Thursday, November 29, 2012

El Nuevo Houdini - 2nd Activity

I read chapter 5 of the book El Nuevo Houdini by Carol Gaab to my Spanish 2 students today.  I didn't do any particular prereading activities because they already know most of the vocabulary.  However, I did force myself to read slower and stopped to circle and reinforce some of the less known structures.

After reading, I paired the students and gave each group of 2 an index card and a blank sheet of paper.  They had to find a sentence in chapter 5 to sketch on the paper and they wrote the sentence on the index card.  Then we put the sketches around the room and the students worked with their partner to find the sentence in the chapter that matched the sketch and they wrote that on a separate paper.  In other words, they had to read the text AGAIN.  :)

The sketch is the sentence, "Limpio por diez minutos, pero sin resultados." 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"El Nuevo Houdini" activity

Today I did an activity with my Spanish 2 class that I learned when I attended Carol Gaab's session at ACTFL12. She shared several ideas for activities to accompany reading the book "El Nuevo Houdini".  One of her ideas was to   write adverbs on index cards before class, then choose a line from the chapter that you are reading.  Distribute the adverb cards to the students, and they have to stand up and read a sentence from the chapter in the manner that is written on their card.  Some examples are, "sadly, angrily, impatiently, etc."   Then the students have to guess what word (adverb) the student is trying to portray as they read the sentence.

I read Chapter 4 to the class today.  Then we went back to the first page of the chapter and I told them to find words that ended in -mente (adverbs - which are -ly words in English).  After we finished going through the chapter, we had 10 adverbs on the list.  I then asked the class to tell me a full sentence in Spanish.  One student chose, "Me llamo (and his name)."  Ok, simple enough, but it would still work.

I distributed the index cards to the students that had the following adverbs from the chapter:  
  entusiasmadamente (enthusiastically)        nerviosamente (nerviously)
  románticamente  (romantically)                 felizmente (happily)
  sarcásticamente (sarcastically)                  rápidamente (rapidly)

The students took turns saying the sentence in the way that was written on their cards.  They had fun with this activity, especially when the person with the "románticamente" card said the sentence "romantically".  They asked to do it again so they chose another sentence and I redistributed the cards.  

When Carol demonstrated the activity at the conference, I thought it was a cute idea, but wasn't convinced that my high school students would agree.  After their reactions today, I see that I shouldn't have been skeptical.  It was a fun activity and it gave repetitions of words ending in -mente, which should help them with comprehension of that structure the next time they read or hear a word with that ending.  Thanks for the idea Carol!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weather matches the lesson

File photo from winter 2011-12
I planned today's lesson before our Thanksgiving break, which was a week ago. Some of the new structures for today included: 
hace frío = it's cold
hay mucha nieve = there is a lot of snow
está nevando = it is snowing
We also had 3 new clothing words: el gorro (hat); la chaqueta (jacket) & los mitones (mittens).

As luck would have it, the first snowfall of the winter season greeted us this morning and it was still snowing when I taught both my Spanish 1 classes.

Because I'm feeling crunched for time, we didn't stray much from the story I had previoulsy typed during the "story-asking".  At one point in the lesson, I decided to pause and ask the students to think of reasons why the boy in the story is surprised (está sorprendido).  They worked in groups of 2 or 3 to think of a sentence and then shared them with the class.  I was so impressed with their answers because the majority of them were complicated, compound sentences filled with adjectives and prepositions, AND they were grammatically correct.  

At the end of the story they each wrote another sentence on the paper with the typed story to say why the boy was surprised again.

This link will take you to the story if you care to read it. The words in this lesson will help prepare the students to watch the video ALMA which I showed to my Spanish 1 students last fall and was a big hit with them.  We need one more day of learning several vocabulary words and then we'll be ready for video....finally!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Uses of VoiceThread in the MFL

VoiceThread is a handy web2.0 tool that can be used in various ways in the language classroom.  After viewing a powerpoint presentation on web2.0 tools, I realized that I have only used VoiceThread one time this semester with my Spanish 4 students.  Since today is still part of my Thanksgiving vacation, I had time to be creative and find a new way to use VoiceThread.

I started four stories with different themes I'll play the VoiceThread in class for the students to listen to the beginning of the 4 storiesAs a class, we'll brainstorm some possible endings to the stories.  The following day, I'll take them to the computer lab and they'll have the opportunity to choose one of the four stories and create their own ending to the story, preferable with a verbal comment instead of a written comment.  

I know this isn't classified as a pure CI activity because it requires output from the students.  However, at the Spanish 4 level, I like to provide them with different ways in which they can demonstrate their verbal skills in the TL.  Also, when we listen to the recordings in the classroom together for the first time, I will use CI methods, as needed, to assure that the students understand each of the situations.  The group response and brainstorming possibilities provides even more CI as I review and provide support when needed.

Other ways I and others have used VoiceThread in the classroom:

1. Mini-lecture.  I created a VoiceThread on customs that pertain to superstitions and rituals surrounding the death of a person, which included uploaded images and my recorded voice to expalin them.  I had a student that was not in school for several weeks due to health reasons.  Recording on VoiceThread allowed me to provide the notes in a comprehensible way as the student listened to Spanish instead of simply giving a handout with written notes.  

2. A TPRS Story.  In the VoiceThread site I searched the keyword "Spanish" and I found this TPRS story told by the teacher.  

A variation on this is to put sketches on the VoiceThread and the students need to tell the story, (with X number of comments from each student).  HERE is an example of this in an elementary school.  I did something similar to this using the story Clic Clac Moo in Spanish that I found on the internet.

3.  Connect with Students around the World. Last year my students were involved in 3 different VoiceThreads with students from Taiwan, Mexico, Spain.  Two of the VoiceThreads were ones that I made for the students to share with others about their schools, communities, hobbies, etc.  The third one was created by an Spanish teacher in Taiwan in which students used the video feature to show a gesture and then explain its meaning in Spanish.

4.  Conditional Tense.  I uploaded pictures of odd happenings and asked the students, ¿Qué harías tú en esta situación? and they commented on X number of photos using the conditional tense.  (It's a little centered on the grammar side, but the odd pictures provided motivation for the students to share what they would do in that situation.)

5.  Student Projects. (such as a photos and audio to explain how to make a recipe common to a particular country) I have reduced the number of projects that I do in my language classes because, after looking at them carefully, I felt few of them were accurate assesments of the students' skills.  However, if you needed the students to create a project that included pictures, written and/or verbal comments, and an opportunity to allow others to collaborate with them on project, whether the others are members of the classroom or are students in another part of the country or world, VoiceThread would fit the requirements and is easy to use.   

Are there other ways of using VoiceThread in the classroom that I have overlooked?  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Communicative Game (thanks Kelly)

Leave it to my extended family, that loves to play games, to give me an idea for a game to use with my Spanish classes.  After eating our Thanksgiving Day feast, my niece stood up and announced that she had a game for us to play before we left the table.  Before we had arrived at her house, she had taped a question underneath everyone's chair.  She chose someone to select a person and read the question to that person. That person answered the question by choosing someone in the room that they thought best fit the answer to the question.  When the question was answered, the person that answered the question then read his/her question, and so forth. It was a fun game and engaging because it was interesting to see how others answered. 

This game/activity can easily be adapted in the MFL classroom.  I listed the questions below, but you could easily change them or add questions that suit your students. In the lower levels, I suggest using only vocabulary that students already know or vocabulary that can be made comprehensible with little effort.  The goal is not necessarily to introduce new vocabulary, but to provide more input, keep the students engaged, and offer an opportunity for students to respond in the TL.  

Below are the questions that my niece had prepared. (again - translate them into the language you teach and edit them as necessary to make them comprehensible and interesting to your students).

- What sport would the person beside you most likely win gold at the Olympics?
- If the person beside you wrote a book, what would it be about?
- If the person beside you was a cartoon, who would they be?
- Who in this room tells the best jokes?
- If the person beside you starred in a movie, what would it be?
- Who in this room has the best smile?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- What is your favorite (holiday/summer/school) memory?
- Who in this room would most likely appear on the Nightly News? Why?
- Who in this room is the most technologically savvy?
- Who in this room is the best cook?
- If you could go to any concert for free, who would you go see?  Why?
- Who in this room would most likely appear on Survivor? Would they win?
- Who in this room would most likely run for public office? What office?
- Who in this room has the worst spelling?
- Who in this room is most likely to pick up a hitchhiker?
- Who in this room is the best dancer?
- Who in this room would most likely win The Amazing Race?  And who would be their partner?
- Who in this room is most attached to their pet?
- Who in this room is most likely to go see The Hobbit?
- Who in this room would win The Hunger Games?
- What animal does the person to your left resemble?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Goodbye Desks

About four weeks into school I decided to change the classroom set-up and pushed all the desks against the walls in the back and side of the room.  The photo on the left is how the room looks when I leave for the day.  When the first class of students enters in the morning, they retrieve their chairs that are stored under & on top of the desks for the evening (to make it easier for the evening staff to clean), and put the chairs in the assigned spots where their desks used to be.  

Why did I think it was a good idea to eliminate desks?  For starters, I have two level 1 classes, one level 2 class, and one level 4 class.  A great deal of time in the lower levels is spent on telling/asking stories, adding details to the stories, and reading.  None of these things require a desk.  

Secondly, my experience has been that the students are more engaged in the class without the desks and things they would normally put on their desk that have the potential to distract them.  Another benefit: no desks means none of the students have their heads down on the desk during class.

My Spanish 4 class only has 16 students, so that is a small enough number for us to form a circle with the chairs, or a semi-circle if I plan to write on the board or use the interactive projector.  

What was the students' reaction? The first day they thought it was odd, funny, or maybe a bit cool.  As the days went by I thought I might encounter some resistance and complaining, but that hasn't been the case.  It could be that the students enjoy the setting because it is different than their other classes.  I like it because it feels more conversational and comfortable.  From time to time a student will ask me when I'm going to put the desks back, then I answer, "at the end of the semester", and they have no additional questions.

When students sketch a story or sketch what happens next in a story, or take a quiz or exam, or write the 3 new structures or vocabulary for the lesson in their notebooks, they use a clipboard which was generously donated by Mark Hershey Farms, a local business in the community.  (Some day I need to buy a milk crate to store them, but until then they're kept in the cardboard box.)

For the second semester, when I'll have completely new classes, I'll go back to the traditional arrangement of desks in groups of 2, in rows, facing forward.  After I have the chance to get to know the students, and they understand the expectations of the class, I'll go back to no desks.  

This arrangement is similar to what I did last spring, but the students still worked at the desks when they worked in groups from time to time.  This semester, the only time the desks are used, by a few, is during formal assessments.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Engaging lesson plan for Imperfect Tense

Goals for today's lesson:
1 - Provide a lot of repetitions of various verbs in the imperfect tense 
2 - Provide input that will engage the student
3 - Don't specifically tell the students that my focus for the lesson is the imperfect tense 

I started the lesson with the picture of an elderly couple (find it HERE) projected on the board.  I mentioned a few comparisons using young and old and then moved right into the goal of building a story around the two people.  We first established the basic details such as their names, their age, and where they live now.  Then I asked my students about details of their life in the past using the following questions as a guide:   

- Where did they used to live when they were young?
- What were they like?
- Where did they work?  What was their job?
- To where did they always on vacation?
- With whom did they talk every day/week?
- What did they believe?
- What did they want?

My students are getting better at "playing the game" and with a little help from me, we ended up with an interesting profile for these two people.  Throughout the profile building exercise, I continued to review the previous information to increase the number of repetitions.  Goal #1 ✔

After we had talked about "Dan" and "Beyonce" for awhile, I told the students to stand up and their ticket to sit down was to repeat one of the established facts about the couple.  If they couldn't remember any, they had to give a new fact about their past.  At first students took turns repeating the facts, but as the number of facts available yet to repeat dwindled, students started raising their hands to give new interesting facts; even several that were already seated wanted me to call on them because they had a good fact to add!  #Goal 2: ✔

Photo by Martin Smith, Flickr
For the last activity of the class, I counted off the students and put them in groups of 3. Then I projected another photo on the board, (right) and they had 10 minutes to write a profile on the two new people.  I instructed them not to write their names on their papers because I wanted to award points to the group with the best background information and I wanted to decide without being influenced by seeing their names. I chose the background information that explained how the couple was connected to the characters in The Hunger Games.  (I may have been slightly biased toward that since last night I just finished reading the second book in the series in Spanish.)

The next time I meet with the class, I'll ask some Verdadero/Falso or short answer questions to review the material yet one more time.  That will be on Monday, so if I have time Sunday evening (not tomorrow or Saturday due to ACTFL12), I may type a list of background information and the students will have to read it and find the sentences that describe "Dan" and "Beyonce".

As for Goal 3, well, I confess I mentioned that I put a graphic organizer on their Edmodo group a month ago and it was still there if anyone wanted notes.  (For what it's worth, I predict very few, if any, will bother to view the graphic organizer that I provided.) 

FYI - here is the profile for the first couple pictured above:

- Dan, is 82 yrs. old, from India, played cricket when young; 
- Beyonce, is 80 yrs old, from Alaska, played football when young;
- they're retired and now live in San Diego; they used to live in Portland, Maine;
- they're friends of the pope; actually Dan is his cousin
- they used to go to Vatican City every year for vacations
- they worked as spies for Canada
- they were athletic, hard-working, and funny
- Dan had 2 legs, but lost one in an accident in Serbia; now has one leg
- they had 2 sons 

Friday, November 9, 2012

130+ repetitions of a new word + review

Student sketches as per my descriptions
 Q: How do you get a lot of repetitions from one word?  
A: Tell the students to draw it.

My Spanish 1 class is currently working on the 2nd chapter of stories in the Cuéntame Más series.  We did a story earlier this week with the words el cuervo, tiene miedo, and se esconde debajo de la cama (the crow, s/he is afraid, s/he hides under the bed). Yesterday I did PQA with the words detrás del cacto, sales de, and deja (behind the cactus, you leave, and s/he leaves...something/somewhere), but we never got to a story the kids gave me great feedback during the PQA sessionMany of the other words in chapter 2 the students already knew due to the previous 2 months of TPRS. However, they didn't know pájaro (bird).  I didn't really want to do another story since we got a lot of mileage out of the one earlier this week, and I didn't want another full class period of PQA

C - El pájaro negro corre tras el pájaro verde.

I realize that pájaro is not a high frequency word. Because of that, my goal was to be able to give a high number of repetitions of the word, but to have the students focus on more than that particular word (which is what TPRS usually does in storytelling). 

At the beginning of class, I gave each student a half sheet of paper, and a small paper with a description of a bird or what it was doing.  The students sketched the description. Then I put 3 or 4 sketches at a time under the document camera and started asking questions about them.  This turned out to be an unbelievably easy way to provide a high number of repetitions and it kept the students' attention because they were interested in seeing what their classmates drew. By the end of the activity I had 130+ reps, plus we had reviewed a lot of the vocabulary from previous stories.

Here are a few of the descriptions I gave to the students:
- a big bird talking to a wolf
- a little black bird running after a big green bird
- a bird wearing blue jeans
- a sad bird listening to music in his bed
- a yellow bird drinking Coca-Cola in a canoe
- a bird with big eyes
- two birds telling a "knock knock" joke to a big, angry snake
- two yellow birds, one big and one small, eating spaghetti
- a bird behind a cactus that is smiling
- 2 red birds hiding under a big bed         

Learning from Great Storytellers

What can storytelling offer?
Children have an innate love of stories. Stories create magic and a sense of wonder at the world. Stories teach us about life, about ourselves and about others. Storytelling is a unique way for students to develop an understanding, respect and appreciation for other cultures, and can promote a positive attitude to people from different lands, races and religions.  -
British Council BBC

(click HERE to go to the British Council BBC website that outlines the benefits and techniques of storytelling.)

How true! Stories draw us in and captivate our attention, especially if told by someone that has a talent for sharing stories.  As an example, think of Morgan Freeman, when he narrates a story at the beginning of a movie. I find myself wanting to listen to Morgan and at times disappointed when he stops narrating and the movie begins.  That's how quickly he has captivated my attention.
Storytelling is a gift but there are techniques we can learn from great storytellers. I found a website by the Resident Storytelling Company called Story Circle at Proctors. The website was created to share information about "Tellabration 2012" an event in which great storytellers gather together and share their talents.  The first story I clicked on was called "The Edge of the World" a folktale told by Betty Cassidy.  Even though it is entirely different than creating a story with a group of students, a la TPRS, I was intrigued with how she told the story, her pacing, her expressions, tone of voice, everything...that made me want to keep listening to see what happens at the end.   

Here is a video of Betty telling the folktale "The Edge of the World" (in English):

What a great new resource for stories to use in class.  As I listen to the stories, I can find structures that students need more repetition on or look for new structures that are common that I can introduce before telling this story.  This story could be used as part of a listening comprehension activity after the vocabulary and structures are taught in previous mini-stories. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Impromptu Stories: Making the Most of Every Minute

In my Spanish 4 class today, we finished one activity with 8 minutes remaining in class.  I didn't want to start the next activity in my plans because 8 minutes was nowhere enough time for what I wanted to do.  Not wanting to waste a single minute of class time, I decided to do an impromptu story.

I asked the students to stand up.  We were already in a circle because unless the students are working in groups, our chairs are always in a circle (no desks - I'll post about that later).  The directions for the activity: one person starts the story with 1 sentence; the person to their right adds the next sentence; followed by a sentence from the person to their right, etc.

Things off the top of my head tend to be, ah.....unpredictable.  That explains why when I started, "Había un chico que se llamaba...."  the first thing that popped in my head was "LowlowdoedoeBoy" for his name.  The first student added that "LowlowdoedoeBoy" had 2 dogs and 3 cats. The next student wanted to say he lived in a boat in the sea, but instead of saying "vivía en un bote en el mar" she said "vivía en una bota (boot) en el mar".  No problem - we made it work - AFTER laughing together about it. (LAUGHTER - good for your health and good way to lower the affective filter)  Living in a boot on the sea made for a much more interesting story than someone that lived in a boat on the sea. 

Those last eight minutes flew by, thanks to "LowlowdoedoeBoy" and his adventures on the sea in his boot.  Yes, this is output, but it is output with a level 4 class.  I just can't afford to lose minutes at the end of class so creating an impromptu story is a great fit and an enjoyable way to end the class. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Adding Details to a Story

This fall is the first time I've taught Spanish 2 for at least five years and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  First of all, it is a great group of students.  They are the first class of the day and I look forward to starting my day with them.   

Secondly, I'm enjoying teaching them how to talk about things that happened in the past WITHOUT handing them endless piles of worksheets and conjugation charts.  Forty-seven days into the semester and I haven't once mentioned "preterite" or "imperfect".  Instead of telling them that the verb needs to be in the imperfect, I tell them I want them to describe what someone looked like, or was wearing, or how the person felt, or how old the person was, or what time it was.  Many times I prompt them with a choice, "era alto o era bajo, estaba triste o estaba contento", etc. Because they've heard me give suggestions for possible answers many, many, many (x an enormous # of ) times, the problem of knowing when to use imperfect or preterit has diminished greatly.

I've been concentrating mainly on the él/ella form (3rd person singular) of the past tenses.  In the last week or so, I have slipped in several examples in the ellos/ellas form (3rd person plural) in stories.   Today I wanted to see what they could do with those forms.  Yesterday we created a story and it had several examples of both of the forms mentioned above.  I typed the story for them, and added space throughout the story for them to add more details.  Then the students worked alone or with a partner to write the additional sentences.  As they wrote I moved throughout the room, helping students and giving grammar pop-ups as necessary to individuals.

The students enjoyed the opportunity to add their own details to the story.  How do I know this?  They asked to share their new versions of the story with the class. I collected the papers of the groups that wanted to share, but unfortunately there was only time to read two of the stories and they asked if I could read them tomorrow.  

If you want to see the format in which I provided space in the middle of the story for their input, click on the link below.  I also added an activity in which I read the original story to them but this time I also was included in the story which meant they were hearing the nosotros (1st person plural) form of the verbs.  

11.6.12 Story - Sp2 - focus words: fueron, hablaron con, vieron, respondieron, dijo, preguntó