Saturday, April 22, 2017

What I'm watching to keep up my Spanish

As a non-native speaker living in a predominately English speaking community it can be tough to find ways to practice my Spanish but watching TV is one of my favorite ways to expand my vocabulary and get listening practice. There are TONS of shows out there online.

(And let me preface this list with the fact that my undergrad degree is in History and I'm obsessed with Law & Order type shows and anything with time travel...so basically I'm a huge nerd.)





El ministerio del tiempo from RTVE.es - This show is my absolute favorite. It follows a team of time travelers who are tasked by the Spanish Ministry of Time with the responsibility of protecting the timeline and history of Spain. Great for spotting all those famous writers and artists you studied about in Spanish lit and civ classes. There are two seasons online already and season 3 is coming out this fall. If you like shows like Dr. Who, Firefly, or Sherlock then this is for you. It's sci-fi but with a hint of humor. 


Isabel from RTVE.es -  I love a good historical drama and this one doesn't disappoint with three seasons about Los Reyes Catolicos Isabel y Fernando and their rise to power. I never learned the vosotros form in school (because according to my teachers I wouldn't need it...yeah) and this show is full of it so it's given me lots of good input. I'm halfway through season 2 and I've already been inspired to read some historical fiction based on Isabel and her daughter Juana la Loca after watching this show. If you like shows like The Tudors or The White Queen then this is for you. 


Los misterios de Laura from RTVE.es - This show is also a favorite and they even made an American version with Debra Messing. Each hour is a different case that sounds like it came from a Agatha Christy novel (and some of them ARE Agatha Christy cases.) solved by the eccentric Laura Lebrel. While she's great at her job, her personal life is another story. It's slightly humorous and doesn't take itself too seriously. I liked this one too because it has modern Spanish dialogue - something I miss out on with my many historical dramas. There are 3 seasons online. If you like shows like Castle or Bones then this is for you.


El gran hotel from Hulu.com - This show is about a luxurious hotel, the family that runs it, and the servants who work there. It's set in the early 20th century and it revolves around an ongoing mystery of the disappearance of the brooding main character's sister. I have to admit that I watched most of the first season and then gave up on it. But that's because I tend to like shows that are slightly irreverent. If you liked Downtown Abbey and wished there had been more drama and intrigue then this is for you. 


Juana Inés from Netflix.com - This show is about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun and writer in 17th century Mexico.  It follows Juana Inés as she struggles to find a place in the world where she can use her large intellect and passion for writing in a time when neither women nor criollos were valued. I just bought the novel Yo, la peor, a fictional retelling of the life of Juana Inés and can't wait to start it. Another for those who like The Tudors or The White Queen. or fans of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's writing.


Celia from Netflix.com - Just added after a recommendation from Twitter. This telenovela documents the life of Celia Cruz. I'm only 3 episodes in but I already love the music and the ear training I'm getting for that tricky Cuban accent. I don't usually like telenovelas but as someone who is obsessed with Cuban salsa this show is great. If you love the Reina de Salsa or biopics then this is for you.


What are your favorite shows and series? Share in the comments below!


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pets, pets, pets

I'm in my fifth year teaching and I'm finally at a point where I am repeating units that I've taught before but I don't know if I'll ever stop refining them. Take my Lost Pet unit, which my third graders loved last year. This year I'm teaching it to 5th grade but my fifth graders are going even further.

I still want them to describe their pets but I also wanted to focus on the verbs "I have" and "I want." So we started with playing my go to card game where students practice asking and answering questions over and over - The Crazy Pet game. Students ask ¿Tienes una mascota? Their partner flips over a card and answers. They keep playing until someone discards the Tengo un dinosaurio card. While half the class played the game, the other half got on the computer to play Victoria Languages Online. They also loved the ¿Tienes una mascota? song from this site.

Click the picture to purchase your own set of Crazy Pet cards and adoption questionnaire!


Once we had"I have" down we started on "I want". We started by looking at pet adoption sites (Yay for authentic resources!) and talking in a group about which pets we wanted to adopt and why. I made an anchor chart or language ladder to help my novice high students not only talk about which animal they wanted but WHY they wanted to adopt that animal.



Then I set them free  on the adoption site with a pre-adoption questionnaire. The scenario was that they and their roommate were adopting a pet. They had to read the different pet profiles and decide between themselves which animal they wanted to adopt and fill out the application - an activity that included ALL 3 modes of communication. I told them they were only allowed to adopt 1 pet and encouraged arguing as long as it was in Spanish. My one class really took that to heart and I heard lots of "No quiero un gato. Quiero un perro." Or "No me gusta grande."



If you teach fifth graders you know they get awful after Christmas break and that's especially true the closer you get to the end of the year but they have loved this unit and wanted to "adopt" pets more than one time. It was the perfect activity for the week right before spring break when everyone is restless. 


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Science & Art in the FLES classroom - Arpillera Habitats

This year my goal has been to really hit the Connections C of the 5 Cs. I attended the World Language and Arts Integration Academy this past summer and saw how my colleague Mercedes Harn uses art in her Spanish classes and was inspired. And since we lost our STEM lab this year I also try to throw in some science where I can.

The end result is that my third graders have been talking about where they live and where animals live. This week we finished up the unit by making arpillera inspired collages and then wrote short descriptions. They turned out so great and the students enjoyed making them.




During the unit we did a variety of activities - I "read" them the story of Welcome Home Bear (it's only in English so I translated as I read. Then I told them the story again with props. It was a great way to spiral back to Me gusta/No me gusta and weather vocabulary as well as practice the new phrases. We also looked at the animal profiles from El Parque de las Leyendas, Each profile had a section labeled habitats and told us if they were endangered or not. And of course lots of Kagan structures like Rally Robin, Mix, Pair, Share and Quiz, Quiz, Trade.

We talked about Peru - where it was on the map, its flag, and its capital. Then we looked at arpilleras and practiced describing them - the colors they saw, the animals and people, and what habitat they thought it might be. I even had 2 different apilleras to show them - one I had bought in Chile and one I bought on Ebay.

When it was time to make our arpilleras students chose what habitat they wanted to represent and they had to include 2-3 animals that lived there. Before each class, we first generated a list of words we might need while we worked. I strictly enforced a No inglés policy. It made for pretty quiet classes because the students only talked when they needed something from a classmate and occasionally to compliment each other's work.

We used Rally Robin to come up with a list of words we might need when we made our apilleras.

I've done this sort of project before and have been frustrated when students struggle to write a description even when the sentence frames are provided but I've realized that it's because I haven't modeled enough for them what to do. So this time around, we did a group write to create a description of an arpillera collage I had made. Then I picked three students' collages and wrote the individual sentences for each on index cards. Students worked in pairs to decide which collage their card went with and what order made the most sense. When I finally let them loose on their own they had both the sentence frames and an example of what it should like.



The results this time was much better. I still had students who were confused but usually those were the kids who had been absent the classes where we did the group write and matching. We also did rough drafts this time by folding a piece of notebook paper in half. On the top they wrote their first draft. I corrected it and then they unfolded their paper and copied the corrected version on the bottom.



I'm so thankful to the KY Center for putting on the Arts Integration Academies. I've gone twice now and always come away inspired and full of ideas. This unit on arpilleras was definitely a hit! 

Do you incorporate art or science in your FLES classroom? How? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mixing it up with proficiency levels

Having students at different levels happens sometimes in high school but it's pretty much a given in an elementary class. Let's talk about just one of my fifth grades classes...

My school likes to group all the ELL kids in one class to make it easier for scheduling so this class has several native speakers in it. 

Our district also redrew the school boundaries this past year so I have students who have never had Spanish before. Maybe they had Chinese. Or maybe they had nothing. 

Then I have non-native students who have had Spanish since kindergarten. 

Oh, and two new kids showed up last week and they've never had Spanish before either. 

Plus they're fifth graders after winter break so they're also kind of the worst. 

But this past week before doing our bell ringer conversation and getting ready to do some Mix, Pair, Share we reviewed our proficiency levels and what that sounded like, where they should be, and what they should be aiming for.



¿Tienes una mascota?

Novice Low - Sí. Rocket.

Novice Mid - Sí, tengo un perro. Se llama Rocket.

Novice High - Sí, tengo un perro. Se llama Rocket. Rocket es grande. Me gusta mucho Rocket. ¿Y tú, tienes una mascota? ¿Cómo se llama?

It only took a minute but I was able to instill some confidence in my two boys who can only answer the question ¿Tienes un perro? with a sí or a no. I heard my students who started with me in August answering with Sí, tengo un perro. And lots of students reaching up to novice high and elaborating on their answer and asking each other questions. Several kiddos also wanted to know how to say they used to have a pet or if they had a pet what it's name would be. So I also heard some imperfect past and conditional thrown in the mix too.

It was super quick and really easy way to differentiate both our opening conversations with each other and during the Mix, Pair, Share. It reminded both me and my students where we're at and where we're heading and most importantly that we're all at different points and that's ok!

How do you differentiate in class? How do you share proficiency levels? Share in the comments below!

Also check out my Chichen Itza graphic that I use with 2nd-5th grade. 




Sunday, February 19, 2017

More Kagan Structures to get your students talking

I wrote a post last year about how I use Kagan structures in my classes. I also use Rally Coach. After some refresher sessions and observing a teacher who is an absolute master at Kagan I've added more to my rotation. Here is a list of what I use and how I use them that I hope you find helpful.





Turn and Talk - no prep: just establish the routine of face and shoulder partners

Students turn and talk to their partners. They practice either a conversation or answer a question I have posed to the class.

Things I've used this with - Everything! We start each class out with greeting our partners, asking their name, and how they are. I also add any other questions we might be working on such as How old are you? and Where do you live? If I am telling a story or we are discussing something else I don't let them raise their hand to answer until everyone has turned and talked to their partner. This way everyone gets a chance to answer and the number of hands that go up increases to nearly everyone in the class.


Stand up, hand up, pair up - no prep: just write out what students will say on the board

Students walk around the room with their hands up. When they find a partner they have the conversation in Spanish. When they're done, they put their hands back up and find a new partner. I do keep the sentence frames on the board for students to reference if they need them.

Things I've used this with - Everything! In kindergarten they went around and greeted each other and introduced themselves. In 4th grade they are walking around and talking about what animals they like and dislike.


Mix Pair Share - a little prep: some music and a few picture cards

I play some music while the students walk around. To make use of every moment I play a song they can sing along with like Chocolate or Basho and Friends ¿Cómo te llamas? When the music stops, the students find a partner. I give them a prompt that they answer with their partner. When they have agreed they turn back to back with their arms crossed. I call on a random student to answer and then we start again.

Things I've used this with - In 3rd grade we are learning about animal habitats. I showed a picture of an animal and students had to tell their partner where it lived. In 2nd grade we are learning about characters and setting so I gave them the character or setting from the story Rubia y los 3 Osos and they had to tell their partner either ¿Quién? or ¿Dónde?


Quiz Quiz Trade - a little more prep: enough cards for each student to have one

Each student gets a card. They walk around with their hand up until they find a partner. They show their partner their card and tell them about it. The partner shows them their card. They either say muy bien or coach the other person to the correct answer. Then they trade cards, put their hands up, and find a new partner.

Things I've used this with - In kindergarten, they got a card with a color on it. They had to greet their partner, introduce themselves, and tell them the color on their card and then switch and say goodbye. In 3rd grade for the same animal habitat unit they got a card with an animal and had to tell their partners where they lived. In 2nd grade they got a card with a food on it. They had to tell their partner if they liked or disliked the food.



Do you Kagan structures? What are your favorites? Share in the comments below!





Saturday, February 4, 2017

A year of growth

I love the blog, books, and podcast from Gretchen Rubin. She recently quoted Yeats on her blog, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

I'm in year 5 of teaching (with 4 years before that of being an assistant teacher abroad) and this year has been a year of growth. I've gone to my state conference - KWLA - and to ACTFL. I always come home with great ideas from conference but this year I've found additional ways to stretch and grow as a teacher.



Observe other teachers/Let other teachers observe you

- Our district has started a program where they pay for subs so teachers can go and observe each other for half a day. I've had two different teachers come in and watch me teach and it's interesting to hear what others are struggling with and looking for when they come and observe. Having someone in my room always makes me put forth my best effort and I find myself remembering to do things I often let go. I tend to keep doing these things even when the other teacher has left. And getting a glow sheet at the end is a good self-esteem boost since I often focus on what I'm not doing right rather on what I do well. 

- I didn't go and observe another WL teacher in my district. Instead I watched 4 different teachers in my own building, seeing how they taught content. We have a 30 year veteran in our building who is a Kagan machine. Every kid was engaged in deep discussions while I was in there. It was inspiring to watch. I'm now adding more and more Kagan structures to each class to my students' delight. I also realized I'm pretty lax about talking about the learning targets while every teacher I observed went over them. Guess what I'm doing now... 


Embrace the parts of the bureaucracy that make you better

- I know it sounds crazy and I get that most people despise all of the paper work that distract teachers from actual teaching but I've always ended up improving my teaching practice because of these accountability measures. They are meant well and if you focus on what they're trying to get you to do they actually can make a difference. Recently our new superintendent mandated that we have to start submitting "High Yield" lesson plans. Our principal told us she would be looking specifically to make sure that our formative assessments matched our learning targets. Guess who spent an hour revising her learning targets... 


Get involved

- It's hard to be a department of one so by getting involved I have created  network of teachers who  have supported and challenged me. I've been the NNELL-KY rep for the last 2 years and also serve on the KWLA board. I'm on my district curriculum development team. I have people who will ask me the tough questions, who argue with me, and also encourage me. A recent argument about assessment and how to collect data effectively on 500+ students has led me to rethink what I'm doing and how I can do it differently. Guess who has already gathered more data than she thought possible... 




So to summarize, in the last few weeks I've been more deliberate in making sure my learning targets match my assessments, communicating those targets to my students, and actually tracking more of the assessment data so I can definitively show proficiency growth. These are all things I knew to do but struggled to actually pull off.

Watching how other people did it, being forced to think about it because of a new lesson plan structure, and arguing about it with a trusted colleague - THIS is how I've put what I've learned in theory into practice. I always keep in mind how Helena Curtain ended a workshop I attended. After presenting tons of information and strategies she reminded us that we get better, "one baby step at a time."

What do you do to grow as a teacher? Share in the comments below!




Sunday, January 29, 2017

Animales Yoga

My kindergartners are talking about what animals they like. It's also that time of year where more often than not we have indoor recess which means when I see them after lunch they are more than a little squirmy. My solution? Yoga! It's great for kinesthetic learners, wiggly kindergartners, and there are lots of authentic resources out there to tie it to the target culture.

We read Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo and I decided to focus on 4 animals that can be pets and ones that had yoga poses.


El perro - downward facing dog pose




El gato - cat pose




La rana - frog squat




El pez - corpse pose





Here are some great resources with lots of different poses to fit the needs of your classroom:

http://www.kidsyogastories.com/kids-yoga-poses/ - 58 poses with different ideas for which animals/vocabulary to use them with.

Here are 2 videos that you can use all of or just part of. They are also great authentic resources for body parts. I will be using the first one with my 5th graders next week as a listening exercise during our doctor unit before we actually do the yoga poses.





Do you use yoga in class? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang! Namaste!