Sunday, December 15, 2013

20 Ideas for Navidad activities for Spanish class

I received an email from a colleague asking me for ideas for class on the last day before Christmas vacation.  I responded with five ideas, and then decided to write a last minute list of resources on my blog in case others are looking for ideas too.  There are so many choices available in addition to what is listed below that you could have several days of activities. Just make sure to keep it comprehensible!

The first suggestion has to be to let the students help you create a story via TPRS style.  If Santa Claus is something your students want to talk about, tell about the problems he encounters in different houses or choose your structures, start the story, and the students will take it from there, under your guidance of course.

Commercials (can use with MovieTalk):
- Santa vs. Los Reyes (thank you @mryedinak for sending me this link)

- Los padres no existen

- The Journey - The link will take you to Kieran Donaghy's blog, Film English. There is a video about snowmen, along with lesson plans in English that you can change to your language.  As always, his blog is PACKED with great lessons, so I suggest you free up some time and explore his website fully.

The Journey is a John Lewis advertisement from a previous year.  Find Christmas advertisements from this year and other years that are just as endearing HERE.

Stories in Spanish
- the app Bookbox (or find it online at Bookbox) has two audio stories with subtitles.  They are "La Navidad de Santa", and "La Primera Navida"

Víctor - making buñuelos & snacking on Oreos
- Why not make buñuelos with your students? I made these with several times with my students because they're easy and delicious. This linked recipe uses a frypan but I also make them with my deep fryer.
 HERE is a variation with cheese.

- Ensalada de Buenanoche - I've never made this before but I saw it mentioned on a teaching forum last week.

- Rosca de Reyes - Click HERE to see a blog post by Carrie Toth that explains how she made this with her students last year.  Included especially for all the super ambitious teachers out there like Carrie.  :-)

Songs and Podcasts
 There are several versions of Juanes' El burrito de Belén on YouTube; or search for other traditional songs/villancicos.  One song my students enjoy when I take the Spanish club Christmas caroling (cancelled twice this year due to snow) is "Gatatumba". I did a google search and couldn't find a version with the words.  I have an old cassette tape from teacher's discovery from years ago that maybe, by chance, the previous Spanish teacher has stashed in a closet somewhere that you can listen to.

Most students have already heard the song Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano so it might be fun to sing along with a video of it. 

- Notes in Spanish podcasts, by Ben and Marina, have an several episodes related to Christmas:
Inspired Beginners: ¡Feliz Navidad! found HERE
Intermediate: La Lotería found HERE.
Advanced: Feliz Navidad found HERE.

- Audiria - Cómo celebran la Navidad los españoles, script included

- You may want to wait until January to show a video on The Three Kings Day/Día de los reyes magos.  HERE is a short clip in English.  I used a Spanish clip last year but I'm not sure which one.
- A few years ago I made a Powerpoint with multiple choice questions about Christmas time traditions in Spanish countries.  I put the students in groups of 3 and they discuss the answers among them and write them down.  After they have answered all the questions on the powerpoint, they switch their papers with another group. As I tell them the correct answers, I add information about the traditions.  It is a fun way to share a lot of information such as el gordo (la lotería), las posadas, new year's eve traditions (such as eating grapes or sweeping the house clean), and others.

BINGO - I'm not a big fan of Bingo because it is usually played with vocabulary only, out of context.  However, if it the last day before Christmas vacation, keeping students' attention can be extra challenging and this activity may fit the bill. You can personalize the vocabulary first by first teaching the words with TPR.

One word: PINTEREST!  Go to Pinterest and google Navidad and you'll find more than you can digest.  I suggest starting with Martina Bex's Navidad board found HERE.  

Other Activities
 - Years ago I printed pictures on cardstock and laminated them to represent the last words in each line of the "spanglish" version of Twas the Night Before Christmas that you can find HERE. Sometimes I take my class to the office or to a Spanish 1 class to perform the poem for them.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Having fun with IF Clauses

Through reading a novel in Spanish class, my students have seen the imperfect subjunctive many times.  To give them more exposure with the imperfect subjunctive, we did a quick activity with IF CLAUSES.

1. I wrote the typical sentence on the board...Si tuviera 5 millones de dólares, yo... and wrote possible answers.  I continued by writing the verbs only of other examples as I said the sentences, hablara cinco idiomas, yo trabajaría...

- we discussed the second part of the sentence (the conditional) because they already had learned this the previous year of Spanish. Then I showed them how fuera, tuviera, hablara, durmiera, was formed, which took only a minute or two. Resist the temptation to show umpteen examples of irregular verbs - they don't need it know, nor do they want to hear it at this point. Keep the emphasis on communicating meaning.

2.  Then I gave each student two pieces of paper. On one paper they wrote the first part of the phrase using IF + imperfect subjunctive (but I didn't call if by that name); on the second paper that said what they WOULD do if the first part of the sentence were true or were to happen. I reminded them that I wanted interesting and creative sentences; boring sentences were not an option.

3. I collected the papers as two separate piles and redistributed them, making sure the original match was not together.

4. Students read their new sentences and we discussed or commented on each. It wasn't necessary for me to call on students to read their sentences - they wanted to read them to their classmates.

I'll let that activity digest a little and then approach the imperfect subjunctive from a different angle.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Now that's a good story....

I saw this commercial (see below) for the first time last night and my first thought was of the similarities to co-creating a story with students in a second language class.  As a teacher you have no idea of the outcome, but you know the students will be engaged to see how it all comes together...exactly like I was when watching the commercial.
Somebody at droid had their creative juices flowing freely. 


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Robo en la noche - capítulo 4

Completed activity mentioned in #4-6 below.
My Spanish 2 students are currently reading Robo en la noche, a book written by Kristy Placido.  I've read this book before with my level 2 students, but this time I noticed that the students were struggling a bit, (a problem that I take the blame for due to the way I introduced the first two chapters - see the end of the post for more details).  

In order to give the students more exposure to the setting and the characters, I made an activity to complete after reading chapter 4.  Below is a brief detail of my plans for chapter 4.

1. Before reading chapter 4, review the characters in chapters 1-3 by completing and/or talking about the information the graphic organizer (found HERE).
2. Students copy a list on the board (see below) in order to read with a purpose (to find the listed information in chapter 4 as we are reading it together):
    A. 2 lugares donde ocurre la acción en el capítulo
    B. 4 hechos/información sobre Cecilio
    C. 2 hechos sobre las aves
    D. 2 hechos sobre Costa Rica
    E. 2 dichos (sayings and/or slang) en Costa Rica
As I read the chapter, students raised their hand when they found information listed in A,B,C,D or E and then they all wrote the information in their composition books.
3.  PQA and discussion of different parts of the chapter
4.  After completing the chapter I distributed page 1 and 2 on the file attached below.  Students had to cut out the squares and put the events in the correct order.  I checked them before they glued them to sheet #1.

5. Give students the 3rd sheet, printed on a different color.  They cut the squares with the sentence dialogues and matched them to the 11 different events in the chapter.  Note: The exact dialogue on the small squares is NOT taken from the book.  Students had to read the sentences and decide which person may have said that.  They glued these to the paper after I checked them.
6. Finally, on the small squares with the sentence dialogues, they needed to write the name of the person that would have said the statement.
7. As students finished the  activity, they decided when they were ready to take a comprehension quiz on the chapter.  It was a 10 point multiple choice quiz which I graded with my new app Quick Key.  (22 quizzes graded in less than a minute - not too shabby).

I'm not a big advocate of taking class time to do a cut and paste activity, but when students order events, it's helpful to be able to physically move the events around to order them.

A huge plus with this activity today was when I arrived at school and realized it was the first day of Keystone testing.  My first class was scheduled to be in my classroom for 2 hours.  Cutting and pasting helped to break up the long class period and allowed the students to work at their own pace.

The main reason why students may be having more difficulty with the book this time is that I was went to ACTFL in Orlando and in an attempt to leave behind lesson plans that were productive...I had the students read the first two chapters with the substitute.  Now I know not to do that in a level 2 or below class.  They definitely need the guidance when reading, especially for the first few chapters of the book. 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Quick Key App - a Time-Saver

Two words that can save you time with your school work are:

Quick Key

Quick Key is an app created by Walter O. Duncan IV (@4_teachers) to help teachers quickly grade short assessments like Ticket Out the Door or quizzes.

I found the app in a round-about way from Twitter (just another reason why Twitter is a key part of my PLN). After I downloaded the app, I printed a few QK Tickets, (scantron sheets), and started working with the app. I added a list of names, assigned them to a class, made the answer key on the app, and filled in several student answer sheets. (Thanks to @4_teachers for sending me a direct link to the Quick Key Tickets; find them HERE)

I used my iPad to scan the QK tickets, but initially I had problems because my printout of the scantron sheet was not good quality.  My printer at home is set to conserve ink and it did not print dark enough for the app to work.  I mentioned this on Twitter to @4_teachers (Walter O. Duncan IV) and it was not long until he responded, confirming that the scantron sheet needs to be good quality.   

After I reset the printer settings, I printed two new QK Tickets, filled in the bubbles, and this time used my iPhone to scan the sheets, and voila, in seconds the app had graded the scantron sheets. 

Quick Key can be used in the Ci-based classes to ask information about the story students helped to create, to check reading comprehension when using mini-novels, match statements to sketches of the story, or even include questions related to pop-up grammar that was explained in the story or chapter.

One thing I failed to mention, the app is FREE! (at least for the time being)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ACTFL Presentation: Increasing TL Communication w/ Film Shorts & Comprehensible Input

Last Saturday, at the ACTFL 2013 convention in Orlando, FL,  I presented a session entitled "Increasing TL Communication w/ Film Shorts & Comprehensible Input".  A copy of the handout is available to view or for download below.  It's not as visually attractive as the powerpoint with embedded videos, but the information is the same.

Thank you to those that supported me by attending the session.  It was reassuring to see members of my PLN from #langchat in my session that I met for the first time at ACTFL.  It was my first time presenting and their support meant the world to me. 


No prep Thanksgiving activities for Spanish class

The day before Thanksgiving vacation the students have one goal in mind: get through the day so they can start their vacation. I know this because I've heard it from several students in my homeroom group and other classes.

The regular plans may need to be put on hold, but that doesn't mean you have to turn to simple games like Bingo. Another popular activity is for students to write things they are thankful on turkeys' feathers. They have the cuteness factor, but I suggest you make it more meaningful by increasing the comprehensible input and increase class discussion as Sra. Yedinak explains HERE.

I had several activities ready to go that took no or minimal planning but were in the target language and required student engagement.

1.  Estoy agradecido porStudents moved their chairs into a circle. I wrote the following on the board: Estoy agradecido por...,  Estoy agradecida por..., está agradecido/a por...
I randomly pulled a student's name from index cards (or use a random name generator) and that student moved into the chair designated as #1. The student originally seated there moved into the seat of the students that was called. The student in chair #1 had to say for what they were thankful. (i.e. Estoy agradecida por mis hermanas.) Then I pulled a second name and that student moved into the seat next to the first student and said for what the first person was thankful and then added for what they were thankful.  We continued this for 15 students.

Even if there are more than 15 students in the class, going through this 15 times is plenty. My rule was that any student that had already said for what they were thankful decided to chat with another student, they had to move to the end of the line and repeat what each person had said.  There was a united sigh from the remaining students when after the 15th person's name was called.

To end the activity, the students wrote 5 sentences about what 5 of their classmates had said and for sentence #6, they wrote for what they were thankful.  I kept the notes on the board as they wrote. I didn't want it to be a tricky exercise, but rather one in which they heard "Estoy/está agradecido/a por" over 100 times.  This worked well and I didn't have to quiet the students even one time!

2. Infografía: El pavo, sabor y nutrición para Fin de Año. This infograph is not made specifically for Thanksgiving, but it still works for Thanksgiving.  I used this with my Spanish 4 class for a short activity.  I projected the infograph on the board and simply asked them to tell me information in English from the infograph.  As they called out information, I used a marker to put a check on that information.
I find this the evening before the class, and I can't remember if I saw it on someone's blog or if I saw it on Pinterest.  The link to the infografía is HERE

3. Another short activity on vocabulary related to Thanksgiving is on Quia.  Just google "Quia - Día de acción de gracias", and you'll find several shared activities or click HERE to choose matching, concentration, or 2 other choices. I did the matching only but if I had had the ipads in my class, I may have considered having them pair up to play a round of concentration.

It would have been easy to include the Thanskgiving theme into a story, but the students appreciated the change of pace. I saved enough time in our 70 minute block to read another chapter in our leveled reader. 

UPDATE: Two days after I posted this I found this post by Señora Pelirroja (@SraPelirroja) on her blog Classroom Creativities.  It DOES take prep time but it is a cute idea.  If I had seen this at the beginning of November, I would have planned for my students to do this activity before I went to ACTFL so other students could appreciate it for a few weeks.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Student-created stories w/ guidance

A quick way to assess if your students have internalized structures is to have them give a short presentation.  I limit these type of activities for the beginning levels, but I used the following as an informal assessment (i.e. not graded) to help me know how to structure the pacing of future classes.  

1. Structures and Vocabulary: 
- él no se despertó = he didn't awaken 
- él se durmió = he fell asleep
- cuando él tren (or el autobús, or el avión) llegó

2. Ask personalized questions to students using the above structures (mostly whether they fall asleep in certain classes, at sports practice, at music recitals, and when they awoke that day).

3.  Class helped to create story by giving details for the following storyline:
someone wanted to go somewhere and why, how they went there, where they didn't awaken, where they awoke and how they felt.

4. After students helped create the class story, the students wrote the story in their writing journals (I wrote it on the board as they retold it to me and they copied it) or they read a previous class's story.

5. The following day we read two stories from the previous year. This is the 3rd semester I have taught Spanish 2 in recent years, so I am accumulating a nice amount of stories by previous classes that are useful for additional comprehensible reading.

6. We also watched a similar story on Educreations that I made about last year's class story.  

7. After those activities, I made a last minute change in my lesson plans and added an activity for students to create and present their own stories.
I wrote the following on the board (in Spanish for students,  but it's listed in English for blog purposes)
- Name of the person
- where did they want to go and why
- what transportation did they use
- after how long did they fall asleep
- where was the bus/train/airplane when the person didn't awaken
- where did the person awaken and how did s/he feel

Students worked in groups of two.  Each person had half a sheet of paper (torn lengthwise) and 10 minutes to create the sketches and practice their stories. Even though I told them to only use words they already knew, some didn't follow that advice, so while they were working, if they asked me how to say something, I wrote that on the board and the students had to point to that word and pause when they were presenting to make their presentations comprehensible to their classmates.

After 10 minutes they presented their stories to the class with the use of the document camera; no written notes, guided only by their sketches. In both classes, several groups quickly volunteered to take their turn, eager to share their stories with their classmates.   

The benefits:
- It was easy for me to assess their progress on the target structures (a nice surprise was how well they were pronounced the words; but a few still stumbled on the pronunciation)
- The students were engaged. I didn't need to remind them to listen or pay attention.
- The structure wanted to + action (ex: wanted to go to Hollywood because he wanted to see the starts) was used in the story; a good review for many.

Two examples of students' stories and sketches:
Patricia quería ir al centro comercial porque quería comprar ropa nueva.  Ella fue a la estación de autobuses y se sentó en el asiento. Ella se durmió inmediatamente. Cuando el autobús llegó al centro comercial, ella no se despertó.  Ella se despertó cuando el autobús llegó a Goodwill.  Patricia estaba contenta porque podía comprar mucha ropa en Goodwill.

 Tim vivía en Harrisburg. Él quería ir a Hawaii.  Tim quería nadar con tiburones.  Él fue al aeropuerto y fue a Hawaii.  Él se durmió en el avión y no se despertó cuando el avión llegó en Hawaii.  El avión regresó al aeropuerto en Harrisburg.  Tim se despertó en Harrisburg.  Estaba furioso porque quería nadar con tiburones y no había tiburones en Harrisburg.

Why is it that many times the best activities I do in class are the ones that are last minute (literally, last minute - as in the idea pops in my mind during class) additions to my lesson plans.  I'm glad that those last minute changes often go well, but it is frustrating that, in comparison, some things I spend a considerable amount of time working on and preparing for class, end with less than pleasing results!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Learning (Spanish) Commands - Usted Form

Students write commands to solve problems.
Note: This is also known as a Commands Gallery Walk

I use a fabricated story about my cat when I teach formal commands.  The activity is described below for how I teach it in Spanish, but it can easily be adapted to any language.

I begin by telling the following story in the Target Language about my cat: "My cat loves to hunt and every day it hunts and kills either a bird or a mouse. But my cat doesn't like to eat what it hunts so it picks up the kill in it's mouth, walks to my neighbor's house, and drops it's hunted prize at the front door of my neighbor's house.  My neighbor is very angry with me and my cat." Then students say commands in the usted form to tell me what to do.

This year I decided to have the students create their own short scenarios.  

1. The students wrote their fabricated "problems" on a large paper and hung them around the room. I limited their stories to 5-7 sentences.

2. Then I gave each student a pack of post-it notes.  

un problema con un caimán
3. Students had to write a command for each of the "problems" and stick their post-it note to the paper.  They could not repeat any verbs already mentioned on other post-it notes on the paper, and the individuals could not use the same verb on more than one paper.  (I had 15 students in class, each had to write commands on post-its for 14 of the "problems", they did not have to write on their own paper, and the student could only use a verb one time.)

4. After the students have written a command and put post-it notes on all the papers except their own, the owner of the paper reads the commands and chooses the 3 they like the most to share with the class.

The students enjoy listening to their classmates' "problems" and the creative ways to solve the problem.  Having the students write on post-it notes instead of directly on the paper meant students didn't have to wait until the previous person was finished writing on the paper, a time-saver.  

Update 2017: Recently in my inbox from Pinterest, there were photos of suggested pins for my Spanish boards. One was a Pin that used my idea but instead of the students creating a problem, the teacher wrote the problem and put it in a clear protector sheet and then students added the sticky notes as described in this post.  I added the picture I found on Pinterest to give you a clear picture how it was done. I'm unable to give a photo credit because the Pin on pinterest leads to a dead end. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Teaching Idea Inspired by Ellen DeGeneres

Inspiration for classroom activities can be found in so many places, including The Ellen DeGeneres show.  I'm not sure how my web browsing led me to videos of The Ellen Show a few weekends ago, but on the right of YouTube page I saw the title, "Ellen and Jennifer Lopez Dance-Off" (click on title to see the video).

True to Ellen's style, she made the Dance-Off look fun, and I started thinking how I could use something similar with my students.  While an identical "dance-off" would be fun, it certainly wouldn't be related to the curriculum. However, last weekend when I was planning out the week's activities, I wanted a quick review of how to say s/he was doing something, by using estaba + gerund (ex: estaba nadando, estaba escribiendo, estaba bailando), and I decided now was the time to use a variation of Ellen's activity. 

I made a powerpoint for a fun warm-up, but it would also work great as a brain-break because it is quick and it gets the students up and moving around.  The directions for the activity are on the #2 slide below. The link to the powerpoint is HERE.

Gracias Ellen

Monday, November 11, 2013

Novels and Classroom Door Decorations

I am going to assume that reading novels in second language classes is increasing.  I say that because the number of downloads I've seen in the last few months for materials I have on this blog for a few of the books I've read with my students continues to increase.

For those of you that enjoying making bulletin boards, the following idea may be just for you.  Why not decorate your classroom door to coordinate with the novel you are reading with one of your classes?  It will catch the other students' attention in your school, it will add a little pizzazz to your hallway, and it will be a daily reminder to your students that you are reading a novel in the class.

Below are a few photos of doors I found online - some on Pinterest and some by googling "classroom doors".  

You could do this with any novel you read with your students, or even decorate your door for a particular unit.  Those great decorations don't have to stay inside your room!  

The doors for the novels shown above are just a sampling of the great novels available for language teachers.  If you're looking for materials, check the right side of my blog and you'll find links to Mira Canion and TPRS Publishing where you can find the above books and many others.

I know, it's just another thing that will take time that you really don't have in the first place.  I like the idea, but I haven't decorated my door yet.  However, some of the more crafty teachers out there may find this suits them perfectly.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

¡Bienvenidos a Nelly Hughes!

I want to officially welcome Nelly Hughes as a new contributor/writer to this blog!  

Nelly is a talented high school Spanish teacher, presenter and TPRS/CI coach. I connected with Nelly through Twitter and shortly after we started to share ideas on teaching and sharing resources with each other.

Nelly and I met in person for the first time in Dallas at the NTPRS conference. That's when I discovered that Nelly was a wonderful, generous person, willing to share ideas and her time to help others to improve their teaching skills (especially in TPRS/CI methods) on the path to become better teachers.

Since the conference, Nelly and I have stayed in close contact with each other, discussing ideas on how to teach the same mini-novel we taught this fall, sharing resources and materials, and bouncing ideas off of each other.  An example of Nelly's work, a document on the song, "Mi novio es un zombi", can be found HERE.  

Earlier this week, Nelly sent more documents to me that she created to use in her classroom.  That's when I suggested that she do one of the following things:
1 - start a blog so she can share her materials with others easily
2 - create the documents on Googledocs and tweet the URL of the document
3 - open an account on TeachersPayTeachers. I no very little about the regulations for joining, but for those that want to share materials but not necessarily charge for them, I have seen items on that site that are free downloads.
4 - accept my invitation to be a Contributor to my blog.

I'm pleased to say Nelly accepted my invitation to be a Contributor to the blog! You can find her name on the right of the blog under Contributors, along with Krista Applegate, a colleague at my school, whom I encourage (or...coerce) to write about the activities she uses with her French and Latin students.

Check back in the near future to see Nelly's first post and subsequent posts on her classroom activities and accompanying materials.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Author Skype

Have you ever experienced a Skype session with the author of a book that your students have read?  My Spanish 2 students and I had a Skype session last week with Mira Canion, the author of Fiesta Fatal, the book we piloted and is scheduled to be published early next year, and six other books for Spanish students.
Spanish 2 students Skype w/ author Mira Canion

Mira was very accommodating and worked with me to schedule a separate Skype session with each of my Spanish 2 classes. There is a two hour difference between us, which meant she had to arrive at school extra early in order to Skype with my first period class.  

Each session was 25 minutes long.  Mira had asked that we start the Skype session in Spanish and then move into English.  The day before our session, my students' homework assignment was to write two questions in Spanish regarding the book (the plot, the characters, the ending, etc), and one question in English about the book or about writing in general.   

At the 3 appointed times, we successfully connected with Mira and the students asked their questions in Spanish and Mira answered them in Spanish.  Mira writes books and also teaches full-time, so she was careful to use vocabulary and grammar that the students could understand in Spanish. And, unbeknownst to Mira, (but she'll know if she reads this post), two or three times when I saw the students didn't understand, I jotted it on the board, out of view of the camera.  

This was a very positive experience for my students! They took advantage of the direct access with the author to ask about the different characters in the novel, what they were going to do after the last chapter, why they acted the way they did in the novel, etc. They also had some great questions about writing such as how long does one book take from start to publication, from where does she get her inspiration, how much does the book change from the first draft to the final publication, and on and on. The conversation with Mira provided my students a glimpse into the work that goes into a book before it reaches the classroom.  An extra bonus for my last class was the opportunity to meet some of her students. 

If you have never had a guest enter your room through Skype, here are a few suggestions to make the session go smoothly:
1.  Do a trial run through before the session to make sure there are no technology kinks that need to be worked out.
2.  Talk with your students about Skype etiquette.  (one student speaks at a time, speak clearly, no side conversations, treat the Skype guest as if they were physically in the room, etc.)
3. Set a determined length of time and stick to it.  
4. Have students write possible questions beforehand so they are prepared to ask them and you don't lose any Skype time.
5. If it is a big class, move the computer to a different angle so the Skype guest is able to see more of the students, not just those that are front and center. Also, have students circle in and sit close to the camera.

 Two years ago, I contacted a writer of a short story that my Spanish 4 students read in hopes that we could Skype with the author.  I was not successful in setting up that session due to the author's schedule that year, and then failed to check back the following year.  However, after the students' positive reactions to the Skype session with Mira, I'm inspired to explore other possibilities for using Skype to connect my students with others.  My students connected with a class in a Spanish country two years ago and I think it's time to explore that avenue again.  I have other ideas that I'm already mulling over in my head.

If you are willing to share your Skype experiences with me, or any words of wisdom on how best to incorporate it into the classroom, whether here on the blog or by direct e-mail, I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reading - Ensuring Students Understand

Chapter 7 - Fiesta Fatal
As I have probably stated before, when I read mini-novels with my students, I want the students to understand the storyline.  I know from experience, that if I ask the students if they understand, some will say yes even when they don't.  My job is to ensure they really do understand.

After reading chapter 7 of Fiesta Fatal, the book I'm piloting for Mira Canion, I created a review activity of the main character's journal.  Some of the statements are taken directly from the chapter, others are thoughts that Vanesa might say or think, and others are statements that are not true.  Students read the statements and checked the ones that match Vanesa's character. 

Chapter 9 - Fiesta Fatal
In the last few years, I have moved away from grammar lectures and have replaced them with many short pauses in conversation and reading to point out and/or ask questions why something is written the way it is.  My students do not specifically know the terms imperfect and preterite, but they are beginning to write the correct tense when needed.  To sharpen that skill, I tried a new activity in which I could quickly assess their progress.

First, I gave each student a page from the newspaper, folded to make it more manageable.  Since newspapers are a good source of information, the newspaper represented background information.  I also gave them a copy of a ticket to a Lucha Libre event that I made online. Lucha Libre is entertainment similar to WWE, which means it is an event filled with a lot of action.

Then I read the chapter to the students.  They closed their eyes and when I said a statement which included information (imperfect), they held up the newspaper, and for a statement that described a specific action of one of the characters (preterit), they held up the Lucha Libre ticket.  It didn't take long for me to see which students were consistently answering  correctly and which students were unsure and were making more errors.  

After the newspaper/Lucha Libre ticket exercise, I gave them a paper with sentences that they read and then wrote I (for información) or A (for acción). 

The newspaper/ticket activity can be used with any book or story. Choose something to represent the two different past tenses that are related to the storyline and choose a reading that has a good mix of both tenses. 

Both activities described above are good reviews of the chapter for the students, and also will enable you to better identify which students are struggling and need extra support.

Acting and Freeze Frame

Earlier this month my students read a book that we piloted.  The book title is Fiesta Fatal written by Mira Canion, and will be published in the future.
My last post on Fiesta Fatal was on chapter 3, which can be found HERE.  Chapter 5 has a scene in which the mother, Julieta, and her daughter, Vanesa, hail a taxi cab in their efforts to escape.  My students and I read the chapter together.  After reading, the students put chairs in the formation to resemble a taxi cab.  Then they chose one of the following roles: taxi cab driver, Vanesa, or Julieta.  Before acting, I gave them three minutes to make paper props of a tiara and a cell phone.  Some made additional props like steering wheels. 

Acting ch5 of Fiesta Fatal
Then I reread sentences from the chapter (disguised repetition) and students portrayed the scene, then froze in action.  I took photos with my iPad to be used later. As I moved throughout the classroom, I described their actions, (more repetition in context). All the classes enjoyed the activity, including the normally quiet class.  Unfortunately, because I blurred their faces on the photos, you are unable to see how amazingly expressive they were. They "knocked this activity out of the park"!

After they finished acting the scenes, I hooked up my iPad to the smart board and students said sentences in Spanish to describe the photos.

The following day, I made a collage of the photos, and made copies for the students.  I also wrote sentences from the book and students matched the sentences to the photos on the collage. (one last chance for students to see and hear the vocabulary and grammar structures in a different format).

- I labeled the photo collages with letters H-P to give students more practice with letters that aren't at the beginning of the alphabet.  
- I used the App BlurFotoLite to blur the faces of the students. I can't say the app worked well. I was able to blur the faces but it froze both times I used it. Not an app I recommend.
- I first learned about Freeze Frame from attending a Carol Gaab session at ACTFL.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mi novio es un zombi - by Alaska y Dinarama

In the spirit of sharing, my dear friend Nelly Hughes (follow her on Twitter @nellyanhug), sent me a song activity she made for "Mi novio es un zombi" by Alaska y Dinarama. Click THIS LINK to download it, or download it directly from the embedded image below:

To find a video of the song, Google the title and there are several from which to choose.

The lyrics and activity are similar to one made by Martina Bex for the song "La Llamada" by Selena found HERE. If you're searching for additional songs to use in class with ready to go activity sheets, go to Martina's blog and in the search box type "songs".  There are loads to choose from - 32 according to the list on the left side of the blog. This is a perfect example to "work smarter, not harder".

There is no excuse for not including songs in your teaching. ("Physician, heal thyself" - I admit, I should add more songs on my lesson plans.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On Time - Short Films with Spanish 4

I am thoroughly enjoying my Spanish 4 class this semester.  First, it is a small class - 15 students, which is small compared to my other classes. It's much easier than my other classes to get several interactions from each student throughout the class period.

Secondly, the majority of the students are willing to participate in discussions in Spanish, on just about any topic.  They know the expectation is to speak in Spanish and, for the most part, they do that. (see the end of the post for reason #3)

Below is how I used the short film, "On Time" by Ted Chung to draw them into a conversation in Spanish.

1.  Discussion: We talked about being able to see the future ...
- Are there advantages and disadvantages?
- What are the advantages? Not surprising, one of them said the ability to know the answers on a test is an advantage because you can the questions before you take the test. 
- What are the disadvantages?
- What would happen if 1/4 of the students at our high school could see into the future?
- How would the 3/4 that don't have the ability to see the future feel about the 1/4 that can?
More possibilities:
- Would someone that can see the future work to prevent negative things happening in his own life?  Would that consume him?
- Are there times that you wished you could have prevented something from happening but later find out it was a good thing? 
- Is there something you can share that happened that if you had known how it was going to turn out, you would change it?

...and the possibility of questions goes on and on.

2.  We watched the video, On Time by Ted Chung without sound. With no sound as interference, I was able to narrate in Spanish about what was happening, especially about the conversation the two men had.

On Time from Ted Chung on Vimeo.

3.  Then I handed them a collage of screenshots from the short film in order as the events happened.  Most (maybe even all) of the students helped to describe and retell the story. 

As is customary for me as we discuss and retell the story, I write words on the board that some of the students may not know or need to see it written to help them recall what it means.  

4. After we retold the events together as a class, I put students in groups of 3 for additional practice.

5.  In conclusion, I asked the students to list the words from the story that they feel are most useful to them.  For example: lupa (magnifying glass) was a new word for them, but they didn't choose that for the list because it isn't a word they use often in English.  They put 9 words on the list.  I'll use those words as much as possible in future discussions and in narrating the films, and eventually include them in a quiz.

Other than the photo collages, I didn't make any fancy papers to review.  They are doing a nice job reading, rereading, and using the new words in discussions that I don't think extra paperwork is necessary. 


For the third reason why I am enjoying the class...
They're great students, which explains why they are so patient with me.  I have a tendency to get distracted, easily.  But, lucky for them, it means we chat about everyday things that you would normally chat about in English, and since it is interesting to them, (at least it appears it is interesting to them), it keeps their attention, and, they are being exposed and introduced to many, many words that arise naturally in conversation.   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Small Group game to review vocabulary in context

I tried a new game in class today because I wanted students to review the words that we had in a story last week.  The way I set up the game, the students were in charge and I circulated throughout the room to oversee the activity and answer questions when needed.

1. Divide the class into two large groups - Group A and Group B.  I took the alphabetical list of their names and the first 1/2 of the alphabet was Group A and the second half was Group B.

2.  Group A and Group B sit together and read the class story that is written in the Target Language but the students read it in English. You can use any reading that you want to review that you have already read before in class, such as a class story, a chapter in a book, a short reading on culture, etc.   

I have big classes so I had Group A and Group B split into two or three smaller groups to read.  

3. Tell the students in the two Groups to find a partner in their group.  Then pair two students from Group A with two students from Group B.  Continue doing this until all students are in a group of four consisting of 2 Group A members and 2 Group B members.

4.  Tell the students to sit in a square with the A's across from each other and the B's across from each other.  (see diagram on the right) 

5.  Group A chooses a word from the reading (in the TL language since the reading is in the TL), says the word, and points to it in the story/chapter/text.  The two Group B members then write the word in English on a piece of paper.  They cannot consult with each other.  Group A must make sure that the two Group B students do not cheat and look at each others paper.  (That is why they are seated across from each other in the square.)  

To insure that the student from Group A that selected the word for Group B to translate, one of the Group A students must also write the word in English.

6.  When Group B students have written their words, they show it to Group A.  If both have the answer correct they earn two points.  If one student has the answer correct, they earn 1 point.  If neither of the students wrote the correct word, they do not receive any points.

7.  Group B then chooses a word for Group A to translate.  

8.  Each group keeps their score.  After 10 minutes, I chose 1 student from each group of 4 to write the scores for A & B in their group on the board.  Tally the scores and find which group is the winner.

This worked well that the students kept their own scores.  All the students were actively engaged because the groups were small, and they all knew that their scores were going to be added in to the grand total.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Additional Day of the Dead Activities and Projects

Painted pumpkin in Día de los Muertos style
Each year there are more great activities for Day of the Dead mentioned on Twitter, or Pinterest, or on the language forums.  Last year I wrote a post with more than 23 ideas for Día de los Muertos, and if I had known about these, they would certainly had made the list.

1. The first idea I found on Pinterest, which lead me to this website.  As soon as I saw it I knew it was going to be my project for the weekend. I completed my pumpkin today (on the left) and I'll take it to school with me tomorrow to adorn my room for the week.  This would be a great last minute Spanish club idea.  It will work best if the students either buy a white pumpkin so they don't need to paint it first, or bring a painted white pumpkin to the meeting.

2.  The blog "Aprendemos Español" has a post on the animated short film "La niña que recuerda".  She included a link to the video, a slide show with screen shots, sentences to match to photos in a collage, and links to several other resources for Día de los Muertos.  Thanks to Elena López for sharing her work! 
(Also check out her blog for other resources.)

Building a Strong Foundation

What do you do when through questions and conversations, you realize your students  haven't mastered something from the previous level that is key for a solid foundation and continued growth?  That happened to me last week with my Spanish 2 students. After looking at their confused expressions, I decided to stop, take inventory of what they had and hadn't mastered, and then address the problem straight on.

Solid foundation - mastery of essentials
First, to get a clear picture on exactly what the students were struggling, I gave them a non-graded, short assessment.  Through that assessment, I discovered they were weak on the nosotros form of the verb TENER, and they were frequently forgetting that, with verbs, the plural form of you, Ustedes, was the same verb form as ellos & ellas.  TENER is one of the top 7 high frequency verbs, according to people that study word frequency in languages.

After taking a poll of the results of the non-graded assessment, I drew a sketch similar to the one on the left.  I explained the importance of a solid foundation of a building, and that it was an integral part of the subsequent floors of the building.  Then I equated the building's foundation to that of the language foundation they had worked on building in Spanish 1.   

Then I erased parts of the pillars of the foundation (similar to the sketch on the right, erasing a good deal of the foundation pillars to make a point).  It was evident to everyone that a weak foundation, or maybe only one or two blocks missing in the foundation, can cause difficulties when working on higher levels.  Instead of pushing upward in the construction, it was best to go back to the foundation to reinforce and repair any weak areas. If they didn't acquire the nosotros form of TENER in Spanish 1, then it was my job to provide them with additional exposure to it, in a comprehensible way of course, in order to allow acquisition to take place. 

In the past, I would have typed up a worksheet using TENEMOS, but I didn't want the focus to be specifically on the grammar.  Instead, I wanted the focus to be on communication that required us to use the word TENEMOS.

The following day, I started class by telling the students in Spanish that we have some very talented students in our class.  In fact, we have talented AND intelligent students in our class (which gave me the opportunity to write personas talentosas e inteligentes), and added that we have talented, intelligent, AND famous people in our class.

I gave 3 examples of the talented people that we have in our class.
1. Tenemos una estudiante en nuestra clase que puede hablar con fluidez 7 idiomas.  The class played along, called out the name of one their classmates, I questioned them and waited for their admittance that it was true, and then we listed on the board the 7 languages that the person speaks.
2. Tenemos tres estudiantes en nuestra clase que vuelan a la escuela. (...that fly to school).
3. Tenemos dos personas en nuestra clase que pueden correr una milla en menos de tres minutos. (..that can run a mile in less than 3 minutes)

After those examples, each class had to tell me about the other famous, or talented, or intelligent students that we have in our class.  I made this a competition between my three Spanish 2 classes.  By the end of the day I had 3 separate lists on butcher paper of the incredible students we have in each class. Would you believe we have students that can walk on water, one that is a one man football team that can beat the Patriots, one that can jump 300 meters, one that turns into Hannah Montanta on the weekends, one that swims in lava, and one that beat Usain Bolt in a race!

It was a lot of repetitions of TENEMOS but it kept their interest because of the content, not the grammar.  On Monday, I'll review Friday's activities by asking each class if "we have a student in class that...." and go down through the lists of things from each class.  They'll hear it, they'll read it, and they'll write it on Monday.  That will be one pillar well on the way to being repaired.  A little bit of cement from time to time, should eliminate that problem and then we'll address other weak spots as they become evident.

Reminder for myself - DON'T try to mask over any problems or weaknesses that students have from previous levels and DON'T put the blame on the students.  I readily accept the fact that last year the three Spanish 1 teachers (one of which was me), should have included the nosotros forms more than what we did.  We're addressing it with our level ones this year in an effort to build a firm foundation for subsequent years.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Embedded Recordings to go with Embedded Readings

Mary Glasgow site:
One thing I know my students need more exposure to is listening to the TL from someone other than me.  Today I tried an activity using the Mary Glasgow website that worked well and required little preparation. (Now that's a beautiful combination!)

 1. Go to the Mary Glasgow site found HERE or use the links below to go directly to the news recordings and readings:
Spanish - link to Noticias,
 French - link to Actualités,
 English - link to News

2. Choose a recording that relates to the topic you are working on in class, or simply choose a topic that looks interesting to you and your students (and there are many to choose from, including the older files kept in the archives). Below are some of the current resources for Spanish available on Mary Glasgow's site.

3. Put the students into groups of 4 or 5 (depending on your class size. For my class of 15, I had three groups of 5 students each)

4. Play the lowest level recording WITHOUT letting the students read the transcript. 

5.  After they have listened to the lowest level recording one time (or more than one time if that works better for your students), ask each group to say one fact or piece of information from the recording in the TL. After each team has had the opportunity to share their fact/information piece, start a second round of sharing information. 

6. After they have shared all the information they remember, play the 2nd version of the recording, which will have additional information embedded in the recording along with the original information.  Once again, ask each group to name more information. They can name the new information or now that they've heard some of the information the second time, they may now be able to give more information from the first recording that was repeated in the second.

7. Continue through the 3rd level or through the number of levels provided.  The team with the most points is the winner.

After you've listened to the highest level, you have the option to go back and read one, two, or all three levels.  

To make it easier to record what each group said, I copied the transcript and printed it on paper.  As each group gave a piece of information, I highlighted what they said on the paper and put their group number next to it.  

Depending on the intensity of your classes, I suggest this activity for level 3 or higher.
Also, consider ordering the magazines published by Mary Glasgow.  This is the first year I ordered some for my classes and they are filled with interesting articles and photos that are designed to be used by several different levels.