Thursday, December 21, 2017

Immediate Feedback with Clap, Wave, & Hands Up gestures

Say goodbye to dull methods to check answers on formative or summative multiple choice questions, and so hello to a fun, interactive method of whole class participation. In the Clap, Wave, Hands Up response gesture method, everyone participates at the same time, giving the teacher immediate feedback on the class' pre-knowledge of a subject or their comprehension of a text or cultural lesson.

The Clap, Wave, Hands Up gesture response method was one of those on the spot inspirations that affirms that some of my best teaching ideas are made in the moment. 

I have a powerpoint with 11 multiple questions about Navidad in Spain that I wanted to add to my lessons on this last week of school before Christmas vacation. Each of the questions has three answers from which students can choose their answer. My original plan was to project the powerpoint and for students to work with a partner to write the answers. In a class earlier in the day, I had students pair up with one mini-marker board between them, number 1-11 on the mini white board, and write the answers as I projected the questions on the PowerPoint. However, in the last class of the day, our Story Listening activity and subsequent write and discuss took longer than in the morning class. We finished the Story Listening with only 5 minutes remaining in class. It was obvious that there wasn't time to get the white boards out and follow my original plans. That's when a thought flashed through my mind to forgo writing the answers and to have everyone participate, at the same time, with motions.

I instructed students to do the following actions to indicate which answer they thought was correct, and to continue the action until I said the answer:

- If they thought A was the correct answer, they clapped their hands
- If they thought B was the correct answer, they put their palms up in front of them and moved them to the right and to the left (imagine the dance moves with Shirley Temple and the song, The Good Ship Lollipop; at least they are the moves I've seen as others have sung that song)
- If they thought C was the answer, they lifted their hands up and held them out to the side (it looks like the motion you make when you tell someone, "I don't know".)

After I read the question, the students silently read the 3 multiple answers and they indicated the answer they chose with one of the above motions/gestures. It turned out to be the best way, and most fun and interactive, to visually see what the students' answers were. Judging by the students' reactions and participation in the motions, they enjoyed this way also.

We zipped through the 11 questions in no time! 

This can also be used as a Brain Break with questions on anything that will interest the students. It gets them moving and smiling!

This method saves time, is interactive, is fun, and immediately visually shows the teacher which students have the correct answer. (No more boring, "if you think it is A, raise your hand; if you think it is B, raise your hand, etc - Zzz Zzz.) It can be used to introduce information about a country, a cultural topic, and to review chapters of a novel.  

I may have to do the activity again to videotape it, to give you a clear picture of my explanation, plus the students they looked so cute doing the motions. Several times I saw all three motions showing that many students were not being swayed by the motions of their classmates. The questions were about celebrating Christmas in Spain, some obvious and some that they have never learned about in previous levels.  

To mix it up, I'll change the motions after doing this several times. Keeping it novel is always a good idea!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Brain Breaks in the MFL class with Momo

Are you in need of a easy and fun brain break to do in the target language? By "easy" I mean little or no prep work on the teacher's part; by "fun" I mean the students like it and are actively engaged in the brain break.  

How about prepositions? Are you looking for a novel way to provide compelling and comprehensible input of prepositions in context in the target languag? If you said yes, then let me introduce you to Momo.

Andrew Kapp's photography book, starring MOMO!
Who is Momo? He is an adorable and obviously well-trained dog. His owner, Andrew Knapp, is an accomplished photographer that has photographed Momo in hundreds of locations in the US and beyond. Go to the website and you'll find more than 120 photos in which Momo is hidden. Sometimes Momo is behind objects, inside objects, on the left, on the right, under objects, above objects, and more. It's an interactive website so when you click on the photo where Momo is located, it will circle the area if you are correct.

I'm sure I wouldn't have to go into further explanation on how these photos are a fun brain break to the savvy teachers reading this post, because they already know what I am going to suggest. But in case you're off your game today, here's an idea for you: have your students find Momo and then you, or the students, describe where in the photo Momo is hiding. Or you can ask either/or or true/false questions about his location so the students are receiving input on Momo's location.

There are plenty of photos available for free online at and other google searches, but if you can't get enough of this cute compact canine, then there are several Momo books available online at Andrew's website or at your favorite bookstore. I found the following books on Amazon: Find MomoFind Momo Coast to Coast, and Let's Find Momo. (Click on the titles to find the links for the books on Amazon.)

Andrew Knapp has an Instagram account with more photos with Momo hiding plus endearing close-up photos of Momo and Momo chillin' with his master, Andrew.

Not only will it be fun for you and your students to find Momo, but the photography and the landscapes are spectacular, which could spark some interesting discussions in your MFL classroom. Thank you Andrew Knapp for these great photos and for sharing Momo with the world!!!

fyi: if you're looking for Andrew Knapp on Twitter his twitter handle is: @andrewomerknapp

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Marker Partner PLUS (a fun variation of Marker Partner)

In May of 2014, I wrote a blog post explaining The Marker Partner game. It is a fun way for the teacher to check student comprehension after listening to a story or after reading a text and to provide additional input through listening. Earlier this fall, I created a variation of the game that goes one level deeper into checking student comprehension and holds the students more accountable in earning points for their team. I'll refer to it as the Marker Partner PLUS game.

The set-up for the game is identical as for the Marker Partner game. Divide the students into two teams. If you have desks, the students move their desks so they are facing each other with a marker placed where the two desks meet. The students can place the paired desks in a circle formation or in a long row, if your room allows for this. If you do NOT have desks, you can do the activity in the cafeteria and the students sit at the long tables across from their opponents.

Marker Partner PLUS in a classroom w/o desks

Another option, one that I use when I have class during lunch periods and the cafeteria is not available, is to have the students place their chairs in two long rows so they are facing their partners, with an extra chair between them and the marker placed on the chair as shown in the photo on the right.

The students listen as the teacher reads a script of the story they have recently heard or a script of a story that they have read. (Or you can use this with any text, not limited to a story.) The students are actively listening for a changed detail as the teacher reads. When they hear an inaccurate detail, they grab the marker before their partner does. The students on each team hold their marker up and the teacher counts which side has more markers. The team with the most markers earns 1 point. 

Now for the twist. The teacher then chooses ANY student from the winning side that is holding up a marker and that student needs to say WHAT the error was and then must CORRECT the error by restating the sentence, or part of the sentence, with the correct information. The student cannot receive any help from his teammates. If the student can correctly identify the error and make the correction, he earns another point for his team, for a total of 2 points for that round.

However, if the student that the teacher choose to identify the error and correct it is unable to do so, the opposing team can earn 2 points if the student that the teacher calls on from the side that didn't earn 1 point is successful in stating the error and correcting it.

When I call on a student from the team that has the most markers, I always call on a student that is holding a marker. My reasoning is, if the student grabbed the marker, then she knows there was false information. When I call on a student on the opposing team when the first team member was unable to make the correction, I call on anyone on that team, whether they were first to grab the marker or they didn't beat their opponent.

I like this version BETTER! Why? Because the teacher is able to read more than one sentence at a time. I have played this version and read 4 or 5 sentences before I insert an incorrect detail. The students are intently listening for a longer period of time in anticipation for the incorrect detail. The next time I may chose to read only one sentence until I mention an incorrect detail. This keeps the students on their toes because they don't know how long they will need to listen before they grab the marker.

If you and your students like playing Marker Partner, then I predict you will also like Marker Partner PLUS

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Power of Stories in SLA

Recently, I have become more aware of the Power of Stories. Storytelling is a tool that ALL of us have available, at any given time, to help our students acquire a second language. One reason that makes Storytelling so accessible to all is that it requires absolutely no technology. In fact, in my experience, a story told using technology tends to lesson both the student interest and the impact of the story. To improve the storytelling experience, ditch the PowerPoint! Try it and watch the change in your students' listening behaviors and engagement. 

If you are hesitant to part with your your pre-made PowerPoints when telling stories and using Story Listening, then maybe an email I received from Marta Yedinak will make you reconsider. Marta asked her students to write suggestions on how to improve the story listening experience for the students. The quote in the box was written by one of her students. He clearly states that listening to the teacher tell a story, aided with a PowerPoint, is not as interesting as having the teacher draw during the story. 

Although pre-made PowerPoints may be easier for the teacher to use, it is NOT what engages the students and it's not personalized to their class. If you are serious about keeping students engaged during a story, don't take the easy way out with a PowerPoint because it will most likely lower student engagement.

Three recent experiences have made my appreciation grow for the positive impact that Storytelling (*or Story Listening) has on second language acquisition.

1. Last month, Marta Yedinak, a Spanish teacher and my good friend from Wisconsin, and I did a presentation at ACTFL entitled, "Listen UP! Engaging Students in the Story Listening Experience". The evening before our presentation, Marta shared with me in detail, how she told a particular story to her class, along with photos of the sketches she drew on her whiteboard during the story. 

The following day she did a mini-demonstration of the story in the ACTFL presentation and, WOW! I was using Story Listening with my students with newspaper articles, personal stories, Cuentos de Ensalada with felt characters, and other stories. By watching Marta give her mini demonstration, I saw areas in which I could improve.  One way that Marta engaged the students was to have them do motions with her at different parts of the story (with se lo llevó). How cool is that? I'm presenting and learning at the SAME TIME from my co-presenter - love it!

Marta's white board after telling Martina Bex's story about a squirrel

2. The first Friday in December, Krista Kovalchick (the person that has helped me improve as an educator more than any other person I know, a result of our daily conversations about teaching methods, second language acquisition, classroom management, and the list goes on forever...) and I drove to Downingtown, PA, to attend a Tri-State TCI meeting. The topic for the meeting was Story Listening. 

Krista telling a Latin legend 

Krista gave a 20-minute demonstration in Latin on Story Listening, followed by Q&A. I do not know Latin, but days later I remembered a LOT of the words she used in her story.  The power of Story Listening for language acquisition was undeniable. Krista spoke entirely in Latin, kept the pace slow for those listening to the story, wrote keywords in both languages on the whiteboard, drew sketches to clarify meaning, and used gestures and facial expressions which not only helped us to understand, but was engaging (and entertaining). After several minutes of telling the story, she paused and instructed us to tell the story to our partner in English.

3. This week I told a Guatemalan legend, Quetzal no muere nunca, to my two upper level classes. When I started teaching at PHS, I found a dozen of well-worn books, dated 1987 with the school stamp (shown to the right). The length of the stories are perfect for Story Listening.  I read and reread and reread again, the legend "Quetzal no muere nunca" beforehand to become familiar with it. 

When I told it to my classes, I put extra emphasis on slowing the pace and writing words on the board for visual support during the story. Throughout the story I provided time for students to retell the events in English to their classmate(s), as Krista had demonstrated with her latin story. As often happens, I did not set aside enough time to complete the story, so in both classes I was unable to finish the story.   

The following day, since there had been at least one student absent in both classes, I did what I usually do when someone has been absent for a story; the students that were present the previous day had to tell the story in Spanish to the student or students that were absent. The students that were absent and I are the only ones that can talk in English. It is the job of the rest of the students to tell the story in such a way that the listener(s) understands the story and can tell it to me in English. 

The students took random turns retelling parts of the story. As I listened to their retell, I  was amazed at the vocabulary and grammar structures that they were able to use in the retell after only listening to the story 1 time! In one class, when I moved away from the front of the room and sat among the students, several of the students went to the board to sketch while retelling the story. (I was so impressed with their retell and their engagement that I was hoping the principal would walk in to witness the positive effects that Story Listening has, but that didn't happen.) It was the same type of growth I felt when listening to Krista's story. The best part about both stories was it required little effort on the part of the listener, other than staying focused on the person telling the story and it was FUN for the teacher. 

The need for Story Listening Demos
The first two experiences helped me realize that maybe the best way to demonstrate the power of stories in SLA is for teachers to experience it themselves - listening to a story in a language they do not know, told by a teacher experienced in Story Listening! 

I repeat, because this is key: to experience the power of Story Listening, teachers need to experience it themselves, listening to a story in a language they do NOT know, told by a teacher experienced in Story Listening! 

I wish there were Story Listening demonstrations at the national conferences. (Hey Keith Toda or Krista Kovalchick, I think you should submit a proposal to demonstrate Story Listening in Latin at one of the national conferences!) 

Give it a try!
If you haven't tried Story Listening (or Storytelling) why not give it a try? Since we are close to Christmas, you could find a story that happens at this time of the year. As I continue to grow in my Story Listening/Storytelling skills, I found that legends have a special pull for students.

If you experiment with Story Listening, things to keep in mind are:

1. Select a legend or story that you believe will be interesting to your audience/students.

2. Become very familiar with the story. Read it several times. Practice retelling the story so as not to miss any important details

3. Write notes for yourself on an index card that you can use when telling the story. 

4. Preplan what sketches you will need. If your'e not sure how you will sketch something, google it to give you an idea. Keep it simple!

5. Use cognates when possible but remember, some students won't be able to hear the cognates so be prepared to write the words on the board.

6. RELAX when telling the story. This will help your students to relax and set the stage for acquisition of the language.

7. If you decide to ask questions during the story, keep them SIMPLE. The students' main job is to LISTEN.

8. Do not ask your students to take notes on the words used in the story. Instruct students to listen with the intent to understand.

9. After several details of the story, instruct the students to tell their partner, in English, what they have understood about the story. It gives the students a mini brain break, allows the teacher to listen to what they understood, and students feel like they have received a little treat because they can speak in English.

10. Decide if you want students to read a script of the story when finished or if you want to write a short version of the story together.

11. Ask your students to retell the story the following day, but NOT for a grade. The students will be surprised with the new words they hear themselves saying during the retell.

*Story Listening - When I mention Story Listening in this post, I am referring to the teacher telling a story while the students listen to the story. I am NOT referring to the method which requires ONLY story listening as the entire curriculum. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

ACTFL 2017 - Reflections and Strategies

ACTFL 2017 has come and gone, followed by a busy week of in-service, a pie-baking fundraising event at my house (70+ pumpkin pies made by students, another teacher and me), Thanksgiving preparations and the crazy Black Friday frenzy. Finally, things have calmed down and I have time to reflect on ACTFL and to ENCOURAGE you to go to next year's conference. If next year doesn't work for you, I listed the upcoming ACTFL conferences. Maybe you'll find one closer to you. 

2018 - New Orleans, LA
2019 - Washington, DC
2020 - San Antonio, TX
2021 - San Diego, CA

This was the 5th time I attended ACTFL and my strategies to make the most of the conference have evolved throughout the years. Below are my ACTFL17 reflections and strategies on how I tackled ACTFL17. 


Conversations: it's not all daisies & rainbows.
Professional development comes in many different forms. ACTFL, and other conferences, provide teachers with an organized format with sessions that cover a multitude of topics. There are hundreds of opportunities to learn at sessions from experienced teachers that have prepared hour presentations with what they deem worthy to be shared. 

ACTFL roomies and friends, Krista & Marta
However, for me, the most powerful PD is interactions and personal conversations with other teachers. For the last two years, I have attended ACTFL with two of my colleagues, Krista, who teaches at my school, and Marta, who teaches in Wisconsin. Our conversations during travel to and from the conference cities, walks or transportation to the conference centers, lunch breaks, and evenings are often centered around the sessions we have attended and discussing the value of the information from the presenters and how we currently use those strategies or how we want to incorporate them into our classroom instruction.

On Thursday night of the conference in Nashville, Krista, Marta, and I, ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant and shared our classroom experiences with story listening and story telling. The growth during those conversations was spurred on by the ability to stop the one speaking and ask for clarification, ask "what if" questions, and ask for advice when not all of us were experiencing the same results.

I may be going out on a limb on this thought, but one HUGE benefit of small group conversations, one that seems taboo to mention, is the safety and freedom to share our failures and frustrations in the classroom. How many times have you heard someone present on "X" topic and how it has been the answer to all their teaching challenges. You look around the room and see many attendees nodding their heads in agreement, but you have not had the same experience? Right then, surrounded by other devoted language teachers, you make the false assumption that you are in the minority. Believe me, you are NOT! ALL teachers have challenges, even if they don't admit them.

Truly powerful personal conversations, include and embrace learning from others' mistakes and failures and challenges. Are you serious about growing as a professional? Then be honest with yourself about the areas in which you struggle and the strategies that have not worked for you, and include them in your conversations. 

When you do this, one of two things will happen: 

1. The other person will open up and tell you what obstacles he (or she) overcame to make the strategy or method work for him. He will tell you about the difficulties and the times he was ready to throw in the towel. He'll share how he felt when a lesson flopped or when administration questioned him on his techniques. Then, eventually, he'll share how he worked through those challenges and what he found to be helpful, AND how he continues to face challenges with students, or colleagues, or parents, or administrators. He is careful not to make a general comparison your classes with his classes because he knows he is not comparing apples to apples; your school situation, students, community, curriculum requirements, etc. are different and need to be taken into account.  
This type of conversation with honesty and openness, is a precursor to tremendous growth for both you and the others in the conversation. Group growth - now that is powerful and impactful!


2. The other person will suggest what you can do to be more successful. No mention of, or severely limited discourse on, struggles. End of conversation, move on to another subject. Perfectly good intentions on the person's behalf, but not the in-depth, tell it like it is answer from which you would most benefit.
You can learn from this conversation, but the growth is limited and may even have an "expiration date". (I'll leave that, as is, for you ponder upon.)  

Hmmm, this makes me wonder if there needs to be a session at ACTFL named, "Plan C, What to do after Plan A and Plan B bomb." 

The second night of the conference, Marta, Krista, and I accepted a
Photo credit: Annabelle Allen
dinner invitation for those that were helping at the Fluency Matters booth (thank you Carol). Once again, surrounded by other language teachers from the US, there were many mini-conversations related to teaching and our favorite sessions thus far at ACTFL. Saturday evening was yet another gathering of language teachers in a less formal setting at an airbnb (thank you Jim), and you guessed it, more conversations related to teaching, and music by some very talented language teachers.

Make it work for you.  As I was waiting for an ended session to clear and charging my phone, I saw Leslie Davison on her way to a session. Because her phone needed juice, we had the time to chat a little before heading off in different directions. She gave me advice that I followed later in the day. 

I had several great CI sessions that were on my list to attend, but for various reasons I was looking for additional options (for example, I had heard one of the presentations at least one time before). Leslie said that often she finds sessions that are not specifically targeted to CI teachers. Then she takes the information from the presenters and changes them to fit into her style of teaching. After I had the mindset of doing what Leslie does, it made my choice for a session later in the day much easier. 

Strategies for a successful ACTFL experience

Make a list of sessions to attend. At ACTFL there are hundreds of sessions with 60+ sessions at each time slot. When ACTFL published the online program months before the conference I started planning which sessions to attend. To find beneficial sessions to me in my teaching journey, I searched for presenters in my PLN that have similar philosophies about teaching, and searched for keywords such as: comprehensible input, CI, 90% target language, acquisition, etc.   

Those hundreds of sessions means EVERYONE will benefit by going to ACTFL. Not only do the teachers benefit, but their students also benefit when their teacher receives solid professional development and returns to the classroom and with newfound knowledge and eager to practice skills in their classrooms. 

The ACTFL app. I used the ACTFL app to add a few back-up sessions to attend in case my first and second choices were packed with no seating, standing, or floor space remaining, or if after a few minutes in the session I discovered the session was not what I had expected. (When I need to leave a session to search for another one that will be more beneficial to me, I do so quietly and respectfully.)

Check the Twitter feed, #ACTFL17.  Every year there are sessions in the same time slot and I have to make a decision between several great topics. What to do? Choose one and check the twitter feed to find information on the one 
I missed. If you have a friend attending that is also torn between the same two sessions, split up and take notes for each other. Also, check the ACTFL site for uploaded handouts that the presenter(s) may have shared.

Take time to show/voice your appreciation. Presenting at a National Conference, such as ACTFL, can be intimidating, especially if it is your first time (or second, or third, etc). If you enjoyed a session and plan to implement some of the ideas presented during the session, let the presenter(s) know! 

I attended a session of 4 presenters that (I think) was their first ACTFL presentation. They had a packed room with an overflow of attendees standing along the wall, at the back of the room, and many on the floor. With the number attending, it made some of their planned activities less successful, but the overall presentation was not negatively impacted. They shared what they were doing in their classrooms and demonstrated several of the activities. 

At the end of the presentation they listed their emails which made it super easy to shoot them an email to tell them I enjoyed the session. If you have presented, then you know how much that type of feedback is appreciated and may be the difference for someone to submit a proposal in the future.

Find the Treasures in the Exhibit Hall. I have an obsession with novels and readers that provide comprehensible input to my students, so every chance I have at conferences, I seek out new books to buy for my students. 

Those books are my treasures at ACTFL, but there are many other treasures. You can talk to the authors and creators of products that you use in your classrooms. Publishers often use ACTFL as an opportunity to debut new products. For example, before the conference, Sr. Wooly announced there was a special something waiting for ACTFL attendees that others would have to wait until next year to obtain. I investigated that and discovered it was Gorro, (Billy la Bufanda's friend) and I promptly bought a Gorro hat.  

I have to mention the snacks throughout the exhibit hall. Exhibitors are well stocked with small gifts and sweets to those passing by. We hit the jackpot when Concordia Languages had real snacks and coffee for attendees on Friday, just the ticket to keep your energy level up throughout the day.

And so, ACTFL came to a close on Sunday. I arrived home late on Sunday evening after two flights, a long wait in baggage claim, and a 90 minute drive home. I was exhausted, but glad I had some high quality professional development in November and ready to hit the ground running when classes resume after Thanksgiving break.

I presented at ACTFL again this year, but it was a new experience because it was the first time I presented with Marta Yedinak. My plans are to write a short blog post about our presentation, Engaging Students in the Story Listening Experience.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

CopyCAT: My New Favorite Brain Break

Last week I discovered a new brain break by accident and it has quickly become my favorite brain break. I like it because it gets EVERYONE moving, multiple times, and the students have an opportunity to take ownership in the brain break by adding their own personal touch to it.

This brain break is so simple and quick that you'll wonder why you didn't think of it before. (*

(My name for it.)

1. All students and teacher stand up.

2. Teacher decides on which order the students will participate and informs students of the order. The purpose for choosing an order is so the activity moves smoothly, which makes it more fun.
(In my class, there are two semi-circles so I started with the student in the back semi-circle on the left hand side of my class and the students went in order until the end of that semi-circle and then the student in the front semi-circle on the right hand side of the class continued, so it made a complete "circle" and all students created an action for others to follow.) 

3. The first person does an action and then the entire class repeats it in unison. The next person does an action and the rest of the class repeats it in unison. The third person does an action and the rest of the class repeats it in unison.

That's it - easy, peasy. It will take no more than 2 minutes; probably less than 1 minute, but it will energize the kids and give their brains a break.

- clap your hands 2x
- snap fingers 1x, clap hands 1x, snap fingers 1x
- jump 2x
- spin in a circle
- make a popping noise with mouth
- pat legs with hand 2x; snap 2x
- the genie nod
- clap hands 1x over your head
- cross arms and tap shoulders 2x
basically any motion that the students think of

If I remember, I'll ask one of my classes if I can videotape it and then add the clip here. 

*As far as I know, this idea is not one that I heard from someone or read on a blog; it simply came to me right at the moment that I told students to stand up for a different brain break that I had planned (read about the original brain break plan at the end of the post). When the idea came to me, I dropped my original plan and went with it. Before I wrote this post, I searched to see if maybe I had read it online and that's why the idea came to me but I did not find it anywhere.  

What I DID find, are many posts from World Language teachers about brain breaks from the last four years. Obviously, many teachers have discovered the benefits of brain breaks, for the students AND for the teacher, and want to share their experiences with others. 

For loads of FREE brain breaks activities, click on the links below. (I noticed that there are some vendors on TPT that are selling brain break materials, but seriously, the bloggers listed below are freely sharing lists of brain break activities which means you can spend your money on other materials needed for the classroom.)

- An OWL Adventure -  Nonverbal Activities (August 2014)
- Martina Bex - 20 Brain Breaks  (August 2014)
- Maris Hawkins - 12 Brain Breaks (August 2015)
- Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell - Musicuetos - 7 Brain Breaks   (October 2015)
- Secondary Spanish Space - 10, 5-Minute Brain Breaks (January 2017)
- La Maestra Loca - MANY posts on Brain Breaks (August 2016 thru Sept 2017)

And..check Mis Clases Locas blog for links to some additional Brain Break posts that may not be included in the above list.

My original planned brain break:
My planned brain break that was replaced by the CopyCAT, is also fun for the students, but it requires a little more coordination. For this brain break, I do not know if this one has a name either, I started with a simple beat - clap 3 times and pause for 1 beat.
clap - clap - clap - rest
Then I called a students' name and that student had to add a new sound/action to the existing rhythm. 
clap - clap - clap - chi (sound that fell on the 4th beat)
Continue to call on other students to add sounds/actions to the current rhythm. 
Before calling on new students, give everyone a chance to fall into the rhythm with the new addition. 

It can get tricky and challenging. My classes made it to 4 or 5 new additions before we started losing students, or me, because it required more concentration. Why not give it a try?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ideas on Reading "La Casa de la Dentista"

It won't be long until the arrival of Sr. Wooly's long anticipated 2nd graphic novel, "La Casa de la Dentista " arrives at schools throughout the United States.   

In October, I received an advanced hard bound copy of the book and immediately knew how I was going to use the book with several of my classes, and, of course, it involved food. My friends know that I enjoy baking and bringing treats to my students that are related to what we are reading or learning about in class (such as this Billy la Bufanda cake) or having the students cook in class (see this post). So I searched online, found a tooth-shaped cookie cutter, and started planning the special day.

Below I listed a few things I did to make the reading of Sr. Wooly's La Casa de la Dentista even more engaging and memorable for the students. 

1. Tooth-shaped cookies. I ordered the cookie-cutter from Amazon.

2. Baking. I baked plenty of tooth-shaped sugar cookies. 

3. Decorating the cookies. I decorated the cookies and quickly found out my talents do NOT lie in decorating. I ended up with cookie that looked like a teeth that were delicious, but not "cute".  

4. Reading the book. After students had their snack(s) ready, I read the book to them, in the same way I used to read books to my children when they were young. For this book, anytime there was a possible sound effect to match the illustrations, I included those noises: voices for the characters, whispering, buzzing of a dentist drill, water splashing, buzz of overhead lights, sighs, etc.   

I knew my storytelling method was a hit when the students started adding their own sound effects without any prompting:  "clic" sounds for the teacher's powerpoint, rodents scattering, footsteps. The best sounds were their reactions - gasps, "ohhh", "don't do it", and more. At one point, I looked up and a student with her hand covering her mouth and big eyes, and the guy beside her had his hands on either side of his mouth and mouth opened, jaw dropped.  

We have 70 minute classes and it took most of the class period to read. As I said in an earlier post about this book, it is NOT meant to be read in a hurry.

I know your students will love it. You can see by the smiles on everyone's face, that it was an enjoyable day - listening to an engaging, unpredictable, story written in SPANISH. Have fun!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Review of Sr. Wooly's "La Casa de la Dentista"

If you are counting the days until you receive your order of Sr. Wooly's graphic novel "La Casa de la Dentista" than you know that the wait is almost over. It's been months since Sr. Wooly leaked information that he was working hard, day and night, (insert mad scientist music and an evil laugh here) on his second graphic novel. It is related to his cult-favorite music video "La Dentista" released in 2011, but it isn't necessary to have seen the video to understand the book. I guarantee you that every minute of that wait will be worth it

I was one of the lucky ones granted the opportunity to read the novel before the official release. I strongly recommend this book for Spanish teachers that are searching for engaging reading materials for their students! I promise you that you are in for a treat, perhaps a little unsettling and disturbing, in true Sr. Wooly fashion (and you know you wouldn't want it any other way). Your students won't know what hit them!

I haven't seen the digital teacher's guide for the book, but I have some advice on how to read this book.

In my opinion, the most important thing to keep in mind is: this book is not meant to merely be read. It is meant to be FELTWhen reading, you have to FEEL...what the characters are feeling; FEEL...their fear; FEEL...the intensity; FEEL...the tension and FEEL...the uncertainty that surrounds them. 

Feel their FEAR. 
How do you do that?  Read it slowly!
That's worth repeating: 
READ it S-L-O-W-L-Y!  

Look at every.single.frame. 
Look in the characters' eyes to sense what they are feeling. 
Look at the intricate details and the coloring of every illustration. 
Don't cheat yourself from fully experiencing this novel. Don't give in to the temptation to read it quickly to see what happens. Don't do it. Don't rush. Take your time. Soak up every detail and every word and get the full effect. Connect to the characters. Put yourself in their shoes. Stare directly at the danger from their viewpoint and FEEL IT!

Seriously, the only thing that can make this great book even better, is how you read it.
The one & only, La Dentista

I currently have one hardbound copy. I'm going to read the book to my students a few days before Halloween, with the use of my document camera, and I'm going to read it to them exactly the same way I read it to myself - slowly and OUT LOUD. When there were illustrations without words, I added sound effects - gasps, breathing, the sound of waves splashing, sighs, footsteps, the buzz from electric lights, background music, and so much more. 

When there was dialogue, I read it OUT LOUD with emotion and in a voice to match the words and the expressions on the character's faces. There's even a part where the teacher sings to her school students, and you know what? I sang those words, making up my own little melody. All those extra sounds and pacing when reading, pulled me deeper into Sr. Wooly's little nightmare of a book.   

Carolina's dad nagging her, again.
You may be itching for some hints about what happens. Unfortunately, I can't help you out with that. I refuse to take any punch away from the story by giving out plot twists. But, if you picked up one of Sr. Wooly's preview editions that he was handing out at summer conferences, then you already know about the first several pages. The story begins with a young girl named Carolina whose parents are constantly nagging her to brush her teeth. The first three pages are illustrations only, no dialogue. You may have to use your imagination for the first few pages, but then the dialogue begins when the family is gathered at breakfast time. If you have an active imagination, you'll almost "hear" the eye-rolling by Carolina and her dad in reaction to the mother's drama. Then there's a phone call and from that point on, you'll be hooked. The story, the artwork, the coloring, and the lettering will reel you in. Don't bother trying to guess what happens, other than expect the unexpected.

I almost envy you because I want to be able to read it again for the FIRST TIME.   
So ENJOY IT! Both YOU and your students, will devour this book in no time! I predict it will be popular with your students for generations to come!

Do you want to hear some cool facts about the collaboration on an international level that went into this graphic novel? The contributors are from five countries on three different continents. Where they reside, their name, and their contributions are:

Illinois, USA: Jim Wooldridge (or Sr. Wooly as many know him) wrote the book
Colombia: Juan Carlos Pinilla illustrated the story  
Brazil: Davi Comodo did the coloring of the illustrations  
Argentina: Lucas Gattoni did the lettering
Spain: Lara Talens edited the book
Check out the artwork & coloring. Superb!

Obviously, Sr. Wooly sought out the best talent which resulted in a masterpiece. As Hunter S. Thompson said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right" and this graphic novel is done right!

A few extra notes: 
- It is recommended for 6th grade and up.
- It's available as a hardbound book or paperback 
- *A digital teacher guide is available
- It is in pre-order and will ship in November.
- *If you're not sure how to teach a GRAPHIC novel with your students, Sr. Wooly and Carrie Toth made video tutorials on how to teach his first graphic novel "Billy y las Botas". Carrie does an awesome job, but then I may be a bit biased :)
I linked Sr. Wooly's website throughout the blog post. Click on any of the links on the words "Sr. Wooly". 

*I'm sure my plans on how I'm going to read this to my students don't match up with what the teacher guide or the video tutorials suggest, because I am going to read it in ONE class period. It will be a special class period devoted to storytelling and the only thing my students will have to do, is listen to the story.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Healthy Meal

This post has absolutely NOTHING to do with teaching a language. Well, maybe I can find a connection to education: it's nice to look forward to this meal at the end of a teaching day. But nonetheless, it's a recipe for a great meal that's too good not to share with others and I don't have a food blog so I'm making a tiny exception and posting it here.

It is a copycat recipe for Fit Fare® Veggie Skillet from Denny's restaurant. I found a copycat recipe online and experimented and altered it until I found the right combination for my family. Then I added a shortcut to the recipe because, after a work day, who doesn't want a shortcut in meal prep?    

This is what makes this meal great:
1) It doesn't contain any hard to find or expensive ingredients. In fact, those of you that have home gardens will find most of the ingredients there. 

2) It's easy to prepare: basically cutting vegetables and stir frying them. 

3) It's healthy - veggies, a few potatoes (live a little), and egg whites.

4) It 's eye appealing - love those colorful vegetables. (I promise that I will take a photo of this meal the next time I made it, if...I remember.)

After a day of teaching, if you want to treat yourself to something delicious and healthy, give this recipe a try. 

A few notes:

1. I make this meal for 3 people, plus I want to have enough leftover for my school lunch the following day. I double the potatoes and add a little bit more of each ingredient.

2. I do not dish it out onto different plates. I serve it straight from the heated frypan so it stays warm longer. 

3. You can make this recipe even easier by cutting the vegetables the day before or in the morning before leaving for work, and/or microwaving the potatoes ahead of time.