viernes, 28 de diciembre de 2012

Happy New Year and New Year's Resolutions

I always enjoy starting the New Year in my Spanish classes. By now, the students have gotten to know me, and I have a relatively good sense of their abilities and personalities. One activity that I like to do to start-up the New Year is New Year's Resolutions. I have designed this quick one page activity for my Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 students, but sometimes, I also use it for AP in order for them to have a nice review. You can find this activity free here!

I have students write their resolutions for the year in the future tense, which allows them to both review this tense, and hopefully remind them how to use their Spanish skills that have not been practiced for a few days. I do not require my students to write resolutions about a specific class or even school at all, if they do not wish to, because I want this activity to be as authentic as possible. If I force students to write a resolution about something they are not actually going to accomplish or even interested in accomplishing, I have diminished the value of the activity. The one stipulation that I do ask of students is to complete the second question, which asks students to specify when they will have completed each activity. This question is purposefully designed to have students use the future perfect. While I recognize that many students may not have thought about when they will actually accomplish their goals, numerous studies have shown that people who have a clear time frame as to when they will complete an activity are more likely to accomplish the task than people who are more general about their goals. Depending on the class, and the importance of character education in your school, you may wish to find an article on the internet which discusses this important aspect of goal-setting.

By now, if you have been reading this blog often enough, you know that I never want to miss an opportunity for my students to speak and share in a manner that is as authentic as possible. So, once the students have completed the first two questions, I ask them to choose one of their resolutions to share with their classmates. I purposefully do not request that the students share all of their resolutions because some of them may have included resolutions that are personal, and I want to respect this process. Finally, after speaking with each other, I have each student choose the one that he/she thinks was the best one in the class. As a whole class, I have the students share the resolution that they thought was the best.

To complete the remainder of the class, I am going to talk to my students about the Spanish New Year's tradition involving the 12 uvas. Then we will jump into our new units and projects for the New Year!

¡Feliz y prospero año nuevo a todos!

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012

Blog hop today and Monday speaking days

I am sorry for getting to this post a bit late! I am participating in a Blog hop with several other awesome middle and secondary educators. I have decided that since I have recently posted about station activities and my Christmas activities, my top items in my store right now, that I will instead write about my Monday Speaking days. To receive a free item from me....go to my TPT store and look at my items, then come back to the blog and in the comments tell me which item you would like to receive :) Or write a comment below about your favorite speaking activity! I will select a winner from those who comment, and I will send you the product of your choice free via email!
So, please leave your email in the comment section, or email me your email at

It is good to do something a little bit different and this is it!  The next person in the blog hop is found here!

I truly hope that you will enjoy checking-out all of the great blogs by master teachers, and win some free products in the process! Jennifer is the organizer of this hop, and if there is a broken link, you can check-out all of the blog links by going to her blog:

Mondays are a great day to have students speak about what they did over the weekend. I like to have all of my Spanish II students talk about what they did over the weekend as a way to both acknowledge that they have lives outside of school, and I am interested in them as a whole person, and as a great way to practice the preterite. One of my favorite activities is to have the students stand in a circle (our desks are in a circle so they are not moving far), and then each student takes a turn saying one thing that he or she did over the weekend. In order to challenge the students to be more creative with this activity, and to ensure that the students are listening to each other, I do not allow them to repeat a verb that has already been said by another student.

Another speaking activity that I do with my students is a "cocktail party, "round robin," or inside-outside circle. Half the class stands in a circle, then the other half of the class finds a partner. After each round of speaking, the students on the inside of the circle rotate to the next person. To practice narration, I will ask students to tell their classmate the most funny thing that happened over the weekend. Or, I might ask them to describe a movie that they saw recently, a book that they read, their favorite class assignment ever, etc. When doing this activity, I think that it is important to emphasize that students should only converse in Spanish. I tell my level two students that if they finish speaking early, that they can either continue conversing in Spanish or be silent. I do not allow English conversation as an option.

I hope that you enjoy today's blog hop! It will end at Midnight on Sunday night so be sure to comment by then! The winner will receive an email from me on Monday. In case you get lost in the blog hop, here is a list of the participating blogs! (French blog-Yay more language resources:) … g-hop.htm

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2012


Today has been a very difficult and sad day for any educator, parent, child care-giver, and anyone who cares that innocent souls have been taken without reason. I personally cannot imagine the pain of the teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary school, who worked with all of those beautiful children who are no longer with us. I absolutely hurt for the community and especially for the teachers because as a teacher, I come to appreciate and adore all of the sweet faces in my classroom, even in my most annoyed state, I still appreciate all of their personalities, the sassy ones, the caring ones, the students you know notice that you are tired, but don't say anything, the students who lead and really demonstrate what collaboration is to the other students, all of those personalities and more exist in my classroom, and so I just cannot imagine if someone walked into my classroom and stole all of those beautiful souls from me, from their parents, and from the world. While I generally try to keep this blog one hundred percent focused on the teaching and learning that occurs in my classroom, I just couldn't not acknowledge the sadness felt today.

Navidad activities

I am currently participating in an All I won for Christmas giveaway! So, I will tell you a bit about the product in the giveaway. This giveaway is being hosted by 

There are 68 different items that were donated from 60 teachers on TPT. This give-away looks super cute! It is a bit more focused on primary school education, but if you are a secondary teacher don't worry because  I am participating in another give-away that is exclusively a middle/secondary blog hop, which you can read about in my next post!

I donated my Navidad y más for this giveaway. I always want to include some celebration of the holiday season into my lesson plans without losing sight of my teaching goals. One of my goals is to address the Comparison standard of ACTFL. The first two activities in this packet are meant to allow students to both share about their own holiday traditions and compare their traditions with another student's. Additionally, students do a webquest to learn about the holiday traditions of another country. The webquest also allows me to discuss generalizations with the students and emphasize that articles talk about the majority of the people from the author's view-point, and that not every person in the country is going to have the same traditions, just as not every student in the classroom shares every tradition. This item also address a more superficial type of learning and that is learning and using the vocabulary that relates to the holiday season. There is a page that includes pictures and words to assist students with their discussion of the holiday activities. Finally this activity also includes two mad-libs. I find that using mad-libs is a good way for students to apply their knowledge of Spanish grammar without them really realizing that they are working. For example, students need to be able to recognize that bonito is an adjective in order to be able to fill-in the blanks of the mad-lib. The main difference between the mad libs is that I wrote one for my Spanish one students and one for my Spanish two students. The second one contains vocabulary that is a bit more complex, and it expects students to use both the preterite and the imperfect ( I am always looking for ways to review these two concepts).  What are your favorite holiday activities?

martes, 11 de diciembre de 2012

Prezi projects-a virtual storyboard

I would be the first to admit that I am not the most tech savvy, but I continually try to keep my students and myself up-to-date with the use of technology. This year (and last year) I have introduced to my students. Prezi is free to educators and students with an educational institution email. Just make sure that you choose the tiny educator link below the main sign-up links. There are many benefits to using Prezi, in my opinion. First, it is a virtual map that is more flexible than power point, and I think that it allows students to interact with technology in a way that is intuitive for them. It also hosts the projects remotely, which is great because I don't have to worry about bogging down my school's website with large projects. It also allows for great creativity. My students continuously amaze me with their designs, colors, and choices. In my opinion, the biggest downside to using Prezi in the classroom is simply the added time that it takes for students (and me) to learn a new technology. However, because I believe in the importance of learning new technologies that time can be allowed.

For my Spanish II students' Prezi project, I am having them create a storyboard, or a summary with pictures that details the events of the reader that we have been reading (La gran aventura de Alejandro). For each chapter, the students are writing four sentences, in their own words, about what happened in the chapter, and they are adding pictures from the web to illustrate their projects. The students will present their Prezi as an oral presentation, when they have completed the book. Thus far, my students have responded extremely positively towards using the Prezi. They enjoy the ability to manipulate the images and create a unique project. In fact one student said that she was going to speak to her history teacher about doing her next project in Prezi- yay!

While the reader that we have is a bit outdated (published in 1991), a good aspect about the work is that each of the latter chapters focuses on a piece of cultural information from Spain. I take these pieces and update them through incorporating youtube videos and more up-to-date readings about the salient cultural information. Then, each of the students will investigate two of the cultural aspects from the book that interests them, and include a more in-depth look at these two elements in their Prezi's.

Overall, the response to this project has been quite positive, and my students are receiving excellent practice narrating a series of events in Spanish. Additionally, the Prezi storyboard allows me to quickly see who is understanding the assigned readings, and who is struggling with the material.

Do you or have you used Prezi in your Spanish projects? What are the biggest gains or drawbacks that you have noted?

domingo, 2 de diciembre de 2012

Stations and the autonomous student

I decided to write about stations and how I use them in the foreign language classroom because I have donated a product to the realistic teacher that is being used in her giveaway. You can find the link to her blog here: and the link the the raffle here: rafflecopter giveaway bundle

While I know that many teachers associate stations (or centers) with the lower school classroom, I find them an effective tool to provide middle and high school students both with autonomy and the opportunity to engage in learning through using many different senses or multiple intelligences. When I do station activities, I often allow students to choose which station they will start with. Sometimes, I will allow the students to choose which stations they complete for the entire class, depending on their level of focus. Students enjoy the freedom to move around the classroom, and engage in a variety of activities without having to ask my permission or ask me what to do. Additionally, the activities that are included in the stations are often more open-ended so they promote both choice and creativity. The stations provide students with the opportunity to capitalize on their strengths because I include stations such as a rhyming or rhythm station, a speaking station, a writing station, an acting station, and a cut and paste station. Sometimes, I will include a game station such as the tic tac to game that is found in my preterit verb station activity on my TPT page. I find that the majority of my students are highly engaged in learning the topic at hand, when they are given the freedom to choose how to engage with the subject matter.

Another benefit to stations is that I am able to circulate amongst the groups and devote more time to assisting students who need a little extra help. I find that students who generally understand the material can fully engage with the task on their own, which allows me to help struggling students without boring or neglecting students who have already mastered the material.

However, I will note that it sometimes takes using stations in a few lessons before the students will fully become autonomous. The first few times that I use stations, especially in my middle school classrooms, I have to circulate and repeatedly remind students to fully read the directions. Additionally, some teachers may need to reinforce behavioral expectations such as collaboration and task focus prior to starting a class that incorporates stations. I will often ask my students to reflect on their work and learning at the end of class. Occasionally, I will ask them to rate their participation and focus on a piece of paper that they turn in to me as they leave the classroom.

Finally, I hold students accountable for completing the work of the stations through sharing their accomplishments at the end of class, or during the next class. It is important to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through sharing in either a whole class or small group format. I always especially enjoy hearing the stories and the rhymes that the students have developed. Another option is to collect the work that the students produced (or have them act, or perform their work) and grade it.

Overall, I find stations an excellent way to differentiate in the classroom, while maintaining similar learning objectives for each student. Furthermore, the students benefit from the opportunity to choose how they will engage with the material. Do you use stations in your classroom?

miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2012

authentic listening en 60 segundos

Many Spanish teachers that I have worked with lament the difficulty of using authentic listening texts. While I agree that listening texts can be difficult to find and unpredictable in terms of quality once they have been found, one of my favorite listening activities is to use el boletín: noticias en 60 segundos by The boletín can often be found on the home page of, but if it is not there, choose the video/foto tab at the top of the screen and it will appear on that page. The best thing about the boletín is that you can sign up to have it sent directly to your inbox.

To me, the boletín is perfect because it presents a bunch of information in an extremely short time period. Additionally, it is short enough that it can be played numerous times without having to cut something else out of the lesson. Finally, the boletín always has the news of the day, so it is highly relatable to students and they are constantly being exposed to the important world events of the day. 

When I first started using the boletín, my co-worker thought I was nuts. After all, what eleventh grader can understand the rapid speech rate of a news item being described in twenty seconds or less? It turns-out that most eleventh graders can understand this type of text, when challenged to understand the main points, and when they are encouraged throughout the year to continue making progress. Finally, I have found that it is often not my "A" students who really succeed in the listening arena and listening to the boletín provides an opportunity for other students to shine. 

Here is how I slowly scaffold my students to listening to and comprehending the boletín 

Prior to using the boletiín in my class, I listen to it to see how many different items are presented (usually 4 to six). Then for students who are new to listening/watching, I write just two questions on the board for however many items are presented. These questions are simply ¿Dónde? and ¿Qué? 
My board would look like: 
1) a.   ¿Dónde?                                                2) a.    ¿Dónde

    b.    ¿Qué?                                                       b.     ¿Qué? 

3) a.     ¿Dónde?                                            4)   a.     ¿Dónde? 

     b.    ¿Qué?                                                      b.    ¿Qué? 

If you have ever watched el boletín you might be thinking that anyone could glean the answers to these two questions simply from watching the video. I agree and that is the point. Students quickly learn that they can understand the boletín simply from being attentive to what they are watching, and as a result they begin to relax, once they realize that they can accomplish the task. Once students have become accustomed to hearing the boletín and they are mostly comfortable answering the two questions above, I begin to add other questions such as ¿Quién? This question often cannot be answered by simply watching the video and the students begin to listen for the salient information without realizing how much their listening skills have grown. Finally, I add ¿por qué? when relevant. Sometimes with the addition of new questions, I have to repeat the video more than the standard two times that I use once students are comfortable at each new level.

While this activity is challenging for students, I find that they are generally excited and proud to be able to go up to the board upon the completion of the video and fill-in the answers to the questions. Another added bonus to using the boletín,  according to my AP Spanish students, is that every other listening article seems slow in comparison.

Do you use el boletín in your classroom? What are your favorite listening sites? LAITS?

jueves, 1 de noviembre de 2012

¡Día del café!

One of the best and to me most exciting parts of teaching a foreign language is watching and hearing students use the language. Every week, I do a lesson that is specifically focused on speaking with my upper level students. I do not mean to imply that I don't give students the opportunity to speak other days of the week because I certainly do! However, once a week, I try to devise a lesson that specifically focuses on speaking. Usually I rotate the modes between more interpersonal and presentational, depending on which mode works best with the materials being studied the rest of the week. Día del café is a day that focuses on the interpersonal mode. I put a question in large letters at the center of a grouping of desks, and students choose at random where they sit. Most often, the questions will be directly or indirectly related to a literary work or thematic topic that we are studying, but occasionally, I will choose random questions. I also always include a station that requires that the students write a question for the next group. I have the students discuss the questions in their small groups for a set length of time (usually between 2-5 minutes) and then I ask them to rotate and find a new question to answer or discuss. Towards the end of class, I ask a few students to share their thoughts and ideas. I often include enough questions that there are a few stations that are empty in each round. I imagine that those teachers who have larger classes, would not ever have a blank round, but I almost always have as many  questions as I have students. I tell students that they must sit with a minimum of two other students that way they can truly discuss and work to express their opinions. In this way, I hope to personalize the literary works that we read or encourage students  to think more profoundly about the current events that we have studied. If día del café falls on a morning, I sometimes bring maté or hot chocolate to truly authenticate the experience! An example of the question types that I might ask is something along the lines of "if you were X character in this work, how would you respond to y situation?" Or do you think that X's actions were justified given his life experiences. etc. What sort of small group discussions do you do in your upper level classes?

lunes, 29 de octubre de 2012

Speaking activities!

Speaking activities!

I try to have my students speak for a few minutes each day. In the lower levels, I find that activities that promote production can be the most difficult to create. After all, why should the student feel motivated to speak in Spanish, when they can already communicate with their classmates in English?

It is important to recognize that speaking in the foreign language classroom is probably the most inauthentic task that we ask our students to do. After all, outside of sheer practice, there is no good reason to speak Spanish in the classroom, and many students are not motivated by the need to practice. Nevertheless, I continue to believe that teaching speaking is integral to teaching a language (if not the most important) so I will continue to try to create semi-authentic reasons for speaking Spanish, such as the desire to win a game. By following this link,  you can find some of my free speaking activities. While they are not fool proof, they do provide students with both tactile stimulation and small motivation to try to use the language.

I like to keep my whole class speaking activities short. Additionally, I recast incorrect pronunciation when it is significantly different from the correct pronunciation of a word, but I do not force correct pronunciation upon my students, as part of my goal is to encourage them to speak. I do not want to be so tough on pronunciation that students are discouraged from trying. What do you think? Do you allow pronunciation to go uncorrected or do you always re-cast or repeat the word using the correct pronunciation?  What other ideas do you have to encourage speaking in the lower levels of language learning?


Welcome to my blog!
Here I will post activities and lessons that I do with my students. You can also find many of my classroom materials at my Teacherspayteachers store :  

While I will work to update this blog at least once a month, I hope that other teachers will join me for some professional sharing of work and ideas.