Monday, December 31, 2012

Setting Goals for 2013

Usually before a new school year begins in August, I find a notebook and jot down 5 or 6 goals for the new school year.  From time to time I refer to them to see which ones I have reached and which I have completely pushed to the side.  Admittedly, that is the easy way out because if I don't accomplish those goals, nobody knows but me.  

However, for the new calendar year, I'm writing my list here, hoping it will be an extra incentive for me to work to accomplishing ALL the goals on my list.

Directly Related to the Classroom
1.  Continue to provide Comprehensible Input in the Target Language, with pockets of "pop-up grammar".

2. Provide more authentic listening resources to all levels and find a schedule that won't compromise that commitment.

3. Read, Read, Read.   I have a growing library of Spanish books at different levels.  Now I have to be consistent in providing time for students to choose a book that appeals to them and read during class. 

4. Rewrite Spanish 2 curriculum.  I've already made major changes to what I wrote last summer.  I have 3 Spanish 2 classes in the spring semester so I'm hoping to make adjustments and improvements as needed as I use it with my students. My highest priority are the High Frequency Words in the past tenses.

5. Have students in upper levels blog. I've done this in the past with Spanish 4 and Spanish 5, but I didn't have my Spanish 4 class blog this fall.  In the past I had them blog once a week, but then changed it to every other week.  I'll add this to the spring semester and weigh the pros and cons at the end of the semester.

6. Collaborate with other classes in the US and other countries.  Last year my students and I had success with students in several parts of the world through Skype and VoiceThread.  
- Postcard Project- Thanks to Amy Lenord for organizing this!
- Global Blog - My experiment with blogging with my students and students in other parts of the world. I'm still looking for classes of native Spanish speakers in other parts of the world that are studying English to participate with us and others in this project.
- Another VoiceThread?

7. Invite native Spanish speakers to the classroom to share their experiences and knowledge of Spanish countries and the hispanic community and culture.

Professional Development
8. Attend a minimum of one workshop or conference that is specifically aimed at TPRS instruction or has several sessions on TPRS and CI within the conference.  Several options high on my list are:
- NTPRS 2013 in Dallas, TX
- ACTFL 2013 in Miami, FL
- 2013 iFLT Conference in San Diego, CA - would love to go to this but it doesn't fit my schedule
- local workshops

9. Find a new blog by a TPRS teacher.  I have several that I read on a regular basis, but I know there are others that somehow I haven't found yet that would be helpful.  Here is my list I currently have.

10. Find new educators to follow on Twitter that share activities and technology that they use in the classroom.  My twitter name is @sonrisadelcampo.  If you tweet about ideas for teaching and professional development, please contact me so I can add your tweets to the stream.

11. Read in Spanish. I love to read in Spanish and I am convinced that this is the best thing I can do for maintaining and improving my abilities and knowledge of the Spanish language.  The challenge is to find time for reading.

Stepping out of my comfort zone
Admittedly, organization is not one of my strong points, which makes the following items more of a challenge for me than for some.

12. Offer an after-school Spanish program for elementary school students.  I've had this goal for several years now, but I've never moved past the idea stage.  Now is the time to get working on the specifics of the program and then share the plan with the school administrators.

13.  Organize a local group of TPRS teachers.  Michele Whaley writes about a group of TPRS teachers in Alaska that meet monthly.  I can't think of a better way to support each other and share ideas, but the idea of organizing something similar is overwhelming to me. My best bet is to team up with like-minded individuals to make this a reality.

14.  Write a proposal to share some of my classroom activities (in other words: present) at a conference.  This is way beyond my comfort zone. 

There is my list, online and out in the open.  It will keep me a little more accountable to work toward achieving those goals.  


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Freeze Frame to Re-enact the Story

Last week was rough physically.  I was out the first two days due to the flu and pushed too hard to return to the classroom again on Wednesday. Because I rushed to return, Wednesday I didn't have the energy needed to lead a new story with TPRS.  So for my second day back, I felt like I had three days to make-up and in Spanish 1, we blew it out of the water!

There were two things that I felt I had to do to try to get back on track: 1) move to the next episode in the "Cuentos de Ensalada" story, and 2) introduce 3 new structures/vocabulary words in a new through TPRS.

Episode 7 (photo from 2011)
First, I reviewed the last information we knew about "Teresa and Tomás" and then I taught episode 7 from "Cuentos de Ensalada" with the surprise crime scene in the park.  I distributed a copy of the episode and I read several paragraphs in Spanish and then students worked in small groups to translate it to English. When they read it in English, I eavesdropped on several groups and was pleased to hear ALL groups reading through it without any major problems.

Immediately following the reading, I had new structures on the board for them to copy in their notebooks and added the English meanings.  Some we had actually had before, but it was a good time to review.  The structures were:  
- tropieza = s/he trips
- se cae = s/he falls
- es torpe = s/he is clumsy
- derrama = s/he spills

The story was about one of the students in the class that works as a waitress/waiter but is clumsy.  A famous person enters the restaurant, orders soup, which the clumsy waittress/waiter delivers to the table but unfortunately trips, spills the soup on the famous person, and then falls down.  The famous person is quite angry, stands up and leaves the restaurant.  

I started the story without any actors, but quickly added student actors when I saw the student interest.  The class enjoyed hearing the story from beginning to end with the actors.  That alone would have keep their interest, but I had one more activity for them - FREEZE FRAME, an activity that I learned from Carol Gaab's session at ACTFL.

In the first Spanish 1 class of the day, there were 3 parts so I put students in groups of 3 and they decided which person they would portray.  Then the groups spread out through the room and as I told the story, I paused at times to say FREEZE FRAME, and they froze their actions.  They needed no encouragement whatsoever to get into their roles.  The 2nd Spanish 1 class only had two roles and after a few practices, they were just as creative and imaginative with their poses as the first Spanish 1 class.  The best part was their laughter and enjoyment of the activity.  Of course, the fact that they followed along as I retold the story without any problems made the activity "worthy".  

It was two out of the ballpark homeruns in one class period - twice.  Yesterday's frustration is a dull memory. 


Friday, December 14, 2012


I'm using Cuentos de Ensalada with my Spanish 1 classes in the present tense and with my Spanish 2 class in the past tenses.  In one episode, they learn the teacher's schedule, when she wakes up, when she drives to school, when she exercises, etc.

To review the previous episode, I put the sketches on the board and asked the students to tell me about her schedule.  When we got to the sketch of her driving, a girl raised her hand and correctly used "condujo" without hesitation.  I was so glad to see that even the irregular verbs didn't pose a problem for the Spanish 2 students.

That evening, I took home writings from the students in which they wrote several diary entries as if they were "Brandon" from the book "El Nuevo Houdini".  When I read their writings on the diary entries, my excitement from earlier in the day diminished.  Either the students didn't take into consideration that since they were writing as if they were Brandon they needed to change the verbs accordingly (from él form to yo form) or we had a LOT of work to do with the first person singular form of verbs in the pastThe diary writing assignment was on a day that I was out sick so I didn't specifically leave a reminder that they needed to change the verbs, so that may have helped them, but that I'll never know.  

What I do know, is that when they produce answers, as they did during the exercise in class, it's not as a result of memorizing or "studying" but the result of constant input, input, input.  Of which...obviously... they need more.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Los gemelos & the Imperfect Subjunctive

I experimented with a new way to introduce the imperfect subjunctive.   

First I wrote on the board "Los gemelos Sánchez" along with a short explanation in Spanish that they were 15 year old twin boys that were super naughty.  I listed 20+ verbs on the board in the infinitive form to guide them to the verbs I wanted them to useThe students worked in groups of 4 to use the verbs listed on the board to write a list of things they "heard" that the twins did last week.

After 10 minutes +/-, students wrote some of their sentences on the board.  We read their sentences, commenting on the boys' behavior.  

Then I told the class that not only did the twins do those actions last week, but they were in the habit of doing those things all the time. 

Then I asked them how they thought the mother of the twins felt about their behavior, and how others felt about it.  I wrote the beginning of the sentence and then ended it with the verb in the form they hadn't seen before, the imperfect subjunctive.

A la madre de los gemelos le enojaba que los gemelos robaran dinero de su hermana menor.

Sus profesores estaban tristes que los gemelos siempre sacaran notas malas.

Of course I second guessed myself and wondered if it would have been better to take a few of their sentences and weave it into a story.