Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Digitally Ordering Events

 Ordering events is a good way to have students REREAD a text. Before the pandemic, I used to print copies of text and my students ordered the events using the paper copies. For teaching during the pandemic, I digitized the activity on a Google Presentation and assigned it through Schoology.

The first ordering activity I made this fall on Google Slides was for Mira Canion's El escape Cubano. I learned a few ways to improve upon it which are reflected on the ordering activity for Mira Canion's Tumba novel.

1. Limit each slide to 4 events. More than increases the chances of students not getting the order correct.

2. Use at least two different colors for the text boxes. If you make this activity a graded assignment, it makes it much easier for you to know if the order is correct with a quick glance at each slide. (But don't have the same pattern on each slide or the students will catch onto that quickly.)

If you're interested in having a copy of the ordering activity on google slides for the first five chapters of Tumba, you can find them HERE

FYI: I checked with Mira Canion to get her written consent to post this. (It's a must to check with an author before posting materials you created related to the author's book!)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

An Easy Strategy to Help Online Students Stay Focused/Engaged

Here is a simple strategy that online teachers can employ to help students that are learning synchronously from home to stay engaged. 

At my school, we are teaching to students physically in the classroom and at the same time we are teaching to students synchronously joining the class from their homes. I tried this technique last week and it definitely made a difference in how quickly students at home unmuted their mics and responded.

I share my computer screen with students in class and at home, and when I use a document camera, I share that screen with both sets of students at the same time.

Instead of calling the student's name that I want to answer a question, I say, "#2 is for the student whose name I wrote". I say this whether the name I wrote is someone at home or at school in my classroom. Students in class need to stay engaged by following along with what I am projecting on the board and students at home must also be looking at the computer screen (not simply waiting for their name to be called before looking to see what question we are one).

Pictured below is a warm-up for Spanish 2. Students in school have a 1/2 sheet of paper that they write on; students at home should be completing it as a Schoology assignment. I used the document camera as we went over the answers and I wrote the names on my copy of the warm-up. When we are reading or working on something from google drive or a word document, I type the student's name directly on the document.

There are students that say what they are doing at home instead of giving the class their full attention. I have had students tells me they have a friend over at their house, they're baking cookies, they have the screen minimized and are playing an online game, plus other things that we won't get into. Writing the names on the document to "call" on students, worked this week. We'll see how long it is beneficial.

If all your online students are 100% engaged during your synchronous class (my classes are 72 minutes), then that leads me to one of two conclusions: (1) You are simply amazing and should write a book! or (2) they are not 100% engaged but you don't realize it...yet.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Story Scripts & Preloading Vocabulary


I'm a few days away from starting the novel "El escape cubano" written by Mira Canion. In my classroom, it's all about front loading the vocabulary before opening the pages of a novel so students sail through the reading with ease, making the reading more enjoyable.

For several years I've been using the story "La novia se queda en el ascensor". This year, with the need to revamp the formats of my story scripts in order to make the material available to those four different groups that meet at the SAME TIME each day: (1) those that are in my class on A/B days, (2) those learning at home on A/B days, (3) the 100% synchronous students, and (4) for those students in the classroom every day. 

Here is an outline of how I presented the story and provided extension activities for the story "La novia se queda en el ascensor".

1. Using a document camera so students at home can see and projecting onto my board for students at school to see, students and I filled in the vocabulary sheet below. Students already KNOW most of the words. The new words are the ones I highlighted in yellow. This shows the students that they already know most of the word, plus they are introduced to the new ones in the upcoming story.

2. I told the story using illustrations on Google Slides for visual support for both students in class and at home.

3. After telling the story, we read the story script. (page one shown below)

4. Then I asked 10 True/False questions. They listened to the questions and to go over the questions I projected the questions on the board.

5. I projected six slides, (one is shown below), in which students read the sentences and had to say if the sentence described picture A, B, or X - neither A nor B.

6. I uploaded the student copy of the story. It included title page (where students wrote their names so in my google drive it was clear on page one who completed the work); slide 2 had the directions; slides 3-5 had the story (but it was a jpg image of the story so they couldn't copy and paste the sentences); and slides 6-24, BUT...the illustrations were not in the correct order. The students had to order the slides by reading the story, and then they had to type one sentence (only one per slide) from the story for each slide.

7. Somewhere in there, we had read the story script again.

8. We played FLIP THE SCRIPT explained HERE.

Those activities flowed well together and were a nice balance of listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and writing.

Next, I'm working on making a digital file for the riddle I usually use before reading "El escape cubano". I'll share that on a future post.

If you are interested in the google slide presentation you can email me at cynthiaunderscorehitzatyahoodotcom    OR leave a comment below with your email.

Flip the Script - A New Game for the WL Classroom


It's a good day when you create a new game and it goes over well with each class that you play it. I created and played FLIP THE SCRIPT with three of my Spanish 2 classes today and since it worked so well I wanted to share it with others.

I'm preparing my students to read "El escape cubano" by Mira Canion, which will be their first novel that they read this year. Before we read this novel, I usually tell a story that I wrote about a bride and groom that encounter a problem when they go to their wedding reception. The goal is to provide a "boatload" of comprehensible input for the words se escapa and se queda, which are words found in the first few chapters.  

FLIP THE SCRIPT explanation

1. You need a story script in which the students are familiar.

The story I used is titled: La novia se queda en el ascensor. I've read the story with my students and they participated in other writing and listening tasks using the same story script before playing FLIP THE SCRIPT.

2. Choose words/phrases in the text for students to translate from English to the TL and change those words to another color.  Assign point values to the words/phrases with higher point values for the more challenging words/phrases. 

Notice in the photo below, that some words are worth 1 point. The one point words are those that are used elsewhere in the text; the two points are ones that are not used in the text but I felt confident most teams would know them. There are some 3-point, 4-point, even a 6-point words.

3. Depending on your class size, tell students to form groups of 2-4. Three works best; 4 is probably too many because it makes it too easy for one of the group members to not participate.

4. Groups take turns. The first group chooses any word/phrases in parenthesis. They discuss the answer in their group, then one of the members writes the answer on a mini-whiteboard. If they are correct, they earn the points listed for that word/phrase. If they are wrong, their turn is over and the next group chooses a word to translate.

It is NOT a race. The teams take turns and that same rotation continues until all the words have been translated to Spanish.

The letters on the side are there so students identify the paragraph with the letter and then say which word they in English they translated to Spanish before showing me their whiteboard.

Advantages of FLIP THE SCRIPT:
- Students discussed the answers
- For many sentences the students had to read the full sentence to know WHO is doing the action
- Students stayed focused whether working on the word they chose or glancing at what other groups wrote
- There is strategy involved; there were some groups that were leading with points that chose a 1 point word of which they were sure instead of choosing one they were not sure of.
- No pressure - teams can earn points each time when choosing the easier words - slow and steady wins the race (as what happened in one of my classes today).

Disadvantage of FLIP THE SCRIPT:
- The students in school played the game while students at home did another assignment. I'm not sure how to include the students at home without them having the advantage of looking up the words. 


Monday, September 14, 2020

¿QUÉ TE GUSTA? Lesson Idea for levels 1 & 2

Today I'm sharing a lesson that will engage students and provide you, the teacher, with a load of possibilities to comprehensible input related to the students' responses. My example is today's lesson with repetitions of the verb GUSTAR, but you can switch out the vocabulary and keep the same type of format for any structures. 

As background, at my school students with last names beginning with A-K on come to school on "A" days and the rest of the students login from home and watch/participate in the lesson synchronously.  The next day students L-Z are at school while the A-K students learn online synchronously. There are a handful of students that are 100% synchronous. What that means, is that everyday I am working simultaneously with students in person and students online. I created this activity so students could participate regardless of their physical location. (For another activity for hybrid classes or for regular classes too, see THIS POST.)

Create the Google Slide Presentation. The title slide is shown above. On the second slide, I created a separate text box with each of the students' names. (I changed the names for this blogpost.) You could have your students do this, but I decided to provide this for the students so the font, size, and color were uniform. 

Don't forget to add your name too!

Then I made several slides that asked students if they liked something and gave them two options (yes, I like.... or no I don't like....). To prevent students from accidentally (or purposefully) clicking on the text boxes and photos on each slide, I saved the slide as a PNG and then uploaded the PNG as a background. 

You can go over the slides before you instruct the students how to respond, but I added some translations to the slides so I wouldn't have to do that.

Share the Google Slide Presentation. I shared the document with the students by placing it on Schoology, our LMS. I shared it so they did NOT have to make a copy because I want all of the students answering on one presentation.

Demonstrate how to add your name to the slides. 
I demonstrated how to click on my na
me, press COMMAND + C to copy my name, and then move to another slide to paste their name with COMMAND + V (on a MAC). To add my name to other slides, I continued to press COMMAND + V. 

Then I told the students to do the same and to add their names to the appropriate spot on each slide. Yes, it DID get tricky at times for students to add their names and then move it to the correct side, but everyone managed. For the second class that I had for the day, I told students to go to another slide that wasn't as busy with other students. 

Discussion of the students' answers. After the students at school and at home had added their names to the slides, I asked personalized questions in Spanish about their answers, i.e. What flavor of ice cream do you like? Do you like to swim in the ocean or in a swimming pool? You said you like the city better than the country, what are two cities that you like?

Write and discuss. I asked a student to name one of the students in the class and then we wrote several sentences about that student, and then additional sentences to describe how many students liked or didn't like something on the slides. I split my computer screen with the slide presentation on one side and the paper on which I was writing with the help of the document camera on the other side.

Another use for the Google Slide Presentation. Take screenshots of four slides after the names are added. Put those on one slide and then ask true/false questions about the information as a closing activity. 

The good and the bad: (similar to what Keith Toda does on his blog, Todally Comprehensible, that I really like. He names it "observations".)

- The activity provided both reading input (when they read to answer the questions) and listening input

- With only a few slides, there is a lot of information to work with.

- Students were engaged not only when adding their names to the slides, but also when anticipating that I may ask them about their response.

- It can be tricky when students move their name to one column or the other. Some students may be tempted to delete other's answers or move them.

- After one class's google slide presentation is finished, it was easy to copy the entire presentation and change only the names on slide 2. 

- If group work is possible in your setting, you can assign one slide to a group and working with their group members, they can write additional sentences.

- The students' answers on the slides can be used the following day with short answer questions.

If you want a copy which you can edit, click HERE.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Let's Start the School Year! An Activity that Works for Virtual Classes or In Person or Hybrid Models

 I'm five days away from the first day with students for the 2020-2021 school year. Currently, we are planning on seeing half of our students on alternating days, and the days they are not in school they will login and view the lesson synchronously. I will have several students in each class that are learning 100% synchronously online, and several that are attending school every day.

My goal for my Spanish 2 students was to create a lesson in which students will learn about their classmates (build community) while listening to the conversation that I will have with each student based on the information (photos) that they have provided. I wanted a lesson that would work for both virtual classes and in-person classes because if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that change happens very quickly!

For Spanish 2, I usually do "card talk" in which students sketch a few things about themselves on construction paper and I discuss their sketches while I share it with the class. For my Spanish 4 students, I usually have them send me a photo of them that was taken over the summer and add it to a google doc. My plans for Spanish 4 are only slightly different this year, but Spanish 2 has changed completely.

I wanted to make their work as easy as possible so I created a Google Slides presentation, shared it with students, and students have an assignment to add photos on their slide before the first class.  I could have given them instructions and have them write their name, but, again, I was going for super easy, so I created all the slides, copied the directions on each slide, and completed a slide of myself as a model.

I know many of you have already started school, in fact tonight in my Spanish class for Spanish Teachers, taught by Adriana Ramirez 🙂,one of the teachers said he was already on his third week with students! But even if you have already started school, maybe this activity will still be useful for you or it may spark a new idea for something you can do with your students that centers around them AND provides a great deal of opportunities for comprehensible input.


SLIDE 2 - with instructions

Slide 3 - My example to model what students should do.

When I discuss my slide with the students, I will tell them my name, that I have a farm, which involves a lot of work, that I like to travel, and, No, I don't want a zebra. I want to go somewhere to see them in their natural habitat. COVID-19 destroyed my plans for doing that this summer, but I'm hopeful it will happen next year.)

Slides 4-?, one for each student with instructions for students. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

More Social Distancing = More Social Networks

While we are social distancing when we are in person, Social Networks are the exact opposite especially when it comes to announcing offers for bundles of online books and FVR libraries

With COVID-19 concerns, the procedures for sharing materials (books) are more restrictive and not permitted. Publishers have seen this need and responding with what feels like a new offer popping up each week (in fact I had to update this post before I even published it!) My school has made it clear that there is no money for purchases, so at this point, anything I buy for the students will be out of my ow pocket. I’m still trying to determine which is the best option, or if I need to change up my curriculum and format for FVR and make it work with the books I already have. (Option: I have class sets of various books so I could have each class read a different book, but oh, the extra planning, time, and energy needed for that exhausts me just thinking about it.) 

E-book, and FVR libraries, and good deals - oh boy! 

Over the years I have spent much of my school department money on books for my students - class sets and books for my FVR library. I’ve also spent an untold amount of my personal money buying new books at conferences, from publishers, and from Amazon.

These are the offers that I know of for online FVR books and for class novels. They are listed in alphabetical order. If you know of others (appropriate for the needs and levels of non-native learners in a K-12 setting) and want me to add them to the list, let me know. 

E-lit App - Combination of French, Spanish, & Japanese titles
*Unable to verify when this app will be available. 

Check the website for the current number of texts and novels included in the offer.
Digital subscription library with leveled texts and novels, states more texts/novels are being/will be added; online access through August 31, 2021, $199 for 180 students’ $249 for 250 students; $299 for 350 students
Price available through August 31, 2020

Fluency Matters - online FVR library - French, Spanish, & German novels
Various choices depending on the target language and number of books in the offer. Order in multiples of 25.

Baker’s dozen, 13 pre-selected Spanish novels, 1 year online access,  $50 for 25 students
Six pre-selected Spanish novels,1 year online access,  $25 for 25 students
Current price available through Sept 30, 2020

Mira Canion - online FVR library or individual books - Spanish novels 
Each package below is for 1 teacher, up to 300 students, for one full year from date of activation (“renting” the books online)
1) A Single title written by Mira: $68. 
2) 8 Spanish books written by Mira; online access for up to 300 students for one full year, $258 thought August 31, 2020; $298 after 8/31/2020
3) Elementary FVR Library - 4 book titles, $108 through August 31
4) 10 titles - Mira’s books and other authors, Spanish 1/2 FVR Library - $298 through 8/31/2020
5) 10 titles - Mira’s books and other authors, Spanish 2/3 FVR Library - $298 through 8/31/2020

- Mike Peto - purchase individual online books - Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese & Latin
The online access to the books you purchase is available through July 1, 2021. It appears as though there is a sale currently going on with book prices of $24.99 for up to 300 students and 1 teacher. 

Storylabs - Spanish, French, Latin, and English novels & stories
You’ll have to check this website yourself because there are many different price points. For example, one book is listed at $249 for 180 students and with Teacher resources available; while another book is listed at $60 for 175 students. My guess is that each author set the price, but I don’t know that for sure.

It appears as Storylabs doesn’t offer anything similar to other publishers in which you can have a collection of texts/novels for a set price. If Storylabs does indeed offer a collection for a set price, I was unable to find it on the website.  

Two years ago, the blog “Spanish mama” posted a list of free online resources. I have not checked if all of these are available still today, but it may be worthwhile to check out the post HERE.


Note, there are other online resources available at different price points but I am not going to list them here because there are many and, for sure, I will end of making an incomplete list. What I suggest you do, is check the Facebook groups listed above and scroll through the posts. When people find resources, or when they are introducing and/or “advertising” their resources, they generally post it on a Facebook group where others will see it. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Photo Reader's Theater - A Fun Online Teaching Activity!

Teachers, how's that online instruction coming along? Do you wake up with that same excitement for teaching that you did before cover-19 took over our lives, and the news, and the supermarkets, and ... our classrooms? Or, if you're like me, is the task of trying to provide the best educational experience for your students on a completely different format starting to wear you down and squeeze some of the joy out of teaching. 

If so...READ ON!

The time is ripe for a fun activity that will allow your students to show their creativity and enjoy their classmates' creativity. I have an idea on how to make that happen for your students!

This week my daughter, (in-law.. but she's way too precious to officially add that to her name), who, by the way, is the most amazing elementary art teacher that exists ❤️, shared pictures of an art assignment in Facebook that she made for her students. When I saw the pictures I immediately started thinking about how I could use this with my students. 

On the right is a screenshot of her post from Facebook.

For the assignment, her students need to find a famous artwork, or one that they like, and recreate it in photo form using the materials they have at home.

Currently my Sp4/5 students are reading a book as an ecourse on Fluency Matter's website. They are reading Bananas, written by Carrie Toth. I grabbed my hard copy of the book and paged through it, looking at the illustrations and BINGO!...the idea of Distance Learning Photo Reader's Theater started to formulate in my mind.

What is Distance Learning Photo Reader's Theater? Whatever book you are reading with your students, ask them to recreate one of the illustrations that are in the book. I was careful to instruct them NOT to ask their friends to help, but they could have family members join in.

(Reminder: Don't post the illustrations from the book unless you have written expressed consent from Fluency Matters! I checked with Fluency Matters before publishing this post on my blog to make sure I could use the illustrations.)

The first photo I received is a recreation of an illustration from Bananas in which the younger brother is chasing after his older brother. The student's photo is of him chasing his older brother.

Other photos are rolling in this morning and, I have to say, this is making my day! I love that the students have the chance to do something super easy and creative and fun related to the text. This is exactly what both they and I needed after 3 1/2 weeks of online teaching.

Here are some other photos from today. This is from chapter 2 of Bananas

This next photo is from chapter 8 of Bananas. I like how well the dogs are cooperating in the student photos!

This last submission really hit it out of the PARK with the attention to details - the clothing articles and colors, the arm placement, the expressions, even the detail of the table and the background. BRAVO!

My Spanish 1 students are starting Fluency Matter's ecourse Brandon Brown quiere un perro today. That book has loads of illustrations that will be a snap for students to replicate such as the illustration shown below. Students love sharing pictures of their pets and this will give them that opportunity. If they don't have a dog, they use what they have available - a cat, a turtle, a stuffed animal - all of them are possibilities!  

If you live in an urban area, tell the students the pictures do NOT have to be outside. For example, they could replicate the illustration from Bananas (on the right) INSIDE their homes and it gives the parents a chance to get involved in the assignment too. If they don't have a younger sibling for the picture, use a teddy bear!

There are several ways the teacher can then use the photos after they receive them. (But Remember: You have to get the parents' permission to share the photos!)

1) Share them on your Learning Management System and let the students SIMPLY ENJOY the photos of their classmates!

As far as I'm concerned, that's as far as you need to go, but...if you want other ideas or your administration will want more than that, you could...

2) Put the photos on Google Slides or PowerPoint and during a live online class using Zoom or something similar, use the photos to retell parts of the story and provide additional comprehensible input about the story.

3) Make a matching activities with the student photos and sentences from the book or sentences that you create.

4) Upload the photos to Kahoot and use them during a live session on Zoom. For example, the Kahoot page will show a photo and you can have the students choose which answer..
- correctly describes the photo
- is the only sentences that does NOT describe the photo
- is the thoughts of one of the characters
- is an event that happened immediately before or after the photo
4) UPDATE: Here is a photo of my zoom Kahoot game with students on Thursday. Some ideas for questions: 

Upload the student photo in the question box and..
- type the titles of 4 chapters from the book; ask which chapter title best matches the photo  
- type four events in the book; ask which ONE event happened before (or after) the photo
- (this can be a photo as pictured below with thought bubbles); ask which is the most logical thought that the character has at that moment OR which answer would NOT be a logical thought
- type four events related to the photo; ask students to order the events
- write four descriptions; ask which description best describes the photo
- write four names; ask which person(s) are shown in the photo
- make 4 captions of the photo (new ones that YOU create); ask which would be a good caption for the photo many possibilities 😀

5) UPDATE 4/20/20: I made a google slide presentation and assigned it through Schoology (similar to those that have Google Classroom). Students click on the word “text” and a text box appears for them to write what they think are the characters’ thoughts. See examples below:

You don't have to limit the student created photos to the illustrations in the book. You could direct students to the page number of one of the illustrations and ask students to create a photo of an event that happened after that illustration; or give them a chapter and ask them to create their own photo.

The goal is to give your students the freedom to be creative and share that with your classmates. It will be a fun assignment for them and they will appreciate it. Some...may even thank you.  😊

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Brain Break: Relaxing with No Frills

Most brain breaks that I use in class are ones that have the students up and moving around. This brain break doesn’t fit the regular mold, but you will find it has its uses. 

It’s quick, no-frills, no prep nor props needed, and relaxing. You decide how much of the target language you want to incorporate during the brain break. 

1. Students close their eyes. 

2. The teacher says, “Piensa en (think about)...” followed by a location.  

3. Ask students what they see, hear, smell, how they feel, or anything that requires a short answer. 

4. With their eyes still closed, students call out their answers in L1 or in the TL.

5. Name another location and ask the same or similar questions.

Depending on the level, you can ask the entire question in the TL. The students can answer in English or the TL, again, depending on the level of language the students have available to them.

Examples in English:
Think about the beach. What do you hear? What do you see? How do you feel? What do you smell?
Other locations: mountains, restaurant, math class, a concert, etc.

I did this today with my level 1 students. To snap them back into classroom mode, the last place I asked them to think about was a physical education class and then said, ¿Qué hueles? (What do you smell?) In unison, they all said “sweat!” and were ready to continue with the lesson.