Saturday, November 18, 2023

Using Beebots in Spanish Class

 My third graders last year learned about places in the community and how to give directions around town - so the perfect excuse to borrow the beebots from the STEM Lab!

We started with learning places in the community with the game ¿Dónde está mi perro? I told the class my dog had escaped and we needed to find her. They had to guess where in the city she had ended up. It's a great low prep way to practice lists of vocabulary over and over. 

We then practiced our direction words as a whole group and then in pairs using worksheets and tiny chancla erasers a second grade teacher loaned me. 

Next up, the students practiced with the virtual beebots. I would tell them where I wanted to go and they had to give directions in Spanish and program their beebot to get there. This time really allowed them to experiment and see how the beebot responded. It also helped that they had played with the beebots in English with the STEM lab teacher!

Finally it was time to play with the beebots! First we sat in a circle and just used one map and one beebot. Everyone wrote their directions and I picked one student to program the beebot. If they didn't make it, then we troubleshooted as a group to debug the code. 

The next class the students worked in groups of four. Like in whole group, everyone wrote their directions and I rotated who got to program the beebot so that everyone got a turn. Having lots of visuals and a set order of who did what really helped mitigate any arguments (though we did have couple.) 

The map I use is no longer available but here is a link to the same site I got it from originally. 

After finishing up with the beebots we have moved on to designing our own communities and drawing maps to put in our interactive notebooks. But more on that later!

Have you used beebots or coding in your room before? Share in the comments below!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Amate Bark Paintings in Spanish class

First grade recently finished our Animals Around Us unit, culminating in students creating an Amate bark painting inspired artwork! 

In this unit students learned how to say which animals they liked as well as to describe their size, color, speed, and how they move. I will do a separate post where I share what I used for the bulk of the unit - introducing animal names, practicing movements, looking at zoo maps and webcams, etc. In this post though I want to share how we compared and contrasted amate bark paintings and alebrijes from Mexico and then made our own amate inspired artwork.

We watched these videos to learn more about how alebrijes and amate paintings are made. 


I also have an amate painting and some mini alebrijes that I purchased online that students could see in person. We also looked at several photos from the internet as well. 

Because this wasn't the main focus of each class period, it did take us awhile to get done. We spent the last 10 minutes of class each time, working on something related to our artwork. First, I had students practice drawing their animals on whiteboards first. I bought drawing guides for zoo animals off TPT and projected them onto the board for them to follow. I modeled and gave directions in Spanish. After one class of practicing, I gave them their paper and we drew with pencil. 

The third class period they went over their pencil with sharpie markers. I can't JUST have them doing art and chatting in English so while they were working, I asked questions in Spanish about which animals were big or small, which animals walk or swim, etc. What animals did they like? 

The last two classes we used kwik sticks borrowed from the art room to paint. Students had to come up and tell me in Spanish which color they were taking. 

Some things for the future:

-Drawing first on the white boards really helped my first grade students practice with the drawing guides and how to follow the step by step pictures. This is a skill not all 6-7 year olds know how to do so it was an important step. 

-The kwik paint sticks were great for clean up in the Spanish room but they are kind of hard for this age to use well. I might use construction paper crayons or send them to art class to paint with real paint and paintbrushes next year. Or oil pastels. 

-There are a TON of resources and activity ideas on Pinterest. Some have students crumple their paper or tear the edges to give it more of a homemade paper look. One blog I read mentioned touching up the sharpie and adding dots and other lines as small details later, which I think I might incorporate next year, especially if I coordinate with the art teacher to have them work on them some in her room.

Do you incorporate art in your Spanish classroom? Share in the comments below and don't forget to check out my other art-inspired posts!

Monday, October 2, 2023

Speak Up & Speak Out - KWLA & NNELL presentation

 KWLA Fall Conference was this past weekend and the theme was all about student voice! My session on how to get your students speaking more in the target language fit in perfectly. I also gave this same presentation at NNELL over the summer.  I'm hoping to write several blog posts that touch on the same topics I spoke about but in the meantime here is a link to my slides

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Practicing New Vocabulary in Spanish Class

Before I go back to school this year I am doing a Back to Basics series. In Part One - Introducing New Vocabulary in Spanish Class (click here to read) I discussed some basics of how to introduce new vocabulary. Once the students have heard the new language, now they need to practice it in class with different activities. 

Way back in 2015 I was lucky enough to attend a two day workshop with Helena Curtain where we talked about deep and rich activities for learners. To sum up, she told us that deep & rich activities have at least two of the following four components - intrinsically motivating, cognitively engaging, culturally connected, and communicatively purposeful. Read more about this here. I try to keep those in mind when choosing activities to practice new vocab in class. 

Here are a few of my favorite go to activities to help students practice and really learn new vocabulary in Spanish class.

1. Silly stories with lots of repitition

When I teach my food unit, I tell a story about how hungry I am and all the unhealthy things I eat. At the end of the story I'm very sick and need to eat healthier. Then we practice saying what healthy foods we like. 

When I teach hobbies and activities, I tell a story about telling a friend what I want to do and they don't like anything I suggest. I get more and more annoyed as the story goes on until I finally ask what she wants to do. When I teach family members I accuse everyone in the family of eating my donut and ask if it was them.

Sometimes I use fairy tales like Caperucita Roja or Cenicienta to reinforce vocabulary such as emotions and body parts or rooms of the house. 

For all of these I have visuals up on the board or story props to help students understand and process the language we're practicing. 

2. Either/Or

I put up two choices on the board and students choose which they like better and tell their table partner. Or show one item and have students move between Me gusta on one side of the room and No me gusta on the other (somewhere in the middle is más o menos.) 

3. Where is my ____? game

This one is great for tons of repitition. I hide something either for real using flashcards and a prop, on jamboard, or just think of place in my mind. Usually there is some story behind what we're looking for. In our supermarket unit, I have dropped my money in the store and I need to find it. In the family unit, we're looking for the family member who ate my donut. In the house unit we're looking for grandma. In the city unit my dog has run away and we're looking for her. 

Whatever we're practicing, I'll have students repeat after me and then they raise their hands and take turns guessing where it is by saying the different vocabulary words. So that everyone is practicing, we chant the word and I play it up before revealing if they are correct. It's high energy and kids love it. Once you've played it as a group several times then you can let students play in pairs to get even more practice. 

4. Rally Robin

This is a cooperative learning structure that gets you a lot of bang for your buck and it's so easy! Students just take turns using the new vocabulary in a sentence. For example, in our supermarket unit I would have students repeat the food names after me, then we would sing our food chant, and then they would turn to one another and take turns saying Me gusta (a food here.) I have students point at themselves and then at their partner to show whose turn it is. 

5. Graphing

There are so many ways to have students graph! We graph our favorite animal, specials class, activity, food, etc. I like to print out worksheets with the graphs and put them in page protecters. Before we start I ask students to predict what they think the most popular will be in their class. This small addition to the activity has really upped the engagement and excitement because they want to know if they were right or not. Then I go around the room and everyone shares their answer. I fill in a large graph up on the board while students use a whiteboard marker to keep track on their own pages. 

What are your favorite ways to practice new vocabulary in your classes? Share in the comments below!

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Monday, July 24, 2023

Introducing New Vocabulary in Spanish Class

I post quite a bit about different activities that I do with my students in class but a lot of times I highlight what students are doing in the middle and end of a unit when they are ready to use the vocabulary rather than what I do to teach them the new words at the beginning. So here are some tips & tricks I keep in mind when teaching new vocabulary to my novice learners.

1. Start with less!

Especially with younger students, I don't usually start with the full list of vocabulary and any unit I teach only has about 10 voculary words or phrases. It helps that I try to pre-teach many vocabulary words BEFORE we get to a unit. See this post here for more on that. 

Sometimes I start with just two and gradually add more in as we go through the unit. Sometimes I start with 4-5. For example, when we are learning greetings in kindergarten we start by saying hola to the teacher, "Hola maestra" and then to the dog and cat, "Hola perro. Hola gato." I have students repeat after me. I slowly add animals as the year progresses so that by the end of kindergarten they know almost all of the animals that we will later talk about in our first and second grade units. I do the same with colors. I start with green and red. Then I add yellow a few classes later and then later I will add blue. 

Do I start with more sometimes? Yes, but I try to make sure that some of them are cognates so really it is still more like 4-5 completely new words. 

2. Add visuals

With my students who aren't reading yet I always show a picture or a prop when I teach them a new word so that they associate the new word with the visual. No need to translate to English! I like to use a mix of clip art AND photo images. For example, I have cutesy llama emoji cards that I use for emotions but I also have flashcards with pictures of real kids with different facial expressions. It makes the language more "real" for students that way. For older students I do include the English for our conversational phrases like "I agree," or verb phrases such as "I want" or "I have."

3. Add music or a chant

How many product jingles can you sing? I bet quite a few. There are whole Tik Tok challenges where people sing along to old jingles. Companies do that because adding music makes it more memorable. It's the same with teaching new vocabulary. It also makes it more fun for your students!

I have a song or chant for just about everything we do in class. Here is an example I use for classroom supplies. If I don't have a chant then I find a song on youtube. Super Simple Español, Basho and Friends, and Calico Spanish are some of my favorite channels to find songs to teach and reinforce new vocabulary.

4. Add movement where you can

If I'm teaching sports then we act out that sport as we say it. Animals get their own movements - see this example here. When we learn body parts and colors the students point to them as we say them. Last year I made mini posters on half sheets of paper to hand out to kids because they all wanted to point to the words on the posters on my wall during different activities. Kids like to move and they don't get enough chances throughout the school day to do so - so let them move to help them learn!

5. Have students repeat after you.

This was is super basic but it's how we start. I do this when first introducing the new words and as a review in later classes but eventually the students don't need me anymore but how do you get to where they know and can use the vocabulary on their own? Stay tuned for a part two for activities and games to practice new vocabulary in class!

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Saturday, May 27, 2023

Fun End of the Year Activities for Spanish Class

 It's that time of the year where motivation is running low for both students and teachers! Here are a few of the things I did with my students the last two weeks of school. My main criteria was that we still had to be using Spanish, they were fun, and they weren't too complicated to set up or explain. 

1. Secret Words Watercolor Painting

This one was actually almost too much for the end of the year because it took awhile to get it ready and it was a mess to clean up BUT it makes the list because the kids had an absolute blast and everyone was totally engaged and shouting out the words they found on their papers. 

Take large sheets of white butcher paper and write whatever vocabulary words or even sentences that you are working on in class in white crayon. Give students paint brushes and watercolor paints and let them paint the paper to discover the words. 

Pro tip - I did this with three third grade classes. The first had multiple spills with their water cups so the next two classes I used a spray bottle and walked around and sprayed their paint palettes. Much easier and less mess!

2. Spinners

This activity is perfect for any age. I did this activity with my loudest fourth grade class on the very last day of school and they all had a blast. The spinner page had Quiero (activity) en (place around town) con mi (people.) Students used a pencil and a paper clip to spin each part of their sentence and wrote it down on their whiteboard. Then they would show it to their table partners who could respond with our interpersonal phrases like ¿En serio? No me gusta or ¡Yo también! Quiero...

You can get these particular spinners in my Places in the City posters!

For younger students you can use spin and draw activities like my Spin and Draw How Are You? Spin and Draw a Monster, Spin and Draw How's the Weather, or Spin and Draw Clothing. 

3. Playdough Mats

We used these playdough mats back in January when we were learning emotions in kindergarten. I brought them back and added some new weather ones as part of a choice board the last few classes of the year. It was hands on, fun, and a great review! 

Really any activity like this that students enjoyed earlier in the year is a good bet for the end of the year as well. You already have the supplies, they already know what to do, so you can sit back and relax while they have fun and practice their Spanish. I also put out our pattern block pet puzzles and some other puzzles as options. 

4. Puzzles!

These are super simple to make and my students love them. Simply create a picture in powerpoint or google slides with the vocabulary you are studying, print, laminate, and then cut into pieces. 

5. Lotería

I used to think that Bingo wasn't the best use of instructional time since we were only working on the word level but it makes a great end of the year activity and the number of times I heard students shouting out the words and helping their friends find them on their bingo cards has made me rethink my position on Lotería. Everyone from first grade to fifth grade loved playing the last week of school. 

I love to use the website Bingo Baker to make cards because you can play it virtually or print out paper cards. It's also super simple to make cards with pictures. You can hide the call list so students have to really listen or you can project it up on the board with the history. 

If you want to increase the difficulty try using the word in a sentence if you want to take it beyond just the word level. Or give students some writing practice by having them create their own bingo cards. Just provide them with the list and blank cards to fill in. 

Those are all the activities that we did in Spanish class the last two weeks of school. Students had fun, used their Spanish they had learned this year, and I didn't feel like I was losing my mind. Which ones will you try? What other activities would you add to the list? 

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Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Graffiti Board - Getting Students to Write in Spanish!

 Today I want to write about a simple change I made in my classroom that has been one of the most impactful - it's my graffiti board. 

When my smart board was replaced with my flat panel I had this white board moved over by my door. The first year I used it to hang up student work. But I realized that most kids were not looking at or interacting with the board much. I wanted something that would get them excited. Cue the graffiti board...

How does it work?

I post a question and a sentence frame for the answer as well as a poster with any vocab they might need. I have a large picture of myself and my dog, Zoey, and sometimes Frida. 

I answer the question and then set out a bunch of different colored expo markers and let the students answer as they leave the room.

Once the board fills up, I erase it, and add a new question.

Setting up the expectations

Only 4th and 5th grade students get to write on the board. I might expand that to 2nd and 3rd at some point but right now it's just the intermediate grades. 

They write on the board when they are lined up and we are waiting for their classroom teacher. 

If students aren't answering the question in Spanish then whatever they wrote is erased and they risk losing the privilege. 

Under no circumstances are they allowed to erase anybody else's writing. (I have one class that is not allowed to use the board because one sneaky kid keeps erasing people's answers.)

So there you go. It was a small change but I've noticed that students who don't usually get very excited about Spanish class always rush to write on the board. Many students will also add to their answers every time they come to class. The younger students will try to read the answers or they look at the vocabulary posters. It's a win-win-win!

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