Sunday, July 15, 2018

Absolutely the Best Gift for a Teacher

Do you know what is the absolute best gift/thing that a world language teacher can receive? if you're a teacher you probably can guess. 

What it is NOT:

- an extra personal day
- a high rating on your yearly evaluation
- a raise (although, this definitely makes all teachers smile!)
- new classroom furniture (or in my case, getting permission to r-e-m-o-v-e some of the class furnishings)
- an increase in the amount of the department budget
- no extra duties throughout the school year

None of the above can hold a candle to the best gift EVER - a note from a 
student that says how he was able to use the target language in a purposeful way outside of the classroom.

Earlier today I received a Twitter message, as described above, from a student that graduated in June 2018. He talked in Spanish with a customer at his place of employment and he was (1) excited to experience being able to successfully use his skills in an authentic conversation, and (2) looking forward to continuing his exposure and acquisition of Spanish with a future study abroad program for his music major.

He gave me permission to share this on my blog. (I forgot to ask if I could use his name, thus, no name on the letter.) The success he experienced with the language is completely due to him receiving instruction that included tons of Comprehensible Input - movie talks, TPRS, stories and legends, reading (13 class novels from levels 1-5 and many book during SSR), weekend talk, jokes in Spanish, and even in games in the target language. CI is the powerhouse and the reason for his accelerated language skills. I was the fortunate one that was able to observe his progress on his language journey for 3 of the 5 semesters he had language classes.

This is a good reminder for me to never doubt the impact of providing a daily dose of comprehensible input to students. What remains is for ALL teachers to continue to invest their time and energy (and most likely money) into continual improvement of their teaching skills to benefit our students.  😊

When I received his message, I was on my way to iFLT, in Cincinnati, Ohio, a national conference for world language teachers. His message gave me a renewed energy to squeeze out every bit of knowledge, advice, collaboration, learning, observation, etc out of this conference. It pays off in huge dividends on the student end!!!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Brain Break - Photo Roulette

Photo Roulette - photo from Library of Congress
 It's June 30 today and I doubt there are many teachers looking for ideas for Brain Breaks but, when the school year starts again in August, this may come in handy. Also, I saw this today and I'm likely to forget about it, so this blog post serves as a reminder to me. 😃

For the brain break you will need to go to the website Photo Roulette, which has photos from the Library of Congress. The website will show you a photo from the Library of Congress and then you guess in what year the photo was taken. You have 10 guesses and after each guess it will tell you whether you should guess an early year or one that is more recent. 

You can play Photo Roulette as a whole class effort, let students work in groups of 4, or whatever works best that doesn't take time to arrange groups. If using it with the whole class, especially a beginning class, the teacher could have a student write a year on the board, and the teacher would then turn to the class and say in the target language, "Class, do you think it is before (year written on board) or after?"; maybe have the students that think it is before stand up and those that think it is a later date remain seated.  The teacher, or her helper, will type in the suggested date, and if the website says it was before, any of the students standing can write a number on the board for the next suggestion. For more repetition the teacher can say, in the TL, "It wasn't before 1955, it was after 1955." The teacher looks at those students that are seated and says, "Who wants to guess a date, an write it on the board, after 1955?" Doing the brain break in this manner allows the students to hear the year, repeated several times as the teacher asks about it, and not have to produce it.

A suggestion for doing the brain break with several groups: Divide the class in 4 groups and let the first group guess a year. Type the answer in and check if the group is correct. The next group reads the hint provided by the Photo Roulette website and guesses accordingly. The group that guesses correctly is awarded the number of points of the remaining guesses. After 3 or 4 photos, the group with the highest number of points is the winner.

If your school is 1:1, students can play Photo Roulette with a partner, which translates into ALL students being actively engaged!

Whether you use this website as a brain break or for a fun Friday activity, I think the students will enjoy it and not realize they're getting a little "practice" on how to say years in the TL. If the teacher wants to really dig in, she can compare the photo to today and point out things that are different, or simply talk about the photo after the year was guessed. 

If you have fun way to use this with your language class, please share in the comments below. HAVE FUN!!!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Novel Activities - Popsicle Emojis & Re-creating Scenes

Some of my favorite activities and/or mini-projects that I use with students are ones that can be used with more than one specific novel. This semester I tried two new activities when we were reading the novel, El Escape Cubano, by Mira Canion, but they can easily be used with other novels and with other languages.  

Popsicle Emojis
The first is an activity that Mira Canion gave to me to try that is coming in the teacher's guide for the novel El Escape Cubano. Think of it as your insider's SNEAK PEAK into the teacher's guide. With her permission, I am blogging about it while we wait for the complete guide. (If you have bought a teacher's guide from Mira for her other novels, you know it will be packed full with useful materials!)

First I created a document on an 8.5 x 11.5 paper with 6 emojis: happy, scared, in love, sad, nervous, and angry. I made 30 copies for a classroom set and cut out the individual emojis. (Use the school paper cutter and it will go quickly. Your students can glue the emojis on the popsicle sticks. Save the class set and they'll be ready to use at a moment's notice.)

I bought large popsicle sticks and gave students instructions on which emojis to pair together. Then they glued two emojis (front and back) on the popsicle sticks. When completed, each student had 3 popsicle sticks with 6 emojis.

We had read and discussed the chapters in which the characters in the story are on a raft between Cuba and Florida, with no land in sight. Then I chose sentences from the text for students to identify how a character was feeling at the time. I read a sentence and students chose an emoji to hold up. Sometimes students held up different emojis which provided the perfect opportunity to discuss why each student had chosen the emoji. There doesn't always have to be the same answer and it's interesting to see which students choose which emoji.

This activity involved listening comprehension AND it required students to think about how the characters were feeling which helped the students to connect and relate to the characters more than they would have by merely reading the text.

Re-creating Scenes

In chapter 9 of El Escape Cubano, the characters are on a raft in the middle of nowhere and they have a dangerous encounter with a shark. I wanted students to highlight the events of the chapter by using cutouts of the characters, the shark (which they drew earlier - read about it in this post), and a raft.  

Some of the students were creative and added other objects and color to their scenes. 
(Please, no judgement on my artistic skills, or lack thereof, of the stick figures above; as usual, this idea came to me at the 11th hour so the people and raft sketches were done in record-breaking time!)

The students followed the instructions as shown below:

Mini-Project for Chapter 9 of El Escape Cubano

1. Read chapter 9 of El Escape Cubano

2. Find a sentence that is part of a scene from ch9. Use the manipulatives and create the scene. You may make a speech bubble and write the dialog (if there is dialog) and lay the speech bubble on your scene OR create the speech bubble in Google Slides.

3.  Take a photo of the scene with the iPad.

4. Create a Google Slide presentation with the photos. Title it "Ch9 recreations & your name"

5. Add 4 slides after the title slide.

6. Upload the first photo to slide 2 of the Google Slide presentation.

7. If you didn't add any speech bubbles before uploading the photo, add them now on the slide. Pull sentences directly from the book that describe the scene and add those sentences on the slide.

8. Create 3 additional scenes using the same instructions.

9. Upload your finished Google Slide presentation to Schoology.

Students worked with a partner to create the 4 scenes. This mini-project required the students to reread the chapter to (1) find scenes which could easily be depicted with the cut-outs, and (2) be able to arrange the characters, the shark, and the raft in the correct positions to match the text. 

After the projects were uploaded, it was easy to project them on the board and I used them as a review of the chapter.

FYI, when I give mini-projects like this, I want the focus to be on reading and/or creating with the text and not to spend a huge amount of time on sketching. By having the characters and shark already sketched, the majority of the students' time was spent on reading, writing, and arranging the characters in the scenes. I gave them 30-ish minutes to complete the project which meant there wasn't time to waste.

Below are several slides from 3 different presentations that students completed:


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Button Button Brain Break from Sarah Breckley

When I was a little girl, I used to play "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button" with my sisters and my grandparents when we would spend a week at their farm in the summer. (fyi - the grammar in the title  of this old game may make you twitch; similar to PA's license plate motto "You've got a friend in Pennsylvania" - oh my.) It's been decades since I played or even thought about that game. But today, I saw a video by Sarah Breckley, a Spanish teacher from Wisconsin, (more about Sarah later), that brought those memories back in a snap.

Sarah's video title is "Button Button, Who's Got the Button - Direct Object Pronoun Grammar Game". In the video the students play the game with objects, which she varies in order to require students to use all of the direct object pronouns. Some suggestions for objects - coins, balls, pen, Beanie Baby stuffed animal.

The sweet deal about this game is that even though the title claims it is a grammar game, the focus is NOT on grammar. Rather, the focus is on guessing which of the students has the object that is being passed behind their backs. During play, the student that is seated in the middle tries to guess which student has the object by asking his classmates in the TL, "Do you have IT?" and the student that was asked answers "Yes, I have IT" or "No, I don't have IT" (or THEM if more than one object is passed).  

Converting BUTTON, BUTTON to a Brain Break
In Sarah's video, the students play this as a game. It can easily be shortened to be used as a brain break by playing without teams. Tell the students that you will play for X# of minutes, whatever length of time you want for your brain break, and end the activity at the end of the time.

Obviously, the first time you play, it will take longer because you will have to explain it to the students. After the first time, it can serve as an energizing brain break that takes place in the TL.

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button
Watch the video below or directly on YouTube HERE and then check the document below with Sarah's instructions on how to play. 

A pdf of the directions can be found HERE

Sarah Breckley
In 2017 Sarah was recognized as Wisconsin's Teacher of the Year. 
If you are a Spanish teacher that subscribes to Sr. Wooly's site, you may have recognized Sarah from his video "Feo" in which she absolutely nailed her role as Feona.

Sarah has a Vlog HERE, or in the future you can find it on the right panel of my blog on the list of CI/TPRS blogs. On her vlog you can find videos of Sarah teaching using stories through the use of comprehensible input with her students. When watching the videos, it is evident why she was award the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year title and obvious that her students are enjoying acquiring the Spanish language in her classroom. I encourage you to spend time watching her videos and then to "steal" more ideas from Sarah.  :-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Brain Break: Apple, Banana, Orange

There are TWO masters of Brain Breaks: 
#1 - Annabelle Allen (@lamaestraloca), for sharing her great ideas for Brain Breaks - HERE; and 
#2 - Krista Kovalchick (@MmeKovalchick) who consistently uses brain breaks throughout her lessons which motivates me to do the same and to search for new brain breaks to use in my class. 

On my ONE day of spring break (yes, sadly, it was only 1 day), I spent the morning searching the internet for Brain Break ideas. I found some goodies, and tried out this gem, "Apple, Banana, Orange" last week. I tried it with my students and it was a success, then I shared it with Krista, and she said her students enjoyed it too!

Apple, Banana, Orange 

This Brain Break is played in the target language. You can explain it in the target language, but if you're using it with a beginning level, I think you are justified in explaining it in English so you can quickly get to the movement!

1. Tell students to form a circle, with students facing in. Then everyone should move 90 degrees to the right, so the person in front of them has their back to them. All students will now be facing the back of the student in front of them.

2. Students should put their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. When all students do this, you will have a complete, attached circle.

3. When the teacher says APPLE in the target language (manzana, for my Spanish students), the whole group must jump one space forward in UNISON. Students may repeat the word together as they jump if they like or they can simply jump forward in unison without saying the word. 

4. Practice the word APPLE several times until the group can jump forward in unison.

5. Next, practice the word BANANA. When the teacher says BANANA, the whole group (still with hands on the shoulder of the person in front of them) jumps one step backward, in unison.  They will probably need more practice on BANANA.

6. Mix the two commands, APPLE and BANANA, and students must wait until you have finished saying the commands before they can move together. (ex: APPLE, APPLE, BANANA)

By this time, everyone in the class will be smiling and having fun.  :-)

7. The final step is with the word ORANGE, (naranja for Spanish students). When the teacher says ORANGE (in TL of course), the students will let go of the shoulders of the person in front of them, jump an 180 degree turn, and put their hands on the person that is in front of them (which before the 180 degree turn was the person behind them). 

8. Combine 4 words and students will jump accordingly. 
- APPLE, ORANGE, BANANA, BANANA  (say it in your target language)
- BANANA, APPLE, BANANA, ORANGE  (say it in your target language)
- ORANGE, APPLE, ORANGE, BANANA  (say it in your target language )

This Brain Break is definitely an ENERGIZER, although one of my honors students said after the Brain Break that his brain was working harder the entire time. Yes, his brain was working, but with a smile on his face.  

OPTION: You don't have to use fruit for the three words. If you want repetition of other words, use those instead of the fruit. 

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!