Friday, September 24, 2021

The Mayan Number System


Over the years I have found that most of my Spanish students, in all levels, benefit from class activities that involve numbers. Usually what works best, is when they are focused on something other than the numbers! How ironic, right?

In Spanish 4 (students that have had a total of 300 hours in Spanish levels 1-3), I start the semester with a unit called Reconnecting to Spanish. Then the second unit is based on the novel Esperanza, by Fluency Matters, published in 2011. There are many excellent new novels that have been published since then, but the story of Esperanza is very engaging, based on a true story, and very comprehensible for the first book students read in the semester. Some students may have skipped a full school year of having languages, so this book shows them they can successfully read an interesting book in Spanish within weeks of returning to Spanish class!

Since I've been using this books for semesters each year since a while, probably since 2012, I have a long list of additional texts and activities to use. I also have the teacher's guide from Fluency Matters which has supplemental texts about the Mayans. Last spring was the first that I included the FREE lessons and activities in Fluency Matter's Prep4Success unit for Esperanza, materials designed to be used before starting the novel.

However, when I came across a YouTube video by Andrew Snider, of Read to Speak Spanish, I knew it would be a perfect fit.

The Benefits of the Activity:

(1) review numbers, 

(2) teach about the Mayan number system (cross-curricular!), and 

(3) have students listen to 10+ minutes of a comprehensible explanation in Spanish.

(4) high student engagement

(5) a perfect activity for a Friday AFTER reading a chapter of Esperanza šŸ˜Š

Materials Needed:

The Mayan number system is based on sea shells (conches), round circles, and rectangles. You can use large paperclips for the seashells (see the picture on the google slides), bingo chips for the circles, and popsicle sticks for the rectangles. (I wanted pom poms for the circles but, alas, the Dollar Tree didn't have any.)


These are the directions on the first Google Slide. 

Andrew Snider is the creator of the Read to Speak Spanish website. He also has a YouTube channel, which is where I found this video on the Mayan number system. It's over ten minutes BUT I predict your students will be focused on the explanation and demonstration of the number system, that those 10 minutes will fly by! At one point when he went from describing how to form 1-19, to how 20 was formed, I had several students saying "what???". At that point, one of my students asked if she could help explain it and I said sure! Why doesn't the principal observe when students take ownership of the lesson and volunteer to help others? LOL 

BTW - If you need a comprehensible story for your students to watch on a day you will be out of school, I suggest using one of his stories on YouTube. He speaks clearly and slow enough for language learners to follow along, plus they're unpredictable and supported with drawings and images. It's a little gold mine of possibilities!

There will be some students that catch on to forming the numbers in a snap! I wanted photos of the students forming the numbers but they were so quick that each time I grabbed my phone they were already finished. The pictures I got were not the best. Oh well...

Below are a few images of the Google Slide presentation. If you are interested in using the presentation that I made, you can find it HERE. You'll need to make your own copy, and then you are free to make any changes to the presentation to best fit your classroom.

Practice slides - students verbally guess the numbers. First I showed a slide without the numbers written on them (only the symbols) and then clicked to the next slide after they guessed the number for ADDITIONAL INPUT on Spanish numbers. As you point out how much each symbol is worth, count aloud and/or have the students count together when adding up the numbers!

The orange slides are the ones that students used the manipulatives. Before the slide below, there is a slide that only has the number "90". To check their work, I clicked to the next slide and explained as necessary.

Have fun with the activity!  šŸ™‚

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

DECISIONES - A Strategic Game for the World Language Classroom

Here is an end of the school year, yes we made it through the crazy pandemic hybrid schedules game for you. It is a great way to review any type of text - a short story, legend, several chapters in a novel, news articles, - anything with enough text to be able to write 14 comprehension questions.

I test drove this new game with three classes and made changes after the first two classes to improve the game and rules. Now, it is ready for you.  

Students will like the game because they decide what they will do with the points they earn, but it is mixed with an element of uncertainty. You'll like it because the students want to answer correctly in order to have that control over their points. So here you go...


Materials Needed: 

- Deck of Cards. I use Spanish cards, Baraja EspaƱola. They're authentic, the face cards have the number values written on them. If you use a regular deck, I suggest taking out the face cards so keep it simple.

- Mini-White Boards, Markers, Erasers, or something for students to write their team's answers

- 14 Decisiones Cards (5 Regalen, 5 QuƩdense, 3 Dupliquen, and 1 Regalen los puntos negativos)

- 14 Questions for the game based on a text you have read with your students

Goal of the Game: Earn more points than the other teams


1. Put the students into three groups. If you have large classes, you can have 4 or 5 teams, but it will take longer to complete the game.  

2. Students need to sit with their teams to be able to discuss the answers to the questions. Give each group a set of the DECISIONES cards - 14 cards per set. Each team also should have 1 mini-white board, a marker, and eraser

*I copied each set in a different color to make it easier to keep track of the cards each team has used.

3. Read the first question. Team members will quietly discuss the answer and one team member will write the answer on the mini-white board. This is NOT a race. Allow sufficient time for students to discuss and write their answer.

4. Tell teams to hold up their answers. Teams that answer correctly will have the chance to earn points or to gift points. Teams that answer correctly will lose a DECISIONES card.

When Teams Answer Correctly:

5. If several or all teams answer correctly, start with the first team and pull a card from the top of the deck. Students look at the number on the card and decide which of the following actions they want to do:

- QuƩdense con los puntos - Keep the points, add it to their score

- Regalen los puntos - Gift the points to another team (They cannot gift it to their own team)

- Dupliquen los puntos - Duplicate the point value of the card, add it to their score

- Regalen los puntos negativos - The point value of the card is negative, gift it to another team to take aways points from that team's score

6. Keep track of each team's score and write it on the board on project the score so throughout the entire game, students can see the running scores for their team and other teams.

7. After the first team has decided what to do with the points, turn over a card for the net team that answered correctly. They decide what to do with their points. Continue until you have pulled a card for all teams that answered correctly .

If a Team Answers Incorrectly:

8. If a team answers incorrectly, they will lose cards. The first card they need to surrender to the teacher is the QuƩdense con los puntos card. If they answer incorrectly the second time, take away another QuƩdense card from the team. Continue taking away the QuƩdense cards until they do not have any more of those, then take away the Regalen los puntos negativos card, and then the Dupliquen cards.

The End of the Game:

9. The game ends AFTER students answer ALL of the 14 questions, and have no DECISIONES cards remaining.

A basic version of the DECISIONES cards are available HERE for download. It will ask you to make a copy.


- The game works best when there are more than two teams playing. The reason for this is that when three teams play, and if one team starts to pull ahead, the other teams will most likely gift their points to the team with the lower points. This naturally helps to keep the scores close and teams won't give up and stop trying to win.

- Make the majority of the questions that students will know the answers. The best part of the game is students strategizing what to do with the points they are presented with. Throw in a few harder level questions to keep everyone on their toes and to encourage collaboration with their teammates.

- Students will quickly learn that they want to duplicate the cards with high numbers and gift the cards with the low numbers.

- If a team has used all of their cards and only have the Regalen los puntos cards remaining, you may want to add a rule that if they answer incorrectly, they lose X number of points. The reason I say that is because today one team had only Regalen los puntos cards remaining and I heard one of them say, "If we answer incorrectly, we don't have to give any points to other teams". Of course students will figure out every angle to their advantage. But, I'm telling YOU ABOUT IT, so you can add that extra rule to prevent that from happening. 

- When pulling a card off the top of the deck for the teams that answered correctly, I always started with the same team and went in the same order. It made it easy to follow the same order and NONE of the teams complained about it.

- Another plus to this game, you have to read a text with your students first! We all know the power of reading when helping your students to acquire another language!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Jamboard in the WL Classroom


I was late to the Jamboard party but thanks to my colleague, Krista K., for talking about how she uses Jamboard with her French students and for giving me a brief overview of how to use Jamboard.

Fast forward a few short months, and now I am working on a grad class project related to using Jamboard in the WL classroom. After spending a lot of time creating Jams to share for the training that I'm creating, the thought occurred to me to share the Jams on this blog for others to use and/or edit for their own classrooms. The examples may give you inspiration to join the Jamboard band wagon and even to create activities that aren't mentioned here.

If you have never used Jamboard before, there is a really basic video, made in October 2020 so it has most of the Jamboard updates. (Skip videos older than spring 2020 because there have been updates that they won't mention.) Click HERE to watch the video by Teacher's Tech.

My Jams (what each of the files are called on Jamboard) are sorted into 4 categories, although several overlap, as you will see below. When you click on the HERE that will take you to the Jams, it will ask you to make a copy. Then you can make whatever changes you desire! Best of all, THEY ARE FREE!!!

1) Interactive Games on Jamboard - access the copy HERE

2) Novel Activities and other Texts (several from Fiesta Fatal - added with written consent by the author, Mira Canion). access the copy HERE.

3) Check IN & EXIT Tickets - access the copy HERE

4) Collaboration & Reaction Sentences - access the copy HERE

I will be adding to the Jams throughout this semester, so if you download a copy early in 2021, you can check later to see the new activities that are included. There are several ideas I want to add, but I need to complete some other tasks awaiting me at the moment. :-) 

On a final note, making activities to upload as backgrounds on Jamboard is easy, especially for those that are accustomed to creating activities on Google Slides.  Or, if you have a Canvas account, search for online whiteboards and you'll find at least 50 templates to get your started. I imagine there are many Jamboard templates on sites for sale, but creating activities are EASY PEASY to make and it really doesn't take much time. Plus, then you can share them with others! Many people share their templates FREE so use those and then, when you are inspired and ideas come flooding into mind, make your OWN and share yours!