Monday, December 26, 2011 - New Resource

What a perfect time of the year (between Christmas and New Year's when I have free time) to find a new resource to use in Spanish class! As I was browsing the FreeTech4Teachers website, I found a post on has a selection of music videos and other types of videos accompanied by the transcript. When you mouse over the words in the transcript, there is a box that pops up on the right with the English translation. If you actually click on the word in the transcript, the box on the right will list conjugations for verbs, definitions, and examples of the word used in a sentence. By clicking on the tab "Practice Words" at the top of the video screen, you can listen to the song and complete an online Cloze activity.

If you prefer to read, on the Home page there is a tab for Articles that works similar to the videos. The languages available to practice are English, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and Portuguese. I was hoping it had German and French so I could share it with the other language teachers at my school, but no such luck.

There is also a tab on the Home page for Exercises, and other areas which I haven't explored yet.
Sometimes I am so focused on my goal of teaching three new words/structures through storytelling, as per the TPRS method, that I forget to include music and lyrics taught via TPRS as an option to bring variety to the lesson. Hopefully, as increases its inventory of songs, I'll find more opportunities to include music in my classroom or for independent practice for the students.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

QuickTime recordings for TPRS activities

Today I presented the 8th episode of Cuentos de Ensalada to my Spanish 1 class. It was a one-woman act and I was a bit nervous having to play both parts in conversations. I used note cards to help me through it because it was lengthy too. The students were attentive and active participants in the telling of the story. At the end of the episode when Tomas' ghost says "tu padre, Tu Padre, TU PADRE", it only took a short time until the students started calling how they think Teresa's father was complicated in the investigation.

Before the story, to ensure that they remembered some vocabulary in the episode that they learned months ago, I did a short review with them. I listed the vocabulary on the board, we made up actions for the words and practice them until everyone did the actions with hesitation. Then the students had to work as a class to write a story using all of the vocabulary words. It didn't take them long to create their story. I wrote what they said on the board and they copied it in their notebooks. If you're interested in the story, it can be found HERE.

I distributed the 3-page story of the script of Episode 8. The students had a few minutes to read it to their partner. Since we didn't have a lot of time in class to retell the story, at least not today and tomorrow, 2 days away from Christmas, I was afraid that many of the students wouldn't be at school, so......I found a way for the students to read and listen to the script at the same time, at home.

I made 3 separate QuickTime recordings of the script since it is 3 pages long. (one recording per page), However, when I recorded each page, I purposely changed 5 - 7 words to other words. I posted the 3 recordings on Edmodo. Their homework is to listen to the recordings while reading along with the script. When they find a word that I changed out for another word, they are supposed to highlight the word and write the word I used. For homework they need to type their list on Edmodo and submit their work online. The best part about this homework assignment, at least in my opinion, is that it requires them to listen to the story AND read along with the script. Another repetition and at home - perfect.

Teresa/Cecilia/Marta stories & QuickTime

It has been a few weeks since I uploaded some of the longer stories that I have used with my Spanish 1 students. I wrote the stories because I wanted to teach the following vocabulary words: se queda, oye, la canción, la muerte. Those are the words that are in episode 8 of Cuentos de Ensalada, which I taught today. The shortest story, about Marta, is how I introduced the vocabulary. The students and I created a story similar to this in class and after sketching it and retelling it, I gave them my version to read.

Class Activities for "Los Problemas de Cecilia en la Biblioteca":
1. I used QuickTime to made audio recordings of the story about Cecilia and Teresa.
2. In class, the students listened to the Cecilia recording. For each paragraph, students had to write down 1 or 2 things in English about what happened in that paragraph. I stopped the recording after each paragraph and then replayed that paragraph. Then they shared what they wrote down with the class.
3. I projected the script for the Cecilia story on the screen and we read it together.
4. I distributed the script for the Cecilia story and they read it to their partners.
5. Students wrote 2 questions about what happened in the story: 1 question in Spanish and 1 question in English. Then I divided the students in 3 groups and used THEIR questions to more repetitions of the vocabulary and script. If the question I asked was in Spanish, they had to answer in Spanish. If it was written in English, they had to answer in English.

Class Activities for "Teresa se queda en el armario":
1. I made a QuickTime audio recording of this story also.
2. Students listened to the entire recording, without pauses.
3. I distributed a worksheet with 25 questions about the story. Students worked with a partner or in small groups to read the questions to make sure they understood them. If they knew any of the answers from hearing the story the first time, they could write the answers on the sheet.
4. Then I played the recording, stopping it after each sentence or after at least of the questions was addressed. Students wrote the answers in English.
5. Then I distributed the reading and students could look at the written script to find any answers they might have missed by only listening.
6. They read the story to each other in English.
7. I gave the students 10 minutes to write an ending of the story.

They had quite a lot of comprehensible input and repetitions with the vocabulary so I felt confident that they were ready for Episode 8 of Cuentos de Ensalada and would be able to understand the majority of the narration and conversations between the characters.

Here is the short quiz I gave to the students after the listening exercises and my presentation of Episode 8.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spanish Leveled Readers

If you are searching for Spanish or French books for your students to read and you have a wide range of abilities in your class (this describes everyone's class, right?) then you are going to be incredibly thrilled when you check out the following website. The site is and it has HUNDREDS, that's right, HUNDREDS of online books in Spanish! Not only is the quantity of books amazing, there are other useful features to this site.

TPRS teachers will love the ability to project the book or print the book without WORDS! Wouldn't it be great to put the students in small groups and have each group create a story to share with the class? Or, if the vocabulary and grammar are too high for the level you teach, projecting the book without words will enable YOU to create the words for the story. To add to that is the ability to print the books, regular or pocket size, or to print the book as a coloring book. There are online tools so you can underline words, highlight words, put a stamp on a page, add text, frame text, etc.

Even more activities are available for many of the books such as discussion cards, worksheets, and comprehension quizzes which you can download or simply project them onto your board.

Are you hooked yet? Can you see the possibilities?

You can sign up for a free 1 week preview and after that you'll need to obtain an account to access the site. I found out about this site a few days AFTER I had to turn in my departments' budget for the 2012-2013 school year, but I need to schedule an appointment with my administrator to move monies around to be able to include this valuable resource in my instruction as soon as possible.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Describing Characters in a Story

Episode 7 of "Cuentos de Ensalada" (the story I'm working on with my Spanish 1 students) has so many important events that I wanted to make sure the students had a fresh review of the characters and their names before presenting the action-packed episode.

I don't tell one episode a day because I need to take a day or so to pre-teach vocabulary that students don't know. Also, episode 6 gives information about the daily routine of a character that is not mentioned in episode 7. Therefore, it had been several days since my students heard about the main characters and I felt they needed an activity to review facts about the characters in order to appreciate episode 7 to its fullest.

As you can see by the photo, the events in episode 7 are a major part of the soap opera. (By the way, the props and script are clearly described in the book.)

If you have a dramatic side of you trying to get out, this episode will allow you that creative part of you to break through - especially when the friends of Tomás "llora". I believe the neighboring classes may have heard my interpretation of that!

My plan was to type an activity for the students to read to review the characters, BUT I ran out of time so I thought I'd just verbally review the characters with them. Fortunately, when the students were reading the previous episodes to their partner, an idea came to me and it actually turned out to be a success.

Character Review
1. I listed and numbered the names of 7 of the characters that were mentioned in previous episodes on the board.
2. I tore copier paper into fourth's and wrote a number (1 - 7) on each paper.
3. Students found their partner for the day (I use the Amigos de Sudamérica map from Bryce Hedstrom's website).
4. Each pair of students received a number of a character. Then they wrote as many sentences (minimum of 2) about the character. Most groups wrote 3-4 sentences.
5. I collected their sentences and then read them to the class, making corrections as needed.
6. The students told me the number or name of which character was described.

I read one sentence per paper, students told me the name of the character, and then I crossed out that sentence and read a sentence from the next paper. I kept circulating through the papers until all the sentences were crossed out. It turned out to be a great activity with 2 reviews built in: when students wrote the sentences and the Comprehensible Input when I read the sentences.

Last minute ideas come in handy at times.

Below are the words and stories made to prepare for episode 7:
- no sé
- una cosa rara
- tiene mucha curiosidad
- hay mucha sangre

Additional photos: the "funeral" of Tomás Tomate (2nd half of Epiosde 7)

The student story doesn't have an appropriate ending because we ran out of time in class and we were ready to move on the next day.

"Babalía y el caimán"

(P.S. - The name of the girl, "Babalía" is my creation. A student in my upper level class had asked me that week how to say "drool". I didn't know so I looked it up. Using the name "Babalía" in a story for Spanish 1 not only helped make that word concrete in my mind, but when I tell my students in Spanish 1 next week what "baba" means, I'm fairly certain that they will not have to do any work to acquire that word because it will already be associated with "Babalía".)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Voluntary Reading - PAEF Grant

Today was the official start of Free Voluntary Reading with my Spanish 4 classes. I followed the format that Laurie Clarq outlined in her blog and things went smoothly.

The students and I read for 15 minutes, which I really enjoyed because I wanted to finish the book "Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha" - I HIGHLY recommend it to any Spanish teachers. Then the students wrote the 3-sentence summary, page # & last line read, and if they liked it or not and why. It was interesting listening to the comments of the students as they were writing the summaries: some said how interesting their books were, others were pleased at how much they had read, some asked about a word that they didn't know (they weren't allowed to ask me during the FVR time), and on and on.

BUT, the BEST PART of the FVR was when 3 students asked if they were allowed to take the books home to continue reading! Of course, I said yes - well, actually I said "Sí".

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I'm following the steps that Laurie Clarq used to introduce FVR to her students. Tomorrow they will have 10-15 minutes of FVR and on Friday as well. Then, starting next week, my sts will have FVR twice a week. 

I was able to start my collection of books thanks to a grant I wrote to my school's education foundation, Palmyra Area Education Foundation.  I was thrilled when I heard I received a $600 grant to spend on books for FVR. 

Attached is a list of the novels I bought through TPRS Publishing, Inc. and Teacher's Discovery. (I also bought 25-30 children's books through e-bay that are not included on the list, but I wanted the students to settle into a short novel for the FVR experience.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

TPRS and Brainshark

12/27/11 - The Brainshark presentation does not work when I view it on Firefox, but it works fine when I use the Safari browser. ~Sra.Hitz

What can be better than a marriage between TPRS and technology?
Since I have a very limited amount of time with my Spanish students each semester (105 hrs/semester), when I assign my students homework, I want it to be as close to Comprehensible Input as possible. Enter Brainshark, a website in which you can upload a powerpoint and then narrate it. Sounds like a perfect combination for TPRS teachers, right?

Here is an example of my completed project on Brainshark:

As per my previous post, I am using the book "Cuentos de Ensalada: A Soap Opera for Spanish 1 & 2" written by Stephanie Campbell with my Spanish 1 students. This book is a great because it has everything you need: instructions on how to make the props, scripts for each episode and suggestions on how to present the episode; reinforcement activities, assessments, and sketches. It is the complete package - a teacher's dream. (It is available in French or Spanish.)

Yesterday, I uploaded the sketches from the book for episode 5 and put them on a powerpoint. Then I uploaded the powerpoint to Brainshark and recorded my voice telling the story, and added some matching comprehension statements with the sketches on the last slide. You can use this type of activity in the classroom to give your voice a break, but I plan to post it on Edmodo as a homework assignment.

One really nice thing about Brainshark is that you can go back into the recording after it is completed and edit the audio, something that I am unable to do when I make a screencast. I look forward to making more Brainshark presentations with sketches and stories created by my students!

Since I used the sketches and script from a book that is copyrighted, I contacted Stephanie Campbell to get her permission to post the recording both on this blog and in Edmodo, where I post my student assignments. THANK YOU STEPHANIE!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Felt Board and TPRS

With all the great technology that is available for digital storytelling, I want to know if there are any teachers (language teachers in particular) that use felt boards to tell stories.

Last Monday I started telling my students the story from "Cuentos de Ensalada: A Soap Opera in Spanish 1 & 2". It was written by Stephanie Campbell and was sold through Teacher's Discovery.

When I decided to go full-out TPRS with my Spanish 1 class this semester, I dug through a stack of books that the previous teacher left, found "Ensalada" and started reading through the soap opera. The characters in the story are vegetables and the plot involves a crime, an investigation into the crime, and concludes with a jury trial. I asked my fellow moreTPRS friends about the story and they had favorable comments about using it. (Green light!) I bought the materials and made the felt characters and props. The prod. tech. teacher at my school was kind enough to make the felt board for me (thank you Scott!).

I used TPRS to tell episode 4 yesterday with the felt board, a felt school bus, and the vegetables to help teach sube al, baja del, and maneja el bus. My students already knew the other words for the episode or they where cognates such as la estatua, el museo, los dinosaurios. The book suggests starting the story 2 weeks into the school year, but I think it is better to start it later because you can keep the new structures to 3 an episode.

I'm looking forward to next week because I can't wait to teach episode 7; that's when an event takes place that will surprise them and the props include yellow ribbon to mark off the crime scene!

I'm looking for other ways I can use the felt board in my other classes. Have you ever used felt boards in the language classroom? I'd love to hear from you on how you have utilized a felt board to tell stories and to make the story come alive, or ideas on how I can use it in my upper levels.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Observing other TPRS Teachers

In the past few months, I have been taking advantage of the moreTPRS list serve when I am unsure about some aspect of using TPRS in my Spanish 1 class. I am the only teacher that uses TPRS at my school. I envy those teachers that have colleagues in their schools that have helped them through the first months and years of teaching with TPRS. How nice that must be to have someone down the hall that can answer your daily questions, or share their insights on ways to help you improve! However, the other week I stumbled upon a valuable resource that is nearby, but not just right down the hall.

A few weeks ago while I was reading posts on Twitter, I met another Spanish teacher that uses TPRS that works in the neighboring school district. After several Twitter messages and e-mails, and approval by my administrators, we scheduled a day for me and the other world language teachers at my high school to visit her and her colleagues to observe them teaching with TPRS.

It was a great experience in that I was able to see several TPRS teachers doing what they do best - sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for the language through Comprehensible Input. I saw reading strategies, storytelling using actors and props, storytelling with technology, introduction of new vocabulary, student re-tellings, singing & dancing w/ a video, free voluntary reading, etc. I also had the opportunity to ask two of the teachers about the TPRS process, their curriculum and assessments. Who knew I had some veteran TPRSers in my own backyard? They were welcoming and willing to answer questions I had after observing, and wre quick to offer their assistance and guidance in the future for when I have additional questions.

Another advantage of the visit is that the other members of my department saw the benefits and rewards of teaching with TPRS! They have expressed interest in learning more about the method, whether it be through webinars, workshops, or the almighty NTPRS conference or the Multi-cultural Conference. YES!!!

My heartfelt thanks to Sherry and Michelle and the other teachers today for their willingness to share their insight and knowledge about TPRS with me and my colleagues.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why I Use EDMODO (a useful site for ALL teachers including TPRS teachers!)

If you are a teacher and you haven't been introduced to Edmodo yet, then please don't skim over this post and pass by the opportunity to learn about something that may change the way you teach and the way you make materials available to your students and to their parents.

Edmodo is a site that in appearance is similar to Facebook, but it is a secure site that is designed for education. You can start a group for each class and you can either have the students sign up, or you can sign them up and students can go into the site later and change their password. (Students do NOT need an e-mail address to sign up.) After your group is set up, you, as the "owner" of the group, can send messages to group members, post photos, and.....embed just about anything your students will need such as class notes, papers to complete assignments at home, links to videos, etc.

I started using Emodo this fall with my Spanish 1 & 3 classes. It is user friendly and I've found numerous uses for it. I'm sure I haven't tapped into all of the possibilities...but I'm working on it. (One caution, if all of your students do not have access to a computer and internet at home, you will need to make adjustments/plans for those students.)

Ways I use EDMODO

1. Summary of Daily Activities - If a student is absent, they know that they can go on Edmodo and read what we did in class, download papers that I distributed, see what was assigned for homework, or even click on a link to any videos or podcasts that we may have listened to in class.
2. Homework Assignments:
- listen to a podcast and fill in a graphic organizer for notes
- read a story and answer questions about it (replies sent directly to Edmodo so no paper is needed)
- post a story from class and students read it to their parents
- post photos that students respond to
3. Embed "How to..." screencasts. i.e. directions on how to use a new web2.0 tool (I use Jing and
4. Photos for discussions in class
5. Photos of class activities
6. Links to other sites, i.e. Music videos, QUIA games, Quizlet, etc.
7. Online Quizzes made on Edmodo or other sites
8. My online filing cabinet - I post these things in my "practice group" and it's easy to find them when I want to use them in class: audio parts of quizzes so when a student is absent I don't have to take class time to give him/her the listening part of the test; Jeopardy games I've made, Wordles, etc.
9. Extra practice for students - I post a worksheet w/ answers for students that want/need additional practice on their own
10. Connect w/ other classes in other states/countries (I've joined a group that is made up of a several Spanish teachers in the U.S. and their classes but I'm embarrassed to say I haven't done much with that yet)
11. Connect w/ other educators, and learn from others when you join other groups (World Languages group)
12. Take POLLS - one is available on Edmodo for you to use w/ your group
13. Keep Parents informed - Edmodo provides a parent code for each student that you can give to parents. Then parents have an inside scoop on the class activities and homework.
14. You can even record grades on Edmodo.
15. Stay in contact with students when you are out due to conferences, scheduled sick leave, or other reasons
and on, and on, and on...

I have access to Moodle at my school district, but personally, I have found Edmodo to be more useful and user friendly.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jokes in the TPRS classroom
Last month I was reading a blog in which someone made reference to a handout that was posted on Bryce Hedstrom's blog regarding a workshop that Bryce did on how to include jokes into your TPRS material (The handout is called: STORIES WORTH RE-TELLING: How to Teach with Jokes). I have a unit in Spanish 4 on comedy in which I tell jokes to the students, but for some reason I didn't even think of using jokes with my level 1 students. That opened up a whole new arena of possibilities.

Two weeks ago while searching for material to use for my Spanish 4 class, I came across a TV commercial that was perfect for my Spanish 1 students. Since yesterday was a Friday, I thought it was the great time to change things up with a joke. First, I listed 3 new structures on the board. They were:
- habla en voz baja (o alta)
- biblioteca
- es maleducado (which I ended up not even using in the joke because no one is rude in the joke)

After we had practice the new structures, I straight up told the students that I was going to tell them a joke. The actual joke doesn't take much time. I could have added things to the story to include more vocabulary (i.e. she was blond, wearing a blue dress, etc), but I wanted to keep it short because we had other materials to review from the previous day.

The joke: (Click on the image above to link to the video of the commercial.)

Una mujer va a la biblioteca.
Entra la biblioteca y camina a la bibliotecaria (o a la persona que trabaja en la biblioteca).
La mujer habla en voz alta y le dice a la bibliotecaria, “Yo quiero una hamburguesa, papas fritas, y Coca Cola.”
La bibliotecaria mira a la mujer. ¡Qué extraño! La mujer está a la biblioteca y ella quiere comida.
La bibliotecaria le responde, “Esta es una biblioteca.”
La mujer mira a la bibliotecaria, y luego mira a las otras personas en la biblioteca y los libros en los estantes.
Luego, la mujer repite, pero esta vez le habla en voz baja a la bibliotecaria, ““Yo quiero una hamburguesa, papas fritas, y Coca Cola.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Introducing the "YO" form

Most of the TPRS stories I use from our book, or that I write from our class stories, are focused on the él/ella form of verbs. It was easy to add the ellos/ellas/usteded and the tú form in questioning. However, I thought it was time to introduce the students to the YO form. I use the YO form in class when I answer one of my questions but I'm not sure how much the students are picking up on the ending.

Fortunately, I came across the video Chato el chico peruano last month. I wanted the students to be actively engaged when they watched it. In order to accomplish that, I told the students to stand up when they heard someone say something about himself, and they had to remain standing until the next time they heard someone say something about himself. I had to help them with verbs like SOY the first time they heard it, but they caught on quickly. Since they were concentrating on listening for the next time a character said something about him/herself, it distracted them from the fact that the speaker talks s-l-o-w-l-y and repeats himself (as he should to enable the students the understand what he is saying).