Saturday, May 24, 2014

Post Cards for Seniors

Custom made post cards for my seniors
The school year is winding down and I have only a few days to spend with my seniors before they graduate.  This year I created post cards to give to my seniors. 

I'll hand them out to the seniors in my Spanish classes later this week with the instructions to put them in a safe place.  At some point in the future - a year, several years, after they graduate from college, or whenever they want to share some exciting news of what is happening in their lives - they can jot a few words on the back of the post card and drop it in the mail.  

Some students may stash the post cards in a drawer somewhere and completely forget about it until years later.  My hope is that when they rediscover the post card, they will take a few minutes to write a short message and send it on its way. Post cards may seem a bit old-fashioned to some, but in my opinion, getting correspondence through regular mail is extra special.  

Most likely, it will be several years before I open my mailbox and see one of these post cards mixed in with my regular mail, but what a fun day that will be!  

Coincidentally, I've noticed often when I receive notes from past students through Twitter, email, and Facebook, and it usually occurs right when I need a little pick-me-up.  Small things make great reminders of the blessings that are right in front of us. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Today's 145 minute class!

 Can you imagine teaching a high school class for a 145 minute block?  In other words, a 2 hour and 25 minute class. Thanks to the schedule changes to accommodate the state's seemingly never-ending barrage of state testing requirements, today's adjusted 2 hour class period turned into an unimaginable 2 hour and 25 minute class period.

I was fortunate in that the students in my class were absolutely amazing and kept any complaining to themselves, but I felt for them.  For part of the time, I tried out a new activity that actually worked well and mixed things up in the long class period. We did the following activity for 30 minutes.

Materials for the activity:
- A subscription to A-Z Reading.  (If you don't have this, find a children's book with visuals for each book that students are very familiar with and cover the written words.  As long as the words are covered, you can use a book written in any language.)
- Mini-whiteboards for each student
- dry erase markers and erasers

1.  Put the students in groups of four (NOT less!).  Some groups may have 5 but only 4 sentences are required from the group even if there are 5 in the group.

2. Project the wordless book onto the whiteboard.  

3.  Each group must write 4 sentences that relate to the picture. Students couldn't repeat a verb in the 4 sentences.  They were encouraged to help their teammates in order not to have any mistakes in their sentences.

 I used this activity in Spanish 2, so their sentences had to be in the past tense.

4. Turn to the 1st group and tell them to hold up their sentences.  They received one point for each correct sentence.  If there was an error, I took the whiteboad and showed it to the class.  If the class could find the error, the team that wrote it did NOT get the point for the sentence.  If the class couldn't find the error, I explained the correction and the team that wrote the sentence got a point for it, even though it was originally incorrect.

5. Turn to the next group and go over their answers.

6.  Check each group's answers; write their points on the board; then start the process over again with the next photo from the story.

7. When finished, students work independently to write the story as I clicked through the wordless book the 2nd time.

The reasons I liked this activity:

1. All the students were engaged: during writing, reading the answers the other teams had written, and looking for mistakes.

2.  It promoted teamwork. Students helped their classmates as they were writing their sentences. If an answer was incorrect, I stressed that it wasn't the fault of the one person that had that board, but rather that it was the responsibility of the team to check each others' answers.

3.  They became very good at finding the mistakes and that carried over into their own writing.

4. Since they had to write 4 sentences, it pushed them past the basic sentences.  
5. When I saw a correct sentence that was rather complicated for Spanish 2 level, I held that up as an example of an outstanding sentence.

6.  The students were more at ease during the individual writing session that followed the activity.

This activity could also be completed after reading a chapter from a novel or a short story that has illustrations or photos.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review Chapters of Novels with PicCollage App

The goal for language teachers at my school is to read a minimum of 2 novels with the students per level.  I prefer to read a novel in 12-15 days instead of drawing it out to a month or longer.

A good way to review the events of the previous chapter before beginning a new chapter is to make a collage using the PicCollage app.  The app has images within the app that are copyright free, making it quick and easy for the teacher or students to create the collage in a short period of time.

This summer I'm going to shop around to check prices for making collages of El Nuevo Houdini into posters for the classroomAfter reading a chapter, I can then hang the posters around the room.  This will help students to remember the events of the previous chapters.  If a student is absent the day we read a chapter, the other students will have a handy visual to refer to when they explain the events to their classmate(s).

Or..display the poster photo collage before reading the chapter to predict events.  An variation of this is to create a collage with 1-2 photos not related to the chapter and ask students to guess which photo(s) are the imposters.

It also might be a nice way to have a verbal quiz at the end of the book.

Another bonus, hang the posters in the hall to help showcase what your students are learning in class.  Better yet, record a student telling a review of the chapter, connect a QR code to the recording, and post the QR code along with the poster in the hall!  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Active Reading Review - Marker Partner Game

My Spanish 4 class is currently reading the latest book by Carrie Toth called La Calaca Alegre.  We needed to take a break from reading the book to prepare lessons and then visit the elementary schools, so it had been several days since our last chapter.  I used the following activity which proved successful as a review AND as a way to keep everyone actively engaged in the review.

First, we arranged the desks in a circle in groups of two with a marker placed in the middle of the top of the desks.  (The sketch to the right shows seating for 16 students but I had 13 sets of desks to accommodate 26 students. The activity works with large or small numbers.)

Then I used used the activity El Tenedor (The Fork Game) found on Bryan Kandel's website, but made some small changes to the rules and added some (extra) movement by having the students rotate to other seats because I knew that would work well in my class. 

There were two teams: students on the inside were one team, and students on the outside of the circle were another team.

I had prepared 20+ true/false statements in the TL about facts from chapters 1-5.  Then I read a statement to the students.

·      Rules:
1.    True statement: students race to grab the marker and hold it up. The team with the most members holding the marker receives 1 point.
2.    False statement: students do NOT touch/pick up marker. If nobody on the team touches/picks up marker, the team earns 1 point.  (Both teams have the possibility of earning a point.)
3.    If it is a false statement and students on both teams hold up the markers, the team with the most number of students holding the marker loses 1 point.
4.    If it is a false statement and a student touches the marker and then throws it back, the person sitting opposite of them should stand up (without talking). The team with the student that threw the marker on the desk loses 2 points!
5.    After 3 statements, the students on the outside circle rotated clockwise one seat so students had a new person with whom to compete.
They loved this review game!  It was engaging, lively, and admittedly a little noisy at times, but sometimes learning is loud.  :-)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Writing with Spanish Hashtags #

The curriculum in my spring semester worked beautifully in that el Cinco de mayo happened in the midst of our cultural emphasis on Mexico.  I read the activities from The Creative Language Classroom and adjusted their suggestion for using hashtags with photos of Mexico. They have a few photos of Mexico on their website, but I searched for other photos and put them on a regular word document.  I searched for traditional photos (Mariachi groups, el día de los muertos, los mercados, etc) and added others photos to help show the diversity of Mexico such as snow (yes, they have it in northern Mexico at times), los clavadistas, Lucha Libre, ensalada de nopales, and others.  

The students worked in pairs to write a comment using a hashtag to describe the photo or simply react to the photo on the mini white boards.  For the first few photos many of the students had basic comments, but eventually they let their imaginations go and became very creative with their responses.  Once that happens, you can count on the competitive nature of some students and the desire to outdo the others, and then... the answers become even more creative.

We started this activity after 1/3 of the class left for an early dismissal for a track meet.  It kept everyone engaged and they enjoyed it.  

When I ran out of photos of Mexico on the document, I started searching in my files for photos that I use for a different activity in Spanish 4.  While I was searching, one student took advantage of the break and told the others that they had 1 minute to draw something that he described on their whiteboards.  (I continued searching on my computer.) After a minute, he told them to hold up their boards and to describe their sketches and THEN...he proceeded to ask them questions, in Spanish, about their sketches to which he insisted they respond in Spanish.  WHAT?  Did that really happen?  Yes, it did.  I paused from searching for my file and took in the moment, enjoying how the students were taking ownership of the class activity and cooperating with the student that suggested the activity.  What a perfect way to end the school day.