjoy it!

4. Password. After reading chapter 6, I compiled a list of key words, mostly from chapter 6 but from other chapters too. I'll write a new blog post to explain how we play Password and link it here. 
Hint for planning: schedule this activity for the end of the class period to monitor how long they play. If you don't they'll want to play the whole class period. 

5. Game Smashing with word clouds. I made this game based on chapters 6 and 7 of Esperanza. Refer to this post for the directions. I used a similar game for my students in Spanish 2 and it was a success.  

I had planned to use the game for Esperanza below on Friday, but the students were doing such an excellent job of retelling the story of Quetzal no muere nunca (see #3 above) that I needed to move this activity to next week. 
The game is made and ready to go and I can't wait to try it out with my Spanish 4 students.

6. Put things in perspective. This is an interesting visual to use while reading Esperanza. It is easy for us to forget what 'luxuries' we have in comparison to the majority of the people in the world. 

Click HERE to find it on Pinterest.

7. Si tuvieras que inmigrar a otro país...
I give each student a small slip of paper and they write "Si tuviera que inmigrar a otro país, yo inmigraría a _____, porque ______." I collect the papers and read their answers. The students have three guesses for who wrote the sentence. If they're right, I put those papers on one pile and if they're wrong, I put those on another pile. After the first round, I re-read those the students did not guess correctly for a another chance to figure out who wrote the answer read.

This is an easy way for your students to learn more about their classmates and even find out that they may have some things in common they didn't know about.

My lesson plan for teaching Esperanza is a living document, in that I make additions and subtractions with the purpose to continue improving it. As I find new materials that will enhance the lessons and the students' experience of reading the novel, I add them and, in delete activities from previous years when I find something better to replace it.

For more ideas and resources, you should definitely check out:
 Martina Bex's blog, The Comprehensible Classroom 
 Sharon Birch's blog El Mundo de Birch
 Alison Wienhold's blog Mis Clases Locas
 Elena Lopez' blog Aprendemos Juntos 

Follow this link for information on a verbal book report that I used to do after reading the book. I did not assign this to the students last semester and have not decided if I will assign it this semester. I 'm sharing it because it may spark ideas for you on what you want to do after finishing the novel.

If you are willing to share activities and resources that you have found to be helpful when teaching this novel, I'd love to hear them!



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Post Student Interview Stories

Do you do "La Personal Especial" or Student Interviews with your second language students? I have been doing a variation of this idea for many years. Last school year, I added a new component to it with my Spanish 4 students.  After the 'interview', students stand and each one must ask a question to the student interviewee before sitting again. 

Yesterday, I was curious to know how much the students listened to the actual interview and to the questions AFTER they had asked their own question. After everyone had asked a question, I instructed the students to write a story (made up) that included a minimum of 4 pieces of information that the student interviewee had given us during the interview or during the questions. I suggested that the story length be at least 5 sentences.

From the stories they shared, it was obvious that the students were listening because in their stories they included a wide range of facts from the interview and from the follow-up Q&A session. I called on students to read their stories and then I, or students, said how many pieces of information the person had included. 

This also worked well as an informal assessment. As I listened to the stories, I was able to hear which structures the students were using correctly and which ones they needed additional input and exposure. 

Because the students created stories with the student information, I'm know that the students will remember more facts and details about the student interviewee yesterday than about their classmates in previous interviews.

Advantages of this post student interview writing activity:
1 - no prep needed
2 - all students are engaged
3 - recycling the language; additional input on interview information
4 - the language is used in context
5 - opportunity for students to write creatively in TL
6 - compelling input
7 - the student interviewee heard many stories, about HER!

Game Smashing with Word Clouds

If App Smashing is the process of using multiple apps to create projects or complete tasks, then is the process of using multiple games to informally assess students' understanding called Game Smashing? If so, then this week I did some Game Smashing in my Spanish 2 class.

The Game Smashing is an altered form of the classic Fly Swatter game and a cloze activity. The Fly Swatter game evolved over the last decade in my classroom from the original Fly Swatter game, to Slap, to Word Cloud Cross Out.    

Here are the descriptions of each of the games. The last one is the example of Game Smashing. 

Fly Swatter - Years ago, I played this game with my students to review vocabulary words or even to introduce the words. I wrote words on overhead sheets (that tells you how long ago it was) and projected it to the board. Two students stood at the board, each with a fly swatter, and when I said one of the words in English, they raced to be the first one to swat the word. The two drawbacks with this game was (1) the two students competing with the flyswatters were engaged, and the rest of the students were interested in watching them for the first couple rounds as we cycled new students into the competition, but after 3 or 4 rounds, many students tuned out; and (2) the words were used out of context.

Slap - I wrote the vocabulary words on a sheet of paper, copied enough sheets for 1/2 the amount of students you have, cut the papers into rectangles so there is only 1 word on each slip of paper. Students work with a partner and spread their set of words out in front of them. When I say the word in English, they race to be the first one to slap the word. The first one to touch the word then picks it up and it serves as and easy way to count their points at the end of the game. 

With Slap, I solved the problem of only two students actively participating at the same time, but I was still using the words out of context. It also required extra work to cut out the rectangles, and since we don't have desks in my room, this was no longer a good option.

Word Cloud Cross Out - Instead of writing the words on rectangles, I put the words and made a copy for each student. Students worked with a partner, each student had a highlighter, (it has to be a different color than their partner), and when I called out the word, they raced to be the first one to cross out the word with their marker. This version eliminated the need to cut the paper but the bigger drawback was that I was still using words out of context. 

At times I modified it by describing/defining the word in Spanish or if the words were related to our class novel, I said sentences related to the plot in the novel.

Game Smashing with Word Clouds  
Some background info: My Spanish 2 students come from two different Spanish 1 teachers so the amount of input they have had on the words that I included in the word cloud varies from one teacher to another. Another factor is that some students have not had Spanish 1 for a year or longer and others had just finished Spanish 1 days before starting Spanish 2. The entire "unit's" purpose, for which I made the word cloud, is to give additional input on high frequency words students have seen and heard in Spanish 1, and to introduce them to a few words that they will encounter in their first class novel of the semester.  I often give the students a pre-unit activity to give me an idea of the students' acquisition and knowledge level on the material. 

I created a word cloud. Then I wrote "cloze" sentences for each of the words and put those sentences on a powerpoint, one sentence per slide. I also wanted the answer to appear on each slide, so I added animation for the answer to appear on the slide after students have have sufficient time to read the sentence and find the word on their word cloud. Students worked with a partner and each had a different colored highlighter and 1 word cloud. Instead of me calling out the word or sentence, students read the sentence from the powerpoint and then raced to be the first one to cross out the word that best completed the sentence.

The advantages of this method are: 
(1) words are used in context, 
(2) instead of projecting the sentence, I can first say the sentence to them and then project the sentence so they get both listening and reading
(3) all students are engaged
(4) even though students were 'competing' against their classmates, I heard students discussing among them on what the answer might be, which is a plus in my opinion

The disadvantage is that it takes some time to make the powerpoint, but after the initial time commitment it will be available to use with future classes.

Since each student has a word cloud, I used the words in two rounds: the first round I simply called out the words in English (Word Cloud Cross Out). The students that won the first round had to find another classmate to play against for the second round, and those that lost the first round found a partner that also lost for the second round. For the second round, I used the powerpoint.

The Game Smashing Word Cloud I used yesterday was only verbs, but it can include any type of word or phrase. After the success and student approval of the Game Smashing Word Cloud with my Spanish 2 students, I'm working on creating a new one to use in Spanish 4, with vocabulary from chapters 7 & 8 of their class novel, Esperanza

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Listen to Your Teacher Heart Song

In February, when we're more than a month past the plentiful November, December, and January holidays, and spring break is not on the horizon yet, it can be easy to slip into the winter/February doldrums. When I sense that feeling creeping in, I know a sure cure is to re-visit the student successes, and even more important, to recognize and acknowledge the little happy events in every day. 

Last night I was having difficulty falling asleep last night, and that's when I started listing things that have made my heart sing in the last few days. Obviously, readers may or may not have experienced these same heart song worthy events, but hopefully by glancing over them, it will help remind YOU about the great things that have happened and continue to happen in your classroom in your role as a teacher and mentor.

1. Real World Application
Last week a student from the previous semester, walked up to me with a huge grin on her face. It was obvious she had something that she couldn't wait to tell me. She said at work there was a customer that didn't speak any English and she helped the lady, speaking only in Spanish with her. Real world application at its best.

2. Love of Reading
Thanks to Fluency Matters and their 12 Days of Christmas give-aways, I won two e-courses for my Spanish students. I enrolled my Spanish 4 students for the e-course of the novel La hija del sastre and asked my students to become familiar with the platform. In a few days, one of the students stayed after class and asked if I could upload more books online for her to read. How refreshing is that?!!! I have at least one copy of every Fluency Matters book in my class library, but since this student likes the convenience of reading online, I may have to order a few more online courses for her and surprise her with them. 

3. Declaring Spanish as a Major
Late last year I learned that one of my students that graduated in June 2017, decided to double major in college, one of those majors being Spanish. He stopped in over break and chatted with me about his newly declared major and his plans after college. 

To make this day sweeter, other former Spanish students, that were visiting the school during their winter break to talk with students in a chemistry class, popped in to say hello. So great to see those smiling faces again!

4. Future Spanish Teachers
Another one of my former students that graduated 4 (?) years ago, returned to my class to share about her semester in Chile. How cool is that to have a former student return and actually teach the class? One or two more semesters and she'll be certified to teach Spanish. 

5. Building Class Community
In Spanish 4, I ask my students is to upload a photo of themselves to a Google Slide presentation at the beginning of a semester. I love learning what's important to my students from the photos they choose to upload. I use these photos when we have our student interviews and chat sessions. Photos make the conversation easier and more interesting. 

6. Parent and Teacher Teamwork
This may not be the one of the first things that comes to mind when reflecting on the highlights, but in my journey as a teacher, it becomes more apparent to how powerful the school-home connection is. Connecting with parents is time-consuming but I've already touched base with a dozen parents and the benefits are already evident.

7. Making Memories - Class Celebration
(one of my favorites) In January I brought back the Spanish celebration dinner, after more than an eight-year hiatus. The students and I enjoyed a home-cooked Spanish meal of chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, empanadas, buñuelos, and other goodies, and then played a game to round off the evening.  Those memories are gold, and, to make the experience even better, I received some thank you emails from the parents.

8. Colleagues - Near and Far
I've said it before on this blog and I'll say it again, the support of my colleague Krista, is a constant reason for my teacher heart to sing. We mentor each other, challenge each other, and encourage each other. 
In addition to Krista is a network of teacher friends in my PLN throughout the United States. They are both my armor, my wings, and my inspiration.
All of these are things that make my teacher heart sing.
All of these are things that help offset the not so glorious days.
All of these are things other teachers experience, as I'm sure you could rapid-fire list yours also. 

Without a doubt, teaching provides teachers with great memories, but they're intertwined with days that are challenging and ones we'd rather not remember. We need to hold tight to the good memories. How? A super easy way to do that is to post photos of current and past students participating in class activities or even ones with YOU in the photo with them. Post those photos near your desk, on your desk, on the side of your desk, around the room, anywhere you can see them, as a constant reminder and a quick pick-me-up. You'll be thankful you did on those days that the end of the work day is your best friend.

A special thank you to Carrie Toth that always seems to know the right thing to say. ;)  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Immediate Feedback with Clap, Wave, & Hands Up gestures

Say goodbye to dull methods to check answers on formative or summative multiple choice questions, and so hello to a fun, interactive method of whole class participation. In the Clap, Wave, Hands Up response gesture method, everyone participates at the same time, giving the teacher immediate feedback on the class' pre-knowledge of a subject or their comprehension of a text or cultural lesson.

The Clap, Wave, Hands Up gesture response method was one of those on the spot inspirations that affirms that some of my best teaching ideas are made in the moment. 

I have a powerpoint with 11 multiple questions about Navidad in Spain that I wanted to add to my lessons on this last week of school before Christmas vacation. Each of the questions has three answers from which students can choose their answer. My original plan was to project the powerpoint and for students to work with a partner to write the answers. In a class earlier in the day, I had students pair up with one mini-marker board between them, number 1-11 on the mini white board, and write the answers as I projected the questions on the PowerPoint. However, in the last class of the day, our Story Listening activity and subsequent write and discuss took longer than in the morning class. We finished the Story Listening with only 5 minutes remaining in class. It was obvious that there wasn't time to get the white boards out and follow my original plans. That's when a thought flashed through my mind to forgo writing the answers and to have everyone participate, at the same time, with motions.

I instructed students to do the following actions to indicate which answer they thought was correct, and to continue the action until I said the answer:

- If they thought A was the correct answer, they clapped their hands
- If they thought B was the correct answer, they put their palms up in front of them and moved them to the right and to the left (imagine the dance moves with Shirley Temple and the song, The Good Ship Lollipop; at least they are the moves I've seen as others have sung that song)
- If they thought C was the answer, they lifted their hands up and held them out to the side (it looks like the motion you make when you tell someone, "I don't know".)

After I read the question, the students silently read the 3 multiple answers and they indicated the answer they chose with one of the above motions/gestures. It turned out to be the best way, and most fun and interactive, to visually see what the students' answers were. Judging by the students' reactions and participation in the motions, they enjoyed this way also.

We zipped through the 11 questions in no time! 

This can also be used as a Brain Break with questions on anything that will interest the students. It gets them moving and smiling!

This method saves time, is interactive, is fun, and immediately visually shows the teacher which students have the correct answer. (No more boring, "if you think it is A, raise your hand; if you think it is B, raise your hand, etc - Zzz Zzz.) It can be used to introduce information about a country, a cultural topic, and to review chapters of a novel.  

I may have to do the activity again to videotape it, to give you a clear picture of my explanation, plus the students they looked so cute doing the motions. Several times I saw all three motions showing that many students were not being swayed by the motions of their classmates. The questions were about celebrating Christmas in Spain, some obvious and some that they have never learned about in previous levels.  

To mix it up, I'll change the motions after doing this several times. Keeping it novel is always a good idea!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Brain Breaks in the MFL class with Momo

Are you in need of a easy and fun brain break to do in the target language? By "easy" I mean little or no prep work on the teacher's part; by "fun" I mean the students like it and are actively engaged in the brain break.  

How about prepositions? Are you looking for a novel way to provide compelling and comprehensible input of prepositions in context in the target languag? If you said yes, then let me introduce you to Momo.

Andrew Kapp's photography book, starring MOMO!
Who is Momo? He is an adorable and obviously well-trained dog. His owner, Andrew Knapp, is an accomplished photographer that has photographed Momo in hundreds of locations in the US and beyond. Go to the website and you'll find more than 120 photos in which Momo is hidden. Sometimes Momo is behind objects, inside objects, on the left, on the right, under objects, above objects, and more. It's an interactive website so when you click on the photo where Momo is located, it will circle the area if you are correct.

I'm sure I wouldn't have to go into further explanation on how these photos are a fun brain break to the savvy teachers reading this post, because they already know what I am going to suggest. But in case you're off your game today, here's an idea for you: have your students find Momo and then you, or the students, describe where in the photo Momo is hiding. Or you can ask either/or or true/false questions about his location so the students are receiving input on Momo's location.

There are plenty of photos available for free online at and other google searches, but if you can't get enough of this cute compact canine, then there are several Momo books available online at Andrew's website or at your favorite bookstore. I found the following books on Amazon: Find MomoFind Momo Coast to Coast, and Let's Find Momo. (Click on the titles to find the links for the books on Amazon.)

Andrew Knapp has an Instagram account with more photos with Momo hiding plus endearing close-up photos of Momo and Momo chillin' with his master, Andrew.

Not only will it be fun for you and your students to find Momo, but the photography and the landscapes are spectacular, which could spark some interesting discussions in your MFL classroom. Thank you Andrew Knapp for these great photos and for sharing Momo with the world!!!

fyi: if you're looking for Andrew Knapp on Twitter his twitter handle is: @andrewomerknapp

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Marker Partner PLUS (a fun variation of Marker Partner)

In May of 2014, I wrote a blog post explaining The Marker Partner game. It is a fun way for the teacher to check student comprehension after listening to a story or after reading a text and to provide additional input through listening. Earlier this fall, I created a variation of the game that goes one level deeper into checking student comprehension and holds the students more accountable in earning points for their team. I'll refer to it as the Marker Partner PLUS game.

The set-up for the game is identical as for the Marker Partner game. Divide the students into two teams. If you have desks, the students move their desks so they are facing each other with a marker placed where the two desks meet. The students can place the paired desks in a circle formation or in a long row, if your room allows for this. If you do NOT have desks, you can do the activity in the cafeteria and the students sit at the long tables across from their opponents.

Marker Partner PLUS in a classroom w/o desks

Another option, one that I use when I have class during lunch periods and the cafeteria is not available, is to have the students place their chairs in two long rows so they are facing their partners, with an extra chair between them and the marker placed on the chair as shown in the photo on the right.

The students listen as the teacher reads a script of the story they have recently heard or a script of a story that they have read. (Or you can use this with any text, not limited to a story.) The students are actively listening for a changed detail as the teacher reads. When they hear an inaccurate detail, they grab the marker before their partner does. The students on each team hold their marker up and the teacher counts which side has more markers. The team with the most markers earns 1 point. 

Now for the twist. The teacher then chooses ANY student from the winning side that is holding up a marker and that student needs to say WHAT the error was and then must CORRECT the error by restating the sentence, or part of the sentence, with the correct information. The student cannot receive any help from his teammates. If the student can correctly identify the error and make the correction, he earns another point for his team, for a total of 2 points for that round.

However, if the student that the teacher choose to identify the error and correct it is unable to do so, the opposing team can earn 2 points if the student that the teacher calls on from the side that didn't earn 1 point is successful in stating the error and correcting it.

When I call on a student from the team that has the most markers, I always call on a student that is holding a marker. My reasoning is, if the student grabbed the marker, then she knows there was false information. When I call on a student on the opposing team when the first team member was unable to make the correction, I call on anyone on that team, whether they were first to grab the marker or they didn't beat their opponent.

I like this version BETTER! Why? Because the teacher is able to read more than one sentence at a time. I have played this version and read 4 or 5 sentences before I insert an incorrect detail. The students are intently listening for a longer period of time in anticipation for the incorrect detail. The next time I may chose to read only one sentence until I mention an incorrect detail. This keeps the students on their toes because they don't know how long they will need to listen before they grab the marker.

If you and your students like playing Marker Partner, then I predict you will also like Marker Partner PLUS