Thursday, February 27, 2014

Linoit in the MFL

Linoit is a nice platform to post photos to use in discussions instead of putting the photos on a powerpoint or word document. Linoit has many more features, such as the ability to upload files or videos, share boards, etc.,  that I didn't use in this particular activity, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Today my Spanish 2 classes were working with the structure: s/he saw - VIO in conjunction with reviewing s/he went - FUE, and then what s/he did (verb in the preterit form).  I found photos on the web to post to the Linoit board.  I sketched a person on the board, the students named him, and then we talked about the places that he traveled, what he saw there, and what he did.

For some of the places, I did not list the country, which added interest to see which students knew the famous landmarks; PLUS, I had several places from Spanish speaking countries to introduce places that students may not have known.

Using Linoit is a interesting and sure way to get MANY repetitions of target structures and include culture in the discussion.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Lil' Red, An Interactive Story App

Lil' Red - An Interactive Story App
Free Today!!! (2/21/14, reg. price $.99) at the app store for the iPhone or iPad.  Click HERE to get the app. 

This interactive story app has no narration or words which allows you to create your own narration, adjusting the vocabulary and grammar to any level. 

If you need additional repetitions of words, i.e. "it fell", keep tapping on the apples in the tree and each one will fall.  Plus check out the other interactive opportunities.

I hope there are more stories to follow because this type of story will be a nice addition to my MFL class.

Teaching: DIJO (s/he said or told)

According to one High Frequency Word List that I checked today, "dijo" (s/he said or told) is at #152.  That's puts DIJO high on my list for words that i really want to just roll out of my students' mouths without thinking about it.  

I used Martina Bex's activity "Rumors" found HERE.  I chose the activity because it provides a high number of repetitions, but I wasn't prepared for how much the students enjoyed it.  

After I read one of the rumors to students, I allowed them 3 chances to guess who said it.  One class only guessed one incorrectly, the other class was at 50% after going through 16 of the papers.  I was going to stop after reading 8 or 9 "rumors" but they asked to continue the activity.  

Give it a try. If your students are like mine, it will be a successful activity.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Commands - Writing "How to " lists

Commands are an integral part of a language, (at least I know they are in English and in Spanish), which means there are many ways teachers to create activities around commands that have a focus on communication and not on grammar rules.

Below is an activity that will keep the students engaged while focusing on meaning.  You can tell students to write informal or formal commands.  Both will work fine with the assignment.

1. Prepare for the activity by writing a list of How To topics. I've included mine for you to use or for help give you ideas.
A - How to plan a trip to Hawaii.
B - How to plass Calculus with an 'A'
C - How to impress your boyfriend/girlfriend
D - How to convince a police officer not to give you a speeding ticket
E - How to become a millionaire
F - How to earn/save money for college
G - How to lose weight
H - How to win a marathon
I - How to write a novel
J - How to throw the best party of the year
K - How to avoid/discourage telemarketers
L - How to be a great friend
M - How to make someone smile
N - How to succeed at your job interview
O - How to learn a 2nd language

2.  Model the activity. Ask the students (in your TL) to name suggestion they would give to their friend to tell him/her how to get an "A" in your class.

3. Tell students to find a partner. Each group randomly chooses one of the cards A-O listed above.

4. Give the students a large sheet of paper, (I have a roll of white butcher paper that I use for activities like this), and a marker.  Allow 8-10 minutes for students to write 6 commands to tell someone How To do whatever is listed on their notecard.  Then students hang the papers on the walls.

5.  With their partner, students write A-O on a paper.  Read the lists on the papers and decide for what the commands are written.  Write answers in Spanish.

6. Switch papers with another group to go over the answers.

Having groups of 2 helped to keep all students engaged.  The one part of the activity that I wasn't pleased with was when we went over the answers.  I felt as if I were losing some of the students' attention. I'm still trying to decide how to improve that part of the activity.

A variation of the above activity is to tell the students to write their lists on an 8 1/2 x 11" paper instead of a poster size paper.  Then list the HOW TO categories on the board.  Read one of the commands that the students wrote and students decide for which category the command was written.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Humor in the Language Classroom

Humor in the classroom is always a welcome aspect.  In Spanish 4, I created a unit around humor.  This year I added humor found on Twitter.  It was easy to find Tweets with jokes in the target language; the challenge was finding jokes that were funny AND school appropriate.

I used the below paper of Spanish tweets with jokes as a warm-up.  We read the jokes together and I, or other students, helped clarify the jokes in Spanish, to anyone in the class that didn't understand the joke.

To download the above paper, click HERE

Click HERE for the  link to the powerpoint of jokes I used in class.

I have a Pinterest board "Funny/chistes" at: 
with some funny pins that I share with my students. 

Using humor in the classroom creates a relaxing, safe zone, conducive to learning.  Humor makes the class more enjoyable, allows the students to focus on the context and communication, and opens up the pathways to learning.  As some say:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snowmen and Commands

Do you teach in one of the states that has been pounded with snow and ice storms this winter?  As I've said in an earlier post, use that to your advantage.  If the students are talking about snow, bring that element into your lessons.

There is an online book on A-Z Reading, entitled, "Cómo hacer un muñeco de nieve". I have been reading several short books at the beginning of class to give students more exposure to vocabulary in context. As a last minute add on,  I decided to add something to increase student engagement with this book which required a trip to the grocery store after work, but it was worth it!  

After reading the book with the students, we read my powerpoint on "Cómo hacer un muñeco de nieve dulces".  I wrote the verbs in the Ustedes form of commands as a preview to commands and asked them why they thought verbs like "pongan" were written in that way.

Then I showed them the Muñeco de dulces that I had made and also lined up the ingredients on paper plates to make it easy for them to gather what they needed to make their snowman. This is a good time for additional repetition of the names of the ingredients, the 3 parts of the snowman's body, and commands in the Ustedes form. 

With the ingredients already on the plates, the students could quickly gather their supplies and it took only 10 minutes from start to finish.  Of course, taking photos afterwards added a few more minutes to the activity. :-)

The powerpoint can be downloaded HERE.

The online book showed photos of children making a real snowman and photos of how to make a snowman with crumpled paper.  Originally, I was going to use that, but fortunately I thought of marshmallows for snowman.  After that thought, I googled "marshmallow snowmen" which resulted in numerous images of different snowmen made with marshmallows.  If you do the same, you'll find others from which to choose.

This snowwoman is happy about the weather forecast.
There is a forecast of heavy snowfall overnight, and I've already received the phone call to say we do not have school tomorrow because of the snow, I'm hoping some of my students take advantage of the extra day off and build a real snowman since they 'practiced' in class. I told them if they did make a snowman, I would like them to send a photo of it and send it to me.  Hopefully some of the vocabulary from the story and activity will creep back into their thoughts while making the snowman.

As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  I'm going to assume that it applies to others things such as, "When life gives you snow, make snowmen".

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bridging two units with embedded wisdom

Below is a story that Alfie Kohn relates in his book, "Published by Rewards", pg71-72, 1993 Houghton Mifflin.

It is a perfect bridge from the Humor unit to a 1-2 day lesson on the elderly, to be told in the target language, of course.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Resources working together - love when that happens!

MLK Jr. book from A-Z Reading
I've mentioned A-Z Reading in earlier posts (here, for example), but it's quite a good resource that it's worthy of another mention.  My class is currently reading Felipe Alou: Desde las valles a las montañas by TPRS Publishing, Inc.  It's the first time I've read this with my students and I am relying heavily on the Teacher's Guide, written by Kristy Placido.  One of my favorite things to find in a Teacher's Guide is additional readings in the TL on related topics and this teacher's guide delivers that.

Even better is when one resource (the Felipe Alou Teacher's Guide) relates well to another resource (A-Z Reading). 

Felipe Alou Teacher's Guide: Reading on Rosa Parks
A-Z Reading: Story on Martin Luther King. It mentions Rosa Parks and Martin's role in helping to organize the bus boicott after Rosa's arrest for not giving up her seat to a white male.

I highly recommend both resources.
1. Felipe Alou: A true story. Students improve their language skills WHILE learning about America's past in relation to segregation and the obstacles facing Felipe and others during this period in America's history.
book from A-Z Reading - great site
2. A-Z Reading: This resource has children's books in English, with a huge selection of those books also available in Spanish, and some available in French.  It has both fiction and non-fiction, (and we all know how important it is to include non-fiction in our teaching).  The yearly subscription is $95 (I think that is correct).  With that subscription you have access to HUNDREDS of books that you can project or download to make copies.  Imagine how quickly your class library can grow with this resource!

I am somewhat biased toward the Felipe Alou novel because the story begins in the Dominican Republic, a country that I've traveled to 3 times, and each time I go I find it a little bit harder to leave than the previous time.  The people of the Dominican Republic have huge hearts,  beautiful smiles, and a welcoming spirit.  I look forward to returning there some day.

Another interesting tidbit:  last week one of my students in the class that is reading Felipe Alou, came into class and told me that his baseball coach, the baseball coach at our high school, was coached by Felipe Alou when he (our coach) was a player in the minor leagues.  I verified that today from a good friend of his.  How cool is that - to be reading a book about Felipe Alou and find out your high school coach knew him at one point in time? Very cool.

My Pinterest board on Felipe Alou, the Dominican Republic, and schools/education in general, can be found HERE.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tracking Reading in the Second Language Class

My World Language department continues to work towards correlating novels students read in each level and finding the best novels with which the students will have the most success. In our current curriculum, the goal is to read 2-3 books in each level, but the curriculum is fairly new, and not everyone in the department was including reading with the students three years ago.

For this reason, I created a form to help track the novels that my Spanish students have read in their language classes thus far. (Download available HERE.) My Spanish 4 students filled out the papers with information on levels 1-3 and I recollected the papers to study them to get a clearer picture on each student's reading background.  Unfortunately, depending on which teacher students had,some of my Spanish 4 students went through levels 1 and 2 before our present curriculum was written, which explains why they didn't have any books listed in levels 1 and 2.  The bottom portion is for reading that they will do on their own during SSR and outside of class.  

Books are a high priority on each year's budget because I know the importance of reading in second language acquisition.  With the books I purchased with the budget monies, along with books purchased with grant monies, my department has accumulated a wide variety of books for readers at different levels.  There are at least 2 books of each title, which now provides the opportunity to permit students to sign out a book and read it outside of class. 

I also made a list of books for the students and put them in different levels. (It's not identical to other lists found, because it's based, in particular, on what I've seen of the reading abilities of students at my school. But it is similar. It's subject to change in the future as students more consistently read in each level.) Many books are relatively new (within the last decade), but there are several that are older and probably no longer available to purchase. (I doubt you'll have any use for my specific list, but by chance it my be helpful to you, the download is available HERE.)

Next week, weather permitting, students will choose a book for their first independent reading book, which will need to be approved by me. As they read books in class, and independently outside of class, they will add that information to the book tracking form.  I want to share this form with the other Spanish teachers at my school, so students can fill the form at the end of each level, and then we will recollect them and redistribute when they return at the next level.

Now, for the part I am looking for some guidance and suggestions from my PLN.  What is the best way to hold students accountable for reading the books?  I want reading to be enjoyable, making it more likely that students will also recognize the benefits of reading. What has worked best for you and your students?  I have some ideas of my own, and I've read many posts of forums such as moreTPRS, but I'm still open to what you have to share about your experiences.  If you prefer to email me directly, you may write a comment in the section below with your email, and mention whether or not you want your comment posted.  If you don't want your comment posted with your email listed, I'll respond to you directly and not publish/post your comment.

Thanks in advance for your help. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snowmen and CI

This winter is not fooling around. When it snows, it usually is enough to delay or cancel school. We've missed more school days this winter due to snow and ice than we have for the last 3-5 years combined, AND it's only February 4th.  

What do you do when students return from a day off of school due to snow to get them back in the swing of listening to and speaking in Spanish?  You talk about what they're already talking about - SNOW - in the Target Language. 

Below is the collage I had waiting for my students this morning.

There is a lot of Comprehensible Input to generate when talking about the snowmen in the collage.  Use CI to talk about:
what the snowmen are wearing;  the size of the snowmen; boca abajo (position - upside down); decorations used for eyes and nose;ask who in the class made a snowman; other activities in the snow; winter; best activities for snow days; which students made which snowmen, etc.

We spent 10 minutes  talking about the snowman.   It was a short, CI-based activity to ease students back into Spanish class.  

You can search online to find photos of snowmen OR take the more enjoyable option...snap a photo of one or two that you've made and ask your students to send photos of snowmen that they've made.  I made two of the snowmen in the collage above , and then sent tweets to a few students currently in my class, students from last semester, and to students from previous years that have  graduated. Making the snowmen was fun, and watching the photos roll of snowmen that my students made was also enjoyable.

Work with what you have - if it's lots of snow, talk about it.  That discussion will naturally bring up words in Spanish that your students will need for future discussions on what they did on their days off.