Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Healthy Meal

This post has absolutely NOTHING to do with teaching a language. Well, maybe I can find a connection to education: it's nice to look forward to this meal at the end of a teaching day. But nonetheless, it's a recipe for a great meal that's too good not to share with others and I don't have a food blog so I'm making a tiny exception and posting it here.

It is a copycat recipe for Fit Fare® Veggie Skillet from Denny's restaurant. I found a copycat recipe online and experimented and altered it until I found the right combination for my family. Then I added a shortcut to the recipe because, after a work day, who doesn't want a shortcut in meal prep?    

This is what makes this meal great:
1) It doesn't contain any hard to find or expensive ingredients. In fact, those of you that have home gardens will find most of the ingredients there. 

2) It's easy to prepare: basically cutting vegetables and stir frying them. 

3) It's healthy - veggies, a few potatoes (live a little), and egg whites.

4) It 's eye appealing - love those colorful vegetables. (I promise that I will take a photo of this meal the next time I made it, if...I remember.)

After a day of teaching, if you want to treat yourself to something delicious and healthy, give this recipe a try. 

A few notes:

1. I make this meal for 3 people, plus I want to have enough leftover for my school lunch the following day. I double the potatoes and add a little bit more of each ingredient.

2. I do not dish it out onto different plates. I serve it straight from the heated frypan so it stays warm longer. 

3. You can make this recipe even easier by cutting the vegetables the day before or in the morning before leaving for work, and/or microwaving the potatoes ahead of time. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Play-Doh in the WL Classroom; First Day Activities

Love those smiles!
When students come back to school after a long summer vacation, they, like the teachers, are adjusting to the new norm of school hours: waking up early, classes, quizzes and grades, sports practices, etc. However, those summer memories are still fresh in their minds and they don't want to let them fade away.

Perfect! They want to keep their summer memories vivid by talking about them and I want to encourage those conversations in the target language. 

As I chatted in Spanish with my Sp4+ students on our first day back to school, I held a plastic bag of Play-Doh behind my back. I wanted to reach into the bag behind my back and, ta-dah, produce a colorful container of Play-Doh to get a reaction from the students. Instead, my bag twisted and I struggled to pull out the Play-Doh. The suspense built and the students started guessing the contents in the bag, including guesses on what food it might be. (They know me well.)   

When I eventually managed to pull out the Play-Doh, I instructed them to create something that represented what they did over the summer. 

After students completed their sculptures, they took turns telling the class what they did. I built on what they said with follow-up questions to both the student and others in the class.

What a playful way to ease back into Spanish class! It was fun, it allowed students to revisit their childhood by creating with Play-Doh, and best of all, we learned about each other using the target language. 
More Play-Doh creations by Ephrata students

Play-Doh on Day One is a staple activity for my Spanish 4+ classes. I keep a bag of Play-Doh containers in my classroom cabinet. When I see a sale on Play-Doh, I add it to my stash so it's stocked and ready for Day One. My Spanish 4 classes have their photo activity for Day One and in Spanish 2, we start with students sketching 3 things on card stock or construction paper: what they like to do, what their favorite class was last year, and either their favorite vacation or anything else they wanted to chat about. 

Fun class for students; fun DAY for me. 

The photo on the right are Play-Doh creations by Señor Cerullo's students that he shared on Twitter.   


Friday, July 21, 2017

Step Forward, Step Backward

More than a month remains until my classroom will be filled with students, but I am already creating plans for those first few days (not on paper yet, but certainly have ideas in my head that I'll eventually transfer to paper). 

One activity that I will do with my students in the first week that is a get-to-know each other type of activity, but not the usual such as "find someone that..." fill in the type bingo grid. This activity is more student and class friendly in that all the students are reacting to what the teacher says and simultaneously learning about their classmates.

It's called Step Forward, Step Backward (or as I used to call it Forward/Backward). It can be used at the beginning of the school year, after a new semester, after a weekend or special event at school, before a holiday when the students find it harder to sit still, or anytime you want to provide input and build class community. The small prep work done by the teacher is contrasted by the high engagement level by the students. Step Forward, Step Backward is an activity that can be done with any level of language students as long as the teacher carefully chooses the vocabulary to keep it comprehensible for students' language abilities. This activity can also work as a Brain Break.

Overview: Students listen to a statement read by the teacher and step forward or step backward according to the directions. The teacher uses PQA (personalized questions and answers) to connect to the students and to provide additional comprehensible input.

Prep work:
1. The teacher writes several statements in the target language. 

2. The teacher assigns the number of steps that students will take forward or backward if the statement is true about them.

In class:
1. There are several ways to set up the activity depending on your room space. I have a desk-less classroom so students only need to push their chairs out of the way to do the activity. If you have desks in your classroom, it may be easier to go to the cafeteria or to an area in your school that has a lot of space, or...take the students outside. Another option if you have a lot of room in your class is for students to form a circle facing inward.

2. Students line up, shoulder to shoulder, facing the front of the room.

3. The teacher reads a statement and the students move forward or backward as instructed by the teacher.

Here are a few examples: (remember, it should be the target language)

a. Statements about pets:
   - If you have a cat, take one step forward.
   - If you have two or more cats, take an additional step forward.
   - If you have a dog, take one step backward.
   - If your dog is white, take one step backward.
   - If you don't have any pets, take two steps forward.
   - If you have a turtle, snake, or hamster as a pet, take 3 steps forward.

b. Statements about food:
   - If you like pizza take one step forward.
   - If you like broccoli, take two steps forward.
   - If you like Chinese food better than Mexican food, take one step forwards.
   - If you eat cereal for breakfast one or more days each week take one step

c. Statements about sports:
   - If you play soccer...
   - If you like to run...
   - If you play golf more often than you swim...
   - If you like to watch sports more than you like to play sports...

d. Statements about restaurants:
   - If you prefer Burger King over McDonald's...
   - If you have eaten at In-and-Out in the last 2 years...
   - If you work at a restaurant...

e. Statements about school:
   - If you have biology before this class...
   - If you don't have physical education this semester...
   - If you have an art class this year...
   - If you are a senior, step...
   - If you have a quiz or test today...

f. Statements about clothes:
   - If you are wearing sneakers today...
   - If you are wearing the color red today...
   - If you are not wearing socks today...
   - If you wore a hat this morning before school...
   - If you work at a clothing store...

As you become more acquainted with the students throughout the school year, you can make the statements more interesting by writing statements that relate to your specific students and school culture. 

After each statement, the teacher has an opportunity to expand on the information that was revealed by the students' movements.  As students move in response to the statements, they immediately see what they have in common with their classmates and interesting information about their classmates that they did not know.

- Every statement tells students to step forward.
- All the statements tell the students to step forward, BUT roll a dice and if it lands on 4, then every 4 questions the students will step backward if the statement is true for them. If it is a 3, every 3rd question the students step backward if the statement is true for them.
- Say the statement and ask the students to raise their hand if it is true for them. Then flip a coin to determine if the students step forward one step or if the students step backward one step.   
- and other variations that will keep the activity new

There doesn't have to be a "winner", but if your students will like that variation, go for it, and adjust the directions accordingly.

Have fun!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Resources and Links for Movie Talks Resources

For those attending the iFLT 2017 conference that were at my presentation, Movie Talk, Beyond the Basics, I have attached the link below to a document that has the links to the movies I discussed and to resources of where you can find videos for Movie Talk.

 Resource Document

Pre-conference Professional Development at iFLT2017

It's July and you know what that means: it's time for meaningful professional development at iFLT! I'm writing this from Denver, Colorado, where 500+ language teachers will converge on Tuesday to kick off the first official day of iFLT. 

My first day of iFLT started on Monday because I am serving as a coach this year.    

Coaching 4 Coaches workshop
Teri Weichart conducted a Coaches 4 Coaches session on Monday to train the coaches and
attendees that signed up for an extra session on coaching, before the start of the conference. After hugs and greetings to other members of our Coaching Tribe, we got down to business. 
Teri put 5 white poster sheets around the room and we wrote a skill on each of the posters. Later, in small groups, we discussed each poster. Below are several answers that stood out to my group that are beyond what you may normally think one would answer. 

1. Comprehensibility
Students may not recognize cognates they hear until they see them written. Don't assume the students understand you when you are using cognates.

2. Keeping Things Interesting
- vary energy and voice level
- go "off rails" to follow student interest
- pause to add suspense
- always give students a choice (Ex: Do you want to discuss in groups of 2 or as a whole class?)

3. Storytelling Skills
- "If it doesn't flow, let it go" - if you are telling a story and you realize it isn't interesting and not working with the students, drop it and move on. Give yourself permission to "let it go".

4. Connecting to Students
- Recognize what each individual student's engagement looks like. One student is engaged when they look directly at you, while another may be as engaged but he is looking down. Student engagement looks different for different students.

5. Other
- incorporate music, brain breaks, and CI games
- Be present in the present (show up to class in the present, not focused on the past)
- Encourage students and build up their confidence
- Accept that students' skills are where they are, not where you want them to be

Coaching Teacher SkillsLaurie Clarcq played the role of coach when Kirstin Plante taught the teacher "students" Dutch. Both of them were amazing: Kirstin on making the language comprehensible by going slowly, using gestures, writing the words in both languages in two different colors, engaging the "students", pausing and pointing at the words, expressive, etc; and Laurie with her gentle and encouraging method of providing feedback to Kirstin. (Btw, if you see Kirstin, ask her to demonstrate her version of a giraffe walking to the store.)

Then we returned to our small groups and took turns playing the roles of teacher, coach, student, and observer in the coaching format. Each role is a powerful learning experience and helped prepare us as coaches for the attendees that will visit the coaching rooms in the next few days.

Stephen Krashen talked to participants in the Fluency Fast classes and others about the power of reading and its role in language acquisition.

After the training and the Krashen talk, I'm ready for iFLT to officially start!!!

Personalizing experiences before and after conference hours

I've attended many conferences throughout the last few years in which I failed to schedule time to actually see the city and surrounding area in which the conference was held. But this year, I arrived in Denver before 9:00 am on Sunday, and spent the day with the talented Nelly Hughes (Spanish teacher from Ohio) and her family hiking at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The park is beautiful with spectacular views. Of course, my conversations with Nelly were often related to teaching. 

At the end of the day, I bumped into friends from Pinellas School District in Florida and we went to a local restaurant, Casa Bonita, where the food was ok but the conversation was GREAT!

Suggestion: If you are able to extend your stay at a conference a day or two before or after the actual conference, DO IT.  You never know when you'll be in that city again so make the most of your time and financial of attending the conference by setting aside time to explore the area.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sub Plans that keep the CI Flowing

One of my least favorite tasks as a teacher is to write substitute plans. I can take the easy way out and have the students watch a movie. Movies have a variety of value: there are movies in the target language that students don't understand, movies in the target language with English subtitles, and movies that are in English but are culturally rich. 

What other options are available? What will keep the CI flowing even when the substitute doesn't speak the language you teach? 

Why not have a Spanish teacher in another part of the United States be your sub? Wait...What? Thanks to teachers that are recording themselves telling stories in the target language and making a concerted effort to keep the information comprehensible, language teachers now have another option for substitute plans. Use the videos of other language teachers telling stories that are on YouTube and Vimeo videos, and voila, that teacher can be your substitute for the day!

As more teachers are sharing their recordings online, I have been replacing old substitute plans with the new ones. Below are a few examples of how to write substitute lesson plans that will keep the CI flowing during your absence. The examples are of Spanish, but you can use the ideas for any language as long as you can find videos in your language.

1. Mike Peto!  @mike_peto on Twitter
Have you seen Mike Peto's videos on Vimeo?  If not, click HERE for his Vimeo account page for a list of his videos. In the videos he tells fables or stories that he wrote using high frequency words. He uses any tense that is needed to tell the story, but no worries - he is a genius at making it comprehensible and he uses his /or actions in the story.  At times, he writes the Spanish word and its English translation on the board.  Some of his videos he recorded during the actual lesson with students, so you can observe his comprehension checks with the students. There are other videos that Mike made without any students in class because he made them specifically for an absence this month.

The story I chose for my substitute plans on Monday (I will be attending my daughter's graduation to see her get her doctorate in physical therapy - yeah! - proud mom here) is "El cuervo tonto".   

First, my sub will hand out a paper with questions (see page 1 of 2 below) so students can read the questions to give them a heads up on the specifics they need to listen for. 

Then my sub will play the video and pause it when Mike instructs the students to sketch each part of the video. Students will answer the short questions during the story and complete the English translations as Mike explains them.
I need to add that I don't always have questions for the students to answer. Two weeks ago I was out and my students watched Mike's video "la señora" and their only task was to listen to the story because we were going to discuss it the following day. When I returned the next day, I drew the same sketches as Mike did and paused throughout to ask students questions about the characters and what happened. So...questions are not necessary, but for some students it helps to keep them focused on the story.

Click HERE if you would like to download the pdf of the questions for the "El cuervo tonto" story - 2 pages of questions/area to sketch and the answer sheets.

2. Pablo Román, @langdreamer on Twitter
Pablo is cranking out videos about Spanish festivals and holidays,  legends, and most recently, interviews with other Spanish speakers at the rate of almost one a day. Click HERE for his YouTube channel and check out his blog, Dreaming Languages

In the videos, Pablo is in the bottom corner and the rest of the screen he uses to sketch while he speaks to the listener. At times he inserts video clips to show a few seconds of an event that he is describing.

Below is a sample of how to add reading after viewing a video. This is based on his video "St. Jordi". I used this video on a day when I was NOT absent, but with the paper attached below, you could leave it as a sub plan.

1. Watch the video. I paused the video at the end where you can see all of the sketches, and the students and I discussed and retold the story. If this is your sub plan, skip the retell until the day you return.

2. Distribute the paper and students will match the sentences to the screenshots of the sketches.

3. Distribute the script below for the students to read.

The documents for this lesson are HERE
(To be clear, these lessons were NOT planned in collaboration with anyone, but rather I saw the videos online and then created lessons from the online videos that I can use in class.)

3. Cameron Taylor @Profe_Taylor
Cameron is a Spanish teacher in Japan. His YouTube channel is HERE and his most recent (I think) video is "Habla demasiado". His technique is very similar to Mike Peto's, in that he tells a story and makes it comprehensible due to the vocabulary he chooses and the sketches. Please note that Cameron's purpose of making the videos was to share with others HOW he does "storytelling" with his students. It is was not shared with the intent to have other teachers use it for sub plans, but I quickly saw the possibilities in providing CI for a substitute plan with this, and other of his, videos.

I do not have a specific document created for the story "Habla demasiado", but my students will read the story script after watching the story.

Two variation on the story scripts (the written text)
a. Omit a few details of the story in the script on a document you create and replace it with lines. Then together as a class, you can fill in the missing information and write it on the lines on the document.

b. Ten Errors (or however many you choose). When you write the script, make 10 minor changes to the details. After the students have watched the video and after you have discussed it or acted it out, distribute the document with the 10 errors. The students' task is to find the erroneous information and replace it with the correct information. (i.e. - if the story said he had two dogs, change it to 3 dogs or to 2 cats.)

4. BookBox
BookBox is a website with children's stories in the target language with subtitles. It has many books for Spanish, as well as a few stories for other languages such as French, Italian, Urdu, and more. This website also provides PDFs for you to download. 

I made a very basic story listening document with questions for my students to complete while listening and watching the story online.  (The screenshot does not show the entire document. If you would like the document, click HERE.)

OPTION: Instead of having students answer questions, the students could listen to the story one time. As they listen/watch it the second time, have them sketch the story that you can use as a retell using a document camera later in the class or on another day.

These generous teachers, and the Bookbox website, are my new go-to lesson plans for substitute teachers.  Feel free to download any of the documents that may be useful to you. They are available at no cost. HOWEVER, what I would like to ask in return, is if you like these options and create something to be used with a video similar to the story videos above, please share it with me.   :-)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Question Passwords - Individualized and with a little Extra Brain "Muscle"

I have known about passwords for some time thanks to Alina Filipescu for blogging about using passwords with her students (read her blog post here) and to Bryce Hedstrom, who shared his experiences with passwords at conference sessions and also blogged about it here . On both blog posts, you will find an explanation of how Alina and Bryce use the passwords, as well as videos, lists of passwords, and advantages to using passwords. Because of their sharing their experiences, there are currently many language teachers that have followed their example and are using passwords to greet their students every day.  

I have to admit that after I heard about the password idea, I hesitated to use it because I wasn't convinced that the students or I would like it. But then my colleague next door, (and by next door I mean we are on the same side of the hallway with 3 feet that separates our classroom doors), Krista Kovalchick, who teaches Latin and French, started using passwords with her students. When I saw how successful it was and how much the students liked it, I was motivated to try it with my students.

I started the passwords several weeks into the second semester this year (the end of February) and I am glad I finally decided to implement them. A few weeks ago, I wanted to mix things up a bit, so instead of a password, or a phrase, I wrote a question on a mini whiteboard for students to answer before entering the classroom, and have continued this variation.

Why do I write it on a mini whiteboard instead of individually asking the students? It has to do with a time constraint. The questions require individualized answers and not simply to repeat what the previous person has said. They need time to think of the best answer for them. Also, with the question on the mini whiteboard, the students that are waiting in line, can see the question and can begin to decide on their answer. 

Even a question as basic as ¿Qué no te gusta comer? (What do you not like to eat?) requires students to decide which food is their least favorite food, or if they don't know how to say the answer in Spanish, they have to decide if they want to name another food for an easy answer or ask my how to say the food in Spanish. I used this question last week and I had several students that said they like everything...until I mentioned insectos, culebras, flores, lodo,... but that takes to consider my suggestions and respond. When the bell rang, there were several students still lined up in the hallway. We have a very supportive administration team at our high school, and if they were in the hall and several students were not yet in the classroom when the bell rang because they were responding to my question in the target language, I believe they would quickly see the value of the passwords and question passwords, and it wouldn't be a problem. However, if that's not the case at your school, the extra time is something you will need to consider before using question passwords

Advantages of using passwords and question passwords.
I enjoy the passwords for the same reasons that Bryce Hedstrom mentioned in his post, but there are some additional advantages with the question passwords. One is that I am able to not only personally greet each student each day, but I am able to personally connect with them and learn more about them. When one student answers in the same manner as another student I comment to him that "Johnny" also said that. That helps the students to feel connected to others in their class knowing they have things in common of which they were not aware before.

Before using passwords, I greeted the students at the door, but passwords (in my opinion) adds some depth to those greetings.

Another plus is it gives me an opportunity to recycle vocabulary previously used in class. For example, I knew we had a conversation with one class in which we mentioned "lodo" so that is the reason I listed that as a possible thing that the students don't like to eat. 

If you have not experimented with passwords yet, I encourage you to read Alina and Bryce's blog post for their insights on using passwords and for a list of passwords they recommend. Then give it a try, or, finish out this school year and save it for the new school year! I suspect you'll have the same positive reaction from the students that I have had.

Monday, April 24, 2017

French Resources for The Vampire and the Dentist

Revisiting a blog post from January 2013
PLNs are the BEST! Today Elisabeth Hayles contacted me and shared the documents that she made to use in her French classes based on the short film of the Dentist and the Vampire. (See my original blog on this video from January 2013 HERE. As you can see in the title on the right it was so long ago that I titled the post "short films" instead of what it is now referred to as "MovieTalk".) The best part is that Elisabeth is graciously permitting me to share her documents and her Quizlet activity with all of YOU
Thank you, Elisabeth!!!

And...before I share the links for her materials, you must, must, must check out her blog Mme Hayles and the TPRS Experiment. She's been blogging since 2009, not many world language bloggers can say that. She shares her activities for French class, her students' progress, insights on her own journey, and her takeaways from conferences that she has attended. 

Elisabeth Hayles' FRENCH shared resources:
The first link is to her embedded readings for Le Vampire et la dentiste

The second like is to her activity on Quizlet with the vocabulary for Le Vampire et la dentiste. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Crossword Train

I can personally testify to the power of reading when acquiring a second language. Because of that personal experience, I make every effort to find ways to "sneak" additional reading into my lessons.

Today I tested out one of my last-minute ideas with my students. (Seriously, why do my inspirations happen when there are precious few minutes before class starts? I think my procrastination has crept into my inspiration.) 

The name: I'm calling it "The Crossword Train", for lack of a better name. 

The purpose: It requires students to read clues, in the target language, in order to complete their crossword puzzle. about a story, a news article, a few chapters in a book, etc. which they have previously read. 

Prep work: 
1 - Create a crossword puzzle related to material the students have read in the Target Language. The material can be a news article, a class story or parallel story, a legend, a few chapters of a book, etc. One of my favorite free, online crossword puzzle makers is Armored Penguin

2 - Create a pdf of the crossword puzzle and an answer sheet. If the print is small, enlarge the clues and the crossword puzzle when you make copies so students are not straining to see small print. (This can be done on the copier, but I find it quicker to take a screen shot of the crossword puzzle only and a screen shot of the clues, and then print the screen shots.)

3 - For each crossword puzzle you copy, make two copies of the clues. Tape or staple the enlarged crossword puzzle to the clues, and leave the second copy of the clues as is.

How to play:
1. Students work in teams of 3. (Ideas on how to change this for groups of 4 or more are at the end of the post.) Students arrange their chairs so student A is the line leader; student B is seated behind student A, and student C is seated behind student B. (see diagram at beginning of post)

2. Student A has the crossword puzzle AND clues. Student B has the clues only. Student C has nothing.

3. The teacher is the timer, or if there is a student that wants this job, by all means, let them help you!

4. Choose an interval of time; I used 30 seconds but it can be longer, depending on the difficulty of the clues.

5. Start the time. Student #1 reads the clues and is permitted to write the answer to ONLY 1 of the crossword clues. While student A is doing this, student B is reading the paper with the clues only so when the time is up, he is prepared to write an answer on the crossword puzzle when it is passed to him. Student C is taking a 30-second break. (Hey - we all need a breather from time to time and 30 seconds goes by quickly.)

6. At the end of the designated time, student B passes the clues only back to student C so student C can begin reading the clues and preparing to fill in the crossword puzzle when it is handed to him. Student A passes the crossword and clues to student B. Student B now has 30 seconds to fill in the answer of ONE of the clues. 

7. Play continues until the teacher ends the activity or until one of the teams completes the entire crossword puzzle. I opted for the first choice.

So what did this activity accomplish?
- The students read in the target language.
- It was a review of the material we had previously read.
- Helps the teacher to quickly see if students understood the reading - both on the crossword clues and the original text.
- It required teamwork (building classroom communities) to complete the crossword puzzle.
- It was a novel way to do something that's been around for ages. In other words, mixing it up and providing the "novelty" that, as Carol Gaab says, "Brains crave novelty".

Optional ways to play:
- Instead of having one student taking a break, cut the crossword puzzle clues
apart - one paper with the horizontal clues, the other for the vertical clues. 
- Students play in groups of 4. Instead of one larger crossword puzzle, make 2 smaller crossword puzzles. Put the chairs in a circle but not facing inward. Two students have the clues only while 2 students have the two separate crossword puzzles.
- Give each student a different colored marker or pencil to easily see which students answered which clues.

La Virgen de Guadalupe
I used Bryce Hedstrom's document on La Virgen de Guadalupe for this activity. You can find the free document (thank you Bryce) HERE. Click on his name in the previous sentence to find his website and a pile of free materials as well as other interesting reads. 

For additional lesson ideas related to La Virgen de Guadalupe, check out this post from December 2015. 

Click HERE (crossword) and HERE (clues) for the documents I used in class. There are some clues that I want to change for the next time I do this activity (in the fall); a byproduct of typing the clues at the last minute.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spanish Commands and Cooking

Hypothesis: Connecting cooking to subject matter will increase student interest in a larger percentage of students than teaching the subject matter without the cooking component.

It's not scientific, but after "testing" my hypothesis, I can confidently say that there is a measurable difference in student interest and attention when cooking is integrated into lessons.

A few weeks ago, I planned two consecutive days of lessons that included preparing food.  

Lesson 1
On the first day, I asked for two student volunteers and they became the chefs for the lesson.  Their task was to follow their classmates' verbal instructions in Spanish on how to cook eggs. 

The materials that I brought to school were: two heating units, 4-6 eggs per class, salt, pepper, spatulas, mixing bowls, utensils, paper plates, Pam vegetable spray, aprons, and chef's hats.  

The students gave them step by step instructions and the "chefs" followed their instructions and then the chefs decided to whom the eggs were given.

Lesson 2
The following day, I distributed a paper to the students in which they had to work with a partner to write instructions on how to make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. (All students wrote the instructions and they decided which one to hand in - usually the one with the best handwriting.) Different students took turns reading the instructions to me and I followed the instructions e-x-a-c-t-l-y. 

I've been doing this lesson for years and it is a guaranteed fun activity to do in the target language. When I instruct the students to be specific when writing the instructions and not to forget any steps, many of them don't understand the degree of "specific". If they wrote "put the peanut butter on the bread", but their instructions don't include to use a knife to take the peanut butter OUT of the jar, I simply put the jar of peanut butter on the bread. Am I being difficult? Yes, but that results in increased interest on the students' part to listen to the instructions and realize what will happen when I follow the instructions exactly as written, AND when I have their complete attention, I am able to provide more repetitions of comprehensible input of commands, in context!

This semester, the student interest in the PBJ activity was kicked up a few notches due to James Crummel's visit to our class.  James, an anchorman and reporter, and Justin Raub, a photo journalist, from ABC 27 News, came to our classroom to film the activity and to interview the students about Spanish class.

Click HERE to see the news segment which aired 3x on the morning news yesterday if the embedded movie below does not work. The students did an awesome job and had fun watching the video in class.

Of course, after class, we took time to take a selfie with James and Justin.  A special thanks to the talented selfie photographer, Jazmyn!

As teachers, our first responsibility is to provide our students with the best instruction that we know.  Another responsibility, in my opinion, is to share what we are doing with the parents and people in our community to show them the great things happening in the public and private schools!!!!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The MANDATO Challenge: Spanish Commands

Have you ever thought of how often you hear commands throughout your day or how often you say a command? It has to be one of the most used features of a language.

The language of mothers and fathers, especially those with young children, are packed with commands. Are you a fan of cooking shows or DIY shows? Think of the amount of commands you hear during those programs. 

Likewise, teachers' days are full of commands as they instruct their students and give directions.  I doubt teachers realize how often they say a command.

Last semester, I wanted to make my Spanish students aware of how often they hear commands during the class period, so I proposed a simple listening competition. When I say a command in Spanish, I will listen for the first student to call out Mandato!". Then I write the student's name on the board with a tally mark. 

I am repeating The Mandato Challenge again this semester. I started it two days ago and the tally marks are growing. Interestingly enough, some students that are usually quiet in class, are among the high scorers! In other words, the fact that they're quiet does not mean they aren't listening and acquiring the language, but rather that their comfort zone in the second language classroom looks a little different than the students that want to answer every, single question or even comment on things without a question. (To be clear, I do like having those that are like a fountain of language that doesn't have an off switch in class because they add energy and content to our discussions.)

If I can't discern which person said ¡Mandato! first, it's a draw and nobody receives a tally mark. A new addition to The Mandato Challenge this semester is if I say a command and nobody hears it, which usually happens if I am speaking to only one student or a small group of students, then I receive a point. I've earned a few points, but I predict next week I'll earn a big 'ole goose egg because they are s-h-a-r-p!

Side benefits of The Mandato Challenge
An unexpected benefit to this challenge, is that sometimes to avoid saying a command, I say Quiero que ustedes pongan sus papeles en mi escritorio (I want that you all put your papers on my desk) instead of Pongan sus papeles en mi escritorio (Put your papers on my desk), which provides input of the subjunctive in context at a time they are paying close attention

Eventually students notice that many times the words (verbs) are the same when I say "I want that you..." as when I directly tell them to do something. 
Sometimes when I say a command and one or two, (or sometimes 10 or more), students call out ¡Mandato!, and I add a tally mark, there may be a student that didn't hear it and will ask, "¿Qué dijiste?" (or sometimes they blurt that out in English - we're still in the real world here folks). They asked, so I write what I said on the board for them to see it in print. It's like "pop-up grammar" but they initiate it! Other times after I add a tally mark I'll ask the class to tell me what I just said and then we quickly move on to what we were doing.

It adds energy to class because the students are waiting, listening, ready to shout ¡Mandato! which captures everyone's attention.

If you want to see how this works, give The Mandato Challenge a try in your classroom. Have FUN with it! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Air Writing & Palm Writing - A Fun Friday Activity

Brain breaks are a good idea because they're a necessity. Your students need that little bit of down time with a physical activity that allows their brain to refresh and re-energize.

Likewise, teachers need that break, but sometimes a minute or two isn't sufficient. What do you do when that happens? That's simple - take what could be a one minute brain break and extend it to 10-12 minutes.

Full disclosure - I am aware that the following activity will not provide the most "bang for your buck" when it comes to providing Comprehensible Input. However, it IS in the target language, the students will enjoy it (not a single complaint from my students today), and it will give you, the teacher, ten to fifteen minutes of minimal energy expenditure, thus reserving your energy for the more powerful Ci for the remainder of the class. In other words, it's fun and something that you may want to try one time per semester to give both the students and the teacher a breather.

Today's activity is described below. There is also a second example of how I used to do this activity more than 6 years ago but with a few changes.

Air & Palm Writing
1. Students will work with a partner.

2. Students need to put the chairs in a semi-circle as show in the diagram. The squares represent chairs (or desks if you have them in your classroom). The students in the blue squares (chairs or desks) face away from the board and students in the red squares (chairs or desks). 

3. The student in the chair facing AWAY from the marker board needs a mini whiteboard, a marker, and an eraser.

4. Palm writing: The teacher writes a word or short sentence on the board. For example: Dinos la verdad. (Tell us the truth.) Only the students facing the board are permitted to read the sentence. Those students then have to write the sentence in the air while their partner (with their back to the board) writes the letters and words onto the mini whiteboard. As soon as they have the sentence written they raise their marker board for the teacher to read. First group to have the correct sentence earns a point. (You could give 2 points to the first group and 1 point to the second and third group so they don't stop writing as soon as the first group has the correct answer.)   

Before starting, I told the students that they are not permitted to talk while they are "air writing". To indicate a new word, they made a fist and pounded their fist one time into the palm of their hand. To indicate an accent, after they "air wrote" the vowel, they then said "chsss" to make a whoosh type sound.

Confession: After the first two rounds, I added some extra words not originally planned that had accents because I liked hearing the "chsss" sounds mixed in with the palm pounding. It was also fun for me to watch the students' expressions because they were FOCUSED and intent on being the first group to finish.

I allowed students to switch seats with their partners whenever they wanted to try to be the recipient or the "air writer".

Variation: After 4 rounds, I changed the rules slightly. Instead of air writing, the students wrote on their partner's palm with their finger (not with a marker!).

Next class period I will tell the students a story about a person that tells his friend what to do (it will have a lot of commands), so the sentences that they had to "write" had commands. After a group earned points, I asked the students to verbally translate the answer into English. can't justify 10-12 minutes for this activity, directly connect your sentences to a story that you recently told the students with one word in the sentence that makes it inaccurate. After a group wins the point for being the first group to write the sentence, ask for a volunteer to verbally change the sentence to make it agree with the story.

Back Writing
Years ago when I did this activity, the students wrote on their team mates' backs and they also worked in groups of 5 or 6. You can add the "back writing" as an alternative to "air writing" and "palm writing".

Admittedly, the activity falls more accurately into the FUN category than the Powerful CI category, but sometimes it's nice to be able to throw one of these activities into the mix for a breather. Then move on and provide more CI. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

El Escape Cubano, Chaper 6-11

This is the 3rd of 3 posts with explanations of the activities than can be used when reading Mira Canion's novel, El Escape Cubano. You can find the previous blog posts by clicking on the following links: 

- Preparing to Read a Novel
- El Escape Cubano, chapters 1-5

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 6
The title of chapter 6 is "Llueve", so it's the perfect time to sing about the rain.  I use the song, "La lluvia" by Los Pompillos.  I distribute the lyrics to the song. There are 4 stanzas in the song and each stanza has 4 lines. Then I divide the class into 4 sections. Each section sings one line of each stanza.  Group 1 sings the first line in all the stanzas; group 2 sings the second line in all the stanzas; etc. 
At the end, the lyrics are "la lluvia bendita" (2x). For this groups 1 and 2 sing "la lluvia" and groups 3 and 4 sing "bendita". Everybody sings the last two words "la lluvia".

We practice before we sing by me reading a line and the group repeating. This is one of the rare times in my class that I ask students to repeat after me. The song is fast paced and I know that there is no way they will be able to sing some of the lines in unison with the members of their group and the video, but it's fun and a nice brain break. Try it! 

In chapter 6, the characters dance to the song Guantamera, which you can also play for the students beforehand. I had planned to play this song as students entered the class for several days leading up to chapter 6, but I forgot to do this. 

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 7
Acting a scene from chapter 7
Miguel and his dad and friends encounter a shark in chapter 7. It is another chapter that works well with reader's theater.  The first time I read this with my students, there was a student in my class that received in the mail a shark costume that she was going to wear for Halloween. She asked me if she could bring in the shark suit! Obviously, I said YES!! 

(The second time I read the novel with a different group of students, I used a felt board instead of acting. See Chapter 9 for a photo.)

How much do your students know about sharks? This is a good opportunity for your students to learn about sharks in the target language. I do not have this completed yet, but it is my goal to add a comprehensible reading on Tiburones before next fall when I read this novel again with my students. First I'll make a Kahoot with several questions about sharks and then follow up with the reading.
In the meantime, here are two links to websites for children that students can find information about sharks.

The second link also has easy to follow directions on how to sketch a shark.

For those that have an A-Z Reading account, there is a book on Tiburones.

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 8
After reading this chapter, students chose their partner for the next activity (or groups of 3 depending on the size of your class). I also asked for a volunteer to sketch sentences from the chapter. Each group had a small marker board, a marker, and an eraser.  I showed a sentence to the artist and she sketched it on the board. The students looked for the sentence in chapter 8 and wrote it down. I gave students a minute or so and then told them to lift up their marker boards. Groups with the correct sentence earned one point.

The document with the sentences and instructions can be found HERE.   
The student that was my artist was very talented, so I took a photo of her sketches and uploaded them to a powerpoint. The following day I projected the sketches on the powerpoint to review chapter 8. If you don't have a student that wants to be an artist, you could use the powerpoint instead of having a student artist. Click HERE for the powerpoint. 

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 9
I used to use a felt board in Spanish class on a regular basis when I was teaching the story "Cuentos de Ensalada". To mix it up a little, I cut some felt into some (very simple) shapes: the characters, (I wrote their names on the shapes to help identify them), a shark, the sun, the raft, tire innertubes, and water.  As I read the chapter, a student volunteer moved the pieces of felt to correlate with what I was reading. 

El Escape Cubano - Chapters 10 & 11
Students read the chapters on their own and wrote a short summary in English.

There you have it. 
The only thing I didn't include was the final assessment. Please understand, the reason I gave the assessment was because I was confident that the students understood the storyline and the vocabulary, so I took that opportunity to let them show their comprehension and ability to respond to questions about the plot and characters. As expected, the results of the assessment were impressive, showing the students how successful they had been in reading the novel.